The Reason the Contraction for Will Not Isn’t “Willn’t”
Listen up grammar enthusiasts.
The English language is full of odd quirks, and for the most part, we just accept them for what they are and move on. Rules are rules, y’all! But when you actually stop and think about them (like the fact that there are no eggs in eggplants!) many are truly bizarre.
Take the contraction for “will not,” for example. If it were normal (like “could not” and “have not”) it would be shortened to “willn’t” instead of “won’t.” If you’re wondering where the logic is in all that, you’re not alone. And, like most things grammar related, the answer goes back centuries.
Recently, the folks at Reader’s Digest were kind enough to break it all down for us. It turns out that in Old English the verb willan (which meant to wish or will) had two forms: wil for the present tense and wold for the past tense. Eventually, pronunciation evolved from wool to wel to woll to ool.
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A consensus wasn’t reached until the 16th century when wil ultimately became “will,” and wold became our “would.” As RD points out however, the most popular form of the negative verb remained woll not. This was contracted to wonnot, which modern English later turned into “won’t.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how won’t came to be.