'before' (Modern English ere)


Cp. OIcel ár and Go air ‘early’ representing the positive form of PGmc *air-. The WGmc languages only record the comparative grade viz. OE ǣr, OFris, OS, OHG ēr ‘before, earlier’ < *airiz (also represented by Go airis), and the ME form must therefore be accounted for either by loan from ON or (less plausibly) an unrecorded native positive OE *ār. For ME spellings in <a>, which may indicate a short vowel, there is the additional possibility of descent from an unstressed OE variant of comp. ǣr with shortening > *ær (see OED2 and Bj.). See also or.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

ár 'early'
(ONP ár (4) (adv.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far ári, Icel ár, Norw år

OE Cognate

cp. ǣr (comp.) 'before, earlier'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



Variants in <a> (cf. or) (taking into account MED s.vv. ēr adj., ēr adv., er prep., er conj.1) are recorded from a wide range of different ME texts, though esp. frequently from N dial (esp. Cursor Mundi); however, notice also LALME dot map 232 (‘are’ type), with widespread occurrences and a dense cluster in the SWM.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 239, 1632, 1891; Cl 438, 1128; Erk 36; WA 246, 447, 1140

All three occurrences in Gaw are line-final in the phrase neuer are; see McGee 322 and Putter and Stokes 2007: 476–7. TPD reads an instance of the superl. arest at WA 3504 (see 3632n), which Skeat WA had interpreted as a n. 'arrest, seizure' and introduces an other at 3291 by emending A MS <he> to *are, following D MS reading ere.


MED ēr (adv.) , OED3 or (adv.1, prep. and conj.2) , HTOED , Dance are, Bj. 108, 200, SPS 73–4, 282, de Vries ár (5), Mag. ár (4), Bj-L år- (2), Orel *airi, Kroonen *airi, DOE ǣr (adv., prep. and conj.)