Middle English Dictionary Entry

thorn n.
Quotations: Show all Hide all

Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

A sharp-pointed spine or prickle on a plant, a thorn; also fig.; also in proverbs; ?also coll., glossing L sentes; cacchen a ~, fig. to suffer a love pain.
(a) A shrub or tree containing thorns, often the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna);—also coll.; also fig.; ?also, a stand or thicket of thorn trees [quot. a1500(?a1400)]; (b) a rosebush; also fig.;—often in prov. expressions; (c) pl. uprooted thornbushes used as fuel; ?also, thorn branches [2nd quot.]; (d) in cpds., combs., & phrases: ~ berie, a hawthorn or some other thornbush; ~ bush, bush of ~, a thornbush or thorn hedge; ~ garth, a thorn hedge; ~ holt, a grove of thorn trees; ~ lef, a leaf of a thornbush; ~ of egipte, Epyptian thorn, prob. Acacia arabica, but perh. Crataegus pyracantha; ~ path, a path lined with thornbushes; ~ tre, q.v.; ~ wode, a rosebush; blak ~, the shrub blackthorn (Prunus spinosa); theve ~, q.v.; thone ~, q.v.; whit ~, q.v.
(a) A thorn branch made into a mock crown for Christ; —also coll.; sharp (kene, thikke) ~; coroune of thorn(es, gerlond (wreth) of thornes, hat of ~; (b) a thorn branch used as a weapon; ?also, the wood of a thorn tree [1st quot.].
In misc. senses: (a) the name for the letters þ and ð; (b) cook. a sweet dish made with hawthorn flowers; (c) med. a name for the disease erysipelas; (d) ~ bak, q.v.; ~ hogge, a hedgehog or porcupine.
(a) In surnames; (b) in place names [see Smith PNElem. 2.204-5, 222-3].

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • a1275(?c1150) Prov.Alf.(Trin-C B.14.39)p.31 : Iye: ȝ; w: ƿ; ant: &; iyorn: þ.
  • Note: New spelling--(early) iyorn
    Note: Also needed for date.
    Note: Belongs to sense 4.(a).--per MLL

Supplemental Materials (draft)

Note: Med., etc., see further J.Norri, Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary, s.v. thorn.