(1) 'back, with delay'; (2) '(even) a little' (Modern English )


(1) Recognized since Menner (599n) as a variant of on lyte ‘with delay’, formed within English with prefix a- (< on) + lyte (n.) (see (1) and cp. similar uses in Gaw and see Anderson 599n). (2) Earlier editors, incl. GollCl interpreted it as '(even) a little' < OE on + lȳt (cp. OED s.v. alite (adv.)), but the identification at (1) provides a much better reading of Cl 599: 'he may not dryʒe to draw allyt bot drepeʒ in hast'.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *hlītan-; (2) lūti- or lītilaz

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) hlíta ‘to rely on, trust, abide by’; (2) lítt (adv.) ‘little’
(ONP (1) hlíta (2) (vb.); (2) líttill (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(1) Far líta, Icel hlíta, Norw lita, Dan lide, OSw lita, Sw lita; (2) Far lítt, Icel lítt, Dan lidt

OE Cognate

(2) lȳt (adj., n., adv.) ‘little, few’

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



MED only has two other citations, from a1400(c1303) Mannyng HS (Hrl 1701) and a1450 Yk.Pl. (Add 35290), but see further lyte (n.) (1) and (2a).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Cl 599

See etymological discussion.


MED alīte (adv.) , Dance lyte; (1) OED lite (n.1) , de Vries hlíta, Mag. hlíta, Bj-L. lite, EDD lite (v. and sb. 2); (2a) OED alite (adv.) , MED līt(e (n.3) , Heid. *lūta-, Orel *luttiz ~ *luttjaz, Kroonen *lītila-, AEW lȳt