"partial darkness, state between light and darkness, twilight," 1620s, from an earlier adjective dusk, from Middle English dosc (c. 1200) "obscure, not bright; tending to darkness, shadowy," having more to do with color than light, which is of uncertain origin, not found in Old English. Middle English also had it as a verb, dusken "to become dark." The Middle English noun was dusknesse "darkness" (late 14c.).
Perhaps it is from a Northumbrian variant of Old English dox "dark-haired, dark from the absence of light," with transposition of -k- and -s-, (compare colloquial ax for ask). But OED notes that "few of our words in -sk are of OE origin." Old English dox is from PIE *dus-ko- "dark-colored" (source also of Swedish duska "be misty," Latin fuscus "dark," Sanskrit dhusarah "dust-colored;" also compare Old English dosan "chestnut-brown," Old Saxon dosan, Old High German tusin "pale yellow").
updated on November 18, 2018