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Middle English Vocabulary

Middle English Word List for the West Midlands and Northumbria

The following wordlist gives common Middle English vocabulary for the West Midlands and Northumbria. It is especially suitable for reading the Pearl Poet's major works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, Cleanness, and Pearl. It is less useful for London dialects that spoken by Chaucer. Since there is no standardized spelling in the fourteenth century, be alert for words that look like one thing but mean another. Also watch for metathesis (inverted letters) such as spelling the word "Bird" as "Brid." A final warning: quoting sources written in Middle English will annoy your computer's spell-check. Allow extra time for proof-reading. Click here to download a PDF copy of this file.

  • al, al be, al be that: although, even if
  • als, also: also, as
  • -ande: as a suffix, this indicates the present participle when attached to the end of a verb. Thus, "walkande" is equivalent to Mn. English "walking."
  • anon: at once, immediately
  • aventure: chance
  • bet: better
  • burg; berg: city; town; cf. modern "Pittsburg" in America and "Hamburg" in Germany.
  • but, but if: unless
  • burn: man; warrior
  • can, kan, conne, konne: to be able, to know, to know how; to learn, to understand.
  • con: did (indicator of completed past tense action, comparable to the way "gone" is used in some rural American dialects, i.e., "He gone and done it! That boy gone got married!")
  • certe, certes, sertes: certainly
  • chorl, churle: a low-born or uncouth fellow; a man (cf. modern "churlish")
  • clepe(n): call, name, mention
  • clerk, clerke: a cleric; a priest; a scholar; a literate man
  • comlok, comlych, comelok: comely; attractive
  • conseil: council; to counsel or advise; secret(s), confidence(s)
  • corage: heart; spirit; courage; desire
  • curious: careful, diligent; skillful; eager; skillfully made
  • daunger: lordship, power, control; ungraciousness, disdain
  • degree: rank, status, social condition
  • del, deel: bit, part
  • deme, deeme: judge, decide; suppose (Mn. E. "deem")
  • dint, dynt: an injury, a crushing blow, a strike in combat (cf. Mn. E. "dent")
  • dom judgment; decision. (cf. Mn. English "doom")
  • do, doon: to do, cause. doon make: cause to be made
  • drede: doubt "it is no drede" (there is no doubt).
  • eek, eke: also
  • er, ere: before
  • erd, eard, erde: earth, ground, dirt (distantly related to both Mn. English "earth" and "yard")
  • eyen, eien, yen: eyes (see also ye for the singular)
  • falle: fall; befall, happen
  • fare: fare, go; act, behave
  • fayne: (as an adjective) glad; (as an adverb) gladly, willingly, eagerly
  • freke: a man; a warrior folde: earth, hill (especially in sense of a green or fertile area)
  • for: because (of); for; in order that
  • for- (prefix) an intensifier attached to verbs or adjectives, roughly equivalent ot "very"
  • fre, free: noble, gracious, generous; free
  • fro: from (as in "to and fro")
  • gentilesse: refined character, high breeding, nobility, courtesy
  • giserne: a battle-ax
  • go, goon: to walk, to go
  • gome(n): a game (not to be confused with gome/guma, below)
  • gome/guma: a man; a warrior (cf. Old English guma)
  • gyse: guise; manner, way, fashion, custom
  • han: have (contracted form of Old and Middle English haven)
  • hap: chance, luck; good fortune; occurrence (as in Mn. English "happenstance")
  • hatan: called, named; ordered
  • hathel: man; warrior
  • hende: clever, noble, courteous (Mn. English "handy")
  • hente(n): to seize, grasp
  • highte: is called, is named; was called, was named
  • hoh: third person singular feminine pronoun, Mn. English "she"
  • i- , y-: as prefix indicates the past participle
  • ic, iche, i: first person pronoun "I"
  • ilke: same; the same type
  • intil: unto; as far as
