[ OED: ] Etymology: < how adv. + ever adv. 8e.

  1. Qualifying a sentence or clause as a whole: For all that, nevertheless, notwithstanding; yet; = but at the beginning of the sentence.

[ever adv. 8e. :] Appended to relative pronouns or advbs., and giving to them a generalized or indefinite force; = Latin -cumque. These combinations are now always written as single words: see howsoever adv., whosoever pron., etc.

How did the Compounding of the adverbs 'how' and 'ever' (into 'however') imply or produce meaning 3 above for 'however'? I ask not about the other meanings of 'however' here.

OED specified the pertinent definition (among the many) for 'ever' , but unhelpfully not for 'how'.

  • 1
    You probably do need to consider the other meanings of 'however'. It seems to me paraphrasings such as nevertheless, on the other hand, by contrast can be using interchangeably with however regardless of whether the context is However OP disagrees or OP however disagrees (I don't care if you want to add commas). Perhaps the issue is really a matter of why but doesn't have the same flexibility, rather than why however can be used in both contexts. Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 15:30
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks for your comment. Yes; you are correct about the `need to consider the other meanings of 'however', and your last sentence. Please feel free to edit my post or repost your last sentence as a separate question (and inform me afterwards!).
    – user50720
    Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


You have quoted only part of the OED's etymology for however; in addition to the main body of the etymology, it also has an "etymological note". The full etymology is:

Etymology:  < HOW adv. + EVER adv. 8e.
In senses 2, 3, however is the relic of an original subordinate clause (like those of sense 1), such as ‘however this may be’.

In other words, senses 2 and 3 don't come from how and -ever directly; rather, they are shortened forms of expressions like "however this may be", with the "this may be" part being left implicit.

  • Thanks. I will add this to my OP, but your answer only generates a further question: How does ‘however this may be’ produce definition 3 above?
    – user50720
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 22:28
  • 2
    I don't think it's appropriate to take the answer to your initial question and use it to change your question into a different question. That's moving the goalposts. If you want to ask how "however this may be" means "in spite of this", you should post that as a separate question.
    – ruakh
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 22:40
  • What do you think of moving your answer as a comment? I did modify my question because it appears more efficient than posting another one, and because the problem with the question was not linguistical, but rather was my oversight of something in the dictionary.
    – user50720
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 22:48
  • 2
    @LePressentiment: My answer was not a comment; it was an answer to the question as it stood. (And it's not an appropriate comment now, either; if it's to be interpreted as a comment of the form "there's a problem with your question", then it should simply be deleted as soon as the problem is addressed.)
    – ruakh
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 23:03
  • @ruakh As requested, I will post a new separate question then and reinstate the original question.
    – user50720
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 17:49

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