Old Norse Words

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A few Old Norse words are commonly used in our current speech. For example, take and skirt come from Old Norse. Even give and get show Old Norse influence since their Old English forms used not /g/ but /j/; the change in consonant is due to influence from the Old Norse forms.

Some Anglishers see Old Norse words as foreign influence and so wish to use their equivalents passed down from Old English instead, whereas others are open to Old Norse words for a few different reasons, the main one being that they are still Germanic and thus do not conflict with Anglish's main goal. This page lists out New English equivalents that one can use however one wishes.

Note that some words are originally from Old English, but later became influenced in meaning by their Old Norse equivalents. For example, -ling was used in Old English, but its diminutive meaning was small. That its diminutive meaning rose in Middle English is generally thought to be due to Old Norse influence. Whether this influence is acceptable depends on one's tastes, but here, this use of -ling will not be treated as English.

There are a few different ways to come up with New English equivalents:

  1. Since English and Old Norse are both Germanic speeches, they naturally have cognates. For example, stoup has the Old English cognate stēap, and so we can use steap, the expected modernization of the Old English word.
  2. Some cognates also differ only on whether palatalization happened (see the Palatalization section below).
  3. Sometimes, cognates later diverged in meaning. For example, skirt is the Old Norse cognate to shirt and meant the same thing as shirt, but when the word entered English, it later changed meaning, and so we cannot use shirt to replace skirt now.
  4. Some words have no cognates, one reason being that the Norse word was a Norse formation. For example, husband is a North Germanic formation and so is not found in West Germanic. In this case, a native equivalent, whether from Old English or from New English, must be sought after. e.g. were as a stand-in for husband.
  5. Sometimes, there is no word, so one may have to use multiple words to translate the Old Norse word.
  6. The usual techniques for making Anglish words apply. That is, we can bring back old words and maybe give them a new or extended meaning, or calque words from other Germanic speeches.

It should be noted that some words said to be of Norse root formally match what their English cognates would be if they had been naturally inherited from Proto-Germanic. A few examples:

  • The Proto-Germanic forebear of thrive would have yielded OE þrīfan, which would then have become thrive.
  • Sale entered Old English as sala through Norse; the native word would have been salu. Of course, both native salu and Norse sala would yield modern sale.

Only through consideration of other factors are these words said to be Norse borrowings (and even then, some scholars may think differently). Hence, these words are translated here with native equivalents.

Incidentally, the word Norse is not from Norse but from Dutch. A native equivalent that we can come up with is Northmannish, based on how we use Northman to mean Norseman.

Useful resources:

Words not listed[edit]

In general:

  • Norse words (originally) referring to Norse concepts such as hersir, berserk, and saga are generally deemed acceptable, since it is natural to borrow a foreign word to refer to a foreign thing.
  • Words historically related to the Danelaw such as wapentake and riding (as in administrative district) are also not translated here.
  • The same goes for place names that came from Old Norse or have Old Norse words, e.g., Slaithwaite, in which thwaite is from Old Norse.
  • Norse words that died off at some point in Middle English are not translated since this list is about translating modern Norse words.

In terms of derivation:

  • The general word for bread in Old English was hlāf (which became loaf). That bread later became the main word to refer to the food may have been helped by the Norse cognate, but it should be noted that OE brēad (a rare word meaning piece) already had that meaning, and the same development of loaf and bread has occurred in the German cognates Laib and Brot. Presumably, the sense evolution went like this: piece > piece of bread > bread.
  • Draft/draught is sometimes attributed to Norse dráttr. However, it is likelier to have come from unattested OE dreaht instead, since in Middle English, it is commonly used in all dialects. Moreover, it is a derivative of draw, a very common verb, and it has clear cognates in other Germanic languages such as German Tracht, so it is likely to have been inherited from OE.
  • The etymology of gun is uncertain. One common etymology is that it was a shortening of Gunilda, the name of a specific ballista in Windsor Castle, and the name comes from the Norse name Gunnhildr. Since the word may have been gotten from a Norse name (and derivations from foreign names are commonly deemed acceptable), no attempt to substitute it is made here.
  • The use of main as an adjective meaning principal was at best strengthened by the Norse cognate; in Old English, it (as a noun meaning might, strength) was often used as the first element of compounds (to the point that it often was nothing more than an intensifier), and it is from this use that main began to be used as an adjective. It is easy to see how the original meaning of strong, mighty gradually shifted to principal.
  • Stint is occasionally said to have gotten its current meaning from Norse influence, as the OE word styntan meant make blunt, dull. However, the OE derivatives āstyntan and gestyntan also meant stop, and so the current meaning could have been due to a natural change in meaning, or was simply unattested in OE.
  • Whoredom is traced back by some to Norse hórdómr, but it may as well be a native formation, as both whore and -dom are native, and -dom can be used to denote condition or domain, so it is deemed to be a native word.

In terms of phonetic development:

  • The verb lose is said to have come from OE losian, but the expected modern form would rhyme with nose. It is likely that it was influenced by loose, which is Norse and is similar in meaning. A less common theory for the current pronunciation is that it is from the obsolete native verb leese (see here for more details). In any case, if one wishes to be safe, one can simply pronounce lose such that it rhymes with nose or use leese (rhyming with freeze).
  • Root (as in turn up with the snout, rummage) is from OE wrōtan, but the expected spelling of the modern word would be wroot (showing the historical /wr/ cluster), even though both words would sound the same now. Since words that originally had /wr/ (which was lost in the standard speech in Early New English) still keep it in their current spelling, it is said that the current form of root is likely from influence of the unrelated Norse borrowing root meaning part of a plant; the verb could be interpreted in some contexts to mean dig up by the roots. Hence, to undo this, one simply has to spell the native root as wroot.
  • The vowel in silver and silk is sometimes attributed to their Norse cognates, since the OE forms were seolfor and seolc and so would have normally yielded e instead. However, the vowel may have instead been from OE derivatives such as OE silfren (silvern) and silcen (silken).
  • The word yea is native, since it is from OE gēa, but the modern pronunciation is odd, as it would normally rhyme with sea. There are very few words that are spelled with <ea>, but are now pronounced with /eɪ/, e.g., great, break. It is very likely that the vowel in yea did not shift, because it was generally used alongside nay, which is from Norse. Hence, if it had not been for nay, it is likely that yea would have come to rhyme with sea instead of lay, and if one wants to use an uninfluenced pronunciation of yea, one ought to have it rhyme with sea.

Standard Norse words[edit]

In this list, only one English word is given to replace the Norse word, but it should be kept in mind that there may be other English alternatives. Some alternatives may be listed in the Notes section.

Key:

