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Is “We are quit” (meaning “We’re even, no more mutual obligations”) a usage from the 18–19th centuries?

Or are the examples of this on Google hits just people making it up (possibly a bad cognate from German “Wir sind quitt”)?

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2 Answers 2

Yet another General Reference question far better answered simply by bothering to consult a proper dictionary than by dubious stabs at random Google Ngrams.

This is not a “Victorian” use; indeed, it is considerably older than that, and its use has persisted until our current day. It isn’t marked archaic or even obsolete. Citations extend throughout the 20th century all the way up to 1997. Certain senses are indeed marked obsolete, but the main use is still extant.

The following OED entry was itself last updated in 2007, as shown at the very bottom.

quit, adj.

Pronunciation: Brit. /kwɪt/, U.S. /kwɪt/
Forms:

  • α. eME cwite, ME queyt, ME quiȝt, ME quijt, ME quyȝte, ME qwyte, ME white, ME whyte, ME–15 quyte, ME–16 18 quite, 15 quyght, 15 wheitt (north.), 15–16 quight; Sc. pre-17 queyte, pre-17 quhyte, pre-17 quyte, pre-17 qwite, pre-17 qwyte, pre-17 17–18 quite.
  • β. eME cwit, ME qwit, ME qwyt, ME–15 quyt, ME– quit, 15 whyt (north.); also Sc. pre-17 quet, pre-17 quhit, pre-17 quhyt, pre-17 quyt, pre-17 qvit, pre-17 qwet, pre-17 qwhit, pre-17 qwhyt, pre-17 qwit, pre-17 qwyt, pre-17 17– quat, 17– quit.
  • γ. ME kuytte (south-east.), ME qwhitte, ME qwitt, ME qwytt, ME–15 quytte, ME–15 qwitte, ME–16 quitt, ME–16 quitte, ME–16 quytt, lME quytten (perh. transmission error), lME whitt; Sc. pre-17 quatt, pre-17 quitt, pre-17 quyitt, pre-17 quyitte, pre-17 quytt, pre-17 quytte, pre-17 qwitt, pre-17 qwytt, pre-17 qwytte.

Etymology:

  • < Anglo-Norman quit, quyt, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French quite, Anglo-Norman and Middle French quitte (French quitte ) acquitted, cleared of a moral accusation or blemish, absolved of (a sin) (all c1100), released or exempt from (an obligation) (beginning of the 12th cent. in Anglo-Norman), cleared of (a debt), (of property) exempt or released from (taxes), (of taxes) no longer payable (all second half of the 12th cent.), (of property) in full possession, free of dues (early 14th cent. or earlier in Anglo-Norman) < a post-classical Latin variant of classical Latin quiētus quiet adj. with hypercorrect stress on the i (see discussion in Französisches etymol. Wörterbuch s.v. quietus). Compare post-classical Latin quitus, quittus exempt, immune (11th cent.), Old Occitan quit, quite (both c1150 or earlier; also quiti; Occitan quiti (now chiefly in quiti de apart from, except from)), Catalan quiti (12th cent.), Spanish quito (1207), Italian †quito (mid 13th cent. or earlier; also †quitto); also Old Frisian quyt, qwyt (West Frisian kwyt), Middle Dutch quīte, quijt (Dutch kwijt), Middle Low German quīt, Middle High German quit, quīt (German quitt, †queit), Old Icelandic kvittr, Old Swedish qvitter (Swedish kvitt), Old Danish, Danish kvit.

  • Like its French etymon and quit v. (see discussion at that entry), the word appears originally to have had a long vowel, but forms with a short vowel are found from a relatively early date. Forms of both types are also found in post-classical Latin, as well as in other European languages which borrowed the word ultimately < Latin or French (see above). The α. and γ. forms show spelling types which can normally be taken respectively as showing long and short vowels; the β. forms are ambiguous and hence have been placed in a separate sequence. The eventual predominance of the form with short vowel is probably connected with the parallel development in the verb, in which the use of quit as past participle probably played a part (see discussion at quit v.). Compare quite adv.

