From the second edition (1989):
comfort, n.
(ˈkʌmfət) Forms: 3 cun-, kunfort, 3–4 cumfort, 3–6 confort(e, 4 cumforte, -ford, conforth, -forþ, -fforte, counfort, comfortd, 4–5 coumforde, 4–6 cumforth, coumfort(e, comforth(e, -forte, 5 counforde, conford, -foorte, 5– 6 comford(e, 6 -furth, coomfort, 4– comfort. [a. OF. cunfort, confort (11th c. in Littré) = It. and OSp. conforto, a n. app. of Romanic age, from stem of confort-āre, OF. confort-er to comfort. It took the place of OE. frofor, with which it is used indifferently in enumerating the nine urouren or ‘comforts’ against temptations, in Ancren Riwle p. 226 seq.]


1. a. Strengthening; encouragement, incitement; aid, succour, support, countenance. upon comfort of: on the strength of. Obs. except in archaic legal use (in phr. aid and comfort).

a1225 Ancr. R. 14 Of fleschliche vondunges‥& kunfort aȝeines ham. [1352 Act 25 Edw. III, Stat. v. c. 2 Si home‥soit aherdant as enemys nostre dit Seignour le Roi‥donant a eux eid ou confort.] c1400 Apol. Loll. 37 Þei þat consentun wiþ þe doars‥or defendun, or ȝeuen conseyl or confort. 1460 J. Capgrave Chron. 275 If‥thei make ony gadering in coumfort of Richard, sumtyme Kyng, thei to be punchid as tretouris. 1493 Festivall (W. de W. 1515) 153b, He came in company of recheles people, & by comforte of them he lefte his faste and dyde ete. 1528 Gardiner in Strype Eccl. Mem. I. App. xxiv. 62 Upon comfurth of such words as his Ho. had spoken unto us. 1622 Bacon Hen. VII, The comfort that the rebels should receiue vnderhand from the Earle of Kildare. 1769 Blackstone Comm. IV. 82 If a man be adherent to the king's enemies‥giving to them aid and comfort.


b. concr. One who or that which strengthens or supports; a support, a source of strength. Obs.

1455 Paston Lett. 239 I. 329 We‥prey to The to be oure confort and Defender. 1577 B. Googe Heresbach's Husb. ii. (1586) 50b, You must have a little walled hedge, to teach the springs‥to climbe by, which wil be a jolly Stay and a comfort to them.


2. Physical refreshment or sustenance; refreshing or invigorating influence. (Cf. comfort v. 4.)

1377 Langl. P. Pl. B. xi. 253 On a walnot‥is a bitter barke, And after þat bitter barke‥Is a kirnelle of conforte kynd to restore. 1543 Becon Invect. Swearing Wks. (1564) 212b, They would tast‥not so much as a poore alebery for the comfort of their hart. 1552 Bk. Com. Prayer, For rain, That we may receiue the fruites of the yearth to our comforte. 1611 Tourneur Ath. Trag. iii. iv, Clouds‥rais'd by the Comfort of The Sunne to water dry and barren grounds.
concr. 1631 Markham Weald of Kent ii. i (1668) 2 Holpen by some manner of comfort, as dung, marl, fresh earth‥or such other refreshings.


3. Pleasure, enjoyment, delight, gladness. Obs.

c1230 Hali Meid. 27 Hare confort & hare delit hwerin is hit al? c1386 Chaucer Prol. 773 Conforte ne myrthe is non To riden by þe wey dombe as a stone. a1400–50 Alexander 8 Sum‥has comforth to carpe‥Of curtaissy of knyȝthode, of craftis of armys. 1568 Grafton Chron. II. 380 When these Justes had continued…xxiiij. dayes, to the great joye and comforte of the young lustie Bachelers.


4. Relief or aid in want, pain, sickness, etc. Obs. (Cf. comfort v. 6.)

a1340 Hampole Psalter cxlvi. 3 His byndyngis is þe sacramentis in þe whilke we hafe comforth til we perfytly be hale. c1400 Rom. Rose 6508 Lete bere hem [beggers] to the spitel anoon, But, for me, comfort gete they noon. 1568 Grafton Chron. II. 132 Many came vnto the Citie, and nere thereabout for comfort of victuall. 1570 Ane Tragedie in Sc. Poems 16th C. II. 234 To gif the wedow and fatherles confort. 1647 Cowley Mistr., Despair, No comfort to my wounded sight, In the Suns busie and impert'nent Light.


