Middle English Dictionary Entry

spēken v.
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

Note: Cp. ispeken v., sprecen v.
(a) To have or use the power of speech; of a person, the mouth, tongue: speak, articulate words; -- also used of the soul, dead bones, the dust of the dead in fig. context; of a bird, an animal: have the ability to talk like human beings, speak in human language; also, imitate human speech [quot. c1390, 1st]; ~ bi mouth (tonges), speak through (someone else's) mouth; ~ in slep, talk in (one's) sleep; ~ mis (wel), speak amiss (eloquently); ~ with trecherous tonge, speak treacherously; ~ with wordes (mid speches); ppl. spekinge as adj., of tongues: speaking [quot. a1225(c1200), 1st]; (b) with ref. to a specific occasion or circumstance: to say something, speak up, speak out; also, begin to speak [quot. ?c1475]; speak in reply, answer [quot. c1300(?c1225)]; predict [quot. a1425(c1385)]; ~ al holwe, speak in a hollow voice; ~ (as) for, speak as a representative of (sb.), speak as spokesman for; ~ ayen, give answer, reply; ~ on loude, speak loudly; ~ oute, speak up, speak out; (c) with ind.obj. or to, on, til, toward, unto: to address words to (sb., God, an animal, etc.), speak to, talk to; also, with ind.obj. and inf. clause of purpose: speak (to sb. in order to do sth.); ~ either to other, talk to each other; ~ to..bi thought, speak to (Christ) in one's mind; (d) to make a formal address, speak publicly, address an assembly of persons; ~ abrode; (e) to advise; -- used in clause of manner with as; (f) ppl. phrase as adj.: spekinge faire, faire spekinge, faire spoken, wel spekinge, wel spoken, well-spoken, smooth of tongue, eloquent; -- also used of birds [quot. ?a1425]; wel spoken in english, fluent in the English language; gret spekinge, magniloquent; pertli spekinge, clear in speech; (g) in parenthetical inf. phrases: as for to ~ proprelie, strictly speaking, properly speaking; as to ~ in commune, commonly speaking; for to ~ al plaine, to speak plainly; to ~ naturalli, as far as nature is concerned; to ~ shorte and plaine, to speak briefly and plainly; (h) with phrases of manner or comparison introduced by ~ as (so so): to speak in the manner of (a fool, whore, etc.), chatter like (a magpie); also, with clause of manner: speak as (one says); ~ as lordli as a king; (i) in selected phrases: ~ and gon (gangen), gon (gangen) and ~, to walk and talk; also, fig. live, be alive; ~ or beren the lif, be alive, exist; gon and sen and ~ with mouth, live; never gangen ne ~, be dead; (j) fig. of the heart: to yearn; ~ with minde (soule), consider in (one's) mind (soul), ponder deeply; (k) ppl. spekinge as noun: a speaker, one who speaks; also, coll. ivel spekinge, revilers, backbiters; nought spekinge, infants.
With selected prep. phrases describing manner of speaking: (a) ~ after min fantasie, to speak capriciously; ~ in amphibologies, ~ on bi-spelle (bi-spelles), speak in ambiguities or parables; ~ in devein (vein), speak in vain, speak idly; ~ in general, speak generally; ~ in gise, speak in (one's) usual way; ~ in hastinesse (a spede), speak hastily; ~ in herte and (through) herte, speak deceitfully, dissemble; ~ in large, speak at length; (b) ~ in preterit voice of past understandinge, to speak in the past tense; ~ o (in) sele, speak in good humor; ~ in short sentences, speak in brief, pithy language; ~ in terme (al bi clergie), speak learnedly; ~ in-to time, speak quickly; (c) ~ in his nose (thurgh the nose), to speak nasally; ~ with a mek voice; (d) ~ with dreri mod and sorweful chere, to speak sadly; ~ with heigh corage, speak boldly; ~ with onde (passioun of anger), speak angrily; (e) ~ in crist, to speak as the body of Christ.
