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Questions tagged [middle-english]

Middle English is the period in the history of the English language between the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century.

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Why are there two versions of the Canterbury Tales written in totally different dialects?

I'm researching Middle English to learn about the changes that occurred between the death of Old English and the birth of Early Modern English. I'm planning on looking into different works from ...
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2answers
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How is 'wl-' pronounced?

How is 'wl-' pronounced at the beginning of a word? Of course, you just don't pronounce it at all, because there is no English word that begins that way and if there were, well, that's just not ...
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A Dictionary for English used by poets like Chaucer

I am trying to read Canterbury tales by Chaucer. Now, I am not a native English speaker. So, the trouble I had in reading it goes like this. Take the beginning, "Whan that Aprille with his shoures ...
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When did “awkwarde” mean “backhanded”?

In an old tale about Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne this can be read: Robin thought on Our Lady deere, And soone leapt vp againe, And thus he came with an awkwarde stroke; Good Sir Guy hee ...
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Was “lukewarm” a way of saying “warm warm”?

Someone used the expression “un-hot question” to describe a post that was in the HNQ (Hot Network Questions) despite not being “hot”. And my thoughts immediately turned to alternatives such as, ‘tepid’...
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If you had a list of common words from Middle and Modern English, how many words would have been replaced?

If you compiled a list of common Middle English words and their corresponding Modern English translations, how many entries would have been replaced by an etymologically distinct word in Modern ...
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131 views

Where did the word “brat” in reference to a spoiled child originate?

I've heard that the etymology is unknown as the original word refers to a garment and the old English word bratt a cloak. None of these seem to point to how it came to be used derogatorily.
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Has there been any theory on the vowel /o/ that was inserted into words like “arrow”?

Words like tomorrow, sorrow, arrow, follow, borough contain /o/, as in the diphthong /oʊ/, which was /wə(n)/ in Middle English which was weakened from Old English /x/ or /ɣ/ + some sort of vowel. ...
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116 views

Middle English pronunciation of digraphs

I was reading Chaucer and I am unsure on the pronunciation of "ch" and "wh". It's written in the guide that all "ch" is read as in "church" and it makes sense in words like "chivalrye", but sounds ...
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372 views

Pronunciation and syllables of pre-Modern English “belewe”?

I know the word "belewe" from traditional astronomy as a precursor to the phrase "blue moon", also known as the "betrayer" thirteenth moon in one of every three years that would disrupt a lunar ...
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“an smyte hem in pecys” in English?

I was looking at a recipe for "Vele, kede, or henne in Bokenade" from a 15th century cookery book, but am confused by the words "smyte" and "pecys" in the following phrase: an smyte hem in pecys ...
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124 views

Vocative case and plural - 'thou art' [duplicate]

In a previous question about the English of the KJV a link was helpfully supplied and I read the following The vocative case is used when directly addressing a person with a noun identifying the ...
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How is “burial” incorrectly formed?

OED says that: Middle English buryel, biriel, incorrectly formed as a singular of byriels, buriels n., q.v.; in later times associated with nouns in -al from French, such as espousal-s. Etymonline....
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How did “stroke” become the verb “strike” to mean “deal a blow”?

I've just been looking up the etymology of the word "strike," as in “The pedestrian was struck by a vehicle.” (I was curious about why we always seem to use "struck" in this situation). A quick ...
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Why does the past tense form of sleep have a weak suffix?

Meaning: to sleep is a strong verb in the Germanic languages. While I'm quite aware that strong vs weak anything has very little bearing on modern English, this is still something that puzzles me. ...
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When did the South start using the +es third person, present tense verb inflection in Middle English?

In Middle English the Northern speakers started using the +es inflection whilst the South continued to use the Old English form +eð/+eth. When did the South finally catch up with the North and use the ...
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When did all-caps formatting come to indicate shouting?

