'calamity' (Modern English )


The absence of metathesis suggests that ME brest probably derives from ON, cp. OIcel brestr 'crash, crack, defect, loss', rather than OE byrst 'loss, calamity, injury, defect' (< PGmc *ƀrestuz, cp. OHG bresto 'destruction, damage'). The n. is derived from the st. v. *ƀrestan- 'to burst', cp. OE berstan, OFris bersta, OS, OHG brestan, OIcel bresta. A variety of spellings occur in ME with and without metathesis and with different vocalism (with and without the raising of e > i before st), and it is not always clear what individual forms owe to ON or OE input, or to some combination of the two (cp. the forms cited under OED s.v. burst (n.) and MED s.v. brist (n.), and see the comments in Bj. 183).

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

brestr 'crash, crack, defect, loss'
(ONP brestr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far brestur, Icel brestur, Norw brest, Dan brist, OSw bräster, braster

OE Cognate

byrst 'loss, calamity, injury, defect'

Phonological and morphological markers


absence of metathesis

] (possibly diagnostic)

Summary category



Citations in MED and OED are primarily N and E.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Cl 229


MED brest (n.2) , OED brest (n.) , HTOED , Bj. 182-3, de Vries brestr, Mag. bresta, Orel *ƀrestuz, DOE byrst (1), AEW byrst (1)