Word Confusion: Wanton versus Wonton

Posted March 10, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I have a hard time imagining a wonton woman. I don’t really understand why someone would want to fuss with a wonton wrapper to make it look like a woman. It certainly didn’t fit the context of what I was reading. I suppose the writer may have meant a woman who makes wontons. Or maybe that was her title in the kitchen…? Nah… No, wait. It’s a costume…yeah, that’s it.

It’s much more common to use the simple form of wanton to indicate a loose, licentious woman of low morals.

As for using wanton as a verb… This was a first for me. And it certainly sounds and feels awkward!

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.

Wanton Wonton
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: wanton

Group of children playing blindman's bluff near a forest

Image courtesy of Stefan Polte foto- und grafik-design [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], Wikimedia Commons

Children wantoning near a forest.

A bowl of wonton soup

Image by mooogmonster from unknown (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Just looking at this picture makes me hungry for wonton soup!

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the Noun and third person present verb: wantons
Past tense or past participle: wantoned
Gerund or present participle: wantoning


Plural for the noun: wontons, won tons

Alternative spelling: won ton

[Of a cruel or violent action] Deliberate and unprovoked

  • Uncalled-for
  • Headstrong
  • Willful

Without regard for what is right, just, humane, etc.

  • Careless
  • Reckless

[Especially of a woman] Sexually immodest, promiscuous, lawless, or unrestrained

  • Loose
  • Lascivious
  • Lewd

Dissolute, licentious, or immoral


  • Growing profusely
  • Luxuriant
  • Lively
  • Playful

Extravagantly or excessively luxurious, as a person, manner of living, or style

[Archaic] A sexually immodest or promiscuous woman

Verb, intransitive:
To behave in a wanton manner

  • Behave in a sexually immodest or promiscuous way
  • Become wanton

[Archaic or literary] Play

[Archaic or literary] Frolic

Verb, transitive:
To squander, especially in pleasure (often followed by away)

  • To squander away one’s inheritance
[In Chinese cooking] A small dumpling or roll with a savory filling, often of minced pork, usually eaten boiled in soup
It was sheer wanton vandalism.

‘Tis where the wanton ivy twines that thous shalt find thy love.

There was a wanton fawn in the backyard.

wanton breezes

A wanton brook burbled happily down the slight incline.

a wanton attack

wanton cruelty

Why jeopardize your career in such a wanton way?

Many terrorists are wanton attackers of religious convictions.

“She exhibits such wanton behavior,” Miss Eliza whispered.

That Mabel is a wanton.

Verb, intransitive:
She becomes so wanton when she drinks.

Verb, transitive:
He wantons his inheritance.

I love wonton soup.

Don’t forget to order those fried won tons that I like.

Wontons make a good appetizer.

Adjective: unwanton

Adverb: wantonly

Noun: wantonness

History of the Word:
Middle English wantowen meaning rebellious, lacking discipline, from wan- (badly) + Old English togen (trained). From Chinese, a Cantonese dialect: wān tān

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