Word Confusion: Arrant versus Errant

Posted September 10, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

It was that knights arrant that caught my eye. I know there were more likely to be a number of naughty knights as opposed to good ones, but it’s not a phrase that has arisen in literature before. And certainly not in the context the writer was using *shakes her head in dismay*.

It does behoove one to know the difference when using them fancy words…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Arrant Errant
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: arrant and errant

A print dealing with the sensational trial of Methodist minister Ephraim K. Avery in May 1833 for the murder of Sarah Maria Cornell.

Image in the public domain by an unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons

A very bad man.


knight on his horse

Image in the public domain by A.S. Forrest, via Wikimedia Commons

A knight preparing to travel.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective Adjective
[Attrib.; dated] Complete
Utter
Extreme
Being notoriously without moderation
[Attrib.] Erring or straying from the proper course or standards 1

  • [Zoology] Of a predatory kind of polychaete worm that moves about actively and is not confined to a tube or burrow

[Often postpositive; Archaic; Literary] Traveling in search of adventure 2

  • Traveling or given to traveling
  • Straying outside the proper path or bounds
  • Moving about aimlessly or irregularly
  • Behaving wrongly
  • Fallible
Examples:
What arrant nonsense!

“We are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us.” – Shakespeare

He could never forgive his daughter’s errant ways.

That same lady errant abides within.

They were knights errant seeking to fulfill a quest.

He was an errant knight, always moving about on his travels.

‘Twas an errant breeze that caught her hair.

She was an errant child always getting into mischief.

He chased an errant golf ball.

Derivatives:
Adverb: arrantly Adverb: errantly

Noun: errancy, errantry 2

History of the Word:
Middle English variant of errant was originally used in phrases such as arrant thief meaning outlawed or roving thief. First known use: 14th century

1 Middle English from the Latin errant- meaning erring from the verb errare.

2 Middle English from the Old French errant meaning traveling and the present participle of errer, from the late Latin iterare meaning go on a journey from iter meaning journey.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?


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