v. (wk.)

Gaw pp. clambred , pres. part. clamberande 

(1) ‘to cluster’; (2) ‘to clamber’

(Modern English clamber)


There are two apparent instances of a v. clambere in Gaw: ‘Among þe castel carnelez clambred so þik’ (801); ‘As alle þe clamberande clyffes hade clatered on hepes’ (1722). The possibility of ON derivation (as opposed to an independent native formation) depends on whether or not they are identified with ME clambren 'to clamber'. (1) Both are usually understood as instead as instances of clambere as ‘to cluster’ (taking 801 <clambred> as a pp. describing the carnelez ‘embrasures in the battlements’, and 1722 <clamberande> to refer to the cliffs ‘clustering’ together) and derived from an ON v. represented by OIcel klambra 'to clamp or pinch together' (thus OED, MED, Knigge 75, TGD, GDS, McGee 337). This v. is only recorded twice (from the 15c.) by ONP, next to one 14c. attestation of the related n. klǫmbr 'smith's vice (cp. Icel klömbur, Far klombur, Norw klomber) and two (14c. and 15c.) attestations of the i-mutated v. klembra 'to jam or pinch in a smith's vice' (cp. Norw klembra, klemba). All  suppose a PGmc *klamb-r- connected to a set of similar items elsewhere in Gmc with either -mb- or -mm- (cp. MHG klemberen ‘to brace’ and Ger klammer ‘clip, bracket’, klammern ‘to grasp, clip’, next to (without frequentative -r-) MHG, MLG klemmen ‘to press together’, Icel, Far, Norw klemma ‘to clench, press on’ (etc.), Sw klämma, Dan klemme, OE clam ‘something that holds or restrains’, clæmman ‘to press (together)’ (etc.)). This whole group is then best explained as derived on the same PGmc root as OE climban ‘to climb’, WFris klimme, MLG klimmen, OHG klimban, MHG klimmen, klimpfen, whose original meaning may have been ‘to clasp, clamp’ (see further Dance). A native *clamb-r- ‘to cluster’ is therefore conceivable (see (2) below), but there are otherwise no known English derivatives of the cl-mb- root in the right sense. (2) Hill (1972: 152-4, followed by Vant 801n.) identifies it instead with the homophonous (and more securely witnessed) ME clambren 'to clamber', which could explain both instances (if at 801 it is read as past sg. with the subject 'so mony pynakle' (800)). It is probably derived on the same PGmc root as ON klambra, but independently of it, i.e. as a parallel frequentative derivation on the a-grade of *klemban, OE clamb- (and perh. formed in English).

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) klambra ‘to clamp or pinch together’
(ONP (1) klambra (vb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far klombra, Icel klambra, Norw klemb(r)a 

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) ME clambren ‘to cluster’ is recorded only in Gaw.  (2) The homophone ME clambren, PDE clamber is widespread if infrequent in ME (MED’s earliest citation is c1375 SLeg.Patr.(Eg 1993)).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 801, 1722


MED clambren (v.2) , OED clamber (v.1) , Dance clambere; (1) de Vries klembra, Mag. klambra (3), Seebold klemb-a-, Orel *klamƀrō; *klamƀrjanan; (2) OED clamber (v.2) , MED clambren (v.1)