Old English

Old English
Ænglisc, Englisc, Anglisc
A detail of the first page of the Beowulf manuscript, showing the words "ofer hron rade", translated as "over the whale's road (sea)". It is an example of an Old English stylistic device, the kenning.
RegionEngland (except the extreme south-west and north-west), southern and eastern Scotland, and the eastern fringes of modern Wales.
Eramostly developed into Middle English and Early Scots by the 13th century
Runic, later Latin (Old English alphabet).
Language codes
ISO 639-3ang
ISO 639-6ango
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Old English (Ænglisc, Anglisc, Englisc, pronounced [ˈæŋliʃ]), or Anglo-Saxon,[2] is the earliest historical form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages. It was brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers probably in the mid-5th century, and the first Old English literary works date from the mid-7th century. After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced, for a time, as the language of the upper classes by Anglo-Norman, a relative of French. This is regarded as marking the end of the Old English era, as during this period the English language was heavily influenced by Anglo-Norman, developing into a phase known now as Middle English.

Old English developed from a set of Anglo-Frisian or Ingvaeonic dialects originally spoken by Germanic tribes traditionally known as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. As the Anglo-Saxons became dominant in England, their language replaced the languages of Roman Britain: Common Brittonic, a Celtic language, and Latin, brought to Britain by Roman invasion. Old English had four main dialects, associated with particular Anglo-Saxon kingdoms: Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish and West Saxon. It was West Saxon that formed the basis for the literary standard of the later Old English period,[3] although the dominant forms of Middle and Modern English would develop mainly from Mercian. The speech of eastern and northern parts of England was subject to strong Old Norse influence due to Scandinavian rule and settlement beginning in the 9th century.

Old English is one of the West Germanic languages, and its closest relatives are Old Frisian and Old Saxon. Like other old Germanic languages, it is very different from Modern English and difficult for Modern English speakers to understand without study. Old English grammar is quite similar to that of modern German: nouns, adjectives, pronouns and verbs have many inflectional endings and forms, and word order is much freer.[3] The oldest Old English inscriptions were written using a runic system, but from about the 9th century this was replaced by a version of the Latin alphabet.


Englisc, which the term English is derived from, means 'pertaining to the Angles'.[4] In Old English, this word was derived from Angles (one of the Germanic tribes who conquered parts of Great Britain in the 5th century).[5] During the 9th century, all invading Germanic tribes were referred to as Englisc. It has been hypothesised that the Angles acquired their name because their land on the coast of Jutland (now mainland Denmark) resembled a fishhook. Proto-Germanic *anguz also had the meaning of 'narrow', referring to the shallow waters near the coast. That word ultimately goes back to Proto-Indo-European *h₂enǵʰ-, also meaning 'narrow'.[6]

Another theory is that the derivation of 'narrow' is the more likely connection to angling (as in fishing), which itself stems from a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root meaning bend, angle.[7] The semantic link is the fishing hook, which is curved or bent at an angle.[8] In any case, the Angles may have been called such because they were a fishing people or were originally descended from such, and therefore England would mean 'land of the fishermen', and English would be 'the fishermen's language'.[9]

Other Languages
Ænglisc: Ænglisc spræc
asturianu: Inglés antiguu
Bân-lâm-gú: Kó͘ Eng-gí
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Стараангельская мова
brezhoneg: Hensaozneg
català: Anglès antic
čeština: Staroangličtina
Deutsch: Altenglisch
føroyskt: Fornenskt mál
français: Vieil anglais
Frysk: Aldingelsk
한국어: 고대 영어
հայերեն: Հին անգլերեն
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Inggris Kuno
íslenska: Fornenska
latviešu: Senangļu valoda
Limburgs: Aajdingels
Lingua Franca Nova: Engles antica
Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Inggeris Kuno
Nederlands: Oudengels
日本語: 古英語
norsk nynorsk: Gammalengelsk
occitan: Anglosaxon
Plattdüütsch: Angelsassische Sprake
português: Inglês antigo
Simple English: Old English
slovenčina: Anglosaština
slovenščina: Stara angleščina
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Staroengleski jezik
svenska: Fornengelska
Türkçe: Eski İngilizce
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Anh cổ
West-Vlams: Oudiengels
粵語: 古英文
中文: 古英语