I remember being told that "teh" (a common misspelling of "the") is actually a proper (though very old and no longer in common usage) English word.

Teh was used as an example that if every single English word was included in a spell-checker it would decrease (the spell-checker's) utility (very few people know or use "teh", it's auto-corrected to "the").

I've checked both on-line and paper dictionaries and can't find it, can anyone confirm that it is an English word and what it's meaning is?

  • Here are some old English dictionaries. I check through one of them and I can't find teh. Maybe, ðéh (though) is what you are looking for?
    – Stan
    May 30, 2013 at 10:57
  • Because of autocorrect, the word teh, which used to occur in my writings very frequently in earlier day when I was using ed and vi and TECO, is rarely to be found in what I write these days. May 30, 2013 at 11:15
  • 1
    @DilipSarwate - That's exactly what I was told (updated the question to reflect this)! But what's the meaning?
    – SteB
    May 30, 2013 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


OED has five entries for teh, which I won't reproduce in full because of copyright issues.

te, n.2, also Te, teh, tih.
a. In Taoism, the essence of Tao inherent in all beings.
b. In Confucianism and in extended use, moral virtue.

tee, v.1 (Obs.)
2. fig. To draw, lead, entice, allure; to bring into some condition. Const. to.
c1200 Trin. Coll. Hom. 139 And teh folc to him to heren his wise word.

thee, pron. and n.2
β. OE–ME te (chiefly after d, t), lME de; Eng. regional (chiefly north.) 18– ta, 18– te, 18– tee, 19– t', 19– teh, 19– tey; Sc. 18 die (Shetland), 18 t’ee, 18– dee (Shetland and Orkney), 19– de (Orkney).

thou, pron. and n.1
β. OE (rare)–ME tu, ... 18 teh (north.), ...

thy, adj.
β. ME di, ... Eng. regional 18 te, 18 teh, 18 tey ...

All except the first are regional and largely obsolete. But it does have a current use in Chinese philosophy, where it can be variously rendered (according to the OED citations) tĭh, Teh, teh, tê, te, Tê.

  • 1
    Interesting. The first entry you listed, teh in Taoism and Confucianism, was written as 德 in Chinese. But I think this one isn't what OP is looking for, because it doesn't originate from the Western world.
    – Stan
    May 30, 2013 at 11:16
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    @Stan it matches their descrption in every other way, so I'd say it's quite possible that they were thinking exactly of this but just failed to remember the reason why it's not in common use.
    – Jon Hanna
    May 30, 2013 at 11:36
  • So... 18th-century Old English variant of thou and 18th-century Middle-English of thy, or am I reading this incorrectly?
    – SteB
    May 30, 2013 at 11:36
  • Thou was tu in OE and ME and teh in the North of England in the 18th century. [It either means 1800s or eighteenth century, I'm not sure. Probably the latter.] It looks like it might still be used for thee.
    – Andrew Leach
    May 30, 2013 at 11:39
  • @SteB the forms show the century when it was used, or the English era (Old English, Middle English) 18th Century is Modern English. Essentially it shows the progression from Old English to Modern English of the spelling of the particular word. E.g. Thy was spelt ti in Middle english, then by 18C one of the spelling variations was teh. May 30, 2013 at 11:47

I remember being told that "teh" (a common misspelling of "the") is actually a proper (though very old and no longer in common usage) English word.

No. Its use is very recent. It originated, in its main meaning, as a mistyping of "the". The typo was then adopted by denizens of the internet as a meme, which indicated by irony that the writer was a skilled internet user and that the character that he was describing was an idiot.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teh

(A related typo is "The "!1" Phenomenon" See https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/the-1-phenomenon)

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