Pe drem; Cl , Pat pl. dremes

'dreaming; dream, vision'

(Modern English dream)


Formally derived from OE drēam ‘joy, bliss; frenzy, delirium, madness, demonic possession; sound, music, noise’, ME dreme is now generally agreed (e.g. Bj., CV, TGD, Ehrensperger 1931, Serjeantson 74–5, McGee 474–6, Rynell 14, MED, ODEE, Nagano 1966: 55–6, Hoad 1984: 36–7) to show semantic loan from ON, cp. draumr ‘dream, vision’ (but contrast OED and GDS, which do not refer to ON input). The possibility of native derivation depends on the contested relationship between the OE n. and related early Gmc words, and their ulterior etymology. The sense of the word in ON is likewise the only one attested for OFris drām and OHG troum, and only OS drōm (found exclusively in the Heliand) occurs both in the sense 'dream' and with something like the meaning of the OE: ‘noisy merriment, cheering; life on earth, human activity; ideal life in heaven, beatitude, salvation’; the word meaning 'dream' is often assumed to be etymologically distinct from that meaning 'joy, noise' (etc.), but there have been some attempts to derive both from the same PGmc source (PGmc *dreug- and *dreusan- have been proposed: see further Dance). It is possible but quite unlikely that ME dreme represents a native development, since then the meaning 'dream' must either have survived unattested in OE or (assuming that the two senses are etymologically related) have developed independently in the late OE or early ME period.

PGmc Ancestor

*draumaz (< root of *dreug- or *dreusan- ?)

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

draumr ‘dream, vision’
(ONP draumr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far dreymur, Icel draumur, Norw draum, Dan drøm, Sw dröm

OE Cognate

drēam ‘joy, bliss; frenzy, delirium, madness, demonic possession; sound, music, noise’ 

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



The earliest citations in MED, none of which is very early (a1325(c1250) Gen.& Ex.(Corp-C 444), (c1300) Havelok (LdMisc 108)), are from the EM, but the word in this sense was already widespread by the end of the 14c. (inc. Chaucer, Gower, Trevisa).  On distribution (and lexical field competition) see further esp. Ehrensperger 1931: 81–5, von Lindheim 1949: 206.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1750; Pe 790, 1170; Cl 1578, 1604; Pat 188, 473


MED drēm (n.2) , OED dream (n.2 and adj.) , HTOED , Dance dreme, ODEE dream, Bj. 11, de Vries draumr, Mag. draumur, Nielsen drøm, Hellquist dröm, Falk-Torp drøm, Torp NnEO draum, Bj-L. drøm, Bammesberger 70, Orel *ðraumaz, Kroonen *drauma-, AEW drēam, DOE drēam