AskDefine | Define witting

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wit \Wit\ (w[i^]t), v. t. & i. [inf. (To) Wit; pres. sing. Wot; pl. Wite; imp. Wist(e); p. p. Wist; p. pr. & vb. n. Wit(t)ing. See the Note below.] [OE. witen, pres. ich wot, wat, I know (wot), imp. wiste, AS. witan, pres. w[=a]t, imp. wiste, wisse; akin to OFries. wita, OS. witan, D. weten, G. wissen, OHG. wizzan, Icel. vita, Sw. veta, Dan. vide, Goth. witan to observe, wait I know, Russ. vidiete to see, L. videre, Gr. ?, Skr. vid to know, learn; cf. Skr. vid to find. ????. Cf. History, Idea, Idol, -oid, Twit, Veda, Vision, Wise, a. & n., Wot.] To know; to learn. "I wot and wist alway." --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] [1913 Webster] Note: The present tense was inflected as follows; sing. 1st pers. wot; 2d pers. wost, or wot(t)est; 3d pers. wot, or wot(t)eth; pl. witen, or wite. The following variant forms also occur; pres. sing. 1st & 3d pers. wat, woot; pres. pl. wyten, or wyte, weete, wote, wot; imp. wuste (Southern dialect); p. pr. wotting. Later, other variant or corrupt forms are found, as, in Shakespeare, 3d pers. sing. pres. wots. [1913 Webster] Brethren, we do you to wit [make you to know] of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia. --2 Cor. viii.
[1913 Webster] Thou wost full little what thou meanest. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] We witen not what thing we prayen here. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] When that the sooth in wist. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] Note: This verb is now used only in the infinitive, to wit, which is employed, especially in legal language, to call attention to a particular thing, or to a more particular specification of what has preceded, and is equivalent to namely, that is to say. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

witting adj
1 aware or knowing; "a witting tool of the Communists" [syn: aware] [ant: unwitting]
2 intentionally conceived; "a conscious effort to speak more slowly"; "a conscious policy" [syn: conscious]




Etymology 1

Partly from Old Norse vitand, partly from the present participle of wit.


  1. knowledge, awareness
    • Late C14: for his wyf was at a someres game, / Wiþouten his wityng, he forsook hire eke. — Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘The Wife of Bath's Prologue’ ll. 648-9, Canterbury Tales (Oxford 1988, p. 113)

Etymology 2

Participle adjective of wit.


  1. aware
  2. done consciously; intentional



  1. present participle of wit
Professor Rolf Witting (18791944) was a renowned oceanographist and Finland-Swedish politician, member of four of Finland's cabinets 19261943. He was deputy minister for Foreign Affairs 19341936, and as Foreign Minister 19401943 the main executor of Finland's successful rapprochement to Nazi-Germany after the disaster of the Winter War (19391940) when Germany had been supporting the Soviet aggressor.
Witting died in 1944 without writing his memoirs; and his personal archive is believed to have been burned. As he had made some enemies during his political career, and since he couldn't defend himself, his role in Finland's politics has often been critically assessed both by foreign and domestic historians. Witting is often characterized as contemptous on democracy, parliamentarians, parliamentarism and Scandinavians while exaggeratedly impressed by German science, German culture, and Hitler's "New Germany". His views were not unique among his fellow contemporary academics, many of whom were also top politicians, but possibly somewhat more pronounced than average.

The appointment of Witting

When appointed by prime minister Ryti to Foreign Minister, this was a clear signal to foreign powers of Finland's intentions to obstruct the Soviet Union's attempt of influence by means of the Moscow Peace Treaty, that chiefly was aimed against Finno-German cooperation. Witting was considered an intelligent and capable negotiator, well suited for the tough negotiations on implementation of the peace treaty that were anticipated with the Soviet Union. His negotiations with representatives of Sweden and Nazi Germany came however to suffer from his lack of diplomatic sophistication. He has also been criticized for being far too sparse with information to Finland's important ambassadors in Moscow, Stockholm and London.
On the other hand, the appointment of Witting was a clear signal of Finland's political elite's realization, that there existed no more powerful friend to seek protection against a threatening Soviet Union from, than from that Germany that Finland in the late 1930s had made her very best to alienate. And in the end, it was thanks to this realization that Finland survived as an independent country, on the border to the Soviet Union — but on the right side of the border.
Witting was a convincing executor of a new, pro-German policy. He belonged to the circles that had been sympathetic to the semi-fascist Lapua Movement, the very circles the most understanding of the "New Germany" and the most suspicious of the Western imperialist powers of France and Britain, and against a Sweden that in their view had slipped dangerously far on the road towards Socialism. Witting didn't believe anything good could come out of cooperation with Scandinavia — particularly not as he considered his conservative Swedish peers to have a paternalist attitude towards Finland and the Finns.
The appointment of Witting as foreign minister has mystified many historians and other reviewers of Finland's 20th century path. For many, it's been hard to find the sense in Ryti, who was known as an Anglophile and a British knight, asking the pro-German anti-democrat Witting to become foreign minister after having been turned down by the pro-Western Gripenberg, who considered himself unfit to convincingly execute the necessary rapprochement to Germany?
It is easily and often forgotten, however, that the images of the combatants of the World War in March 1940, when Witting was appointed, were radically different from ours. The war, that later would be interpreted as a war between Good and Evil, seemed yet to be "only" an attempt by Germany and Russia to take back what they unexpectedly had lost in the end of World War I. Germany and Russia had not yet attacked any territories outside of their old empires. No-one could know, and very few foresaw, that Germany soon would attack the neutral countries Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. The position as most evil nation on earth was not yet taken over from the Russians by the Germans whose Wehrmacht would come to earn a reputation as one of the cruellest occupation powers the continent had ever experienced. At this time the German persecution of political opposition, Catholics and Jews seemed comparably lenient in comparison with the Soviet atrocities during the Great Purge and the persecution of kulaks. Future German atrocities against civilians in the occupied countries in general, and against Slavs and Jews in particular, were hard to imagine for the Finns who looked up to German Kultur as to nothing else. Even less were the atrocities of the Holocaust imaginable. If any state in March 1940 could be seen as representing Evil, then that without any doubt was the Soviet Union.
The relations with Nazi Germany, which Finland in the 1930s wilfully and successfully had frozen down, necessarily had to be warmed up again if Finland should have a chance next time the Russians attacked. According to the Finns, the Winter War had proven that the Swedes, the French and the British either didn't have capacity or didn't have incentives to support Finland. Finland's foreign policy of the late 1930s had failed — now it was time for the critics of take over.
witting in Dutch: Rolf Witting
witting in Finnish: Rolf Witting
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