With selected prep. phrases denoting content of what is spoken: (a) ~ ayen(es, to speak things contrary to (Holy Writ); ~ bi (of, umbe, etc.), talk about (sb. or sth.), make verbal mention of, tell of; give a verbal description of (sb.); -- also in parenthetical inf. phrases; ~ of cold roste, fig. divulge information too late for use; ~ of mani what, speak of this and that; ~ to..bi (of), ~ til..of, etc., speak to (sb.) about (sb. or sth.); ~ unto..of wikkednesse, speak reproof to (sb.) of (their) wickedness; (b) ~ of (bi), to give a verbal account of (an occurrence, event, a miracle), relate concerning; also, speak in remembrance of (sb., someone's deeds), recall in words; -- also in parenthetical inf. phrases; (c) heren ~ of (bi), to hear tell of (sb. or sth.), learn about (sb. or sth.) by report; (d) ~ bi (of, upon), to expound upon (sth.), explain about, speak of at length, discourse upon; ~ forth of; (e) ~ of, to hold a discussion of (sth.), debate about; ~ of..up and doun, have a thorough discussion of (sth.), discuss (sth.) from every angle; ~ with..of (o, umbe), talk with (sb.) about (sth.), discuss (sth.) with (sb.); ~ abouten pes, negotiate for a peace; as we speken nou of godnesse, as we now define goodness; (f) ~ of, to speak of (sb.) with regard to reputation or fame, comment on; also, gossip about (sb.); ~ faire of, speak flatteringly of (sb.); it was gretli spoken of, there was high praise of (sb.); also, in parenthetical inf. phrase: to ~ as of linage, to speak of lineage, as for lineage.
(a) To say (sth.), tell, give voice to; -- also used of thunder [quot. c1384]; declare (sth., one's love); also, with ind.obj. or to phrase: say (sth.) to (sb.), tell (sb. sth.); read out (a document) to (sb.) [quot. 1399]; quote (Scripture) to (sb.); ~ another lessoun, fig. say something quite different, sing another tune; ~ fals witnesse ayen, bear false witness against (sb.); ~ forth, say (sth.) openly; ~ hou gret it is, declare how great it is; ~ with mouth, say (sth.) aloud; more than it mai be spoken, more than can be said; (b) to tell (a tale, joke); chant (a song); (c) to utter (a word, words, lies, etc.); speak (a word or words about sb.); address (a word or words to sb. or a serpent); ~ oute wordes; ~ voice, make utterance, speak words; ~ word for, put in a word for (sb.) with respect to preferment; ~ a vileines word to, speak churlishly to (sb.); ~ a word of gret honour, speak respectfully; ~ wordes of lesinge, utter lying words; (d) to say (sth.) in reply, give (an answer, a reason); ~ resounes, state (one's) opinions; (e) in phrases with ref. to the scope of utterance: ~ excess of, to utter an excessive number of (slanders, lies, etc.); ~ feue, say a little; ~ lesse (thus) and more; ~ litel (wel lite); etc.; ~ more (muche, ought) of, say more (much, anything) about (sb. or sth.); ~ no (ani) more; ~ nought (ought); ~ to muchel; (f) ~ speche(s, to make a speech, statement, etc., say something; utter speech; ~ olde speche, repeat an old saying; (g) to assert (sth.), articulate (one's needs, one's opinion); with hou (hou that, that) clause: assert (how sth. did sth., that sb. did sth., etc.); heren ~, hear tell (that sb. did sth.); -- also without that [quot. c1405]; (h) refl. to praise oneself, boast of oneself; (i) ~ o pris, to call (sb.) excellent; also, with noun complement: ~ despisere, call (sb.) a despiser (of money); (j) to pronounce (a judgment); ~ dom with, pronounce a judgment against (sb.).
