schon - yet, already

schön - well, nice, pretty, beautiful

Wiktionary has schon from an old German word equivalent to modern schön. I think this is typologically unlikely, though of course my sample base is too small to be sure. I only see pretty early, reflecting the fact that pretty didn't always mean what it primarily denotes today.

Specifically, I rather want to compare it to soon, which matches idiomatically "ich werde das schon-/-noch machen" (which is difficult to translate, circa in due time), though the semantic burden could appear to rest on noch "still"[1], depending on which part of the collocation is elided; it's chiefly schon in "wir werden das kind schon schaukeln" (we will well drive the point home)

[1]: noch is also difficult to translate and etymologically without compare; probably from *h2nek- "to reach, attain", cp. enough, genug, also next, nachher "after this'ere"), where DWDS.de sees an influence of *ne, too.

Perhaps an influence of schön could be seen in schon gemacht "already did", which carries a connotation of affirmation, cp. schön gemacht "well done". schön instead appears akin to show (think, nice view).

Whether schon could be a palatilizing dialectal variant of MHG san, son (no gloss, but cog. with soon, possibly from deictic *so/to-, or perhaps *swe-) and vice versa schön related to Fr. jeune is not in question, only the typology schön > schon.

Note of caution: If it's not likely, that might simply mean that typology is not good meassure in this case, which might mean that the development were overall too complicated to be frequent, to be found out easily.

  • 1
    What exactly is your doubt about the proposed origin? Kluge derives it, without any hesitations, from an adverb form of schön, and describes it as (initially) modifying words like bereit, fertig. Not to say that that is the ultimate source of truth, but I see not reason to call it unlikely. May 15 '20 at 7:26
  • 1
    Maybe you find something useful here. May 15 '20 at 7:26

The adjective schön goes back to Old High German scōni (the umlaut in the first syllable is caused by the /i/ in the second). The adverb schon is from OHG scōno (without umlaut). So it is not really the case that one is derived from the other. Rather they have a common source.

For the semantic compare Pfeifer:

schon Adv. ‘bereits, früher als angenommen’ geht aus dem umlautlosen Adverb des unter ↗schön (s. d.) behandelten Adjektivs ahd. scōno (9. Jh.), mhd. mnd. schōn(e) hervor (germ. *skaunō). Dessen Bedeutung ‘auf feine, schöne Weise’ geht im 13. Jh. in ‘auf geziemende, gehörige, richtige Weise (an der nichts mangelt)’ und von daher in ‘vollständig, ganz und gar’ über. Verwendungen wie mhd. eʒ ist alleʒ schōne (‘ganz und gar’) bereit können temporal aufgefaßt werden, so daß schōne die Bedeutung ‘bereits’ erhält. Nach dieser semantischen Trennung vom Adjektiv schön entwickelt dieses auch adverbielle Funktion. (Eine ähnliche Entwicklung zeigt sich bei ↗fast und ↗fest, s. d.).


  • I wrote: "Whether schon could be a palatilizing dialectal variant of MHG san, son ... and vice versa schön related to Fr. jeune is not in question, ". This should imply likewise that the derivation from schön, or scon- as it were, is not in question. It's relevant perhaps, if the sense from that root is different than I implied, and typologicly likely--which is barely implied in this answer by not expressing any doubt. In my view, Pfeifer could be falling for a true homonym though, or missing an important influence
    – vectory
    May 15 '20 at 22:18

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