thwart (adv.) [...] c. 1200, from a Scandinavian source, probably Old Norse þvert "across," originally neuter of thverr (adj.) "transverse, across," (cognate with Old English þweorh "transverse, perverse, angry, cross,")
from Proto-Germanic *thwerh- "twisted, oblique" (cognates: [...]),
altered (by influence of *thwer- "to turn") from *therkh-,
from PIE **terkw-* "to twist" (cognates: [...]), possibly a variant of *twerk- "to cut." From mid-13c. as an adjective.

This excellent helpful explanation and the above, describe the etymology to engage 'turns', rather than any 'twist', thus my question. This engagement of 'turns' is evidenced in the use of the word 'transverse' above, one of whose Latin etymons is vertere (= to turn).

Please expose and explain the hidden, missing semantic drifts and links. What is twisted?

  • 1
    Do you see a link between "twisting" and "turning"? I do. When something turns, it often twists its path. Does that make sense to you? Aug 7, 2015 at 4:48
  • @sumelic Sorry for my dullness; but no, I don't see the link. Please explain?
    – user5306
    Aug 9, 2015 at 23:40
  • Well, how would you describe your definition of "twisting"? Aug 9, 2015 at 23:41
  • @sumelic If your opponent thwarts you, then I can imagine that he is turning against you. But it doesn't make sense to describe someone as 'twisting against you'?
    – user5306
    Aug 10, 2015 at 1:54
  • I know thwart exclusively from thwart off, synonymous with fence off, fight off. Are you really asking about the adverb? Cp. adverse, adversery? Ger Warte "side", -wärtig, -werts "-wards" also comes to mind; Abwehr "defense", -wehr "???", *zu-wehren I do not know, but zu[r] Wehr setzen, syn. entgegenstellen "to set against, to defend". Unheil abwenden "to turn off mischieff", wenden "to turn" may serve for analogy, reflx. sich abwenden "to turn oneself away"; schwer, sehr "damaged, very" vs swart off; Bewehrung "armor, dike" (cp. tire, Bereifung?) ...
    – vectory
    Jul 28, 2019 at 9:04

2 Answers 2


The derivation quoted from etymonline--who are known to copy from published material without referencing the source--seems to be from Kroonen's dictionary (see fig. 2). This headword, *thwerha, is listed after several words related to washing and swiveling (fig. 1).

I connect those two meanings first of all on grounds of Ger. wischen "to scrub, mop, swipe", or scheuern "to chaff; swipe", which in my experience involves twerking motions. Secondly, I connect washing to cleansing rituals as observed in many cultures. Indeed, pendulum (a thing that swings) for example has been connected to PIE *(s)pend-, glossed "libation", which again reminds of Lat. lavo etc. "to wash".

At that point I would usually dive deep into unknown territory reading up on sabbath, salat, Ger. Urlaub "holiday, vacation", easter, spring, pass over, pessach, Turkish "sunday", Ru "easter", Ger. Samstag, salvation, september etc. ... and I would never see the end of it. I want to connect thwart "cross" to christening, but have no basis to connect a ostensibly Germanic root to christian traditions, and not much insight into the comparative mythology, either.

figure 1

figure 2

  • Since the main contribution of this answer is giving the source to the quoted derivation, the rest of this answer would just amass some comparanda. Which I have already forgotten a week after starting to write this. It should relate fire, purification and christening, due to entries found in Kroonen under S. So I will ignore this and that tangent for now.
    – vectory
    Aug 3, 2019 at 14:25

Do you see a link between "twisting" and "turning"? I do. When something turns, it often twists its path. Does that make sense to you? – sumelic Aug 7 '15 at 4:48

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