5. a. Relief or support in mental distress or affliction; consolation, solace, soothing. (In later use sometimes expressing little more than the production of mental satisfaction and restfulness.)

a1225 Ancr. R. 178 No gostlich cumfort ne mei hire gledien. c1386 Chaucer Frankl. T. 98 Euery comfort possible‥They doon to hure‥to make hure late her heuynesse. c1440 Gesta Rom. v. 13 (Harl. MS.) Make me solas and comfort, and chere me. 1593 Drayton Eclog. x. 73 None else there is gives comfort to my griefe. 1605 Shakes. Lear iv. i. 17 Thy comforts can do me no good at all. 1611 —— Wint. T. v. iii. 1 The great comfort That I haue had of thee. 1749 Fielding Tom Jones vi. xii, I wish I had any comfort to send you. 1752 —— Amelia iii. iv, Others applying for comfort to strong liquors. 1800 Wordsw. Michael 448 There is a comfort in the strength of love. c1800 Nelson in Nicolas Disp. (1845) I. 2 Thus‥I became confident‥amongst rocks and sands, which has‥since been of the greatest comfort to me. 1884 M. E. Braddon Ishmael xli, Such comfort as the Church can give to the remorseful sinner.


b. subjectively. The feeling of consolation or mental relief; the state of being consoled.

1340 Hampole Pr. Consc. 2508 Comfort of gud hope may he fele, Þat here lyves wele, to fare wele. c1394 P. Pl. Crede 99 My purpos is i-failed, Now is my counfort a-cast! 1592 Shakes. Rom. & Jul. iii. iii. 165 How well my comfort is reuiu'd by this. 1876 Geo. Eliot Dan. Der. lxviii, She had‥a sense of solemn comfort.


c. transf. A person or thing that affords consolation; a source or means of comfort.

c1386 Chaucer Moder of God 15 Benigne confort of us wrecches all. 1465 Marg. Paston in Lett. II. 187 He hath ben a grete comfort to me. 1605 T. Playfere 9 Serm. (1612) 188 A treasure of comforts gathered out of the olde and new Testament. 1611 Bible Col. iv. 11 My fellow workers‥which haue beene a comfort vnto me. 1847 H. F. Lyte Hymn ‘Abide with me’ i, When other helpers fail and comforts flee. 1856 Miss Mulock J. Halifax v, Growing up to be a help and comfort to my father.


d. In weaker sense: A cause or matter of satisfaction or relief; a comforting fact or reflection. Chiefly colloq. in the phrases ‘it is a comfort to do’, ‘it is some comfort that’, etc.

1553 in E. Lodge Illust. Brit. Hist. (1791) I. 160 It was a great comforte to him to perceyve in the Kings yong years soch a consideracion of the public weal. 1641 Ld. Strafford Sp. on Scaffold in Hist. Eng. (1702) II. 225 It is a great comfort to me that his Majesty believes I do not deserve so heavy a punishment. 1749 Fielding Tom Jones v. viii, One comfort is, they will be all known. 1825 Scott Jrnl. 18 Dec. in Lockhart, Nobody‥can lose a penny by me—that is one comfort. 1873 Mrs. Alexander Wooing o't xxvii, It is a comfort to be able to speak to you.


6. a. A state of physical and material well-being, with freedom from pain and trouble, and satisfaction of bodily needs; the condition of being comfortable (see comfortable 10).

1814 Wordsw. Excursion 1, Their days were spent In peace and comfort. 1827 Keble Chr. Y., Morning xv, Let present Rapture, Comfort, Ease, As Heaven shall bid them, come and go. 1856 Froude Hist. Eng. (1858) I. i. 75 All industrious men could maintain themselves in comfort and prosperity. 1862 Ruskin Munera P. (1880) 2 At the cost of common health and comfort.


b. objectively. The conditions which produce or promote such a state; the quality of being comfortable (see comfortable 7).

1848 Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. iii. 384 William Harrison gave a lively description of the plenty and comfort of the great hostelries. 1884 M. E. Braddon Ishmael v, Reared in the comfort and elegance of a successful artist's household.


7. concr. A thing that produces or ministers to enjoyment and content. (Usually pl.; distinguished from necessaries on the one hand, and from luxuries on the other.) creature comforts: material comforts such as food. So home comforts.

