Make Your Editor Cry: Arrant vs. Errant

Make Your Editor Cry:  Arrant vs. Errant

Arrant means being notoriously without moderation or extreme. Arrant was originally a variant of errant, but it developed a meaning of its own before any of us were born. Arrant has negative connotations, usually modifying negative nouns (e.g., arrant fool, arrant nonsense).

Errant means roving, or straying from the proper course. The compound noun knight-errant (always hyphenated, pluralized as knights-errant) dates from medieval literature and refers to a knight who roves the countryside engaging in adventures. The word has nothing to do with error.

Examples:

There’s ne’er a villain dwelling in all Denmark but he’s an arrant knave.”—William Shakespeare [Hamlet; Act 1 Scene 5]
He tucked an errant curl behind her ear, enjoying the brush of her soft skin.

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