WA grayne, pl. graynes

‘arm or valley of the sea; blade (of axe)/spike?’ (Modern English grain)


cp. OIcel grein ‘branch, division’. Recent opinion (de Vries, Mag.; as opposed to Bj. who derives from *greiðn < PGmc. *ga-raiðni-) derives the sense of physical branching behind the ME word from ON grein < a PGmc *grainō formed on the root *grai- or *grī- ‘to divide, gape’; so only the vocalism is certainly a test of loan.  

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

grein 'branch, division'
(ONP grein (2) (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far grein, Icel grein, Norw grein, Dan grēn, OSw grēn, Sw gren

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

ON /ei/ &lt; PGmc */ai/

[ON fricative /ð/ < PGmc */ð/] (may not be applicable)

[ON consonant cluster assimilation] (may not be applicable)

Summary category



14c and 15c ME attestations in various senses do not show clear dial bias, though its occurrence as a name-element is distinctly N (see EPNE).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 211; WA 2451, 3375

The precise part of the Green Knight’s axe being described in Gaw is debated and thus OED, GDS (211n), TGD (211n) prefer ‘(forked) blade’, against ‘spike (at the back of the axe)’ (TG, MED, Brett 1915: 190–1, Yerkes 1975, McGillivray 211n), whereas Wright 1906: 212-13 envisages the ‘thick part of the head of the axe’ and PS (210–15n) suggest ‘the socket which held the blade (and spike)’ (see further Vant 211n). Skeat WA identifies the D manuscript variant <granes> at WA 3375 as an instance of the n. grain, glossing 'granules(?)'. 


MED grein (n.) , OED grain (n.2) , HTOED , EDD grain (sb. 1), Dance grayn, Bj. 43, de Vries grein (1) and (2), Mag. grein (1) and (2), Bj.-L. grein, EPNE grein