discover, v.

Forms:  α. ME– discover; also ME deschuver, discoovir, ME dys-, ME–16 discouer, ME -cuuer, -couyr, -couuer. β. ME diskyuer, ME diskeuer, dyskeuer. γ. ME descure, ME–15 discour(e, -cure, ME -cuyre, ME–15 -kure, 15 -cuir. δ. ME–15 dis-, dyskere.

Etymology:  < Old French descovrir, descouvrir = Provençal descobrir, Spanish descubrir, Italian discovrire (later -coprire), < medieval Latin discooperīre, late Latin or Romanic < dis- prefix 1d + Latin cooperīre to cover v.1 The Old French stressed form descuevre, -queuvre, gave the English variant, diskever (still dial.), and the vocalizing of v between vowels, gave the reduced discour, -cure, and diskere. 

†1. trans. To remove the covering (clothing, roof, lid, etc.) from (anything); to bare, uncover; esp. to uncover (the head), to unroof (a building). Obs.

1382    Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) Lev. xxi. 10   His heed he shal not discouer, his clothis he shal not kitt.

14..    Lydgate Temple Glas 916   Who þat wil‥Fulli be cured‥He most‥Discure his wound, & shew it to his lech.

c1449    R. Pecock Repressor (1860) 206   The principal crucifix of the chirche schal be discovered and schewid baar and nakid to al the peple of the processioun.

1483    Caxton tr. J. de Voragine Golden Legende 362/2   She‥said to her sustres that they sholde discouere their hedes.

1520    R. Whittinton Uulgaria (1527) 40   Let hym also‥set his cuppe surely before his superyour, discouer it and couer it agayne with curtesy made.

1571    E. Grindal Articles 50   Whether any man hath pulled downe or discouered any Church, chauncell, or chappell.

1627    Lisander & Cal. v. 80   At the end of his sermon having discovered his head.

1628    E. Coke 1st Pt. Inst. Lawes Eng. i. 53   If the house be discouered by tempest, the tenant must in conuenient time repaire it. 

†2. To remove, withdraw (anything serving as a cover); to cause to cease to be a covering. Obs.

1535    W. Stewart tr. H. Boethius Bk. Cron. Scotl. II. 139   At the last the cloud ane lytill we Discouerit wes, that tha micht better se.

1611    Bible (A.V.) Jer. xiii. 22   For the greatnesse of thine iniquitie are thy skirts discouered.

1618    G. Chapman tr. Hesiod Georgicks i. 161   When the woman the unwieldy lid Had once discover’d, all the miseries hid‥dispersed and flew About the world.

 3. a. To disclose or expose to view (anything covered up, hidden, or previously unseen), to reveal, show. Now rare.

a1450  (1410)    H. Lovelich Hist. Holy Grail lv. l. 175   Thanne browhte Aleyn this holy vessel Anon‥& there it discouerede & schewed it þe kyng.

1535    Bible (Coverdale) Isa. xxvi. C,   He wil discouer the bloude that she hath deuoured.

1613    Voy. Guiana in Harl. Misc. (Malh.) III. 182   A goodly river, discovering a gallant Country.

1661    E. Hickeringill Jamaica 39   Columbus, to whose happy search, the West-Indies first discovered it self.

1689    E. Hickeringill Speech Without-doors v. 35   Which Wrinckles I had rather Masque over and cover, than discover.

1716    Lady M. W. Montagu Let. 14 Sept. (1965) I. 263   The Stage was built over a‥Canal, and at the beginning of the 2nd Act divided into 2 parts, discovering the Water.

1797    A. Radcliffe Italian III. xi. 385   This discovered to Schedoni the various figures assembled in his dusky chamber.

a1861    A. H. Clough Poems & Prose Rem. (1869) II. 468   She‥Swift her divine shoulders discovering.

1882    R. L. Stevenson New Arabian Nights I. 183   The nurseryman‥readily discovered his hoard.


1892    N. Smyth Christian Ethics i. iii. 188   This mode of thinking discovers a cosmical moral significance in the incarnation.

