The etymology of ingot is not absolutely clear; Etymonline echoes the OED with its concise “probably from in- ‘in’ + O.E. goten, pp. of geotan ‘to pour.’” But it seems to be a native Germanic form, and the -t has always been pronounced… except that Spenser writes (The Faerie Queene 2.7.5):

And round about him lay on euery side
Great heapes of gold, that neuer could be spent:
Of which some were rude owre, not purifide
Of Mulcibers deuouring element;
Some others were new driuen, and distent
Into great Ingoes, and to wedges square…

Some editions have “Ingowes” rather than “Ingoes,” but only heavily modernized nineteenth-century versions have the modern spelling. Could it be that he was borrowing a French version? The French is lingot, with an initial article having melded into the word (itself borrowed into Spanish as lingote), but perhaps he got hold of the pre-melded form. Or maybe he just didn’t know how everyone else pronounced it.


  1. Reminds me of what Robert Browning rhymed with bat; clearly he, at least, knew neither the meaning nor the pronunciation.

  2. Could ‘lingot’ derive from a Frankish form that hadn’t undergone the t>ss shift? That would make it native Germanic and also a borrowing from French.

  3. mollymooly says:

    @John Cowan: the Northern English pronunciation is increasingly common in Southern England, at least in the sense “pillock, plonker”. Even the PM uses pronounces it thus; apparently he didn’t know the ruder meaning.

  4. Le Petit Robert suggests a possible development of an Old Occitan “langot” or some such, meaning “a small tongue” (and possibly already ingot as well) marking this as “p.ê.”.
    The “Einguß”-version is certainly tempting though. Could it be that the two words got entangled, contaminated, reinterpreted, resegmentated and so on?
    That would rid the French of the embarrassing ingrown article.

  5. /Twaet/ is, in my experience, universal.

  6. “/Twaet/ is, in my experience, universal.”
    Not in the US that I have ever heard. It would sound as strange as /waeter/.
    “Le Petit Robert suggests a possible development of an Old Occitan “langot” or some such, meaning “a small tongue” (and possibly already ingot as well)”
    That works for gold maybe, but that metaphor is just is not availbale for ingots of copper or iron.

  7. My own pronunciation is /twɑt/ (thus, NID3, AHD4, RHD2), which certainly reflects an older /twɒt/ (thus OED2 and NID3′s second alternative) by the LOT=PALM merger. I grant that this pronunciation may have been lost by Browning’s time; nevertheless, I’d guess that /twæt/ is a spelling pronunciation, which neither /twɑt/ nor /twɒt/ is likely to be. The OED records two instances of twot in the 19th century, surely a pronunciation spelling, as well as one instance, perplexingly, of twait in the 17th.

  8. And, oh yes, Margot Tennant correcting Jean Harlow on the pronunciation of the former’s first name: “The t is silent, as in Harlow.”

  9. CuConnacht says:

    The OED makes it clear that Browning learned the word twat from a 1660 anti-Catholic poem in which it rhymes with hat (“They talkt of his having a Cardinals hat; They’d send him as soon an old nun’s twat”). That’s where he got the idea that it was a kind of wimple, and that would have been the only knowledge he had of its pronunciation. I believe the editors corresponded with him about the use in Pippa Passes.

  10. Not in the US that I have ever heard.
    No, it’s a UK pronunciation, and apparently widespread there.

  11. 1660 would have been before short a was fronted to /æ/, and likewise before the vowel in wa- words was rounded to /ɒ/, so hat and twat would indeed have rhymed at that time.

  12. But the issue is not “What did Browning know and when did he know it?” but what English people of the 1840s, not necessarily limited to the audience for Browning’s poems, knew about the word. Had they truly forgotten it? Given the continuity of pronunciation, Americans never did.

  13. I’m Canadian and twat definitely rhymes with hat. I accept /twɑt/ but I can’t think who in particular says it. It’s not a very common word.
    I could swear I read something about ingot this week, but it’s in a thick, poorly-indexed and not entirely chronological book covering fifteen centuries. I think it was the same Occitan theory.

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