Born - borne

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The -ed participle of the verb 'to bear' is always borne - EXCEPT

  • for the meaning 'to give birth to', or (of a female mammal) to carry a fetus, when it is used as a passive WITHOUT a 'by - ' phrase ("she was born in 1942", "Byron was born with a twisted foot", "the twins were born into a large family"). Here the word is written with no '-e'. (For more on the forms of the verb, see Bear (irreg verb).)
  • The -ed participle of all other senses of 'to bear' has a terminal '-e': borne. (You may want to see a brief note on some meanings at Bare - bear.) When the meaning is to do with the process of birth in mammals, the -ed participle is also borne:
    • when the verb is used in the active voice, for example "She had borne several children before her husband's disappearance". (This is equivalent to the past tense "she bore several children." See further bare - bear.)
    • when it is used passively WITH an agentive 'by', for example "A mule is a hybrid, fathered by a stallion and borne by an ass"; "the seven children borne by her included two sons".
  • There is also a rarer noun bourn or bourne. (There is no significant difference between the two spellings.) This word, however it is spelled, has two meanings.
    • Famously, in the "To be or not to be" soliloquy in Shakespeare's Hamlet, it means a 'boundary' or 'limit'. Death is described as
"The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns."
(III i 79)
      • (There is also an even rarer verb related to this noun: 'to bourn', meaning 'to set a limit to'.)
    • The second noun bourn(e) means 'a small stream, brook, or minor river'.' This is a southern English variant of the word burn which is the usual term in Scots. The southern form bourn is pronounced to rhyme with 'horn' and 'corn' IPA: /bɔːrn/; the northern form to rhyme with 'turn', IPA: /bɜːrn/, sometimes in Scots almost as in RP 'but': IPA: /bʌrn/.
      • a ‘’’winterbourne’’’ is a seasonal watercourse, usually - as the name implies - running intermittently during the winter months. It is occasionally a place name or a surname, as in Thomas Hardy’s character. Giles Winterbourne in ‘’The Woodlanders’’.