What does the following sentence mean?

He shall be punished, what man soever offendeth.

(It is from the Internet site The Forest of Rhetoric silva rhetoricae.)

I have a feeling that this means "Anyone who offends anyone else shall be punished," but I am not sure.

  • 4
    It's a showy way of saying whoever offends. It's consciously archaic and made difficult to read on purpose, like all religious and pseudoreligious texts. Sep 7, 2022 at 15:22
  • Where on the site does that sentence occur?
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2022 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


Soever is now archaic and literary and it means:

of any or every kind that may be specified —used after a noun modified especially by any, no, or what

  • gives no information soever (M-W)

It is used in the KJV Bible:

  • What man soever there be of the house of Israel... (Lev. 17:3 KJV)
  • Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man... hear thou from heaven . (2 Chr. 6:29-30 KJV)

It is more commonly

used for emphasis after words such as how, what, which:

  • howsoever, whatsoever, whosoever (Wikipedia)
    (though even more commonly, so is dropped: whatever, however, whoever.)

Your sentence could be re-written as:

Whatsoever man (meaning whichever, any man that) offendeth shall be punished.

  • So can be dropped? Not always without rewriting the sentence — "What man ever there be of the House of Israel" isn't a reasonable English sentence. Sep 7, 2022 at 10:27
  • Sorry, I meant dropped from "whatsoever" generally, not in the sentence. Will edit.
    – fev
    Sep 7, 2022 at 10:33
  • 2
    Looking at whatsoever, we see an interruption between syllables, tmesis: He shall be punished, what man soever offendeth. Sep 7, 2022 at 12:46
  • 2
    @YosefBaskin: It would be tmesis if whatsoever was the older form — but my understanding is that the history went the other way, originally with separate words what and soever allowing different possible phrasings, then fossilising into the fixed phrasing what soever and hence into a single word?
    – PLL
    Sep 7, 2022 at 22:07
  • whatsoever man is not right. Whatsoever a man say, etc. It is not an adjective.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2022 at 15:24

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