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The Etymology and Meanings of Eldritch

By Alaric Hall

Abstract

'The Etymology and Meanings of Eldritch' argues against the traditional derivation of eldritch from Old English *ælf-rīce (‘elf’ + ‘dominion, sphere of influence’), arguing that the etymology is rather *æl-rīce~el-rīce, the first element meaning ‘foreign, strange; from elsewhere’, and the whole therefore meaning ‘other world’. The key evidence is the variant spellings of eldritch in Older Scots texts cannot regularly be accommodated by *ælf- but can be accomodated by the prefix *æl-~el-. The article develops this point by showing that the putative origin of eldritch in ælf- seems to have influenced the definitions of eldritch given both in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and in more recent scholarship: its connotations of elves and elvishness have in some circumstances been overplayed, and the more general meaning of ‘otherworldly’ is to be preferred

Publisher: The Association for Scottish Literary Studies
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:4726

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