Word Nine: Kith

Image Copyright K Stone Matheson

Image Copyright K Stone Matheson


This was my word of the week.

No, it isn’t someone with a lisp saying ‘kiss’ (although I now have an image of some poor fourteen year old with a mouth full of braces singing “all I need is your extra time and your – owwww – kith). It is derived from the Old English cȳth, (circa 900 AD) which in turn originates from the word cȳththu, meaning ‘kinship, knowledge’. It is the cousin, etymologically speaking, to the German word kundig, which means knowing, as well as Kenntnisse and die Kunde; but that gets a bit Komplex and will end up with me saying ich habe eine kopfweh.*

Kith: 1. acquaintances, friends, neighbours, or the like, persons living in the same general locality and forming a more or less cohesive group; and
2. kindred.

Kith and kindred. An old phrase, one not often heard. My kith and kin.

Of my family and home. Mine.

Family – kith, kin – doesn’t have to be of our blood to be of our heart. To sing through the fabric of our skin, tightly interwoven into thoughts, fears, hopes; to understand a joke in a word, to know anger in the lift of an eyebrow, or the clenching of a fist; that, to me, is kith. That, to me, is kindred.

It is our kith who know when we are hurt, when we are falling apart at the seams. Our kindred who see immediately when we are so far down, there is no way we’ll get up without a hand held down towards us — and they do it with no words spoken, no pity shown.

Just an outstretched hand, and a promise to be there if, or when, we fall, the next time.

Your kith is a mix, sometimes, of the near and the far – not just geologically, but in terms of those who know you inside out and sideways, and those who have only just started to scrape through the onion layers, just as you, in turn, are peeling back their many many complexities. Your kith may be made up exclusively of your own family; it may well be an urban family of friends. Perhaps it’s the extended loved ones of a spouse, or even near strangers, whom you see as easier to talk to, because at certain points you can withdraw, slip away.


If you are very, very lucky, they will see this, and not let you go.

They will prove the old definition true. They will know you for your real self, and stay the journey, however hard it gets.

My kith are a mix of miraculous souls, who do see me in all my frailties; who look past my well-worn posit of rebel angel – the one who fell first, and hardest. They are on the side of heaven themselves, and know how to deal with the darkness within my weak little bones. They are a mismatched band, and striding at their head is one of the most patient men on the face of the planet, who truly must have just a smidgen of archangel dust on him somewhere to put up with my devil-spawned ways. They are willing to try again and again to get past the concrete barriers I slam up when things get hard.

And they do. They get hard. They are extraordinarily hard now.

But still, my kith and kin beat on against the tide of my stubborn shittiness and tears. My silence. My panic attacks, and my pain, all of which are trying to take over right now, and make me isolated beyond the reach of these brave, foolhardy warriors.

Yet still they persevere. With silliness, and hugs, and wisdom, and love. Sometimes with a severe talking-to.

And just today, by saying these words:

“You are kith and kin.”

If I were ten feet underground I would have heard them through the soil, and smiled.

*This, in a very prosaic closing, means I have a headache. For anyone who really, really wanted to know.