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When was the word learnings first used as a noun, as a synonym for lessons?

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I've never heard "learnings" before. Do you have any sources or examples you can share? –  Kristina Lopez Jul 4 '13 at 13:01
@KristinaLopez I fully agree that I cringe when I hear it, for it sounds like annoying business jargon to me. But apparently this is a resurgent use of something long ago obsolete. –  tchrist Jul 4 '13 at 13:06
Related and semi-quasi-hemi-half-demi-duplicate: english.stackexchange.com/q/19227/2085 english.stackexchange.com/q/91390/2085 –  tchrist Jul 4 '13 at 13:26

2 Answers 2

The answer appears to be in 1483, at least in the plural.

The OED gives sense 2 of the verbal noun learning five different subsenses, of which at least the last (and perhaps others; it is subclear) is marked obsolete. I include a few citations in the plural, with bold emphasis mine.

2. What is learnt or taught:

  • a. a lesson, instruction;
    • 1483 Caxton G. de la Tour cxxxvii. M vij, — The thre enseygnementes or lernynges whiche Cathon gaf to his sone.
    • 1611 Shaks. Cymb. i. i. 43 — The king..Puts to him all the Learnings that his time Could make him the receiuer of.
  • b. information or direction;
  • c. the ‘teaching’ of a person; a doctrine; also, a doctrine or maxim in law;

    • 1549 Coverdale, etc. Erasm. Par. Rom. 34 — To expounde unknowen learnynges.
    • 1560 Pilkington Aggeus C ij (Matt. xv. 9), — Teaching learninges which are the commaundementes of men.
    • A. 1626 Bacon Max. & Uses Com. Law Pref. (1636) 2 — Particular and positive learnings of lawes doe easily decline from a good temper of justice.
  • d. a branch of learning; a science;

    • 1570 Billingsley Euclid xi. xi. 315 — It is no rare thing in all learninges..to haue one thing more generall then an other.
    • 1605 Bacon Adv. Learn. i. vi. §13 (1873) 49 — He did send his divine truth into the world, waited on with other learnings.
    • 1613 Sir H. Finch Law (1636) 6 — The rules of Reason are of two sorts; some taken from forreigne learnings, both diuine and humane.
  • e. an acquirement. Obs.

My personal impression is that the modern use sounds like annoying business jargon or non-native speaker use, and I would not use it myself.

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I guess the resurgence is due to "lessons learned" sessions after projects. –  Hugo Jul 4 '13 at 18:04

OED has three citations for learning meaning lesson, but it notes it's obsolete.

2. What is learnt or taught:
a. a lesson, instruction.

1362 Langland Piers Plowman A. i. 174 That nis no treuthe of trinite but..a leornyng for lewed men, the latere forte dele.
1484 Caxton tr. G. de la Tour-Landry Bk. Knight of Tower (1971) cxxxvii. 183 (heading) The thre enseygnementes or lernynges whiche Cathon gaf to his sone.
a1616 Shakespeare Cymbeline (1623) i. i. 43 The king..Puts to him all the Learnings that his time Could make him the receiuer of.

The latest citation is Shakepeare when he wrote it in 1616 (published 1623).

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I don’t see a dagger-of-doom at the front of my OED2 entry, just the Obs. marker for the 2e sense. Is yours from the online OED3? I agree that the Piers Plowman citation is a count-noun use. Hm, why isn’t it Piers Ploughman? Was Langland North American? :) –  tchrist Jul 4 '13 at 13:04
It's online, but "This entry has not yet been fully updated (first published 1902)." Plowman was variously spelled in ME, including plouman; Langland's text includes " Pieres þe ploughman" –  Andrew Leach Jul 4 '13 at 13:08

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