home

British Elf-Citations c. 1100-1600.

Crucial to Alaric's project is finding as many instances of elf as possible. Below is the list so far from c. 1100 to 1600AD. (It is a bit messy because Alaric hasn't found time to tidy it up--sorry about this.) The rather arbitrary cut-off point makes some sense regarding the English material, in that it gives a century or so of context after my more practical working cut-off date of 1500, and keeps Spenser's Faerie Queene at arm's length. It's becoming increasingly problematic regarding the Scottish material, however. Alaric had not intended to focus on Scottish evidence since most of it is late, from c. 1600-1650. But the Scottish evidence seems increasingly relevant to earlier data, and is being introduced to the database as Alaric works his way through the citations in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the witchcraft trials exhibiting fairy-lore listed at The Survey of Scottish Witchcraft.

Alaric has included the Scots adjective elrich and its variants in the list of forms on the basis of the usual etymology, Old English *ęlf-rice, ('elf-dominion'). This is phonologically viable (though the alrich forms are trickier than people seem to have realised, demanding *alf-rice) and if correct, very interesting. However, he suspects that the prefix ęl-, el- ('foreign, strange') is more probably at work.

If you should spot a pre-1600 elf, or another elvish word, which Alaric has missed (or if you think you may have), then he will be extremely grateful if you would email it to him, and promises to thank you not only by email, but in the PhD dissertation and relevant publications (credit goes already to Katie Lowe, Mark Zumbuhl, Richard Burian, Rod McConchey and Simon Horobin--thanks dudes!). Elves lurk in all sorts of unlikely (and often unprinted) places, so only with the help of many eyes will Alaric find them all. Likewise, if you spot any mistakes then please do let Alaric know!

(For most research purposes, Alaric compiles citations using much larger sections of text, with different versions, sources and analogues presented together. He arranges these using a website presently only stored on his personal computers; this will be made available on the web in due course.)

A few sections of evidence are omitted at present:

Instances from 1100-1600 found so far are cited in chronological order, insofar as is possible. Where citations are dated in sources such as dictionaries, the dictionary dates are usually followed for convenience; datings and references are being revised and made more transparent as citations are collated with printed and manuscript sources. A list of electronic searches undertaken, and of spelling variants collected, appears at the end; citations deriving from searches of the on-line Corpus of Middle English prose and Verse have no source marked in the list. Some citations particularly require further research, and these are marked for Alaric's convenience with an asterisk (*).

*Sloane 2584, fols 73v-74r: Coniuro vos demones et latrones, elphos et morbum caducum vt non habeatis potestatem nocere hunc famulum dei. N[omen]. [cited by Lea Olsan, 'Latin Charms of Medieval England: Verbal Healing in a Christian Oral Tradition', Oral Tradition, 7 (1992), 116-42]

*C15 'Charms against elves, serpents, malignant spirits and the toothache, 15th cent. Lat 962, ff. 9b, 10; imperf. 963, ff. 15-16b' (Edward J. L. Scott, Index to the Sloane Manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1904), p. 331; cf. Richard Kieckhefer, Magic in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1989), p. 73. No ref among these to 2584. Hmm, tricky.)

*The alliterative Morte Arthure, Lines 1222 through 1616: "Now certez," sais Sir Wawayne, "myche wondyre haue I / Žat syche an alfyn as thow dare speke syche wordez! / I had leuer then all Fraunce, that heuede es of rewmes,

*And summe dremen of žes feenis [of the loweste rank] žat summe ben elues and summe gobelynes, and haue not but litil power to tempte men in harme of soule; but siž we kunne not proue žis ne disproue žis spedili, holde we vs in že boundis žat God telliž vs in his lawe. But it is licli žat žes feendis haue power to make bože wynd and reyn, žundir and ly3ttyng ond ožir wedrus. English Wycliffite Sermons, I, ed. by Anne Hudson (Oxford: Clarendon press, 1983), p. 686.