  • PST - past tense
  • PTCP - past participle
  • OE - Old English
  • ME - Middle English
  • MED - Middle English Dictionary
Norse word English word Example sentence Notes
across (as in to the other side of) over I jumped over the river. One alternative is through.
across (as in at the other side of) over What do you think lies over the mountains? One alternative is beyond.
ado to-do This is much to-do about nothing. A- in ado is at used as an infinitive marker from Norse influence.
aloft alift The glass was held alift. Lift (meaning air) is the native cognate of loft.
anger (noun) wrath You need to control your wrath.
anger (verb) wrothen You must not wrothen the dragon. Wroth + -en as in fatten.
angry wroth That made him very wroth.
ankle anclee I felt something crawling on my anclee. From ME ancle.
arrow streel The bowman stowed many streels in his quiver. From ME strele. Another native alternative is flone from ME flon.
Arrow is sometimes traced to Norse, but it may have been a natural development of OE earh instead.
athwart thwares There are some towns thwares the mountains. From OE þweores. See across for alternatives.
awe ey The audience was filled with ey at the performance. Rhymes with clay. Awesome is thus eysome.
awful dreadful Your singing is dreadful.
awkward unhandy This machine is unhandy to work with.
awn ail This grass has rather long ails. From ME eile.
axle, axletree ax(tree) Any vehicle with wheels uses an ax(tree). From native cognate and ME ax-tre.
bag sack I put all the goods in my sack.
bait eace Spread the eace carefully.
ball trind I threw the trind over the gate. From OE trinda (round object). Rhymes with grind.
Ball may be from unattested OE beall, suggested by OE bealluc (ballock).
ban (verb) forbid I was forbidden from going to the bar. Ban meant summon in OE. Meaning of forbid likely from Norse.
ban (noun) forbode There has been a forbode on certain flights. Archaic word.
band (as in binding) bend They put a bend around his wrist to keep him from escaping. From ME bende. Note that band meaning strip is from French.
bank stath I see something lying on the stream's stath. From OE stæþ.
bark (as in tree bark) rind Help me remove the rind of this tree.
bask bathe I bathed in the sun's warmth. Bask may be from Norse baðask, but the MED rejects this etymology.
bat (as in the animal) reremouse I saw some reremice in a nearby cave. Bat is likely an alteration of ME bakke.
batten (as in fatten) fatten Those devious merchants fatten on the poor.
below beneath What lies beneath us?
big great Which continent is the greatest? Big may be of Norse root and tied to Norwegian dialect bugge.
One can also use much in its obsolete meaning.
birth bird Today is the king's birdday. From OE cognate.
blackmail blackgavel This is an exciting tale of blackgavel and secrecy. Based on the ME phrase blak rent. Gavel a native word for rent, tribute.
bleak bloak The scenery here looks utterly bloak. From OE cognate.
blend minge Minge all the ingredients. From ME mengen. Blend probably from Norse blanda (present-tense stem blend).
OE geblende (glossed as Latin infecit) may suggest an OE weak verb geblendan meaning mix.
bloom (as in flower) blossom The roses have blossomed.
blunt (as in dull) dull The tip of the ax was doul. Blunt may have come from Norse.
Or: doul (from OE dol, rhymes with bowl). The vowel in dull suggests that it may have come from OE *dyl.
The verb should be make dull.
blunt (as in candid) forthright The critic made many forthright statements in his work.
boatswain boatsman I was to work as this ship's boatsman. Meaning narrowed here.
bole (as in tree trunk) stock Something was hiding behind the stock of the oak.
bond (noun) bend The knight destroyed the man's bends with his sword. From ME bende. Binding may also be used.
bond (verb) bind Bind the rods with the given material. In some uses, a paraphrase like make a binding may work instead.
boon been The new technology has proven to be a been to many industries. From native cognate. Rhymes with keen.
booth stall Buy two tickets at the nearby stall.
bore (as in tidal bore) head The tide head came swiftly down the river.
bosky wooded An old man lives in a house by a wooded hill. Bosk (a variant of bush) apparently from Norse or Old French.
boulder greatstone We could not go forth, for a greatstone blocked our path.
bound (as in bound for) heading This train is heading for London.
both bo Bo his works are novels. From ME bo. Rhymes with slow.
Some trace both to Norse báþir, whereas others trace it to the rare OE phrase bā þā (formed the same way as Dutch and German beide).
brink edge The country was on the edge of destruction. An alternative is rim.
broadcast (as in sow over a broad area) sow broadly Help me sow the seeds broadly.
broadcast (in other senses) send out The show will be sent out live. Calque of Dutch uitzenden. Noun: sendout. Adjective: sent-out.
bulk (as in size, mass) greatness The greatness of the luggage tired me out.
bulk (as in majority) greater deal The greater deal of the traffic is gone.
bulk (as in bulk large) bear weight The land's resources bore weight in negotiations.
bulk (as in make great) greaten This meal can be greatened with chicken.
bulky overgreat I was forced to bear an overgreat bag.
bull far Do you know the difference between cows and fars? From OE fearr.
Bull may be from unattested OE bulla, suggested by OE bulluc (bullock).
bush shrub A shrub is smaller than a tree. Probably from a variant of a Norse word.
Bush is sometimes said to be from OE busc (found only in placenames).
calf (as in part of leg) sparlire I pulled a muscle in my sparlire. From ME sparlire
call cleap I clept out to the man. PST and PTCP: clept.
call (as in telephone) ring I rang her yesterday, but she didn't pick up.
cake kitch Kitch is better than pie. Shortened form of ME kichel (small cake).
carp (as in complain) gripe I wish not to gripe about trivial matters.
cart crat I used a shopping crat to stow my goods. From OE cognate.
cast (as in throw) throw Let him who is without sin throw the first stone. Also used for cast a glance.
cast (as in cast metal) yeet One can yeet bronze to make tools. From ME yeten. PST: yote, PTCP: yoten.
cast (as in cast a vote) stell in Have you stelled in your vote yet? From ME stellen. Put can be used, though evidence of its OE forebear is scarce.
cast (as in cast a spell) utter The witch uttered a spell on me. Utter is partly of Middle Dutch origin.
cast (as in object made by casting) yetling Bronze yetlings were strewn through the room. The meaning has been broadened here, so it can refer to any object.
cast (as in mold used for casting) yeetle The model was made with a special yeetle. Yeet + -le (suffix showing instrumentality).
cast (as in group of actors) team Which actors are in this film's team? For film crew, we can use film staff.
cast (as in assign a part in a production) stell in The actress was stelled in the film as a dancer.
cast (as in medical cast) forbinding I had to walk around in a forbinding for a while. Derivative of ME forbinden given a specialized meaning here.
A plaster cast is thus a plaster forbinding.
castaway shipbritchling The shipbritchling wandered around the island for shelter. Calque of Dutch schipbreukeling. Britch is from ME briche and is the native form of breach, which is from Old French).
clip (as in cut) shear The angel's wings were shorn off.
clip (as in graze) shave The truck nearly shaved my car.
club (as in the weapon) cudgel He tried to strike me with his cudgel.
club (as in association) forone Will you join the sports forone? Calque of German Verein.
cog (as in tooth of a wheel) tooth This wheel's teeth are wooden.
cog (as in gear) toothwheel There are many toothwheels inside this clock. Based on Dutch tandwiel and German Zahnrad.
cow (as in intimidate) browbeat He was browbeaten into silence. The verb cow probably from a Norse word.
cower cringe He cringed behind the barricade at the first sign of danger. Cower may be from Middle Low German instead.
coxswain steersman This crew is missing a steersman.
crawl smow I slowly smowed to the door. From ME smūʒen. Rhymes with now.
crook (as in bend) bend The witch bent her finger.
crook (as in staff) staff The shepherd used his staff to tend his sheep.
crook (as in dishonest person) swike The politician said that he was not a swike. From ME swike.
crooked (as in bent) bent The man did not want to show his bent teeth.
crooked (as in dishonest) swikle Many people think that politicians are swikle. Based on OE swicol.
cross (as in crucifix) rood Jesus was nailed to a rood. We can have rood be a verb meaning intersect as well.
cross (as in go across a place) overfare Walk slowly as you overfare the street.
cross (as in cross over) overfare It is hard to overfare to another field of work. We can also use this for the noun crossover.
cross (as in oppose) withstand How dare you withstand me?
cross (as in angry) wroth Be careful. James looks wroth right now.
crosswise roodwise The food was sliced roodwise.
cut snithe I snithed the apple into several pieces. From dialectal word. Cut may actually be from an unattested OE word, according to the MED.
Dane Dennishman A few Dennishmen came one day to visit me. Or: Denchman. Formed like Englishman and Frenchman.
Danish Dennish I cannot understand a word of Dennish. Or: Dench (from ME dench)
dash (as in rush) braid Upon hearing the news, I braided to the castle. Original meaning of braid.
Dash may be from a variant of a Norse word (seen in Danish daske) or an imitative word.
dash (as in throw) throw I threw the bottle against the wall.
dash (as in spatter) springe Water was springed all over me. From ME sprengen.
dash (as in shatter) forbreak The news forbroke the merchant's hopes. From ME forbreken.
dash (as in discourage) sadden I do not wish to tell him, since I would only sadden him.
