Wiktionary's entry for "seldom" contains the following etymology:

From late Middle English seldom, alteration of earlier selden, from Old English seldan (“seldom”), from Proto- Germanic *seldana. Cognate with Saterland Frisian säilden (“seldom”), West Frisian selden, komselden (“rare, seldom”), Dutch zelden, German selten, Danish sjælden, Norwegian sjelden, Swedish sällan, Faroese sjáldan, Icelandic sjaldan.

The expected form should be "seldon", shouldn't it? I mean, its cognates, as well as its etymon, end with an alveolar nasal. I came up with a few guesses, but the main one is:

• it was a case of "normalizing", associating with words like "kingdom" (ther isn't a lot of words in english that end with "on")

Is it right? If not, how did it happen? Are there any other examples?

1 Answer 1


You are right, it's all about analogy, but not with words like "kingdom".

If you are looking for etymology of an English word, the best resource to start your research with is Online Etymology Dictionary aka Etymonline which gives a more detailed account of the etymology of English words than Wiktionary does.

As for seldom, Etymonline has it like this:

Form shifted on analogy of adverbial dative plurals in -um (such as whilom "at one time," from while). The same development also created litlum from little, miclum from mickle. German seltsam "strange, odd," Dutch zeldzaam are related, but with the second element conformed to their versions of -some.

  • 1
    That's perfect! Thank you! Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 21:45
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    As always, Etymonline is plagiarized from the OED (Oxford English Dictionary).
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 22:52
  • @fdb - Don't you agree that having English etymologies online for free is better than paying 90 USD a year to read the same in the OED?
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 9:34
  • @YellowSky presumably you torrent all your films and music then? The OED ultimately costs money to research, maintain, and collate. It would be lovely if it were available for free but ultimately the money would have to come from somewhere.
    – Muzer
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 11:19
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    @fdb Etymonline lists their sources - it appears to contain about 80 references to a variety of texts, including the 2nd edition OED (1989) as one of its 24 primary sources, but certainly not to the exclusion of others. Why do you believe it has plagiarized content?
    – J...
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 13:56

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