With abstract noun as obj.: (a) to speak (good, evil, wisdom, etc.), give utterance to (pride); ~ godcundhede, talk pious talk, speak piously; ~ right and red, speak righteousness and sense, give good advice; (b) ~ ayen (ayenes, onyen), to speak (evil, wickedness, etc.) against (sb., the soul, God); ~ bi (of), speak (evil, good, honor, wrong, etc.) of (sb. or sth.); ~ bountes and prouesse of, describe the merits of (sb.); ~ harm bihinden, ~ ivel baften, speak evil (harm) behind (sb., someone's back); ~ pes to (with), say peaceable things to (sb.), make peace with; ~ tresoun on, accuse (sb.) of treason; ~ vileinie to, speak rudely to (sb.); ~ wonder of, speak wonderingly of (sb.); ~ worship bi (of, on), speak respectfully of (sb.); (c) with ind.obj.: ~ harm (ivel, shame, vileinie), to speak ill of (sb.), slander (sb.), vilify, traduce; ~ god (honour, worship, etc.), speak good of (sb.), etc.; (d) ~ lesinge (lesinges, liinge), to utter falsehood, tell lies; ~ sothfastnesse in herte, fig. be truthful in (one's) heart; (e) in personification.
With directly quoted speech, often with thus: (a) to say (certain specified words), speak; call out (certain specified words); also, with ind.obj. or to, til, or toward: speak (certain specified words) to (sb., a city); -- also refl.; ~ with, speak (certain specified words) with (sb.); (b) in phrases with seien or quethen: ~ and seien (quethen), to speak and say (certain specified words); ~ and seien to (unto), ~ to and seien, speak and say (certain specified words) to (sb., oneself, an animal).
(a) To converse, speak with one another; ~ hem bitwene, converse together, have a conversation; ~ mouth to mouth, speak face-to-face; ~ togeder, togeder (samen) ~; (b) ~ mid (with, with-al), to converse with (God, sb., an adder, etc.), communicate with; confer with (sb., a group of people); also fig. [quot. a1500(?a1450)]; also iron. [quot. c1330]; hold a conversation with (sb. in one's sleep); (c) to speak in audience; ~ with, speak in audience with (a monarch, high official); parley with (an adversary, opponent); (d) ~ mid (with), to discuss (sth.) with (sb.), talk (sth.) over with (God); ~ resoun with, hold speech with (sb.); ~ word with, have a word with (sb.); ben no more to ~ with, be no more to discuss with (sb.); ben spoken bitwene, of words: be exchanged between (persons); (e) to agree; agree on (a plan); promise (sth.), swear to (an agreement), affirm; make (a vow); also, with that clause: agree (that sb. do sth.); promise (that sb. will do sth.); ~ bitwixe them, agree on (a prohibition) mutually; ~ of, agree to (sth.).
(a) To persuade, speak convincingly; argue; ~ after, argue according to (a received opinion); (b) to make an oral defense; with prep. phrase: ~ for, speak up for (sb., someone's rights, God's cause), defend (sb., oneself) verbally, argue on behalf of (sb.), plead for (sb.); ~ in thin ouen cause, speak in your own defense; ~ in excusinge, speak to defend (sb.); (c) to make a verbal request; ~ for, ask for (sth.), bespeak; ~ of, make mention of (sth.) by way of a request; also, with to and inf. or that clause: make a request to (sb. to do sth., that he do sth., etc.); (d) to make a verbal accusation or protest; ~ ayen (ayenes, onyen), speak against (sb. or sth., God), protest against, denounce; ~ to me, testify against me, accuse me; (e) ~ of, to make a suggestion of (sth.), propose (sth.); (f) to complain, grumble; (g) to plead in a court of law.
(a) To preach, teach; ~ after (up) god, preach according to God's will or word; ~ ayen laue, preach or teach things contrary to the Jewish law; ~ of (up), preach about (God, Christ, doctrine, etc.), speak edifyingly of; -- also used of the tongue; also, make mention of (sb.) in a sermon; ~ of min (another) spirit, preach at the prompting of my (another) spirit; ~ to, preach to (sb.), direct one's instruction to; (b) to proclaim (the word of God, God's wisdom, the marvels of God), articulate (religious teachings), speak (mysteries); also, proclaim (how sb. should do sth.); ~ godes cause, preach God's cause; (c) to pray aloud; say (a specified prayer); also, pray silently [last quot.]; (d) to prophesy; also, prophesy (sth.), foretell; utter (a prophecy); ~ in prophecie; ~ of, prophesy about (sb.); ~ of (bi) the mouth of the lord, utter prophecy which comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Of God, Christ, the Holy Ghost, a heavenly voice, an angel, etc.: (a) to speak from heaven; ~ in revelacioun to, ~ in visioun to (til), speak in a vision to (sb.); (b) ~ bi (in, oute of, thurgh), to communicate through (sb., a prophet, the voice of angels, a psalm, etc.); ~ mid, communicate by means of (works and wonders); ~ to..in prophetes (the sone), communicate with (sb.) by means of the prophets (the Son); (c) to say (sth., certain specified words); say (that one will do sth.); ~ and seien (quethen); ~ domes with, pronounce judgment against (sb.); ~ hestes (wil), state his commandments (will); ~ ivels upon, call down evils upon (sb.); ~ word, impart the gospel; ~ a word of love to, speak lovingly to (sb.).
