I was translating this poem by Lord Byron:

If, in the month of dark December,

Leander, who was nightly wont

(What maid will not the tale remember?)

To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont!

Actually I have more questions regarding the syntax but I don't think it's allowed to ask multiple questions here. so here's my question:

The wont in this poem, what does it mean?

I thought it means will not... to cross thy stream, but it looks like an older usage.

  • Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. – Hot Licks May 8 '18 at 21:18
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    (In other words, look in a dictionary before asking here.) – Hot Licks May 8 '18 at 21:18
  • sorry about that, i never thought this could be in a dictionary – Mrko May 8 '18 at 21:25
  • Wont is an adjective, usually used as a predicate adjective with an infinitive complement, as in He is wont to abuse his privileges. As a predicate adjective, it requires an auxiliary be; it means, roughly, 'likely' or 'probable'. It's distantly related to want, but only distantly; however, the sense of doing something because one can, whether it's the right thing to do or not, is very strong. BTW, it's pronounced /wənt/, to rhyme with bunt – John Lawler May 8 '18 at 22:55
  • Wont certainly isn't pronounced /wənt/ in British English. It's /woʊnt/, like the contraction won't. – Andrew Leach May 9 '18 at 23:05

"Wont" in this context refers to Leander's habit of going out during the night to cross the stream. Wont can mean accustomed to or in the habit of performing a task or be inclined to do something.

It's not like the word "won't" which you've already mentioned. Almost the same spelling, but completely different meaning.

Merriam-Webster offers an expanded definition: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wont

  • ah yes, i get the meaning lot more clearly now. thank you my good man. – Mrko May 8 '18 at 21:18
  • For some reason, someone texting "wont" instead of "won't" feels less barbarous to me than a sign saying "potatoe's" over some potatoes. ;) – Spencer May 8 '18 at 22:18

It is not "won't", but an archaic form of "want"

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    This is not correct. The etymology of wont is from the Anglo-Saxon won meaning to dwell (OED). – WS2 May 8 '18 at 21:30

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