adj. (pp.)

'boyish, merry'

(Modern English (1) gear; (2) gere; (3) cheer)


Evidently a compound of ME child (OE cild) and a pp. adj. gered formed on a n. gere denoting a way of behaving (see further gere (d)(n.)).  The etymology of the latter is very uncertain and plausible suggestions include: (1) ME gere ‘gear, armour’ (etc.), derived from the ON n. represented by OIcel gervi, gørvi ‘gear, apparel’ < PGmc *garwj- (cp. OE gearwe ‘clothing’, OS garwi, OHG garawī) (see gere (n.)) is a good match formally (MED takes it as the same word and cites comparable collocations with child). Given the idea of 'behaviour'  central to the sense of the ME word, it is also possible to posit some input from the sense of the related verbal root, cp. OIcel gera, gør(v)a ‘to make, do’ (< PGmc *garwjan-; see gere (v.)). (2) OED also has a separate entry s.v. gere n., ‘a sudden fit of passion, feeling, transient fancy, or the like; a wild or changeful mood in which a loose is given to the feelings of the moment’ (see further Luttrell 1962: 449–50, followed by TGD) and puts forward the 'unlikely' possibility (advanced more favourably by Bense) that this gere may be a loan of MDu gere (gaer, gare) ‘desire, zeal, passion’, best connected to the adj. OHG ger ‘desiring, yearning, covetous, greedy’, OIcel gerr ‘greedy’, etc. < PGmc *gera- . If ME gere is ult. a derivation on this PGmc *gera-, then it cannot be native (an OE form would have shown palatalization); and of the various attested near-cognates, the MDu word seems the closest, offering the same part of speech. The sense then would be ‘with childish passions’. (3) GDS (86n) offers a viable alternative, arguing for derivation from OFr giere, a variant (with initial voicing > [dʒ]) of OFr, AN chiere, chere ‘face’ (< late Lat cara ‘face, countenance’); with the meaning ‘mannered’ for -gered. The phrase ‘a child appon chere’ (Winner and Waster 24) is cited as  a close parallel to Gaw 86 and there is some evidence that ME scribes at least sometimes identified chere and gere.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *garwj-; (2) *ger-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) gervi, gørvi ‘gear, apparel’; (2)  gerr ‘greedy’
(ONP (1) gervi (sb.); (2) gerr (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Icel gervi; (2) Icel gerr, Norw gjer 

OE Cognate

(1) cp. gearwe ‘clothing’

Phonological and morphological markers

[absence of palatalization of */ɡ/] (may not be applicable)

Summary category



The pp. adj. occurs only in Gaw 86. MED has a wide range of citations for the n. gere in this (broad) sense from Orrm onwards (inc. Chaucer and Hoccleve and later alliterative verse). OED’s senses (11b) (‘doings, “goings on”) and (11c) (‘a matter, affair, business’) are attested from the 15c. and 16c.  respectively (and latterly in Scots and Yks dial) and examples of its gere n. (‘a sudden fit of passion’, etc.) are cited from Chaucer down to the 17c.; but many if not all of MED’s instances s.v. gēre n. sense (5) could also be put here.  ME chere is widespread from the early 13c., and in MED’s sense (4) (‘the way in which one behaves’, etc.) from LB.Otho onwards.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 86 


MED gēre (n.) (sense 5) , Dance (child)-gered; (1) de Vries gervi, gørvi, gjǫrvi, Mag gervi, Heid. garwa-, Orel *ʒarwīn ~ *ʒarwjō, AEW gearwe (2), MED gēre (n.) , OED gear (n.) , HTOED , Bj. 151, 307; (2) OED gere (n.) , HTOED , Heid. gera-, Orel *ʒeraz, Bense gere, Boutk-Sieb jeria, Loyd and Lühr ger, de Vries gerr (2); (3) MED chēre (n.1) , OED cheer (n.1) , AND chere (1), FEW cara