Middle English Dictionary Entry

wei n.(1)
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

Note: Cp. awei adv.
1a.
(a) An established road, a main thoroughfare, highway; a principal road between cities; a city street; also, the surface of a road, roadbed; brod ~; commune (private) ~; pleine ~, level roadway, a good road; right ~ to, the road leading directly to (a place); wide of weies, of a city: having broad streets; (b) a rustic trail, track, or path; a country lane or byway; a track through woods, wastelands, wild country, etc.; also, an insect’s trail; grene ~; smal (long) ~; (c) an interior hallway, corridor, or passageway; a path within an enclosure, a garden, compound, or the like; a walkway between buildings; (d) an underground channel, a tunnel; also, an opening into a space, aperture; weies of helle, the chimneys of hell; streit side-weies of brethinge, hot-air ducts, heating vents; (e) anat. a bodily passageway, channel, duct; a blood vessel;—usu. pl.; the birth canal, vagina [quot. a1450]; ?an opening in the skin of an animal through which hair or fur grows [2nd quot.]; also, pl. intestines, the alimentary system; the channels in trees through which nutrients pass, the veins of a tree [3rd quot.]; also, pathol. tunnels in the flesh caused by scabies [quot. ?a1425 *Chauliac(1), 1st]; (f) astron. milki ~, Rome ~, the apparent path in the night sky created by dense groupings of stars, the Milky Way.
1b.
In selected phrases: (a) in (a, the) ~, etc., in the roadway, on a road or the surface of a road; also, out in public, in the open; also in fig. context; (b) after (bi) the ~, along (bi) the weies, along the road; bi ~ and path, on the road; ayenes (bisides, endelong, in, on) the ~, alongside the road, beside the road; in middes the ~, in the middle of the road; (c) fer (wel oute) from weies, remote, off the beaten path; not in the ~, in remote regions, away from paths or roads; oute of the ~, of ~, off the road; (d) withouten ~, trackless, impassable; (e) in generalizing phrases: al ~ abouten, bi wei(es and bi strete(s, bi weies and bi wodes, bi wode and ~, bi ani weies, in weies and pathes, in ~ or wal, on ~ on feld, etc., everywhere, in every place, anywhere, all over; neither ~ ne wente, not in any place, not anywhere.
1c.
In cpds. and combs.: (a) in names of specific roads and roads leading to or from specified places: ~ of helle, the way to hell [transl. L via gehennis]; caunterburi ~; london ~ [OE Lundun-weg]; neue market ~; walsingham ~; seinte patrikes ~, the road to purgatory; (b) ~ heigh, heigh ~, a high road, main thoroughfare [see also heigh adj. 2b.(e)]; ~ lete, q.v.; ~ sides, the areas adjacent to a path; ~ wente, a path; cros ~ [see cros(se-wei n. (a)]; gravel ~, a road or path paved with gravel; hors ~, a bridle path; kinges (heigh) ~, the royal high road [see also king n. 1b.(c)]; out ~ [see outwei n.]; place of) two weies, four ~ lete, a crossroads, crossing; port ~, q.v.; ride ~, q.v.; thurgh weies, q.v.; (c) ~ liere, a highwayman, bandit; ~ makere, a person who repairs or constructs roads; ~ man, a person in charge of road maintenance; (d) in names of plants and animals: ~ beter, the hare; ~ brede, q.v.; ~ hore, q.v.; ~ wort, q.v.; (e) ~ brod, ?a wide walkway or covered passageway in a building or between two buildings, a portico.
1d.
Anat. In phrases: ~ of the air (mete, urine, etc.), the passage or channel through which air (food, urine, etc.) passes or moves; ~ of breth of lif, ~ of lif, the airway, trachea; ~ of the ballok (brain, nose, stomak, throte, etc.), a passage, duct, vein, etc. running to, from, or within the testicles (brain, nose, stomach, throat); ~ of child getinge (bering), ?the birth canal; innere weies, internal passageways, ?specif. the intestines.
2a.
