WA siluer, siluyre

'silver' (Modern English silver)


For the n. meaning ‘silver’ OE had seol(o)for, siol(o)for, next to cognates across Gmc, viz. Go silubr, OIcel silfr, OFris sel(o)ver, silver, OS silubar, OHG sil(a)bar, which suppose a PGmc *siluƀra-; the ulterior etymology is obscure. As with silk, the ME vocalism in /i/ (rather than ME /e/ from back-mutation of OE /i/) has been explained by ON input (thus Rynell 1948: 16n, (partly) Luick 1964: §§358, 382.1, Toth 1995: 567–8.), although some authorities cite only native words as etyma (thus OED, MED, TGD, GDS, EVG, Goll, Osgood). However, it is possible to account for /i/ in this environment as a native development (Weyhe 1906: 64–8, Campbell §213 n.1), as  /i/ was the vowel proper to the stem of the adjectival derivative PGmc *seluƀrīna- > *siliƀrīn- (cp. Go silubreins, OHG silberīn, OS siluƀrin, OE sylfren (etc.), OFris selvirn), as well as to the stem of other derivatives with a suffixal /i/ e.g. the v. represented by OE besylfran.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

silfr (neut.) 'silver'
(ONP silfr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far silvur, Icel silfur, Norw sylv, ODan sølfver, Dan sølv, Sw silver

OE Cognate

seol(o)fren, seolfern (etc.) 'made of silver'; cp. seol(o)for, siol(o)for (n.) 'silver'

Phonological and morphological markers

[absence of back-mutation of */i/] (possibly diagnostic) (may not be applicable)

Summary category



Spellings in <i> (or later in <y>) are common and widespread in ME (and already to be found in the Peterborough interpolations to ASC.E s.a. 656 and in a1225(OE) Vsp.A.Hom.Init.Creat.(Vsp A.22)).  See further LALME dot maps 1065–7 (S half of England only), where <e> variants (and related forms in <u, eo> etc.) are more or less confined to the SWM. On the place-name evidence see EPNE.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Pe 77; Cl 1277, 1344; WA 129, 276, 1571 etc.


MED silver (n.)[], OED silver (n. and adj.) , HTOED , Bj. 112-13, 308, de Vries silfr, Mag. silfur, Bj-L. sølv, Orel *siluƀran; *siluƀrīnaz, Kroonen *silubra-, AEW siolufr, siolfor; sielfren, siolfren, EPNE seolfor