*J. Stewart (cited DOST) 139.23: Proud Pluto als that elresche man Comperit with the pastor Pan

c1225 Wor.Bod.Gloss.(Hat 76) 21: Eluežunge: tunsingwurt. [MED]

1205 La3amon/ Cotton Caligula A.9: 9609: Sone swa he com an eorše; aluen hine iuengen. [given in OED as 19256, MED as 19255; both are wrong XXXXcheck printed text]
9616: žis že alue him 3ef; and al swa žat child ižęh. [given in MED as 19268]
10545: Ža dude he on his burne ibroide of stele že makede on aluisc smiš. [given in MED as 21131]
10853: žer is ęluene plo3e; in atteliche pole. [MED]
10978: fif foten he is deop; alfene hine dulfen. [OED, MED]
14279: to Argante žere quene; aluen swiše sceone. [MED]
14292: and wunnien in Aualun; mid fairest alre aluen. [MED]

C12 MS Peterhouse College Cambridge, 255, f. 49r in the second of the three sequences of folio numberings: summe sende ylues and summe sende nadderes

*c1300 La3amon/Cotton Otho 595, 2301: bi-leuest fair and scene; mine dohter Gwendoleine./for one aluis maide Estrild ihote./. [MED]
8859: Sone so he to worle com; aluene him onderfenge
8866: žis že alfe him 3eaf and al so žat child i-žeh
*595: Elf his wi[m]man elf fis; hit hauež žis worles tockne foliwis
9764-6: and he warp on him; one brunie of stele. / žat makede an haluis smiž; mid his wise crafte. / he was i-hote Wigar; že Wittye wrohte.
10150 fif fote hit his deop; aluene hine dolue.

c1285-95, MS. Laud Misc. 108. Section 45: St. Mi3hel, l. 255: And ofte in fourme of wommane : In many derne weye / grete compaygnie men i-seoth of heom : bože hoppie and plei3e, / žat Eluene beoth i-cleopede : and ofte heo comiez to toune, / And bi daye muche in wodes heo beoth : and bi ni3te ope hei3e dounes. / žat beoth že wrechche gostes : žat out of heuene weren i-nome [MED] (The Early South-English Legendary or Lives of Saints I: MS. Laud, 108, in the Bodleian Library, ed. by Carl Horstman, Early English Text Society, 87 (London, 1887), p. 307. On MSS etc. see Goerlach 1974, Pickering-Goerlach 1982)

c1314 Guy Warw. (A.) 3862 Sežže he gert him wiž a brond / Žat was y-made in eluene lond. [OED, MED]

*c1325(c1300) Glo.Chron.A (Clg A.11) 2754: žer bež in že eyr an hey . ver fram že grounde . / As a maner gostes . wi3tes as it be . / & me may 3em ofte an erže . in wilde studes yse . / & ofte in mannes forme . wommen hii comež to . / & ofte in wimmen forme . hii comež to men al so . / Žat men clupež eluene . (ed. William Aldis Wright, The Metrical Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, Rolls Series, 86, 2 vols (London, 1887), p. 196) [MED, OED]. (Evidently der. from SEL.)

Early C14 Fasciculus Morum: Sed rogo quid dicendum est de talibus miseriis et supersticiosis qui de nocte dixerunt se videre reginas pulcherrimas et alias puellas tripudiantes cum domina Dyana, choreas ducentes dea paganorum, que in nostro vulgari dicitur elves? Et credunt quod tales possunt tam homines quam mulieres in alias naturas transformare et secum ducere apud eluenlond, ubi iam, ut dicunt, manent illi athlete fortissimi, scilicet Onewyn et Wad et ceteri. Que omnia [non] sunt nisi fantasmata et a maligno spiritu illis demonstrata. (Wenzel, Siegfried (ed. and trans.), Fasciculus Morum: A Fourteenth-Century Preacher’s Handbook (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989), p. 578; cf. A. G. Little, Studies in English Franciscan History, Publications of the University of Manchester, Historical Series, 29 (London, 1917), p. 230; G. R. Owst, 'Sortilegium in English Homiletic Literature of the Fourteenth Century', in Studies Presented to Sir Hilary Jenkinson, ed. by J. Conway Davies (London, 1957), pp. 272-303 (pp. 277-78).

