AskDefine | Define wight

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wight \Wight\, a. [OE. wight, wiht, probably of Scand. origin; cf. Icel. v[imac]gr in fighting condition, neut. v[imac]gh ??? v[imac]g war, akin to AS. w[imac]g See Vanquish.] Swift; nimble; agile; strong and active. [Obs. or Poetic] [1913 Webster] 'T is full wight, God wot, as is a roe. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] He was so wimble and so wight. --Spenser. [1913 Webster] They were Night and Day, and Day and Night, Pilgrims wight with steps forthright. --Emerson. [1913 Webster]
Wight \Wight\, n. Weight. [Obs.] [1913 Webster]
Wight \Wight\, n. [OE. wight, wiht, a wight, a whit, AS. wiht, wuht, a creature, a thing; skin to D. wicht a child, OS. & OHG. wiht a creature, thing, G. wicht a creature, Icel. v[ae]tt? a wight, v[ae]tt? a whit, Goth. wa['i]hts, wa['i]ht, thing; cf. Russ. veshche a thing. ?. Cf. Whit.] [1913 Webster]
A whit; a bit; a jot. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] She was fallen asleep a little wight. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]
A supernatural being. [Obs.] --Chaucer. [1913 Webster]
A human being; a person, either male or female; -- now used chiefly in irony or burlesque, or in humorous language. "Worst of all wightes." --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] Every wight that hath discretion. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] Oh, say me true if thou wert mortal wight. --Milton. [1913 Webster]

Word Net



1 a human being; `wight' is an archaic term [syn: creature]
2 an isle and county of southern England in the English Channel [syn: Isle of Wight]



  • , /waɪt/, /waIt/
  • Rhymes with: -aɪt


Etymology 1

From a Middle English word that derives from the Old English wiht, akin to Old High German wiht, meaning a creature or thing. The word is a cognate with Dutch wicht, German Wicht, and Swedish vätte.


  1. A living creature, especially a human being.
  2. In the context of "paganism": A being of one of the Nine Worlds of heathen belief, especially a nature spirit, elf or ancestor.


  • 1789, William Blake, A Dream'', lines 14-15-16
    But I saw a glow-worm near,Who replied: ‘What wailing wightCalls the watchman of the night?

Etymology 2

From Old Norse vígt, neuter of vígr ‘skilled in fighting, of age’, cognate with Old English wīġ..


  1. (archaic except in dialects) brave, valorous, strong

See also


Webster NCD 1974}}

Middle English


Wight is a Middle English word for a creature or a living being, especially a human being. In modern English today, it is also used in fiction for human-like creatures. Wight derives from the same root as forms of to be, such as was and were. Modern German "Wicht" is a cognate, meaning "small person, dwarf", and also "unpleasant person"; in Low German it means "girl". It is not related to the English word "witch". The Wicht, Wichtel or Wichtelchen of Germanic folklore is most commonly translated into English as an imp, a small, shy character who often does helpful domestic chores when nobody is looking (as in the Tale of the Cobbler's Shoes).


Wight comes from Old English word wiht, akin to Old High German wiht, meaning a creature or thing. The word is a cognate with Dutch wicht, German Wicht, Old Norse vættir and Swedish vätte.


Examples of the word used in classic English literature and poetry:
Wight has been used comparatively recently to give an impression of archaism and mystery in literature, for example in the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, where wights are corpses with a part of their decayed soul. Probably inspired by Scandinavian folklore (of vættir), Tolkien also used the word to denote human-like creatures, such as elves or ghosts ("wraiths") - most notably the undead Barrow-Wights. Some subsequent writers seem to have been unaware that the word did not actually mean ghost or wraith, and so many works of fantasy fiction, role-playing games and computer and video games use the term as the name of spectral creatures very similar to Tolkien's Barrow-wights, such as Dungeons & Dragons' wights.
Recently used in "A Song of Ice and Fire" series by George R. R. Martin, book IV "A Feast for Crows" (2005),
  • "Who has been beyond the wall of death to see? Only the wights, and we know what they are like. We know."

See also


wight in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Wiht
wight in Czech: Wight
wight in Danish: Vætte
wight in German: Wicht
wight in Spanish: Alma en pena
wight in French: Lutin
wight in Dutch: Wicht
wight in Norwegian: Vættir
wight in Norwegian Nynorsk: Vættir
wight in Russian: Рэйф
wight in Simple English: Wight
wight in Swedish: vätte
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