What is Kith and Kin – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Let’s talk about two words I always see used interchangeably but have separate meanings. I’m talking about “kith” and “kin.” After creating a book character from Scotland in the 1700s, I learned exactly how to use each term properly, and now I will teach you!

Kith and Kin Meaning

What is Kith and Kin Origin Meaning

Let’s start off with the basics. The noun “kith” refers to your friends and acquaintances, and “kin” is used to describe your family or relatives.

So, if you’re talking about your close circle of friends, you would use “kith.” But, if you’re talking about your relatives, you’d use the word “kin.” It’s as simple as that!

  • Kith = friends
  • Kin = family

The Origin of Kith and Kin

Now, let’s get a little historical. When I was doing research for my pirate fantasy series Dark Tides, I knew I had to get some histories and certain terms correct because, while it was a fantasy series, it was still rooted in our actual history here in Newfoundland. And our history has English, Irish, and Scottish roots.

So, “kith” is an old Germanic word that meant “known,” and “kin” has an Indo-European root and loosely means “to give birth to.”

In Middle English, the word “kith” was spelled “kitthe” and was actually used interchangeably with “kin” to refer to people, race, kinsmen, or family.

The actual phrase with both words in it, kith and kin, came about in the late 14th century and originally meant “country and kinsfolk” and still holds the same meaning today.

Are Kith and Kin Plural?

This is a common question I stumbled upon a few times while doing research for my book, and the answer is yes! You can use “kith” and “kin” as plural nouns. So, if you’re talking about all your friends, you can say “my kith.” And if you’re talking about all your relatives, you could say “my kin.”

Like, my son is my kin. But my children and husband are also my kin. Make sense? In the same way that my one best friend is my kith, and a group of my friends can also be my kith.

Is Kin Male or Female?

“Kin” is a gender-neutral term, so whether you’re talking about your mother, sister, uncle, or cousin, they all fall under the umbrella meaning of “kin.”

Kith and Kin Synonyms

  • Kith: friends, acquaintances, buddies, pals, besties
  • Kin: family, relatives, kinsfolk, clan, brethren, sisters, herd

Showing You Kith and Kin Examples in a Sentence

What is Kith and Kin Origin Meaning 1
  • I’m having a party for my kith and kin this weekend, so everyone’s welcome.
  • My kith and I are planning a summer road trip, and it will be epic.
  • My kin are spread out all over the world, but we still stay in touch thanks to FaceTime and Zoom.
  • I inherited an antique watch from my grandmother and planned to pass it down to my kin after me.

We’re All Kith and Kin

So, if you consider your friends the way you do family, you can get away with using either of these terms interchangeably. But if you want to be super technical, remember that kin is family, and kith means friends. Simple as that.