(a) A route defined by its endpoints or destination, a prescribed course of travel, way to get to a place [freq. difficult to distinguish from sense 1a. and vice versa]; ~ thethen (thider, etc.); ~ to (toward), the route or way to (a specified place); also in fig. context; weies to taken, possible routes of escape [quot. a1450]; (b) a course described by actual motion, the route along which someone or something is moving, the course of (someone’s) travel, (one’s) path; also, progress along (one’s) course; also fig. and in fig. context; ~ of thonder light, ?the track or path described by a flash of lightning; fare ~ [see fare n.(1) 2.(b)]; in (on) ~, in (someone’s) path, in front of (sb.); oute of ~, out of (someone’s) way, away from (sb.);—used fig.; (c) astron. the course along which a celestial body moves or is moving, the orbit of the sun, moon, or a planet; the brenned ~, a particular section of the path or course described by the zodiacal signs [transl. L via combusta]; (d) travel, journeying; a journey [sometimes difficult to distinguish from (b)]; also, specif. a pilgrimage [quots. a1400 & ?1418-19]; ~ fode, food for a journey [transl. L viaticum]; ~ nest, q.v.; hous of ~, astrol. the house or sign thought to influence or govern travel; haven ~ with, to travel with (a companion);—used fig.
2b.
In nominal or adv. constructions related to senses 2a.(a) and (d) in collocation with selected verbs [since wei and phrases such as on wei combine with almost any verb denoting locomotion, forward progress, or the like, only a sampling is given in (a) through (d)]: (a) faren (gon, passen forth, wenden, yede, etc.) ~, faren (passen, etc.) on ~, gon (wenden, etc.) in (bi) ~, to proceed along a course, travel along, be going along on (one’s) way; holden (kepen) ~, continue on (one’s) course, keep to the route, hold a course; leden (the) ~, lead (sb.) along a particular route; nimen (taken) ~, venture on a course; riden (bi, on) ~, ride along a route, be riding forth; also in fig. context; (b) ben gon the ~ unto, to have directed one’s course to (sb.); driven forth ~ in, set (one’s) course across (the sea); faren ~ toward, wenden forth that ~ to, etc., set a course for (a place), direct (one’s) steps toward; maken ~ hom-ward, make (one’s) way home; maken ~ to, make (one’s) way to (sb., a place); nimen (taken) ~ to (in-to), etc., take up a (one’s) course for (a place), direct (one’s) way to (a place, sb.); turnen ~ hom, turn (one’s) steps homeward; turnen thane ~ the in-to…lei, direct (one’s) course to the route leading to (a place); in indirect questions: wher she ben o ~, to where she was making her way; also with what and whider; also, without verb of locomotion: willen forth on ~, wish to continue on one’s journey (to a place); (c) ben faren of ~, ben nomen in ~, ben wel on ~, to be embarked upon a way somewhere, have set out on (one’s) journey; bringen in (on) ~, don in ~, get (sb.) launched on a journey, send off; also, get (oneself) off on a journey, set off; comen in ~, gon (nimen, taken, wenden, yede) ~, set out on (one’s) way, begin a journey, take off; nimen the ~ of deth, take the journey of death, die; (d) ben went ~, to have gone (one’s) way, have departed; faren (riden, taken, wenden, etc.) ~, gon in ~, hien (riden) on ~, wenden upon ~, take leave of a place or situation, go one’s way, depart; faren (priken) on ~, betake (oneself) off on (one’s) way; flen (flien) ~, hasten in ~, take flight, hasten (oneself) on (one’s) way; also, flee, depart with dispatch; gon ~, go one’s way; also, take (one’s) leave of the world, perish, die; also, of a plant: go dormant [quot. ?a1425(1373)]; gon theire weies, go their various or separate ways, scatter, disperse [quot. c1450(a1425)]; in impv. constructions: go your ~, ride forth thin ~, etc., begone, be on your way, go away; flie thin ~, etc., run away, fly; (e) finden (marken, shapen) ~, to figure out (mark out, devise) (one’s) route, plot a course; turnen ~, alter (one’s) course; (f) ben oute of the ~, to be off course, be lost or confused;—used fig.; also, be out of the picture, be away [quot. a1375]; faren (forfaren, gon, etc.) oute of (the) ~, deviate from (one’s) course, get off the track, go wrong; also fig.; lesen (forlesen) ~, lose (one’s) way; ?become distracted from (one’s) purpose, become disoriented; leden oute of the ~, lead (an animal) off the path or course; stonden oute of the ~, ?exist in a separate realm;—used fig.; turnen oute of the right ~, turn (oneself) from the direct route, make a detour.