c. 1390s. Text on the Fall in Vernon MS, f. 393v, 1st column, lines 47-59: And a vois seide a bouen . I . was er žen žou . And žo žat 3af kepe. to žat word ; bi lasten stille. And že ožere fellen a doun ; žat cosented. to lucifer. for heo neoren not stable to foren . and ženne weorei žei stabelichet in žat ilke while. žat heo hedden ženne ; bože že goode . & vvuel . so žat heo ne mihte . neuer out žerof . and after žat while . heo beon pynet. summe more . & . summe lasse And also to že ožer ; in heuene is heore ioye . And he and alle his feeren. fullen out of heuene ; heo fullen out as žikke . as že drift of že snouh . Summe a stun te in že eyr . And summe in že eorže 3if eny mon is elue I. nome . ožer . elue I. blowe ; he hit haž . of že angelus . žat fellen out of heuene . The Vernon Manuscript: A Facsimile of Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS. Eng. Poet. a.1 with an Introduction by A. I. Doyle (Cambridge: Brewer, 1987). This is a somewhat hasty transcription, which needs checking, against facsimile and Blake's edition. Good though, innit?

c1390 Chaucer MiLT: 'What! Nicholay! what, how! what, look adoun! / Awak, and thenk on Cristes passioun! / I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes.'
(c1395) Chaucer CT.WB.(Manly-Rickert) D.860: The elf queene with hir ioly compaignye Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede. [MED, OED]
WBT: But now kan no man se none elves mo
WBT: For ther as wont to walken was an elf
(c1390) Chaucer CT.ML.(Manly-Rickert) B.754: The mooder was an elf, by aventure, Y-comen by charmes, or by sorcerie. [MED, OED]
(c1395) Chaucer CT.WB.(Manly-Rickert) D.873: [See context.] [MED]
(c1390) Chaucer CT.Th.(Manly-Rickert) B.1978-80: An elf queene shal my lemman be..An elf queene wol I loue, ywys, For in this world no womman is Worthy to be my make. [MED]
(c1395) Chaucer CT.CY.(Manly-Rickert) G.751: Whan we been there as we shul exercise Oure eluysshe craft, we semen wonder wise, Oure termes been so clergial and so queynte. [MED]
(c1395) Chaucer CT.CY.(Manly-Rickert) G.842: In lernyng of this eluysshe nyce loore. [MED]
(c1390) Chaucer CT.Th.(Manly-Rickert) B.1893: Smal and fair of face. He semeth eluyssh by his contenuance, For vn to no wight dooth he daliaunce. [MED]

C15 (London, Gray's Inn 15, 17r; check other MSS)' "Item iuxta Sippwyc" filius cuiusdam viri qui infirmabatur, quem pater duxit ad quemdam clericum in patria, qui habeant librum qui vocabatur an heluenbok, ut per eius benediccionem recuperat sanitatem". Siegfried Wenzel, ‘The Middle English Lexicon: Help from the Pulpit’, in Words, Texts and Manuscripts: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Culture Presented to Helmut Gneuss on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. by Michael Korhammer (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 467-76 (at 472-73).

?a1400 Adv.18.5.16 Gloss.(Adv 18.5.16) 160: Elleborum nigrum: Elfyiuge [read: elfžinge] koye..wort: ellebre galice. [MED]

a1400 Recipe MS Hal.in Rel.Ant.1 (Hal 335) 53: Whare thu dos it [mugwort] in houses, na elves na na evyll thynges may com therin. [MED]

a1400 Alphita (SeldArch B.35) 34: Crassula maior, faba siluestris idem, subalba est et spissa habet folia. Gallice orme, anglice alfuurt [Sln: orpyne]. [MED]

c1400(?c1390) Gawain (Nero A.10) 681: Britned to no3t, Hadet wyth an aluisch mon [MED]

1421, MS Bodleian, Bodley 649, f. 131r.: mundi honor est a sliper žinge and an elvich [see Roy M. Haines, ' "Our Master Mariner, Our Sovereign Lord": a Contemporary View of Henry V', Mediaeval Studies 38 (1976), 85-96 (p. 92)]

c1425(a1420) Lydg. TB (Aug A.4) 4.6984: Žeis elves, žat are wont to go In vndermeles, whan Phebus is most shene. [MED]

a1425 Siege Troy(1) (LinI 150) 508: In žat forest weore gangand ffoure ladies of eluene land [Suth: Elfen land; Arun: eluen londe]. [MED]

a1425 Medulla (Stnh A.1.10) 58a: Satirus: an helfe. [MED]

1426 AUDELAY Poems 77 (Mätz.): Alfe Rofyn be-gon to rug. [OED]

(1440) PParv.(Hrl 221) 138: Elfe, spryte: Lamia [MED]

c1450 Med.Bk.(2) (Add 33996) 155: For že eluene [vr. elfe cake]. Take že rote of gladene, & make pouder žer of, & gyue že seke. [MED]

