1

Are "brim" and "rim" related in etymology?

I remember there are some other words which have similar meanings after adding "b-" in their fronts. It seems as if "b-" is a prefix.

But I can't recall them right now.

5

Looking in the OED, we see several entries for brim, of which the first two are.

  1. "An old poetical word for the sea", Middle English brymme, Old English brim surf, (poet.) the sea = Old Norse brim surf, sea; probably < the stem brem- roar, rage:

  2. The border, margin, edge, or brink: Middle English brimme, brymme, of uncertain etymology.

Reading the definition for (2), ME brymme originally meant the edge of some water.

There's a possible etymology staring us in the face: surfshoreedge. One wonders why the OED editors didn't suggest this as a possibility.

If this etymology is correct, it seems unlikely brim came from the same root as rim, which meant edge when brim meant surf. It's possible that the similarity in pronunciation was a factor in the convergence of their meanings, although this is a conjecture which there is no way to provide evidence for.

  • The OED editors must have considered the suggestion you're making, and discarded it. One reason is no doubt the possible cognates they mention for brim(2), all of which mean "edge", not "sea". – Colin Fine Nov 11 '13 at 14:33
  • I think it's unlikely that the Middle English word brim, meaning sea, surf had no influence on the later Middle English word brim, meaning shore, coast, edge of the sea. But it's certainly possible that the word was also influenced by another root as well; the OED says "compare Old Norse barmr brim, German bräme feminine ‘margin, border, fringe’, Middle High German brem strong neuter ‘edging, border’." – Peter Shor May 31 '15 at 12:54
2

Not known, but unlikely.

The OED gives many cognates to rim in Germanic, but does not trace it beyond that; and says that the etymology of brim is unknown, though it suggests a few words in other Germanic languages which might be cognate.

However, I really don't believe in b- as a prefix: I know of no other non-syllabic prefixes in English or in Germanic in general.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.