Questions tagged [archaicisms]

Archaic or obsolete vocabulary and grammar.

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I was wondering about giving commands in archaic English [duplicate]

Simply, would you say 'eatest thy vegetables' or 'eatest thou thy vegetables'? Is 'thou' always or ever necessary? (Or just 'eat thy vegetables')
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What does this (likely archaic) usage of "down" mean?

In one of a series of letters widely believed to be written by the serial killer Jack the Ripper (commonly referred to as the "Dear Boss" letter) the author makes use of the following phrase:...
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Prepostition 'as to' in poetry

So I ran accross this line in a poem of Alexander Pope: Vice is a monster of so frightful mien As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then ...
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8 votes
3 answers
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What does having a hat "on three hairs" mean, and where does that expression come from?

In my reading I came across this description: His old red coat was sponged and pressed, his whiskers shone with pomade, his cap was on three hairs, his cane under his arm, and his monocle in his eye. ...
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How to parse/interpret the unusual wording on a diploma?

My SO just earned a PhD and received their diploma, and we were both puzzled by the wording. I'm copying it line by line, including punctuation (but omitting the school/personal specifics in brackets)....
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Corpus vs. corpse

I found this definition on Wikidiff: "The difference between corpus and corpse is that corpus is the body while corpse is a dead body" While in Collins and Merriam Webster I found this ...
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2 votes
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What are "the dear years" in Redgauntlet?

"Wandering Willie's Tale" is a short story embedded within Sir Walter Scott's novel "Redgauntlet" (1824). It's written in Scots and/or Scottish English (I'm not certain where those ...
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What is meant by "offence can scarcely be visited on the quantity"

The full text is below. "Friend, be not tedious," said the Rajah of Travancore to a Christian missionary, in the sixteenth century, "remember life is short." I have endeavoured to ...
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Why is "from" used in "from henceforth"?

The dictionaries unanimously include the word from in their definitions of henceforth: e.g. M-W: from this point on Henceforth, supervisors will report directly to the manager. Cambridge: starting ...
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Word for "object of malignant joy"

I would need a literary synonym of toy, but which would also have the nuance of object of malignant joy. I would like to use it in the context of someone becoming the toy (?) of some evil powers ...
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Is there any difference between "thou wast" and "thou wert"?

Today I realised for the first time that in the KJV Bible both thou wast and thou wert are used, and I was intrigued by the need to have two forms for the same person and number of the past tense ...
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2 votes
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"... His entreaties which are hearkened/hearkened unto by God"

The verb to hearken is an archaic verb which I need to use for my translation into KJV Bible style of English. I see it used with the prepositions to and unto in the KJV, but never in this structure: ...
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9 votes
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Why "thine heart" but "thy whole heart"?

I have somehow picked up the use of the two different forms "thy/thine" from the KJV Bible, and I thought I knew the rule. Use thy before consonants and thine before vowels or before words ...
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Why is it 'three score years and ten' almost half the time and not always 'three score and ten years'?

Why is it 'three score years and ten' almost half the time and not always 'three score and ten years'? Note: I edited the question body and title in light of comments and answers pointing me to a ...
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Shalt vs. Shall [duplicate]

related to this I think. I'm trying to understand the distinction between "shall" and ""shalt" but only in a specific case: In the final line of John Donne's Holy Sonnet, &...
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what does the sentence "all is not the moon surrounded by stars" mean?

I saw this sentence when watching Leonardo (2021). It sounds archaic and I'm confused. I've seen sentences like "all that glistens is not gold" and "all is not lost", but this one ...
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A complicated sentence occurring in Tolkien's "Silmarillion"

I've come across a rather complicated sentence in Tolkien's work "The Silmarillion" and I'm afraid that I need some help at understanding its meaning, and therefore its grammar. It reads as ...
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A-roving, a-walking, a-verb participle: what is this called? [duplicate]

Is there a name for the archaic form of a-verb participle, as in a-walking? It appears in poetry and songs, for example, As I was a-walking down Paradise Street... Time is the stream I go a-fishing ...
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1 vote
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Meaning of "make trim of"

In the Life of Flavius Josephus, as translated by Whiston in the 18th century, Josephus says: Moreover, when I was a child, and about fourteen years of age, I was commended by all for the love I had ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What does the apostrophe in the expression ‘I’ faith’ mean?

In older translations of Latin texts (and I would presume Greek as well), the phrase I’ faith is quite common. Examples from Plautus’ Menaechmus 2.2 and 2.3: CYLINDRUS I’ve catered well, and to my ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Why did Thomas Paine use both "hath" and "has" in the same sentence?

My understanding is that "hath" is archaic, but has exactly the same meaning as "has". But then why would an educated writer use both in the same sentence when writing a formal ...
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What word was used with the meaning of "suicide" pre-1650s?

Online Etymology Dictionary puts the origin as such: "deliberate killing of oneself," 1650s, from Modern Latin suicidium Wiktiobary here puts: Suicide, 1651, New Latin coinage (probably ...
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3 answers
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Are there any old third-person singular pronouns the way “thou” is an old second-person pronoun?

Thou is an old second-person singular pronoun in English. Are there any old third-person singular pronouns?
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Is the Christmas carol “We Three Kings” intentionally ungrammatical for artistic reasons, or does it use archaic grammar?

I was listening to the “We Three Kings” Christmas carol, and I ended up taking note of the syntax. Given the use of the thou/thy/thee/thine pronouns for the second-person singular and the vocative ...
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Uncorrect vs. Incorrect; Do the two words have the same meaning?