dash (as in small amount) drop Life here came with a drop of sophistication.
dash (as in horizontal stroke) spit I forgot to use spits in this sentence. From obsolete sense.
dawn dawing I chose to wait here until dawing. The verb is daw, from OE dagian.
Dawning (alteration of dawing) is unattested in OE and may be due to influence of a Norse word, but perhaps dawing was altered by analogy with the native words morning and evening.
daze dweal I felt dwealed after being struck on the head. From ME dwelen.
die swelt Sam swelted last year in a car accident. Now a dialectal verb. Related to swelter, a frequentative derivative.
Another native alternative is queal from OE cwelan (PST: quole, PTCP: quolen).
dirt (as in excrement) drite Unluckily, I stepped on drite. Noun derived from ME driten.
Shit can be used, but is now uncouth.
dirt (as in earth) earth There is something in this handful of earth. Adjectival form is earthen.
dirt (as in filth) filth I loathe being covered in filth. Extends to figurative meanings such as gossip.
dove culver I saw a few culvers flying about. Dove may be from unattested OE dūfe and may be tied to OE dūfedoppa.
down (feathers) plumfeathers This coat is made of plumfeathers. From OE plūmfeþer (compare with German Flaumfeder). OE plūm appears to be a Latin borrowing (the source of plume, which entered English through Old French).
German also uses Daune, which is ultimately from Old Norse, and Dutch uses dons (which likely came from the same source), so English might have borrowed down from Norse anyway.
drag (as in draw) draw The horses will draw the carriage. Some noun senses may be better conveyed with drawer.
drag (as in pass slowly) draw out The last part of the game simply drew itself out.
drag (as in nuisance) hinderer His speech habits ended up being a hinderer.
drag (as in bore) dull thing Work can be such a dull thing. Instead of dull, one can use doul (from OE dol, rhymes with bowl). The vowel in dull suggests that it may have come from OE *dyl.
dregs drast I drank the tea to the drast. From ME drast.
dragnet draynet The fishermen here use draynets. From ME drai-net.
dream sweven Last night, I had a weird sweven. Rhymes with seven. Dream may be native, but simply unattested in OE.
droop sink As I grew weary, my eyelids sank. The noun should be replaced with sinking.
drown adrench All but two of the crew adrenched in the storm. From ME adrenchen. Drown perhaps from a variant of Norse drukkna.
dwell abide I have abided in this town for many years. Old meaning of abide.
The meaning of reside is probably from Norse, since OE dwellan meant lead astray.
egg (verb) goad The throng goaded the man on.
fast (as in abstention from food) fasten The monk held his fasten for seven days. From ME fasten.
Fast may be from Norse or may simply be a shortening of fasten (akin to maidenmaid).
fellow thoft He went to the church with three of his thofts. From OE geþofta.
ferry (verb) fere I fered the men by boat. From OE ferian. Current form seems to have been from Norse.
ferry (noun) fereboat The fereboat is docked at the port right now. Based on ferryboat.
filly marefoal I saw a marefoal running in the field. Based on ME mare fole.
fir furrowtree I found shelter under a furrowtree. Based on OE furh. The current form appears to be from Norse fyri (found in fyriskógr).
flat (as in level) even The boys found some even ground for their football match.
flat (as in smooth) smooth The surface here is very smooth.
flat (as in dull) dull The man spoke with a doul voice. Or: doul (from OE dol, rhymes with bowl). The vowel in dull suggests that it may have come from OE *dyl.
flat (as in ruptured) thirled I need to fix my thirled tire later. From ME thirlen (pierce).
flat (as in set) set The service charges a set fare.
flat (as in absolute) stark He gave a stark denial to the accusation.
flat (as in apartment) flet I moved to a flet a few years later. Original form of the word.
flatfish fadge The other day, I caught a fadge. From OE facg.
flaw (as in blemish) wem His scheme had a few wems. From ME wem.
flaw, windflaw windblast I sensed that a windblast would soon come. Flaw perhaps from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German instead.
fleet (as in swift) swift Watch out, for he is strong and swift. The adjective may instead be a derivative of the native verb fleet.
fling (as in throw) throw I threw the stone at the river.
fling (as in rush) ferk The moody man ferked out of the room. From dialectal word. We can also use this for fling meaning period of enjoyment.
flit fleet Last night's events fleeted in my mind.
freckle splot Her face has a few splots. From OE splott and ME splotti. Meaning narrowed here.
froth (as in foam) foam The beer was foaming out of the cup.
froth (as in nonsense) drivel All the drivel about entertainment is boring to listen to.
fry (as in young salmon) brood The brood had just hatched.
gait way of walking The man had a weird way of walking. Stride is similar in meaning, but refers to long steps.
gap break There's a break in the records between 1980 and 1983. Some senses may be better conveyed with britch (ME briche and the native form of breach, which is from Old French).
gape goan The cannonfire opened a goaning hole in the ship. From ME gonen and apparently related to yawn.
The noun referring to the disease can now be the goans.
Yawn is often traced back to OE geonian or ginian, but its phonetic development is difficult to account for.
gasp orthe He orthed for breath after the race. From OE orþian. Meaning narrowed here.
gear (as in cogwheel) toothwheel The toothwheels are turning. Based on Dutch tandwiel and German Zahnrad.
geld afire The farmer had to afire the horse. From OE afȳran.
gelding afired The afired won yet another competition. Afired horse can be used to refer specifically to gelded horses.
get (as in obtain) hole Hole yourself a job. From OE geholian. One can use this for obtain if one wants not to use yet (see get in the Palatalization section).
get (as in become) become It soon became cold. One may also use archaic worth (PST: warth, PTCP: worthen).
get (as in understand) understand I'm sorry, teacher, but I still don't understand it.
get (as in offspring) offspring What will the man pass on to his offspring?
gift (noun) yeave What a wonderful birthday yeave! From ME yeve. Gift horse is now yeaven horse, based on Early New English given horse.
Note that the native OE cognate gyft (which would now be yift) meant bride-price or nuptials in the plural.
gift (verb) bestow The king bestowed him with a special title.
gill (as in fish gill) chy A fish can breathe underwater thanks to its chies. From OE cīan (plural).
gilt (as in young sow) yelt There are a few yelts for sale. Now dialectal.
girth (as in band) gird I fastened the gird around the horse. From OE gyrd.
girth (as in circumference) umbgang He is a man of average umbgang. From OE ymbgang.
git gadling Leave this place at once, you gadling!
glitter (noun) spark The spark of the jewels in the dark was pleasing to the eye.
glitter (verb) sparkle The stars sparkled in the night sky.
gosling goosock On my way to school, I saw some goosocks. Goose + -ock.
guild yild It is hard to join the merchants' yild. From ME yilde (< OE gegild). Apparently attested in dialectal use, according to the OED.
gust blast The beach was scoured by blasts of wind.
hail (as in call out) halse The guards warmly halsed the visitor. From ME halsen.
hail (as in praise) loave His approach has been loaved as groundbreaking. From ME loven.
hail (as in hail from) come I come from England.
happen befall What befell here last night? PST: befell, PTCP: befallen.
happy blithe I like tales with blithe endings.
harrow (tool) eithe The eithe is drawn by the tractor. From ME eithe. Rhymes with bathe.
Harrow is possibly native; the MED traces it to unattested OE hearwe.
harrow (as in cause distress) tray This has been a rather traying experience. From ME treien.
haven harbor / harbour The ship will leave the harbor / harbour tomorrow. May be native, but is often said to be a borrowing.
hit strike She struck the table in frustration.
hoarse hose He spoke with a hose voice. From OE hās. Hoarse is sometimes said to be from unattested Norse hārs (variant of hāss), but the MED attributes it to an unattested OE variant hārs. The variant with r also appears in Middle Dutch.
hug clip The two lovers clipped upon seeing each other again. Old meaning of clip meaning fasten.
husband (noun) were My were often goes to the bar. Counterpart to wife. Found in werewolf. An alternative is man, though, while this is natural for a male human in standard English, the word man is often broadened to gender-neutral meaning of person in Anglish.
husband (verb) speal I want to speal my energy. From ME spelen.
husbandry (as in farming) earthtilth The folk here practice animal earthtilth.
husbandry (as in conservation) spealing He ought to be commended for his spealing.
ill (as in sick) sick The man has recovered from his sickness.
ill (as in hostile) unkind Many people had unkind feelings about the businessman.
ill (as in poor) arm Because of his arm judgment, he has lost most of his wealth.
ill (as in harmful) harmful Fortunately, this potion has no harmful effects.
ill (as in ill afford) hardly I can hardly afford to pay for all this.
ill (as in evil) evil I would never do him evil.
keel (nautical) bottom Something struck the ship's bottom. Note that keel as in keelboat appears to be from Middle Dutch.
keel (as in fall over) fall over A strong wind caused the boat to fall over.
keg vattock He drank a whole vattock of beer. From vat + -ock.
ken (as in beyond my ken) knowledge Something like that is beyond my knowledge.
kick spornet I spornetted the ball with all my might. From OE spornettan. Kick may be from Norse kikna.
