Which - witch - wych

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Which, witch and wych form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.

Confusion of which and witch is a spelling mistake that can happen because of pronunciation.

Which is one of the 117 mis-spellings listed as 'Common difficulties' in the section on 'Spelling' within 'Writing' in UEfAP.
  • Witch is a noun which is much more rarely used in modern English - except in terms of horror films. It means a person (nearly always shown as a woman) who has supernatural powers, often derived from the devil. In non-European cultures, witches are not always female, nor are they always bad.

  • The adjective (and noun) wych is little used these days. The root meaning is 'having flexible branches', from the Common Germanic wik- 'to bend': wych is used of trees, particularly the wych-elm, sometimes (erroneously) written 'witch-elm'. This is the species of elm-tree whose botanic name is ulmus montana or ulmus glabra, and sometimes ulmus glabra montana. Its wood was formerly used to make bows, according to OED.