Can I use "afoot" instead of "on foot" in the sentence below ?

I will go to market on foot.


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  • Certainly. But you'll probably get some strange looks; even Sherlock seems to have stopped using it. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 18 '18 at 10:52

You'd probably be misunderstood, because "afoot" is more commonly used to mean, as Chambers dictionary puts it "actively in existence".

The original sense of "on foot" dates from Saxon England. However from the seventeenth century it has been idiomatic for "actively in existence". And that (in Britain at least) has been its principle meaning in my lifetime.(ed. WS2). It is OED sense 3.

  1. In or into active existence, operation, or employment; in or into public circulation or currency; in or into preparation or progress.

?1585 E. Aggas tr. E. de L'Allouette Catholicke Apologie ii. xvii. f. 57v Such as iniustly do pretend to set thereinto [sc. into the question of a king's right to choose his successor] a foote, haue made a League which they entitle Holy..wherwith to come into the hart of the Realme.

1656 R. Sanderson 20 Serm. 160 Pride..setteth

contentions a foot at the first, and afterwards keepeth them afoot.

1665 D. Coxe Let. 6 Nov. in R. Boyle Corr. (2001) II. 578 From a Child of 14 or 15 yeares old I have been possessed with a strong persuasion that some of my Endeavours should prove Conducive to promote that Grand designe which of late yeares hath been set afoot sc: of writing a Hystory of Nature and giving a Mechanicall Solution of all the perticular Phenomena therein.

1680 in Hist. & Proc. House

of Commons (1742) II. 46 And was not the Execution of the Laws put afoot..by that great Papist Clifford, who had then the greatest Share (under his Majesty) in the Administration of the Government?

1701 J.

Somers Jura Populi Anglicani 29 They must set afoot Factions and Brigues.

1766 H. Vansittart Narr. Trans. Bengal 1760–4 II. 163 The

Nabob having set afoot an expedition against Beteea and Napaul, which he intended to command in person, waited only my taking leave of him to set out.

1829 Scott Anne of Geierstein III. ix. 263 He..has in

a right godly manner tried to set afoot a treaty of peace with my own father.

1872 A. W. Ward tr. E. Curtius Hist. Greece (new ed.) IV.

vi. i. 362 But why should the Spartans have set this story afoot?

1929 Amer. Mercury Jan. 3/1 They have set afoot multi-membered clubs and associations that boast of gigantic material resources.


G. Heyer False Colours vi. 88 Who set the rumour afoot, I wonder?

2009 R. Cotton Riders from Long Pines ix. 106 ‘Do you want to hear what I've got afoot here?’.. ‘Or is this about as far as you ever planned on going in life?’

  • 1
    Yes. Good answer. But I think you could add an example or two e.g. "Plans are afoot to change the rules". – WS2 Feb 18 '18 at 10:49

Afoot in the sense of walking is less commonly used than on foot See Google Books

  • "they went to the village afoot"; "quail are hunted either afoot or on horseback"

  • “she was afoot when I saw her this morning"

(The Free Dictionary)

The ODO suggests it is an AmE usage:

North American predicative On foot.

  • ‘they were forced to go afoot’
  • It feels like a consciously old-fashioned usage to me (BrE), so I don't recommend that you use it in ordinary conversation. – Kate Bunting Feb 18 '18 at 9:04
  • @KateBunting - Yes, more literary now I’d say. – user240918 Feb 18 '18 at 9:36

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