'edge, brim' (Modern English )


The form of this word unproblematically continues OE bearm 'bosom, lap; place of containment, etc.' (< PGmc *ƀarm-, cp. Go  barms, OS, OHG 'lap, bosom'), but the sense at WA 4812, glossed by TPD as 'brow of a hill', is better explained as a borrowing from the ON cognate represented by OIcel barmr 'brim, rim', as long noted by commentators (see e.g. Skeat WA, Bj. 230). MED (3b) looks for an extension of the native sense and glosses 'a hollow (at the base of a mountain)'. While this explanation cannot be ruled out, supposing semantic loan from the ON allows for a better reading of the word in the context of the text.

PGmc Ancestor


Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

barmr 'brim, rim'
(ONP barmr (sb.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Icel barmur, Norw barm, Dan barm

OE Cognate

bearm 'bosom, lap; place of containment, etc.'

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



This is the only instance of the relevant sense; see further Discussion by text. Instances with the native sense are widespread in OE and ME. 

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

WA 4812

MED instead reads the sense at WA 4812 as (3b) 'hollow at the base of a mountain' as an extension of 'lap, bosom, bed etc.' from OE bearm


MED barm (n.) , OED , HTOED , Bj. 230, de Vries barmr (2), Mag. barmur (2), Orel *ƀarmazDOE bearm, AEW bearm