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    New entry for LEO

    ci-devant - ehedem, ehemals, ehemalig, vormalig, einstmals, einstig, vordem, früher

    New entry

    ci-devant adjective adj. Brit. form. - ehedem, ehemals, ehemalig, vormalig, einstmals, einstig, vordem, früher adv. form.

    Examples/ definitions with source references

    (1) The captain of the ship was a ci-devant peasant and was almost obsequious in his manner.

    [Source: Beatrice Webb: Russian Diary. In: Passfield Papers, Estate of the Webbs, archived at the

    London School of Economics; entry following "June 2nd" (1932).]

    (2) ci-devant [search result via google:] from or in an earlier time; former.

    "her ci-devant pupil, now her lover"

    Origin French: 'heretofore'

    [Source: (Google’s English dictionary is provided by Oxford Languages:)]

    (3) ci-devant, adj. (and n.) ... Etymology: French, = heretofore, formerly

    1. Former, 'late'; that was formerly
    2. (n.) In the language of the French Revolution, a man of rank, i.e. one formerly such, the Republic having suppressed distinctions of nobility. / 1871 J. Morley. J. de Maistre in Crit. Misc. 152: Give me the lives of...three hundred thousand ci-devants and aristocrats.

    [Source: Oxford English Dictionary and relevant entries there]



    1. ehemals (adv.)

    2. ehemalige / ehemaliger / ehemaliges (Mitglied...) + n. ... (+ n. profession, rank, or title...)

    3. vormalig (adj.), vormals (adv.)

    Ex.: ein vormaliger Hutmacher

    4. *ehedem (adv.) (geh.):

        Ex.: Der Kapitän des Schiffs, ehedem Landarbeiter, war...

    [Source: Beatrice Webb, Pilgerfahrt nach Moskau. KritBrit, Passau 1998; p. 80]

    5. einstmals (adv.):

    Ex.: XY, einstmals Bauer, ...

    6. einstig|e/r (adj.):

    Ex.: ein einstiger Bauer

    7. vordem (adv.)

    8. früher|e|r/n (adj.) (= ehemalige):

    Ex.: der frühere Eigentümer

    [Source: Duden online]

    9. gewesen (adj.)

    Ex.: ein gewesener Leutnant...

    AuthorQuillerspud (906857)  28 Mar 23, 18:58

    Leider muss ich Wasser in den Wein gießen:

    Wie schon in der vorangehenden Diskussion gesagt, passt der englische Eintrag nicht zum "bevorzugten" Übersetzungsvorschlag: einerseits Adjektiv, andererseits Adverb

    #1Authorwienergriessler (925617) 28 Mar 23, 19:41
    Hoffentlich haben wir jetzt jedes Forum mit diesem ach so wichtigen Wort und den teilweise fragwürdigen Übersetzungsvorschlägen gefüllt...
    #2Authoreastworld (238866) 28 Mar 23, 19:48

    Englischsprachige WB bieten in ihren Online-Ausgaben :



    ci-de·​vant ˌsē-də-ˈväⁿ

    : former

    Word History

    Etymology   French, literally, formerly

    First Known Use   1790, in the meaning defined above

    Time Traveler   The first known use of ci-devant was in 1790 ...


     ci-de·vant (sē′də-väɴ)

    Share: Tweet



    [French : ci, here + devant, before.] ...

    Oxford, Cambridge, Chambers, Collins, Macmillan und Longman haben keinen Eintrag dazu ...

    #3Authorno me bré (700807)  28 Mar 23, 19:57

    To: ALL - My sincere apologies for putting the request first into the wrong section twice, i.e. English missing / German missing. I must have a penchant of clicking links to the wrong Forums... I just wanted to make a case for the word to be added to Leo - after a discussion, of course. So this section here finally seems the correct one for such purpose.

