The obscure preposition anent has a long history, going back as far as Beowulf:

him on efn ligeð ealdorgewinna [line 2903] ("beside him lies his great enemy")

It has carried many meanings, including "near", "beside", "toward", "against", "among" and "on behalf of". Today the usual sense is "about" or "concerning", as in:

More movement on the seesaw anent the further transfer of powers to Holyrood - but no clear view yet of the endgame.

from the BBC's Brian Taylor. This meaning seems to remain alive in Scotland, and even elsewhere (though it may be seen as affected).

The OED has, as the only other non-obsolete sense, "Of position: fronting, opposite, over against, close against, close to" with the note that "many northern dialects now have fore-nent." Their most recent quotation is from The Dark Huntsman (Charles Heavysege, 1864):

The huntsman came after, full fleet as the wind,
Anent me a moment, tall, tarried behind

My question: Is this meaning of anent (or fore-nent) still current in any dialect of English - or should it now get the †dagger too?

  • 1
    I can't think of any words ending with anent except permanent. Is this a clue to its origins, or just a coincidence?
    – pavium
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 10:00
  • 4
    permanent is a red herring - it's from Latin manens for "remaining". OTOH anent was Old English on efn (like "on even", meaning "on a level with") then onefent before becoming anent.
    – user10798
    Commented Jul 17, 2011 at 11:47
  • 1
    Dunno. The only time I ever use anent is in Boggle. :)
    – Marthaª
    Commented Mar 30, 2013 at 19:51
  • My dictionary also has the variant anenst.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 14:15

11 Answers 11


I have not run across this term in my own dialects of English (American, West Coast), but I did find this in Wiktionary:


  1. (obsolete) Against, in front of.

  2. (archaic or dialectal, chiefly Scottish) Concerning, with regard to.

I am wary of blindly accepting Wiktionary as a source, but it may be that anent has fallen out of usage entirely. However, in 1913 it was still listed in Webster's dictionary, so the drop from usage may be after your last available cited quotation.

  • 1
    The current OED is just about a bazinga times superior to Wikshunary, and still a huge whole lot better than a 1913 Webster’s.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 23:59

HP Lovecraft was still using the word anent in his letters to colleagues in the 30's. But he was well known for his archaic diction. So I'm not sure that's the best example.


Very much actively in use in contemporary Scottish writing & letters. Usefully short for tweeting, & part of a mild "Scots" revival, consequent upon a tide of constitutional politics in Scotland.

  • 1
    This is good information. Can you share some sources?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 11:56

Forenent was alive and well through the 70s at least here in Western Pennsylvania, home of the Scots Irish. I knew what it meant but I don't use it. My mother, age 91, might off and on.

  • This is useful and related—but the question was really about anent, rather than forenent. Do you know if anent was in use in your dialectal area, too? Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 11:11

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has just decided to stop using "anent" in Church legislation. I'm a Scots lawyer and, although I don't think I've ever used "anent", I occasionally use "thereanent" in correspondence or formal documents.


I first came across it in Disraeli's letters to Lady Bradford, in 1874. Although this is much earlier than others have evinced, he uses it several times, without it seeming to be an obvious archaic contrivance.

Although I do not have the source with me, the context was "I and Salisbury spoke about the Turkish issue, then I wrote to the queen anent"

  • 1
    "Then a Cabinet at three which lasted till nearly six, then I had to write to the Queen anent: and now to somebody else who must not be angry if these hasty lines are dull and meagre." link: archive.org/stream/lettersofdisrael009336mbp/… is this the document you mentioned?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 6:27

I've never heard it, but the OED says it's "still common in northern dialect and in literary and legal Scotch".

Of some 15 definitions and sub-definitions for anent, all but two are daggered and obsolete and/or dialect:

  • A.I.†1. Obs. or dial.
  • A.I.†2. Obs. or dial.
  • A.I.†3. Obs. or dial.
  • A.I.†4. Obs.
  • A.II.†5. Obs. rare.
  • A.II.†6. Obs.
  • A.III.7. Of position: fronting, opposite, over against, close against, close to. arch. or dial. In this sense many northern dialects have now fore-nent.
  • A.III.†8. Obs.
  • A.III.†9. Obs.
  • A.III.†10.a. Obs.
  • A.III.†10.†b. Obs.
  • A.III.11 In respect or reference to, respecting, regarding, concerning, about. (Common in Scottish law phraseology, and affected by many English writers.)
  • †B. Obs. or dial.

