According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/froward - the following information was given for the word English word froward: "Once upon a time, in the days of Middle English, froward and toward were opposites. Froward meant "moving or facing away from something or someone;" toward meant "moving or facing in the direction of something or someone." (The suffix -ward is from Old English -weard, meaning "moving, tending, facing.") Froward also meant "difficult to deal with, perverse"; toward meant "willing, compliant, obliging." Each went its own way in the end: froward lost its "away from" sense as long ago as the 16th century and the "willing" sense of toward disappeared in the 18th century. A third relative, untoward, developed in the 15th century as a synonym for froward in its "unruly or intractable" sense, and later developed other meanings, including "improper or indecorous."

Even though the KJV was written in Early Modern English could it still be using a middle English definition since it was translating from Earlier English Bibles? Thank you.

  • 3
    Could you cite a relevant passage?
    – TimR
    Feb 4 at 22:11
  • 1
    And froward had meanings related to a person's character already in Middle English: contrary, stubborn, perverse, belligerent, malevolent, etc.
    – TimR
    Feb 4 at 22:32
  • @TimR - There were Earlier English Bibles - The Bishop's bible for one. Which has the word "frowardness" - textusreceptusbibles.com/Bishops/20/8
    – Douglas
    Feb 4 at 22:53
  • @TimR - I was studying Proverbs 8:13: The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
    – Douglas
    Feb 4 at 22:55
  • @TimR - Those are Middle English definitions. The KJV was written in Modern Early English. Were they using Middle English definitions from earlier translations like the Bishop's Bible in 1568? I just reread you're third post and understand that they are Modern Early definitions. my bad. Sorry. Thanks for your answer. Appreciate it.
    – Douglas
    Feb 4 at 22:57

2 Answers 2


Because of its abstractness, froward (i.e. from-ward, cf. wayward) is a kind of chameleon-word, a placeholder that can be filled with a variety of meanings as context requires, and there are many EME religious tracts trying to elucidate the meaning of Biblical passages that use the pejorative froward. In early modern English, froward has meanings which had been available since the Middle English period: peevish, stubborn, contrary, perverse, belligerent; and in context it can mean shrewish, lewd, wanton, impious, immoral.

  • Thank you, TimR. I appreciate the extra information.
    – Douglas
    Feb 5 at 16:35

In fact, froward, is Old English and, now obsolete, was used up to and including 1611:

OED †ADVERB Obsolete.

1. In a direction that leads away from the person or thing under consideration; = fromward adv.

OE Eall þæt þa beon dragen toward swa frett þa drane & dragað fraward. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle anno 1127

1611 And eke themselues so in their dance they bore, That two of them still froward seem'd to be, But one still towards shew'd her selfe afore. Spenser's Faerie Queen (new edition) vi.x. sig. Ff6v

You will note that Proverbs 8:13: The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. would mean "a person who speaks against God or encourages others to desert God." Hence the figurative Middle English: Untowardly; perversely.

  • Wow! I was thinking that the word "froward" was obsolete in 1611 outside of the bible. But you provided me with information that it was still in use. Thank you. Appreciate it.
    – Douglas
    Feb 5 at 20:17

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