I know that the word bastard in this sense appeard only in 13th century. So what was the normal term before that?

  • 1
    Another way of putting it, maybe: what was William the Bastard called before he was called William the Bastard?
    – Dori
    Apr 12, 2011 at 3:52
  • To be clear, the 13th century after the Old English days.
    – user3217
    Apr 25, 2011 at 0:23
  • 1
    @Jonathan: ?? Is your comment to your own answer? The question is about OE, your answer -looks- like OE, but your comment here (not with your answer) makes it sound like you're saying it is ME.
    – Mitch
    Apr 25, 2011 at 0:39
  • Wow, I misread the question (thought it said “after”, not “before”)! My bad. That's what happens when you've got an axe to grind, I suppose.
    – user3217
    Apr 25, 2011 at 0:43
  • @Dori perhaps as "William the Bastard", since while it was only English since the 13th C, it was French since about his time.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 13, 2013 at 9:55

4 Answers 4


Actually, in the Old English days, the word for “bastard” was cifesboren.

  • oh, that's rather concrete. thnx!
    – Juls
    Apr 25, 2011 at 6:15
  • @Juls My pleasure!
    – user3217
    Apr 25, 2011 at 6:19
  • 3
    A literal translation of the term is harlot-born or concubine-born, cifes being the Anglo-Saxon for “concubine, harlot” (the connection boren “born” speaks for itself). Oct 4, 2012 at 18:23
  • mistress rather than concubine/harlot might be a better translation of cifes these days. Jan 15, 2013 at 9:36

There are many references in genealogies and histories of natural sons and natural daughters of nobles and royalty during the Middle Ages -- people like Meiler Fitzhenry (son of Henry I of England), William Longsword (son of Henry II of England), Hamelin Plantagenet (son of Geoffrey of Anjou), and Joan of Wales (daughter of King John of England). These references date from the 12th century, and the same terms appear to have been in use as late as the 18th century.


In Medieval Latin, dating from the 11th Century, the equivalent was bastardus.

  • Oh, I've found myself 'uterine' - born of the same mother but not necessarily of the same father...
    – Juls
    Apr 11, 2011 at 13:01

Robert Burns (1759-1796) wrote to his love-begotten daughter.

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