adj., n.

(1) (adj.) ‘suitable, neat’; (2) (n.) ‘hem, skirt’

(Modern English (1) heme; (2) hem)


Almost certainly native, heme at Gaw 157 (‘Heme wel-haled hose of þat same’) is usually interpreted as an adj. (conceivably with ON input) but has also been read as an unrelated n.: (1) The vast majority of commentators have (following Madden) understood heme as the adj. stem of the adv. hemely. In that case, the remote possibility exists of some input from ON, if one assumes derivation from the adv. represented by OIcel heimolliga, heimulliga ‘privately, intimately’ (as suggested by Madden, Morris and GDS), and accounts for the absence of -l by back derivation in ME of the simplex adj. from the adv. as in hemely.  But getting from ON heim- > ME hēm- presents phonological difficulties, and a much more straightforward etymon is available in OE gehǣme ‘customary’ (see hemely). (2) Morris instead prints a comma after haled (‘Heme wel haled, hose of þat same grene’, retaining MS grene), thus separating ‘heme wel haled’ as a self-contained clause and interpreting heme as a spelling for ME hemme i.e. ‘hem, skirt’ < OE hem(m).  This makes reasonable enough sense in context, but, though <heme> is recorded as a variant spelling for ME hemme, the Gaw MS always has <hemme> elsewhere (viz. Gaw 854, Pe 217, 1001).

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *xaimaz; (2) *xam(m)-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) cp. heimolliga, heimulliga (later heimugliga) ‘privately, intimately; duly, with full title to possession’
(ONP heimulliga (adv.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) cp. Icel heimileg(u)r, Norw heimeleg, Dan hemmelig, Sw heimlig

OE Cognate

(1) gehǣme (adj.) ‘customary’; (2) hem(m) (n.) 'hem, border'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) An adj. ME heme is attested otherwise only at c1325 Weping haueþ (Hrl 2253), 42 (the original dial is classed as SE or SEM by Brook (1933: 61); but for a recent review of Brook’s methods see Putter 2013.)  (2) ME hemme ‘hem’ is widespread.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Gaw 157


MED hēme (adj.) , OED heme (adj.) , HTOED , Dance heme; (1) de Vries heimiligr, Mag. heimileg(u)r, AEW gehǣme (1); (2) MED hem (n.) , OED hem (n.1) , AEW hemm