(a) To speak (in a certain language); ~ after the tonge of peple and peple, speak the language of various peoples; ~ azotites maner (bi the speche of azotus), speak in the language of the Azotites; ~ jeuli (saxonli), speak Hebrew (Saxon); ~ mid al (misliche) speches, speak in different tongues; ~ with tonges of men and of aungeles; (b) to speak (a language, a specified language, languages); ~ a wordes feue in latin, speak a little Latin; ~ mannes speche, speak human language; ~ no word but latin, speak only Latin; ~ patroillart, speak pidgin; ~ sone in haste, speak (a language) fluently; also, in parenthetical inf. phrase: to ~ plaine english, to speak plainly.
Used with ref. to the characteristic sounds of birds and natural phenomena: (a) of a starling: to cry; (b) of thunder: to resound; make (its sound) resound; also, express (sth.) in its sound.
(a) To write; state or declare in writing; write (in a book, gospel, letter, etc.); (b) with prepositions: ~ of (umbe), to write about (sb. or sth.), treat of (sb. or sth.) in a written work; make mention of (sb. or sth.) in a text; ~ forth of, set forth a written account of (sb.); ~ to, refer to (sb.) in writing; ben) spoken of, be) mentioned; ben spoken of in wordes, be set forth verbatim; (c) ~ to (toward, with), to communicate with (sb.) through the written word, address (sb.) in writing or a written work; (d) to write (sth., a verse), declare (sth.) in writing; also, write (how sb. did sth.), state; also, with seien: ~ to that purpos and seien, write to that purpose and say (that sth. is so); ppl. spoken as adj.: set forth in writing; aforen (biforen) spoken, aforementioned; (e) introducing directly quoted text: to write (certain specified words); ~ in the name of, write (certain specified words) in the person of (sb.); ~ to that purpos, write (certain specified words) to that purpose; also, with seien: ~ on..and seien, write in (an epistle) and say (certain specified words); ~ of..and seien, write of (a matter) and say (certain specified words); (f) in parenthetical inf. phrases with ref. to a written text: to ~ gostli (in general, in special), to speak spiritually (generally, particularly); as) for to ~ of, to speak of (sth.); propreli (for) to ~, properly speaking; for to ~ shortli, shortli for to ~, to be brief.
Of a written text, chapter, narrative, etc.: (a) to state, declare, say; ~ ayenes, speak against (sb.), censure; ~ of (o), make mention of (sb. or sth.), treat of (a subject); (b) to say (sth.), state; mention (sth.); of a deed: specify (a term); also, with clause as obj.: say (sth. happened), state (how sth. is); ~ word forth-on, state further (the Savior's) word; wel spoken, well expressed, to the point; (c) introducing directly quoted text: to say (certain specified words), read as follows; ~ and seien, declare and say (certain specified words).
(a) Of evidence: to indicate, argue; ~ bi, of a pronouncement or teaching: speak about (sth.), treat of, deal with; ~ of, of a prophecy: speak of (sb.), tell of; (b) of the Jewish law: to dictate (sth.).
(a) To make use (of a term as a physician would); use (a term appropriately for alchemy); (b) ~ to this purpos, to answer to this purpose.
In phrase: ~ of (to), gram. to refer to (a time, person, number), signify.
In proverbs and prov. expressions.