Originally Posted by Alan Mighty
I'm confident that what I wrote earlier stands up. But I cannot go further without a day in the library to look at the Old English
usages of sceata (sheet = sail rope
or sail corner).
I found one earlier use in Middle English
(dated to 1294-1295) of sheet = sail rope
: a list of diverse lines and things on a ship that reads "heuedropes, sheetes, heuedwyles, yerdropes, steyes et Backsteyes, haucers"
That citation is oddly not in the Oxford English Dictionary.
In Old English, we have two usages sceatline and sceacline, both obviously = sheet line or sail rope. We don't have a clear date for those two usages. They are included in vocabulary lists known as the Antwerp-London Glossaries. The A-L Glossaries are word lists that were used in teaching (teaching clerics to be clerks, possibly also teaching adults or children
from important families). We know the A-L Glossaries are from the 11th century in their present form, but they may be as old as the 7th century. The A-L Glossaries are just word lists, not text in a context.
So best I can say for now is (and working backwards in time) is that sheet = sail rope exists in written Middle English from at least 1294-95 (we cannot be exact in the year).
Some time earlier than that (at least in the 11th century, perhaps as early as the 7th century) a sail rope was called a sceatline and/or a sceacline (depending on the cleric and his preferred orthography).
I would disassemble sceatline as sceat = corner of a sail; + line = a rope with a purpose.
The A-L Glossaries do list sceata and it is glossed as sceata = pes veli (foot + sail = sail foot, which has by different people been interpreted as 'footrope' or as 'sheetline'). I don't know exactly when that gloss was inserted (? in the 11th century; in the 7th century?) But sceata is NOT glossed as veli = sail.
The shelves have several works suggesting that sceatline/sceacline has cognates in any or many of the Scandinavian and Germanic languages e.g. schotline and similar orthographies.
The existence of those cognates suggest that Old English sceatline and the cognates have a common origin, likely among the people who sailed in the North Sea and came from any of the coastal lands (eg Scandinavia, the Low German lands, northern France
And that suggests that sail control ropes have been called sceatline/sheetline since before 7th century.