Middle English Dictionary Entry

whīt adj.
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

1a.
(a) Of a substance, structure, an object: white in color; whitish, pale-colored, light-colored; of the moon, a star: silvery-white; of a book or register: bound in a white or light-colored binding; of stream or river water: light-colored with silt or sediment; of a writ: unendorsed; also, as quasi-adv.: ~ bakked, not endorsed on the back; ~ man (aufin, king), chess one of the white or light-colored chess pieces (the white elephant, white king); ~ stikke, a white tally stick; chalk (swan) ~, white as chalk (a swan); lilie ~, q.v.; milk ~, milk-white; the milk ~ girdel, astron. the Milky Way; snou ~, q.v.; (b) of a color or hue: white, whitish, pale; ~ grei (yelwe), light gray (yellow); ~ hored, grayish white; under ~, off-white, somewhat white [transl. of L subalbidus]; (c) in conventional comparisons: ~ as snou, whittere than snou, etc.; (d) in proverbs and prov. expressions.
1b.
Her. (a) Of the color silver or argent; ~ cok (lioun, rose, etc.), a heraldic representation of a cock (lion, rose, etc.) in argent or silver; chalk ~ maiden, a heraldic representation of the Virgin Mary in silver or pale argent; (b) the ~ lioun, used by metonymy for John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, who bore this device.
1c.
Fig. (a) Of a person, the soul, love, etc.: morally pure, spiritually clean, free of the spot or stain of sin, innocent; of virginity: pure; of the virtues of a stone: good, conducing to good; also, in conventional comparisons: ~ as snou, ~ aboven (up) snou, whittere than ermin (snou), etc.; snou ~, q.v.; (b) the ~ pater-noster, a prayer or incantation recited as a charm against evil; (c) ben cristened never so ~, to be made ever so clean by baptism; washen ~, refl. make oneself spiritually clean, cleanse oneself spiritually.
2.
(a) Of cloth, clothing, a garment, etc.: white, whitish; of an embroidered figure: worked in white thread; ~ folding, some kind of white cloth, perh. used for wrapping or winding; ~ lether, leather or a piece of leather treated with alum to yield a stiff, white leather able to be further treated to soften it; ~ lomb, white lambskin or lambswool used as a lining; ~ skin, ?a tanned hide, either whitened or left undyed; ~ teiinge pointes, white laces for armor; (b) of a person, company of persons, an angel: clothed in white, white clad, outfitted in white or highly polished armor; also, as noun: one clad in white armor, a white knight [quot. a1500(a1400)]; ~ canoun, canoun ~, a Premonstratensian canon, a Norbertine; ~ frere, a Carmelite friar [see also frer(e n. 3.(f)]; ~ monk, monk ~, a Cistercian monk; ?also, a Franciscan friar [quot. a1475(?a1430)]; (c) of an abbey: belonging to an order of Cistercians or other religious wearing white habits; (d) in combs. and conventional comparisons: chalk (chalked, milk) ~, chalk-white (milk-white), pure white; ~ as milk (snou), so ~ so snou, whittere than snou, etc.
3.
