Dream Etymology

From Etymonline

dream (n.)

“sequence of sensations or images passing through the mind of a sleeping person,” mid-13c., probably related to Old Norse draumr, Danish drøm, Swedish dröm, Old Saxon drom “merriment, noise,” Old Frisian dram “dream,” Dutch droom, Old High German troum, German Traum “dream.” These all are perhaps from a Proto-Germanic *draugmas “deception, illusion, phantasm” (source also of Old Saxon bidriogan, Old High German triogan, German trügen “to deceive, delude,” Old Norse draugr “ghost, apparition”). Possible cognates outside Germanic are Sanskrit druh– “seek to harm, injure,” Avestan druz- “lie, deceive.”

Old English dream meant “joy, mirth, noisy merriment,” also “music.” Much study has failed to prove that Old English dream is the source of the modern word for “sleeping vision,” despite being identical in form. Perhaps the meaning of the word changed dramatically, or “vision” was an unrecorded secondary Old English meaning of dream, or there are two words here.

OED offers this theory for the absence of dream in the modern sense in the record of Old English: “It seems as if the presence of dream ‘joy, mirth, music,’ had caused dream ‘dream’ to be avoided, at least in literature, and swefn, lit. ‘sleep,’ to be substituted ….”

The dream that meant “joy, mirth, music” faded out of use after early Middle English. According to Middle English Compendium, the replacement of swefn (Middle English swevn) by dream in the sense “sleeping vision” occurs earliest and is most frequent in the East Midlands and the North of England, where Scandinavian influence was strongest.

Dream in the sense of “that which is presented to the mind by the imaginative faculty, though not in sleep” is from 1580s. The meaning “ideal or aspiration” is from 1931, from the earlier sense of “something of dream-like beauty or charm” (1888). The notion of “ideal” is behind dream girl (1850), etc.

Before it meant “sleeping vision” Old English swefn meant “sleep,” as did a great many Indo-European “dream” nouns originally, such as Lithuanian sapnas, Old Church Slavonic sunu, and the Romanic words (French songe, Spanish sueño, Italian sogno all from Latin somnium. All of these (including Old English swefn) are from PIE *swep-no-, which also is the source of Greek hypnos (from PIE root *swep- “to sleep”). Old English also had mæting in the “sleeping vision” sense.

dream (v.)

mid-13c., dremen, “to have a dream or dreams, be partly and confusedly aware of images and thoughts during sleep,” from dream (n.). Transitive sense of “see in a dream” is from c. 1300. Sense of “think about idly, vainly, or fancifully; give way to visionary expectation” is from late 14c. Related: Dreamed; dreaming. To dream up “picture (something) in one’s mind” is by 1941.

In the older sense of “sing, rejoice, play music,” it is from Old English drēman (Anglian); dryman (West Saxon), from the Old English noun. This was obsolete from c. 1300.


Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to sleep.”
It forms all or part of: hypno-; hypnosis; hypnotic; hypnotism; insomnia; somni-; somnambulate; somniloquy; somnolence; somnolent; Somnus; sopor; soporific.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit svapnah, Avestan kvafna-, Greek hypnos, Latin somnus, Lithuanian sapnas, Old Church Slavonic sunu, Old Irish suan, Welsh hun “sleep;” Latin sopor “a deep sleep;” Old English swefn, Old Norse svefn “a dream.”

dreamer (n.)

early 14c., “one who dreams,” agent noun from dream (v.). Meaning “idler, daydreamer” emerged by late 14c. Old English dreamere meant “musician.”

From Wiktionnaire



(XIIe siècle) De l’ancien français resver (« errer »), de re- et *esver (« errer ») → voir desver (« divaguer »), du gallo-romain *esvo (« vagabond »), du latin populaire *exvagus, composé de ex et de vagus (« errant »). Il avait le sens de « délirer, radoter » et a supplanté songer dans le sens de « faire des rêves en dormant ».

    Albanais : ëndërroj

    Allemand : träumen

    Anglais : dream

    Arabe : يحلم (ar) īḥlm

    Asturien : suañar

    Breton : hunvreal

    Catalan : somiar , somniar

    Chaoui : yurji

    Coréen : 꾸다  kkuda, 꿈꾸다  kkumkkuda

    Corse : sunnià

    Croate : sanjati

    Danois : drømme , håbe

    Espagnol : soñar

    Espéranto : sonĝi

    Féroïen : droyma

    Finnois : nähdä , unta

    Francoprovençal : songier , tabèyer

    Frison : dreame

    Gallois : breuddwydio

    Grec: ονειρεύομαι , onirévome

    Hébreu ancien : חלם (*) masculin

    Hongrois : álmodik

    Ido : sonjar

    Italien : sognare

    Japonais : 夢を見る , yume o miru

    Kazakh : түс көру , tüs körw

    Kotava : kloké

    Shimaoré : uhora

    Malais : mimpi , bermimpi

    Maya yucatèque : naay

    Néerlandais : dromen , zich wanen

    Normand : rêvaer

    Nǀu : ʘun ǃhâa’î

    Occitan : somiar , pantaissar

    Papiamento : soña

    Plodarisch : intramin

    Polonais : śnić

    Portugais : sonhar

    Roumain : vis

    Russe : видеть сон , videt’ son

    Same du Nord : niegadit

    Sindhi : خواب لهڻ

    Sranan : dren

    Suédois : drömma

    Tchèque : zdát se , snít

    Tourangeau : sungeair

    Vieux norrois : dreyma

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