(1) (a) ‘took’ (pret. pl.), (b) ‘take’ (pres. pl.); (2) ‘name’ (pres. pl.; neme for, ‘name as’)

(Modern English (1) nim; (2) nemn)


The v. at Gaw 1347 (‘And þat þay neme for þe noumbles bi nome, as I trowe’) has been identified with ME nimen or (as is now favoured) ME nemnen; both are of native derivation, but Norse input is also possible in the case of the former. (1) Earlier editors take neme as a form of the ME vb. nimen, i.e. < OE niman ‘to take’ (etc.) < PGmc *neman- (cp. Go niman, OIcel nema (OSw nima), OFris nema, OS niman, OHG neman).  (a) Some interpret it as pret. pl., i.e. ‘took that for, regarded that as, understood that to be’ (Madden, TG, followed by Jones). Otherwise in Gaw the pret. stem of nimen is nom- (cp. Gaw 809, 1407), but nem- forms are attested elsewhere in the MS (viz. Pe 802, Cl 505, 1347) and further afield in ME. (b) Alternatively, it has been taken as pres. pl. (Morris, GDS, McGillivray), and cited under MED's sense (6b) (a) ‘to consider, think about, understand to be’ (where there are, however, no parallels to the phrase with for).  The pres. stem of nimen is otherwise always nim- in the Gaw MS, but there are numerous insances of nem- elsewhere in ME, which could be explained as continuing the OE variant neom- with /eo/ < /io/ by back mutation of /i/ (see e.g. Campbell §§212–16, Hogg §§5.104), early ME (SWM, esp. AB Language) neom-. Knigge (76) is alone in deriving neme at Gaw 1347 from the ON cognate, cp. OIcel nema ‘to take’ (and various metaphorical extensions inc. ‘to perceive, catch, hear; learn’), but it is conceivable that there was some input into ME pres. nem- from the vocalism of the ON word. (2) All subsequent editions follow TGD in explaining neme as a form of ME nemnen ‘to mention, specify, or speak of by name’ etc. < OE nemnan (nemnian) ‘to name, call; enumerate; address, speak to; nominate; invoke; mention, relate’ (cp. Go namnjan, OIcel nefna (nemna), OFris nenna, OS nemnian, OHG nemnen, nemmen, nennen) supposing a PGmc *namnjan- formed on the root *nam- as in nouns for ‘name’ (OE nama, Go namō, OIcel nafn etc.). Assuming MED’s sense (3a) ‘to call by some title, term etc.’ and given the subsequent ‘bi nome’, this arguably offers a better reading in context than (1).

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *neman-; (2) *namnjan-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) nema ‘to take’
(ONP nema (1) (vb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far nema, Icel nema, Norw nema, ODan nimmæ, Dan nemme, OSw næma, nima, Sw dial nimma

OE Cognate

(1) niman ‘to take’ (etc.); (2) nemnan (nemnian) ‘to name, call; enumerate; address, speak to; nominate; invoke; mention, relate’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) ME nimen ‘to take’ is common and widespread throughout the period; see further Rynell (1948). (2) ME nemnen ‘to name’ is also commonplace.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 1347


MED nimen (v.) (sense 6b(a)) , Dance neme; (1) OED3 nim (v.) , HTOED , Seebold nem-a-, Orel *nemanan, Kroonen *neman-, AEW niman, de Vries nema (1), Mag. nema (1), Bj-L. nem; (2) MED nemnen (v.) , OED3 nemn (v.) , HTOED , Orel *namnjanan, Kroonen *namōn-, AEW nemnan