(1) ‘time for mass’; (2) ‘dinner time’

(Modern English (1) mass; (2) mess)


This compound with ME while ‘time’ (< OE hwīl) is unique to Gaw (‘ʒe schal lenge in your lofte, and lyʒe in your ese / To-morn quyle þe messequyle, and to mete wende / When ʒe wyl’). (1) The first element is identified by all editors and almost all other commentators (incl. OED, MED) with ME messe ‘mass’, i.e. OE messe (next to mæsse) probably < VLat *messa (see the Etymological discussion at messe on the remote possibility of some input from ON, cp. OIcel messa).  (2)  The only opponent of this reading is Thomas (1913b: 312), who prefers in context (noticing the following phrase ‘and to mete wende’) the translation ‘dinner time’.  In this case messe should be equated with ME mes(se) ‘a course or a dish of prepared food; any food; a meal or feast’ (which occurs twice otherwise in Gaw), a loan < (Anglo-)Fr mes (mese, mees, messe etc.) ‘portion of (cooked) food, dish, course’, ult. < Lat missus ‘sending’. This is a plausible reading, but has no followers.

PGmc Ancestor

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) messa 'mass'
(ONP (1) messa (1) (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far messa, Icel messa, Norw messa, messe, Dan messe, Sw messa

OE Cognate

(1) messe, mæsse 'mass'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1)  Forms of ME messe are very common in ME (see messe).  The compound messequyle is not recorded elsewhere.  (2)  ME mes ‘food’ (etc.) is common and widespread from c. 1300.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1097


MED messe (n.1, sense (4i)) , OED3 mass (n.1 (and int.), phrase mass-while) , Dance messequyle; (1) de Vries messa (1), Mag. messa (1), AEW mæsse, AND messe (1), DEAF messe (f.), FEW mǐssa; (2) MED mē̆s (n.2) , OED mess (n.1) , AND mes (2), DEAF mes (4) (m.), FEW missus