"Dear" has become a polite introductory word from the 15c. I would like to know of older, archaic words that were, perhaps, used in its stead or alongside it. From the old letters I reviewed I found several related words: dear, deore and various other different archaic spelling, dearest, beloved(and other more friendly words) and title specific words such as, but not limited to, your highness and your honorable.

Do you know of another word that is not related to dear and is not dependent of the title that was used? Especially words that might have been used prior to the period since when "dear" has become a convention. If you do know of a word,please tell me how you came about knowing the word or how you find it.

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    You mean things like "Trusty and welbelovyd frende, I grete you well" ? The Paston Letters are full of such salutations. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 14 '15 at 20:45

From the examples in this article on Medieval Missives & Letter Writing in that period it appears to have been customary to address the recipient indirectly (i.e. in the third person) with the phrase:

To my…


To his…

The interested reader can consult the page himself, so I only offer one example:

12th century England: mid-October 1170 From John of Salisbury to Canterbury during the exile of Thomas Becket, original in Latin

[address] To William Brito, sub-prior, Robert, sacrist, and the obedientiaries of Christ Church, Canterbury

To his dear friends and brothers, William the sub-prior, Robert the sacrist, and the others who have charge in Canterbury's holy church, their John: greeting - and do you make wise provision for the future. ... Think of yourselves and of us, in love, and farewell.

Note that this use of “To…” is distinct from that used in the address.


Apart from dear, one may use "Respected Sir, ... "

Or in olden times:

To whomsoever it may concern:

was a common way of starting formal letters.

  • Reference or quotation to support your statement please. And when was "olden times"? – David Feb 23 '17 at 19:13

You could always go back to Biblical times for examples such as "Most excellent..."

  • This answer could be improved if you provided references. (I don't offhand recall any of the letters in the Bible starting with "most excellent".) – Marthaª Oct 3 '15 at 0:22
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    @Marthaª It's from Luke 1:3 – curiousdannii Jan 1 '16 at 14:17
  • Most excellent Festus, I think? – marcellothearcane Sep 29 '19 at 19:00

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