English English language Etymology Grammar Usage Word origin

Drown, drowned, and drownded

Q: You’ve written an article about the clipped infinitive and past tenses for the verb “text.” What about the converse—the elongated past tense and past participle “drownded.”

A: We’ll get to “drownded” in a moment, but here’s an aside that illustrates another example of unnecessary elongation.

Pat recently opened a new package of socks that the manufacturer claimed were “pre-shrunked.” Ouch! Now, on to your question.

The familiar “drownded,” which many of us perpetrated in childhood, is another example of the tendency to add an extra “-ed” ending to a verb that doesn’t require one.

The past tense and past participle of the verb “drown” (which has been part of English since around 1300) is simply “drowned.”

So we say, “The victim drowned” and “The victim has drowned.” 

But little children, as well as adults who don’t know any better, sometimes use “drownded” as the past tense, past participle, and participial adjective. (A Google search produced 129,000 hits.)

This is a nonstandard usage, though the word “drownded” has shown up at times in the past, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The OED lists it as a past form of “drownd,” a variant of “drown” that came along in the 1500s and was “widely prevalent in dialectal and vulgar use.”

This variant verb “drownd” is described by the OED as “parallel in development to astound, bound, compound, sound, etc.”

The OED has several citations for this nonstandard verb. Here are two that use it in the present:

“Thy curate (that otherwise wold mumble in the mouth & drounde his wordes).” From Robert Crowley’s The Way to Wealth (1550).  

“He had a beautiful voice. He could drownd out the whole choir.” From Harper’s Magazine (1884). 

And here are several examples using the past tense “drownded”:

“God … drownded Pharaoh and his host in the read sea.” From William Prynne’s Vindic. Psalme  (1644).

“In my own Thames may I be drownded.” From a dialogue of Jonathan Swift (1727).

“They dy’d … in Seas of sorrow Drownded.” From The Roxburghe Ballads (circa 1679).

“ ‘Just fill that mug up with lukewarm water, William, will you?’… ‘Why, the milk will be drownded.’ ” From Charles Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1839).  

Still, as we’ve said, these examples of “drownded” are past tenses of a nonstandard verb “drownd.” In other words, they’ve been grounded.

In modern usage, the standard  verb is “drown” and the past tense or past participle is “drowned”—no extra “-ed” is needed.

Similarly, the participial adjective is now “drowned” and it’s been spelled that way since around 1500.

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