kid (as in child) child You're only a child, so leave me alone. We can use youngling as a more informal variant.
kid (as in young goat) titch The titch fled upon hearing a loud noise. From ME tiche.
kid (as in joke) tease Don't worry, I'm only teasing. The verb kid probably originally meant make a kid of.
kid (as in deceive) peach I cannot peach myself into believing that. From OE pǣcan.
kid (as in give birth to a goat) ean When will the goats ean? From ME enen.
An alternative is dialectal yean (said to be from unattested OE ge-ēanian).
kidnap forsteal The princess was forstolen last night. From OE forstelan in its meaning of abduct.
kindle light Find some branches to light a fire.
knife sax The man was stabbed with a sax. Generally said to be a borrowing.
lapwing lapwink The lapwink is a common bird throughout Europe. The form lapwing is due to folk etymology connecting lapwink with Norse wing.
law ea It is important to know what your country's eas are. From ME e and OE ǣ.
leg shank The man's shanks were very hairy. Shank referring to part of a leg is now footshank from OE fōtsceanca.
lift heave Could you help me heave this thing? Some noun senses may be better shown with heaver.
likely liefly How liefly is it that the coin will land on heads? From OE gelēaflic meaning credible.
ling (diminutive suffix) ock The townsfolk often go to that hillock. Found in hillock. Pronounced /ək/.
linger linge I ended up lingeing at the inn for a few hours. From ME lengen. The /g/ in linger is probably from Norse lengja.
link tie He is the weakest tie of the group.
litmus dyeraw I used dyeraw paper in an experiment. From dye and raw (from OE ragu meaning lichen), as litmus is gotten from lichens.
Etymologically, litmus is to dye + moss.
loan (noun) lean You shall pay back your lean soon. From OE cognate.
loan (verb) lend The earl lent the man some of his money.
loft (as in upper room) sollar Many things are stowed in my sollar. From OE solor. Lived on in some dialects as sollar.
loft (verb) rear The ball was reared over the fence.
lofty (as in elevated) uphigh She had very uphigh ideals in mind. From OE uphēah. High works in many contexts as well.
lofty (as in haughty) highmoody You should drop your highmoody attitude. From OE hēahmōd + -y.
loose slack Be careful, for the ropes are rather slack. Loosen is then slacken.
low nether I live in the nether parts of this land. Comparative is nethermore, and superlative nethermost.
lower (verb) nether I carefully nethered the statue. ME netheren (which had the figurative sense of debase).
lug heave It was tiring heaving the sofa up the stairs.
luggage fareload Could I help you bear your fareload? Roughly based on German Reisegepäck.
marram grass beachgrass The sandhills were swathed in beachgrass.
meek sheepish Tom always looked like a sheepish man.
mire (as in swampy area) slough I lost my boots, after my feet became stuck in the slough. Rhymes with plough.
mire (as in mud) horrow I drove my bicycle through horrow. From ME horwe, variant of hore (one can use hore instead).
mire (as in difficult situation) bind I found myself to be in quite a bind.
mire (verb) tie up The business was tied up in debts and lawsuits.
muck (as in filth) filth Clean up that filth on the floor at once.
muck (as in mud) horrow I fell on a puddle of horrow. From ME horwe, variant of hore (one can use hore instead).
muck (as in dung) dung The farmer used dung as fertilizer.
mug (as in large cup with a handle) nap I took a sip from my coffee nap. From ME nap. Meaning narrowed here.
Mug is probably from a Norse word.
mug (as in face) anlet What an anlet that man has! From ME anlet.
mug (as in fool) halfwit All those halfwits believe everything that I say.
mug (as in attack to rob) street-reave Someone tried to street-reave me yesterday. Based on German Straßenraub.
nay no If you disagree with me, say no. Naysayer is now nosayer.
numbskull thickhead What are you thickheads dilly-dallying for?
oaf clot Look what you have done, you clot! Clod may also be used.
oar rudder The longship was propelled by twelve rudders on each side. From obsolete sense. Oar is probably an early borrowing, according to the OED.
To refer to the steering rudder specifically, one can use steerrudder based on German Steuerruder.
odd (as in strange) weird He is such a weird man.
odd (as in odd number) uneven How many uneven numbers are shown here?
odd (as in fifty-odd) ish He has never seen something like this in fiftyish years.
odd (as in occasional) unoften They had a few unoften moments together. Here, the adverb has been turned into an adjective.
odd (as in remaining) leftover I do not wish to be the leftover man out.
odd (as in mismatched) mismatched Why are you wearing mismatched socks?
outcast outthrown He felt like an outthrown among them. Adjective turned into a noun. Outsider can be used, but may have slightly different connotations.
outlaw (noun) wolfshead Many wolfsheads have been seen wandering nearby. From the phrase wolf's head.
outlaw (verb) forbid The government has forbidden the use of this chemical.
outskirt outer edge Many poor people live on the city's outer edges.
perhaps weeningly She was weeningly the fairest of them all. Based on OE wēnunga. Also used to replace archaic mayhap.
Maybe can be used, but generally only in front or end position.
plow / plough sullow The farmer's oxen drew the sullow. Now a dialectal word.
OE plōg meant ploughland. Current meaning looks to be from Norse plógr.
race (as in racecar) rease This will be given to the winner of the rease. From OE rǣs. Rhymes with fleece.
raft float The castaway built a float to escape the island.
rag (as in old cloth) tattick I was bidden to wipe the floor with a mere tattick. From OE tættec.
raise rear Rear your hand if you agree. The noun should be rearing, but pay raise is now pay rise.
ransack ripe They riped the house looking for his money. Now dialectal.
reindeer roan Rudolph is a red-nosed roan. From OE cognate.
reskin yeave a new hide We yave the car a new hide. The noun could be a new formation like newhide.
rid red I bid you to red me of those pests. From ME redden.
Rid is often said to have come from Norse ryðja, but some OE attestations suggest that it may be from unattested OE ryddan.
rift (noun) cleft The quake opened a great cleft in the earth.
rift (verb) cleave The clouds cleaved enough to let light through for a moment.
rig (nautical) shride How many ships have been shrided with new sails? From one meaning of ME shriden (clothe).
rig (as in arrange for operation) dight The stage was dighted with a new loudspeaker. Now a literary word.
rig (as in construct hastily) throw together I quickly threw together a shelter.
rig (as in clothe) clothe The soldiers were clothed in fresh green uniforms. The noun is simply clothing.
rig (as in device) set-up There is something wrong with your set-up.
rig (as in truck, lorry) loadwain A ton of loadwains were parked outside. Based on German Lastwagen.
rive rend The political party is rent by ideological conflicts.
root (as in tree root) more The love of money is the more of all evil.
rotten rotted The apple is fully rotted. Rot is from OE, but rotten is a borrowing.
rowan quickbeam The quickbeam's berries can be used in medicine.
rump (as in hind part) arse / ass The arse / ass of the cow provides good meat. A less uncouth alternative is buttocks.
rump (as in remnant) beliving The beliving of the party waited for its chance. Formed from ME biliven. Rhymes with driving.
rug (as in floor covering) footsheet Your footsheet has a beautiful Eastern design. From ME fot-shete. Rug is probably from a Norse word.
rug (as in blanket) strail I set the strail on my lap. From ME strail.
rune rown There are rowns carved on this old helmet. From native cognate. Rhymes with down.
sale selling How many sellings have you made so far?
same ilk I am of the ilk profession as Sam is. Modern ilk is a misinterpretation of the word in Scottish use.
scalp (noun) headhide I put shampoo on my headhide. Based on German Kopfhaut. Scalp is likely Norse.
scalp (as in take the scalp of) nim headhide The tribesman nam the invaders' headhides.
scalp (as in resell) edsell Some people were trying to edsell tickets. Ed- is a native equivalent of re-.
scant, scanty geason Evidence for his theory is rather geason. From dialectal word.
scant (verb) stint You must not stint on the details.
scare (noun) fright There has been a recent fright over food.
scare (verb) frighten The children are frightened by the dark.
scatter strew The papers were strewn all over the floor. Scatter is possibly from an unattested OE word that may be the source of shatter, with the initial consonant influenced by Norse words beginning with /sk/.
scold chide The teacher chided the children for breaking the rules. Scold is likely from Norse. The noun would be chider.
score (as in twenty) twenty I saw twenty knights standing before the castle.
score (as in total points) stand What is the current stand for the game? Based on Dutch stand. Standing has a slightly broader meaning in sports.
score (as in gain a point) win I barely managed to win a few points.
score (as in decide a score) deem A good judge deems each participant fairly.
scrap shred Only a few shreds of paper remain after the library was ransacked.
scree slithers Be mindful of the slithers on that part of the mountain. From dialectal word.
scrub (as in vegetation) undergrowth I see nothing but a lot of undergrowth. Variant of shrub probably influenced by Norse.
The attributive should be replaced with undergrown.
seat sess I'm sorry, but this sess is reserved. From OE sess. An alternative is sield from ME selde.
seem look From what I can tell, everything looks to be all right.
seemly becoming That suit does not look becoming on you.
sheer shire Your words are nothing but shire nonsense. According to the MED, sheer is a mix of Norse skere and native shire (unrelated to shire meaning county).
