I came upon that here used to be utilised for an army (more likely enemy) in Old English (also shown in Wiktionary). The same page also shows that there is a modern form of the word as here and that it could be used for an army. However, obviously such behaviour is uncommon (Google usage stats would reflect the more common adverb hence I didn't try using that to check investigate this).

Does anyone know or can think of a modern situation where this usage has happened? Alternatively, why has this specific usage of here diminished?

  • 3
    The word is obsolete in Modern English. Whoever made the Wiktionary entry just forgot to mark that; I have edited it to add the "obsolete" tag. No one except an Old English professor would understand it if you used "here" to refer to an army. – sumelic May 14 '17 at 20:35
  • 4
    It was Old English. It disappeared, carried away with much of its native lexicon, survived by adopted words from French and Latin. The cognate still exists in German; it's the root for Herr, which was originally a military term, like all feudal titles. Oh, and the OE here was pronounced "heh-reh", with two syllables. No silent letters. – John Lawler May 14 '17 at 20:37
  • 2
    In addition to what @John says, it may be added that unlike in English, this word has survived as the common word (or one of the common words) for an army in several other Germanic languages: German Heer, Danish/Norwegian hær, Icelandic her, Faeroese herur. Like in English, though, Dutch heer/heir is archaic and not generally used. See also Wiktionary’s article on *harjaz, the reconstructed Proto-Germanic ancestral form of the word. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 14 '17 at 20:46
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, That's actually why I started thinking about the question other than the OE note: German and Austrian standard usage is Heer, hence I thought it was quite curious. But I guess they have had less French and Latin influence perhaps... Wonder if Chaucer using it (not that I am 100% confident he didn't) would have made a difference?.. – gktscrk May 15 '17 at 0:03

Oxford English Dictionary has marked this definition of "here" as obsolete. They describe their rationale for obsolete words as:

If an entry, sense, or lemma is no longer in use in the English language, it may be considered obsolete. This usually means that no evidence for the term can be found in modern English. The latest quotation indicates the period when the term was last in use.

The latest source OED cited of "here" as standard, meaning an army, is from 1508.

The tothir knightis maid care of arthuris here.

They also include one use from 1872 but the use is archaic in context. It is used in a historical essay, knowingly using an antiquated term:

Over 35 men (or 3 × 12) constituted a Here by Ini's laws.

So the expert opinion is that this term is obsolete and no longer in use in Modern English.

Why the term fell out of favor is a complicated question; The English language is fluid, new words are constantly entering the language and antiquated ones get left behind. There are many entries in OED marked as "obsolete," by virtue of the constantly changing nature of the English language.

  • Thanks. The 1872 entry is a curious one: I only noticed it due to similar usage in an Osprey book from the last decade where it was talking about herepath and the fyrd vs here difference: in some certain circles then, the scholarly usage of the term isn't unfamiliar. However, at the same time a recent Anglo-Saxon anthology I read never made mention of it though it covered a number of legal codices. – gktscrk May 15 '17 at 0:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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