2c.
In selected prep. phrases related to senses 2a.(a) and (d): (a) bi (the) wei(es, in the (his) ~, in hire weies, on the (theire) ~, etc., along the way, in the course of the (his, their) journey, while in transit; (b) with adj.: rade of ~, eager to be underway, ready to travel.
3a.
Direction: (a) in prep. phrases: ayenes the ~ of the south, southward; bi everi ~, in all directions; bi on ~, in one direction; til erthe ~, toward the earth, in the direction of the land; to the ~ of the north, northward; (b) in noun phrases used adverbially: ech (everi) ~, in each (every) direction, each way; ende ~ [see ende-wai adv.]; on ~, in a single direction; streight ~, by a direct course, straight; that ~, in that direction; which ~, in which direction, which way; also, from which direction [quot. a1470]; (c) in gen. phrases used adverbially: ech weies, in both directions, each way; everi weies, in all dimensions; ones weies, in the same direction, one way; thas weies, toward that direction; this weies, this way, hitherward; thwert-overweies, q.v.
3b.
(a) In idiomatic expressions and imprecations: a devel (twenti devel) ~, hellward, to hell; also, in the name of the devil (twenty devils); in develes ~, on twenti devel ~, etc. [see also devel n. 6.(b)]; of devel ~, hellish; (b) in asseverations: bi the ~ of min soule, bi the ~ that min soule shal to, by the way my soul will go, as I hope for salvation.
4.
(a) Distance covered or to be covered in traveling a route; a portion of a route; gret (long, etc.) ~; a (four, fourti) mile ~, etc., the distance of a mile (four miles, forty miles), etc.; in the mid ~, halfway along a specified distance;—used fig.; (b) in adv. constructions: a fer (ful muchel) ~, a long way; a fer (god, gret) ~ thennes, far from that place; a gret (litel) ~, at a great (little) distance (from a specified point); a mile (five mile, etc.) ~, a mile’s (five miles’, etc.) distance, for a mile (five miles, etc.); (c) a span of time equivalent to the time expended in traveling a certain distance;—sometimes used adverbially: a furlong ~ [see also furlong n. 1.(b)]; a furlong of ~; a mile (six mile, etc.) ~ [see also mile n.(1) 2.(b)]; a long ~, ?the time required to reach a faraway destination; ?a long time to wait; half ~ mid-morwe (prime, etc.) [see half-wei adv.].
5.
(a) Room, space; freedom of movement, lack of hindrance; clearance, passage; forfaren ~, to prevent (sb.) from moving on a course, hinder passage of; maken (a) ~, winnen (yarknen) weies, clear a space, path, or passageway; make room (for sb. or sth.); prepare a means of ingress (for sb. or sth.); also fig.; yeven (leten haven) ~, permit (sb.) to pass or advance, allow (sb.) passage; (b) chalengen ~, ?to claim right of way.
6.
In misc. cpds. and combs. related to one or more of the senses above: (a) ~ fare (farere, faringe, fere, ferer, feringe, goer, goinge), q.v.; weies ende, the end of the road, journey’s end; also, ?a place where one road intersects another, crossroads [2nd quot.]; (b) ~ secher, a pathfinder, trailblazer; ~ settere, ?one who marks the boundaries of a camp; ~ wise, familiar with a road or route; ~ witter, those who know or can discover paths, routes, or ways to travel; ~ witti, those who know roads or routes; lond ~, a route over land, a passage by land; (c) ~ kepere, ?one who obstructs a road or prevents passage along a route; ~ leve, permission to make or make use of a road or path, freedom of passage; ~ peni, a fee paid for passage through a forest, toll exacted for the use of a road; ~ sergeaunt, an officer charged with collecting tolls levied on travelers for upkeep of forest roads; ~ wode-ware, ?a fee exacted for passage of goods through a forest; ?timber for use in road construction.
