I was reading a book in supposed 'Ye Olde English' and came across the sentence 'Perhaps she has him so tied he cannot get loose'. This made me wonder if 'tied' and 'tight' have the same origin, in this sentence the meaning would be very similar if I swapped 'tied' for 'tight'.

Dictionary.com has this for the origin of 'tight'

1400-50; late Middle English, sandhi variant of Middle English thight dense, solid, tight < Old Norse thēttr (cognate with Old English -thiht firm, solid, Dutch, German dicht tight, close, dense)

And this for 'tie/tied'

before 900; (noun) Middle English te (i) gh cord, rope, Old English tēagh, tēgh, cognate with Old Norse taug rope; (v.) Middle English tien, Old English tīgan, derivative of the noun; compare Old Norse teygja to draw.

So this is just a coincidence or is there more to it?

  • Many online dictionaries will provide the etymology of words as well as their definitions. Have you tried looking them up in a dictionary? What did it say?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 26, 2016 at 5:32
  • @Mari-LouA nothing there that would indicate a common origin. Apr 26, 2016 at 5:43
  • +1 for sharing your research. It appears that the two words are unrelated, but maybe a user will post an answer explaining "why".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 26, 2016 at 5:49

2 Answers 2


Per the Oxford English Dictionary, the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, and the Old English Translator, tie comes to us from the Old English tigan, related to the Old Norse taug (rope) and *tegja (to draw, as in drag). Tight comes to us from the Old English þíht, related to the Old Norse þehtr, tightly woven. So the two words descend to us from different Old English parents.

But the OED advises us to consider the obsolete word tee, meaning draw or drag, which comes to us from the Old English teon (past participle togen, related to the Old Norse toginn). The parent of this word is a "primitive Aryan [i.e., Indo-European] word", which gave rise to the Latin ducere (to lead or draw) and to words of similar meaning in the family of Germanic languages. Says the OED

Derivatives of the same root survive in taut, team, tie, tight, tough, tow, tug.

So the two are related if you go back far enough.

  • I wonder if the related word "tight" mentioned here might have a different etymology? The OED has several entries titled "tight." It distinguishes "The action of drawing, draught; going, marching, march, course, way" from OE tyht (cognate to "tee") and "Dense, as a wood or thicket" from Old Norse *þéhtr. It says of the latter "The change from thight to tight was perhaps due to the influence of native words from the *teuh , *tauh- , *tuh- verbal system." So it seems to indicate that the modern word "tight" is not originally related but has been remodeled after the words from PIE "dewk-."
    – herisson
    Apr 26, 2016 at 18:02

As an Addendum to deadrat's answer:

According to The Families of Words by Mario Pei (Harper Brothers, 1962), tie and tight both come from the PIE root *deuk, "to draw, pull". The root on the Germanic side also gives us tow, tug, taut, team, tether, among many other words, including wanton and Herzog. On the Latin side, we get duke, educate, and conduit, among many other words and some common suffixes (e.g., -ducive and -ductor).

So far, agreement. But then Etymoline (which I had to check, darn it!) differs in the PIE roots of tie and tight.

Tie, From Etymoline

Old English teag, "cord, band, thong, fetter," literally "that with which anything is tied," from Proto-Germanic *taugo (cognates: Old Norse taug "tie," tygill "string"), from PIE *deuk- "to pull, to lead" (cognates: Old English teon "to draw, pull, drag;" see duke (n.)).

Tight from Etyomoline

c. 1400, tyght "dense, close, compact," from Middle English thight, from Old Norse þettr "watertight, close in texture, solid," and also from Old English -þiht ....., both from Proto-Germanic *thinhta- (cognates: Middle High German dihte "dense, thick," German dicht "dense, tight," Old High German gidigan, German gediegen "genuine, solid, worthy"), from PIE root *tenk "to become firm, curdle, thicken"

Etymoline agrees that taut, tow and tug come from the same PIE root as tie *deuk

It would be nice to have better than two out of three votes for the common PIE root of tie and tight.

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