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160 votes
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How did English retain its non-Christian names of the week?

Background When in ca. 100 CE Plutarch wrote a treatise entitled Why are the days named after the planets reckoned in a different order from the actual order?, it can be deduced that in Rome the ...
KarlG's user avatar
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37 votes

What is non-borrowed English word meaning "calculate", "compute", "count"?

Reckon comes from the Old English recenian, meaning “to pay, arrange, dispose, reckon”.
Peter Shor 's user avatar
31 votes

Did Old English (Anglo-Saxon) use contractions?

Yes, Old English had contractions: Old English contractions include nis from ne is (“is not”), naes from ne waes (“was not”), nolde from ne wolde (“would not”), naefde from ne haefde (“did not have”...
Laurel's user avatar
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23 votes
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Why did the Old English word "līċ" get displaced by "corpse"?

What Happened? Lich in Old and Middle English referred to bodies in general. In the OED's two definitions for lich, that body could be alive ("lich, n.," def. 1) or dead ("lich, n.,&...
TaliesinMerlin's user avatar
20 votes

Irregular verbs: the history of the suffix “-en” in the past participle

Did more past participles use to end with -n? Yes. In Old English, strong verbs took the "-en" suffix in order to form the past participle: The past participle was formed using a dental suffix for ...
Laurel's user avatar
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20 votes

Scottish, English, why not *Walish?

It actually used to be some form of "Walish" that has since been contracted: Welsh Old English Wielisc, Wylisc (West Saxon), Welisc, Wælisc (Anglian and Kentish); but it actually meant "foreign" ...
Robusto's user avatar
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19 votes
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What is the name of the sign “ł”?

It is an abbreviation mark used in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts particularly of religious texts presented with parallel linear translation called gloss: A triple gloss for the Latin word “dormitationem” (...
fev's user avatar
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19 votes
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How did "oxen" (plural of "ox") survive as the only plural form with the Old English plural ending -en?

Old English oxan, plural of oxa, was very common, appearing in the psalter, the bible, and laws, among other places, although the spelling oxen is attested in only one place, in a document relating to ...
TimR's user avatar
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17 votes
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What was Ꝧ (thorn with stroke through descender) used for in middle/old english?

the upper and lower case versions of this glyph A thorn with an extra stroke through its descender was sometimes used as a scribal abbreviation for various words we now start with th-. One such ...
tchrist's user avatar
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17 votes
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Construction of “woe is me”

It is indeed old, and can be found in Beowulf: Wa bið þæm þe sceal þurh sliðne nið sawle bescufan in fyres fæþm, frofre ne wenan, wihte gewendan; wel bið þæm þe mot æfter deaðdæge drihten secean ond ...
Laurel's user avatar
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17 votes
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What does the phrase "or euer" mean in Middle English from the 1500s?

Or is not the "or" of Modern English, but Or = ere = before. OED: ere, adv.1, prep., conj., and adj. B. prep. 1. a. Before (in time). Forms: β. Middle English–1600s (1800s archaic) or, ...
Greybeard's user avatar
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16 votes

How did English retain its non-Christian names of the week?

In answer to your question "was there no effort to replace" the names of the days of the week, yes there was. George Fox (1624 - 1691), a Dissenter who preached in England, Europe and America, had a ...
Nigel J's user avatar
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16 votes
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What does Ȝecyndbēc mean?

The word Ȝecyndbēc is defined by the Dictionary of Old English (under the spelling gecyndboc) as: Genesis, literally understood as the book of creation or begetting It is made of two words: bec/...
Laurel's user avatar
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16 votes
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Why did the F of "sneeze" and "snore" change to an S in English history?

Edwin Ashworth's answer is basically right, but I'm going to shed some light on its linguistics. Every language has a unique set of rules that govern the permissible sequences of sounds (which sounds ...
Decapitated Soul's user avatar
16 votes

How did "oxen" (plural of "ox") survive as the only plural form with the Old English plural ending -en?

I don't know of any satisfying reason for it. Note that when the OED says "Old English– oxen (rare)", it means that the specific spelling O-X-E-N was rare in Old English. It doesn't say that ...
herisson's user avatar
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15 votes
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Irregular verbs: the history of the suffix “-en” in the past participle

Once upon a time, there were six regular classes of "strong" Germanic verb that formed their four principal parts by a — mostly predictable — vowel change in the stem. This at least ...
KarlG's user avatar
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15 votes

Origin of the word "delete"

delete "destroy, eradicate," 1530s, from Latin deletus, past participle of delere "destroy, blot out, efface," from delevi, originally perfective tense of delinere "to daub, erase by smudging" (as of ...
Jay Moore's user avatar
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13 votes
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Did Old English have diacritics?

The diacritic on "ē" (the horizontal line called a "macron") does not represent Old English spelling. It is part of a modern standardized system for writing Old English words. It's useful to have such ...
herisson's user avatar
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13 votes
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Silent "e" at the end of words

TL;DR The "e" was pronounced (until it wasn't). There are many different reasons it appeared at the ends of words--including no reason at all. Generally, our spelling system has kept it when ...
DLosc's user avatar
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13 votes

Did Old English (Anglo-Saxon) use contractions?

Yes, in Old English, we find contractions. Nis is the contraction of ne is (meaning “is not”) and naefde from ne haefde (meaning “did not have”). Naes was from ne waes (meaning “was not”) and ...
user 66974's user avatar
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12 votes
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Scottish, English, why not *Walish?

Note that Scottish has the contracted form “Scotch” (also “Scots”, where the use of /s/ is I think a Scottish feature). I would guess that the consonant cluster in the middle of “English” inhibited ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 82.8k
12 votes

Detailed explanation: what is "dayspring"?

The word used to be familiar to many English people from the Bible passage known as the Benedictus which is used in Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. It is from Luke 1 verses 68-79. Verse ...
Kate Bunting's user avatar
12 votes

How can I improve my translation of Beowulf's first few lines?

Is there a better way to translate hronrade? I think there is. You can go literal with "whale road" (a famous Old English kenning, a figurative trope similar in style to Homer's use of ...
Robusto's user avatar
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11 votes

The eerie origin of "eerie"

A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue show usages of argh and its variants from the 15th century: Argh, Arch, a. Also: arche, arch(i)t; airch, airche. [Northern ME. argh, ONhb. arᵹ (WS. earᵹ, earh)...
user 66974's user avatar
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10 votes

"So clean it was fallen away"... what?

That quote is seriously mangled. Old English spelling was fluid and not particularly standardised, but this quote is just wrong. The quote is from King Alfred’s preface to Pope Gregory’s Pastoral ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
10 votes

Pronunciation and syllables of pre-Modern English "belewe"?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the word blue, a loanword from "Anglo-Norman blew, bliu, blu, blwe, bluw", had a number of spellings that were used during the Middle English period, ...
herisson's user avatar
  • 82.8k
10 votes

Why is the origin of “threshold” uncertain?

The class VII Germanic strong verb behind English hold is particularly transparent in all cognate languages: Old English: haldan (Anglian), healdan (West Saxon) Middle English: holden/halden ...
KarlG's user avatar
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10 votes

The eerie origin of "eerie"

Wiktionary to the rescue. Eerie: Etymology (Wiktionary) From Middle English eri (“fearful”), from Old English earg (“cowardly, fearful”), from Proto-Germanic *argaz. Akin to Scots ergh, argh from the ...
banuyayi's user avatar
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