English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I see that "hence" means roughly "from this fact/time/place/source", while "thence" means roughly "from that fact/time/place/source".

Usage such as "half an hour hence" is typically (although perhaps not universally) used to refer to times in the future, being taken as "from this time" or "[forward] from now".

Would it thus be correct to say, e.g., "[today] is three years thence" — in the sense of "from that time" or "[forward] from then" — in order to allude to the day three years ago?

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I would say that while as per its definition it is correct to use thence in the way you suggest ('... three years thence ...') this is not a common usage. It is certainly more commonly seen when referring to place rather than time:

I drove from LA to Reno, thence to Las Vegas.

Consider also the related term thenceforth, meaning 'from that time on' (and compare with henceforth: 'from this time on'):

I didn't make a hit all season and was thenceforth known as Strikeout Steve.

share|improve this answer
Oh, I'm sure such usage isn't at all common. But it does appear to be non-zero historically. – Tim Parenti Jun 20 '13 at 2:17
Absolutely @TimParenti, I agree it's valid, a Google search on 'years hence' produces a bunch of hits. Not common is what I said, and I certainly don't recall having seen or heard it in my lifetime as an Australian English speaker. – Snubian Jun 20 '13 at 2:37

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.