  • kinde, kynde: nature, race, stock, species, sort; natural disposition
  • koude: knew; knew how to; could
  • lat: let
  • lede, lude: man; warrior
  • leef, lief, leve: dear, beloved; pleasant, agreeable
  • lewed: ignorant, unlearned; coarse, rude; wicked
  • like(n), lyke(n): to like, enjoy (often in impers. constructions; e.g., me liketh: "it pleases me")
  • list, lest: to please (often occurs in impers. constructions; e.g., me list: "it pleases me")
  • lite, lyte: little
  • lust: pleasure; desire
  • lusty: energetic, happy
  • maistry: domination, mastery
  • micel, michel, mickel: much, many
  • mo: more moot,
  • moote: may; must; ought to
    • [idiomatic phrases] so moot I, also moot I, ever moot I: "as I hope"
    • also so moote I thee: "as I hope to prosper "
  • most, moste: must; most
  • mowe: may (pres. plural of mowen)
  • namely: especially
  • nas: was not (contraction of ne was)
  • nat: not
  • ne: not, nor
  • nere: were not (contraction of ne were)
  • nimian: to take, past tense third person is "he nam"; past participle is nomen.
  • niste: knew not (contraction of ne wiste)
  • nolde: would not (contraction of ne wolde) not,
  • noot: knows not (contraction of ne woot)
  • nis, nys, nis, nice, nyce: ignorant, foolish, weak; wanton; precise, scrupulous
  • nys, nis: is not (contraction of ne is)
  • nyste: knew not, did not know (contraction of ne wiste)
  • paraventure: perhaps
  • povre: poor (like French pauvre)
  • quit, quite: (infinitive) to reciprocate, repay; (past part.) repaid
  • quod: said
  • rede, reede: advice, counsel; to advise, to counsel (Cf. Old English raed)
  • renk: man; warrior
  • sale: hall; feasting place
  • segg, segge: man; warrior
  • sen, syn: since
  • seker, siker: true, certain, noble, sure (distantly related to Mn. English "secure" and "sacred.")
  • sely: blessed, innocent; good; kind; happy; poor; wretched; hapless (Cf. Mn. Irish seelie, Mn. English silly)
  • sentence: opinion, sentiments; moral meaning, significance
  • siker: certain, sure, true
  • sikerly: certainly, surely, truly
  • sit: sits (contraction of sitteth)
  • sith, sithen: since (not to be confused with Darth Vader's domain)
  • solas: comfort, solace; amusement, entertainment; pleasure
  • solempne: formal; solemn, serious; ceremonious; festive; merry
  • sore, soore: bitterly, sorely
  • sooth, sothe: truth (Mn. English "Soothsayer")
  • soothfastnesse: truth; truthfulness
  • stint, stente, stynthe: cease, stop; restrain
  • sterte: jump, leap, spring, move suddenly (like Mn. English "start," and "startle.")
  • swir, swire, swyr, swyre: neck
  • swythe: very, so, suddenly (intensifying adverb)
  • sythes: since, after
  • thee, theen: to prosper (infinitive)
  • ther, there: there; where
  • thilke: the same (contraction of "the ilke")
  • tho: then trowe(n): to believe
  • tulk: a man, a warrior
  • umbe-, umbre-: a prefix meaning "around." (cf. Old English ymbesittendra in Beowulf.)
  • unnethe: scarcely, hardly; with difficulty
  • war: aware; wary; prudent
  • wedes: clothes, garments, apparel, (cf. modern "weeds" as slang term for fine clothes in the 1930s).
  • wende(n): to go, pass, walk (infinitive).
  • wende: thought, supposed (past tense Old English wenan, cf. Mn. English "ween")
  • whilom: once, once upon a time; formerly
  • wight, wyghe: a man; a creature
  • wiste: knew
  • wol: will
  • wood: crazy, mad, insane
  • woot: knows (from "wit")
  • wyse: wise; way, manner
  • y- / i-: as a verb prefix, it indicates the past participle.
  • yaf: gave
  • ye, ey, yghe: eye
  • yep: new; keen; fresh; brave, ready (primarily Northumbrian)
  • yif: if; give
  • ywis: certainly, surely

*The choice of words for this list originates in materials provided to me by Professors Martha Bayless and James Boren at the University of Oregon English Department, and by Professor Shearle Furnish of West Texas A& M University.

 

 

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