Old English is the language of the early Germanic inhabitants of England known as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Their settlements began in the 5th century and lasted until the end of the 11th century. Only about a sixth of Anglo-Saxon words have survived and make up about 1% of the current English language. On the other hand, 80% of the thousand most common words in modern English come from Old English! They include the words water, earth, house, food, drink, sleep, sing, night, strong, the, a, be, of, he, she, you, no, and not. Interestingly, many common swear words are also of Anglo-Saxon origin, including tits, fart, shit, turd, arse, and probably, piss.
Here are ten Old English words you can start using to bring some Medieval color to your daily vocabulary. You’ll also be doing your part to save endangered words.
- anon – shortly; “The concert will begin anon! Make haste!”
- bedward – to head to bed; “It’s late and I’m moving bedward!”
- crapulous – feeling ill after too much eating or drinking; “I’m feeling totally crapulous today, dude.”
- elflock – tangled hair; “After frolicking in the woods, her hair was full of elflocks.”
- gardyloo – what you shout before emptying your bedpan out the window; “The drunk yelled, “Gardyloo!” and pissed out the window.”
- groke – to stare intensely at someone who is eating hoping you will receive some, especially a cat or dog; “The dog sat groking at me while I ate my sandwich.”
- grubble – to feel or grope around for something you can’t see; “She grubbled in the bottom of her purse for her house key.”
- overmorrow – the day after tomorrow; “We’ll have to travel all day tomorrow and overmorrow to arrive by Sunday.”
- trumpery – things that look good but are basically worthless; “The crowd was taken in by his Madison Avenue trumpery.”
- twattling – gossip, nonsense; “The woman is nothing but a twattling old gossip!”