Middle English is the period in the history of the English language between the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century.

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What was a century called before it was called “century”?

The term century in the more common connotation that refers to a period of 100 years is relatively recent: The Modern English meaning is attested from 1650s, short for century of years (1620s)....
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What is the meaning of “rage,” in this exchange

Merriam-Webster (on line) offers no help with the meaning of "rage" (verb) in this context; "swage" is presumably 'assuage' (fade). Youthe speke to his selfe & sayd: With women me lyst ...
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Was “fong” a middle english word?

I just watched the movie "A Knight's Tale," and the character Wat repeatedly threatens to "fong" people (as in "I'll fong you," clearly meaning some kind of bodily violence.) There are claims around ...
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Are English language books translated to contemporary English? [closed]

Were Shakespeare books translated to contemporary English? Which version is more common? Is there a rule to choose which books will have its language updated? Are poems updated too? From which year I ...
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Why is “build” spelt with a “u”?

I was just looking at build on Wiktionary and I noticed that in Middle English the word was bilden. Where did the u come from? I can understand why words such as guide have a u; it's to make the g "...
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60 views

'When was the use of Þ diminished by the digraph 'th'?

Wikipedia does not mention the exact date, nor do any other sites that I have visited. While no Shakespearean book that I have read ( later 16th Century ) has the use of Þ in it, and the 15th ...
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1answer
34 views

What do we call a “manuscript expert”?

Someone (in most cases an academic) who is well-rounded in the field of ancient manuscripts, with solid training in history and/or literature, one or more ancient languages, paleography, and ...
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299 views

Spelling etymology of “-il[l]” words

I've noticed that modern English seems to have a very strong bias at the end of verbs towards the spelling "-ill" (i.e. with a double "l") instead of "-(consonant)-il". The overwhelming majority of ...
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What is the meaning of “runneth”?

What is the meaning of “runneth” in My Cup Runneth Over?
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Is English actually a pidgin or creole?

Because Middle English was a hodgepodge mélange of Old English (a Germanic tongue) and Norman French (a Romance language), it seems like Middle English was actually a kind of pidgin or creole. My ...
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What did English use before “triangle”?

Apparently the word "triangle" was borrowed into English in the late 1300s. Triangles are a very common shape in everyday life, and there were certainly English-speaking craftsmen and artists before ...
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421 views

What is the meaning of “Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain!”

The phrase "Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain!" occurs in the obscure fairy tale Molly Whuppie (more original version?) after a princess tricks a giant by stealing his sword. Contextually: "Woe ...
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Origin of -(e)s in present indicative third singular

I'm aware that it comes from a Northern dialect of Middle English as in: He sing(e)s With the full Northern conjugation being: Ik sing(e) Þu/ou sing(e)s He sing(e)s We/ye/they sings But in Old English ...
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1answer
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'lest': How did 'less that' evolve to mean 'for fear that'?

lest, conj. = [OED] Etymology: Old English phrase þý lǽs þe , lit. ‘whereby less’ = Latin quōminus (þý instrumental of the demonstrative and relative pronoun + lǽs less adj. + þe ...
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347 views

What did the master mean by: “Then thou shalt drink!”?

In The Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies of John Heywood (1562) among the many historical English proverbs which I recognized, one particular epigram stood out. Entitled “Of Catching a Fly” It isn'...
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Were -y- and -g- pronounced similarly in Early Middle English?

[Etymonline:] Early Middle English pronunciations of -y- and -g- were not always distinct, and the word was confused in Middle English with various senses of Romanic-derived alloy and allege, ...
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4answers
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Why are words like “Thou” and “Thee” no longer used in English?

When going through old English literature, especially stories and poems, we can see they have been full of words like "thou" and "thee" etc. Some of my English teachers told me that they were used ...
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The meaning of the MIDDLE ENGLISH “nother”

Very specific expertise is required here. The schoolmaster "shall not teche his scolers song nor other petite lernyng, as the crosse rewe, redyng of the mateyns or for the psalter or such ...
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The origins and usages of “waffle”

Scottish dogs used to waff American voters waffled in 2000 British politicians “waffle on” for hours And Swedish children eat them on March 25th Waffle nowadays has basically three meanings: ...
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What was the archaic source of “All Turns To Yesterday”?

I was recently reminded of Mediæval Bæbes' performance of "All Turns To Yesterday" (perhaps best known from its adaptation into Delerium's Aria). I've read that it's a rendition of a traditional ...
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1answer
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In 'inasmuch', what did 'in', 'as', 'much' mean?

[OED] inasmuch {adverb} = [Etymology:] originally 3 words in as much (in northern Middle English in als mikel), subsequently sometimes written as 2 words, in asmuch, and now (especially since ...
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Mystery word indicating a body part in a medical book published in 1563

The following title is written in a book by surgeon T. Gale published in 1563. I have trouble translating the last word: "Of woundes of the [x]". Mainly the second letter after "B" is blank for me, B?...
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Why does English spelling use silent letters?

Why have a letter in a word when it’s silent in pronunciation, like the b in debt? Can anyone please clarify my uncertainty here?
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128 views

How might 'to play the flute' have evolved to mean 'flout'? [closed]

flout (v.) [<--] "treat with disdain or contempt" (transitive), 1550s, intransitive sense "mock, jeer, scoff" is from 1570s; of uncertain origin; perhaps a special use of Middle English flowten "to ...
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407 views

Word to describe the structure that holds/stores a shield (and possibly other weapons)

I am looking for a word that would used to describe either many shields, or a structure that would be used to carry them in storage. If I look at this medieval photo, there is a wooden structure on ...
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What is to be made of “e” ending so many Middle English words?

