(1) ‘utterance’;  (2) ‘advance’

(Modern English (1) queath)


(1) All editors and commentators before McGillivray read the MS at Gaw 1150 (‘At þe fyrst quethe of þe quest quaked þe wylde’) as <quethe>, and identify this word with ME quēth(e) ‘utterance’ (etc.). This ME n. is clearly derived by some means from the root of the PGmc v. *kweþan- as in OE cweðan ‘to speak, say (etc.)’, the nearest equivalent in OE being cwide ‘utterance, sentence (etc.)’. (a) Some studies (Knigge 56, GDS) explain ME /ð/ by taking quethe as a loan from the ON cognate of cwide, cp. OIcel kviðr ‘saw, saying, speech, word’ (< PGmc *kweðiz; cp. further OS quidi, OHG quhidi) (§7).  (b) Emerson (mis-citing the ON word as ‘kvæðr’)(1922: 381, noted by McGee 357) however prefers an origin in a different ON derivation on *kweþ-, namely the n. represented by OIcel kvæði ‘poem, song’ < PGmc *kwēþja- or *kwēdja- with long ē-grade, and this is a better fit for the ME vocalism.  (c) But it seems simplest to account for ME quethe as a (recent) formation on the pres. stem of the v. itself, i.e. OE cweðan, ME quethen, and this is the account offered by most scholars (OED, MED, Bj. as well as Morris, TG(D); only Bj. supplies any discussion of the alternatives). (2) McGillivray (1150n) instead reads the MS form as <queche>, and hence identifies is as a n. (meaning ‘advance’) related to the ME v. quechen (in MED’s sense (2a), ‘to go, advance, travel) < OE cweccan ‘to shake (the head or hands); brandish (a weapon); quiver (of a knife)’ (derived on a PGmc root *kwak- as in OE cwacian ‘to quake, tremble, shake’, and cp. OS queki-līk ‘quivering’). This gives very plausible sense in context, but it would be the only known occurrence of such a n. in English.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *kweþ-; (2) *kwak-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

kviðr ‘saw, saying, speech, word’; kvæði ‘poem, song’
(ONP (1) kviðr (1) (sb.), kvæði (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far kvæði, Icel kviður, kvæði, Norw kvæde, ODan kvæde, Sw kväde

OE Cognate

(1) cweðan ‘to speak, say (etc.)’; cp. cwide ‘utterance, sentence (etc.)’; (2) cweccan ‘to shake (the head or hands); brandish (a weapon); quiver (of a knife)’, cp. cwacian ‘to quake, tremble, shake’

Phonological and morphological markers

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

Summary category



(1) Attested in MED in handful of instances (from a1250(?c1150) Prov.Alf. (*Glb A.19-Spelman)) without evident dial bias. (2) This would be the only attestation of a ME n. queche ‘advance’.  The related v. is found a handful of times from Laʒamon’s Brut onwards, and is fairly widespread regionally.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1150

McGillivray alone (1150n) reads the MS form as <queche>; see etymological discussion.


(1) MED quēth(e (n.) , OED3 queath (n.) , HTOED , Dance quethe, Bj. 163-4, de Vries kviðr (2); kvæða, Mag. kviður (2); kvæði, Bj-L kvede, Bammesberger 136, Seebold kweþ-a-, Orel *kweðiz, Kroonen *kwedu- (1); (2) MED quecchen (v.) , OED3 quetch (v.) , DOE cweccan, AEW cweccan