His memories in a trunk

Reflections on literature, language(s), and music

Some compound words in Old English

As is well known, in lexical terms modern English is composed largely of two chief strains of distinct linguistic basis (while both are still Indo-European, of course): Germanic (the original) and Latinate (imported later either via Norman French or Latin, the latter especially for ecclesiastical and technical terms). One of the most remarkable aspects of English in all periods is its Teutonically inherited penchant for compound words, a selection of which beginning with the letters A-H I give here. Some are noun+noun, others adjective+noun (those ending in morphemes such as –līċ [“body”] > Mod.E. “-ly”, technically also compound words from an Old E. perspective, I omit). Glossaries are convenient places to grab such things from, and most of these come from the one in Robert Diamond’s Old English Grammar and Reader (Detroit, 1970). As for the orthography, palatalized c and g are ċ and ġ, as in Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer. As always with Old English, those who know German or another Germanic language will find familiar friends here, and astute perusers will recognize the great grandparents of many words still in use in English. Some of the words below are clearly explained, some obvious, and some I simply give as-is.

  • ancorrāp “anchor-rope”
  • ānfloga “solitary flier”
  • ānhaga “solitary dweller”
  • ānstapa “lonely wanderer”
  • ārhwæt “glory-eager”, “glorious”
  • ātorscaða “poisonous enemy”
  • ǣfentīd “eventide, evening”
  • ǣrendġewrit “written message, letter”
  • ǣrendraca “messenger”
  • ǣrġewinn “former strife”
  • æschere “naval force, spear army” (æsc, i.e. “ash wood” is either “spear” or “viking ship”)
  • æscholt “ash-wood spear”
  • ǣtġiefa “food-giver” > “provider”
  • bānhūs “bone-house” > “skeleton”, “body”
  • bæcbord “port” (i.e. the left side of a ship)
  • beadurǣs “battle-rush” > “onslaught”
  • beaduweorc “battle-work” > “warlike deed”
  • bēagġiefa “ring-giver” > “lord”
  • bealusīþ “woeful journey, distressing experience”
  • bealuware “evil-doers”
  • beornþrēat “band of men”
  • billġeslieht “sword-slaughter” > “battle” (bill is “sword”, the second word related to modern “slay” and “slaughter”)
  • biscopstōl “bishopric, diocese” (biscop is, of course, not a native E. word, but derived from Greek ἐπίσκοπος via Latin)
  • blandenfeax “gray-haired”
  • blǣdhwæt “fruitful”
  • boldāgend “householder”
  • bordweall “shield wall”
  • brēostċearu “heart-anxiety”
  • brēostcofa “heart”
  • brēosthord “heart, though, mind”
  • brimfugol “sea bird”
  • brimġiest “sailor”
  • brimlād “sea-path”, “sea-journey”
  • brimlīðend “seafarer”
  • brimmann “seaman”
  • brūnecg “bright-edged”
  • brycgweard “bridge-defender”
  • burgsæl “town building”
  • burgwaran “townspeople”
  • būrþeġn “chamberlain”
  • byrnwiga “armor-warrior”
  • campstede “battlefield”
  • ċearseld “sorrowful abode” (ċearu “care, sorrow”)
  • cnēomǣġ “ancestor”, “kinsman” (cnēo “knee” but also “generation”)
  • collenferhþ “bold”, “brave”
  • cumbolġehnāst “banner-clash” > “battle”
  • cwideġiedd “song”, “speech”
  • cynerīċe “kingdom”
  • cynestōl “royal dwelling”
  • cynren “generation”, “kind” (the first part of the word is cynn “kind, race, family”, not cyning, “king”, the first part of the previous two words)
  • daroþlācend “spear-warrior”
  • dæġweorc “day-work”
  • dēaþdæġ “death-day”
  • dēaþsele “death-hall” > “hell”
  • dēaþspere “death-spear”, i.e. “deadly spear”
  • dōmġeorn “glory-eager”
  • drēoriġhlēor “sad-faced”
  • drēorsele “dreary hall”
  • dūnscræf “hill-cave”
  • ealdġewyrht “ancient deeds”
  • ealdorlang “lifelong”
  • ealdormann “chief”, “nobleman”
  • eallmihtiġ “almighty”
  • eardġeard “dwelling-place”
  • earfoþhwīl “hardship-time”
  • ēarġebland “sea-blending” > “turbulence of the sea”
  • earmċeariġ “wretched”
  • ēastæþ “river-bank” (ēa is “river”)
  • ēastende “east end”, “the eastern part”
  • ēasthealf “east-half”, “east side”
  • ēastlang “extending eastward”
  • eaxlġespann “where the beams of a cross come together”
  • ecghete “sword-hostility” > “war”
