Where does the word “arrant” come from and What does it mean?

We use the word “arrant” now to mean downright, out-and-out, unmitigated; as, an arrant coward, an arrant scoundrel. But it was formerly just another spelling of “errant,” and it meant wandering, vagabond, nomad.

Thus a “knight errant,” in the Age of Chivalry, was a knight, usually young, who roamed the countryside, seeking an opportunity to win an accolade through good deeds.

In similar style a bandit or highwayman five or six centuries ago was termed an “arrant thief,” meaning one who wandered over the countryside, holding up persons whom he might encounter.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

Leave a Comment