ETYMOLOGY OF KERIS
according to Hobson-Jobson

  CREASE, CRIS, &c., s. A kind of dagger, which is the characteristic weapon of the Malay nations; from the Javanese name of the weapon, adopted in Malay, kris, kiris, or kres (see Favre, Dict. Javanais-Francais, 137b, Crawfurd's Malay Dict. s.v., Jansz, Javaansch-Nederl. Woordenboek, 202). The word has been generalised, and is often applied to analogous weapons of other nations, as 'an Arab crease,' &c. It seems probable that the H. word kirich, applied to a straight sword, and now almost specifically to a sword of European make, is identical with the Malay word kris. See the form of the latter word in Barbosa, almost exactly kirich. Perhaps Turki kilich is the original. [Platts gives Skt. kriti, 'a sort of knife or dagger.'] If Reinaud is right in his translation of the Arab Relations of the 9th and 10th centuries, in correcting a reading, otherwise unintelligible, to khri, we shall have a very early adoption of this word by Western travellers. It occurs, however, in a passage relating to Ceylon.

c. 910. -- "Formerly it was common enough to see in this island a man of the country walk into the market grasping in his hand a khri, i.e. a dagger peculiar to the country, of admirable make, and sharpened to the finest edge. The man would lay hands on the wealthiest of the merchants that he found, take him by the throat, brandish his dagger before his eyes, and finally drag him outside of the town. . . ."-<-> Relation, &c., par Reinaud, p. 156; and see Arabic text, p. 120, near bottom.

It is curious to find the cris adopted by Alboquerque as a piece of state costume. When he received the ambassadors of Sheikh Ismael, i.e. the Shah of Persia, Ismael Sufi, at Ormuz, we read:

1515. -- "For their reception there was prepared a dais of three steps . . . which was covered with carpets, and the Governor seated thereon in a decorated chair, arrayed in a tunic and surcoat of black damask, with his collar, and his golden cris, as I described before, and with his big, long snow-white beard; and at the back of the dais the captains and gentlemen, handsomely attired, with their swords girt, and behind them their pages with lances and targets, and all uncovered." -- Correa, ii. 423.

The portrait of Alboquerque in the 1st vol. of Mr. Birch's Translation of the Commentaries, realises the snow-white beard, tunic, and black surcoat, but the cris is missing. [The Malay Creese is referred to in iii. 85.]

1516. -- "They are girt with belts, and carry daggers in their waists, wrought with rich inlaid work, these they call querix."-<-> Barbosa, 193.

1552. -- "And the quartermaster ran up to the top, and thence beheld the son of Timuta raja to be standing over the Captain Major with a cris half drawn." -- Castanheda, ii. 363.

1572.-
". . . assentada
La no gremio da Aurora, onde nasceste,
Opulenta Malaca nomeada!
As settas venenosas que fizeste!
Os crises, com que ja te vejo armada. . . ."
Camoes, x. 44.

By Burton:

". . . so strong thy site there on Aurora's bosom, whence they rise, thou Home of Opulence, Malacca hight! The poysoned arrows which thine art supplies, the krises thirsting, as I see, for fight. . . ."

1580. -- A vocabulary of "Wordes of the naturall language of Iaua" in the voyage of
[p. 275]
Sir Fr. Drake, has Cricke, 'a dagger.'<-> Hakl. iv. 246.

[1584. -- "Crise." See quotation under A MUCK.]

1586-88. -- "The custom is that whenever the King (of Java) doth die . . . the wives of the said King . . . every one with a dagger in her hand (which dagger they call a crese, and is as sharp as a razor) stab themselves to the heart." -- Cavendish, in Hakl. iv. 337.

1591. -- "Furthermore I enjoin and order in the name of our said Lord . . . that no servant go armed whether it be with staves or daggers, or crisses." -- Procl. of Viceroy Mathias d'Alboquerque in Archiv. Port. Oriental, fasc. 3, p. 325.

1598. -- "In the Western part of the Island (Sumatra) is Manancabo where they make Poinyards, which in India are called Cryses, which are very well accounted and esteemed of." -- Linschoten, 33; [with some slight differences of reading, Hak. Soc. i. 110].

1602. -- ". . . Chinesische Dolchen, so sie Cris nennen." -- Hulsius, i. 33.

c. 1610. -- "Ceux-la ont d'ordinaire a leur coste vn poignard onde qui s'apelle cris, et qui vient d'Achen en Sumatra, de Iaua, et de la Chine." -- Pyrard de Laval, i. 121; [Hak. Soc. i. 164]; also see ii. 101; [ii. 162, 170].

1634. -- "Malayos crises, Arabes alfanges." -- Malaca Conquistada, ix. 32.

1686. -- "The Cresset is a small thing like a Baggonet which they always wear in War or Peace, at Work or Play, from the greatest of them to the poorest or meanest person."-<-> Dampier, i. 337.

1690. -- "And as the Japanners . . . rip up their Bowels with a Cric. . . ." -- Ovington, 173.

1727. -- "A Page of twelve Years of Age . . . (said) that he would shew him the Way to die, and with that he took a Cress, and ran himself through the body." -- A. Hamilton, ii. 99; [ed. 1744, ii. 98].

1770. -- "The people never go without a poniard which they call cris." -- Raynal (tr. 1777), i. 97.

c. 1850-60. -- "They (the English) chew hashish, cut themselves with poisoned creases . . . taste every poison, buy every secret." -- Emerson, English Traits [ed. 1866, ii. 59].

The Portuguese also formed a word crisada, a blow with a cris (see Castanheda, iii. 379). And in English we find a verb to 'crease'; see in Purchas, i. 532, and this:

1604. -- "This Boyhog we tortured not, because of his confession, but crysed him."-<-> Scot's Discourse of Iava, in Purchas, i. 175.

[1704. -- "At which our people . . . were most of them creezed." -- Yule, Hedges' Diary, Hak. Soc. ii. cccxxxvii.]

Also in Braddel's Abstract of the Sijara Malayu:

"He was in consequence creased at the shop of a sweetmeat seller, his blood flowed on the ground, but his body disappeared miraculously." -- Sijara Malayu, in J. Ind. Arch. v. 318.

Source: Hobson-Jobson : a glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. Henri Yler et A.C. Burnell, London Murray 1903.

http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/hobsonjobson/

 

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Revised: 2007-05-20