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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.
  2. Seriousness; reality; actuality (as opposed to joking or pretence)
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, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      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. (said of an action or an utterance) Serious, sincere, ingenuous.
  2. (with a positive sense) Focused in the pursuit of an objective; honestly eager to obtain or do.
    earnest prayers
  3. Intent; focused; showing a lot of concentration.
    earnest attention
  4. (said of a person or a person's character) Possessing or characterised by seriousness.
    an earnest disposition
  5. Strenuous; diligent.
    earnest efforts
  6. Serious; weighty; of a serious, weighty, or important nature; important.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Uncertain; 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.

See also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

earn +‎ -est



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