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See also: Twain, TWAIN, and twäin


Alternative forms[edit]


  • IPA(key): /tweɪn/, [tʰw̥eɪn]
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪn

Etymology 1[edit]

PIE word

From Middle English tweyne, tweien, twaine, from Old English twēġen m (two), from Proto-West Germanic *twai-, from Proto-Germanic *twai, from Proto-Indo-European *dwóh₁. Cognate with Saterland Frisian twäin, Low German twene, German zween, Swedish tvenne . More at two.

The word outlasted the breakdown of gender in Middle English and survived as a secondary form of two, then especially in the cases where the numeral follows a noun. Its continuation into modern times was aided by its use in KJV, the Marriage Service, in poetry (where it is commonly used as a rhyme word), and in oral use where it is necessary to be clear that two and not to or too is meant.



  1. (dated) two
    But the warm twilight round us twain will never rise again.
    Bring me these twain cups of wine and water, and let us drink from the one we feel more befitting of this day.
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act III, scene ii], page 176:
      Since I haue your good leaue to goe away,
      I will make haſt; but till I come againe,
      No bed ſhall ere be guilty of my ſtay,
      Nor reſt be interpoſer twixt vs twaine.
    • 1866, Algernon Swinburne, Before Parting, lines 1-2
      A month or twain to live on honeycomb
      Is pleasant;
    • 1889, Rudyard Kipling, The Ballad of East and West, line 1
      Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
    • 1897, Corelli, Marie, “Chapter I”, in Ziska: The Problem of a Wicked Soul, New York: Stone & Kimball, page 25:
      And whenever Sir Chetwynd spoke of his "young girls" he was moved to irreverent smiling, as he knew the youngest of the twain was at least thirty.
    • 1900, Ernest Dowson, Amor Profanus, lines 26-28
      [] all too soon we twain shall tread
      The bitter pastures of the dead:
      Estranged, sad spectres of the night.
Derived terms[edit]
  • Mark Twain: pen name of the author Samuel Langhorne Clemens. "Mark twain!" was called out by a steamship hand when the sounding depth was 2 fathoms, or 12 feet. This was the shallowest water in which most steamships could operate at full power.


twain (not comparable)

  1. (rare) twofold


twain (plural twains)

  1. pair, couple

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English twaynen, from twayne (two, numeral) (see Etymology 1 above).


twain (third-person singular simple present twains, present participle twaining, simple past and past participle twained)

  1. (transitive) To part in twain; divide; sunder.
See also[edit]