Questions tagged [early-modern-english]

Early Modern English was used from the late 15th century to the mid to late 17th century.

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89
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4answers
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Is that an “r” in “worship” in a text from 1591?

I was trying to see how the Spanish word merced was translated into English in the 16th century, when I found this entry in a dictionary from 1591 by Richard Percyvall: I understand that the second ...
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Why “the powers that be”?

In the phrase "the powers that be," as in the sentence: It would never have occurred to the powers that be to run and supervise the National Lottery from anywhere but London. (Oxford ...
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What animal is a “weefil”?

What animal is depicted in this image labelled “weefil”?
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Capitalisation of nouns in English in the 17th and 18th centuries

It seems to have been common practice in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain to capitalise the first letters of nouns in English, e.g. At which Time he prov'd himself the Noah's Dove, that ...
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How obsolete is the word “overmorrow”?

I stumbled over the word overmorrow and wanted to know whether it is in use. So I used Googles Ngram Viewer and wondered why it has not found a single reference. Was overmorrow only used one time in ...
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What is the difference between “thee” and “thou”?

What is the difference between thee and thou and how are they used?
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What does “thy” mean?

I read a sentence containing the word thy, but I cannot find the meaning of that word. Is it older English, or is it still used in contemporary English today?
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What were nightmares called before “nightmare” was used in that sense?

Apparently the word "nightmare" has only been used in the sense of "bad dream" since c. 1829. Before then the term referred to the agent causing the dreams—a mare < mera, mære 'goblin, ...
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How do you conjugate Early Modern English verbs (other than present tense)?

I was wondering how one might conjugate verbs in early modern English in various tenses. I am aware of the fact that for second person and third person singular specifically, the verb endings are -est ...
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What is the meaning of “Apcie”?

On John Calvin's Sermons on Deuteronomy, he says: "Not that god bringeth in any newe thing here: but for that he blameth the people for their foresaid lewdness, shewing that his doctrine had ben ...
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What word did Middle English have in place of “light" as in: “light blue”, “light green” etc.?

In English, we often use the adjective light before another colour to express a whiter shade of hue. For example, light blue, light green, light brown, etc. The term pale is used in a similar way, e....
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When should I say “thee”?

If I want to be posh, old school, when I'm writing, and decide to use "thee" then what is the correct technical usage for it? Does it simply replace "the" ?
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Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?

Surely, if I were the owner of a shop selling archery goods and wanted to portray my shop as some kind of old-fashioned, high-quality traditional outlet, I might be tempted to call it “Ye Olde Archery ...
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What is the olden name for sideburns?

Upon search, I found out that sideburns has evolved from burnsides, named after the Civil War veteran and Rhode Island senator Ambrose Burnside. See here But surely sideburns existed before him, so ...
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How and why have some words changed to a complete opposite?

One example that comes to mind is terrific which originally denoted something quite terrorising while now it has positive connotations... How and why did these changes occur?
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Odd possessive form of a proper name: Why does Dryden write “Lord Nonsuch his” instead of “Lord Nonsuch’s” but “Bibber’s” instead of “Bibber his”?

While researching a question posed on EL&U, I came across this list of the characters in John Dryden’s The Wild Gallant (1663), from a 1735 collection of Dryden’s works: DRAMATIS PERSONAE. ...
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…down the primrose path

What is the origin of primrose used in the idiom primrose path, as defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary? primrose path The pursuit of pleasure, especially when it is seen to bring ...
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Shouldn’t “art” be “is” in “Our Father who art in heaven”?

The Lord’s Prayer begins in English: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Shouldn’t it be who is there, not who art? ...
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Does “goodly” in this sentence in Hamlet mean “considerable” or "pleasing?

In Hamlet there is the following conversation: GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord! HAMLET: Denmark's a prison. ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one. HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are ...
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Are English language books translated to contemporary English? [closed]

Were Shakespeare books translated to contemporary English? Which version is more common? Is there a rule to choose which books will have its language updated? Are poems updated too? From which year I ...
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Recent trends in English grammar

A lot of questions have been dedicated to how the evolution of English got many constructs of the old either fall out of use, merge, or evolve into different forms but still with 1:1 relation to ...
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“I must to England” in Hamlet: What does “must” mean without an infinitive?

What did "must" mean when used as a non-modal verb (sorry, I don't know the technical term) in Early Modern English? For example: I must to England; you know that? (Hamlet, Act III, Scene IV)
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Thank thou or Thank thee

How would Shakespeare have said "Thank you"? Can't decide if it is thee or thou, since it isn't really a sentence.
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1answer
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What was “static electricity” known as before the discovery of electricity?

People must have dealt with static electrical discharge for thousands of years; well before they began to understand the principles of electricity. What would a static discharge be called in early ...
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During what period of history did English use “ß”, the “sharp s” ligature?

