Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


traditional knowledge about nature and their culture that people get from their parents and other older people, not from books

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun lore was first recorded in English in the 10th century. It comes from the Old English ‘lár’ and is related to similar words in Dutch and German.


The earliest uses of the word lore had to do with teaching and learning, but these meanings are no longer used. The only current meaning is the one above. Lore is traditional knowledge that is acquired not through study but directly from other people, often older people. Such knowledge often relates to things such as the weather or nature and may or may not have some basis in fact. Today is Saint Swithin’s (or Swithun’s) day, the feast day of Swithun, an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester. More than 100 years after his death Swithun was adopted as the patron of the church at Winchester and on 15 July 971 his body was moved from its outdoor resting place to a shrine inside the church. Following this move, Swithun was credited with working several posthumous miracles and also became associated with a piece of weather lore. It is said that if it rains on St. Swithin’s day it will rain for 40 days. The saying may have some basis in meteorological fact since around the middle of July the jet stream tends to settle either to the north of the British Isles, or across or to the south of them. In the former case high pressure can move in, meaning that the weather tends to be good, while in the latter case weather from a northerly direction tends to prevail. The weather lore associating the weather on St. Swithin’s day with that of the remainder of the summer may therefore possibly be based on observation of this pattern by those who had no knowledge of the existence of the jet stream.


“All Theological lore is growing distasteful to me.”
(Wilfred Owen, Letter to his mother)

“Family lore says I was named after the song ‘Timothy’ by The Buoys, a lovely little ditty about three guys who get trapped in a cave-in and resort to cannibalism; they eat Timothy.”
(Tim Pratt)

Related words

knowhow, learning, wisdom

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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