Is this the correct use and placement of want?

The girls in the office are want to gossip.

Does anyone have a reference citing this use?

  • 26
    @Kris That's an exceedingly pedantic position to take. Given that the question is about the usage of the word "want", it would be a leap to assume she meant to use the word "potato". It is not, however, a leap to assume she meant to use the word "wont". Steering her in that direction is not digressive, it's helpful.
    – lordcheeto
    Oct 10, 2012 at 9:47
  • @lordcheeto I respect your opinion.
    – Kris
    Oct 10, 2012 at 9:52
  • 9
    @Kris There are many ways that the OP's sentence could have arisen, but it's most likely to me that this is a transcription error or an eggcorn on wont/want. We can add/remove other words as much as we want, but it is my wont to first assume that the words are where they should be. In that case, a simple spelling error on an unfamiliar word explains it all. Otherwise we have to try to guess what other errors have crept into this transcription. Finally, the line about "a ref citing this use" suggests that She is reporting this usage and asking about it, not making a new, ungrammatical sentence. Oct 10, 2012 at 11:41
  • Will the OP kindly peruse the answers and acknowledge, maybe? :)
    – Kris
    Nov 10, 2012 at 10:10
  • 2
    This question has been answered, there can be no other alternative answer, there is no scope for detailed thoughtful discussion. Let's just close this question.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 5, 2014 at 4:10

5 Answers 5


It should be "are wont to gossip", which means they are likely or inclined to gossip.

Oxford Dictionaries Online gives

(Of a person) in the habit of doing something; accustomed: he was wont to arise at 5.30 every morning

  • 38
    @Markus As a native speaker, I'd say that this makes complete sense but seems extremely old-fashioned.
    – lily
    Oct 9, 2012 at 18:20
  • 20
    I would say that it's an elegant way to say it, but not old-fashioned or outdated. Except insofar as we live in a crass, classless age. Oct 9, 2012 at 19:57
  • 30
    @Svish: Allow me to translate into ultra-modern English: "The girls in the office, like, gossip all the time!"
    – J.R.
    Oct 9, 2012 at 20:17
  • 8
    I agree with Horatio that it's "slightly archaic" & will add that it's slightly pretentious (which means that some of us use it precisely because it's pretentious {as a joke}, & some of us think it's normal, everyday English--but it's not: it's used only by educated speakers). A Google ngram shows a precipitous drop from the 1860s, from insignificant to super insignificant usage in those 152 years.
    – user21497
    Oct 9, 2012 at 22:55
  • 24
    The guys, apparently, are wont to chat in comments instead of in "chat". Oct 10, 2012 at 2:24

The usage "are want" is not correct.

There are lots of ways to fix the sentence so that it is grammatical, but the appropriate fix can't be determined with the information we have.

  • The simplest fix might be simply deleting the word "are". The girls want to gossip. This turns the sentence into a statement about the present, with no implications about any past or future intentions.

  • Others have pointed out that replacing "want" with the (near-)homophone† "wont" fixes the sentence. The girls are now inclined to gossip whenever the occasion is right, but may not be gossiping now (though the implication is that they probably are gossiping).

  • Replacing "are" with "all" also fixes the grammar. The "all" now provides emphasis; there is not even one girl who doesn't want to gossip right now.

I could go on...

† In many English dialects, "wont" is a perfect homophone of "want" – both words sound identical in normal use.

  • 2
    +1 "I could go on...": Yes. We could have saved a lot of breath asking the OP to clarify first, though. :)
    – Kris
    Oct 10, 2012 at 9:42
  • 1
    But, per the SE ethos, this provides a thorough answer for future readers - even if it goes beyond what the OP wanted.
    – hunter2
    Jul 16, 2013 at 7:29

The girls in the office are wont to gossip.

  • 14
    You have the right word, a minute and a half later than the first answer. If you had included a link and definition and the other had not, I'd upvote your answer instead of the other; but it's not so. Oct 9, 2012 at 17:29

Isn't this a typo of 'The girls in office are wont to gossip."?

“Genius English Japanese Dictionary” at hand defines “wont” as (1) adjective meaning ‘accustomed to’ and (2) noun meaning ‘habit’ and ‘custom.’ Thus I interpret the expression, ‘The girls in the office are wont to gossip” is similar to “The girls in office are apt (or inclined) to gossip”.

Though I’m not sure the following instance is relevant to the above usage, I found the case of 'wont' being used in (2) of the above in the article titled “Blunders and Binders” in October 17 New York Times:

“Obama called Romney out on things that were “not true” — a phrase he used in some form at least six times. Romney, for his part, committed unforced errors, as is his wont.”

Also I found the “be wont to do” pattern in the answer to one of my questions in EL&U:

“That's what I'd assume from Dowd's account, but I could be wrong about that, and Ms. Dowd may just be piling on with dramatic words, as she is often wont to do.”

  • 2
    You've answered so few questions this one is bound to get viewed by the curious! Have a look at this question to decide if you're happy with my minor edit. Nov 10, 2012 at 2:25

"want" is just a common "eggcorn" or indeed, simply, a common typo for "wont"

"wont" is a somewhat archaic or unusual word, but, so what? The same can be said of almost any word which often gets "eggcorned" today (tenterhooks, intents, etc).

Note that the form

"_ _ _ _, as is his wont"

is still fairly common. (Indeed, when that is used, I'm sure that 80% of the time the user is so silly they think the word is "want" - but so what? "Eggcorns" are common in English today.)

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