†b. To afford a view of, to show. Obs.

1600    E. Blount tr. G. F. di Conestaggio Hist. Uniting Portugall to Castill 212   Upon the hils, which discover the enimies lodging and their trenches.

1638    T. Herbert Some Yeares Trav. (rev. ed.) 73   ‘Tis wall’d about, and to the N.N.W. discovers a lake or fish-pond five miles over.

1667    Milton Paradise Lost i. 64   From those flames No light, but rather darkness visible Serv’d only to discover sights of woe.

c1710    C. Fiennes Diary (1888) 112   An advanced piece of ground above all the rest‥discovers the Country a great Circuit round.

 c. to discover check (Chess): to remove a piece or pawn which stands between a checking piece and the king, and so to put the latter in check.

[1614    A. Saul Famous Game Chesse-play viii. sig. C3,   A Mate by discouery, the most worthiest of all.]

1816    Stratagems of Chess (1817) 11   Place the queen, bishop or castle behind a pawn or a piece in such a manner as upon playing that pawn or piece you discover a check upon your adversary’s king.

1847    H. Staunton Chess-player’s Handbk. 20   When the King is directly attacked by the Piece played, it is a simple check; but when the Piece moved does not itself give check, but unmasks another which does, it is called a discovered check.

1847    H. Staunton Chess-player’s Handbk. 28   A striking though simple instance of the power of a discovered check.

1847    H. Staunton Chess-player’s Handbk. 29   White must play his Rook to K.Kt.’s sixth square, discovering check with the Bishop.

1870    F. Hardy & J. R. Ware Mod. Hoyle , Chess 42   Double Check is when check is discovered‥the King being also attacked by the piece moved.

 4. To divulge, reveal, disclose to knowledge (anything secret or unknown); to make known. arch.

 a. With simple obj.

a1300    Cursor M. 28293 (Cott.) ,   Priuetis o fremyd and frende I haue discouerd als vn-hende.

a1375    William of Palerne l. 3192   Þis dede schal i neuer deschuuer.

c1386    Chaucer Canon’s Yeoman’s Prol. & Tale 143   Thou sclaundrest me‥And eek discouerest that thou sholdest hyde.

c1470    J. Hardyng Chron. ii. i,   The youngest suster the mater all discured To her husbande.

?c1475    Sqr. lowe Degre 868   Anone he made hym swere His counsayl he should never diskere.

1597    Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet iii. i. 142   Ah Noble Prince I can discouer all The most vnlucky mannage of this brawle.

1662    J. Davies tr. J. A. de Mandelslo Trav. 5   They contain some secrets which Time will discover.

1712    W. Rogers Cruising Voy. 9   [I] now thought it fit to discover to our Crew whither we were bound.

1751    Johnson Rambler No. 97. ⁋14   He honestly discovers the state of his fortune.

b. With subord. clause.

1600    Shakespeare Much Ado about Nothing i. ii. 10   The prince discouered to Claudio that he loued my niece your daughter.

1845    J. H. Newman Lett. & Corr. (1891) II. 460   Continually do I pray that He would discover to me if I am under a delusion.

†c. absol. Obs.

14..    Lydgate Temple Glas 629   Lich him þat‥knoweþ not, to whom forto discure.

1659    T. Burton Diary (1828) IV. 302   All means were used to make him discover, but he‥would not confess.

†5. To reconnoitre. Also absol. Obs.

1487  (1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (St. John’s Cambr.) xiv. 268   Furth till discouir, thair way thai ta.

1553    G. Douglas tr. Virgil Eneados ix. iii. 196   Of the nycht wach the cure We geif Mesapus, the ȝettis to discure.

1572    Taill of Rauf Coilȝear (1882) 798   Derfly ouir Daillis, discouerand the doun, Gif ony douchtie that day for Iornayis was dicht.