?c1450 Stockh.PRecipes (Stockh 10.90) 89/11: Oyle benoyt..is good for žepostem in že mylte, žat men clepyn vluekecche [read:?-kecchel]. [MED]

c1450(?a1400) Wars Alex.(Ashm 44) 5258: Scho was so faire & so fresche, as faucon hire semed, An elfe out of an-othire erde, or ellis an Aungell. [MED]

c. 1440/50, John Capgrave’s translation of Athanasius’s Life of Katherine (quotation from Rawlinson MS, but Arundel differs only in spelling): ‘Whan 3e stand,’ he seyd, ‘be-for že dome / Of many tyrauntys, & 3e a-lone 3our-selue, / Thow žei 3ow calle lollard, whych or elue, / Beth not dysmayd, I sschall gyue 3ow answere, / žer no man swech langage now 3ow lere.’ (Bk III ch. 5 in R., III.6 in A). John Capgrave, The Life of St. Katharine of Alexandria, ed. by Carl Horstmann, Early English Text Society, 100 (London: Paul, Trench, Trübner & co., 1893), pp. 190–91. (OED, s.v. Lollard.)
Capgr. St.Kath.(Arun 396) 5.1629: Leue Žat crysten company, forsake žat elue, Ihesu of nazareth he dede neuere man good [MED]

*C15 BL. Sloane 962, fols 9v, 10 and BL. Sloane 963, fols 15-16v, 'charms against elves' [Edward J. L. Scott, Index to the Sloane Manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1904), p. 331.]

?c1475 *Cath.Angl.(Add 15562) 40b: Elfland. [MED] c1475 *Cath.Angl.(Add 15562) 40b: An Elfe: hec lamia, hec Evmenis. [MED]

1483 Cath. Angl.: An Elfe; lamia, eumenis, dicta Ab eu, quod est bonum, & mene, defectus. [//] Elfe lande [partly in OED; Herrtage, Sidney J. H. (ed.), Catholicon Anglicarum: An English-Latin Wordbook, Dated 1483, Early English Text Society, 75 (London, 1881), p. 113]

a1500(a1460) Towneley Pl.(Hnt HM 1) 136/616: He was takyn with an elfe.When the clok stroke twelf was he forshapyn. [OED, MED]

a1500(?a1475) Guy of Warwick, MS Cmb Ff.2.38. (LP 531: Leics) line no?: Thane he girde him with his bronde, / That was made in eluysshe londe. 11315: Thys cuntre ys full of eluysche [?read: eluys]. [MED] 11467: But he that ys lorde here, He is full felle on all manere. He come owte of elves londe. [MED] 11317: Thys cuntre ys full of eluys. An eluysch kny3t longyth žertoo: Moche sorow he hath vs doo. [MED] 11547: The elvysch kny3t smote hym full sare. [MED]

Late C15, The Court of Love, lines 1270-73: “Yon is,” thought [I], “som spirit or som elf, / His sotill image is so curious: / How is,” quod I “that he is shaded thus / With yonder cloth, I not of what colour?”

a1500 Hrl.2378 Recipes (Hrl 2378) 89/16: For the elf cake. -- Take že rote of gladene and make poudre ther-of and 3if the seke [i.e. one affected by evil spirits] ther-of. [MED]

a1500 Med.Bk.(2) (Add 19674) 155: For hym that is Elf taken [vr. elf take]. [MED]

*a1500 in Camd.25 138: For a chylde that ys elfe y-take, and may nat broke hys mete. [MED; ?OED] Is this the same MS which the OED cites from Promp. Parv. 138 note, citing a 'MS. of XVth cent. in the possession of Sir Thomas Phillips'? 'For a chylde that ys elfe y-take, and may nat broke hys mete, that hys mouthe ys donne (sic.) Sey iij tymes thys verse, Beata mater munere, & c. In the worchyppe of God, and of our Ladi, sey iij pater noster, and iij aueys, and a crede; and he schal be hole' [Herrtage, Sidney J. H. (ed.), Catholicon Anglicarum: An English-Latin Wordbook, Dated 1483, Early English Text Society, 75 (London, 1881), p. 113, n. 4]

a1500 Conq.Irel.(Rwl B.490) 16/13: Wyth wepyn ryngynge..wyth cryynge so grymly that none ende was Of elf fare [Dub: helf far], as ofte-tymes was wonet to befall in hostyngis in Irland. [MED]
English conquest of Ireland : A.D. 1166-1185 : mainly from the 'Expugnatio hibernica' of Giraldus Cambrensis : part I, the text / edited by Frederick J. Furnivall. (Dub.) ch. 5: with wepne ryngynge, speres and sparthes ruthlynge to-geddre, with cryynge so grysly that noon ende was of helf far, as hoft-sithes was wonet to be-fall in ostynges in Irland