I often heard professors at the University I was enrolled in use the word "uncorrect." The word 'uncorrect' is in some reputable English dictionaries, and conspicuous by its absence in ...
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9 votes
2 answers
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Unusual or archaic usage of "young"

"Well, you've probably never been in a tighter place than you are today! If there's a lunatic hiding on this island, he's probably got a young arsenal on him - to say nothing of a knife or ...
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Is there a single word that means "next year"?

I remember reading a text (I think it was written in Early Modern English, so the word I'm thinking of might be kind of archaic) and seeing just one word that meant "next year," would anyone ...
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1 vote
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What were/are the rules regarding relative pronouns from c. 1800?

I've been reading some rather old literature, often ranging from the 18th Century through to the late 19th Century, and I'm trying to increase my comprehension of the material, at least to the extent ...
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0 votes
2 answers
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Do people in Britain use this structure nowdays? Or is it considered archaic there? [closed]

I found it on one website about If I were/If I was usage, and I'm not sure it's common: If I had been a boy, I would have happily roamed outside all night. “if I had been” talks about a particular ...
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38 votes
3 answers
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Why "Giraffe" as a name for the animal?

My question is based on my interest in the evolution of the Giraffe's name. Etymology Online Dictionary puts the following: Giraffe: long-necked ruminant animal of Africa, 1590s, giraffa(...)The ...
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1 answer
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Is the archaic meaning of "exact" different from how we use it today?

In the poem On his blindness by John Milton, we find these lines “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” Keeping in mind the lines above and lines below the quoted line, the quoted might mean ...
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21 votes
2 answers
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Deciphering two words from their Archaic spellings

I am translating the 1509, first English Translation of Sebastian Brant's The Shyp of foyls (The Ship of Fools), and came across two words which, for the life of me, I could not construe or make ...
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2 answers
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Affect in something? (a phrase from an older book)

Reading an old tale from C.A.Smith, there is the following sentence: About him, there was nothing whatever of the lineaments of our own period; and he even went so far as to affect in his costume an ...
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Figuring out the meaning and syntax of the English translation of Charmides

I was reading The Dialogues of Socrates translated into English and one particular sentence in Charmides sprung out as odd. I can't tell what it is trying to say, but I also can't figure out if it is ...
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3 answers
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What did "simples" mean in the 1800s?

This is from Mark Twain's "The Innocents Abroad": They flocked to our poor human doctor this morning when the fame of what he had done to the sick child went abroad in the land, and they ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Is "standard" an archaic synonym for an athletic team or club?

This was passed along to me (native US speaker) by a non-native speaker. A school in the UK asks for the following details... Games Teams and Standards Extra-curricular Activities ...in their ...
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Meaning of "for indeed"?

Given is the following paragraph (excerpt from The New Freedom, by Woodrow Wilson - 1913): For indeed, if you stop to think about it, nothing could be a greater departure from original Americanism, ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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The Auxiliary “Be” in the King James Bible

The King James Bible has Job 30:2 as “Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?” which I understood to mean, “What use are their hands to me, men whose ...
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0 votes
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Prior to the 20th century, what was the noun for an individual person from a country whose demonym ends in '-ese'?

As a Redditor pointed out, using a demonym that ends in '-ese' as a noun sounds incorrect or at least awkward (especially a singular noun--someone on the thread writes, 'For example you could say “I ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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What does "stat 1. c.18" mean?

I'm reading Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and I keep seeing these chronologic references to reigns of kings and queens in England: By the 12th of Queen Anne, too, stat. 1, c. 18 What do "...
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Definition of "as to own"?

Prepping for the GED RLA test, I came across this sentence (from Excerpt from A Defense of the Constitution of Government of the USA by John Adams): If we should extend our candor so far as to own ...
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When was "in the which" correct English grammatical usage?

In the King James Version of the Old Testament, the phrase "in the which" is used in Genesis 1:29, 42:38, 19:29, 45:6 and Numbers 6:5. It is also used in the New Testament: Luke 19:30, 23:29, John 4:...
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"And" meaning "if" or "as long as"

Can anyone confirm that there is an archaic use of the word "and" meaning "if" or "as long as"? For example: "Yes you can, and you do no harm." If you can ...
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Contemporary synonym of "thereanent" or "thereabout"

I want to express that one thing concerns another, using an adverb, such as in: I mended the sink and wrote her a note thereanent / thereabout. Meaning: I mended the sink and wrote her a note ...
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Should I use [sic] when quoting the KJV 1611?

I am currently working on a project for my Grade 12 religion class, and it requires (surprise, surprise) Biblical quotations. I have decided to use the 1611 KJV Bible and quote verses with very ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Meaning of "Friday face" in 1592

I was reading a pamphlet from the year 1592, published in London, and came across a rather obsolete and bewitching phrase: "The Foxe on a time came to visit the Gray, partly for kindered cheefly ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Is Dun / dunning archaic?

verb (used with object), dunned, dun·ning. to make repeated and insistent demands upon, especially for the payment of a debt. noun a person, especially a creditor, who duns another. a ...
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'MURDER" or "MURTHER" ? -- Question on when distinct (archaic) spellings for words were used and when not

Salutations, I am currently writing a play that is being regulated to the very distinct notions of authentically replicating the English language and its archaic spellings during its usage in London, ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Expression: "To wish sb./sth. at the devil" meaning?

"Sancho Panza, who was wishing the goatherd's loquacity at the devil,..." Context: The goatherd was relating a lengthy story to Don Quixote, it was late at night and Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
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"Here am I" vs "here I am"

Is my understanding correct that here am I is just an archaic form of saying here I am? That is what Google seems to tell me.
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