What does Middle English “cheping” mean?

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Wycliffe's Bible (page 26)



"But to whom schal Y gesse this generacioun lijk? It is lijk to children sittynge in chepyng, that crien to her peeris"

King James Bible:

"...But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows…"

1 Answer 1


A cheaping is a place where goods are bought and sold. Market is a direct translation. The Middle English Dictionary has it under "chepinge":

2 (a) A market or market place (in a city)

And here's an example from the Wycliffe Bible, as listed under the entry:

(c1384) WBible(1) (Dc 369(2))Deeds 16.19 : The lordis..Poul and Silas ledden into cheping [L in forum] or dom place.

The root word is chep (from Old English cēap), a noun that has to do with buying or selling goods. That's where we get the adjective cheap with its meaning of a good bargain.

  • 3
    As a perhaps interesting side note, the cognate word in Scandinavian (ON kaupangr, Swedish köping) was borrowed into Finnish as kapunki, the word meaning ‘city’ or ‘town’. A modern English equivalent found in some place names still is Chipping. Jul 10, 2019 at 21:55
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    Also, there is a Cheapside in London, where once produce was sold and traded. Jul 10, 2019 at 22:02
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    The Latin here, at least in the Vulgate whence I presume the L. gloss in brackets had originally come, was actually in foro with the ablative case meaning just plain "in the market" rather that the curious gloss cited above claiming accusative in forum, as that would have instead meant "into the market", something that to me makes no sense here. Curious.
    – tchrist
    Jul 10, 2019 at 22:46
  • 4
    Another familiar example of the root "cheap" is the occupational surname Chapman, which meant someone who buys or sell. With French influence after the Norman conquest, the word "chapman" was replaced by the Latin-dervived "merchant" in general usage, but the surname survived. Jul 10, 2019 at 23:04

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