swain

swain
   The earliest meaning of this word in English was ‘boy’ or ‘servant’. Traces of this survive in compounds like ‘boatswain’, ‘coxswain’. By the seventeenth century the meaning had shifted across to ‘peasant labourer’, or ‘shepherd’.
   Petruchio, in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, calls his servant Grumio ‘you peasant swain’, but he means it insultingly, following it immediately with ‘you whore-son malt-horse drudge!’ ‘Swain’ was clearly not a normal term for a manservant by this time. In The Winter’s Tale, Polixenes in disguise addresses the prince, his son, as ‘swain’, but we are told by Perdita that Florizel has obscured his rank ‘with a swain’s wearing’.
   The word ‘swain’ was romanticized from the seventeenth century onwards by the pastoral poets, and turned into a country lover. A girl might jokingly refer to her ‘swain’ in modern times, but the word has mainly survived in name form, as the last name ‘Swain’ or the Scandinavian first name ‘Sven’.

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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  • Swain — is a traditional English surname derived ultimately from the Old Norse personal name Sveinn (Sven, Sweyn), meaning a youth, young man. There are a number of variations in the spelling of the surname Swain, including Swaine, Swainne and Swayne.… …   Wikipedia

  • Swain — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Ben Swain (* 1986), britischer Wasserspringer Bennie Swain (1930–2008), US amerikanischer Basketballspieler und trainer Chelse Swain (* 1983), US amerikanische Schauspielerin David Swain (1801–1870), US… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Swain — Swain, n. [OE. swain, swein, Icel. sveinn a boy, servant; akin to Sw. sven, Dan. svend, AS. sw[=a]n, OHG. swein.] 1. A servant. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] Him behoves serve himself that has no swain. Chaucer. [1913 Webster] 2. A young man dwelling in… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • swain — [sweın] n old use [Date: 1500 1600; : Old Norse; Origin: sveinn boy, servant ] a young man from the country who loves a woman …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • swain — [ sweın ] noun count LITERARY a young man, especially a young man who is in love …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • swain — mid 12c., young man attendant upon a knight, from O.N. sveinn boy, servant, attendant, from P.Gmc. *swainaz attendant, servant, properly “one s own (man),” from PIE *swoi no , from root *swe oneself, alone, apart (see IDIOM (Cf. idiom)).… …   Etymology dictionary

  • swain — swain; swainmote /sweyn(mowt)/ See swein sweinmote …   Black's law dictionary

  • swain — ► NOUN 1) archaic a country youth. 2) literary a young lover or suitor. ORIGIN Old Norse, lad …   English terms dictionary

  • swain — [swān] n. [ME swein < ON sveinn, boy, servant, akin to OE swan, shepherd, peasant, youth < IE * swe , one s own, apart] Archaic 1. a country youth 2. a young rustic lover or gallant 3. a lover or suitor swainish adj. swainishness n …   English World dictionary

  • swain — boat·swain; swain; swain·ish; swain·so·na; swain·son; cox·swain; …   English syllables

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