Word Confusion: Which versus Witch

Posted October 31, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 13 October 2017

Sure, you can always ask which witch when you encounter more than one witch, but it doesn’t mean the two heterographic words can be used interchangeably.

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.

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Which Witch
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: witch

Examples of differences between body types

“Contrasting Body Types” is Mykewolf9’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

To which body type do you belong?

An Italian witch doll, La Befana

“Witch Doll” by Jeanne boleyn at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Midnightblueowl at en.wikipedia and are in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Adjective, interrogative or relative;
Pronoun, interrogative or relative;
Identifier, nonrestrictive, a.k.a., Determiner
Adjective; Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun or third person present verb: witches
Past tense or past participle: witched
present participle: witching

Best to use WHICH for nonrestrictive or nonessential clauses, although it is used for essential clauses too.

CAUTION: Use a comma before which when it’s a nonrestrictive pronoun.

Determiner, aka, Nonrestrictive Identifier or Non-definite Article:
Used with a noun in requesting that its referent be further specified, identified, or distinguished from the other members of a class

Whatever of a class

  • Whichever

Used in relative clauses with inanimate antecedents

Interrogative Adjective OR Pronoun:
Asking for information specifying one or more people or things from a definite set

Relative Adjective OR Pronoun:
Refers to something previously mentioned when introducing a clause giving further information

Of, relating to, or designed as protection against witches

A woman thought to have magic powers, especially evil ones, popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat and flying on a broomstick

  • A follower or practitioner of Wicca or of modern witchcraft

[Informal, derogatory] An ugly or unpleasant woman

A girl or woman who is bewitchingly attractive

An edible North Atlantic flatfish, Glyptocephalus cynoglossus, that is of some commercial value

Verb, intransitive:
To prospect with a divining rod

  • Dowse

Verb, transitive:
To bring by or as by witchcraft (often followed by into, to, etc.)

[Archaic] To affect as if by witchcraft

  • Bewitch
  • Charm

Cast an evil spell on

  • [Of a girl or woman] Enchant a man
Nonessential Which Adjective:
Brrr, it’s colder than a witch’s tit out here!

I’m going as a witch for Halloween.

Elena is a Wiccan and therefore, technically, a witch.

He can marry the old witch for all I care.

That’s the old witch who used to be our neighbor.

She can be a real witch.

A witch flounder can be eaten steamed, fried, microwaved, or baked.

Verb, intransitive:
to prospect with a divining rod; dowse.

Verb, transitive:
She witched him into going.

Mrs. Yvonskly had somehow witched the house.

She witched Jake.

The lawnmower, which is in the shed, is broken.

There is only one lawnmower in the shed, so there is no essential need to differentiate.

Your claim ought to succeed, in which case the damages will be substantial.

Substantial damages can be implied if a claim is successful, therefore which is nonessential.

The house, which is old, is in poor repair.

Relative Adjective:
Your claim ought to succeed, in which case the damages will be substantial.

Relative Pronoun:
We were at a conference in Vienna, which ended on Friday.

Mary and I went to the movies last night, which got out at ten.

Essential Which
Which way is the wind blowing?

Which house did you want to buy?

Which did you find?

I wondered which apples were cheaper.

Bring which car you want to drive.

Interrogative Adjective:
Which way is the wind blowing?

How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese (Richard Nordquist)?

Interrogative Pronoun:
Which are the best varieties of potatoes for storing?

Which of the suspects murdered her?

Relative Adjective:
I was going to take a class which wasn’t necessary for my degree.

Relative Pronoun:
It was a crisis for which he was totally unprepared.

Percy is the horse on which he had ridden.

You may choose which you like.

Choose which of the cars suit you.

Adjective: witching, witchlike, witchy
Adverb: witchingly
Noun: witchhood, witching, witchweed, underwitch
History of the Word:
Old English hwilc, which is from the Germanic bases of who and alike. Old English wicca (masculine), wicce (feminine), wiccian (verb). The current senses of the verb are probably a shortening of bewitch.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Ipsita and Deepta by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti and Deepta Roy Chakraverti, Photographer: Pomy Issar (Wiccanbrigade.com), is under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license and The Wizard of Oz Margaret Hamilton 1939 No 1 is in the public domain with both via Wikimedia Commons.