Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: wont.

wont. Although Samuel Johnson reported in 1755 that this word had slipped from use, it hangs on today as a slightly whimsical way of expressing customary behavior. It is used almost exclusively as a predicate adjective {as he is wont to} or as a noun {as is her wont}, although other forms do exist. The dominant pronunciations are /wahnt/ and /wawnt/, although /wohnt/ and /wuhnt/ are also accepted. Probably because it is usually a homophone for “want,” and because its meaning intertwines with that simpler term (one who is wont to do something generally wants to do it), it is occasionally misspelled “want” — e.g.: o “Montgomerie had been the target of catcalls from American fans all week. As is his want [read ‘wont’], he exacerbated the situation by letting the fans know how much they irritated him.” Paul Kenyon, “Death Deals Golf a Cruel Blow,” Providence J.-Bull., 26 Oct. 1999, at D1. o “He was skinny all his life. But, as a body is want [read ‘wont’] to do, it’s acquired an extra pound, or two or three, in its sunset years.” Lisa Gutierrez, “Shawnee ‘Santa’ Hands Out Toys, Hands Down Art,” Kansas City Star, 13 Dec. 2000, at F1. The adjective “wonted” (= habitual), which invariably appears before the noun that it modifies {his wonted practice}, is archaic and literary. But it sometimes appears in popular writing — e.g.: o “A few glancing high notes aside, she brought zest to ‘Endless Pleasure’ and lent ‘O sleep, why dost thou leave me?’ its wonted aura of lazy sensuality.” Allan Ulrich, “Scintillating ‘Semele,'” S.F. Chron., 2 Nov. 2000, at B1. o “He has also claimed to have farmed out complaints to inattentive helpers — an act at variance with his wonted heavy hands-on approach to his pastoral duties.” Editorial, “Why Is Cardinal Law Still in Office?” Wash. Post, 23 June 2002, at B7. Language-Change Index — “want” misused for “wont”: Stage 1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. Quotation of the Day: “Nothing reveals fuzzy thinking as effectively as making yourself write out the thesis for the paper in a single sentence.” Elizabeth McMahan, A Crash Course in Composition 6 (2d ed. 1977).
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