v. (past pl.)

(1) ‘trifle, make (courtly) love; converse, contend, dispute’; (2) ‘bandy pleasantries’

(Modern English dally)


ON derivation has been suggested for the v. daylyeden at Gaw 1114 (‘Þay dronken and daylyeden and dalten vntyʒtel') and Pe 313 ('Deme now þyself if þou con dayly'), but it is usually identified with (1) ME dalien (PDE dally) in MED’s sense (1a), ‘to converse politely, leisurely, or intimately; talk, chat, jest’, and hence with the uncontroversial instances of the same stem at Gaw 1253 (<daly>), 1012 and 1529 (<dalyuance>) (so OED, MED, TGD, GDS etc.) derived from < AN dalier (dailer, dailler, daillier etc.). Borrowing from AN makes good sense of the spelling of Gaw daylyeden, <-ili-> forms being a known (if occasional) ME reflex of Fr ‘mouillé l’ (see Diensberg 2000: 209) and there are other possible instances of the same v. in ME spelt  <dayl-> or <dail-> (though see further (2) below). (2) Alternatively, the suggested ON source is the  v. represented by OIcel deila 'to divide, apportion (etc.)' (cp. OE dǣlan, Go gadáiljan, OFris dēla, OS dēlian, OHG teilen, derived on the PGmc n. as in OE dǣl (non-mutated by-form dāl), Go dáils, OFris, OS dēl, OHG teil) in the sense 'to contend, quarrel' (Emerson 1922: 380, followed by McGee 326, 362), which Emerson glosses for Gaw 1114 as 'bandied pleasantries' . While this would provide another possible source of the vocalism in the first syllable of daylyeden, the recorded meanings of the ON v. require an ingenious explanation of sense development to fit the Gaw context. More significantly, it is difficult to account for the medial <-ye-> if we take ON deila as the only input and the AF word offers a much better starting point for this part of the ME form. Nonetheless, there is a ME v. deilen 'to have dealings with, be concerned with' which is usually derived from ON deila and some forms  <dayl-, dail-> (incl. daylyeden) could owe to confusion of ME dālien with ME deilen < ON deila.

PGmc Ancestor

(2) *dail-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(2) deila ‘to divide, apportion’ (etc.); ‘to contend, quarrel’
(ONP (2) deila (2) (vb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(2) Far deila, Icel deila, Norw deila, Sw dela

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

[ON /ei/ < PGmc */ai/] (may not be applicable)

Summary category



(1) ME dalien ‘to converse politely’ (etc.) has a range of occurrences from c1330(?a1300) Guy(2) (Auch) onwards; most of MED’s citations are N/EM, E. Angl. or SE.  (2) ME deilen ‘to have dealings with, be concerned with’ is cited three times in MED, from15c. N/E texts.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1114; Pe 313

EVG (313-15n) notes that the sense at Pe 313, which he glosses 'contend, dispute (?)'  is closer to the ON.


MED dālien (v.) , OED dally (v.) , HTOED , Dance daylyeden; (1) AND dalier, FEW (Germanismes) dahlen, Kluge-Seebold dahlen; (2) MED deilen (v.), Bj. 298 n.2, de Vries deila (2), Mag. deila, Bj-L. dele, AEW dǣlan, Orel *dailjanan, OED deal (v.) , DOE dǣlan