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From Middle English withseien, from Old English wiþsecgan (to speak against; to denounce, renounce, or deny), corresponding to with- +‎ say. Cognate with German widersagen (to renounce).


withsay (third-person singular simple present withsays, present participle withsaying, simple past and past participle withsaid)

  1. (transitive) To speak against someone or something, that is:
    1. (rare) To renounce, to give up
    2. To contradict or deny
      • c. 1225, Ancrene Riwle (Cleopatra C vi), 68
        Ȝef an mon...deð swa muche mis. þet hit beo se open sunne. þet he hit ne maȝe nanesweis allunge wið seggen.
      • c. 1445 in WP Baildon, Select cases in Chancery, A.D. 1364 to 1471 (1896), 136
        He withseieth not the matier conteigned in the seid bille of complainte.
      • 1530, J. Palsgrave, Lesclarcissement, 783/2
        Sythe I have sayd it, I wyll never withsay it.
    3. To gainsay, to oppose in speech (and by extension writing)
      • c. 1200, Trinity College Homilies, 139
        Bi þo daȝes luuede herodes...his broðer wif, and binam hire him, and Seint Iohan hit wið seide.
      1922, James Joyce, Ulysses
      Let the lewd with faith and fervour worship. With will will we withstand, withsay.
    4. To forbid, to refuse to allow, give, or permit
      • c. 1450, Merlin (1899), XIV 204
        I will in no wise with-sey that ye requere.
      • c. 1530, St. German's Dyaloge Doctoure & Student, VI f xiii
        I wyll not withsaye thy desyre.
    5. To decline, to refuse to do or accept
      • c. 1225, Ancrene Riwle (Cleopatra C vi), 175
        Þeo...wið seggeð þe grant þer of wið an wille heorte.
      • 1402, T. Hoccleve, Letters of Cupid, 108
        She...So lyberal ys, she wol no wyght with-sey.
      • 1485, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, XIII
        ‘Sir,’ he seyde, ‘I myght nat withsey myne unclis wyll.’
      • c. 1670, ordinance in Collection of Ordinances of the Royal Household · 1327–1694 (1790), 372
        This is in noe wise to bee withsaid, for it is the King's honour.
      2000, James Farl Powers, Morte D'Urban
      He was mild to good men of God and stark beyond all bounds to those who withsaid his will.

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