'bitter, acid, vile'

(Modern English (1) sour)


(1) The adj. at Cl 192 and 1036 can most simply be explained as instances of ME sour (adj.) 'sour' in MED's senses (3b) 'vile, base' (Anderson also draws attention to OED's sense 5 'extremely distasteful or disagreeable; bitter, unpleasant') and (1d) 'acrid', continuing OE sūr 'sour' (< PGmc *sūraz, cp. MLG and OHG sūr and OIcel súrr). (2) It is presumably on the basis of sense, as well the presence of other related words in the text (cp. sorʒe (n.) and soerly (adj., adv.)) that GollCl, Menner (117n) and McGee (414) argue for some ON input in the case of Cl 192 (describing the 'tourneʒ'; GollCl adds also Cl 1036, although the sense 'bitter' is certainly well attested for (1), with which other editors identify it), comparing the OIcel n. saurr 'mud, dirt' and adj. saurigr 'filthy, dirty' (see further soerly (adj., adv.)). Luttrell (1955: 216) argues that a suffix would be expected on an adjectival formation on saurr (cp. MED s.v. sourī (adj.), OED s.v. sory (adj.)) and that in the context of the parable, the phrase 'sour tourneʒ' at Cl 192 is best understood as 'disgusting practices' and thus in accord with the native adj. in OED's sense 5.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *sūraz; (2) *saur-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(2) saurr (n.) 'mud, dirt', saurigr (adj.) 'filthy, dirty'
(ONP (2) saurr (sb.), saurigr (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

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

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) common and widespread; (2) this formation would be unique, but cp. sorʒe (n.) and soerly (adj., adv.).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Cl 192, 1036


(1) MED sǒur (adj.) , OED sour (adj. and n.1) , HTOED , Orel *sūraz, Kroonen *sūra-, Heid. *sūra-; (2) MED sour (n.1) , de Vries saurr, Mag. saur