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I have read the following question and all the answers, and they do not answer my question, so it is not a duplicate:

Why are the vowels in Christ and Christmas different? (and other strange diphthong behaviour)


From wikitionary:

From Middle English Crist, from Old English Crist

  • Middle English Crist: /kriːst/, /krist/
  • Old English: /krist/

The vowel in Old English was a short vowel /i/ but in Middle English, it became /i:/.

I read Homorganic Lengthening in this excellent answer by Janus Bahs Jacquet according to which vowels were lengthened before /mb nd ld rd ŋg/, but /st/ is voiceless.

Were vowels also lengthened before voiceless pairs? Why is this change in "christ"?

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  • See also: quora.com/… – user 66974 Jan 22 at 12:28
  • The title-question looks near-identical; are you saying that you find the answer/s there inadequate? If so, it is correct procedure to add a bonus say at the original. // Note that saying that 'this is an example of homorganic lengthening' say doesn't really address the issue of why such changes have taken place, merely that they were wholesale. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 22 at 12:45
  • @EdwinAshworth My bad. I have clarified it now. Thanks for letting me know. – Sphinx Jan 23 at 7:47
  • @EdwinAshworth Thanks for the correction below. I have always been writing "old" and "middle" with small initial letters. – Sphinx Jan 24 at 6:54
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Long and short vowels were written the same way in Old English (macrons, the lines marking long vowels, are a modern convention). Given the current pronunciation of Christ, I’d guess it had a long and not a short vowel in Old English. But I’m not sure. If it did have a long vowel, the reason might be because Latin Chrīstus apparently had a long vowel.

The Ormulum (early Middle English) uses the spelling Crist (where the non-doubled s indicates a long i) alongside Crisstene and Crisstenndom.

If the word really did have a short vowel in Old English, French influence could possibly be a reason for the pronunciation with a long vowel in Middle English. Monosyllabic words ending in /st/ taken from French, like coast, toast, feast, fairly often have long vowels for some reason.


I looked at the Oxford English Dictionary entry for Christ, and it says the length of the vowel in Old English is "uncertain".


It isn't a case of homorganic lengthening of the type found in child: that lengthening process was an early sound change that only regularly applied before consonant clusters ending in a voiced consonant, not ones like /st/ ending in a voiceless consonant.

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    Given the fact that Old and Middle English were both collections of variegated dialects, it's almost certain that it was a short vowel sometimes and a long vowel sometimes, and we've reified those changes by changing the pronunciations in the standard. Why one or the other won out in individual words is often a lost story. – John Lawler Jan 22 at 20:49
  • Thanks for this answer. You seem to know much about old and middle English, would you mind if I asked you to attempt to answer my another question I asked a few days ago? Here it is: english.stackexchange.com/q/557651/387044 there is already an answer but I'm not satisfied with that answer yet. – Sphinx Jan 23 at 7:47

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