WA pres 1 sg. gesse, ges, pres. 3 sg. gessis, gessys, geses, gesses, gesse, pres. pl. gesse, past sg. gessed, pp. gessid, gessyd

'conceive, form an idea, believe, suppose, imagine, intend, judge etc.' (Modern English guess)


An OE cognate, which does not survive, would be expected to show initial palatalization, making ON the most likely source of the ME v. (thus e.g. OED). The relationship between the Scandinavian (Dan gisse, Sw and Norw dial gissa and the derivative Icel gizka) and continental WGmc (MDu gissen, gessen, MLG gissen) reflexes of this v. has nonetheless been debated, as it has been suggested that the word could have borrowed into ON (and conceivably English) from MLG. Ultimately these forms have been derived from the common PGmc v. *getan- (thus e.g. cp. OIcel geta (n. fem.) 'guess'). Most authorities (incl. EVG, Goll and MED) thus compare one or more of these words, but do not expressly offer an etymology.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(ONP )

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Norw dial gissa, Dan gisse, Sw gissa, cp. Icel gizka

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

[absence of palatalization of */ɡ/] (may not be applicable)

Summary category



Common and widespread in English from its appearance in the 14c.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Pe 499; WA 577, 990, 2071 etc.


MED gessen (v.) , OED guess (v.) , HTOED , HTOED , Bj. 152, Falk-Torp gisse, Nielsen gisse, Hellquist gissa