1500 Stanbridge, Vocabula: Pumilius. An elfe or dwarfe. [Cited by Herrtage, Sidney J. H. (ed.), Catholicon Anglicarum: An English-Latin Wordbook, Dated 1483, Early English Text Society, 75 (London, 1881), p. 113, n. 4]

c. 1500, Rowll, Cursing 68 (M): Never to be but schot of blude Or elf schot, thus to conclude [DOST]

1508 (printed; check dating) Robert Henryson, Orpheus and Eurydice, line 359: Quod pluto sir thouch scho be like ane elf / Thare is na cause to plenye and for quhy
cf. c1470x1480, Robert Henryson, Orpheus and Eurydice, 242: Thouch scho be like ane elf, Thare is na cause to plenye [DOST] 1508 KENNEDIE Flyting w. Dunbar 345 Thow lufis nane Irische, elf, I vnderstand, Bot it suld be all trew Scottis mennis lede. (OED, s.v. Understand)

1508, Walter Kennedy, Flyting, 36: Ignorant elf, aip, owll irregular
345: Thow lufis nane Irische, elf, I vnderstand

1510 Douglas, The Palace of Honovr, I. 173: I agane maist like ane elriche grume Crap in the muskane aikin stok

c. 1500-1512 William Dunbar, G. Targe 125: Thare was Pluto, the elrich incubus, In cloke of grene

1513 DOUGLAS Ęneis VIII. vi. 7: Wyth Nymphis and Favnis apoun euery syde, Quhilk fairfolkis, or than elvis, clepyng we. [OED, DOST]
VI. prol. 17: 'All is bot gaistis and elrich fantasyis, / Of browneis and of bogillis ful this buke: / Owt on thir wandrand speritis, wow!'
VII. prol. 108: Vgsum to heir was hir wild elrich screke
X. Prol. 154: I wirschip nowder ydoll, stok, nor elf [DOST]
3.10.42: Tha elrych bredyr [the Cyclopes], with thar lukis thrawyn 1513 DOUGLAS Ęneis x. Prol. 153 Lat Virgyll hald his mawmentis till hym self; I wirschip noder idoll, stok, nor elf (OED, s.v. maumet) 1526 Grete Herball clii. (1529) lvb, De Enula campana. Elfe docke, Scabwoort, or horshele. (OED, s.v. scabwort)

1530 PALSGR. 216/2: Elfe or dwarf, nain. [OED]
*'I waxe elvysshe, nat easy to be dealed with, Ie deuiens mal traictable'

*1530 William Horman, Vulgaria Puerorum, Pynson 1519, Wynkyn de Worde 1530: No man stryueth with deed men but elfis, laruę [I cannot find this line in the Oxford 1926 reproduction of the 1519 text; cited by Way, Albert (ed.), Promptorium Parvulorum sive Clericorum: Lexicon Anglo-Latinum Princeps, Auctore Fratre Galfrido Grammatico Dicto, 3 vols, Camden Society Publications, 25, 54, 89 (London, 1843-65), p. 138 n. 1. Perhaps this comes from the 1530 text?]

1535 Stewart 51348: Thinkand it war sum elrische man or elfe So quietlie away the pleuch geir straw

1540 David Lindsay, Sat. 1536 (B): I pray the alreche [Ch. alrich] quene of fary To be 3our protectioun

1547 SALESBURY Welsh Dict., Nar, an elfe. [OED]

a1553 UDALL Royster D. III. iii. (1869) 46 Women be all such madde pieuishe elues. They wyll not be woonne except it please them selues. (OED, s.v. elf, peevish)

1567 GOLDING Ovid's Met. VIII. 108b, Where seeking long for Famine she the gaptoothd [1584-7 gagtoothd] elf did spie. (OED, s.v. gap-toothed, ramp)

