A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: January 2009

Last use?

I got discussing the idea of Gemütlichkeit with a friend today–actually the Danish expression “hygge”–but I was connecting it to Gemütlichkeit–and I made the claim that “homely” used to mean something like gemütlich.

And so it seems: the OED reports several senses of “homely” with gemütlich connotations. For example, “Become as one of the household; familiar, intimate; at home with”, now rare or obsolete. The first citation is from 865 ad. (“þis mane, þat vas hamely Vith hyme”/”this man that was homely with him.”)

But of course “homely” is only use as a synonym for “ugly” these days, I think; though “homey” is still used in certain contexts. I can say your house is homey, and I can even call you my homie (from homeboy), but I can’t say “this man that was homey with him” either.

It does make me wonder–do lexicographers ever try to find the last use of a term?