Waves of wanhope so tost me to and fo
I’d seen the word before but any info on it had sunk into the morass of my own Memories so I checked OED where I found that it’s an obsolete term meaning hopelessness, despair. My first thought was that the wan element was the familiar adjective, but the etymology is far more interesting than that and this wan is a horse of a different colour. It is in fact “a prefix expressing privation or negation (approximately equivalent to UN-1 or MIS-)” and used abundantly in Old English to form new words (I’m sure Dave is familiar with it).
OED goes on to explain, “ In OE. the number of words formed with the prefix is considerable, but none of them has survived into modern English, and only one (wanspéd, ill-success) into ME. Of the many new formations that arose in ME., only wanto(w)en, undisciplined, WANTON, still survives in use (with no consciousness of its etymological meaning)”.
I found that fascinating. I have a new respect for wanton now, which itself leads to new surprises. The word is made up from the prefix wan- + towen, past participle of the obsolete verb tee, v.1, to discipline, train (thus wanton means literally undisciplined, untrained). And, the cherry on the icing, tee is the root of the modern team. God, I love etymology!