1568 Hist. Jacob & Esau II. ii. Cij, There was neuer none trounced as I shal trounce that elf.
1568 Hist. Jacob & Esau V. x. Giij, Yea mother, see that ye holde with that mopishe elfe. (OED, s.v. mopish)

1573 TUSSER Husb. (1878) 59 Looke to thy cattle, Serue yoong poore elues [children, the definition implies] alone by themselues. [OED]

*1573, Cooper, Thesaurus: Satirus. An elfe or a mysshapyn man. [cited by Sidney J. H. Herrtage (ed.), Catholicon Anglicarum: An English-Latin Wordbook, Dated 1483, Early English Text Society, 75 (London, 1881)]

1573 G. HARVEY Lett. Bk. (Camden) 126 Mye very mistrisse..Moughte yit be woon agayne, like a slippery elfe. (OED; s.v. slippery)

1573 New Custom I. i. in Hazl. Dodsley III. 6 See how these new-fangled prattling elves Prink up so pertly of late in every place. (OED, s.v. prink)

1576, Crim. Trials I. II. 53: Thai war the gude wychtis that wynnit in the Court of Elfame

1579 E. K. in Spenser's Sheph. Cal. June 25 Gloss., For Guelfes and Gibelines, we say Elfes & Goblins. [OED]

1579 E. K. Gloss. Spenser's Sheph. Kal. June 25 The opinion of Faeries and elfes is very old, and yet sticketh very religiously in the myndes of some. (OED, s.v. opinion)

1579 LANGHAM Gard. Health (1633) 2 To heale the elfe cake and hardnesse of the side. [OED]

1581 J. STUDLEY tr. Seneca's Hercules tęus 204b, After ruin made Of goblin hegge, or elfe (OED, s.v. hag)

1583 STANYHURST Aeneis III. (Arb.) 80 Shee sowns, and after long pausing thus she sayd elflyke. [OED]

1583, Robert Semphill, Sat. P. xlv. 7: Ane elphe, ane elvasche incubus [DOST]
372: Ane carling of the quene of phareis, Thaat ewill win geir to elphyne careis

a1583 MONTGOMERIE Flyting 282 There ane elf on ane ape ane vnsell begat. (OED, s.v. unsel)

1584 Reginald Scott, Discoverie of Witchcraft: and they have so fraid us with bull beggars, spirits, witches, urchins, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, pans, fauns, slans, kit with the cansticke, tritons, centaurs, dwarfes, giants, imps, calcars, conjurors, nymphs, changelings, Incubus, Robin Good-fellowe, the spoorne, the mare, the man in the oak, the hellwain, the firedrake, the puckle, Tom Thumb, Hobgoblin, Tom Tumbler, Boneless, and such other bugs, that we are afraid of our own shadows (cited by Diane Purkiss, Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories (London, 2000), 160).

1584 LYLY Sappho I. iv. 7 Proud elfe! how squeamish he is become alreadie, vsing both disdaineful lookes, And imperious words. (OED, s.v. squeamish)

1585 (Maitland MS), Alexander Montgomerie, The Flyting Between Montgomerie and Polwart, 256 (T): Half ane elph, half an aip, of nature denyit [DOST]
466 (H): Ilk elffe of them all brought ane almous hous oster [DOST]
281 (H): The king of pharie, ... With mony elrich incubus, was rydand that nycht
275 (T): The king of pharie, ... With mony alrege incubus
a1585 MONTGOMERIE Flyting 503 The cry was sa ouglie, of elfes, aips, and owles. (OED, s.v. ugly)

1585 (Maitland MS), Roule, Cursing, 68: ...and in žair sleip že mare / The canker als and the caterSs / And never to be but schot of blude / Or elf schot žus to conclude / and mony vther maleteis / bayth for his hennis and his geis / Mot fall vpone žair cairfull corSs...

