I’ve been reading about the recent flooding in Somerset, and came across this:-
Floodwater is removed from many of the moors of the Somerset Levels by pumping stations […]. Consideration was given to replacing Dunball clyse with a pumping station in 2002…
This word doesn’t appear in any online dictionary I can find[…]
It was well answered by Janus Bahs Jacquet:
According to the OED definition, it is a local/regional word that means the same as clow. There is only one attestation quoted, from Somerset:
1882 Spectator 6 May 595. In the Reports of the Somerset Drainage Commissioners, the sluices and locks under their jurisdiction are called ‘Clyses’.
Obviously, clow is not exactly a common word, either, but it does seem to be more common than clyse, with about thirty or forty attestations […]
So a clyse would appear to be just a regional Somerset word for a sluice, basically.
It seems that clow is a false singular, based on an earlier form clowes/clowis. This was originally a singular itself (from Old English clūse, meaning ‘enclosure’, and related to ‘close’, both from the nominalised Latin passive participle clausa ‘closed’, from the verb claudō ‘to close’), but was reinterpreted as clow + plural –es around the 15th or 16th century.
Clyse is less certain: it appears to be from French écluse (same word as the Old English cluse), or perhaps it just represents a dialectical nonce rounding of the u in the Old English, yielding regional *clȳse as a variant of clūse.
Nice work! I love those obscure regional words, and it’s nice to see people getting knowledgeable answers to such questions. (Thanks for the link, Paul!)