/wɔnt, woʊnt, wʌnt/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [wawnt, wohnt, wuhnt] Show IPA Pronunciation
adjective, noun, verb, wont, wont or wont⋅ed, wont⋅ing. –adjective 1.accustomed; used (usually fol. by an infinitive): He was wont to rise at dawn. –noun 2.custom; habit; practice: It was her wont to walk three miles before breakfast. –verb (used with object) 3.to accustom (a person), as to a thing.4.to render (a thing) customary or usual (usually used passively).–verb (used without object) 5.Archaic. to be wont. Origin:
1300–50; (adj.) ME wont, woned, OE gewunod, ptp. of gewunian to be used to (see won 2 ); c. G gewöhnt; (v.) ME, back formation from wonted or wont (ptp.); (n.) appar. from conflation of wont (ptp.) with obs. wone wish, in certain stereotyped phrases
Ms Nyree: I think this excerpt from Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" might illustrate how the two words can seem to be used in a very similar way but actually mean different things. The following is a description of a man who has changed greatly since the last time the narrator saw him:
"...a finely moulded chin, speaking in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity; these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke."
In this context, want refers to a lacking and is used as a noun. The man lacks a prominent chin and the moral energy associated with it.
Wont, on the other hand, could be replaced by seem, or would typically. The man's distinctive features seem to represent an expression that is so different from the man the narrator once knew.