‘strife, fighting; trouble, sorrow’

(Modern English barrat)


Most authorities are content to derive ME baret from Fr, cp. Anglo-Fr barat ‘dispute, strife, disturbance, trouble, difficulty; deception, fraud; (false) litigation, barratry, trumpery’, which is a good fit formally and semantically (so MED, TGD, GDS). ON input has been suggested for the particular sense ‘contention, strife, quarrel, fighting’ (OED), cp. OIcel barátta ‘hitting, beating, violent attack; fight, battle’, which is possible but not necessary to account for the sense of the ME. Moreover the OIcel word likely represents a Scandinavian adaptation of the Fr one (contra de Vries); it is recorded only in Icel (from the 13c. in ONP), and so one may legitimately doubt its existence in VAN. 

PGmc Ancestor

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

barátta ‘hitting, beating, violent attack; fight, battle’
(ONP barátta (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Icel barátta

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



MED cites a wide range of occurrences, from the 13c. onwards; some senses (inc. (3) ‘combat, fighting, battle; an attack’) seem esp. frequent in N/EM and alliterative texts.  VEPN records only one possible field-name attestation, Barettfelde (Chs.).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 21, 353, 752 etc.

On the sense at Gaw 752, see Wright 1906: 210.


MED barat(e (n.) , OED barrat (n.) , HTOED , HTOED , Dance baret, AND barat, de Vries barátta; átta (2), Mag. -átta, VEPN barat, FEW prattein, DEAF barat (m.)