I'm writing a story that heavily uses archaic or unusual English words, with a focus of non-Latin, non-French and non-Anglo-Norman derived words and how English might work without them.

I found very little that makes sense to use in place of that phrase, 'of course' as we use it now. According to Wiktionary "course" has been around since Middle English. The entry for 'of course' makes note of a meaning going back to the 16th century.

So I'm guessing maybe they would have used something utterly different before then. Any clues as to what?

The part of speech I'm looking for, is as an adverb or interjection, such as:

"Did you get the jam?", he asked. "Of course", I answered.

"Of course I know the answer!", she growled.

  • 'of course' seems very latinate. The germanic version is something like 'surely'...wait... 'sure' is also from Old French...but at least it has cognates that are germanic like 'sicher'. Also, don't trust a thing wiktionary says - there's a lot of god stuff there but also a lot of crap and it has no nuance.
    – Mitch
    Jun 27, 2020 at 20:19
  • Adverbial phrase of course "by consequence, in regular or natural order" is attested from 1540s, literally "of the ordinary course;" earlier in the same sense was bi cours (c. 1300). (Etymonline)
    – user 66974
    Jun 27, 2020 at 20:23
  • 2
    Dutch and German often use cognates of naturally where we say of course, and Etymonline has naturally dating to the 13 C. Whether it was an everyday word or one more common in educated writing, I don't know.
    – The Photon
    Jun 27, 2020 at 20:24
  • The Photon, that makes sense. I've looked at Dutch and German translations for Latinate words I'm trying to replace, and if they didn't also borrow from Latin I can sometimes work backwards to Proto-Germanic and then forward thru Old English to something I can use.
    – Gollor
    Jun 27, 2020 at 22:58
  • Did you get the jam ? . . . . Yea, I got the jam. (Or, nay I didn't.)
    – Nigel J
    Jun 27, 2020 at 23:23

2 Answers 2


I suspect it was either

1 "gewis" It is not a precise translation but it carries much the same meaning and was relatively common. (Compare the German "Gewiss" See https://dict.leo.org/german-english/gewiss - certainly; of course; sure).


archaic. A. adj. (gewis)

Certain (subjectively and objectively). Only in Old English.

a1000 Prose Life Guthlac (1848) v. 30 We syndon gewisse þines lifes.

c1000 Gosp. Nicod. iii Myd gewyssum gesceade yrn & clypa..þone

The Middle English is "iwis" (and various other spellings)

2 A good alternative is soþlice

Bosworth Toller: http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/028359


I. as adv. Truly, really, certainly, verily "Ðú bist sóþlíce ǽr þrím dagum genumen of ðínum líchoman" = certainly before three days thou wilt be taken from thy body,(a) Truly, in truth; actually, really; assuredly, certainly; indeed, in fact;

The Middle English is sothli.

(Compare "forsooth")

  • This also makes sense. As has often happened in this project, I sometimes look at the question too literally. And when I go looking for a non-Latinate word I run into a kind of absence of words because the Germanic approach just looks the semantic space in a different way. Dutch and German have been very helpful in the past here.
    – Gollor
    Jun 27, 2020 at 23:00
  • 2
    The Modern English for "soþlice" would be "soothly", right? Jun 28, 2020 at 4:45
  • @TannerSwett yes, cf. e.g. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sooth
    – ljrk
    Jun 28, 2020 at 7:53

I like this old term:

adverb archaic
: in truth : CERTAINLY

This is commonly found in Shakespeare, for example.


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