A question on the History stack discusses when all-caps formatting came to indicate shouting in digital text, the answer being that such formatting has been interpreted to indicate shouting long ...
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Pronunciation of Middle English

In Britten's "Deo Gracias" (from A Ceremony of Carols) there are a few sentences and words which I don't really know how to pronounce: clerkes finden the appil take ben that appil take was
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Is “giddy” derived from “Gid” which was Middle English for “God”?

Recently I posted an answer about the etymology of goodbye, in that answer I included a reference that cited Gid be with you, which was dated 1400-1499. The phrase was mentioned in Diachronic ...
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402 views

Is there a name for the meetings between kings and peasants?

In the middle ages, or in fiction, when the king holds a ceremony of sorts to meet with commoners and disscuss their issues one by one, is there a word for that, or a common name that could be ...
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1answer
201 views

To make fiaunce to someone

From Le Morte d'Arthur: (modern edition) And when Sir Ector was come he made fiaunce to the king for to nourish the child like as the king desired; (original edition) And whan syre Ector ...
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Meaning of “the kynge gaf hem leue for fayne wold he haue ben accorded with her”

Here is a fragment of Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory: Thenne alle the barons by one assent prayd the Kynge of accord betwixe the lady Igrayne and hym / the kynge gaf hem leue / for fayne ...
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What was Ꝧ (thorn with stroke through descender) used for in middle/old english?

I was doing some research online and I saw that a thorn with a slash through the ascender was a common abbreviation for "that," but the same website (wikipedia) also listed this character: "Ꝧ". What ...
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2answers
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In Early Modern English, is “beest” subjunctive or dialectal?

I am looking for better ways to translate between German and English, and I prefer Early Modern Engliſh, as a mode of speech, but mainly in written form, and I found out the other day that the ...
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2answers
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Why are there so many words of apparent (Middle) Dutch origin in English?

I've observed over many occasions of looking up etymologies for words that so many words that entered English during the Middle English and Early Modern period (I don't know the figures) were of ...
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1answer
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What language is this OED entry in?

I came across this citation in the OED entry1 for fag (4th meaning, "a knot in cloth"): 1464 Act. 4 Edw. IV, c. i, ― En cas que ascune autiel diversite ou Rawe, Skawe, cokell ou fagge, aveigne ...
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1answer
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Does the word “spicy” predate the Columbian exchange, and if so, in which ways was it used?

Europe did not have any kind of capsicum or chili pepper before the Columbian exchange of the 15th and 16th centuries. These days many people feel that the word "spicy" only describes the kind of "...
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2answers
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What was a century called before it was called “century”?

The term century in the more common connotation that refers to a period of 100 years is relatively recent: The Modern English meaning is attested from 1650s, short for century of years (1620s). ...
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6answers
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What is the meaning of “rage,” in this exchange

Merriam-Webster (on line) offers no help with the meaning of "rage" (verb) in this context; "swage" is presumably 'assuage' (fade). Youthe speke to his selfe & sayd: With women me lyst both ...
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3answers
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Was “fong” a Middle English word?

I just watched the movie A Knight's Tale, and the character Wat repeatedly threatens to "fong" people (as in "I'll fong you," clearly meaning some kind of bodily violence.) There are claims around ...
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'When was the use of Þ diminished by the digraph 'th'?

Wikipedia does not mention the exact date, nor do any other sites that I have visited. While no Shakespearean book that I have read ( later 16th Century ) has the use of Þ in it, and the 15th ...
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1answer
207 views

What do we call a “manuscript expert”?

Someone (in most cases an academic) who is well-rounded in the field of ancient manuscripts, with solid training in history and/or literature, one or more ancient languages, paleography, and ...
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2answers
658 views

What did English use before “triangle”?

Apparently the word "triangle" was borrowed into English in the late 1300s. Triangles are a very common shape in everyday life, and there were certainly English-speaking craftsmen and artists before ...
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3answers
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Why is “build” spelt with a “u”?