1585 (Maitland MS), Lichtoun, Dreme, 58: I harde ane pvnder blaw ane elriche horne

1585, (Montgomerie) James VI, Essays..., 68: The king of fary ... With many elrage incubus

1586 LUPTON 1000 Notable Th. (1675) 157 The hardness of the side called the Elfcake. [OED]

1586, The Maitland Folio Manuscript, lxxvi. 51: Leyd nocht thy lyf lyk ane elf That our the feild can slyde [DOST]

1589 George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie: Ye see a notorious exchange of the construction, and application of the words in this: I wot what I meane; and I meane what I wot, and in the other, company the knaue Carrier, and carrie a knaue in your company. The Greekes call this figure [Hipallage] the Latins Submutatio, we in our vulgar may call him the [underchange] but I had rather haue him called the [Changeling] nothing at all sweruing from his originall, and much more aptly to the purpose, and pleasanter to beare in memory: specially for our Ladies and pretie mistresses in Court, for whose learning I write, because it is a terme often in their mouthes, and alluding to the opinion of Nurses, who are wont to say, that the Fayries vse to steale the fairest children out of their cradles, and put other ill fauoured in their places, which they called changelings, or Elfs, so, if ye mark, doeth our Poet, or maker play with his wordes, vsing a wrong construction for a right, and an absurd for a sensible, by manner of exchange. This text from the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library; also ed. Gladys Doidge Willcock and Allice Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936), p. 173, which I haven’t checked.

1590 SHAKES. Mids. N. II. i. 31 All there Elues for feare Creepe into Acorne cups, and hide them there. (OED, s.v. acorn, cup)
1590 SHAKES. Mids. N. III. i. 177 Nod to him, Elues, and doe him Curtesies (OED, s.v. nod)
1590 SHAKES. Mids. N. V. i. 401 Euerie Elfe and Fairie spright, Hop as light as bird from brier. (OED, s.v. light)

1590 SPENSER F.Q. I. iv. 51 Rest a while Till morrow next, that I the Elfe subdew. (OED, s.v. subdue)
1590 SPENSER F.Q. I. vi. 42 Ah! misborn Elfe, In evill houre thy foes thee hither sent. (OED, s.v. misborn)
1590 SPENSER F.Q. II. vii. 56 The warlike Elfe much wondred at this tree, So faire and great, that shadowed all the ground. (OED, s.v. shadow)
1590 SPENSER F.Q. III. xii. 22 The winged god him selfe Came riding on a Lion ravenous, Taught to obay the menage of that Elfe. (OED, s.v. manage)

1590 in Pitcairn Crim. Trials I. 198 Thow directit George Cuik to twa wemen..for ane elf-arrow-heid. [OED]

1590 Digest Justiciary Proc. M. 22: That thow wald gang in hillis to speik the elff folk [DOST]

1590 Digest Justiciary Proc. M. 17: The said Loskie Loncart tuik tua elfe errow heidis ... and thow shoot tua schoittis with the said errow heid

1590 Digest Justiciary Proc. M. 25: Ane elff arrow heid quhilk the said George Cuik ressavit

1591 Trial of Agnes Sampsoune (28/1/1591 according to Witchcraft Survey; surely 27-1 as in Pitcairn?) 'ITEM, fylit and convict, that Williame Blakeis sone sark being send to hir, scho be hir Wichcraft declarit, that the seiknes that he had was ane elf-schot' (Pitcairn vol. I, part II, 231) [DOST]

1591 SYLVESTER Du Bartas I. v. 76 As a rare Painter draws..Here a huge Cyclop, there a Pigmé Elf. (OED, s.v. pygmy)
1591 SYLVESTER Du Bartas I. vii. 129 Thou rather sleep'st, thy self, When thou did'st forge thee such a *sleep-sick Elf. (OED, s.v. sleep)

1580-92, James VI, Lusus Regius, 7: Suche elraige peopil in suche a sort ... gydit by a man, uas neuer found

1592 SHAKES. Rom. & Jul. I. iv. 91 This is that very Mab that..bakes the Elf-locks in foule sluttish haires, which once vntangled, much misfortune bodes. (OED, s.v. untangle, elf-lock)

1593 G. HARVEY Pierce's Super. Prol. **4b, Spare me, o super-dominering Elfe, And most Railipotent for euer raine (OED, s.v. railipotent)

