I was recently corresponding with someone and wrote the following, "... assuming you hove to the standard." I read this as being equivalent to saying, "... assuming you follow the standard in all details." He questioned me on this usage, and I blithely assumed I could Google it and send him a supporting link. No such luck.

Am I misremembering this use of the verb "to hove"? I am a sailor so I'm quite familiar with "hove to" in that context. E.g., "The captain chose to hove heave to until the gale blew itself out."

Update: Please just focus on the question itself. There are instances on the net (here, here, here, here, here, and here -- just search for "hove" on the page) that use "hove" in something approaching the sense of my usage. So I don't seem to be completely alone on this.

Thanks to PeterShor I now have hits from googling the phrase "hoves to the" yielding pages pages like this: "Again, Girard hoves to the Joseph story where his brothers who expelled him ..."

And from a sports article in The Guardian from 2011: "Rumbling in like a freight train, Tsonga hoves to the forecourt to scoop up another of those teasing, malicious drop shots, sending it back for a clean winner. ..."

And from a blog from 2006: "... and while the report hoves to NPR’s “balanced” line, ..."

For what it's worth, I acknowledge in the comments that I used the wrong tense in my example because of an editing error, that's all it was. And, yes, I fully understand the meaning of "to heave to" (or "to be hove to") in sailing because I've done it many times in the 50+ years I have been at the helm.

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    Maybe cleave, though past tense is clave or cleaved, not clove. OED s.v. cleave v2, sense 4: "To adhere or cling to (a person, party, principle, practice, etc.); to remain attached, devoted, or faithful to. Feb 9, 2015 at 21:36
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    @BrianDonovan - Yep. When said indistinctly it's easy to see how "cleave to a standard" could be heard as "heave to a standard", and, whether "clove" is strictly correct or not, one might say "clove to a standard" and hear "hove to a standard".
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 9, 2015 at 21:40
  • To add to possible confusion, could it be that it behoves you to follow the standard?
    – oerkelens
    Feb 9, 2015 at 21:40
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Feb 10, 2015 at 9:10

3 Answers 3


Wiktionary has it coming from Middle English hoven, to receive into one's house, to entertain, or otherwise hold onto. This connotation certainly reflects your usage of the word.

From Middle English hoven (“to linger, wait, hover, move aside, entertain, cherish, foster”), from Old English *hofian (“to receive into one's house”), from Proto-Germanic *hufōną (“to house, lodge”), from Proto-Germanic *hufą (“hill, height, farm, dwelling”), from Proto-Indo-European *keup- (“to arch, bend, buckle”). Cognate with Old Frisian hovia (“to receive into one's home, entertain”), Old Dutch hoven (“to receive into one's home, entertain”). Related to Old English hof (“court, house, dwelling”). More at hovel.

  • By George! I think you've got it! I like "to cherish" as a possible precursor to a meaning of "to obey". It's also interesting that another of the several meanings is "to linger", which is not a bad way to describe "being hove to" in a sailboat, or to staying at the net in a tennis game. I'll wait a bit longer to see what else pops up, but I think you get nod on this one. Feb 10, 2015 at 2:59
  • I don't see "...or otherwise hold onto" in the Wiktionary link. Is that Erich's extrapolation? Feb 10, 2015 at 4:34
  • @JimReynolds: perhaps, or perhaps it's from some other source he didn't mention. In either case I don't believe that it in any way diminishes the fact that, amongst all these learned, high-rep souls, he is the one who didn't question whether I had the right word, he simply found (quite probably) the origin of the phrase I was inquiring about. Feb 10, 2015 at 5:37
  • @JimReynolds i bolded cherish for you in my answer. i think that has something to do with holding onto something (if not physically, mentally/emotionally).
    – Erich
    Feb 10, 2015 at 5:50
  • @erich: Although I'm not 100% certain this is the answer, IMNSHO it's the closest anyone has gotten. Thanks! Feb 11, 2015 at 3:15

I think the word you're looking for is hew. To hew to a standard means, in part, you stick to the standard like glue! There's no straying from the criteria which set the standard.

  • Jack is a bit legalistic. He hews to the law and neglects weightier things like mercy.

  • Hew to the directions I gave you to get to your destination, and you should arrive there in about two hours' time.

  • Sally hewed to her standards of financial accountability to her own detriment, and she wound up being in debt for several years.

  • Johnny Cash briefly toyed with the lyric, "I hew to the line," but he finally decided on the lyric, "I walk the line." (This is a joke, of course!)

  • Yeah, probably that's the one. "Cleave" sounded good, but "hew" sounds better.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 10, 2015 at 0:53
  • No, that's not the one unless "hew" and "hove" are linguistically connected through some identifiable path. Please look at the pages I linked to in my Update. Each of them uses "hove" in a sense that is at least related to my original sample. Feb 10, 2015 at 1:55
  • See @erich's answer below. I think he's found it. Feb 10, 2015 at 3:00

Perhaps heed is the word you're looking for for following a standard.

Regarding hove, my dictionary defines it as

verb 1. simple past tense and past participle of heave.

I do not find a sense of hove that works for "follow a standard."

  • No, I'm not looking for another word. Please see my update to the initial question, including links to other pages that use "hove" in a sense somewhat similar to how I used it. Feb 9, 2015 at 23:35

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