  • The Scots forms quat, quatt are after the corresponding strong past participial forms at quit v.

  • With to go quit, to pass quit (see sense 1a) compare Anglo-Norman aler quite (c1290 or earlier), Middle French s'en aller quitte (early 15th cent. or earlier, used reflexively), Anglo-Norman passer quite (early 14th cent. or earlier), Middle Dutch quite gaen.

  • With quit and free, free and quit (see senses 1a, 1c) compare Middle French quitte et franc, franc et quitte (both late 14th cent.).

  • With to make (a person) quit of at sense 3b compare Middle Dutch quite maken (Dutch †qwijt maken), quite doen.

  • Sense 2 is rare in French and apparently not paralleled there until later (early 15th cent. in Middle French)


I. In predicative use.

  • 1a. Exempt or released from an obligation, debt, etc.; free, clear. Also (more emphatically) †quit and free. to be quit for : to get off with, suffer nothing more than. to pass (also go, escape, etc.) quit : to escape unharmed; to go unchecked or unpunished. Now rare.

    • ?c1225 (1200) Ancrene Riwle (Cleo. C.vi) (1972) 4 For sum is strong. sum vnstrong. & mei fulwel beon quite [c1230 Corpus cwite] & Paien god mid lesse.
    • a1300 Passion our Lord 370 in R. Morris Old Eng. Misc. (1872) 47 Hit is eur kustume to habbe quyt enne At eure Muchele feste euervyche yere; Schal ich þere gywene kyng lete gon al skere?
    • a1425 (1350) Ywain & Gawain 685 Bot so he wend have passed quite.
    • a1450 (1338) R. Mannyng Chron. (Lamb.) (1887) i. 1224 Wiþ loue & leue he queþe vs quyt & gyue vs shipes in to wende.
    • a1475 in A. Clark Eng. Reg. Godstow Nunnery (1911) i. 266 For the whiche resceivyng he claymed the forsaid Religeous women quytte fro all impeticion or axyng‥of the cc li.
    • 1497–8 in G. Neilson & H. Paton Acts Lords of Council Civil Causes (1918) II. 127 Now am I fully quyt As twichand Venus of myn ald promyt Quhilk I hir maid.
    • 1509 A. Barclay tr. S. Brant Shyp of Folys (Pynson) f. lxxviiiv, The great fysshe ar taken‥Where as the small escapyth quyte and fre.
    • ?1577 J. Northbrooke Spiritus est Vicarius Christi: Treat. Dicing 52 What faultes great men alwayes committe, Are pardoned still, and goeth quitte.
    • 1609 J. Skene tr. Regiam Majestatem 22 Gif the persewer compeirs nocht‥the defender sall passe quite.
    • 1671 Milton Paradise Regain'd i. 477, I‥must submiss endure Check or reproof, and glad to scape so quit.
    • 1768 T. Gray Let. 28 Jan. in Corr. (1971) III. 998 We‥are quit for the fright, except the damage abovementioned.
    • 1817 W. Selwyn Abridgem. Law Nisi Prius (ed. 4) II. 761 The judgment shall be against him only‥and the other shall go quit.
    • 1852 Thackeray Henry Esmond I. xiii. 307 Harry Esmond was quit for a fall on the grass.
    • 1866 J. E. T. Rogers Hist. Agric. & Prices I. v. 124 When the book was restored the borrower [was] declared quit.
    • 1928 Eng. Hist. Rev. 43 322 This charter confers the right of having one man quit from tallage in every royal borough.
  • b. Free, clear, rid of (a person or thing); acquitted of an offence. Also with †from.

