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Origin of twain

before 900; Middle English twayn orig., nominative and accusative masculine, Old English twēgen (cf. two); cognate with obsolete German zween
Can be confusedtwain twin twine


  1. Mark, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for twain


determiner, noun
  1. an archaic word for two

Word Origin for twain

Old English twēgen; related to Old Saxon twēne, Old High German zwēne, Old Norse tveir, Gothic twai


  1. Mark, pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens . 1835–1910, US novelist and humorist, famous for his classics The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)
  2. Shania (ʃəˈnaɪə), real name Eilleen Regina Edwards. born 1965, Canadian country-rock singer; her bestselling recordings include The Woman In Me (1995) Come On Over (1997), and UP! (2002)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for twain

Old English twegen (masc.) "two" (masc. nominative and accusative), from Proto-Germanic *twa- (see two). The word outlasted the breakdown of gender in Middle English and survived as a secondary form of two, especially in cases where the numeral follows a noun. Its continuation into modern times was aided by its use in KJV and the Marriage Service, in poetry (where it is a useful rhyme word), and in oral use where it is necessary to be clear that two and not to or too is meant.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper