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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?

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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.

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  • Oh, I'm sure such usage isn't at all common. But it does appear to be non-zero historically. 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. Jun 20 '13 at 2:37

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