WA pl. sties, styes

'ladder' (Modern English stee, sty)


Often explained as a loan from ON (thus OED, and more cautiously, MED), cp. OIcel stigi, stegi 'step, ladder, steep ascent'. While this particular wk. masc. form is unique to NGmc, the PGmc root *stiga- on which it is formed is widely attested throughout Gmc, incl. OE. Thus cp. the compound OE stig-rāp 'stirrup', OIcel stig-reip, OHG stege-reif, the neut. n. *stigan (cp. OIcel stig 'step, path', Du steg 'footbridge', OHG steg) and the fem n. *stigō- (cp. OIcel upp-stiga 'ascent', OHG stega 'step, ladder'). OE also had a st. masc. n. stige 'ascent, descent', which could alternatively be the source of the ME form, even if some semantic input from the ON n. is still adduced. The marked N/EM bias in the dial distribution of the word, however, provides circumstantial evidence in favour of maintaining the possibility of ON derivation or input.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

stigi, stegi 'step, ladder, steep ascent'
(ONP stigi (sb.) (m.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far stigi, Icel stigi, Norw stige, Dan stige, Sw stege

OE Cognate

cp. stig-rāp 'stirrup', stige 'ascent, descent'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category




Cited from N/EM texts by OED and MED, starting with a1400(a1325) Cursor (Vsp A.3). Predominantly N/EM in MnE dial, but EDD also cites an instance from Nhp.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

WA 1437, 2481


MED stī(e (n.2) , OED sty (n.2) , HTOED , EDD sty (sb. 2), Bj. 255, de Vries stig, Mag. stigi, Orel *stiʒan, *stiʒa-raipan, *stiʒō(n), AEW stige