  • efennīehþ “neighborhood”, “vicinity”
  • eġesfull “terrible” (eġesa is “terror”)
  • ellenrōf “powerful” “courageous”
  • elþēodiġ “foreign”
  • ēorodcyst “elite troop”, “company”
  • ēorodþrēat “troop”, “host”
  • eorþscræf “earth-cave” > “grace”
  • eorþsele “earth-dwelling”, “cave-dwelling”
  • eorþweġ “earth”
  • eorþwela “wealth”, “worldly goods”
  • ēðelstōl “habitation” (ēðel “native land, home”)
  • faroþlācend “sailor”, “seafarer”
  • fǣrscaða “sudden enemy”
  • fealuhilte “golden hilted”
  • fēasceaftiġ “destitute”, “miserable”
  • felalēof “very dear”
  • felamihtiġ “very mighty”
  • feohġīfre “wealth-greedy”
  • feohlēas “wealth-less”
  • feorhbana “life-bane” > “slayer”
  • feorhbold “body”
  • feorhcwalu “slaughter”, “death”
  • feorhhūs “life-house” > “body”
  • feorrland “far-land” > “distant country”
  • ferhþgrimm “savage”, “cruel-hearted” (ferhþ is “mind, spirit”)
  • ferhþloca “breast”, “thoughts”, “feelings” (loca derives from lūcan “to close, lock”)
  • fierdlēas “army-less”
  • fierdrinc “warrior”, “soldier”
  • fierġenstrēam “mountain-stream”
  • flǣschama “body”
  • flintgrǣġ “flint-gray”
  • flōdgrǣġ “flood-gray” (flōd is “flood, tide, sea”)
  • flōdweġ “sea-way”
  • folcġefeoht “folk-fight” (folc is “people” and “army”)
  • folcland “country”
  • folcsæl “house”
  • folcstede “battlefield”
  • foldbūend “earth-dweller” > “human being” (folde is “earth, land”
  • foldweġ “earth-way” > “road”
  • forþġesceaft “creation”, “destiny”, “the future”
  • fōtmǣl “foot (measurement)” (i.e. “foot”+”time”)
  • frēamǣre “very celebrated” (i.e. “lord”+”illustrious”)
  • frēomǣġ “noble kinsman”
  • frēondlēas “friendless”
  • frumsceaft “creation”; “origin”
  • fyrnġēar “bygone year”
  • fyrnġeflita “ancient enemy”
  • fyrnstrēamas “ancient streams” > “ocean”
  • gamolfeax “old-haired” (gamol is “old”)
  • gārberend “spear-bearer”
  • gārmitting “spear-conflict” > “battle”
  • gārrǣs “spear-rush” > “battle”
  • gāsthāliġ “(spirit-)holy”
  • ġēardagas “year-days” > “time past”
  • ġēowine “departed friend”, “friend of former times”
  • ġiefstōl “(gift-)throne”
  • ġielpword “boast-word”
  • glēostæf “joy”
  • godcund “divine”, “holy”
  • godsunu “godson”
  • goldġiefa “gold-giver” > “lord”
  • goldwine “generous lord”
  • grundlēas “bottomless”
  • gryrelēoþ “terror song”
  • gūþhafoc “war hawk”
  • gūþplega “battle”
  • gūþrinc “warrior”
  • handplega “hand-to-hand fighting”
  • hasupād “dark-coated”
  • hātheort “hot-tempered”
  • hæġlfaru “hailstorm”
  • hēahfæder “high father” > “God”
  • hēahfȳr “high-fire”
  • hēahstefn “high-prowed” (of a ship)
  • hēahþungen “of high rank”
  • heardsǣliġ “unfortunate”
  • hellscaða “hell-foe” > “devil”
  • heofonrīċe “heaven-kingdom”
  • heoloþhelm “helmet of invisibility”
  • heorþġenēat “hearth-companion”
  • hereflīema “army-fugitive”
  • hereġeatwe “battle-gear”
  • herehūþ “booty”
  • herelāf “army remnant”
  • hierdebōc “shepherd-book” > “pastoral book”
  • hlāfordlēas “lordless”
  • hlēowmǣġ “protecting kinsman”
  • hlinduru “prison door”
  • hlōþġecrod “troop-throng”
  • holmmæġen “sea-might”
  • holtwudu “the trees of the forest” (holt is “wood, grove”)
  • hōpġehnāst “clashing of waves”
  • hordcofa “treasure-chamber” > “breast”, “heart”, “thoughts”
  • hornsæl “gabled building”
  • horshwæl “walrus”
  • horsþeġn “horse-thane” (title of a royal officer)
  • hrædwyrde “hasty of speech”
  • hrēowċeariġ “sorrowful”
  • hrēþēadiġ “glorious”
  • hreðerloca “breast”; “heart”
  • hrīmċeald “cold as hoarfrost”
  • hrīmġicel “icicles”
  • hringloca “coat of chain-mail”
  • hwælhunta “whale-hunter”
  • hwælhuntoþ “whale-hunting”
  • hwælmere “whale-sea”
  • hwælweġ “whale-way” > “sea”
  • hyġecræftiġ “wise”, “clever” (hyġe is “mind”, “heart”)
  • hyġeġeōmer “mind-sad”
  • hyrnednebba “horny-beaked”

While most of us probably don’t have occasion to speak often of battle onslaughts and whales as much as these compound words might allow, or think regularly about a brycgweard or heoloþhelm, we might nevertheless let many of the others enliven our own modern English! Here’s to compound words, then! Go use some!

Advertisements

Single Post Navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: