Apparently an Anglo-Saxon term, but let me give you some context, this being an annotation by Wren on Sir Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica (that’s the Wren BTW, Browne’s fellow member of the Royal Society).
Here’s the relevant passage of Browne, with Wren’s annotation:
Our first intentions considering the common interest of Truth, resolved to propose it unto the Latine republique and equal Judges of Europe, but owing in the first place this service unto our Country, and therein especially unto its ingenuous Gentry, we have declared our self in a language best conceived. Although I confess the quality of the Subject will sometimes carry us into expressions beyond meer English apprehensions.
(2) [Wren: “That our naturall English consists for the moste parte of monosyllables, as appeares by the names of all creatures in our tongue and all our actions, and in all the parts of our bodye, exept such things as wee have borrowed from other nations. Scarce one word of ten, in our common talke, is of more then one syllable. In this very short note which conteynes 60 words there bee not above eleven (and those of Latin derivation) which are not (all of them) monosyllables.” I count 59 (different) words, of which 20 are multisyllabic, of which six are of English origin. The word “common”, though of Latin derivation, may perhaps owe its continuance in English, if not part of its derivation, to the cognate (to its present meaning) Anglo-Saxon “gemæne”.]
How accurate this is I know not but it’s the last sentence which I need some light thrown on. What exactly does he mean?
I’m on something of a Browne jag at the moment, having finally read The Garden of Cyrus or The Quincunciall Lozenge, a work which I started reading and laid down as a young man. Perhaps his least accessible piece but also, I believe, his greatest (Religio Medici excepted). The man is at white heat here, anyone who loves the English language owes it to themselves to read it. It doesn’t get any better than this!