1592    H. Unton Corr. (1847) 330   The king this day goeth to the warr to discover.

1600    E. Blount tr. G. F. di Conestaggio Hist. Uniting Portugall to Castill 211   He issued foorth‥with his whole army, onely with an intent to discover.

 6. To reveal the identity of (a person); hence, to betray. arch.

c1320    Sir Beues 74   Maseger, do me surte, þat þow nelt nouȝt discure me To no wiȝt!

c1386    Chaucer Merchant’s Tale 698   Mercy, and that ye nat discouere me.

1465    J. Daubeney in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) II. 350   A told me‥in noo wyse þat ye dyskure not Master Stevyn.

1599    Warning for Faire Women ii. 524   Whither shal I fly? The very bushes wil dis-cover me.

1632    J. Hayward tr. G. F. Biondi Eromena 71   When hee asked who hee was, the Marquesse durst not discover him (so strictly was he tied by promise to conceale him).

1726    W. R. Chetwood Voy. Capt. Boyle 264   She at last discover’d herself to me: She was Daughter-in-Law to [etc.].

1865    C. Kingsley Hereward xix,   He was on the point of discovering himself to them.

†7. a. To manifest, exhibit, display (an attribute, quality, feeling, etc.). Obs.

c1430    Pilgr. Lyf Manhode (1869) i. cxxv. 66   It is michel more woorth‥þan to diskeuere his iustice, and to say, bihold mi swerde whiche i haue vnshethed you.

1576    A. Fleming tr. Erasmus in Panoplie Epist. 338   M. Clemens, to whome S. T. Moore hathe discovered a fewe sparckles of his benevolence towardes mee.

1589    R. Greene Menaphon sig. C3v,   I haue not‥store of plate to discouer anie wealth.

1615    J. Stephens Satyr. Ess. 213   He will enter into a Taverne‥onely to discover his gold lace and scarlet.

1682    J. Bunyan Holy War 171   With what agility‥did these military-men discover their skill in feats of War.

1771    J. Reynolds Disc. Royal Acad. iv. (1876) 347   He takes as much pains to discover, as the greater artist does to conceal, the marks of his subordinate assiduity.

 b. esp. To manifest by action; to display (unconsciously or unintentionally); to exhibit, betray, allow to be seen or perceived. arch.

c1460    La Belle Dame 403 in Pol. Rel. & L. Poems (1866) 65   If youre grace to me be Discouerte, Thanne be your meane soon shulde I be relevyd.

1556    tr. J. de Flores Histoire de Aurelio & Isabelle sig. K4,   Then yowre regard discouerethe‥the desire of yowre harte.

1600    E. Blount tr. G. F. di Conestaggio Hist. Uniting Portugall to Castill 117   The more he mounted, the more he discovered his incapacitie.

1658    Sir T. Browne Hydriotaphia iii. 49   The remaining bones discovered his proportion.

1739    C. Labelye Short Acct. Piers Westm. Bridge 59   The Timber‥discover’d a strong Smell of Turpentine upon the first Stroke of a Plane.

a1856    W. Hamilton Lect. Metaphysics (1859) I. xviii. 341   She had never discovered a talent for poetry or music.

1887    Times 27 Aug. 11/3   He was bitten by a pet fox which subsequently discovered symptoms of rabies.

 c. With subord. clause.

a1599    Spenser View State Ireland in J. Ware Two Hist. Ireland (1633) 50   The which name doth discover them also to be auncient English.

1623    J. Mead Let. 1 Mar. in H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eng. Hist. (1824) 1st Ser. III. 126   How could that discover they were for Spaine?

1713    Pope in Guardian 16 Mar. 1/2   A lofty Gentleman whose Air and Gait discovered when he had published a new Book.

1802–3    F. W. Blagdon in tr. P. S. Pallas Trav. Southern Provinces Russ. Empire (1812) I. 425   All the Nagais still discover by their features, that they are of Mongolian origin.

