When was the transition of the word form 'ut'/'uþ' to 'out'? I'd like to know about the frequency or first attestations.

  • This would be better as two separate questions. Questions asking for external resources are usually handled on the ELU Meta site. Sep 22, 2023 at 13:20
  • The OED would be a good start for the history of "out". Beyond that, search academic bibliographical databases to see if there are any papers on the subject.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 22, 2023 at 13:22
  • I'm removing the second question to keep the question focused. Please refer to the etymology section of our list of resources for more information. The answers you get here might also help you see some of those resources in use.
    – Laurel
    Sep 22, 2023 at 14:07
  • Nobody knows. All one might get is the first printed reference, centuries after it was first spoken. By the time a dictionary noticed it, it was established in some places if not all. Sep 22, 2023 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


This transition was a regular consequence of the Great Vowel Shift:

ut → out, hus → house, tun → town, hlud → loud.

Wikipedia has an approximate timeline.

The transition went through several intermediate stages (scholars disagree on exactly what these intermediate stages were). Wikipedia seems to say it was pronounced ut in 1400, and reached something like the modern out in 1700.

There's no point trying to give an exact date, because some regions were undoubtedly still pronouncing it [ut] (oot) when other regions had already started pronouncing it [out] (oat). I suspect the transition from [ut] → [out] took something like a century to complete, and at the end of this century the following change (to [ɔu]) had already started.

  • 3
    "There's no point trying to give an exact date, because some regions were undoubtedly still pronouncing it [ut] (oot)" - indeed, and some regions still do :)
    – psmears
    Sep 22, 2023 at 14:24
  • 1
    …& I cannot hope to spell how 'out' is pronounced in Belfast. 'aoyt' is the best I can do, but it's not right.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 22, 2023 at 16:17
  • I am actually more interested in the written conventions, trying to determine a terminus post quem of an image reproduce from a lost manuscript. I suppose that the written change would be later than that in pronunciation.
    – trespda
    Sep 22, 2023 at 17:35
  • @trespda The written form usually follows from pronunciation. So during the time of the shift, there were probably different spellings depending on who was writing it.
    – Barmar
    Sep 22, 2023 at 19:38

OED out:

Out was formed by a merging of two distinct words, Old English ūt and ūte (apparently already confused in Old English).

(i) Old English ūt is cognate with Old Frisian ūt, and was originally only an adverb,

(ii) Old English ūte is cognate with Old Frisian ūte, Old Saxon ūta, ūte, (translating ancient Greek ἔξω outside)

These two forms became merged in later Middle English.

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