The word “dream” (noun) has undergone considerable change in its meaning since the Old English (OE) period. According to The Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon written by Henry Sweet, the word drēam has been used in many different meanings. First, the dream was used as “even-song” (Sweet 3) and “joy, bliss, mirth, revelry” (Sweet 43). In Middle English (ME), the word dream, which was written as drēm or dræm, indicated
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- sound of a bell or trumpet,
- joy, mirth,
Another usage of drēm that evolved in the ME was its new meaning as a vision experienced in sleep or a prophetic dream. This new form of drēm was derived from Scandinavian.
The modern-day meaning of dream has altered considerably from OE to ME. According to the data given in the Google Ngram Viewer, the usage of the word dream has increased significantly from 1500 through 2000. The increase in the use of the word may be attributable to the change in the socio-cultural construct of society.
The change in the phonological structure of the word is evident as the word’s spelling changed from dream (in OE) to drēm or dræm (in ME) to dream (in ME). There has been a shift in the spelling, which included “ē” to “æ” and then to “ea,” indicating the Great Vowel Shift in the English language. The morphological change in the word relates to the difference in the word’s structure and depletion of a story. The OE usage of the word dream has also become obsolete where it was used as a sound, or joy, or sound of the pipe. Hence, there has been a distinct change in the usage of the word dream from OE to ME.
Sweet, Henry. The Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon. London: Oxford University Press, 1897. Print.