1659 J. Arrowsmith Chain Princ. 58 The Scripture useth diminishing terms when it speaks of creature-comforts. 1688 Miege Fr. Dict. s.v., The Comforts of this Life. 1771 Smollett Humph. Cl. Let. 8 Oct., Very moderate in his estimate of the necessaries, and even of the comforts of life. 1775 Johnson Tax. no Tyr. 11 Before they quit the comforts of a warm home. 1855 Macaulay Hist. Eng. xiii. III. 300 A modern Englishman‥finds in his shooting box all the comforts and luxuries of his club. 1860 Tyndall Glac. i. x. 66 Steeped in the creature comforts of our hotel. 1873 Mrs. Alexander Wooing o't xxi, Another‥dainty apartment, supplied with every comfort.


8. A wadded and quilted counterpane; = comforter 6b. (U.S.)

1834 Southern Lit. Messenger I. 168 A lady of our party‥aptly compared it to a Yankee comfort. 1847 [see comfortable n. 2c]. 1863 Life in South II. 263 The quilted coverlets called ‘comforts’,—a wadded counterpane, in fact. 1913 G. S. Porter Laddie xi. 339 Laddie had‥hung up a comfort at four o'clock to keep the Princess warm. 1945 B. A. Botkin Lay my Burden Down 112 Then a great big mattress full of goose feathers and two-three comforts as thick as my foot with carded wool inside!


9. Comfort is used by Shakes. interjectionally; = Take comfort, cheer up. (Cf. comfort v. 7e.) Also what comfort? = What cheer?

1593 Shakes. Rich. II, ii. i. 72 What comfort man? How ist with aged Gaunt? Ibid. iii. ii. 75 Comfort my Liege, why lookes your Grace so pale? 1611 —— Wint. T. iv. iv. 848 Comfort, good comfort: we must to the King.


10. Phrases. to be of (good) comfort: to be of good cheer; to keep up one's heart or courage (arch.). to take (†have) comfort: to accept consolation, be comforted. †to put in comfort: to encourage, cheer up, console. cold comfort: see cold a. 10.

a1300 Cursor M. 7818 (Cott.) Was he neuer o wers comfortd. c1320 Seuyn Sag. (W.) 2601 Sche saide Alas!‥ N'el ich‥confor[t] take neuer mo. c1325 Coer de L. 5596 To hys men hys armes he badde, And sayde‥Look ye ben off comfort good! 1399 Langl. Rich. Redeles Prol. 39 To kepe him in confforte in crist and nouȝt ellis. c1440 Generydes 38 Whanne he was sadde, to putte hym in coumfort. c1510 Barclay Mirr. Good Mann. (1570) Dv, Take confort, be of stoute courage. 1598 W. Phillips tr. Linschoten (1864) 198 Putting her in comfort, and encouraging her to follow her husband. 1599 Shakes. Much Ado iv. i. 119 Haue comfort Ladie. 1601 —— Twel. N. iii. iv. 372 You stand amaz'd, But be of comfort. 1697 W. Dampier Voy. (1698) I. ii. 16 We‥bid them be of good comfort and stay till the River did fall. 1872 Geo. Eliot Middlem. lxxxiv, Take comfort: perhaps James will forgive me.


11. Comb., as comfort-killing, comfort-seeking adjs. comfort station U.S. Genteelism, a public lavatory.

1593 Shakes. Lucr. 764 O comfort-killing Night, image of hell! 1865 T. F. Knox tr. Life H. Suso 70 To mortify his comfort-seeking body. 1874 L. Tollemache in Fortn. Rev. Feb. 238 Our comfortable and comfort-seeking age. [1910 Aurora (Illinois) Daily Beacon 8 Sept. 6/1 A public comfort room‥would pay the city of Aurora a profit every year.] 1923 Glass (Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.) 167 (heading) Public comfort stations. 1931 T. Wilder Long Christmas Dinner 121 Ma, where is the next comfort-station. 1947 Auden Age of Anxiety (1948) ii. 53 Ingenious George reached his journey's end Killed by a cop in a comfort station. 1957 D. Karp Leave me Alone xii. 165 Snatching Jimmy's hand she trudged across the sand with him to the comfort station. 1967 R. Shaw Man in Glass Booth xvii. 152 ‘Wash-room,’ said the old man. ‘Comfort station.’