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athwart definition


This page has 10 definitions of athwart in English. Athwart is an adverb and preposition. Examples of how to use athwart in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .



From Late Middle English athwert, athirt,[1] from a- (prefix meaning ‘in the direction of, toward’)[2] + thwert (crosswise; (cooking) across the grain, adverb). Thwert is derived from thwert (crosswise, transverse; Counter, opposing; contrary, obstinate, stubborn, adjective),[3] borrowed from Old Norse þvert (across, athwart), originally the neuter form of þverr (across, transverse),[4] from Proto-Germanic *þwerhaz (cross; adverse) (altered or influenced by Proto-Germanic *þweraną (to stir; to swirl; to turn)), from Proto-Germanic *þerh-, probably from Proto-Indo-European *terkʷ- (to spin; to turn). The English word is analysable as a- (prefix meaning ‘in the direction of, toward’) +‎ thwart (placed or situated across something else).[5]



athwart (comparative more athwart, superlative most athwart) (archaic)

  1. From side to side, often in an oblique manner; across or over.
    Synonyms: (obsolete) overthwart, transversely
    Above, the stars appeared to move slowly athwart.
    We placed one log on the ground, and another athwart, forming a crude cross.
  2. Across the path of something, so as to impede progress.
    a fleet standing athwart our course
  3. (figuratively) Against the anticipated or appropriate course of something; improperly, perversely, wrongly.
    Synonyms: awry, crosswise

Related terms



athwart (archaic)

  1. From one side to the other side of; across.
    Synonym: (obsolete) overthwart
    The stars moved slowly athwart the sky.
  2. Across the course or path of, so as to meet; hence (figuratively), to the attention of.
    • 1642, Thomas Fuller, “The True Church Antiquary”, in The Holy State, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Roger Daniel for John Williams, [], OCLC 1238111360, book II, paragraph 5, page 71:
      For here our ſouls hath but one eye (the Apoſtle ſaith, vve knovv in part) be not proud if that chance to come athvvart thy ſeeing ſide, vvhich meets with the blind ſide of another.
    • 1794 December 24 (date written), S[amuel] T[aylor] Coleridge, “Religious Musings. A Desultory Poem, Written on the Christmas Eve of 1794.”, in Poems, [], 2nd edition, London: [] N. Briggs, for J[oseph] Cottle, [], and Messrs. Robinsons, [], published 1797, OCLC 3825526, lines 383–384, page 145:
      O Years! the blest preeminence of Saints! / Ye sweep athwart my gaze, so heavenly-bright, []
  3. Across the course or path of, so as to oppose.
  4. (figuratively)
    1. Across; through.
      • 1712 (date written), [Joseph] Addison, Cato, a Tragedy. [], London: [] J[acob] Tonson, [], published 1713, OCLC 79426475, Act III, scene i, page 37:
        And novv, athvvart the Terrors that thy Vovv / Has planted round thee, thou appear'ſt more fair, / More amiable, and riſeſt in thy Charms.
      • 1719 April 25, [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, [], 3rd edition, London: [] W[illiam] Taylor [], published 1719, OCLC 838630407, page 19:
        About three in the Afternoon he came up vvith us, and bringing too by Miſtake, juſt athvvart our Quarter, inſtead of athvvart our Stern, as he intended, vve brought 8 of our Guns to bear on that Side, and pour'd in a Broadſide upon him, vvhich made him ſheer off again, after returning our Fire, and pouring in alſo his ſmall Shot from near 200 Men vvhich he had on Board.
      • 2014 September 7, Natalie Angier, “The Moon comes around again [print version: Revisiting a moon that still has secrets to reveal: Supermoon revives interest in its violent origins and hidden face, International New York Times, 10 September 2014, page 8]”, in The New York Times[1], New York, N.Y.: The New York Times Company, ISSN 0362-4331, OCLC 971436363, archived from the original on 22 June 2022:
        And should the moon happen to hit its ever-shifting orbital perigee at the same time that it lies athwart from the sun, we are treated to a so-called supermoon, a full moon that can seem close enough to embrace – as much as 12 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than the average full moon.
    2. Opposed to.
  5. (nautical) Across the line of a ship's course, or across its deck.
    The damaged mainmast fell athwart the deck, destroying the ship’s boat.

Derived terms



  1. ^ athwert, adv.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ a-, pref.(2), in adverbs”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ thwert, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ thwart, adv., prep., and adj.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1912; “thwart, prep. and adv.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  5. ^ athwart, adv. and prep.”, in OED Online , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “athwart, prep. and adv.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.