(a) Of a plant: white-flowering, bearing white or whitish blossoms, pods, leaves, etc.; of a flower: white-petaled; of a plant’s leaves, seeds, etc.: white or whitish, pale-colored; as noun: a white-flowering variety (of watercress) [quot. a1450]; coll. the white berries of the Indian pepper vine [quot. ?a1425(c1400); cp. whit-peper n. (a)]; as quasi-adv.: ~ flekked, white-flecked, white-spotted; ~ mos, ?some white or pale-colored kind of lichen; ~ rose, some white-petaled variety of rose; also, an ornamental setting for a gem crafted in the form of a white rose [quot. 1462]; (b) in names of specific plants: ~ bis-malwe, q.v.; ~ bothel (bothen, gold), the ox-eye daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum; ~ brassik, a variety of wild cabbage Brassica oleracea; ~ ches-bolle (popie), a white-flowered variety of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum; also, the seed of this plant; ~ clover, white clover Trifolium repens; ~ croue fot, some white-flowered species of the genus Ranunculus, perh. the white buttercup (Ranunculus aconitifolius or Ranunculus platonifolius) or the water crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis; ~ ellebre, prob. the European white hellebore Veratrum album or the root of this plant; ~ hen-bane, white henbane Hyoscyamus albus; ~ herbe, perh. cudweed (>Filago vulgaris or Gnaphalium uliginosum) or the mouse-ear hawkweed Hieracium pilosella; ~ hokke, a plant of the genus Althaea, prob. marsh mallow Althaea officinalis; ~ hore-houne (marrubium), the common or white horehound Marrubium vulgare; ~ ivi, some plant similar to ivy but having white berries; ~ lilie, prob. the Madonna lily Lilium candidum or its flower; ~ malwe [see malwe n. (b)]; ~ minte, a kind of wild mint, prob. horsemint Mentha sylvestris or water mint Mentha aquatica; ~ mustard, white mustard (Sinapis alba or Brassica alba); ~ peper, q.v.; ~ ploume-tre, a variety of plum tree Pruinus domestica producing fruit with light-colored skin; ~ senevei, a plant of the genus Brassica, prob. white mustard Brassica alba; ~ tanseie, ?silverweed Potentilla anserina; ~ thorn, q.v.; ~ vine (vine-tre), the common or white bryony Bryonia dioica or some similar plant; ~ violet, ?the white variety of the sweet violet Viola odorata or another white flower of the genus Viola; ~ wilwe, prob. the common white willow Salix alba; ~ (frensh) wort, prob. some plant of the genus Brassica, perh. a cultivated form such as cabbage, kale, rape, or a similar vegetable; also, ?feverfew Chrysanthemum parthenium [quot. a1500 MS Hrl.3388]; peper ~, = whit-peper n. (c); (c) in names of particular substances derived from plants or parts of plants: ~ cedre, ?the wood or some other product of the true cedar or cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani or of some other evergreen species; ~ coliaundre, ?the powdered seed of coriander Coriandrum sativum; ~ cude, q.v.; ~ gingivere [see gingivere n. (b)]; ~ gomme, gomme…~, ~ rosine, ?dried or powdered rosin; ~ saundres, powdered white sandalwood Santalum album; ~ store, a superior grade of incense; ~ terebentine, ?an especially light-colored or dilute form of the oleoresin of the terebinth tree Pistacia terebinthus; ~ turbit, a refined, high-quality turpeth; ~ water, a white or pale-colored juice extracted from a crushed plant.
4a.
(a) Of stone, soil, metal, a metallic substance or object, chemical compound, mineral, gemstone (including gems of organic origin as coral and pearl): white, whitish; gray, silvery, light-colored; also, as noun: the white stone, the white variety of stone;—also coll.; sup. the whitest kind; ~ marble, marble ~ [see marble n. 1.(b)]; ~ marle, a light-colored friable substance consisting of clay mixed with calcium carbonate; ~ nail, a nail of iron, silver, or other gray or silver-colored metal;—also coll.; ~ silver, chalk ~ silver, white silver (as contrasted with red gold); ~ wir, iron wire coated with tin; (b) of metal: white hot; (c) of silver, a silver object: ungilded, plain as opposed to gilded; (d) ~ moneie (silver), moneie ~, silver money, coins of silver or of silver-coated copper, brass, or iron; ~ pounde, a customary rent, perh. similar to the filsting pounde [see filsting ger. 2.(c)]; (e) ~ brike, a white or light-colored kind of brick; (f) of glass, crystal, a crystalline stone: colorless, uncolored, transparent, clear; also, of water: without color.
4b.
In names of specific metals, minerals, metallic or mineral substances: ~ coperose, a metallic sulphate of zinc; ~ erthe, chalk; ~ led, a mixture of the carbonate and hydrate of lead [see also led n. 1b.(a)]; ~ litarge, ?lead monoxide; ?litharge of silver; ~ plastre, gypsum, sulfate of lime; ~ tartar, ?purified tartar; calce…~, ?calcined silver.
4c.
Alch. (a) Of alchemical substances or operations: effecting transmutation to silver; ~ elixir (ston), elixir ~, the white-colored form of the elixir (philosophers’ stone) for transmuting metal into silver; ~ sulphur, ?sophic sulfur [cp. sulphur n. (c)]; ~ wif (woman), the female principal in the alchemical marriage, the White Woman; ~ werk, the process for obtaining the white elixir; (b) bicomen ~ parfitli, ?to become silver in substance, be completely transmuted into silver.