The ß glyph is a lowercase letter than represents a ligature between a long s and a round s, and is still used today in (some versions of) German. Its uppercase equivalent is two characters instead ...
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Rhyming conventions of Early Modern English

I was reading the poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell when something struck me as odd. Let me quote two passages: Thou by the Indian Ganges' side Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide Of ...
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Principles in the use of letters 'b', 'u' and 'v' in Early Modern English typography

I have been reading a medical book by one late surgeon Thomas Gale. I was wondering the following mix-up of letters 'u','v' and 'b'. This states: "to have the cure of". Letter 'u' is used in the ...
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“Cut their hawsers”

I'm annotating a late 16th or early 17th century English play for publication, and I'm having trouble making sense of a certain incident that takes place. I'm hoping someone familiar with Elizabethan ...
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“Fool” meaning “baby”

The word is "fool." The OED has been no help on this, but my copy of Hamlet makes reference to its having the meaning "baby" so when Polonius says "You'll tender me a fool" he is cautioning Ophelia ...
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How was “ben't” used, and when did it cease to be used?

In Jane Austen's The Watsons, the maid of the titular family utters the following sentence: "Please, ma'am, master wants to know why he ben't to have his dinner?" I have never encountered ben't ...
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1answer
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What were Red Admiral and White Admiral butterflies called before 1627?

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and White Admiral (Limenitis camilla) butterfly species cannot have had those common names before 1627, when the English Navy (the predecessor of the Royal Navy) was ...
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Does “'tis” means “this is” or “it is”?

I have found much trouble identifying the old word 'tis. Does it mean "this is" or "it is?" I have done some research and found that the dictionaries conflict. One said 'tis :An old English word ...
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-est vs. -st verb endings in Early Modern English

I've been Googling for a little while tonight, but I can't seem to find any rules on this. Irregular ("strong") verbs seem to be pretty set in their endings: goest, dost. But when I get to something ...
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1answer
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Capital Letters from 1700 [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Capitalisation of nouns in English (historically) After reading a recipe from 1747, I noticed that all of the nouns are capitalized. Is that a normal thing for that era? It's ...
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How old is the practice of hyphenating compound adjectives?

In Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part One at 1.3.230 Hotspur refers to Hal contemptuously as that same sword-and-buckler Prince of Wales At Internet Shakespeare Editions the “Modern” ...
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What part of speech is “methinks”?

Dictionaries call this word a verb, but it doesn't seem to behave like any other verb in the English language. Another question on this site calls it a “conjoined pronoun-verb combination”, which ...
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Explanation of a sentence in “Adam lay ybounden”

In the carol "Adam lay ybounden", there's a line that goes: As clerkes finden, written in their book Is "finden" the infinitive form of "find"? I thought it should be "found" or maybe "would ...
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1answer
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Word contractions in Shakespeare's plays

In Shakespeare's plays it is common to find contracted words, such as "o'er", "e'en", "sulph'uous", "ta'en". Is it just a literary device or those words were actually pronounced (in day-to-day speech) ...
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“As I am wo/man” in Twelfth Night, II, 2 (Shakespeare): a case of indefinite article omission or no?

Are "As I am man" and "As I am woman" in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, II, 2 examples of indefinite article omission or not? This question is (e)specially directed towards those familiar with ...
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“That heresies should arise, we have the prophesie of Christ…”

That heresies should arise, we have the prophesie of Christ; but that old ones should be abolished, we hold no prediction. This is a quote from Religio Medici (1643) by Thomas Browne. It's quoted in ...
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Why did the old pronouns and their respective endings vanish from daily usage?

If I’m not wrong, the verb conjugation in the past used to be: I have we have thou hast ye have he/she/it hath they have This conjugation is closer to its equivalent in the ...
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On THE other hand or on another hand?

I'm editing a manuscript which takes place in 1854 Britain. I've run across two uses of "on another hand" used in place of "on the other hand." Is this proper vernacular for the era or should I edit ...
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What does the word “wind” mean in this John Donne poem?

“Go and Catch a Falling Star”, by John Donne Go and catch a falling star,         Get with child a mandrake root, Tell me where all past years are,         Or who cleft the devil's foot, Teach me to ...
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1answer
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Roger Ascham his language

As I was finishing Ascham's "Toxophilus" I've stumbled over this phrase, the meaning of which remained unclear to me: "An other wil stand poyntinge his shafte at the marke a good whyle and by and by ...
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Is it ever effective to use modern and archaic grammar together?

A manuscript I'm currently editing has brought up a new (to me) problem - There's a character who speaks in archaic forms ("thee" and "thou", essentially). I've noted to the writer that this is coming ...
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Differences between dialects

I'm Italian and I'm trying to improve my English, but I have some difficulty speaking with and understanding people of different countries. For example when I study English in books it seems to be ...
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Is Shakespeare's Double Negative Grammatically Wrong?

In Act I Scene I of The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare's character Salarino uses a double negative in the phrase Not in love neither?, is this grammatically wrong or was this acceptable at the time? [...
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English Typography in the 17th Century

I was browsing through some very old English texts when I came across this page from The memoires of Sir James Melvil of Hal-hill, by George Scot (1683). The first thing that struck me was the anatomy ...
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In EModE should 'may' become 'mayest' when expressing a wish

I'm translating a text from Sanskrit, which has a singular/plural (and, actually, dual) distinction in the second person. It has long been the custom in English translation to render the 2nd singular ...
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What does “might” exactly mean in the following excerpt?

This is a excerpt from Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and I want to know the exact meaning of might regarding the context. Some say by might we mean: being allowed to and some say it ...