Middle English Dictionary Entry

stēlen v.
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

Note: Cp. bistelen v.
1.
(a) To commit or practice theft, steal; ~ of, steal some part of (sth.); ppl. stelinge as adj.: thieving, thievish; (b) to rob (sb. or sth.), steal from; (c) to steal (sth.), purloin; also fig.; also, steal (sth.) from (sb.) [quots. c1300 & c1390]; ~ awei; ~ awei name, fig. destroy (someone's) reputation; ppl. stolen, stolen; (d) to remove (a corpse) unlawfully from a place of execution, steal (a body) from a burial place or tomb; carry off (royal bones, a saint's relic); ~ awei; (e) to abduct (sb.), kidnap, carry off by force; abduct (God) [quot. c1449]; also, coerce or entice (sb., a child) into a religious order [quots. a1425(?1384) & ?c1430]; obtain (a child) illegally or fraudulently [quot. c1475(c1450)]; ~ awei; ~ forth of hous, carry (sb.) off from (his) house; (f) to carry off (the young of an animal) from the dam; of a fowl: carry off (another fowl); also, appropriate (the eggs of another fowl); (g) fig. to steal (a kiss, someone's virginity, etc.), take without permission; (h) in proverbs & prov. expressions.
2.
(a) To appropriate to oneself (a blessing, honor, power, etc.) wrongfully or undeservedly, appropriate (praise, thanks, etc. due to God); win (a lawsuit) wrongly or fraudulently; ~ shrift, gain absolution by fraud; ~ wordes, fig. steal (God's) words; (b) to entice (souls) away (from Christ); entice (sb.) away (from the refuge of God's purity); (c) to withhold (sth., one's body or soul) wrongfully; (d) to conceal (sth.); (e) ~ a dai of lenten, ?to omit a day from Lent.
3.
(a) To spirit (sb. or sth.) away secretly; ~ awei; ~ awei honde, withdraw (one's) hand little by little; (b) to capture (a town) by surprise; (c) to achieve (heaven), gain; fig. win (love's game), steal (joy); (d) to act secretly; ~ mariage, make a secret marriage; (e) ppl. stolen as adj.: secret; also, surreptitious, furtive.
4.
(a) To come or go secretly or stealthily, come or go unobserved; refl. betake oneself secretly; ~ from (oute of), depart secretly or stealthily from (sb., a place), slip away from; also fig.; ~ on (upon), creep up stealthily on (sb., an animal, a city, etc.) with hostile intent; also fig.; ben stolen, be or have come; also fig.; ppl. stolen, absent, gone; (b) with adverbs: ~ (ben stolen) awei, to come or go away stealthily, steal off unperceived; also fig.; also, as name for a hare, in phrase: the stele awei; ~ bihinden, creep up from behind, follow; ~ forth (oute), steal forth (out); ~ in, enter stealthily, sneak in; ~ to, come secretly; (c) fig. of time, a moment: to come or go imperceptibly; of an impulse: come insensibly (over sb.); ~ on herte, of beauty: come over (someone's) heart imperceptibly; (d) ~ wei, to take (one's) way, depart.
5.
(a) To place (sb.) somewhere in a surreptitious manner, bring in secretly; ~ dint on, deliver an unanticipated blow to (sb.); ~ cosses to, give surreptitious kisses to (sb.); (b) to bring (vengeance on sb.).
6.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • c1450 Jacob's W.(Sal 174)124/18 : A goueler is a raueynere, for he stelyth his soule fro god to þe deuyl.
  • Note: PS
    Note: SM for 2.(b).--per MJW
    Note: Only ~ to--per MJW
    Note: Is this phrase really necessary, though, since "to" prep. just means something like "for the benefit of"? ~ to:"to steal (one's soul from God) for the benefit of (the devil)".--per MLL
    Note: gaveler = usurer