A wight (Old English: wiht) is a creature or living sentient being. In its original usage the word wight described a living human being, but later came to be used within the fantasy genre of literature to describe certain undead. The earliest example of this usage in English is in William Morris's translation of the Grettis Saga, wherein draug is translated as "barrow-wight".
Examples in classic English literature and poetry
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368-1372), The Reeve's Tale, line 4236, The Riverside Chaucer (3rd edition):
- "For [Aleyn] had swonken al the longe nyght, And seyde, 'Fare weel, Malyne, sweete wight!'"
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368–1372), The Monk's Tale, line 380:
- "She kept her maidenhood from every wight
- To no man deigned she for to be bond."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368–1372), The Book of the Duchess, line 579:
- "Worste of alle wightes."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (1368–1372), Prologue of The Knight, line 72-73:
- "Ne neuere yet no vileynye he sayde
- In al his lyf vnto no manere wight.
- He was a verray parfit gentil knyght."
- Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1379-1380), The House of Fame, line 1830-1831:
- "We ben shrewes, every wight,
- And han delyt in wikkednes."
- Edmund Spenser (1590–1596), The Faerie Queene, I.i.6.8-9:
- "That every wight to shrowd it did constrain,
- And this fair couple eke to shroud themselues were fain."
- William Shakespeare (c. 1602), The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I, Sc. III:
- "O base Hungarian wight! wilt thou the spigot wield?
- William Shakespeare (c. 1603), Othello, Act II, Sc. I:
- "She was a wight, if ever such wight were"
- John Milton (1626), On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough, verse vi:
- "Oh say me true if thou wert mortal wight..."
- Church of Scotland (1650), Scots Metrical Psalter, Psalm 18 verse xxvi:
- "froward thou kythst unto the froward wight..."
- John Keats (1820 version), "La Belle Dame Sans Merci":
- Ah what can ail thee, wretched wight,
- Alone and palely loitering;
- Washington Irving (1820), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
- "In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, "tarried," in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity."
- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1812-1816), Childe Harold's Pilgrimage Canto 1, verse :
- Ah, me! in sooth he was a shamles wight ..." .
- Edwin Greenslade Murphy (1926), "Wot Won the Larst?", in Dryblower’s Verses:
- From weedy little wights whose cigarettes
- Recall a badly-disinfected drain
- W.S. Gilbert (1883), "Princess Ida", a song sung by the character King Gama:
- "Now when a wight sits up all night, ill natured jokes devising, and all his wiles are met with smiles, it's hard, there's no disguising!"
- "Wight". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 1974.
- Hoad, T. F., ed. (1996). "Wight". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
- "Wight". Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1974 ed.). Merriam-Webster. 1974.