Kith and Kin

Your kin, of course, are your family. But who the heck are your kith

Samantha Enslen, Writing for
2-minute read


Here in the United States, it’s Thanksgiving.

That means turkey. That means mashed potatoes and gravy. 

That also means a special time to gather with kith and kin.

Your kin, of course, are your family. But who the heck are your kith

They’re your friends!

The Origin of 'Kith'

Kith is derived from two Old English words: cȳthth, meaning "relationship," and cynn, meaning "kind" or "family."  

This ancient word can be traced all the way back to 8th century, where it appeared in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. This five-book treatise covers the history of England, religious and political, from the time of Julius Caesar to the time the book was completed. 

Kith may have been popular back in Bede’s day, but today, it’s obsolete. You’ve probably never heard anyone say, “I’m going to meet some kith at Starbucks,” for example.

It remains alive in our language in just one phrase—kith and kin—meaning friends and family, or friends and relations.

So, if you’re gathering this week with loved ones to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, feel free to amuse them with this week’s tidbit. Kith comes from an Old English word meaning "relationship." Today, in the phrase kith and kin, it means "friends."

Samantha Enslen runs Dragonfly Editorial. You can find her at dragonflyeditorial.com or @DragonflyEdit.


Ammer, Christine. Kith and kin. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 

Dent, Suzie. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 19th edition. Chambers Harrap, 2013.

Oxford English Dictionary, online edition. Oxford University Press. http://bit.ly/1MExZUo (subscription required, accessed November 19, 2015).


About the Author

Samantha Enslen, Writing for Grammar Girl

Samantha Enslen is an award-winning writer who has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She runs Dragonfly Editorial, an agency that provides copywriting, editing, and design for scientific, medical, technical, and corporate materials. Sam is the vice president of ACES, The Society for Editing, and is the managing editor of Tracking Changes, ACES' quarterly journal.

You May Also Like...