The OED also suggests that it may be from unattested OE scǣre.
sister suster I have two susters. From ME variant.
skep hive A specially made hive is shown on the shelf.
skin (noun) hide There is a spider crawling on my hide. Fell can be used to refer specifically to animal skin.
skin (as in remove skin) flay Carefully flay the swine.
skin (as in scrape) shrape It must have been painful when you shraped your knee.
skin (as in become covered with skin) grow new hide Your wound will soon grow new hide.
skin (as in cover with skin) yeave hide Yeave hide to the wound.
skin (as in swindle) fleece Are you trying to fleece me?
skinny (as in very thin) mair You look mair in that dress. From OE mæger. Lean and thin can be used, but with different connotations.
skirt (as in the clothing) gore The lady's gore was pretty to look at. Meaning taken from ME. Unrelated to gore meaning bloodshed.
skirt (as in edge) edge There is a house on the forest's edges.
skirt (as in go around) go about He chose to go about the city.
skirt (as in lie along an edge) edge There are some trees that edge the river.
skirt (as in avoid) forbow You must not forbow the issue any longer. From OE forbūgan. Rhymes with now.
skill craft Cooking requires much craft.
skilled crafty Alfred is very crafty in cooking.
skulk (as in hide) mithe I sense that someone is mithing behind that tree. From OE mīþan meaning hide.
We can also convert mithe to a noun meaning group of foxes.
skulk (as in avoid duty) mithe There will be no mithing allowed in this workplace. Meaning also extended here.
skulk (as in move steathily) slink The fox slunk through the forest.
skull headbone Pirates' flags often show headbones. From OE hēafodbān. Skull is probably from a Norse word.
Brainpan may be used as well, especially to refer to the braincase.
sky heaven A bright blue heaven stretched above us.
slaughter (noun) slaught He was found guilty of manslaught. Found in onslaught.
slaughter (verb) slay Many innocents were slain in the war.
slaver (as in slobber) drivel The boy was driveling in his sleep. Original meaning of drivel. Slaver possibly from Middle Low German.
Drool can be used, but is of uncertain root (often said to be an alteration of drivel).
sleight cunning I tricked the man with cunning of hand.
sleuth hawkshaw Victorian fiction features many different hawkshaws. The surname Hawkshaw is of Anglo-Saxon root.
slight (as in small) small I gave it a small kick. Slight said to be from Norse sléttr, but perhaps it is instead from OE sliht, attested only in eorþ-slihtes (level with the ground).
slight (as in slender) lithe I could not stop beholding her lithe figure.
slight (as in insult) belittle I accidentally belittled my host by not acting properly. The noun should be belittling.
slightly (as in a little) a little The man was a little standoffish.
sling (as in throw) throw I threw a few things into my backpack.
sling (as in hang) hang I shall hang a blanket between those two trees.
sling, slingshot lither The man was attacked with a lither. From ME lither. Rhymes with slither. Sling may be from Middle Low German.
slug (animal) dewsnail He moves as slowly as a dewsnail. From dialectal word. Slug is probably from a Norse word.
sly cunning Foxes are generally thought to be cunning animals.
smile smark I smarked upon seeing her. Based on the OE variant smearcian. OE smercian became smirk, which now has a negative connotation.
ME had underlaughen, probably a calque of Latin subrīdeō.
smithy smithhouse I went to the smithhouse to place an order. From ME smethous.
snare (as in trap) grin I have set up a few grins on the field. Now a dialectal word.
snipe snite The hunter has gone out to hunt some snites. We can then translate sniper as sniter.
sound (as in strait) narrow The ship sailed through the narrow. Apparently a loanword, according to the OED.
The native OE cognate sund meant swimming, sea.
spoon (eating utensil) metstick I ate my soup with a metstick. Based on OE metesticca.
The meaning of eating utensil is apparently from Norse, as OE spōn meant only chip, though the Middle Low German cognate also meant wooden spatula.
stack rick The thief leapt into the hayrick.
steak rand The dad put a juicy rand on the grill. Now a dialectal word meaning strip of meat.
stem (as in restrict) astint I must astint the bleeding at once. From ME astinten.
stern (nautical) aft The captain stood at the aft.
stoup steap I dipped my hands in the steap. From OE cognate.
swain wooer The wooer won the lady's heart.
sway (as in move slowly) waw The wind made the trees waw. From ME wawen.
sway (as in rule) stightle Who will stightle the kingdom in my stead? From ME stightelen.
take nim Let me nim that off your hands. PST: nam, PTCP: num.
tatter tattick I saw a man wearing tatticked clothes. From OE tættec.
teem (as in pour down) yeet The rain began to yeet down on us. From ME yeten. PST: yote, PTCP: yoten.
tern seaswallow A seaswallow flew down from the cliff.
tether (noun) sole The cow lies down by its sole. From OE sāl.
tether (verb) seal The man sealed his horse to a nearby tree. From OE sǣlan.
though thaugh Thaugh it is dark, I do not feel afraid at all. Based on an ME variant. This should probably rhyme with laugh, based on the development of laugh.
thrall thew The man became a thew to his desires. Enthrall may be something like bethew.
thrift spealing Spealing is a quality that men ought to have. Based on speal.
thrifty spealsome It is good to be spealsome with one's money. Based on German sparsam.
thrive thee Because of its mines, the country has theed greatly. The verb thee is pronounced /θi/.
thrust shove The man had shoved his hands into the bag.
Thursday Thundersday I shall leave this Thundersday. From OE þunresdæg. Later forms may have been influenced by Norse þōrsdagr.
thwart (as in prevent) stop The knight managed to stop the evil wizard.
thwart (as in bench of a boat) thoft This boat has three thofts. Dialectal word.
tidings news Fear not, friend, for I bring good news. Tidings likely based on Norse tíðendi, but one could derive tiding from the obsolete native verb tide (happen).
till, until oth He waited in the park oth midnight. From ME oth.
tight fast The ropes are a little too fast. Fast means firm, tight, secure here. Tighten is then fasten.
tit, titmouse mose I could hear a mose chirping outside. From ME mose. Rhymes with hose. Tit in titmouse appears to be from Norse.
to and fro back and forth It's tiresome to walk back and forth The native variant to and from is attested in ME.
trust trow For now, I will trow you. Archaic word. Rhymes with know.
There is reason to doubt that trust is a Norse borrowing. As mentioned in the OED, tracing this to Norse traustr presents phonological difficulties, whereas tracing this to OE *trust and *trystan would better explain the vocalism in attested ME forms. Moreover, the word is earliest attested in works whose dialects do not show strong Norse influence, which makes a native origin likelier.
One explanation for the vocalism in ME trust-tristen is analogy with umlauted pairs such as lust-list (an archaic verb meaning want, desire), with tristen (traced to Norse treysta, which is also the source of ME traisten) acting as the basis for analogy. However, such an explanation seems unlikely, since umlaut had already become unproductive, and analogical umlaut formations have seldom been made.
trusty trowful I rode on my horse, my trowful steed. Based on OE getrēowfull.
tug tee The girl kept teeing on my sleeve. From ME ten. Tug is apparently related to Old English tugon and togen, but these inflections had /ɣ/, not /g/, as shown by their later history. Tug is probably instead related to Norse toga.
ugly unsightly He had a rather unsightly appearance.
unto to Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Viking Witching The village was attacked by the Witchings. From the OE form of the word.
wand rod Begin the spell with your magical rod.
want (as in desire) list I list to rest right now. Archaic word.
want (as in lack) gead This house is in gead of repair. From OE gǣd.
weak woak He is woak both physically and mentally. From OE wāc. Weaken and weakling are then woaken and woakling.
wheeze snast The woman could not stop snasting. From ME fnasten, with change of fn to sn (as seen in sneeze). Meaning extended here.
whir drone I heard a helicopter droning in the air.
whirl wharftle I wharftled around upon hearing a strange noise. From OE hwearftlian.
wholesale (noun) wholeselling I work at a wholeselling business. The verb should be sell wholly.
The adverb can be something like by wholeselling.
wholesale (as in on a large scale) widespread The war brought widespread destruction upon the land. The adverb should be widely.
window eyethirl The glass eyethirl was broken for some reason. From ME ei-thirl.
wing flile I wondered at the magical bird's fliles. Fly + -le. Calque of German Flügel.
The native word was OE fiþere, but it later merged with OE feþer (feather).
workaday everyday You should not wear such everyday clothes. Said by some to have come from Norse virkr dagr, but others say that it is instead an alteration of workday by analogy with words like holiday.
wrong wough Your answer to the question is wough. Rhymes with now.
yowl thout Once I stepped on the cat's tail, it thouted. From ME thuten, variant of theoten (one can use theet instead).
Yowl is sometimes traced to Norse gaula, perhaps influenced by yell, but it may be simply an imitative word.
Yule Yeel It's the Yeeltide season! From OE gēol.
Though Yule could be derived through stress shift in the diphthong, the fact that the word almost always shows the yo- variant in Middle English (with hardly any trace of the ye- variant) and is mainly used in Northern and East Midlands texts shows that Yule was most likely borrowed from Norse jól.