Their etymology explains:

The form-history of this wd. presents several points not fully explained; the primitive form is the Old English phrase on efen , on efn , on emn , with the dative = ‘on even (ground) with, on a level with,’ whence later side by side with , beside , face to face with , opposite , against , towards , in view of , etc.; cognate with Old Saxon an eban , Middle High German eneben , neben , and (with phonetic -t ) nebent . In English also a final -t had been developed by 1200, interchanging with -d , perhaps by form-assoc. with some other word. At the same time this extended form occurs with final -e and -es , after datival and genitival words like on-bute(n , on-ȝeanes . Following the latter class also, the final -s became in 14th cent. -st , giving anentist , anentst , anenst , as the midl. form, in literary use in 17th cent., and still dialectal. The north preserved the earlier anent , still common in northern dialect, and in literary and legal Scotch, whence not unfrequent in literary English during the 19th cent. The early form anende may have been influenced by the an-end adv. phr. an-end adv.; anont, anond(e, are not explained. The development of meaning is largely parallel to that of again, against.

  • This is a well-written answer, but it does not actually answer the question at all. That the OED has only two meanings of anent that are not labelled obsolete is clearly stated in the question itself—and the etymology is irrelevant to answering the question at hand, which was whether the first of the two non-daggered definitions is still in use in any dialects or not. Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 11:09
  • Does the OED really still use the term 'legal Scotch'?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:13
  • @Spagirl It does! Although it also says "This entry has not yet been fully updated (first published 1884)."
    – Hugo
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:19
  • @Hugo lol, I'd suggest that using 'Scotch' to describe the language we now know as 'Scots' should also be daggered, figuratively or otherwise. :)
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:44
  • @Spagirl The OED's entry for Scotch has been updated more recently, in June 2011, and has some 10 introductory paragraphs on the history, usage and acceptability of Scotch, Scottish, Scots, including: "In current British standard usage (following educated Scottish usage) Scottish is now the preferred adjective, especially in applications relating to the nation or the country at large or its institutions or characteristics, with Scotch retained chiefly as a relic form in certain fixed collocations."
    – Hugo
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 18:25

Anent was used in Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, here at the start of book 4’s chapter 11:

Mrs John Rokesmith sat at needlework in her neat little room, beside a basket of neat little articles of clothing, which presented so much of the appearance of being in the dolls’ dressmaker’s way of business, that one might have supposed she was going to set up in opposition to Miss Wren. Whether the Complete British Family Housewife had imparted sage counsel anent them, did not appear, but probably not, as that cloudy oracle was nowhere visible. For certain, however, Mrs John Rokesmith stitched at them with so dexterous a hand, that she must have taken lessons of somebody. Love is in all things a most wonderful teacher, and perhaps love (from a pictorial point of view, with nothing on but a thimble), had been teaching this branch of needlework to Mrs John Rokesmith.


All very interesting. I have just come across this word for the first time (and looked it up, having no idea what it meant). I found it in the foreword of an Ellery Queen book, The Roman hat mystery. The foreword was written in 1929 in New York although my copy of the book is not first edition. Anent was clearly a regularly used word then and there.

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    – choster
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 22:42
  • One use in one book doesn't mean that it was in regular use.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 12:34

'Forenent' or 'Forenenst' is still in regular use by older people in Co. Meath, Ireland, where I grew up. In my youth in the 50s and 60s it was the only word in use in rural areas to indicate something 'directly opposite,’; 'in line with,' etc. Nowadays, its use is confined, in my experience, to those of us who had heard it used daily, but it is used mainly when speaking to another person of the same vintage- i.e., those who would understand its meaning without an explanation. One phrase I recall hearing was from an old woman: 'He was standing out there in the yard, right forenent the door." I believe it is a useful word that should be preserved in spoken and written form.


"Anent' is be found in " Scotland & nationalism* - Christopher harvie - routledge 1998 (3rd editn). Brian blancharde

  • 1
    Can you add a little context about the occurrence?
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 15:12
  • The question is not whether the word is still being used. The question is whether the word is still being used of position. Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. (more)
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 16:02

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