v. (wk.)

Gaw past 1 sg. hitte, 3 sg. hit, pp. hitte; Pe pres. 3 sg. hytteʒ; Cl pres. 3 sg. hitteʒ; WA infin. hit, pres. 3 sg. hittis, hitte, past sg. hit

‘to hit, smite; fall, drop to; to chance, attain as a result; come upon, find' (Modern English hit)


Cp. OIcel hitta ‘to hit upon, meet; hit, strike’, and also MDu hitten ‘to obtain, succeed’ (Kroonen). Its further etymology is very uncertain; it has been associated with We cwyddo ‘fallen’, and/or with a PIE root *(s)keid- ‘to fall, split’ via a PGmc *hit-atjan (Mag.), or with a PrN *hiþþijan (with þþ > tt) formed on a PGmc adv. *hiþe ‘hither’ (cp. Go formations of the type hwaþ ‘whither’, *þaþ ‘thither’), with Far híta ‘to spank, beat’ perhaps representing  the full-grade Ablaut of the same root. For summaries of the various possibilities see BJ-L. and Kroonen.

PGmc Ancestor

?*hit-atjan or *hiþþijan

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

hitta ‘to hit upon, meet; hit, strike’
(ONP hitta (vb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far hitta, Icel hitta, Norw hitta, Dan hitte, Sw hitta

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



A few occurrences in late OE (see Hofmann §371, Peters 97, SPS 307); widespread in ME (though MED’s sense 3 ‘to meet’ (etc.) is exemplified only from N and alliterative texts).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 427, 1455, 1459, etc.; Pe 132; Cl 479; Pat 289, 380; WA 445, 512, 839 etc.

Gaw 427 hit was emended away by early editions (Madden, Morris, M(G) felle, Mätzner helde), but all subsequent editors have followed Napier (1897: 52) in interpreting it as the past of hitte (see Knott 1915: 105).  At Gaw 2511 TGD read hit as the pronoun ‘it’ (see  2511n; they are followed by AW and PS (and Barron, Winny) (and see further vnhap); but other editors take it as an infin. of hitte in the sense ‘ensue, strike’ (thus GDS, Vant 2511n, and see further Menner 1926: 399-400, Wright 1935: 347-8).


MED hitten (v.) , OED hit (v.) , HTOED , Dance hitte, Bj. 213-14, SPS 117–18, 307, de Vries hitta, Mag. hitta (1), Bj-L. hitte, Kroonen *hittjan-, AEW hittan