Palatalization[edit]

Old English underwent a sound change called palatalization, which occurred in certain circumstances such as when the consonant occurred before a front vowel. The consonants involved were:

  • /k/ > /tʃ/, e.g., OE ceorl > NE churl.
  • /sk/ > /ʃ/, e.g., OE scip > NE ship.
  • /g/ > /j/, e.g., OE geard > NE yard.
    • Note that /j/ geminated or after /n/ became /dʒ/ at some point instead, e.g., OE brycg > NE bridge, OE sengan > NE singe.

On the other hand, Old Norse did not undergo this process, which makes palatalization a key factor in identifying Norse borrowings.

Notes:

  • Some words show an unpalatalized form that have sometimes been attributed to Norse influence. Those words are included in the list of Norse words, but the following words probably had no Norse influence.
    • begin - the OE infinitive beginnan had /j/ and so would yield modern *beyin. However, the past tense begann and the past participle begunnen showed no palatalization. There is no known Norse cognate, and forms with g are attested in the Kentish dialect, so it is very likely that the transfer of /g/ to the infinitive was due to analogy.
    • carve - the usual reflex of OE ceorfan would be *cherve. But the past plural curfon and the past participle corfen showed no palatalization. There is no known Norse cognate, and forms with k are attested in the Kentish dialect, so it seems that the transfer of /k/ to the infinitive was due to analogy. The change of er to ar is not unusual, as it has happened with other words such as starve (originally a variant of obsolete sterve).
    • gate - the usual reflex of OE geat became yat (with yate being a variant from open-syllable lengthening), and these forms remain in use in some dialects. The plural of OE geat was gatu, which had /g/ instead of /j/. It is unlikely that the modern form is due to Norse gat; according to the OED, in Middle English, the y forms were universal in Northern, North-Midland, and West-Midland works (and were dominant in Southwestern works), which would be unexpected if gate were from Norse gat. Moreover gate is the form used in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, which was written in the conservative Kentish dialect. Hence, it seems clear that gate is based on the OE plural gatu.
  • According to some scholars, in the OE sequence ing, the g was palatalized because of the foregoing i, so OE þing would have become *thinge instead. However, it is rather telling that no modern native word with /ɪndʒ/ can seemingly be traced back to an OE form with ing; instead, most of these words can be traced back to OE words with the sequence eng, e.g., OE sengan > singe, OE swengan > swinge. It is quite likely that the /g/ in thing was from the OE plural þing, which had not undergone palatalization since it was historically followed by u, which had blocked it from happening. In other words, it is needless to attribute the lack of palatal forms to Norse influence; analogy with inflections with velar forms instead played a great role in leveling out palatal g in favor of velar g in all OE words with ing and seemed to be a general change.
    • Likewise, if it is assumed that palatalization happened in the OE sequence inc, analogy appears to have played a role in ensuring that later forms had velar k instead of palatal k, e.g., OE rinc > obsolete rink (man). OE finc (finch) is not a secure example, as it may have been followed by a historical i, so the palatalization may have been due to the following i instead of the foregoing i.
  • A few words end with /g/, which is usually a sign that the word is not native, e.g., egg (as opposed to native ey), leg. There are, however, words that are attested in OE with geminated g and do not seem to be from Norse, and since there are so few of them, it is possible to give a full list (it is quite noteworthy that most of these are names for animals). One thing to note, however, is that, these words are quite dubious in their etymology; the geminated g cannot have come from West Germanic gemination, since that would have yielded palatal g (which would end up becoming /dʒ/, as shown in bridge). Also, because they are sparsely attested, it is unclear whether Norse influence somehow affected them; it is hard to tell whether cg in their spellings represented palatal g (as in OE ecg) or was an attempt to represent geminated g (and even then, geminated g does not necessarily imply a Norse origin). Nonetheless, a list of these words is given here:
    • Dog - from OE docga. A native synonym is hound (from OE hund). As this is found in the ME southern dialects and the conservative Kentish dialect, it is unlikely that Norse is the origin of this word.
    • Frog - from OE frocga. A native synonym is frosh (from OE frosc). This appears to be earliest attested in the more southern dialects in ME.
    • Pig - from OE *picga (suggested by OE picgbrēad). A native synonym is swine (from OE swīn).
    • Stag - from OE *stacga (attested as OE staggon). A native synonym is hart (from OE heorot). A similar-sounding Norse word is attested in ME as stegge, but this meant gander, and stagge only occasionally meant swan (this meaning was probably due to confusion between the two words). Thus, the form and the sense argue against a Norse origin.
    • Earwig - from OE ēarwicga.
    • Hog - from OE hogg (possibly a Celtic loanword). A native synonym is swine (from OE swīn).
    • Hag - supposedly from a shortening of OE hægtesse, but OE g in the word was /ɣ/, so the OE forebear must have been something like *hægge instead. The OED offers the explanation that /g/ may have arisen from "expressive gemination". OE hægtesse would have yielded something like *haitess.
    • Shag - from OE sceacga. Poorly attested in OE and only begins to be attested in the latter half of the 16th century afterwards. No other word seems to be the source of the modern word, so it is assumed that it simply failed to be recorded in ME.
    • Twig - from OE twigge. This was a Northumbrian variant, and a variant used elsewhere was twig, which would have become twy. It is very unlikely that this was a Norse borrowing, given that there is no attested Norse cognate, and the form with /g/ is attested in the ME Kentish dialect, a very conservative dialect.
    • ME hei-sugge (which means hedge sparrow and would now be *haysug) - from OE hege-sugge. A native synonym is, of course, hedge sparrow.

Seek-verbs

There are a few verbs whose infinitive forms in OE showed a palatal consonant, but the modern form shows a velar consonant instead. For example, OE sēcan should have yielded seech as it did in beseech, and seech is the form used in some modern regional dialects. The /k/ in seek is sometimes said to be from the inflected forms sēcst and sēcþ, as the second-person singular and third-person singular are sometimes the source of the modern infinitive in other verbs.

However, in this case, Marcin Krygier argues that the main source behind the velar consonant is Norse influence. There is good reason to assume so, since according to Krygier, in terms of dialectal distribution, the palatal forms were generally favored in the southern dialects, but the velar forms in the northern and East Midlands dialects, and the modern verbs with /k/ have Norse cognates with /k/ (e.g., OE sēcan - ON sǿkja), so the Norse forms are a plausible source. Furthermore, standard English can ultimately be traced to an OE Anglian dialect, but in the Anglian dialects, unsyncopated forms were generally used, so it was usual to see sēcest and sēceþ, which showed the palatal consonant. As a result, the fact that the Northern and East Midlands dialects greatly preferred velar forms for verbs that have Norse cognates with /k/ highly suggests that it was Norse influence that led the velar forms to become generalized. Here, these verbs will be labeled seek-verbs.

