n. (pl.)

'mounds' (Modern English how, howe)


Always derived from ON, cp. OIcel haugr 'mound, burial mound' < PGmc *xauga- (cp. OHG houg 'hill'), a stress variant of the adj. *xauxa- 'high' (cp. Go hauhs, OIcel hár, OE hēah, OFris hāch, OS hōh, OHG hōh). It is not always distinguishable from ME reflexes of the dative sg. hōge of OE hōh 'projecting ridge of land, promontory' (< PGmc *xanxa-). The sense of the ME in instances like WA 3486 ('Be hiʒe hillis & howis & be holuʒe dounes') accords better with the OIcel. Its N/EM distribution in the textual record and its use in place-names provide further circumstantial evidence in favour of regarding it as a loan.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

haugr 'mound, burial mound'
(ONP haugr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far heyggjur, heygur, Icel haugur, Norw haug, Dan høi, høj, Sw hög

OE Cognate

cp. hōh 'projecting ridge of land, promontory'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



Cited from a handful of N/EM texts by MED, beginning with a1400(a1325) Cursor (Vsp A.3) and from the 12c in personal and place-names predominantly, but not exclusively, from the N/EM and E. EPNE notes that in the N it denotes especially an artificial mound which in some cases may be a burial mound, as in Scandinavian usage. Widespread in MnE dial usage.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

WA 3486


MED hough (n.(1)) , OED how, howe (n.2) , HTOED , EDD how (sb.1), Bj. 70, 79, de Vries haugr, Mag. haugur, Orel *xauʒaz ~ *xauʒan, Kroonen *hauha-, DOE hōh, AEW hōh