5.
(a) Of an animal, a bird, dragon: having white, whitish, or light-colored fur, fleece, feathers, scales, etc.; also in heraldic motto [quot. 1345-9]; of fleece, feathers, spots on an animal’s hide, etc.: white-colored, whitish, pale-colored; of a painted representation of an animal: white; of a part of an animal’s or a bird’s body, fish roe: white, silvery, light-colored; also, as noun: the white animal, white creature;—also coll.; also, white feathers [quot. a1500(?c1440), 1st]; ~ grei, having pale gray hair; ~ horn, an epithet for a plow animal; ~ rat, q.v.; ~ wombe, a name for a hare; (b) in combs. and conventional comparisons: chalk (milk, papire, swan) ~, white as chalk (milk, paper, a swan), pure white; snou ~ [see also snou-whit adj. (a)]; ~ as milk (milkes fom, snou, etc.), ~ so milk (milkes reme, snou); whittere than lilie flour (snou), more ~ than swan; (c) as quasi-adv. with ppl. or adj.: ~ foted, having a white foot; ~ horned, as noun: a snail having white or whitish hornlike appendages; ~ mailed, having white breast feathers; ~ spekkede (splekked), white-spotted, having patches of white hair, piebald; (d) astron. the ~ bole, the zodiacal sign Taurus; (e) fig. and theol. the pascale lomb al ~, the ~ lomb (celestial, Christ.
6a.
(a) Of a person, a part of the body: naturally fair-complexioned, light-skinned, pale; of the complexion, someone’s coloring or skin tone: fair, light; maken ~, to make (oneself, the face) white or pale, usu. by artificial means, lighten the skin tone of; (b) in combs. and conventional comparisons, often used hyperbolically: chalk (milk) ~, white as chalk (milk); lilie ~, q.v.; ~ as fom (ivorie, snou, etc.), ~ so bon (flour, milkes fom, etc.); whittere than fom (morn-milk, snou, etc.); also, as quasi-adv.: ~ shininge so milk, gleaming whitely as milk, shining white as milk; (c) of a person, someone’s head: white-haired, gray-haired; of the hair, beard, etc.: white, gray; ~ and hor, hor and ~; ~ hor (hored); also, in conventional comparisons: ~ as snou (swan, wol, etc.); also, as quasi-adv.: ~ iblouen, fig. white with age, grizzled, hoary; ~ hered, q.v.; blak berd or ~ berd, fig. the devil or God; (d) comely, fair, attractive; also used as epithet [sometimes difficult to distinguish from (a) and (c)]; (e) fig. of a person, the soul: white or fair of color as an indication of moral purity; of someone’s face: fair-seeming (on the outside).
6b.
Chiefly med. & pathol.: (a) of a person, the face: having an unnaturally pale or white color or complexion due to illness, weakness, emotional distress, etc.; of the complexion: wan, pallid, unhealthily pale; (b) of throes of distress: ?accompanied by pallor; feveres ~, a state of lovesickness causing or accompanied by paleness [cp. blaunche fever, s.v. fever n. 3.(a)].
7.
Chiefly anat., med., & pathol.: (a) of an organ, a part of the body, tissue, a bodily humor, bodily fluid: white or whitish in color, light-colored, pale-colored; also, pathologically or unnaturally white or light-colored so as to be indicative of a morbid condition; as noun: clear spittle, saliva not discolored by blood [quot. a1425 *Treat.Uroscopy, 2nd]; also, in iron. comparison: ~ as get, of teeth: discolored, blackened; ~ eien, light-colored eyes; ben igrouen over-al ~, of a horse’s eye: to be all covered over with a white growth or film; (b) of a skin eruption, festered wound, morbid growth, etc.: white, whitish, pale-colored; ~ perle, a disease causing a whitish film, spot, or tumor on the eye, ?cataract; ?also, as quasi-adv.: muten as ~ as chalk, of a hawk: to void chalk-white excrement; (c) in names of specific diseases: ~ dropesie, ?dropsy, brought on by an excess of the humor phlegm; ~ flowe, q.v.; ~ lepre, ?psoriasis; ~ morphea, morphea ~, a skin disease characterized by leprous or scurfy eruptions arising from the humor phlegm; also, leprosy; (d) in names of specific medicinal preparations: ~ collirie, a white-colored medicine applied to the eyes in the form of a lotion, salve, or powder; ~ oinement, a white-colored ointment; ~ unguent (of lim, a white-colored ointment containing litharge (lime).