The following is a list of standard words that are substituted with the native palatalized cognate or with words using it:

/k/ instead of /tʃ/:

Norse word English word Example sentence Notes
bishopric bishoprich I do not know when this bishoprich was founded. From ME bishoprich(e).
dike ditch The king has bidden me to build a ditch. Dike may be from Norse díki or the inflected OE form dīcas.
kettle chettle The pot should not call the chettle black. Now an obsolete form.
like (as in alike) lich We are of lich minds. Native form shown in the related noun lich meaning corpse.
Like may be from Norse líkr or inflected OE forms such as gelīcne and gelīcre. Additionally, like may show influence from the noun like (< OE gelīca).
reck retch He retches little of worldly things. From ME recchen. A seek-verb.
The adjective reckless should now be retchless.
seek seech I seech the truth. From ME sechen. A seek-verb.
The native form survives in beseech.
think (as in ponder) thench I like to thench about the future. From ME thenchen. A seek-verb.
think (as in seem) thinch It thincheth to me that he is hiding something. From ME thinchen. A seek-verb.
This think is found only in the archaic word methinks.
The past tense thought (OE þūhte) would have normally come to rhyme with drought (compare with the phonetic development in ME dughti > NE doughty). That it now rhymes with bought is from influence of thought (past tense of think, now thench) when the two verbs became confused. To differentiate this verb from thench, one can have this thought rhyme with drought.
work (verb) worch What art thou worching on? Now a dialectal form. A seek-verb.
Note that the noun work (< OE weorc) ends with /k/ as expected. Despite this, the noun seems to have been only a minor influence in the southern dialects, which still preferred the palatal variant for the verb.

/sk/ instead of /ʃ/:

Norse word English word Example sentence Notes
scab shab You ought to stop picking on your shab. Found in shabby.
scale (as in the weighing instrument) shale I weighed myself using a shale. From OE cognate.
Scot Shot My neighbor comes from Shotland. From the OE form, which was an early borrowing from Latin Scotus.
/sk/ in the current forms may have (also) been due to French or later Latin influence.
scrape shrape I have shraped my knee. From OE cognate.

/g/ instead of /j/:

Norse word English word Example sentence Notes
again ayen We shall be able to work ayen. From ME ayen.
against ayenst The knight fought ayenst the dragon.
egg (noun) ey When will the ey hatch? From ME ei (showing vocalization of /j/). Rhymes with clay.
Plural: eyren.
garth clausteryard I sat beneath the tree in the clausteryard. Based on the phrase cloister garth. Clauster is from an OE borrowing of Latin claustrum.
Garth in its old meaning of yard can be replaced with yard.
gear (as in equipment) yarrow My fishing yarrow is gone. From OE gearwe.
get yet I will not foryet this any time soon. PST: yat, PTCP: yetten.
OE cognate only in derivatives. Base yet was a rare backformation.
give yeave I have yeaven Emily the watch that you yave me last year. PST: yave, PTCP: yeaven.
Note that the natural reflex of OE gefan is yeave (yive seemed to be a less common variant in ME).
guest yest The host warmly welcomed the yest.

/ŋ/ (historical /ng/) instead of /ndʒ/:

Norse word English word Example sentence Notes
ring (as in ring a bell) ringe I told him to ringe the bell. From OE cognate.
OE hringan is akin to Norse hringja and thus should have had a historical /j/ causing palatalization. Given the lack of clear spelling for palatal g after /n/ in OE and ME, it is not immediately clear what caused the verb to have historical /g/ instead. It may have been influenced by Norse hringja, but historical /g/ may have been generalized from inflected forms like hringdon, which had velar /g/ because the palatalized consonant stood before a consonant.
It should be noted that in Middle English, ringen came to be conjugated as an irregular verb by analogy with verbs like sing, so the past tense and the past participle show vowel changes. For this analogy to happen, the verb must have already come to have /g/ in the infinitive. Forms such as rungen can be found early on, and one early work showing irregular forms is Body and Soul, a late 12th century work written in a Southwest Midlands dialect, so the change to /g/ in the infinitive may have been a native development instead.
string stringe One can control this puppet with its stringes. From OE cognate.
It is difficult to determine whether the word may have been influenced by the Norse cognate strengr because of the lack of distinct spelling for the sound in Middle English.

Archaic or dialectal Norse words[edit]

The following is a list of archaic or dialectal Norse words.

Norse word English word Example sentence Notes
ay (as in always) always I will always be with you. Ay related to nay. The native cognate was OE ā, which would now be o (as OE became no).
bale (as in balefire) beel The night was lit up by the beelfire. From OE cognate.
beck (as in brook) brook Some children were playing alongside the brook.
bink bench Sit down on the bench at once.
brig (as in bridge) bridge A great bridge spans over the sea.
busk dight I dighted myself for tomorrow's journey. Now a literary word.
carl churl The noble disliked being equated to a churl. Carl is now dialectal, but it is still used in the historical word housecarl.
dwale deadly nightshade This potion is made from deadly nightshade.
ettle (verb) mean I mean to meet him tomorrow.
ettle (noun) meaning It is my meaning to travel to Norway.
fro from The insect flitted to and from. Survives in the phrase to and fro. The native variant to and from is attested in ME.
froward wayward He is such a wayward child.
gain (prefix) yen Critics yensaid the mayor's plan. Gain- found in gainsay.
gate (as in way) way Step out of my way at once. Gate related to gait.
gill (as in ravine) crundle I glided through the crundle for a while. From ME crundel.
One can also use dialectal clough (rhyming with tough), though it is not attested in OE.
gill (as in brook) brook He has lain by the brook for hours.
gimmer (as in yearling ewe) yearling ewe I sold my friend a few yearling ewes.
gowk (as in cuckoo) yeak I soon heard a yeak's cry.
gowk (as in fool) halfwit I made him look like a halfwit before everyone.
hail (as in hello) bewhole Bewhole, my good friend! Based on OE wes/bēo hāl. Written as one word like the interjection begone.
One can also use whole (attested once as an interjection in ME).
All hail can be replaced with all whole, based on ME alhol (also attested once as an interjection).
hap whate May the goddess of whate smile upon you.
harnpan headbone What is inside your headbone, anyway?
harns brains The old man knocked their brains out.
holm (as in islet) eyot A great stone lies to the west of the eyot. Ait used as variant. OE cognate of holm meant sea.
holm (as in bottomland) bottomland Many species live in bottomland habitats.
husbandman acreman I saw many acremen working in the fields.
ken (verb) know Do you know that man? Ken meant cause to know in OE. Meaning of know sometimes attributed to Norse, but its cognates in other West Germanic languages are also used to mean know, so this may have actually been a native development.
kirk church The man made his way to the church.
kist chest I stowed my clothes in the chest.
laik play The children like to play outside all day.
lair (as in mud) horrow The two boys rolled around in horrow. From ME horwe, variant of ME hore (one can use hore instead).
lait look for I have looked for her for days.
lig lie Relax and lie down on the bench.
mickle much That elephant is such a much beast. From obsolete meaning of large. The opposite of little.
Mickle may be from Norse mikill or inflected OE forms such as micles and miclum.
mun must With the way he is dressed, he must be an important man.
nieve fist I struck the man with my fist.
rig (as in ridge) ridge The farmland here has many ridges. Unrelated to rig meaning arrange.
scathe shathe He fled the building unshathed. From OE cognate. Norse word still found in scathing and unscathed.
scaw headland Many castles are built on headlands.
scot (as in payment) shot It's your turn to pay your shot. From native cognate.
skell (as in shell) shell The man was holding a tortoise shell.
spae foretell The prophet foretold that he should die tomorrow.
staithe wharf A ship full of coal arrived at the wharf. OE cognate meant bank, shore.
thig beseech The pauper besought me for food.
thorp throp The throp held a festival yesterday. From ME throp.
The OE variant þorp (etymologically the original form) is attested sporadically in pre-Conquest placenames and is found independently only once (but because the text was written post-Conquest, it is possible that this þorp came from Norse). The normal OE form seemed to be þrop (showing metathesis). Admittedly, the word in OE is scantily attested, as there are apparently only four attestations of þrop in glosses. ME attestations show thorp and throp used independently, and it seems that throp was the form used in the more southern dialects, whereas thorp was used in the more northern dialects, which suggests that the thorp form was mainly due to Norse influence.
trig tidy Everyone here looks tidy.
wale (as in choice) kir One must think carefully about one's kirs. From ME kire.
wale (as in choose) choose I may have chosen poorly.
wark (as in pain) warch I feel warch throughout my body. From ME warche.
whin (as in gorse) gorse The creature leapt into the gorse shrubs. Or: furze.

