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What is “won't” a contraction of?

The Why is "cannot" spelled as one word? post brought back another oddity I noticed when learning English. The contraction won't seems to break a common pattern in similar contractions:

  • cannot => can't
  • do not => don't
  • should not => shouldn't
  • would not => wouldn't

In these examples, the o sound in not is dropped and the letter o (no in the case of cannot) is replaced with an apostrophe.

However, will not => won't drops ill from will and replaces it with the o from not. This contraction is probably derived from shifts in speech rather than writing. How did the contraction won't emerge?

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Thanks. I just flagged it as a duplicate. –  Jaime Soto Oct 29 '10 at 14:11
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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt, Ralph Rickenbach, Chris Dwyer, b.roth, mmyers Oct 29 '10 at 17:01

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The building pattern you are proposing is not what happened. As you can see here, will not was built from woll + not, which assimilated to wonnot and then to won't.

The use of woll comes from the Proto-Indo-European stem wel- or wol-, refelcted still in the German verb wollen: to will, desire, wish.

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your mention of the word "woll" reminded me of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "wioll haven be" pages.cs.wisc.edu/~param/quotes/guide.html –  jcarmody Oct 29 '10 at 16:40
    
+1 for not just linking to that other answer, but expanding on it. –  RegDwigнt Oct 29 '10 at 20:03
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