“The Trees have Doted”

The first definition of the word dote (or doat) found in the OED is, “to be silly, deranged, or out of one’s wits; to act or talk foolishly or stupidly. The second definition given is, “to be weak-minded from old age; to have the intellect impaired by reason of age.” The fact that these two definitions were given first came as a surprise to me; I have only ever heard the word dote to mean adore. I felt like maybe I was thinking of the wrong word until I read the third definition, “to be infatuatedly fond of; to bestow excessive love or fondness on or upon; to be foolishly in love.” According to the OED, this definition is rare, but this is the only way I have ever heard the word dote used, so I am quite skeptical about this. The fourth definition is an even bigger shock to me with the definition being, “to decay, as a tree.” This definition seems really out of place considering the next definition is, “to cause to dote; to drive crazy; to befool, infatuate.” This is followed by the sixth definition given which is, “to say or think foolishly.” The seventh – and final – definition of the word dote given is, “to love to excess; bestow extravagant affection on.” I would provide the earliest example of the word being used; however, I could neither find the symbol used in many of the words to insert, nor could I understand the sentence enough to make any sort of comment on it. The second earliest example comes from 1225: Leg. Kath. 2111, “Hu nu, dame, dotestu?” What I gather from looking through the history of the word, is that this word is spelt many different ways throughout history. One of the more recent examples of the word comes from 1871, and uses the first definition of the word:  R. ELLIS Catullus xxxv., “She . . . Doats, as hardly within her own possession.” The most recent example given comes from 1893 using the fourth (and strangest) definition: E. Cous Lewis & Clark’s Exped., “In North Carolina . . . it is said of trees dead at the top, that they are doted, or have doted.”

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