‘bright (green)’  (Modern English enker)


This compound has been attributed to two different sources: (1) ME enker (in what may be understood either as a compound adj. or as an intensifying adv. + adj.) has often been explained as a loan from ON (thus TGD, MED, Emerson 1927: 255, McGee), cp. OIcel einkar adv. (intens.) ‘especially/most/very, exceptionally’, formed ultimately on PGmc *ainaz ‘one’ plus a suffix. In that case, the ME initial /e/ is here best explained as an instance of an (earlier) common ON change of /ɛi/ > short /e/ before a consonant cluster (rather than OEN monophthongization); attested OWN forms in ein- have probably had the diphthong restored by analogy with einn ‘one’ (see Bj., McGee 569, Luick Gram §384.1, Br-N §105.2). McGee regards enker(-grene) as a back formation on ME enkerli (adv.) ‘eagerly, boldly’ (which is usually taken as a loan of the same ON word). (2) Alternatively, enker in enker-grene has been derived from French (thus OED, Kullnick 23, GDS (also noting (1) as a possibility), cp. OFr encré ‘inked’ (i.e. an adj. formed on the n. encre ‘ink’, ult. < Lat *encaustrum); the phrase vert encré ‘dark green’ is cited by OED as a direct analogue and AND notes the phrasal compound encre vert ‘ink-green, bright green’, which is still closer to the ME usage.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *ain- 

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

 einkar ‘especially/most/very, exceptionally’
(ONP einkar (adv.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far onka-, Norw einka, OSw enka, Sw enkom 

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



Neither enker (adv.) nor this compound/phrase are recorded anywhere else.  Enkerli (adv.) (perhaps related; see etymological discussion (1)) is however attested in the AMA and in a handful of early Scots texts (see MED s.v. enkerlī (adv.), OED s.v. enkerly (adv.), Flom 1900: s.v. encrely, ynkirly).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 150, 2477

Often printed as two words (thus e.g. Madden, Morris, M(G), TG, GDS, AW, PS and so OED).


MED enker-grēne (adj.) , OED enker (adv.) , Dance enker(-grene), Bj. 209 (s.v. enkerly), DP 21; (1) de Vries einka (1), Mag. einka-, Orel *ain(a)kai; (2) AND encre, FEW encaustum