‘body of water (in a conduit or artificial pool), sea, flood’

(Modern English dam)


This common Gmc n. < PGmc *dam- (cp. OFris dam, dom, MLG dam, MHG tam, ON dammr) is not attested in OE, though most commentators reconstruct it on the basis of the derivative v. –demman (also paralleled in WGmc and in Go faurdammjan); OE fordemman is only attested late, however (in glosses to the same verse in the 11c. PsGlF and 12c. PsGlE). Goll cites the ON cognate together with the OE v. and other Gmc comparanda and MED argues more strongly that ME dam is ‘prob.’ from ON, but also compares OE fordemman. The distribution of the word (see Attestation) provides circumstantial evidence in favour of interpreting it as an ON loan, but it should also be noted that there are only a handful of attestations of dammr (and damm, n.) in ONP and, as EPNE notes, none before the 14c.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

dammr ‘weir, weir-pool, pond’
(ONP dammr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far dammur, Icel dammur, Norw damm, Dan dam, Sw damm

OE Cognate

*damm-; cp. fordemman ‘to dam up, block up’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



In the sense referring to the body of water (OED and MED sense 2), dam appears particularly in N, E Sc dial of ME and MnE (see EDD). Sense 1, referring to the barrier, occurs mostly in E texts in ME. EPNE associates place-names especially with the EM and Yks.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Pe 324; Cl 416; Pat 312; WA 3928


MED dam (n.) , OED dam (n.)[ http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/46998?isAdvanced=false&result=1&rskey=rNmRxA&], HTOED , EDD dam (sb.1), de Vries damm, Mag. dammur, Orel *đammaz ~ đamman, DOE for-demman, AEW for-demman