1596 SPENSER F.Q. I. i. 17 Which when the valiant Elfe perceiu'd. Ibid. I. v. 11 Goe, caytive Elfe. [OED]

1596 SPENSER F.Q. IV. v. 34 A wretched wearish elfe, With hollow eyes and rawbone cheekes forspent. (OED, s.v. wearish)

1596 SPENSER F.Q. IV. viii. 61 As by the flowrie marge On a fresh streame I with that Elfe did play. (OED, s.v. marge)

1596 SHAKES. 1 Hen. IV, II. iv. 270 Away..you Elfe-skin. [OED]

1596 LODGE Wits Miserie (Halliw.), Curl'd and full of elves-locks. [OED]

*1597-98, trial of Andro Man: Thow grantis the elphis will mak thee appeir to be in a fair calmer, and yit thow will find thy selff in a moss on the morne; and that thay will appeir to have candlis, and licht, and swordis, quhilk wilbe nothing els bot deed gress and strayes (cited by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan, Scottish Fairy Belief: A History (PhantassieXXXX, 2001), p. 46)
thay com to the Binhill, and Binlocht, quhair thay use commonlie to convene, and ... all thay quha convenis with thame kissis Christsonday and the Quene of Elphenis airss (cited by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan, Scottish Fairy Belief: A History (PhantassieXXXX, 2001), p. 133)

1598 in Misc. Spald. C. I. 121: 'thow affirmis that the elphis hes schapes and claythis lyk men ... bot ar starker nor men

1598 FLORIO, Fistolo, a hobgoblin, a hag, a sprite, a robin-goodfellow, a hodge-pocher. Ibid., Folletto,..a hobgoblin, a robin-goodfellowe, a hodgepoker, an elfe. (OED, s.v. hodge-poker)

1598 SYLVESTER Du Bartas II. i. III. 670 Foule-squinting Envie, that *selfe-eating Elfe. (OED, s.v. self-)
1598 SYLVESTER Du Bartas II. i. III. 250 Come *snake-trest Sisters, come ye dismall Elves. 1894 O. WILDE Sphinx 28 What snaketressed fury fresh from Hell. (OED, s.v. snake)

1598 E. GUILPIN Skial. (1878) 40, I applaud my selfe For *nettle-stinging thus this fayery elfe. (OED, s.v. nettle)

1598 SHAKES. Merry W. V. v. 45 Qui. Crier Hob-goblyn, make the Fairy Oyes. Pist. Elues, list your names: Silence you aiery toyes. (OED, s.v. oyez)
1598 SHAKES. Merry W. V. v. 46 Elues, list your names. (OED, s.v. list)

Corpora searched

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) s.v. elf [N.B. annoying re pre-gmc. cognates]; elven; auf [link hereto at elf, but leads nowhere. Word removed from dictionary?]; oaf, ouph, elf-shot, [nothing pre-1600]; elf-lock; quotations searched for elf, elfe(n), elves, checking also for a- forms.; Middle English Dictionary (MED) s.v. elf; elven; alf- (alf-wort); alv-; elv- (elvish, elf-thung), oaf-, ouph-, oav-; Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse (CME) (searching for all forms below and any other form theoretically possible on the basis of them) s.v. (h)ęlf(-), (h)ęlv(-), (h)ęlu(-), (h)ęlph(-), (h)ęlb(-), (h)ęlp(-), alf(-) [half(-) abandoned due to overlap with HALF], (h)alv(-), (h)alu(-), (h)alph(-), (h)alb(-), (h)alp(-), (h)elf(-), (h)elv(-), (h)elu(-), (h)elph(-), elp(-) [help(-) abandone due to overlap with HELP], (h)elb(-), (h)ylf(-), (-)ulf(-), (-)uilf(-), (-)uylf(-), (h)ylv(-), (h)ylu(-), (h)ylph(-), (h)ylb, (h)ylp, (h)vlf(-) [lower case search only of hits due to personal names], (h)vlv(-), (h)vlu(-), (h)vlph(-), (h)vlb, (h)vlp.

Variants (s.): ęlf, ylf, ?alf-, alve, alfe, elfe, elf, ęlfen, alven, elfen, elph, elphe, elffe ?aulf, ?auf, ?ouphe, ?owf, ?ouf, ?oph, ?oaph, elve, ulve, ulven, vlue, aluisc, haluis, aluis, elue, alf, aelfae, elphos, elvich, elvasche, elflyke, ?elphyne

(pl.): elves: ylfe, alven, elfes, ylves, elvis, elfs, elves; elven, elvene, alven, alfene, alvene, elvene, elvys, elphis, ?oafs, ?oaves

Compounds: Eluežunge, Elfyiuge, alfuurt, elflyke, Elfcake, elfe-skin, elf-locks, elves-locks, elf-arrow-heid, (?)vluekecche, Elfland, elfe lande, ?elf far(e)

home