8a.
Chiefly cook. & med.: (a) of a dish, dough, a food, oil, a medicinal preparation: white or whitish in color, light-colored; ?also, uncolored; ?also, as quasi-adv.: frien ~, to fry (batter) so that or until it becomes white; ~ mete, q.v.; (b) of fruits, vegetables: of a light-colored variety, pale or whitish in color; ~ appel, a variety of apple with a light-colored skin; also, an unripe apple [1st quot.]; ~ lekes, the white part of leeks; ~ pese [see also pese n. 1.(b)]; (c) in names of food products distinguished by color or degree of refinement: ~ acete (vinegre), white wine vinegar; ~ bred (lof, lof-bred), bread (a loaf of bread) made from white flour from which the bran has been removed, white bread (loaf); whitest bred, the finest white bread; ~ bred cromes, cromes of ~ bred, white breadcrumbs; ~ crustes, white bread crusts; ~ flour, refined flour, flour from which all the bran has been removed; ~ flour of ris; ~ grese (seime), lard or similar animal grease [see also gres(e n. 1.(b)]; ~ hering, herring salted but not smoked [see also hering n. 1.(b)]; ~ honi, ?honey made by bees before swarming; ~ poudre (douce, a light-colored mixture of ground spices (and sugar; ~ sour (bred, ~ sour lof, leavened white bread (loaf of bread), white sourdough bread; ~ sugre, sugre ~, white, highly refined sugar; ~ wine; almaundes ~, blanched almonds; poudre of ~ aisel, powdered tartar produced from white wine vinegar; (d) of grain: pale-colored because ripe; also, fig. of fields or lands: golden-ripe.
8b.
Cook. In names of specific dishes, confections, etc.: ~ anis, ?a light-colored confection containing anise; ~ leche, ?a light-colored or meatless custardlike dish usu. served in slices; ~ milates, ?a meatless or dairy version of a pastylike dish containing eggs, breadcrumbs, spices, and saffron baked in a crust; ~ mortreues, a dish, perh. of light color, containing boiled, minced chicken or pork, almond milk, and spices; ~ sauce, a sauce, prob. light-colored, containing blanched almonds; ~ sore, ?= blank-de-sore, q.v.
9.
(a) Of persons, saints, the sun, sunbeams, etc.: brightly shining, brilliant, radiant; also as epithet [quot. c1380, which could also be construed as sense 6a.(d)]; also, as quasi-adv.: shinen ~, to shine brightly or brilliantly; (b) of metal, a metal object: bright, shining, gleaming, brilliantly polished, burnished [occas. difficult to distinguish from sense 4a.(a)]; of metallic cloth: shiny, lustrous; shire ~, of a sword: bright shining, dazzlingly bright.
10.
Fig. Of words: eloquent [quot. c1450]; fair-seeming, blandishing; insincere, specious.
11.
Gram. The word ‘whit’; the comp. adj. ‘whittere’.
12.
(a) In occupational terms: ~ bakere, a baker who bakes with white, refined flour, a baker of white bread; ~ lether teuere, one who prepares or dresses white leather; ~ tawiere, q.v.; (b) in surnames; (c) in street names; also, ?in name of a stream [last quot.]; ~ freres, the name of the Carmelite convent in Fleet Street in London or the district surrounding it; (d) in place names [see Smith PNElem. 1.273-4].

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • a1500 Pmb-O.21 Artist.Recipes (Pmb-O 21) 274/28 : To make a gray colour. Tak wyth led and inke and medyl hem togedyr.
  • Note: Additional quot., sense 4b.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

Note: Med., etc. (sense 7.(d)), see further J.Norri, Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary, s.v. white collyrie.