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kith and kin (kĭth ən kĭn)
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pl.n.
1. One's acquaintances and relatives.
2. One's relatives.

[Middle English kith, from Old English cȳth, kinsfolk, neighbors; see gnō- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Word History: Kith is obsolete except in the alliterative expression kith and kin, a phrase that dates from Middle English times and seems to have already become a cliché by the 1300s. The Middle English noun kith meant basically "familiar country, place that one knows" and also "kinsfolk, relations." It comes from the Old English noun cȳth, meaning "knowledge," "known, familiar country," and "acquaintances, friends." Cȳth in turn comes from the Germanic noun *kunthithō, 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, namely cunning, which first appeared in the 1300s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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