Word curio icon

Word Curio

January 19, 2020

Word of the Day: Widdershins

1 CQ

Word of the Day : April 10, 2017

widdershins \WID-er-shinz\ adverb


: in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction : counterclockwise


"Who could fail to be charmed by Korda's account of how he met his wife, Margaret, in Central Park, where they both rode their horses early in the morning, one going clockwise, the other widdershins, until the fateful day when they found themselves going in the same direction …?" — Maxine Kumin, The New York Times Book Review, 22 Apr. 2001

"… I know, however, that you are lying, and nothing can turn me widdershins against the power of my own will." — Elinor Wylie, Mortal Image, 1927

Did You Know?

English speakers today are most likely to encounter widdershins as a synonym of counterclockwise. But in earliest known uses, found in texts from the early 1500s, widdershins was used more broadly in the sense of "in the wrong way or opposite direction." To say that one's hair "stood widdershins" was, in essence, to say that one was having a bad hair day. By the mid-1500s, English speakers had adopted widdershins to specifically describe movement opposite to the apparent clockwise direction (as seen from the northern hemisphere) of the sun traveling across the sky, which, at the time, could be considered evil or unlucky. The word originates from the Old High German widar, meaning "back" or "against," and sinnen, meaning "to travel."

Aired April 10, 2017

All Merriam-Webster content is available at

  • Recommended Recommended
  • History & In Progress History
  • Browse Library
  • Most Popular Library

Get Personalized Recommendations

Let us help you figure out what to learn! By taking a short interview you’ll be able to specify your learning interests and goals, so we can recommend the perfect courses and lessons to try next.

Start Interview

You don't have any lessons in your history.
Just find something that looks interesting and start learning!

500 characters max
Melissa C
I like this and will try to remember to use this in my daily life. It will be interesting to see who knows this word.
500 characters max