Greaves - grieves

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Greaves and grieves form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these..

  • Greaves (usually used in the plural form, as they were worn in pairs) were pieces of armour, used in the days of armoured knights. They were the equivalent of modern shin-guards, protecting the leg below the knee.
  • Grieves is the third person singular form of the present tense of the verb 'to grieve', 'to feel sorrow for [usually the death of someone]'.
    • Grieves can also be used as an impersonal verb in such constructions as "It grieves me to say ...", ~ 'I'm sorry to have to tell you that ...'
Etymological note: the ultimate root of grieve is the Latin adjective gravis, 'heavy': the verb means 'to make heavy'. While now its use is largely confined to 'making the heart heavy [for the loss of someone]', it was formerly used for other serious burdens or problems: 'to grieve an enemy' was to harm him, as 'grievous wounds' or 'grievous illnesses' are those that threaten life, and 'grievous punishments' were those that were hardest to bear.
Greave comes from "Old French greve shin, armour for the legs (12th cent. in Littré), of unknown origin" (OED, 1900)