n. (pl.)


(Modern English swain)


Always derived from ON rather than the OE cognate because of the vocalism: cp. OIcel sveinn 'boy, young man, servant' < PGmc *swainaz (cp. OE swān 'herdsman, peasant', OS swēn 'herd, swine-herd', OHG swein 'servant, shepherd').

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

sveinn 'boy, young man, servant'
(ONP sveinn (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far sveinur, Icel sveinn, Norw svein, Dan svend, OSw sven, Sw sven

OE Cognate

swān 'herdsman, peasant'

Phonological and morphological markers

ON /ei/ &lt; PGmc */ai/

Summary category



The borrowed form first appears in late OE as swegen (see further SPS 2 n.2 and 30). It is common and widespread in ME texts and also occurs in surnames and Yks. place-names (see MED, EPNE).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Cl 1509


MED swein (n.) , OED swain (n.) , HTOED , Bj. 39 and 49, SPS 30, de Vries sveinn, Mag. sveinn, Orel *swainaz, AEW swān, EPNE sveinn