kith and kin
) KEY pl.n.
- One's acquaintances and relatives.
- One's relatives.
Middle English kith
, from Old English cth
, kinsfolk, neighbors
; see gn-
in Indo-European rootsWORD HISTORY: Kith
is obsolete except in the alliterative phrase kith and kin,
which originally meant "native land and people" and first appeared about 1377 in Piers Plowman. Kith
comes from the Old English noun cth,
"knowledge; known, familiar country; acquaintances, friends." Cth
in turn comes from the Germanic noun *kunthith,
a derivative of *kunthaz,
"known." Germanic *kunthaz
was the past participle of a verb *kunnan,
"to know, know how," which became cunnan
in Old English. The first person singular of this verb, can,
is alive and well today, as is what was originally the verbal noun and adjective of cunnan,
first appearing in the 14th century. Germanic *kunthaz
itself survived in the Old English adjective cth,
"known, familiar," a word that became obsolete in southern English by 1600, but has survived in its negative, uncouth.
Modern English couth
is actually a jocular back-formation introduced by Max Beerbohm in 1896.