The Grammarphobia Blog

On bended English

Q: I thought you might like this (at best) archaic usage in a recent headline on Gizmodo: “This Airplane’s Landing / Was So Violent That It / Bended Its Fuselage.” To its credit, the electronic-gadgets blog has since changed it to “bent.”

A: The word “bended” was the original Old English past participle of the verb “bend,” but it was replaced by “bent” (and briefly “bend”) in Middle English.

The Oxford English Dictionary says “bended” is now “semi-archaic” and used adjectivally, “chiefly in on bended knees, etc.”

Here’s an adjectival usage from Shakespeare’s Henry V (circa 1599): “His bruised Helmet, and his bended Sword.”

The writer of the original Gizmodo headline used “bended” as the past tense of “bend,” not as a past participle.

Although “bended” has occasionally been used as a past tense, primarily in the 16th and 17th centuries, standard dictionaries now list only “bent” as the past tense.

We’re glad you brought that headline to our attention, though, because “bend” is an interesting word. It’s related to “band,” “bind,” “bond,” and “bundle.”

In Old English, according to John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins, the verb bendan meant to tie up as well as to curve.

The two meanings apparently developed because of the use of bendan in archery. The tying-up sense was used in reference to bow strings. The bending sense evolved from the curving of the bow.

We’ll end with an excerpt from the Robin Hood ballads (circa 1500), with Robin and his Merry Men, bows bent, ready for battle:

Sone there were good bowes ibent,
Mo than seven score,
Hedge ne dyche spared they none,
That was them before.

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