I-wis

From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

Iwis was an Old English word, used as both adjective and adverb meaning 'certain[ly]'. It fell out of use, other than for the stylistic purpose of archaism, during the seventeenth century. In manuscripts before the age of printing, it was frequently written as two words, as i wis (or y wis); the spelling of the prefix as y is a development of later Middle English. The use of a hyphen to separate prefix from wis arose from the thirteenth century. All forms of this, and similar, words have appeared as a single word, two separate words, or one hyphenated unit.

AWE advises you not to use iwis (or its occasional even more archaic spelling ywis.

This article is included only to explain the word and its various subsequent misuses.
  • Iwis continued to be used by poets into the twentieth century as a conveninet 'filler' for metrical and rhyming purposes. It is stressed on the second syllable, 'ee-WISS', IPA: /ˈiː wɪs/. It is sometimes found in the aphetic form wis.
  • It began to be mis-analyzed (divided into separate words incorrectly) in the thirteenth century as I wiss, and understood as the 1st person singular of a verb 'to wiss', which was understood as 'to know'. (This was influenced by the irregular verb 'to wit', either by linking it to the variable present tense of the verb, or identifying '[I] wiss' as the present tense which had given rise to the past forms wist
  • In a further mis-analysis, the form i-wist was occasionally to be seen, sometimes perhaps as nothing more than a simple error, sometimes as a past tense and sometimes as a present tense.