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See also: Earnest



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English ernest, eornest, from Old English eornest, eornost, eornust ‎(earnestness, zeal, seriousness, battle), from Proto-Germanic *ernustuz ‎(earnest, strength, solidity, struggle, fight), a derivative of Proto-Germanic *arniz ‎(efficient, capable, diligent, sure), from Proto-Indo-European *er- ‎(to cause to move, arouse, increase). Cognate with West Frisian earnst ‎(earnest, seriousness), Dutch ernst ‎(seriousness, gravity, earnest), German Ernst ‎(seriousness, earnestness, zeal, vigour), Icelandic ern ‎(brisk, vigorous), Gothic 𐌰𐍂𐌽𐌹𐌱𐌰 ‎(arniba, secure, certain, sure).

The adjective is from Middle English eornest, from Old English eornoste ‎(earnest, zealous, serious), from the noun. Cognate with North Frisian ernste ‎(earnest), Middle Low German ernest, ernst ‎(serious, earnest), German ernst ‎(serious, earnest).


earnest ‎(uncountable)

  1. Gravity; serious purpose; earnestness.
    • Sir Philip Sidney
      Take heed that this jest do not one day turn to earnest.
    • Shakespeare
      given in earnest what I begged in jest
  2. Seriousness; reality; actuality (as opposed to jesting or feigned appearance); fixed determination; eagerness; intentness.
Derived terms[edit]


earnest ‎(third-person singular simple present earnests, present participle earnesting, simple past and past participle earnested)

  1. (transitive) To be serious with; use in earnest.
    • 1602, Pastor Fido:
      Let's prove among ourselves our armes in jest, That when we come to earnest them with men, We may them better use.


earnest ‎(comparative earnester or more earnest, superlative earnestest or most earnest)

  1. Serious in speech or action; eager; urgent; importunate; pressing; instant.
  2. Ardent in the pursuit of an object; eager to obtain or do; zealous with sincerity; with hearty endeavour; heartfelt; fervent; hearty; — used in a good sense; as, earnest prayers.
  3. Intent; fixed closely; as, earnest attention.
  4. Possessing or characterised by seriousness; strongly bent; intent.
    an earnest disposition
  5. Strenuous; diligent.
    earnest efforts
  6. Serious; weighty; of a serious, weighty, or important nature; not trifling or feigned; important.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Of uncertain origin; apparently related to erres. Compare also arles.


earnest ‎(plural earnests)

  1. A sum of money paid in advance as a deposit; hence, a pledge, a guarantee, an indication of something to come.
    • KJV, 2 Corinthians 5:5
      Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
    • 1990, Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, Folio Society 2010, p. 365:
      But if all this was viewed by Gladstone and the Cabinet as an earnest of St Petersburg's future good intentions in Central Asia, then disillusionment was soon to follow.

See also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

earn +‎ -est



  1. (archaic) second-person singular simple present form of earn