The first time I heard "mine host" in Shakespeare's Macbeth, I went to Wiktionary to see if it once was used instead of "my," however, I ended up with that it should not be followed by a noun but rather use "my" instead and I can't find further references referring to Shakespeare's usage.

My question is whether it's acceptable to use "mine + noun" as a matter of rhetoric like Shakespeare once did and whether this usage is archaic ?

Further explanation is appreciated!


The exact definition in wiktionary you mentioned is number 5:

  1. (archaic) Used attributively before a vowel. quotations
    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

Actually I would say it's more a possessive pronoun or possessive adjective (terminology differs) rather than being used attributively, but that's my opinion.

Notice that it's archaic, so it's not used anymore directly preceding nouns in this way anymore. That is unless you want to sound archaic or facetious or something.

Also notice that it's particularly used when preceding a word beginning with a vowel or an unsounded 'h'. This is attested to in other dictionaries I've checked, ie., American Heritage Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary. This is something I didn't actually know. Thanks for the lesson.

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    I still hear “mine host” used idiomatically eg by a guest speaker acknowledging the MC. – Chappo Hasn't Forgotten Monica Jul 28 '18 at 12:40
  • Thanks for the clarification! However, I'd like to add that /h/ is treated as a voiceless vowel. – Arch Capital Jul 28 '18 at 13:09
  • @Arch Capital This is a digression, but I remember watching a video about Shakespeare's plays performed in English as it would have sounded during his time. I think it's a newish movement, but it turns out something like over 30% of rhymes, allusions and jokes are lost by performing it in the way they do today, that is, with the actors affecting a kind of posh Queen's English style instead of genuine English phonology from that period. And we think Shakespeare is a legend when we've only seen mutilated and inaccurate performances of what his intended works were. – Zebrafish Jul 28 '18 at 13:18
  • If it's an adjective (which it isn't), there's no possibility of it not being attributive. Attributive refers to the prenominal position. It's not a semantic term in grammar. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Oct 14 '18 at 19:39

Using 'mine' before or after a noun instead of the more modern 'my' is indeed archaic/historical. Prior to Shakespeare's time, 'mine' and 'thine' became 'my' and 'thy' before words starting with a consonant (like 'an' and 'a' today).

By the time the Bard was writing, the language was in transition. He uses 'mine' before 'host' (the 'h' was silent, this suggests) but elsewhere he uses the modern practice, e.g. 'But thy eternal summer shall not fade' (Sonnet 18). There, 'thy' is stressed perhaps rendering the liaison unnecessary. Compare 'Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside' (Sonnet 139), where the stress falls upon 'eye'.

Up to the 19th century or slightly later it was sometimes used in poetry and song ("(Oh Baby Mine) I Get So Lonely" is a 1953 American song). Apart from that, it is widely used in modern British English, in 'mine host' (even when pronouncing the 'h') as an arch or jocular way of referring to the person who owns a pub (public house, bar). Other jocular usages are possible, e.g. Oh brother mine! (if you were exasperated with him, perhaps). Using it in other situations, e.g. mine car, mine girlfriend, mine house, etc, in everyday conversation or writing, while it would probably be understood, would be regarded as silly or mistaken.


mine host

humorous The landlord or landlady of a pub.

‘mine host raised his glass of whisky’

Host (Oxford Dictionaries)

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    The point is that 'host' is being treated as though it began with a vowel (I don't know if the 'h' was dropped in Shakespeare's time, but I wouldn't be surprised). In another play (Henry IV, 1) Falstaff says "Shall I not take mine ease in mine inn?" – Kate Bunting Jul 28 '18 at 8:27
  • Thanks for reminding me to clarify that. I have made an edit. – Michael Harvey Jul 28 '18 at 8:49
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    To be more exact, mine and thine became my and thy before a consonant (not including /h/, which was ignored originally and only started counting as a consonant later on), not the other way around. The forms with the n (like an) are the original forms, which lost their final nasal next to another consonant. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 28 '18 at 9:07

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