WA blaa

‘dark, dusky, livid, grey’

(Modern English blae)


Cp. OIcel blá-r < PGmc *ƀlēwa- (cp.  OE blāw, OFr blāu, OS blāo, OHG blāo). This is the ON-derived form of a common Gmc and indeed Romance word (cp. OF bleu > ME blew > PDE blue); the OE cognate blāw is only attested once in the Erfurt glossary, but the derivative OE blǣwen (which could alternatively be interpreted as a contraction of blǣhǣwen ‘light blue’ (see EPNE)) occurs more widely.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

blár ‘blue, blue-black, black’
(ONP blár (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far bláur, Icel blár, Norw blå, Dan blå, Sw blå

OE Cognate

blāw, cp. blǣ, blǣwen ‘blue’, blǣhǣwen ‘light blue’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



Widespread in ME from the 14c, and cited by MED in surnames of the 13c. MnE usage is recorded in Sc, Irel and N/EM dial (see EDD, OED).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Pe 83, 875; Cl 1017; Pat 134, 138, 221; Erk 290; WA 559

Goll (83n, cited by McGee 361) commenting on the alliterative phrase 'blo and blynde' notes that the use of the second element as meaning 'dark' is similar to Icel. blindr.


MED blō (adj.) , OED blae (adj. and n.) , HTOED , EDD blae (adj. and v.), Bj. 82, 181, 195, 204, deVries blár, Mag. blár (2), Orel *ƀlewa-, Kroonan *blēwa-, Heid. blǣwa-, EPNE blāw