Thursday, November 17, 2011



So often we authors are perceived as dreamers. A look into etymology, though, finds that we artsy writerly types aren’t the only ones who take an occasional snooze. So do words.

When it comes to the word dream, some form of the meaning we know today existed in most the languages that led into Old English, but the written record of Old English only employs a meaning of the word dream that we don’t acknowledge at all today: make a joyful noise. The written record suggests that the modern meaning of dream took a several-century snooze.

The word Dream occurs with both meanings in Middle English, which suggests that both meanings were present in Old English, but one of them somehow avoided the printed page till the darn-close-to-contemporary year of 1179.

Along the way, there are some great tweaky meanings for dream & its cognates, which include but aren’t limited to:

-joy, pleasure, gladness, mirth, rejoicing
-a cherished desire
-deception, illusion, phantasm
-a train of thoughts, images or fancies passing through the mind during sleep
-a fancy voluntarily indulged in while awake
-a state of abstraction or trance
-a wild fancy or hope
-a reverie

And those are only the nouns. Dream’s verb forms deserve an entry of their own.

Naturally, there are steaming heaps of quotes having to do with dreams, dreamers & dreaming. I like the dreamlike nature of this one from Carl Jung:

“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

So, fellow writers & artsy types, are your works manifestations of your dreams, or the other way around? Do any of the alternate meanings above appeal?

Thanks to this week’s sources,, the OED, & &


  1. I've always liked "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." --Edgar Allen Poe

    And then there's Shel Silverstein. "...If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!”

    Oh man! Dreaming. I love it. Good word, Charlie.

  2. This gives a much more multi-faceted meaning to the title of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" doesn't it? I love these, Charlie. I'm learning new stuff from every one. Thanks!

  3. Could that be why God called the boy King David a dreamer? Wow, I get a kick out of words and sure like your blog's focus, Charlie. Keep them coming.

  4. Hey to you three,
    Come in, indeed, Dawn - you're heeding Silverstein's call as you dive into the E-publishing Realms.

    Anne, that's the first title that came to mind for me, too. The phantasm, the cherished desire, the deception, the trance, the reverie - really suggests his title choice was downright bardful.

    Jean Ann, I'm betting heaps of events in David's life were attended by joyful noises.

    Dreamfully yours,