I have come across its use as a proper noun in an 1895 deed:

"...all that one piece of pasture lying at Whatling Went."

So I wondered if there is any evidence for the the use of 'went' as a common noun, as a back-formation from the verb. Otherwise, how would anyone have thought to use it in this name?
Intuitively it seems to have the meaning of a strip of land or track along which you go.

I can think of another jokingly inventive use of 'went' as a noun, as in "These days he has plenty of got up and went." But that's different.

  • 3
    It reads like a place name; a double-worded proper noun.
    – Ram Pillai
    Sep 1, 2020 at 11:54
  • Scanning dictionaries I get a vague hint that "went", in old British, can mean a path or road. I know that "Went" is used in some place names in Britain.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 1, 2020 at 12:05
  • Wiktionary lists the obsolete noun usage. Sep 1, 2020 at 13:16
  • Probably this, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watling_Street as Hot Licks says. Sep 2, 2020 at 8:11
  • No, Whatling is a local surname. The deeds relate to Suffolk, nowhere near Watling Street. Sep 2, 2020 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


Yes, went is an obsolete English noun for a road, way, or course. Here's the Oxford English Dictionary, "went, n.":

  1. a. A course, path, way, or passage. Obsolete exc. dialect.

The word originates around the fourteenth century in Middle English, and is possibly connected to the verb wenden, to walk or travel (Middle English Dictionary, "went(e, n."). Back to the OED, this excerpt from Chaucer shows both the verb went and the noun went in the same line, indicating how they function differently:

c1384 G. Chaucer Hous of Fame 182 In a forest, as they wente, At a turninge of a wente.

The latest usage cited is from about 1896, around the same time the deed you cite was written:

a1896 C. W. Bardsley Dict. Surnames (1901) 802 There are one or two wents, still so called, in my late parish [Ulverston].

Incidentally, the place name usage seems limited to referring to roads or courses. For instance, the village name and surname Wentworth comes from the Old English wintra (winter) and worð (enclosure) (Ancestry).

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