Cl superl. vglokest

‘gruesome, threatening, evil-looking’

(Modern English ugly)


cp. OIcel uggligr ‘to be feared’, a formation on OIcel uggr ‘fear, apprehension’.  ME vgly may derive direct from the ON adj., or represent a derivation on ME ugge (though this is recorded only once in ME: see MED s.v. ugge n.).  The ON stem ugg- is etymologically opaque.  It is perhaps related to Icel uggi ‘fin of a fish’, and has been connected further to words like Icel agg ‘brawl, quarrel’, and hence conceivably to the PIE root *aK [palatal k, with circumflex accent] ‘to be sharp, stab’ which seems to lie inter alia behind PGmc *agjō ‘edge’ (OIcel egg, OE ecg, etc.). But if this is so then the form of ON ugg- is peculiar and difficult to explain.

PGmc Ancestor

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

uggligr ‘to be feared’
(ONP uggligr (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Icel uggð, Norw ugg, Sw dial ugg, ygg

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



First recorded in a1325(c1250) Gen.& Ex.(Corp-C 444), but rare until the late 14c; often found in N and E texts (inc. frequent citations from Lydgate), but relatively widespread in ME.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 441, 2079, 2190; Cl 892


MED uglī (adj.) , OED ugly (adj., adv. and n.) , HTOED , Dance vgly, Bj. 224, de Vries ugð, Mag. ugga