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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English dreem, possibly from Old English drēam (joy, pleasure, gladness, delight, mirth, rejoicing, rapture, ecstasy, frenzy, music, musical instrument, harmony, melody, song, singing, jubilation, sound of music), from Proto-Germanic *draumaz, *draugmaz (festivity, dream, ghost, hallucination, delusion, deception), from Proto-Germanic *draugaz (delusion, mirage, illusion), from Proto-Indo-European *dʰrAugʰ-, *dʰreugʰ- (to deceive, injure, damage); meaning influenced in Middle English by Old Norse draumr (dream), from same Proto-Germanic root. Cognate with Scots dreme (dream), North Frisian drom (dream), West Frisian dream (dream), Low German Droom, Dutch droom (dream), German Traum (dream), Danish drøm, Swedish dröm (dream), Icelandic draumur (dream). Related also to Old English drēag (spectre, apparition), Dutch bedrog (deception, deceit), German Trug (deception, illusion).

The derivation from Old English drēam is controversial, since the word itself is only attested in writing in its meaning of “joy, mirth, musical sound”. Possibly there was a separate word drēam meaning “images seen while sleeping”, which was avoided in literature due to potential confusion with “joy” sense, which would account for the common definition in the other Germanic languages, or the derivation may indeed simply be a strange progression from “mirth, joy, musical sound”.[1]

Attested words for “sleeping vision” in Old English were mǣting (Middle English mæte, mēte), from unclear source, and swefn (Modern English sweven), from Proto-Germanic *swefną, from Proto-Indo-European *swepno-, *swep-; compare Ancient Greek ὕπνος (hypnos, sleep).


dream (plural dreams)

  1. Imaginary events seen in the mind while sleeping.
    • Dryden
      Dreams are but interludes which fancy makes.
    • Byron
      I had a dream which was not all a dream.
  2. A hope or wish.
    • 2012 August 5, Nathan Rabin, “TV: Review: THE SIMPSONS (CLASSIC): “I Love Lisa” (season 4, episode 15; originally aired 02/11/1993)”:
      Ralph Wiggum is generally employed as a bottomless fount of glorious non sequiturs, but in “I Love Lisa” he stands in for every oblivious chump who ever deluded himself into thinking that with persistence, determination, and a pure heart he can win the girl of his dreams.
    • Martin Luther King
      I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!
  3. A visionary scheme; a wild conceit; an idle fancy.
    a dream of bliss; the dream of his youth
    • Alexander Pope
      There sober thought pursued the amusing theme, / Till Fancy coloured it and formed a dream.
    • J. C. Shairp
      It is not to them a mere dream, but a very real aim which they propose.
  • (events experienced whilst asleep): sweven (archaic)
Derived terms[edit]
See also[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English dremen, possibly (see above) from Old English drīeman (to make a joyous sound with voice or with instrument; rejoice; sing a song; play on an instrument), from Proto-Germanic *draumijaną, *draugmijaną (to be festive, dream, hallucinate), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *dʰrAugʰ-, *dʰreugʰ- (to deceive, injure, damage). Cognate with Scots dreme (to dream), West Frisian dreame (to dream), Dutch dromen (to dream), German träumen (to dream), Swedish drömma (to dream, muse), Icelandic dreyma (to dream).


dream (third-person singular simple present dreams, present participle dreaming, simple past and past participle dreamed or dreamt or drempt (dated))

  1. (intransitive) To see imaginary events in one's mind while sleeping.
  2. (intransitive) To hope, to wish.
  3. (intransitive) To daydream.
    Stop dreaming and get back to work.
  4. (transitive) To envision as an imaginary experience (usually when asleep).
    I dreamed a vivid dream last night.
    • Cowper
      And still they dream that they shall still succeed.
    • Dryden
      At length in sleep their bodies they compose, / And dreamt the future fight, and early rose.
  5. (intransitive) To consider the possibility (of).
    I wouldn't dream of snubbing you in public.
    • 1879, Richard Jefferies, chapter 1, The Amateur Poacher:
      But then I had the [massive] flintlock by me for protection. ¶ [] The linen-press and a chest on the top of it formed, however, a very good gun-carriage; and, thus mounted, aim could be taken out of the window […], and a 'bead' could be drawn upon Molly, the dairymaid, kissing the fogger behind the hedge, little dreaming that the deadly tube was levelled at them.
Derived terms[edit]
Usage notes[edit]
  • "Dreamt" is less common in both US and UK English in current usage, though somewhat more prevalent in the UK than in the US. "Drempt" is quite rare, possibly just eye-dialect.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


  1. ^ dream” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001)..

External links[edit]




From Middle Irish dremm (crowd, throng).


In Munster, this word is pronounced as if spelled dram.


dream m (genitive dreama, nominative plural dreamanna)

  1. crowd, group of people, party (group of people traveling or attending an event together, or participating in the same activity)
    • 1929, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, An tOileánach, chapter 4 “Scolaidheacht agus Fánaidheacht”, p. 48:
      Thug sé scilling do’n té ab’ fhearr is gach rang agus ar shíneadh na scillinge ’nár rang-ne ní h-aenne de’n dream mór do fuair í ach me féin.
      He gave a shilling to the best one in each class, and when he was giving out shillings in our class, there wasn't one in that big group who got one but me myself.



Irish mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
dream dhream ndream
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.


  1. ^ Myles Dillon and Donncha Ó Cróinín, Teach Yourself Irish, Hodder and Stoughton 1961, ISBN 0-340-27841-2, p. 224.
  2. ^ Diarmuid Ó Sé, Gaeilge Chorca Dhuibhne, Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann 2000, ISBN 0-946452-97-0, § 537.
  3. ^ T. S. Ó Máille, Liosta Focal as Ros Muc, Irish University Press 1974, p. 75.
  4. ^ Franz Nikolaus Finck, Die araner mundart, Elwert’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung 1899, vol. II, p. 87.
  5. ^ E. C. Quiggin, A Dialect of Donegal, Cambridge University Press 1906, § 4.

Old English[edit]



From Proto-Germanic *draumaz, whence also Old Frisian drām, Old Saxon drōm (joy, music, dream), Old High German troum, Old Norse draumr.


drēam m (nominative plural drēamas)

  1. joy, pleasure, ecstasy
    Ðær biþ drincendra dream se micla: there is the great joy of drinkers.
  2. music, song
    Iohannes gehyrde swylce bymena dream: John heard, as it were, the sound of trumpets.


West Frisian[edit]


From Old Frisian drām, from Proto-Germanic *draumaz. Compare North Frisian drom, English dream, Low German Droom, Dutch droom, German Traum, Danish drøm.


dream c (plural dreamen)

  1. dream, daydream