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

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    Another way of putting it, maybe: what was William the Bastard called before he was called William the Bastard? – Dori Apr 12 '11 at 3:52
  • To be clear, the 13th century after the Old English days. – user3217 Apr 25 '11 at 0:23
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    @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 '11 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 '11 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 '13 at 9:55

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

  • oh, that's rather concrete. thnx! – Juls Apr 25 '11 at 6:15
  • @Juls My pleasure! – user3217 Apr 25 '11 at 6:19
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    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). – Daniel Harbour Oct 4 '12 at 18:23
  • mistress rather than concubine/harlot might be a better translation of cifes these days. – Nicholas Shanks Jan 15 '13 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 '11 at 13:01

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

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