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I am studying baptism records from province Québec that commonly used the phrase "née la veille".

In one record, there is a variation that clearly says, "née la surveille". It seems specific, but I don't know what it means. Is this "la surveille" different from "la veille" and "surveiller"?

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    fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/surveille
    – None
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 6:59
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    The term is now outdated and mostly used in vital records, it seems it survived longer in Québec than in France. You can also visit that link but it should not "be written as "sur la veille"" as suggested in that question. Etymology is sorveille, one word, sor being Old French for sur.
    – None
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 7:48
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    Notice that, if "surveille" (vs. "veille") is outdated, "surlendemain" (vs. "lendemain") is still in use!
    – Blackhole
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 22:14

3 Answers 3

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Surveille is an outdated word that means avant-veille. It comes form Old French sorveille (sor being Old French for sur) that can be traced back to the 12th century. Avant-veille is a more recent word that dates from the 16th century, the two words coexisted for a few centuries, avant-veille gradually replacing surveille until the 20th century when surveille is mentioned as outdated.
This is quite clear when we look at the Dictionnaire de l'Académie, the first edition, 1694, has both words on equal terms and it is only in the 8th edition, 1935, that surveille is stated as peu usité ("not much used"). Nowadays I expect surveille has disappeared from most basic dictionaries*.

We find the word mostly in old vital records in such phrases as né(e)/mort(e) la surveille. From looking at genealogy websites it seems that it survived longer in Québec than in France, but it might just be an impression.

  • A Canadian forum where someone asks for the meaning of surveille.
  • Né la surveille and née l'avant-veille appearing in extracts from the civil register for respectively husband and wife and reproduced in a family tree of a Québec family.

* For instance online editions of Le Robert and Larousse don't mention it.

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  • Excellent work. Yes, my French-English dictionary is missing this word and your answer is superior to many online sources. Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 14:57
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Probably, 2 days ago? "La veille" = 1 day ago, "la surveille" = 2 days ago?

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This "surveille" has nothing to do with "surveiller", as the Wiktionary link provided in the comment makes clear.

My guess would be that:

  1. You're looking at older records and the term was more prevalent in that region at the time, or
  2. Whoever wrote the records picked it because it's shorter to write than "l'avant-veille".

Or maybe a little bit of both!

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