Old English

The Old English language, often called Anglo-Saxon, was spoken in Anglo-Saxon England from 450 AD to 1100 AD. It was spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, who came to Great Britain from what is now Germany and Denmark. Different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms spoke different dialects, but a western dialect became the main literary version. Both modern languages of England and Scotland (English and Scots) came from the language of the Anglo-Saxons.

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.
EthnicityAnglo Saxons
Eramostly developed into Middle English and Early Scots by the 13th century
Language family
Writing systemRunic, later Latin (Old English alphabet).
Language codes
ISO 639-2ang
ISO 639-3ang
ISO 639-6ango

Old English is very different from Modern English and has many more Germanic words. In early centuries, it was rarely written down and even then was in runes. After the 9th century, the Latin alphabet was used more often. Old English grammar is difficult, with complex inflections, and close to Old German. Latin was used by churchmen like the venerable Bede. Old English gradually turned into Middle English after the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Beowulf is written in Old English in an alphabetic script.

Old English comparison
language wordlist
English apple path eat tide make child give day
Old English æppel pæþ etan tid macian cild giefan dæg
German Apfel Pfad essen Zeit machen  Kind geben Tag

Old English Media

Other websites