    • c1230 (1200) Ancrene Riwle (Corpus Cambr.) (1962) 48 Ah ase cwite [a1250 Nero quite] as ȝe beoð of þullich, leoue sustren, weren alle oþre ure lauerd hit uðe.
    • c1325 (1300) Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) 8062 Þo was Willam oure king al quit of þulke fon, Vor þer ne bileuede of hor children aliue bote on.
    • 1340 Ayenbite (1866) 41 Of þise zennes ne byeþ naȝt kuytte [c1450 Bk. Vices & Virtues beþ þei coupable] þo þet þe guodes of holy cherche‥despendeþ in kueade us.
    • 1340 Ayenbite (1866) 145 Of þise dette ne is non quit uor þing þet he deþ. c1429 Mirour Mans Saluacioune (1986) l. 1525 Who is qwitte of one temptacioune [L. ab una tentatione liberatur] happily, The deville will noght dwelle lange to make ane othere redy.
    • c1430 (1380) Chaucer Parl. Fowls 663 Quyt is she Fro yow this yer.
    • c1450 King Ponthus (Digby) in Publ. Mod. Lang. Assoc. Amer. (1897) 12 6 Have no drede, for ye schal neuer see theym [sc. potential enemies]‥Of theym ye be quytt.
    • a1470 Malory Morte Darthur (Winch. Coll.) 309 But now may ye be revenged on hym, for I may nevir by quyte of hym.
    • c1480 (1400) St. Pelagia 136 in W. M. Metcalfe Legends Saints Sc. Dial. (1896) II. 208 Haffand rycht gret delyte of þare synnis to be quyte.
    • 1591 Spenser Ruines of Rome in Complaints viii, Nought from the Romane Empire might be quight.
    • c1595 Countess of Pembroke Psalme cxix. 1 in Coll. Wks. (1998) II. 205 Quitt and cleere from doing wrong.
    • 1596 J. Dalrymple tr. J. Leslie Hist. Scotl. (1888) I. 141 Throuch desyre‥to be quyte of the glore of a king.
    • c1600 in J. Balfour Practicks (1754) 307 Or ȝit thay beand accusit‥beis quyte and clengit thairof.
    • 1641 Termes de la Ley 160 Ferdfare is to be quit from going to warre.
    • 1660 H. More Explan. Myst. Godliness v. xvii. 209 Nor shall we ever be quit from the crime of slaying the Witnesses.
    • 1669 J. Fletcher Island Princess ii. i. 28, I will not rest‥Till I be wholly quit of this dishonour.
    • 1722 D. Defoe Moll Flanders 214 Their Gain consists in being quit of the Charge as soon as they can.
    • 1741 Ld. Chesterfield Let. 6 Aug. (1932) (modernized text) II. 464 Awkwardnesses which many people contract‥and cannot get quit of them.
    • a1784 H. Alline Hymns & Spiritual Songs (1802) v. xci. 275 O how transported I shall be When I am quit from all but love!
    • 1814 J. Austen Mansfield Park I. xvii. 330 They‥seemed to think it as great an escape to be quit of the intrusion of Charles Maddox, as if they had been forced into admitting him against their inclination.
    • 1840 M. R. Mitford in A. G. L'Estrange Life M. R. Mitford (1870) III. vii. 108 To me‥it would be a great release to be quit of the trouble and expense.
    • 1845 Economy 154 It is the doctor's duty to see you quit from all this.
    • 1895 J. Tweeddale Moff xx, If it was jist quat o' that blessed creddle, that it wud ne'er look ower the shoother o't.
    • 1930 J. Buchan Castle Gay i. 9 When he was getting dangerous his eyes used to run with tears. He's quit of that habit now.
    • 1945 F. Partridge Diaries 1945–60 (1985) 20 Ralph is not quit of his wartime melancholy.
    • 1997 P. Carey Jack Maggs (1998) lxxiv. 278 He is tired of Sophina. He wishes to be quit of her, but she cannot afford to leave him.
  • †c. Law. Of real property: exempt or released of or from taxes, service, or other claims. Also more emphatically quit and free (also free and quit). quit and clear: free of encumbrances. Obs. (hist. in later use).

