Pe mes


(Modern English mass)


OE had the variants mæsse and messe, apparently < VLat *messa (late classical Lat. missa), and cp. OIcel messa, OFris misse, OS missa, OHG missa, messa (and MDu misse, messe, mis, MLG misse, MHG misse, messe).  Forms in <e> occur sporadically across all dial of OE (OED3); this would be the regular descendant of VLat /e/, but the majority OE type spelt <æ> is more difficult to explain (see possible explanations in Campbell §208 and Wollmann 1990). Almost all authorities are satisfied that the ME variants of the word, incl. those in <e>, descend from OE, with the possible addition of input from OFr messe (so OED, MED, TGD). A few explain it as a loan from the OF (e.g. Jordan-Crook §32 Rem. 3 following Morsbach, Clark 1952–3: 83), and only GDS cites ON messa as a possible ingredient to explain the vocalism of the ME. But there is no evidence that ON had borrowed the word early enough for its influence to be feasible; it is usually regarded as a loan via either LG (thus de Vries, Mag.) or English (so Gammeltoft and Holck 2007: 148).

PGmc Ancestor

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

messa 'mass'
(ONP messa (1) (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far messa, Icel messa, Norw messa, messe, Dan messe, Sw messa

OE Cognate

 mæsse, messe 'mass'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



Forms in <e> are very common in ME, from as early as the continuations to the Peterb.Chron.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1690; Pe 497, 862


MED messe (n.1) , OED3 mass (n.1 (and int.)) , HTOED , Dance messe, de Vries messa (1), Mag. messa (1), AEW mæsse, AND messe (1), DEAF messe (f.), FEW mǐssa