1856    R. W. Emerson Eng. Traits i. 22   Rousseau’s Confessions had discovered to him [sc. Carlyle] that he was not a dunce.

 8. To obtain sight or knowledge of (something previously unknown) for the first time; to come to the knowledge of; to find out.

 a. With simple obj.

1555    R. Eden tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde i. i. f. 2,   Colonus‥in this fyrst nauigation‥discouered .vj. Ilandes.

1585    T. Washington tr. N. de Nicolay Nauigations Turkie i. v. 4   Wee discovered at the Seas two Foystes which came even towardes the place where we were.

1670    E. Maynwaring Pharmacopœian Physician’s Repos. 90   This alkalisate property was first discovered by preparation and tryals.

1783    H. Blair Lect. Rhetoric x. (Seager),   We invent things that are new; we discover what was before hidden. Galileo invented the telescope; Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood.

1840    Penny Cycl. XVI. 176   Banks’s Islands‥were discovered by Captain Bligh in 1789.

1860    J. Tyndall Glaciers of Alps ii. xvii. 317   The sounds continued without our being able to discover their source.

 b. With subord. clause or inf. phr.

1556    tr. J. de Flores Histoire de Aurelio & Isabelle sig. B8,   Your loue shal be discouered to be false.

1676    Lister in Ray’s Corr. (1848) 125,   I am glad you have discovered those authors to be plagiaries.

1726    Swift Gulliver I. ii. viii. 153   He sent out his Long-boat to discover what I was.

1868    J. N. Lockyer Elem. Lessons Astron. vi. 228   Dr. Wollaston in‥1802 discovered that there were dark lines crossing the spectrum in different places.

1892    Sir H. E. Lopes in Law Times’ Rep. LXVII. 150/2   The defendant Burton says he discovered that he had made a mistake.

 c. To catch sight of; to sight, descry, espy. arch.

1576–90    Bible (Tomson) Acts xxi. 3   And when we had discouered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand.

1585    T. Washington tr. N. de Nicolay Nauigations Turkie i. xi. 13   In the evening we discovered the citie of Gigeri.

1660    F. Brooke tr. V. Le Blanc World Surveyed 23   From the top of the hill you discover Aden, standing in a large plain.

1726    W. R. Chetwood Voy. Capt. Boyle 373   November 3, we discover’d England, whose Chalky Cliffs gave us all a vast Delight.

1817    Shelley Laon & Cythna vii. xl. 176   Day was almost over, When thro’ the fading light I could discover A ship approaching.

 d. spec. To bring to public notice, make famous or fashionable.

1908    Busy Man’s Mag. Sept. 114/2   It is interesting just here to note that while editor of the Westminster, Mr. Macdonald ‘discovered’ Ralph Connor (Rev. Dr. Gordon), the celebrated Canadian novelist.

1926    M. Baring Daphne Adeane i. 3   She was merged in the ranks of the unnoticed, till she was suddenly ‘discovered’.

1932    Times Lit. Suppl. 8 Sept. 625/3   In a very short time she had producers‥vying with each other for the honour of ‘discovering’ her.

1963    J. Fleming Death of Sardine iii. 41   One day, when Trigoso Praia, or Plage, was ‘discovered’ the road might be an important promenade.

†9. To bring into fuller knowledge; to explore (a country, district, etc.). Obs.

1582    N. Lichefield tr. F. L. de Castanheda 1st Bk. Hist. Discouerie E. Indias lxxv. 154   In commission to go & discouer the red Sea with the Countreyes adiacent.

1670    J. Narborough Jrnl. in Acct. Several Late Voy. (1711) i. 43,   I sent in my Boat to discover the Harbour, and see if the Pink was there.

1751    S. Whatley England’s Gazetteer at Tingmouth-West,   The Danes landed here in 970, to discover the country previous to their invasion of it.

1850    W. H. Prescott Hist. Conquest Peru II. 192   He was empowered to discover and occupy the country for the distance of two hundred leagues.


 a. intr. To make discoveries, to explore. Obs.