    • a1400 (1303) R. Mannyng Handlyng Synne (Harl.) 9827 Þan ys oure charter quyte and clere, Confermyng with þe bysshopes powere.
    • ?a1400 (1338) R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt 511) ii. 83 William passid þe se, þer of he mad þe skrite, Of France to hold þat fe of oþer tenement alle quite.
    • c1460 in A. Clark Eng. Reg. Oseney Abbey (1913) 65 Knowe ye me to haue i-yeve‥þe goter or locke, þat is i-callid aldewere, fre and quite.
    • c1475 (1300) Guy of Warwick (Caius) 10842 Thys day halfen-deale Englond I wyll sease into thyn hand Euer-more quyte and free.
    • a1500 Eng. Conquest Ireland (Rawl.) (1896) 67 The Statutes or constytuciones of that consayle ben this‥that al the landis of holy church and har Possessiones of al Erthly askynge be quyte.
    • ?a1530 (1425) Andrew of Wyntoun Oryg. Cron. Scotl. (Royal) vii. 3545 Schyre Willame Comyn till hawe that qwyt Till hald in fre barony.
    • 1876 J. Grant Hist. Burgh Schools Scotl. i. i. 4 Free and quit from all custom, synodal rent, aids, lodgings and conreds.
  • 2. †Destitute, deprived of (also from). Obs.

    • a1300 (1250) Floris & Blauncheflur (Vitell.) 204 Mihste þe Amirayl hit vnderȝete, Sone of his liue he were quite [v.r. aquite].
    • c1300 St. Eustace (Laud) 242 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 399 Dame‥of ore leoue sones quite we beoth, alas; For a leon bar þat on a-wei, and a wolf þat oþur also.
    • ?a1400 (1338) R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt 511) ii. 319 Fro our wages [we] ȝede quite.
    • a1425 (1333–52) L. Minot Poems (1914) 25 Now haue þai made þi biging bare, Of all þi catell ertou quite.
    • c1450 (1400) Quatrefoil of Love (BL Add.) 363 In a clathe are we knytt, And sythen putt in a pytt, Of alle þis werlde are we qwitt, For-getyn are we sone.
  • 3. †Chiefly Sc.

  • a. to make quit (of) : to do away with or dispose of someone or something; to make a clearance. Obs.

    • 1488 (1478) Hary Actis & Deidis Schir William Wallace (Adv.) vii. l. 504 The formast sone hym selff sesyt in hand, Maid quyt off hym.
    • a1525 Crying ane Playe 124 in W. A. Craigie Asloan MS (1925) II. 153 Amang þaim Is bot tak & sla Cut thropillis and mak quyte.
    • 1586 R. Maitland in W. A. Craigie Maitland Quarto MS (1920) 75/32 Sum may be westouris and mak quyte of all.
  • b. to make (a person) quit of : to rid (a person) of someone or something; (also) to deprive (a person) of someone or something (cf. sense 2). Obs. (arch. in later use).

    • a1513 Lufaris Complaynt in Speculum (1954) 29 173 Fortune‥has‥maid me both of hope and comfort quite.
    • 1568 D. Lindsay Satyre 2113 Off that cummer I sall mak ȝou quyt.
    • 1573 in J. Cranstoun Satirical Poems Reformation (1891) I. xlii. 911 It wald mak vs quyte Of Christis Euangell, our delyte.
    • 1596 J. Dalrymple tr. J. Leslie Hist. Scotl. (1888) I. 232 Ethelfred is maid quyt of ane eye.
    • c1650 J. Spalding Memorialls Trubles Scotl. & Eng. (1851) II. 7 And so wes maid quyte of the soldiouris.
    • 1815 Scott Antiquary I. i. 10 ‘O, man, man!’ said the overwhelmed Mrs Macleuchar, totally exhausted by having been so long the butt of his rhetoric, ‘take back your three shillings, and mak me quit o' ye.’
    • 1874 A. C. Swinburne Bothwell iv. vi. 400 There is one thing That I would ask of even such friends as you—To turn me with my lord adrift at sea And make us quit of all men.
  • 4. †

  • a. = quits adj. 2a. Cf. quittance n. Phrases 2. Obs. double or quit: see double adv. 4.

