‘command; appointment, meeting, tryst, appointed day'

(Modern English steven)


Formally derived from the OE masc. n. stefn (or stemn) ‘turn (of military service), time’ < PGmc *staƀnjōn (cp. the (near-)cognate fem. OIcel stefna (stemna) ‘direction, appointed meeting; summons, citation’ and MLG stevene ‘arrival day’). ON semantic input has been invoked to explain ME senses denoting an appointment, command or summons (thus  McGee 351 following Emerson 1922: 379, TGD, MED) and for late OE stefna at ChronD 1052.1.39 and the (possibly) related v. OE stefnian in ChronE (see esp. Hofmann §§357–8), though the exact meanings of these words in context have been debated (see Peters 92, SPS) See also stemmed. On the other hand, native developments in sense will account plausibly enough for the range of meanings attested in late OE and ME (thus GDS and OED), especially taking into account the prospect of influence from OE (ge)stefnan ‘to institute, arrange, regulate’ (usually derived from PGmc *stamnjan-); see SPS). 

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

stefna ‘direction, appointed meeting; summons, citation’
(ONP stefna (1) (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far stevna, Icel stefna, Norw stemne, ODan stævne, OSw stämma

OE Cognate

stefn, stemn ‘turn (of military service), time’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



ME steuen in relevant senses is recorded a handful of times by MED, from the later 14c. only, without evident dial bias; for (possible) late OE occurrences see etymological discussion.  EPNE attests ON stefna ‘a meeting’, hence ‘an administrative district, a meeting place’ in place-names only from Lin. EDD records this sense in MnE Cum. and Yks. dial.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1060, 2008, 2194, etc.; Pe 188; Cl 360, 463, 706

On the usage of the word in Gaw see PS 1060n. Vant notes that a defective section of vellum makes steuen at Gaw 2008 ‘difficult to read’ in the MS.


MED steven(e (n.2) , OED steven (n.2) , HTOED , EDD steven (sb.1 and v.), Dance steuen, SPS 457–8, de Vries stefna (3), Mag. stefna (2), Orel *staƀnjōn, AEW stefn, stemn (2), EPNE stefna