'muck, filth' (Modern English )


The broad sense of sorʒe in the context of Cl 846 is taken by most editors as 'filth' (with 'ʒestande sorʒe', cp. 'spitous fylþe' in the line above) in a figurative sense referring to sin, but there is disagreement about the identification of this word: (1) Menner and GollCl look to an ON etymon related to the n. represented by OIcel saurr 'mud, dirt' (see further soerly (adj., adv.)), suggesting saurgan (n.) 'pollution, defilement' or saurigr (adj.) 'filthy, dirty' (both are attested relatively early in similar religious contexts, see ONP). This would make sense of the form, if the spelling <o> represents /o:/ (as it apparently occurs in some names, see MED s.v. sour (n.1)) and provides the most straightforward reading of the sense. Vantuono favours this identification, but suggests a figurative sense 'disgust' (glossing the phrase 'mounting disgust'), which he also reads as the sense of Cl 75 sorʒe. (2) Anderson includes Cl 846 (and by extension Pat 275 which is identified with it by 846n) in his entry for sorewe < OE sorg (< *surgō-, cp. Goth saurga, OIcel sorg, OS and OHG sorga) but glosses 'muck, filth', but does not explain the sense development. MED also mentions this possibility (as well as (1)), but accounts for the sense by influence from ON, either from sour (n.1) or directly, cp. OIcel saurr.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *saur-; (2) *surgō-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) saurgan (n.) 'pollution, defilement', cp. saurigr (adj.) 'filthy, dirty'; (2) cp. saurr (n.) 'mud, dirt'
(ONP (1) saurgun (sb.), cp. saurigr (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far seyrur, Icel saur, Norw saur, ODan sør, OSw sör-, Sw dial sör

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) Only in Cl and Pat, but cp. OED sore (n.3) and MED sour (n.1); (2) common and widespread, but not otherwise attested with this sense.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Cl 75, 846; Pat 275

Vant argues for another instance at Cl 75, reading sorʒe with the figurative sense 'fault' and thus seeing a double-entrendre as sorʒe 'fault' leads to sorʒe 'misfortune'.


(1) MED sọ̄̆rʒe (n.) ; OED sore (n.3) , HTOED , Bj. 72, de Vries saurga, Mag. saur; (2) MED sorwe (n.) , OED sorrow (n. and adj.) , Orel *surʒō-, Kroonen *surgō-, AEW sorg