(Modern English dearth)


Possibly derived from ON (so Osgood, OED, EVG), cp. OIcel dýrð ‘glory, splendour’ < PGmc *deuriþ- (cp. OS diuriða, diurða, MDu duurte, OHG tiuriða), a n. derived from the adj. *deurj- ‘dear, precious’, cp. OE dēore, OFris diure, OS diuri, OHG tiuri. The n. is not recorded in OE, and although there is no formal objection to deriving derþe from OE, McGee (362) notes that 'the sense is remarkably close' to the ON word (though he goes on to conclude that it is impossible to decide Scandinavian origin on the basis of this one use). Native derivation has also been argued: MED notes ‘prob. OE’ without citing an etymon, and the word is omitted by Bj. Goll appears to suggest derþe represents an independent native formation on dere +suffix, and although citing ON dýrð as etymon, EVG also suggests influence from ME dere < OE dēore.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

dýrð ‘glory, splendour’
(ONP dýrð (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far dýrd, Icel dýrð, Sw dyrd

OE Cognate

*dierðu, *dyrð, cp. dīere (adj.) 'precious'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category




This is the only instance of OED sense 1, MED sense 2 ‘excellence, splendour, glory’. The more common ME/MnE sense 'lack of food' (presumably deriving from a sense ‘dearness, costliness, high price’; see OED) is first cited by MED in a1325(c1250) Gen.& Ex. (Corp-C 444) and widespread thereafter.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Pe 99


MED derth(e (n.)[], OED dearth (n.)[], HTOED , de Vries dýrð, Mag. dýr (2), Orel *đeuriþō, Heid deurja