    • 1490 Caxton tr. Foure Sonnes of Aymon (1885) x. 268, I have yelde you agen that ye had gyven me, we be now quyte [Fr. nous sommes par esgal].
    • a1500 (1400) Morte Arthur 499, I shalle be bothe hole and quite, Though thou haue sore woundid me.
    • a1500 (1450) Merlin (1899) 168 Yef ye will leve me, and yef ye ne will, leve me nought; for I ne leve yow nought, and so be we quyte.
    • a1616 Shakespeare Taming of Shrew (1623) iii. i. 90 If once I finde thee ranging, Hortensio will be quit with thee by changing.
    • 1718 M. Prior Poems Several Occasions (new ed.) 197 ‘To John I ow'd’, Sure John and I are more than Quit.
    • 1757 R. Griffith & E. Griffith Lett. Henry & Frances I. xviii. 26 But we are now quit; and your Generosity is equal to mine.
    • 1821 F. Reynolds Don John ii. ii. 28 O! the traitor! He has watch'd his time. I shall be quit with him.
    • 1876 C. Wells Joseph & his Brethren i. iii. 58 Second Ishmaelite. These are true pieces bearing Pharaoh's mark. Simeon. So—Now we are quit.
  • b. to cry (a person) quit : to declare oneself even or equal with (a person), esp. by mean of retaliation or repayment. Also to cry quit with a person . Cf. to cry quittance at quittance n. Phrases 2, to cry quits at quits adj. 2a. Obs.

    • 1590 T. Fenne Hecubaes Mishaps in Frutes sig. Dd3, Meane while when that J knevv his mind, and hauing place so fit I did inuent in secrete sort to cry the Grecian quit.
    • 1605 G. Chapman Al Fooles ii. i. sig. E3, Very well, mast Courtier, & Dan Cornuto, ile cry quit with both.
    • 1641 S. Marshall et al. Vindic. Answer Hvmble Remonstr. i. 5 If we would cry quit with the Remonstrant‥wee could tell him a Tale.
    • 1861 G. A. Townsend Bohemians iii. i. 30 We pocket the balance and cry you quit.

II. In attributive use.

  • 5. Complete, total. Cf. clean adj. 14. Obs. rare.
    • 1583 G. Babington Very Fruitfull Expos. Commaundem. viii. 382 To‥the quite marring of all her musicke.
    • 1604 Rudd in Certain Considerations Peace & Good Will 7 If‥there cannot be obtained a quite removall of the Premises.
    • 1607 E. Topsell Hist. Fovre-footed Beastes 628 [This will] make a quit riddance of all their hurts.

Citation

quit, adj.
Third edition, December 2007; online version March 2012. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/156785; accessed 26 May 2012. An entry for this word was first included in New English Dictionary, 1902.

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1  
I can't help feeling that you'd have had something useful to say on this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/12905/… –  itsbruce Oct 6 '12 at 19:05

This book from 1729 uses "we are quit" in precisely that way:

I have given a blind horse and the other hath given me a lame one, we are quit.

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3  
Nowadays that would be "We are quits". Some further research may indicate whether the additional s was introduced before or after the Victorian era. –  DavidR Apr 13 '12 at 11:36
1  
Looks like it was most popular in the 19th century and has been declining in usage since then: books.google.com/ngrams/…. (Not sure how to interpret those spikes in the 1700s, so just ignoring them.) –  zpletan Apr 13 '12 at 12:22

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