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Could someone clarify the meaning of the following proverb?

The name of an honest woman is mickle worth.

(the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs is not very helpful)

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1 Answer

"It's extremely valuable to have a reputation as an honest woman."

Name - reputation (sense 3)
Mickle - great, large, much
Worth - importance or value (sense 5 or 6)

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Okay for 1721, but you probably wouldn't want to quote this particular "proverb" today. Most people just know many a mickle makes a muckle, from which they'll erroneously assume mickle = little bit. –  FumbleFingers Jan 16 '13 at 4:52
    
@FumbleFingers I think I can safely say that most American people have never heard the proverb you quote. Maybe that's a UK thing. I had no idea what "mickle" meant until reading this post. –  Jay Jan 16 '13 at 5:01
    
@Jay Not even in “mickle mirth”? Mickle is a fine word of long standing in the English language: “Ther was mekyl melody at that chyldes berthe, / Alle tho wern in hevene blys thei made mekyl merthe.” > “There was mickle melody at that Child's birth, / All that were in heaven's bliss, they made mickle mirth.” –  tchrist Jan 16 '13 at 9:38
    
@tchrist your knowledge of Middle English is benefiting your knowledge more than it would some others. Mickle is found in Scots and Ulster-Scots, and hence not unheard of where those dialects had an influence (Parts of Scotland, North England, and Ulster), but largely died out elsewhere. –  Jon Hanna Jan 16 '13 at 10:06
    
@FumbleFingers that's ironic since muckle is a variant of mickle. The phrase was originally "many a pickle makes a mickle/muckle". Curious transformation, since taken straight the form you give is tautologous to the point of meaningless, but I see it is indeed attested. –  Jon Hanna Jan 16 '13 at 10:07
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