Some Kickass Old English Words

(sadly I can’t find a word for ‘kickass’)

In my ‘studies’ (i.e. flicking through the glossary of Peter Baker’s Introduction To Old English in pursuit of funny words instead of actually translating ones I need’) of Old English, I’ve stumbled across some rather awesome words, that I will now share with you (instead of actually learning Old English vocab).

Ānmōd, united in purpose – It’s probably just me, but I hate the Modern English construction of things being ‘united’, but consisting of separate words.

Ælfscīne, of Elven beauty – Old English, creating fantasy compound words way before Tolkein.

Bealuwaru, dweller in evil – I quite like the idea of evil being an almost geographical concept, that anyone can fall into like a pit, rather than an individual trait that people either inherently are or can adopt.

Befēran, overtake – For all the Mario Kart that Beowulf and Wiglaf play outside of the poem.

Fyrngeflit, ancient quarrel – Because the kids these days need to be taught a thing or two about real quarrelling.

Gefaran, traverse / die – Old English, the only language where walking across the street and being mauled to death by a bear can accurately be described with identical sentences.

Gifan / Gīferness, to give / greed – There’s only one letter and a letter-topping line between the roots of these two opposite words; gives me the impression that there is more common ground than we think in the giving and receiving of things, and the only difference is an artificial linguistic perception we, as people, have put onto them.

Hlagol, inclined to laugh – This is literally a mispronunciation and an extra syllable away from being ‘lol’ in Old English.

Inwidhlemm, hostile wound – As opposed to all the friendly ones you receive in battle, obviously.

Nihtstapa, walker in the night – A compound invented by my friend, this is one of those common examples of Old English wisdom, that they have a word to describe the nocturnal stumbling habits of twenty-first century university students a good thousand years before such people existed.

Ofhrēowan, cause pity for someone  – This makes pity into a thing we impose onto others, rather than a purely individual and internal response of a victim or sufferer. It’s a pretty depressing concept, but if we can force negative emotions onto people as well as positive ones, it opens up far more interactions and relationships than you get on even Sims 4.

Sencan, submerge – For all those submarines the Weather-Geats built.

Sigebēam, tree of victory – Literally the best metaphor I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Either that, or it’s another bit of Old English hat Tolkien turned into The Lord Of The Rings (I’m thinking the Ents here?).

Sigewong, field of victory – A close second to the previous word, a big part of my affection for this one comes from the use of ‘wong’. Hehehehe.


5 thoughts on “Some Kickass Old English Words

  1. Very cool vocab but these Old English speakers seem to have been heavily influenced by Tolkien – is there nothing original? 🙂 Hilarity aside, I believe Anglo Saxon was used in the LOTR movies as a substitute for the language of the Rohrrim, which Tolkien never developed beyond a few words..and it always fascinates me how English has evolved into its modern form (and continues to evolve…). It’s an intriguing subject.

    1. Bloody Beowulf stealing its dragon and such from The Hobbit

      And I totally agree with how cool it is the way language develops, as both a reflection of a society and a set of parameters of what that society can conceive of. Doing OE this year made me like languages again, after struggling through French at school made me hate them for a bit :’)

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