My brain is claiming there is such a word, but Google seems to disagree:

Is there any word with the same "flavor" as hence (somewhat ostentatious, perhaps? Victorian?) in the meaning of "in the future", but with the opposite meaning. I want to say something happened two decades hence (meaning two decades ago), but I know it's wrong (it would actually mean two decades from now).

I've found hitherto, heretofore and perhaps yet, which have the "flavor" I'm seeking and the generally opposite meaning, but they don't seem to have the same idea of "number of years or amount of time" before now that hence allows for...

[edit] It would fit into a sentence similar to or along these lines:

"Born forty-eight years [hence?], the gentleman accomplished several feats of note"

[/end edit]

Is there such a word?

  • 1
    All I can think of is ago, gone, past, since, etc. The word hence has some siblings: whence, thence, etc, but none of them have the sought meaning.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 14:08
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    "ago" is the literally best word for this, but "since" seems like the closest relative of "hence". I think if you add an example sentence it would help. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 14:11
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    Dan Bron's two decades past has a similar flavour.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 14:12
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    2 decades prior?
    – SGR
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 14:14
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    @CodeJockey Can you edit your question to include the example (and make it a bit clearer that it is an example)? Things get a bit lost in comments. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:33

1 Answer 1


Dan Bron's suggestion of past has the right flavour. Here's an example in a book title (emphasis mine):

For Ten Years Past I have Constantly Wished to Turn My Western Lands into Money: Speculator Frustration and Settlers’ Bargaining Power in Ohio’s Virginia Military District, 1795–1810 - Hanno Scheerer

The primary drawback with past in this example is that it has the connotation of the duration of that interval, while hence refers more directly to the time at the end of the interval.

If we are permitted an unspecified but recent interval, another term with a similar flavour to consider is late.

Late adverb 12. recently but no longer: a man late of Chicago, now living in Philadelphia. - dictionary.com

One might extend this to say late of Chicago, now living in Philadelphia, then on to Canada, two years hence.

Another word to consider is previous. Unlike past, it refers to a specific time (not the interval), and unlike late, it can refer to a time of any duration before the present. Here's an example (emphasis mine):

Struggling in the same job he received twenty years previous, Diddlebock is fired so he wanders the streets and eventually goes into a bar. - k-otic

As for flavour, this is getting into personal tastes. Here's a sample for comparison and contrast with hence: ten years previous and ten years hence.

  • yes - I remember skipping past late or of late as well, due to having a "recent" connotation. I am ideally looking for something that was a fairly long time in the past, and happened once, not the entire duration, but I may have to settle with one slight inaccuracy or else abandon my attempt at that flavor Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:04
  • @CodeJockey I've added previous. It has some of the right qualities, though you'll need to judge for yourself regarding flavour :) .
    – Lawrence
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:19
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    I think I like previous well enough - pretty close, though I really thought there was something even closer - idunno - thanks! Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 20:52
  • @CodeJockey It's an interesting theme, hunting for matching flavours to words.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 1:18
  • Here's one more: prior. If you like this better, I'll edit it into my answer. (Edit, cut/pasted into a separate comment - SGR already suggested this in comments to your question. I'll delete this comment later.)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 1:21

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