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They submitted the bis in good time.

This is an example sentence from the Free Dictionary. "Bis" doesn't appear to be a noun in any of the dictionaries I have consulted. Google gives the Bank for International Settlements, which doesn't seem likely either. What could it mean here?

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  • I think is the same as biz. But the example sorely lacks context. Possibly "[Late 1500s]" mentioned is the century of usage?
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 2:15
  • @user3169 Yes, Late 1500s indicates when that example is from. It's most likely an obsolete word, or something that's changed spelling since then.
    – John Feltz
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 2:36
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    You might ask on EL&U SE. It is not a word one would learn in modern times.
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 3:05
  • Thank you both. I was also thinking: might it be a mistake? I was under the impression that the Free Dictionary seems to draw from user-submitted content.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 3:09

2 Answers 2

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I suspect it is a typo, and the intended sentence is They submitted the bids in good time.

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bis has several definitions, courtesy of dictionary.com:

  • (adverb)

: again —used in music as a direction to repeat 2 : twice

Latin, from Old Latin dvis; akin to Old High German zwiro twice, Latin duo two


  • (noun)

a sheer, often embroidered linen, used in the manufacture of altar cloths.

Also, bisso.

Origin of bis: 1350–1400; Middle English < Latin byssus


  • (noun) abbreviation of either:
    Bank for International Settlements; British Information Services.

The University of Michigan's Middle English Dictionary has several entries for bis or rather bīs:

  • (noun1) A precious kind of linen or cotton cloth; ... ; also, a garment made of this fabric (as worn by the nobility along with purple); purpur and ~; brightest under bis, fairest to behold.

  • (noun2) A kind of dark fur (of various animals), used in trimming and lining garments; bish-hunter, one who hunts animals for their fur.

  • (adj. + noun) Dark, gray, ... ; a pigment of this color.

Nonetheless, only the MED definitions above would fit in the sentence:

"in good time"

They submitted the bis in good time. [Late 1500s]*

The reason I think this, is that another synonym for bis when referring to the special cloth made of linen is bisso; where the contracted bis presumably originated from, or from the Old French [bis and bise].

Interestingly, The Bise (or in french La Bise) is a cold, dry wind in Switzerland which blows through the Swiss Plateau from the northeast to the southwest. An alternative form in English is "biz" which entered Middle English from the French bise. Its origin is unknown*:

We had looked, I know not wherefore, with hope and pleasing expectation on her congregation of hills and snowy crags, and opened our bosoms with renewed spirits to the icy Biz, which even at Midsummer used to come from the northern glacier laden with cold

Nor bleak mountain-top, nor snow-nourished rivulet; not the ice-laden Biz, nor thunder, the tamer of contagion, had preserved them-- why therefore should we claim exemption?

Mary Shelley, The Last Man, vol. 3 ch. 8.

NB: The usage of "biz" by Mary Shelley has a specific use and perhaps obsolete (?) like bis. The usage of "biz" when referring to climate conditions and the weather of Switzerland, contrasts to the more popular and modern usage when referring to the "entertainment business" or "show business".


References:
* W. R. Trumble; A. Stevenson, eds., Shorter Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press 2002

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