adv., v.

(1) (lenge) and (3) (*longe) adv., ‘a long while, for a long time’; (2) (lenge) adv. compar. ‘longer’; (4) (lenge) v. infin. ‘to remain’ (Modern English (1) lengh; (3) long; (4) leng)


<lenge> in Gaw 88 (‘he louied þe lasse / Auþer to lenge lye or to longe sitte’) is probably a scribal error for a form with a straightforward English etymon, however the MS spelling has also been defended and two less likely identifications have been offered on this basis: (1) Derivation from the ON adv. represented by OIcel lengi (which seems to have originated as the acc. sg. of a PGmc n. *lang-īn- derived on the adj. *langa-; cp. Go laggei, OE lengu, MLG, MDu lenge, OHG lengī, ODan længe, but only in Scand. has it developed an adv. use.) could explain the MS spelling <lenge> (Emerson 1922: 366) , but this would be the only known occurrence of an adv. leng(e) with a positive sense in ME (contrast ME leng(e) compar. < OE leng). (2)  ME leng(e) is generally a compar. adv., in which case it derives regularly < OE leng. It is possible to read lenge with this function at Gaw 88, and this is the interpretation adopted by McGillivray (88n); but no earlier editors seem to have considered it, perhaps because the compar. adv. of long(e) in the Gaw manuscript is otherwise regularly lenger (see e.g. Gaw 1043, 2063, 2303). (3) It is more likely therefore, that <lenge> is an error for *<longe> (Emerson 1922: 366, McGee 339), i.e. the ME adv. < OE lange, longe 'long, a long time' (cp. OFris long(e), OS, OHG lango), the adv. formed on OE lang, long < the PGmc adj. *langa-. <e> for <o> is a common scribal mistake, and emending Gaw 88 in this way produces an effective phrasal parallel (‘to longe … to longe …’).  Almost all editors since M(G) have agreed on this reading. (4) Vant (88n, with no followers) also defends the MS spelling, but explains lenge as the infin. of ME lengen (< OE lengan 'to lengthen, prolong, protract, delay'; cp. OFris lendza, MLG, OHG lengen, OIcel lengja) in MED's sense (2) ‘to stay, dwell; remain or be, continue; linger, tarry, stay, sojourn, delay, procrastinate’ etc., taking lye as an infin. in a progressive use, with to lenge lye thus meaning ‘to remain lying’, but this reading seems somewhat forced.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *lang-īn-; (3) *langa- ; (4) *lanʒjan-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) lengi ‘long, for a long time’
(ONP (1) lengi (adv.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far leingi, Icel lengi, Norw lenge, Dan længe, Sw länge

OE Cognate

(3) lange, longe (adv.) ‘long, a long time’; (4) lengan (v.) ‘to lengthen, prolong, protract, delay’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) ME lenge ‘for a long time’ (i.e. positive sense) would be a hapax legomenon. (2) ME leng(e) ‘longer’ (compar.) is widespread (though cited less frequently by MED from the later ME period than from earlier). (3) ME longe adv. is common and widespread throughout the period. (4) ME lengen is common and widespread, incl. in sense (2) from (1340) Ayenb.(Arun 57) onwards.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 88

There is a good case to be made for emending MS <lenge> to *<longe> (see Etymological discussion (3)).


Dance lenge; (1) de Vries lengi, Mag. lengi, Bj-L. lenge, Heid. langa- (I), Orel *lanʒīn, AEW lengu, MED lē̆nǧe (n.1) , OED lengh (n.) ; (2) MED lēnǧ (adv.) , OED leng (adv.) , AEW leng (2); (3) OED long (adv. 1) , OED long (adj.1 and n. ) , MED lō̆nge(adv.) , MED lō̆ng (adj.1) , Heid. langa- (I), Orel *lanʒaz (I), Kroonen *langa-, AEW lang (1); (4) OED leng (v.) , MED lē̆nǧen (v.) , Heid. langa- (I), Orel *lanʒjanan, AEW lengan (1)