1582    N. Lichefield tr. F. L. de Castanheda 1st Bk. Hist. Discouerie E. Indias iv. 10 b,   Vpon Christmas daye, they had discouered along the Coast, three score and tenne leagues to the Eastward.

1685    N. Crouch Eng. Empire in Amer. ii. 39   Capt. Henry Hudson in 1607 discovered farther North toward the Pole than perhaps any before him.

1821    R. Southey Exped. Orsua 129   We set out from Peru for the river Maranham, to discover and settle there.

†b. To have or obtain a view: to look; to see.

1588    T. Hickock tr. C. Federici Voy. & Trauaile f. 27v,   Standing at the one gate, you may discouer to the other.

1647    J. Saltmarsh Sparkles of Glory (1847) 141   They that have discovered up into free~grace or the mystery of salvation.

1653    H. Holcroft tr. Procopius Hist. Wars i. 20   From a hil discovering round, they saw a dust, and soon after a great troop of Vandals.

1667    G. Digby Elvira ii. 27   There’s no body in the street, it is so light One may discover a mile.

1711    Pope Ess. Crit. 37   He steer’d securely, and discover’d far, Led by the Light of the Mæonian Star.

†11. trans. and intr. To distinguish, discern. Obs.

1620    Horæ Subsecivæ 453   This kind of Flatterie‥is so closely intermixed with friendship, that it can hardly be discouered from it.

1652    W. Brough Sacred Princ. (ed. 2) 447   Discover better betwixt the Spirit of God, and the World.

1663    Marquis of Worcester Cent. Names & Scantlings Inventions vi,   Far as Eye can discover black from white.

1796    E. Parsons Myst. Warning III. 59   A semblance of honour I had not the penetration to discover from a reality.


  diˈscovering n. and adj.

a1375    William of Palerne l. 1044,   I drede me of descuuering, for ȝe haue dwelled long.

1477    Caxton tr. R. Le Fèvre Hist. Jason (1913) 49   The mouth whiche is instrument of the dischargyng and discouering of hertes.

1489  (1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (Adv.) i. 242   Thus contrar thingis euir-mar, Discoweryngis off ye toyer ar.

1555    R. Eden tr. Peter Martyr of Angleria Decades of Newe Worlde f. 311v,   The fyrste discouerynge of the Weste Indies.

1583    A. Golding tr. J. Calvin Serm. on Deut. lviii. 349   To the end they might not vse any odde shiftes to keepe their naughtinesse from discouering.

a1631    Donne in Cornhill Mag. May (1865) 618   All will spy in thy face A blushing, womanly, discovering grace.

1663    B. Gerbier Counsel to Builders 19   The middle Transome would be opposite to a mans eye, hindersome to the free discovering of the Countrey.

1668    Earl of Clarendon Contempl. Psalms in Tracts (1727) 668   Who love such discovering words [etc.].

1723    J. Woodward Ess. Nat. Hist. Earth (ed. 3) 244   Rivers and Rains also, are instrumental to the Discovering of Amber.

Additions series 1993-7

 d. Theatr. pass. or pa. pple. Of a person: to be disclosed on stage in a particular position or state as the curtain rises. (Usu. in stage directions.)

1716 [see sense 3a].

1780    R. B. Sheridan School for Scandal i. i. 1   Lady Sneerwell and Snake discovered at a tea-table.

c1852    D. Boucicault Corsican Brothers i. i. 5   Marie discovered singing while she sits at her spinning wheel.

?1884    W. S. Gilbert Sorcerer (new ed.) ii. 18   All the peasantry are discovered asleep on the ground.

1920    E. O’Neill Beyond Horizon iii. i. 124   At the rise of the curtain Ruth is discovered sitting by the stove.

1973    A. Ayckbourn Time & Time Again i. i. 1   When the Curtain rises, Leonard, a man in his late thirties, is discovered in the conservatory.