(1) 'corruption' (2) ?'open mouth' (Modern English (1) gleet)


The interpretation of Erk 297 (' ʒe were entouchid wyt his tethe and *toke (MS take) in þe glotte'), a reference to the ramifications of Adam's original sin, is contested. Most editors do not follow GollErk in emending tethe to *te(c)he 'blemish, fault' < OFr teche, instead understanding tethe as an allusion to Adam biting into the apple. The interpretation of the verb in the second part of the line varies in part according to how glotte is understood. (1) GollErk emended to *gl(e)tte 'venom' < OFr glete, glette. This ME n. glet 'film, slime, etc.' is (aside from technical uses) most frequent in N alliterative poetry and further attestations with MED's sense (1c) fig. 'moral corruption, sin' can be found in Cl. Whether or not the form is emended, this is the most prevalent reading (MED and Peterson maintain the MS spelling (with Peterson 297n noting variant spellings in <a> and concluding 'a West Midland shift to o cannot be ruled out') while identifying the word with ME glet; so too probably Burrow and Turville-Petre (1992), who gloss 'corruption' at 297n without commenting on the etymon). It may be supported, as Peterson notes, by the use of the word medcyn in the next line to describe the remedy. (2) Alternatively, an ON connection has been suggested (Savage 297n, who prefers the interpretation at (1) and finds an ON explanation 'more doubtful' but deserving mention) to explain the MS form, comparing OIcel glotta 'to open the mouth in laughter so that the teeth show' and Norw glott ‘an opening, a clear spot among clouds’ (see further glode (n.)). Savage suggests that the image might be intended to invoke the hell-mouth and the phrase would thus read 'taken into the yawning mouth of hell'. Such a form would be unparalleled, and is, as Savage and McGee (445) conclude, just about possible but 'doubtful'.

PGmc Ancestor

(2) ?*glunt-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(2) cp. glotta (v.) 'to grin, smile scornfully and show teeth'
(ONP (2) cp. glotta (vb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

(2) cp. Far glotta, Icel glotta, Norw glotta; Norw glott

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) Attested from the 14c. by MED and OED, primarily in N alliterative poetry and medical contexts. (2) There would be no precise parallel for either the form or sense, but compare glode (n.).

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Erk 297

GollErk emends to *gl(e)tte at Erk 297, and the identification of the word is disputed: see etymological discussion.


(1) MED glet (n.) , OED gleet (n. , DEAF glet; (2) de Vries glott, Mag. glotta, Kroonen *gluntēn, Torp NnEO glott