adj., n. (in phrase)

‘sunder, separation’ (in the phrase 'in sunder' ‘asunder’) (Modern English sunder)


The adv. phrase in sunder can be accounted for as a combination of OE in + sundor ‘asunder, apart, severally, differently’ (< PGmc *sunðraz; cp. Go sundrĊ, OIcel sundr, OFris sunder, OS sundar, sundor, OHG suntar). There is a parallel ON phrase represented by OIcel í sundr which has been cited as a possible influence (TGD and GDS, followed by Nagano 1966: 69), perhaps because of its relatively late and N distribution, but most authorities are content with a native etymon given the frequency with which the closely analogous on sundran (on sundrum, on sundron etc., > ME asonder, PDE asunder) is recorded in OE.

PGmc Ancestor

*eni + *sunðraz

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

sundr, í sundr  'asundr'
(ONP sundr (adv.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far sundur, Icel sundur, Norw sunder, sond(er), ODan sundær, syndær, søndær, Dan sønder, OSw sunder, synder, Sw sönder

OE Cognate

in + sundor ‘asunder, apart, severally, differently’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



The adv. phrase with in is cited by MED only from the late 14c. and then widespread (inc. Higden and Chaucer), though disproportionately frequent in N and E and alliterative texts.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1563


MED insonder (adv.) , OED sunder (adj. and adv.) (A.II) , HTOED , Dance sunder, de Vries sundr, Mag. sundur, Bj-L sund (1), Orel *sunðraz, AEW sunder