7a.
Fig. (a) A course, path, or manner of life involving moral, ethical, or spiritual choices; ~ to the gostli deth (the contree of blisse, perfeccioun ward, etc.); bettre (right, siker, etc.) ~; middel ~ (golden, the course or path of moderation; side-weies, detours from the proper course; the ~, the proper way; the right way; specif. the way of true religion [quot. ?c1200]; (b) a spiritual journey, pilgrimage; pl. worldly pursuits; also, ?distances on a spiritual journey [quot. ?a1450]; ~ feringe, q.v.; ~ goer, q.v.; cros ~ [see cros(se-wei n. (b)]; (c) in specialized usage, referring to Christ: the path to and means of salvation;—chiefly in collocations: the ~, ~ treuth and lif, etc.; also, referring to the Virgin Mary: ~ of indulgence, the path leading to forgiveness, the means whereby sinners may receive pardon; referring to the cross: cristes ~, the way of Christ (whereby he was able to become the savior of mankind); (d) a tendency toward a given course of life; the characteristic moral direction in which one goes; pl. the ways characteristic (of someone, of God) [sometimes difficult to distinguish from (a)].
7b.
In selected phrases: (a) ~ of abhominacioun (sinne), an evil course, wickedness of customs or behavior; ~ of angwisshe (contricioun, martirement, poverte, etc.), a course or manner of life embracing or willingly enduring suffering (contrition, martyrdom, poverty, etc.); ~ of bersabe, the manner of life or religious practice associated with Beersheba; ~ of bileve (doctrine, right dom, treuth, etc.), a course upholding Christian belief (teachings, justice, truth, etc.); also, belief, faith, the practices associated with true religion; ~ of crist (god, the lord), goddes ~, a course established by the example or pronouncements of Christ (God), the Christian life, a godly manner of living; ~ of helle (heven, lif, perdicioun, savacioun), lifes (lifli) ~, the course leading to damnation (eternal life, salvation), the manner of life resulting in damnation (salvation); ~ of love (perfeccioun, vertu, etc.), a course consistent with or exemplifying charity (righteousness, virtue, etc.), a manner of life characterized by the practice of charity, etc.; (b) ben in ~ to, to be on a spiritual path toward (heaven, hell); faren (gon) on ~, gon (walken, wenden) ~, follow a (particular) moral or spiritual course; dressen ~, direct (one’s) spiritual course; folwen (holden, kepen) ~, follow (adhere to, maintain) a (particular) spiritual course or mode of living; forlesen (leven) ~, abandon or stray from a (particular) course of behavior or way of life; maken ~, set (one’s) spiritual course (in a particular direction); taken ~, set out upon a (particular) spiritual course; also, take (one’s) spiritual direction (from Christ); wrenchen (oute) of ~, lead (sb.) away from a spiritual path, misguide; yeven ~, give an example of the right manner of living, provide a spiritual course; (c) greithen his weies, maken redi the weies of the lord, yarken his weies, etc., to prepare people spiritually for the coming of Christ, go before Christ to ease or announce his arrival;—with ref. to the literal preparation of a path or the clearing of a passage.
8a.