    To: wienergriessler - Am I entirely wrong in thinking that the 'preferred' German translation of the English adjective seems to sit better as the 'preferred' adverb than any one of the collected adjectives I listed (btw. thank you to the contributors), since ehedem conveys the intended meaning and meets the fitting register, too? We have already the caveat in English that ci-devant is quite obviously appropriated from the French to replace the common 'formerly' when in the original French 'ci' is indeed an adverb which then combines with 'devant' - which originally was used as an adverb, too. - The combined remain invariable so, if I understood the entry in Le Petit Robert correctly. Ce-devant in the sense under discussion was an adverb at the time of the French Revolution whose meaning has since fallen out of fashion in modern French. Not so with the British. OED lists examples of its use in English from late 19C. However, the way Beatrice Webb uses the term in the 30s of the 19th C turns the hitherto implied emphasis of a formerly 'higher station' upside down (the now captain used to be a peasant) which carries more than a bit of irony while tempering the fun-fact that 'one does know some French'. To sum it up, I am saying that English made an adjective out of the French adverbial meld - So, please tell me, why should we be bogged down here by qualms of principle concerning word classes when translating the English into appropriate German by turning it back to an adverb fits the bill? The French no longer understand ci-devant in this context and the slight irony in its English usage may come through in the German as well as it may ever get - sadly the nagging over-the-top use of the vieux French with the tit-bit concealed snobbery cannot be fully replicated in German. But even a good 'second best' could serve as pragmatic translation - where so far there has been none at all.

    To: eastworld - The list of German vocabulary was (a) taking into account, and acknowledging the recent contributions by all the people interested in discussing the matter. (b) Some of the translations suggested seemed to come closer to the meaning, and register of the use of the French term in English. I hoped a fruitful discussion would ensue about which ones to chose and which ones to dismiss. Anyone is invited to have a say - however, no one should feel required do do so.

    To: no me bré - a small conjecture, if I may: like I mentioned in the original proposal under reference (3), ci-devant does have a full entry in the eminent OED, which I even abbreviated for the purpose required in my application for having the word included in Leo; while online access is restricted, I can assure you that it does exist therein. Also, as I referred to already in (2), prioritising this reference for the sole purpose of free access by all, Google offers an English definition of ci-devant giving the exact meaning tallying with what Webb writes in her Diary. Google says it uses a dictionary from the 'Oxford Languages' family of dictionaries, which offers a very short, but concise definition, obviously extracted from the full corpus. You also found additional sources.


    In the OED ci-devant is rated 3 out of 5 in terms of rarity, so any claim this is a completely outlandish piece of vocabulary is mute.

    I have explained in more detail (see in my response to wienergriessler above) why I see no serious issue with the English adjective use of the original (old) French adverb being translated into German as an adverb and hope Leo will consider these points and receive ci-devant (= formerly) [dated, humorously] = ehedem into its realm for the benefit of - some - users. A German source using the exact same translation has been given.

    Thank you all for your help so far.

    #4AuthorQuillerspud (906857)  30 Mar 23, 05:50

    this is a completely outlandish piece of vocabulary is mute

    Are you sure you don't mean 'moot'?

    #5Authorpenguin (236245) 30 Mar 23, 10:15


    adj. form. -


    Context/ examples

    ci-devant in British English


    (esp of an office-holder) formerrecent

    ci-devant in American English


    former; recent

    ci-devant, adj. 

    Etymology: French, = heretofore, formerly.


     1. Former, ‘late’; that was formerly.

    1790   R. Burns Let. 8 Aug. (2003) II. 46  A ci-devant friend of mine.

    1812   Ld. Byron Childe Harold: Cantos I & II Notes 128  The ci-devant Anglo-consul of Athens.

    1847   H. W. Longfellow Evangeline ii. iii. 83  They marvelled to see the wealth of the ci-devant blacksmith.

    OED frequency band 3:

    This word belongs in Frequency Band 3. Band 3 contains words which occur between 0.01 and 0.1 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These words are not commonly found in general text types like novels and newspapers, but at the same they are not overly opaque or obscure. Nouns include ebullition and merengue, and examples of adjectives are amortizable, prelapsarian, contumacious, agglutinative, quantized, argentiferous.

    Ci-devant aristo, he,

    Knitting for the NEC.

    In the ci-devant United Kingdom nationalists sit in the governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. While in London two dour complacent Scots, teenage radicals of a sort back then, watch the Empire of Financial Services crumble before their eyes. Rien?

    The Westminster MP is my ci-devant ally, now opponent, Gordon Brown.


