I know that Latin and old French are implicated, but where does the old English "offrian" come from?

I mean: what is the word evolution from the root? Which root exactly: why this "ian" ending?

Wiktionary says it's from "offero", but I still don't see why "ian", and why, if old English has this word directly from Latin, it abandoned it to borrow an old French word "offer" in replacement.

1 Answer 1


Here's the listing in Old English Translator for offrian:

offrian | weak class 2

to offer

Verbs in Old English often form their infinitive with -an, an inflection that degraded to -en or -e in Middle English and disappeared in Modern English. More specifically, Offrian is a weak verb, class 2, which often form their infinitives with -ian (Wikibooks: Old English/Verbs).

So -ian is grammatically necessary for forming the infinitive of a verb coming from another language, just like we would add to to form the infinitive of a newly-formed verb, irrespective of what the prior language did.

As for the Old French word offrir, it didn't replace the older usage but rather reinforced it, since the French word had accrued a few additional meanings that the Latin usage had lacked a few hundred years before. See below in the etymological description for "offer, v." in the Oxford English Dictionary:

Cognates with similar infinitives

Cognate with Old Frisian offria , offaria , Middle Dutch offeren (Dutch offeren ), Old Saxon offrōn , Old High German offrōn , Old Icelandic offra , Old Swedish offra , (Swedish offra ), Danish ofre ,

Originally from Latin

all in early use chiefly in religious context < post-classical Latin offerre to offer to God, offer sacrifice, devote (Vulgate), specific use of classical Latin offerre to bring before, present, offer, put oneself forward, volunteer, present itself, occur, inflict < ob- ob- prefix + ferre to carry, bear (see bear v.1).

Reinforced (and not replaced) by Old French

Subsequently reinforced and influenced semantically by Old French offrir to put something at someone's disposal (early 12th cent.), to give something to God as an offering, to make a sacrifice (c1140), to give something as a present (c1170) and its etymon classical Latin offerre. Compare Old Occitan offrir , ofrir (c1150), Occitan ofrir , Spanish ofrecer (1245; 1229 as oferecer , offerecer , 1246 as ofrir ), Catalan oferir (late 13th cent.; also oferre , ofrir ), Italian offrire (1313–19 as offerire ). Compare offering n.

  • Very interesting! Many thanks! The thing I don't understand, is why Old English borrowed this word?
    – Quidam
    Nov 12, 2019 at 15:02
  • 2
    @Quidam - “The Latin word was borrowed widely in Germanic languages in the religious sense via Christianity: Old Frisian offria, Middle Dutch offeren, Old Norse offra. The non-religious senses in English were from or reinforced by sense of Old French offrir "to offer," which is from Latin offerre.etymonline.com/word/offer
    – user 66974
    Nov 12, 2019 at 15:10

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