Middle English Dictionary Entry

almes(se n.
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

1.
(a) Anything given to relieve those in poverty or distress, any charitable gift or offering, alms; an allotment of alms; eten ~, be dependent on alms; gan on ~, liven bi, of ~, live on alms; sitten at ~, wait for alms; (b) food from the table reserved for distribution to the poor; (c) ~ of the craft, a fund for the relief of guild members in distress; (d) be weie of, for, in, on, to ~, as a charitable gift, by way of charity, as alms; (e) of his ~, by his voluntary (and charitable) gift; (f) hous of ~, alms house.
2.
(a) Benevolent or charitable action, deeds of mercy, works of charity; alms-giving; charitable action as a means of making satisfaction for sin or of earning 'merit'; don almes; (b) a benevolent act; deeds of mercy, works of charity; -- usu. pl.; (c) bodili, lichamli ~, corporal works of charity; one of the (seven) bodily deeds of mercy (i.e. giving food, drink, or clothing, visiting the sick, relieving those in prison, giving hospitality to strangers, and burying the needy dead); gostli, spiritual ~, spiritual works of charity; one of the (seven) spiritual deeds of mercy (i.e. teaching, advising, chastising, comforting, forgiving, patience, and prayer).
3.
Satisfaction made for sin, or 'merit' earned, by works of charity; meritorious action in general, a good deed; lesen almes, fail to earn 'merit' by one's alms-giving; it is almes, it is a good deed or a good thing [used ironically in a1450 Parton.].
4.
The will to relieve need or suffering (as a kind of alms); pity, mercy, charity.
5.
Law (a) Perpetual tenure (subject only to the jurisdiction of the church and free from any secular service), frankalmoin; property held in such tenure or income from such property; in, to fre (pure, perpetual) almes, in frankalmoin [see Pollock & Maitland, Hist.Eng.Law 1.240-51]; (b) endowment with property in frankalmoin.
6a.
(a) almes(se asking, asking for alms, begging; (b) ~ ded, q.v.; (c) ~ del, ~ idal, ~ deler, ~ deling, alms-giving, etc.; (d) ~ doer, ~ doing, alms-giver, etc.; (e) ~ gift, ~ yevere, ~ yeving, alms-giving, etc.; (f) ~ werk, an act of charity.
6b.
(a) almes(se dish, q.v.; ~ sak; ~ vessel = ~ dish; (b) ~ monei; ~ silver; ~ win; (c) ~ folk, alms-givers; ~ man, q.v.; (d) ~ rewe, beggars' row or lane.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • c1225 Wor.Gloss.(Corp-C 178)808/106 : Ælmes-æcer: ælme aker.
  • Note: New comb.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • c1475(c1450)?Scrope Mirror World (Bod 283)1112 : Ther was a man of the vilage whiche wente to an almesse that a brothirhode made of flesshe at a fastynggoyng.
Note: Loosely belongs under sense 2.(a), but appears here uniquely to mean an event or occasion at which alms are given, an almsgiving or charitable event.'

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • (1458-60) Acc.St.Andrew Hubbard in BMag.31249 : Paied..for Ropes for the litil belle and the Almes belle, xvi d. ob.
Note: A particular church bell designated the 'alms bell'.