    For the record, here are the other two threads mentioned above:

    related discussion: ci-devant

    related discussion: ci-devant

    I can also offer as evidence the Collins dictionary entry (no me bre must have missed it in #3), the full OED entry for the adjective, and the three examples of it on The Guardian above.

    In the OED it is in frequency band 3 of 8 (not 3 of 5, as suggested in #4). I've copied the OED frequency band information above too. In short: it's rare.

    I'm happy for it to go into the dictionary: there's dictionary evidence, there's evidence of it in use 'in the wild'. Can the German speakers make some concrete new entry suggestions for the German side? It probably doesn't need to be in the same register as long as the register of the English term is made clear.

    What German term would you use in modern German and 1700s/1800s German for the examples listed in the OED and one from the Guardian:

    1790   R. Burns A ci-devant friend of mine.

    1812   Ld. Byron  The ci-devant Anglo-consul of Athens.

    1847   H. W. Longfellow They marvelled to see the wealth of the ci-devant blacksmith.

    2006 Guardian The Westminster MP is my ci-devant ally, now opponent, Gordon Brown.

    #6Authorpapousek (343122) 31 Mar 23, 12:18


    adj. form. -

    ehemalig / vormalig / einstig

    adj. form.


    Man kann deutsche Sätze so formulieren, dass sie mit einem Adverb griffiger oder idiomatischer klingen, z.B. Gordon Brown - einst Verbündeter, nun Gegner. Das ändert aber nichts daran, dass man in einem Wörterbucheintrag nicht ein einzelnes Adjektiv mit einem einzelnen Adverb koppeln kann. Das wäre nur in einer ganzen Phrase oder einem ganzen Satz denkbar. Die Vorschläge ehedem, ehemals, einstmals, vordem scheiden also aus. Darüber hinaus würde ich auch "gewesener" ausschließen - das klingt in meinen Ohren umgangssprachlich bzw. geringschätzig (laut DWDS "besonders österreichisch").

    1790   A ci-devant friend of mine. - ein ehemaliger / früherer Freund von mir

    1812   The ci-devant Anglo-consul of Athens - der vormalige Konsul von Athen

    1847   They marvelled to see the wealth of the ci-devant blacksmith. - Sie waren über den Reichtum des ehemaligen / einstigen Schmieds erstaunt.

    2006 The Westminster MP is my ci-devant ally, now opponent, Gordon Brown. - Der Abgeordnete ist mein früherer Verbündeter und jetziger Gegner, Gordon Brown

    Die vier Adjektive früher - ehemalig - vormalig - einstig sind ziemlich austauschbar. Legt man Quillerspuds stilistische Einordnung /geh./ zugrunde, würde "früher" als der am wenigsten förmliche Ausdruck wegfallen. "einstig" klingt für mich etwas weiter in der Vergangenheit zurückliegend als die übrigen Bezeichnungen und mit bestimmtem Artikel ("ein einstiger") sehr ungewohnt, aber vielleicht ist das nur eine persönliche Wahrnehmung.

    Der Merriam-Webster klassifiziert "ci-devant" nicht als BE. Wie sehen das die AE-Muttersprachler?

    #7AuthorRominara (1294573)  01 Apr 23, 00:22

    To #5 penguin

    You are correct. It was indeed a moot point all along and should not have been demoted to a 'mute' one. I could, however, blame autocorrect for slipping in that bit behind my back - but it's actually too funny a blunder livening up a dead serious piece of discussion to not to own up to with a proud giggle.

    And thank you all for adding your thoughts to the question - this might help others when searching for a translation, even if the dictionary insists on an identical word class before accepting an entry. Interestingly, some people uphold principles which can get in the way of a more pragmatic translation. Let us not forget what dictionaries are for: they aim at offering access to a different perspective on ways of communicating.

    Ci-devant is just an example for how a word from one language can be adopted into another one for a different purpose than the one governing the original usage. And when we translate that adopted word into yet another language we have to somehow preserve the essence of that altered purpose, the one which informs the current usage. Getting the tune right is what should perhaps count the most - and the resulting form should also be accepted as the translation closest to the word at hand. I would rather not be a stickler for an otherwise useful rule when it excludes the best translation on an issue of formality.

    #8AuthorQuillerspud (906857)  01 May 23, 03:13
 ­ automatisch zu ­ ­ umgewandelt