AskDefine | Define scop

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Old English scop (died out in Middle English, but revived in the 18th century).


  • /ʃɒp/, /skɒp/


  1. A poet or minstrel in Anglo-Saxon England.

Old English


Cognate with Old High German scof ‘poet’, Old Norse skop ‘mocking’.


  • /ʃop/


scop m (plural scopas)
  1. poet, minstrel

Extensive Definition

For other uses see scop (disambiguation)
A was an Old English poet, the Anglo-Saxon counterpart of the Old Norse .
As far as we can tell from what has been preserved, the art of the scop was directed mostly towards epic poetry; the surviving verse in Old English consists of the epic Beowulf, religious verse in epic formats such as the Dream of the Rood, heroic lays of battle, and stern meditations on mortality and the transience of earthly glory. By contrast, the verse preserved from the skalds consists mostly of poems in praise of kings and incidental verse preserved in the sagas, often done up in the elaborate meter, and the ballad-like forms that form most of the corpus of the Poetic Edda. Both, of course, wrote within the Germanic tradition of alliterative verse.
Old English and its cognate Old High German (glossing and ; also ) may be related to the verb scapan "to create, form" (Old Norse skapa, Old High German scaffan; Modern English shape), from Proto-Germanic "form, order" (from a PIE "cut, hack"), perfectly parallel to the notion of craftsmanship expressed Greek itself; Köbler (1993, p. 220) suggests that the West Germanic word may indeed be a calque of Latin .
There is a homonymous Old High German meaning "abuse, derision" (Old Norse , meaning "mocking, scolding", whence English scoff), a third meaning "tuft of hair", and yet another meaning "barn" (cognate to English shop). They may all derive from a Proto-Germanic .
The association with jesting or mocking is however strong in Old High German. There is a glossing both and and a glossing and . on the other hand is of a higher register, glossing . The words involving jesting are derived from another root, PIE *skeub- "push, thrust", related to English shove, shuffle, and the Oxford English Dictionary favours association of with that root. The question cannot be decided formally, since the Proto-Germanic forms co-incided in zero grade, and by the time of our surviving sources (from the late 8th century), association with both roots may have influenced the word for several centuries. It is characteristic of the Germanic tradition of poetry that the sacred or heroic cannot be separated from the ecstatic or drunken state, and correspondingly crude jesting (compare the Lokasenna, where the poet humorously depicts the gods themselves as a quarrelsome and malicious), qualities summed up in the concept of , the name-giving attribute of the god of poetry, . Not coincidentially, while became scoff, the Old Norse lives on in a Modern English word of similarly deprecating meaning, scold.


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