(a) A nonspatial course or route, a course of actions or events leading to a nonliteral destination; an approach to an objective, a problem, etc.; a proposed plan or course of action; also, the way things turn out or can occur, an outcome [sometimes difficult to distinguish from (b) and vice versa]; a mene ~, a middle course; also, an alternative; holden ~, to adhere to a particular course or line of reasoning; (b) a means of accomplishing a particular task, method of doing something, procedure for some endeavor; a way (to do or effect sth.); a device, stratagem, subterfuge; weies and menes (craftes, etc.), menes and weies; lesen no ~, to miss no trick; (c) pathol. an intermediate stage in the progression (of a medical condition), a precursor (to a morbid eruption); (d) the manner in which something occurs; the condition, state, or mode in which something exists or is perceived; bi this ~, in this condition; for no ~, ?for any position or status [perh. error for wi(e n.]; in ~, in (a specified) manner; also, in (a specified) state, condition, mode; in everi ~, in all respects, in every way.
8b.
In selected prep. phrases: (a) bi ani (no, outher, etc.) ~, bi ani other (som) manere ~, etc., by any (no, either, some, etc.) means, manner, or way; bi that (this, the self a) ~, by that (this, that same) way, thus; (b) bi ~ of, through the working or action of (some agent, force, or circumstance), by the agency of; through the process of (some action or mechanism); by means of (sth.); also, on account of (sth.), because of; in accordance with the processes or natural ways of (sth.); (c) bi (in) ~ of, in the form of (sth.), as an instance of; also, in the manner of (sth.); (d) in (after) ~ of, on a course of action leading to (an occurrence, an arrival at a particular state), on an approach to; also, in a state so as to be liable (to have sth. happen, to do sth.); in a state susceptible to (sth.); (e) oute of the ~, off the course, amiss, wrong; also, ?not on a course (in accordance with sth.); (f) in idiomatic expressions: at the (at, atte) leste ~, at least, at a minimum [see also lest(e adj.(1) 3a.(a)]; at the long ~, ?in the long run, in the long term; in the ~ atte ful, ?in complete fashion, fully; (g) with diminished force, in conventional expressions functioning as mild intensives: bi al (ani) ~, by all means, certainly; bi no (no manere) ~, in (on) no ~, by no means, certainly not, not at all; in negative contexts: by any means, at all, certainly; (h) with adv. gen. as obj. of a prep. [cp. the parallel constructions in sense 8c.(b)]: in ech weies, in every way, overall; o this weies, in this manner; on o weies other on other, by one way or another, somehow.
8c.
In adv. constructions: (a) al ~, q.v.; amid ~ [see amidweie adv.]; ani ~ [see ani-wei(s adv.]; cros ~, q.v.; no-kin (none-kin) ~, by any means, at all; no ~, q.v.; other ~, q.v.; som ~ [see som-wai adv.]; which ~, in what manner, how; (b) in adv. gen. or pl. constructions [difficult to distinguish the two]: al(les)-weies [see al-wei, -wei(e)s adv.]; amid-weies [see amidweies adv.]; ani (eanies)-weies [see ani-wei(s adv.]; cros-weies, q.v.; ech(es weies, in every way; mani weies, in manifold ways, in various manners; nede-weies [see ned(e-wais adv.]; no-kin (none-kin) weies, in any way; nones-weies, q.v.; none-weies, q.v.; no-weies, q.v.; other-weies, q.v.; othresweies, q.v.; somes-weies, q.v.; som-weies [see som-waies adv.]; the same weies, these weies, in the same way or ways, thus; this (þisses) weies, in this manner; whiches weies, in what wise, how.
9.
In misc. senses prob. arising from errors: (a) ?the course of a spring, watercourse; ?error for wel(le n.; (b) pl. ?ridges or rings (around the neck of a rooster); (c) ~ slaughter, ?killing in the open;—perh. through misinterpretation of L inter- as iter.
10.
(a) In surnames; (b) in place names [see Smith PNElem. 2.248-9].

Supplemental Materials (draft)

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

Supplemental Materials (draft)

Note: Med., etc. (sense 1.(d)), see further J.Norri, Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary, s.v. way of the air.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

Note: Med., etc. (sense 1.(d)), see further J.Norri, Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary, s.v. way of the ballock.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

Note: Med., etc. (sense 1.(d)), see further J.Norri, Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary, s.v. way of the meat.