The King of Portugal and the ettins

Thomas Wright, Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English:

For they say the king of Portugal cannot sit at his meat, but the giants and the ettins will come and snatch it from him. (Beaumont and Fletcher, The knight of the burning pestle (1613))

I think that means that an ettin/eten/etayn is not, or is not quite, a giant, but Wright says that it is. I don’t know who said this about the poor King of Portugal, or why.

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  1. The OED supports him.

    [Old English eoten, eten = Old Norse iǫtunn (Swedish jätte, Danish jette) < Old Germanic *ituno-z.] A giant. c1275 (▸?a1200) Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 8622 Hit hatte þere Eotinde Ring. c1275 (▸?a1200) Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1963) l. 902 Heo funden i þon londe twenti eotandes [c1300 Otho eatantes] stronge. a1300 E.E. Psalter xviii. 6 [xix. 5] He gladed als yhoten to renne his wai. a1325 (▸c1250) Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 545 Of hem woren ðe getenes boren, Migti men and figti. c1325 Leg. Rood (1871) 118 Quen dauid faȝt againe þat etin has he noȝt his staf for-ȝetin. c1380 Eng. Wycliffite Serm. in Sel. Wks. II. 111 No man is an etene to fede him þus bodili of Crist. c1400 (▸?c1390) Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) l. 723 He werreȝ..Boþe wyth bulleȝ & bereȝ & boreȝ oþer-quyle, & etaynez [MS reads etayneȝ]. c1440 MS. Lincoln A. 1. 17. f. 128 (Halliw.) Fy, he said, thou foule! thou etayne! Alle my knyghtes thou garte be slayne. 1528 D. Lindsay Dreme Ep. to King 45 Off the reid Etin [v.r. Eitin] and the gyir carlyng. c1550 Complaynt Scotl. (1979) vi. 50 The taiyl of the reyde eyttyn vitht the thre heydis. 1613 F. Beaumont Knight of Burning Pestle i. sig. C2 They say the King of Portugall cannot sit at his meate, but the Giants & the Ettins will come and snatch it from him.

  2. So there’s no difference between a giant and an ettin? I kind of thought an ettin might be a stupid giant or something.

    (Are you paying for the OED? I think I’m about to get academicness, so I’ll be able to Ctrl-V with the best of them)

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