Home Grammar The Grammarphobia Weblog: On ‘thrice’ and ‘trice’

The Grammarphobia Weblog: On ‘thrice’ and ‘trice’

The Grammarphobia Weblog: On ‘thrice’ and ‘trice’


Q: Are “thrice” and “trice” associated? In that case, “in a trice” is likely to be construed as “in triple time.”

A: No, they’re not associated. “Thrice” is an previous manner of claiming thrice, whereas the phrase “in a trice” means in a second or in a short time.

Though each usages are present in customary dictionaries, “thrice” is commonly labeled “old style,” “dated,” “primarily archaic,” and so forth.

 When “thrice” appeared in Center English (spelled “þriȝes,” “þriȝess,” and so on.), it was an adverb that means “thrice (in succession); on three successive events,” in keeping with the Oxford English Dictionary. The runic letter “þ” (a thorn) initially gave the impression of “th,” and the runic “ȝ” (a yogh) within the center gave the impression of “y.”

The OED says “þriȝes” is finally derived from þri or thrie, Previous English for 3, and its prehistoric ancestors, the Proto-Germanic þrijiz and the Proto-Indo-European treies.

The dictionary’s earliest “thrice” instance, which we’ve expanded, is from the Ormulum (circa 1175), a group of homilies written by an Augustinian monk recognized as Orm in a single a part of the manuscript and Ormin in one other:

“& ure Laferrd Jesu Crist / Badd hise bedess þriȝess” (“and because the Lord Jesus Christ bade, they prayed thrice”).

As for the “trice” of “in a trice,” it apparently started life within the late 14th century as a verb that means “to tug; to pluck, snatch, draw with a sudden motion.” The OED says Center English adopted the verb from the Center Dutch trîsen (to hoist).

The dictionary’s earliest quotation for the verb is from “The Monk’s Story” in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (circa 1386): “By god, out of his sete I wol hym trice” (By God, out of his throne I’ll snatch him [Nero]”).

Within the fifteenth century, “trice” got here to imply a pull or a tug within the expression “at a trice,” that means “at a single pluck or pull; therefore, immediately; immediately, forthwith; immediately.” Oxford says “trice” right here is outwardly a noun fashioned from the verb.

Though “at a trice” is now out of date, the same old model of the expression, “in a trice,” advanced from it within the seventeenth century. The primary OED quotation is from a ebook about Queen Elizabeth I:

“True it’s, he [Sir Walter Raleigh] had gotten the Queenes eare in a trice” (Fragmenta Regalia, or, Observations on the Late Queen Elizabeth, Her Instances and Favorits, 1641, by Sir Robert Naunton).

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