Cl kyrke; Erk kyrke, pl. kyrkes; WA kirke

'church' (Modern English kirk)


cp. OIcel kirkja ‘church’; OE cirice, OFris kerke, zerke, sthereke, OS kirika, kerika, OHG kirihha, kilihha, ultimately from Grk kyriakón (via a vulgar form *kyrikÄ“). Borrowed into ON from WGmc at uncertain date - perhaps a Scandinavianized form of OE cyrice created by ON speakers in Viking Age England and borrowed back into late OE; or potentially an OE word depalatalized under ON influence (Bibire 2001: 100) 

PGmc Ancestor

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

kirkja ‘church’
(ONP kirkja (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far kirkja, Icel kirkja, Norw kyrkje, Dan kirke, Sw kyrka

OE Cognate

cirice 'church'

Phonological and morphological markers

absence of palatalization of */k/

Summary category



Predominantly N in ME and later (see LALME dot maps 387 and 388, and cp. LAEME map 00568308). For earliest occurrences, see SPS; for ME distribution see McIntosh 1973: 55–66 (Laing 1989: 86–97), Smith 1996: 139–41, and Miller 121–2; on place-name evidence see EPNE s.vv. kirkja, kirkju-bý(r), Fisiak 1995 and Fellows-Jensen 1987.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 2196; Pe 1061; Cl 1270, 1431; Erk 16, 113; WA 1549, 4542

The instance at Cl 1431 refers to the Temple.


MED chirche (n.) , OED kirk (n.) , church (n.) , HTOED , EDD kirk (sb. and v.),  Dance kyrk, Bj. 143, SPS 483, de Vries kirkja, kyrkja, Mag. kirkja, AEW cirice, EPNE kirkja; kirkju-bý(r)