n. (pl.)

(1) 'people'; (2) 'limbs'  (Modern English )


The likely ON derivation of the pl. n. lithis at WA 3750 ('Þa leues in oure lede, oure lithis to defend') depends on how it is interpreted in context: (1) most plausible is an identification with a n. meaning 'people' < ON lýðr 'people, population, inhabitants, subjects, congregation, etc.' (so MED, TPD; OED does not cite this example but observes that others occur only in alliterative phrases, e.g. lond and lith), taking lede, derived from the native cognate, in its attested sense (incl. elsewhere in WA) 'nation'. PGmc *leuđiz has reflexes incl. Burg. *leuds 'man', OE lēod 'man' (note also lēod (fem.) 'people, nation'), OFris liude, liode 'people', OS liud, liudi and OHG liut. Thus the fricative, only found in NGmc, would be an indication of loan. (2) Skeat WA suggests instead identification with ME lith, continuing OE lið 'joint', which is a good fit formally, but makes for a much less likely reading of the phrase with lede.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *leuđiz; (2) *liþuz

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) lýðr 'people, population, inhabitants, subjects, congregation, etc.'
(ONP (1) lýðr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far -lýður, Icel lýður, Norw lyd, OSw lyþir

OE Cognate

(1) lēod (fem.) 'people, nation'

Phonological and morphological markers

[ON fricative /ð/ < PGmc */ð/] (may not be applicable)

Summary category



(1) With the exception of its earliest attestation in (c1300) Havelok (LdMisc 108), all of MED's citations come from the N/EM. (2) Common and widespread.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

WA 3750


(1) MED līth (n.4) , OED lith (n.4) , HTOED , de Vries lýðr, Mag. lýður (1), Orel *leuđiz, Kroonen *leudi-, AEW lēod (2);(2) MED lith (n.1) , OED lith (n.1) , HTOED , Orel *liþuz, Kroonen *liþu-, AEW liđ (1)