According to Wiktionary, stint comes from an old English word meaning "to blunten". I don't see how this could have evolved into "a period of time" and I was wondering if it's related at all to stund, which is found in many other Germanic languages.

What is the true etymology and how does it make sense?

  • Did you check etymology online and if so what about it does not answer your question? Even the OED says the etymology is uncertain and proposes either a Scandinavian source or an unwritten source in Old English. Sep 6, 2017 at 14:22
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    @Josh I see Clare strikes again, but s/he is not perfect, otherwise why would an answer that cites the venerable OED and Etymonline be DVed?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 6, 2017 at 18:13
  • @Mari-LouA - NO COMMENT
    – user66974
    Sep 6, 2017 at 18:14
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    @Clare Etymonline may be considered general reference for those who have studied linguistics or cultivated an interest in knowing more about the history of a word, but for the majority of users on EL&U discovering the existence of such a source online is often met by marvel and delight. And, if this needs repeating, not everyone has access to the OED.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:16
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    The OED etymology doesn't say that the origin is uncertain. What it says is that the sense development is uncertain, in that we don't know whether the senses of "shorten/cease/pause" already existed in OE or were borrowed from ON. Either way it's still the same word that is found in OE and is still cognate with the ON word.
    – rjpond
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:20

2 Answers 2


It's unlikely that "stint" is related to German "Stund". The English cognate of "Stund" is the now archaic word "stound".

"Stint" comes from an Old English verb meaning "to blunten" (and possibly also meaning "to shorten"). The OED comments:

The Old English verb corresponds formally to Old Scandinavian *stynta (Middle Swedish stynta , Old Icelandic stytta ) to shorten ... It is uncertain whether the Middle English and modern English senses of the verb are developed from unrecorded senses in Old English, or are due to Scandinavian influence.

"Stint" in Middle English meant "to cut short, cease, stop".

From this the noun "stint", originally meaning "cessation of action, pause" (OED) developed. Later it came to mean "an allotted amount or measure", "an allotted portion of work", etc.

  • I wonder how "stint" came to mean "an allotted portion of work" vs "cessation". Maybe there's some connection between "do some work, then stop" and "stop"? Hmmm Jul 27, 2020 at 22:15

According to etymonline the modern sense could be from an unrecorded OE sense. The noun usage, (from ME) might be unrelated to the verb:


  • The Old English verb is cognate with Old Norse stytta (assimilated from earlier *stynta) "to shorten, make short, tuck up;" and the modern sense of the English word might be from Old Norse or from an unrecorded Old English sense.

The noun is attested from c. 1300, of unknown origin. (ODO)

The two terms stint and stunt appear to have a common etymological derivation:


  • 1575-85; v. use of dial. stunt dwarfed, stubborn ( Middle English; Old English: stupid); cognate with Middle High German stunz, Old Norse stuttr short; akin to stint.
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    It is "stint" in a different sense ("small sandpiper") that ODO says is of unknown origin. "Stint" in the more familiar sense is linked to the verb and shares its etymology.
    – rjpond
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:07

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