Erk roynyshe

?‘rough, violent’ (Modern English runish)


Different interpretations of the etymology of this word revolve around its relationship with the formally and semantically very close ME renish- (also known mainly from alliterative poetry). (1) Runisch could be taken as a variant of this word, since <u> and <e> spellings can both reflect late OE /e:o/ (so OED, Sundén 1929: 47-55, TG, TGD)  and two plausible sources  have been suggested: (a) an ON adj. represented by OIcel hrjónn ‘rough’ (cp. Norw rjone (rjøne) ‘swollen or scabby bump on the skin’). The ulterior etymology is obscure; these words have sometimes been related to OIcel hraun ‘rough place, wilderness’ (so Heid., Mag.; see ronez) and further to a set of words perhaps to be referred to the same PIE root, inc. OIcel hrúðr ‘a crust, scab on a sore’.  (b) OE hrēoh (variant hrēow) ‘rough, fierce, wild, angry; disturbed, troubled, sad; stormy, tempestuous’ is similarly difficult to trace etymologically; the only direct cognate seems to be OS hrēo (Heid. tentatively relates it to either OIcel hrjónn or PGmc *hrewwa-). Sundén acounts for final -n in ME by suggesting an immediate origin for run- in the OE nom. derivative hrēones (<*hrēohnes) later perhaps misanalysed as *hreon-nes and MED appeals to oblique adjectival forms in -n. (2) Though these etyma may explain  the form of the ME , neither accounts for the sense 'strange, mysterious' which occurs for both ME runish- and renish-. It is now more usual, therefore (following Savage 1926, 52n) to derive (wholly or partly) from OE rūn ‘mystery, secrecy, secret; counsel, consultation; (secret) council’ and ‘runic character, letter; writing’ (cp. Go rūna ‘secret, mystery, counsel, council’, OIcel rún ‘secret, hidden lore, mystery’, OS rūna ‘secret counsel, secret conversation’, MDu rūne, ruun, ruen ‘secret counsel’, OHG rūna ‘secret’) or its mutated derivative (ge)rȳne ‘secret, mystery’. It is unlikely, however, to be the source of both  runish- and renish- (contra Savage, GDS 304n) because it is difficult to obtain ME /e:/ from OE /y:/ outside the SE; ren- forms are thus better derived as in (1), while acknowledging that the two originally distinct words have influenced each other in sense (thus MED, OED3, Hoffmann 1970: 447-9). (3) An earlier favoured alternative (Knigge 79, Maetzner 304n) is to suggest a source in an ON word corresponding to the root of  OIcel hrynja 'to fall to ruin, tumble down; (metaph.) to stream, float (of garments); to stream, pour down (of fluids)' (cp. Icel (n.) hrun ‘ruin, collapse’, OE hruna, MLG rone, OHG hrono ‘fallen tree-trunk’), but this is less apposite semantically.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) ?*hrewwa-; (2) *rūnō; (3)  *xreun-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) hrjónn 'rough'; (3) hrynja ‘to fall to ruin, tumble down; (metaph.) to stream, float (of garments); to stream, pour down (of fluids)’
(ONP (3)  hrynja (vb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Icel hrjón, Norw rjone, rjøne; (3) Icel hrynja, Norw rynja, OSw rynja, Sw dial ryni

OE Cognate

(1) hrēoh, hrēow 'rough, fierce, wild, angry; disturbed, troubled, sad; stormy tempestuous'; (2) rūn (n.) 'mystery, secrecy, secret; councel, consultation; (secret) council' and 'runic character, letter; writing'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



MED records adj. run-forms only from Gaw (sense b, '?rough, violent; ?vigorous'), Cl and Erk (sense a 'mysterious, strange').

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 457, Cl 1545, Erk 52

PS emend to runische for the sake of the metre at Gaw 457.


MED rūnish (adj.) , OED3 runish (adj.1) , HTOED , Dance runisch; (1) OED3 ranish (adj.) , MED rēnish(e (adj.) , (a) CV hrjónn, Mag. hrjón, Heid. hreuna-, Torp NnEO Rjone (f.), (b) Heid. hreuha-, AEW hrēoh, DOE hrēoh; (2) de Vries rún, Mag. rún (1), Bj-L. rune, Bammesberger 115, Orel *rūnō, OED3 roun n. , MED rǒun(e (n.2) , AEW rūn, GED runa; (3) de Vries hrynja, Mag. hrynja, AEW hruna, EPNE *hruna