What is the earliest attestation of its existence?

Did it originate from "crowd" or "crue"(increase)?

How was it coined?

Etymonline says:

Crew(n.) = mid-15c., "group of soldiers sent as reinforcements" (a sense now obsolete), from Old French crue, creue "an increase, recruit, military reinforcement," from fem. past participle of creistre "to grow," from Latin crescere "to arise, grow" (from PIE root *ker- (2) "to grow").

"Crew" in this 1658 dictionary, The New World Of English Words.

Crew = Company, gang; as A Crew of Rogues,

1756 -- This dictionary says probably from the Anglo-Saxon "crud"(crowd).

CREW. [probably from crud, Saxon.]

  1. A company of people allocated for any Purpose.
  2. The company of a ship.
  3. It is now generally used in a bad sense.

1911--- "Crew", in Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 7.

CREW (sometimes explained as a sea term of Scandinavian origin, cf. O. Icel. kru, a swarm or crowd, but now regarded as a shortened form of accrue, accrewe, used in the 16th century in the sense of a reinforcement, O. Fr. acreue, from accroitre, to grow, increase), a band or body of men associated for a definite purpose, a gang who jointly carry out a particular piece of work, and especially those who man a ship, exclusive of the captain, and sometimes also of the officers.

1641 = Crew as Company? Jovial crew or beggars.

Was "crew" and "beggars" interchangeable?

  • 2
    Please don't use code formatting for quotes, it makes it harder to read and breaks screenreaders. The quote formatting you had originally was appropriate. Thanks for the good question! – Azor Ahai -him- Aug 29 '18 at 22:39
  • Just to clarify, you've given a lot of etymology for 'crew', but your main question is simply "Are 'crew' and 'beggars' synonyms?" Or is that just a secondary question, where your primary question is "Of all these different etymologies, what is the most likely real source of the word?" – Mitch Aug 30 '18 at 14:15
  • These are my first 3 questions. 1. What is the earliest attestation of its existence? 2. Did it originate from "crowd" or "crue"(increase)? 3. How was it coined? – Sylomun Weah Aug 30 '18 at 14:18
  • 1
    @SylomunWeah - For question 2, Two reputable soruces, Etymonline and Encyclopedia Britannica, agree on the etymology, the latter even mentioning that the etymology was previously thought to be something else. Whereas an old dictionary says it's the something else. Where is your confusion as to the etymology? – AndyT Aug 30 '18 at 15:29
  • To your 3 #'d questions, they are answered by your research (i.e. it's not from 'crud'). As to your 4th synonym question: "The Lufthansa heist was carried off by beggars of Mafia soldiers" vs "A swarm of a crew asked me for spare change" - should lead to a 'no' answer. – Mitch Aug 30 '18 at 15:44

Like innumerable other etymologies, the twist in pedigree either stemmed from or was bolstered by Shakespeare's wordplay. Henry V utilized a pun via the meaning of 'a crew' as a group/crowd and 'accrue' as to gain. I can't see any solid evidence that the 'used in a bad sense' refers to anything but the reputation of sailors, and the beggars in question simply used it to mean 'crowd' or 'group'.

  • So are you saying that most of the question is folk etymology? If so, then which one is the most likely correct one? Etymonline/OED? – Mitch Aug 30 '18 at 13:31
  • I'm saying the etymologies are intermixed. When recruiting for a military or sailing ship, you accrew a crew. It 'increases' to become a 'crowd'. I don't know which comes first, but I am almost certain both came from the same place, or at the very least, were involved in early cross-pollination. – Carduus Aug 30 '18 at 13:41

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