I was just looking at build on Wiktionary and I noticed that in Middle English the word was bilden. Where did the u come from? I can understand why words such as guide have a u; it's to make the g "...
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2answers
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Origin of -(e)s in present indicative third singular

I'm aware that it comes from a Northern dialect of Middle English as in: He sing(e)s With the full Northern conjugation being: Ik sing(e) Þu/ou sing(e)s He sing(e)s We/ye/they sings ...
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Were -y- and -g- pronounced similarly in Early Middle English?

[Etymonline:] Early Middle English pronunciations of -y- and -g- were not always distinct, and the word was confused in Middle English with various senses of Romanic-derived alloy and allege, ...
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1answer
210 views

The meaning of the MIDDLE ENGLISH “nother”

Very specific expertise is required here. The schoolmaster "shall not teche his scolers song nor other petite lernyng, as the crosse rewe, redyng of the mateyns or for the psalter or such ...
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1answer
492 views

'lest': How did 'less that' evolve to mean 'for fear that'?

lest, conj. = [OED] Etymology: Old English phrase þý lǽs þe , lit. ‘whereby less’ = Latin quōminus (þý instrumental of the demonstrative and relative pronoun + lǽs less adj. + þe ...
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1answer
251 views

What was the archaic source of “All Turns To Yesterday”?

I was recently reminded of Mediæval Bæbes' performance of "All Turns To Yesterday" (perhaps best known from its adaptation into Delerium's Aria). I've read that it's a rendition of a traditional ...
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1answer
392 views

In 'inasmuch', what did 'in', 'as', 'much' mean?

[OED] inasmuch {adverb} = [Etymology:] originally 3 words in as much (in northern Middle English in als mikel), subsequently sometimes written as 2 words, in asmuch, and now (especially since ...
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Mystery word indicating a body part in a medical book published in 1563

The following title is written in a book by surgeon T. Gale published in 1563. I have trouble translating the last word: "Of woundes of the [x]". Mainly the second letter after "B" is blank for me, B?...
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2answers
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How might 'to play the flute' have evolved to mean 'flout'? [closed]

flout (v.) [<--] "treat with disdain or contempt" (transitive), 1550s, intransitive sense "mock, jeer, scoff" is from 1570s; of uncertain origin; perhaps a special use of Middle English flowten "to ...
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2answers
556 views

Word to describe the structure that holds/stores a shield (and possibly other weapons)

I am looking for a word that would used to describe either many shields, or a structure that would be used to carry them in storage. If I look at this medieval photo, there is a wooden structure on ...
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3answers
686 views

Spelling etymology of “-il[l]” words

I've noticed that modern English seems to have a very strong bias at the end of verbs towards the spelling "-ill" (i.e. with a double "l") instead of "-(consonant)-il". The overwhelming majority of ...
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2answers
571 views

Grammatically correct, vs archaic, vs grammatically incorrect ? [closed]

So i'm new here just to start this out to begin with. So I hope you can understand my grammatically incorrect sentences. So any ways let me explain the context of this question, I am writing a short ...
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3answers
2k views

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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2answers
230 views

Is this a 'justified' double negative? The answer may require some Old English knowledge.

The following is is my translation of a sentence from Bede's Account of the Conversion of King Edwin. Old English tolerated the double negative, and I am trying to translate the text in such a way ...
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1answer
402 views

The etymology of February

According to my dictionary, the word February originates directly from Middle English "Feverer" from Old French "Feverier" yet the Modern English word more closely resembles the original Latin ...
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1answer
330 views

How would one conjugate “to be” in southern middle english? [closed]

Present tense. In particular, how would it have been in London in the mid-14th century?
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4answers
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Why did English change so much between Chaucer and Shakespeare?

My inexpert perception of things is that the distance between The Canterbury Tales (end 14th century) and Romeo and Juliet (end 16th), from a language perspective, is vast, and vastly greater than the ...