'lake, pool'

(Modern English tarn)


Always derived from ON, no direct cognates of the n. represented by OIcel tjǫrn 'small lake, pool' survive outside of Scandinavia. Its ult. etymology is uncertain, but a connection with the PGmc st. v. *teran- (cp. OE teran 'tear', Go dis-tairan, OHG zeran, fir-zeran 'to cut off, finish, fight') is often suggested. The distribution of this n. in ME texts and place-names provides strong circumstantial evidence in favour of ON origin.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

tjǫrn 'small lake, pool'
(ONP tjǫrn (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far tjørn, Icel tjörn, Norw tjørn, Dan dial tjærn, kjærn, Sw tjärn

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



This is the first of a handful of citations from texts in MED, all from N poetry (incl. WA and DT); it additionally records personal names and N place-names, e.g. Tarn Beck in Cum. (for further examples, see EPNE, and comments in McGee 417). Recorded by EDD from the N, Sc and Dev.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Cl 1041; WA 3860


MED terne (n.1) , OED tarn (n.) , HTOED , EDD tarn (sb.), Bj. 222, de Vries tjǫrn, Mag.tjörn, Orel *teran-, Kroonen *ternō-, EPNE tjǫrn