I was recently reading about the life of Robert I (the Bruce) of Scotland. On his deathbed, since he had been unable to go on crusade to the Holy Land as he had once pledged to do, he directed that ...
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6answers
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Time and tide wait for no man

In the old proverb: Time and tide wait for no man. Our first record of the proverb is from St Marher in 1225: And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet. When it was ...
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2answers
240 views

Grammatically correct, vs archaic, vs grammatically incorrect ? [closed]

So i'm new here just to start this out to begin with. So I hope you can understand my grammatically incorrect sentences. So any ways let me explain the context of this question, I am writing a short ...
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3answers
709 views

Explanation of a sentence in “Adam lay ybounden”

In the carol "Adam lay ybounden", there's a line that goes: As clerkes finden, written in their book Is "finden" the infinitive form of "find"? I thought it should be "found" or maybe "would ...
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2answers
165 views

Is this a 'justified' double negative? The answer may require some Old English knowledge.

The following is is my translation of a sentence from Bede's Account of the Conversion of King Edwin. Old English tolerated the double negative, and I am trying to translate the text in such a way ...
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1answer
142 views

The etymology of February

According to my dictionary, the word February originates directly from Middle English "Feverer" from Old French "Feverier" yet the Modern English word more closely resembles the original Latin ...
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618 views

What is an “aglet-baby” exactly?

This is a line from the Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare Grumio [to Hortensio]: Marry him to a puppet or an aglet-baby . . . Although 'aglet' is an extremely uncommon word, its meaning can ...
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1answer
116 views

How would one conjugate “to be” in southern middle english? [closed]

Present tense. In particular, how would it have been in London in the mid-14th century?
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When did Indo-European descendants stop speaking Old English? What were the influencing factors in the shift from Old English to Modern English? [closed]

There is Old English, and there is the English we speak now. When did exactly did the British (or Americans) change from speaking Old English to speaking the current form of English?
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Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?

My inexpert perception of things is that the distance between The Canterbury Tales (end 14th century) and Romeo and Juliet (end 16th), from a language perspective, is vast, and vastly greater than the ...
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1answer
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Did English ever have a word for 'yes' for negative questions?

The Germans have doch and the French have si as a word that means "yes" in response to a negative question, such as: Don't you want some ice-cream? Yes [I do]! In English, we only have yes (as ...
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3answers
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How did *Old* English transform into *Middle* English so quickly?

Anglo Saxon Old English was the most common language in England before the Norman invasion. To the modern eye, it is unintelligible without specialist learning: lange þrage;    ...
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Correct way of reading The Nibelungenlied

I'm trying to read "The Nibelungenlied" in metrical English translation by George Henry Needler (http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/niebn10h.htm). However, I've got certain difficulties with doing ...
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Translation of Gower's Middle English

I would like to know the meaning of the following sentence in Gower's Confessio Amantis: Nogh al per chance as ye it wolden Bot so as ye be reson scholden
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Which is more correct: “skewen” or “skewn”?

Which spelling for the past participle of skew is more correct: skewen or skewn? (I recognise it is not the more common spelling of skewed, but regionally and personally skewen is more in use in ...
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3answers
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What were nightmares called before “nightmare” was used in that sense?

Apparently the word "nightmare" has only been used in the sense of "bad dream" since c. 1829. Before then the term referred to the agent causing the dreams—a mare < mera, mære 'goblin, ...
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2answers
626 views

What was the difference between “ye” and “thy”?

I'm PRETTY sure that my History of the english Language professor told me that "ye" was actually pronounced [ði], because the character that closely resembles a Modern English "y" was actually ...
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1answer
248 views

What is the meaning of “tëuk” in this sentence, and “wizzle” in this other one? (might be Middle English?)

I'm reading T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone to my daughter, and mostly I can find explanations for the historical lexicon (fewmets and corkindrills and so on), mainly relying on this rather useful ...
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1answer
79 views

What is a bileue?

I was looking up the word "god" in the Oxford English Dictionary On-Line, which led me to this entry: d. the god of this world : the Devil, Satan. c1384 Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(...
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Middle English or Elizabethan English as a second language? [closed]

Are there books, web sites, or language courses designed for English speakers who want to learn Middle English or Elizabethan English in the same way that they would learn a foreign language? It would ...
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1answer
775 views

How do we know how words were pronounced hundreds of years ago?

Recently, I've spent some time reading "The Canturbury Tales", by Geoffrey Chaucer. There are a number of resources out there to help make sense of the old language he uses, but I've noticed that ...
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English words of Latin origin: Did they replace existing words?

According to Wikipedia, the Latin influence on English builds more than half of its vocabulary. The same source furnishes a percentage of 26% for words of Germanic origin. Although I can easily ...
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1answer
566 views

When can the word “Noel” be used?

I came across the word "Noel" in a Christmas song recently. I only knew the French word "Noël" before so I looked "Noel" up in Leo. [Leo states] Noel also: Noël French - used especially ...
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1answer
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Is there a rule prescribing the absence of the -eth third person ending in late middle English?

Is there a rule prescribing the absence of the -eth third person ending in late middle English ? In the King James Bible, there are many verses which contain verbs in the third person without the -...
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Is “qo” a step in the evolution of the question mark?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Question_mark According to the wikipedia article I've linked to above, "qo" was sometimes used in the middle ages to abbreviate the latin word "questio" in the way that we ...