Grammar[edit]

This section talks about grammatical changes in morphology and syntax that have often been attributed to Norse influence.

Affixes[edit]

-ly

The adjectival and adverbial suffix -ly is generally derived from OE -līc(e), which would have normally become *-lich. However, in Middle English, a variant without /tʃ/ appeared and became the dominant form, whence the modern suffix.

The dropping of /tʃ/ is sometimes said to have been due to a sound change in which final /tʃ/ in an unstressed syllable was dropped. Another theory is that the Norse form -ligr influenced it, since it would explain why the modern form lacks /tʃ/. In terms of dialects, the more northern dialects used -lik; in particular, the Ormulum used both -like (showing influence from Norse -líkr) and -liȝ (perhaps from Norse -ligr; the form seems to show /j/). Meanwhile, the more southern dialects used -liche.

According to this, -ly seems to have come from the West Midlands dialect, which is not what would be expected for Norse influence, as we should expect to see the change originate in the northern or East Midlands dialects instead (though the lack of early northern texts admittedly makes things less clear). It seems that the loss of /tʃ/ occurred first in the adjective þullich (such), which was naturally unstressed, and then the loss of /tʃ/ spread to other forms. Moreover, the use of -ly is seldom found in the East Midlands dialect early on, and it seems to have rapidly increased only in the 14th century, which was too late for Norse influence to set in.

In short, it seems that the change of the suffix to -ly was native, given the dialectal distribution and the timing, so attributing this to Norse influence seems needless.

Incidentally, the loss of /tʃ/ in the final syllable of þullich provides an explanation for the loss of /tʃ/ in every, which was formerly everich. The form without /tʃ/ is first attested as efri in a late 12th century Southwest Midlands text, though it seems that everich was still the general form used. In the 14th century, every greatly rose in use and was used in other dialects as well. Given the rarity of every beforehand, the rise of every probably was part of the loss of /tʃ/ that began with þullich and -lich rather than a continuation of the very early attestations of every. Every was used alongside everich, generally following the same distinction as a and an in that every was used before consonants, and everich before vowels. Only later did every replace everich completely.

What do the other West Germanic languages use for -ly?

  • German uses -lich.
  • Dutch uses -lijk.
  • West Frisian uses -lik.

It should be noted that for those languages, however, they generally use the base adjective as the adverbial form, so they do not regularly use their forms of -ly to form adverbs, unlike English.

Plural -s

It is occasionally claimed that the plural suffix -s (from Old English -as) can be traced back to Norse -z since the northern and midlands dialects in Middle English generally used -es for the plural, whereas the southern dialects showed preference for -en, as in oxen. Hence, the Norse-influenced dialects may have borrowed the suffix, or the suffix may have led to the extension of the -s ending throughout all noun declensions because native -s and -z would have differed mainly in voicedness.

The suggestion that the -s suffix comes from Norse, or Norse -z encouraged the spread of -s because of formal similarity is simply wrong, however. Norse -z had already become /ʀ/ by the ninth century, so there was no resemblance between native -as and the Norse suffix. This is supported by the fact that Norse borrowings with the consonant never seem to show s.

There is a stronger argument that those dialects did not formally borrow the suffix, but were influenced by its use in Norse. If we look at the a-stem declensions for the word stone in both Old English and Old Norse:

Old English
Case Singular Plural
Nominative stān stānas
Accusative stān stānas
Genitive stānes stāna
Dative stāne stānum
Old Norse (indefinite)
Case Singular Plural
Nominative steinn steinar
Accusative stein steina
Genitive steins steina
Dative steini steinum

Though the two declensions do not fully correspond to each other, there are quite a few similarities, so it is possible that the -r ending in Norse encouraged the use of -es in English. This is, however, somewhat hard to show because of the dearth of northern texts between the 11th and 14th centuries, so we have no clear idea on how the -es ending developed in the northern dialects. In the East Midlands dialects, the -es plural appears to have greatly spread early, as the Ormulum had -es as the general ending, but a few old plural forms such as eȝhne (< OE ēagan) still appeared alongside new forms such as eȝhess (eyes), so the -es ending had not become fully established yet. Thus, Norse influence, at the very least, may have contributed to the spread of -es in the East Midlands dialects through influence of the above declension.

What about the southern dialects? According to this, it seems that masculine n-stems, endingless neuter a-stems, and feminine nouns ending with a vowel in the plural were the earliest to use the -es plural, with other classes following some time after. In general, the earliest nouns to shift to the -es ending were masculine in terms of their original gender and endingless in terms of their original plural forms. The later transfer of -es to other noun classes could have been affected by gradual influence from Norse-influenced dialects, but it is hard to show definitively, since this change could have also involved analogy with nouns that had already come to use -es.

Moreover, in Old English, nouns of marginal declension types such as nd-stems became a-stems, with -as being used for masculine nouns, and a-stems are said to have made up around 60% of all OE nouns. It seems that OE already had a tendency to replace marginal declensions with the as-declension, and this trend continued at different rates in the various ME dialects, whatever the reason might be.

On a related note, there is some evidence that shows that in late Northumbrian, the genitive singular -es, historically restricted to masculine and neuter a-stems, had spread to other classes, including certain groups of feminine nouns. The plural ending -as, on the other hand, had spread far less, so at that point, the spread of -as was only at an early stage and had not yet advanced far. Still, the spread of -es shows that a key part of the a-stem declension had already spread to other declensions in Northumbrian Old English.

In short, it is uncertain how much the generalization of the -es ending can be attributed to Norse influence. It may have played a role in the northern and East Midlands dialects, but it should be noted that already in Old English, -as belonged to a common declension that tended to replace more marginal declensions. Thus, the spread of -es in the more southern dialects could be from influence from Norse-influenced dialects or be simply a continuation of the Old English trend.

How do the other West Germanic languages handle their noun plurals?

  • German has various declensions, -n being a frequent ending in native nouns. -s is used far less frequently, but is often used for recent loanwords.
  • Dutch has -en and -s as plural endings. The general rules for -en and -s are dependent on the sound of the word, e.g., -s is usually used for nouns ending in an unstressed sequence such as el or em.
  • West Frisian uses -en and -s and follows similar rules to those of Dutch.

Third-person singular -s

See here.

Loss of -ian

Old English had three classes of weak verbs (verbs that form their past tense and their past participle with an ending that contained a dental consonant). Of the three, Class 2 was by far the most productive class, and it was the class that any new verbs would be modeled on. The characteristic Class 2 infinitive ending was -ian, and -i- is found in many (but not all) inflections such as the plural present indicative or the plural imperative. However, in Middle English, the more northern dialects show no signs of -i-; instead, it was found as -ien in the more southern dialects. The usual infinitive ending in the East Midlands dialect was -en instead. As it so happens, Class 2 verbs in Old Norse had no -i-, e.g., OE hatian (hate), but ON hata. Thus, it is argued that Norse influence caused -i- to be leveled out.

There is some evidence that suggests that in Northumbrian Old English, the loss of -i- was already underway in a significant number of forms for Class 2 verbs. This aligns with how the loss of -ien in Middle English can be traced back to the more northern dialects. Norse influence cannot be completely ruled out here, but the loss of -i- can also be attributed to native causes such as analogy with inflections that did not have -i-, e.g., past singular hatode.

What happened to the Class 2 verb ending in the other West Germanic languages?

  • The infinitive ending in German and Dutch simply became -en. But it should be noted that the Class 2 ending in Old English was based on an innovative form that was never present in German and Dutch.
  • In West Frisian, the infinitive ending differs depending on the verb class. Weak verbs of Class 2 end with -je, which comes from the same innovative form as OE -ian.

Inflections[edit]

Are

It is sometimes claimed that are, the plural present indicative of be, is a borrowing from Norse forms beginning with er-. It is true that in Middle English, the are form was used mainly in the northern dialects, and its use may have been strengthened by similar Norse forms, though this cannot be definitively shown. However, in Old English, there were inherited forms such as earun, and these forms were used mainly in the Anglian dialects and are attested long before the Viking invasions. At the very least, Norse was certainly not the source of are.

In any case, the major dialects differed in their forms for are. Formerly, the form used in all OE dialects was sind(on), which would now be *sind (rhyming with binned and generally pronounced with low stress), but this form had died out in all dialects by the fourteenth century. Instead, in Middle English:

  • The southern dialects used beth (which would now be *beeth).
  • The midlands dialects used ben (which was the form used by Chaucer and later became be from loss of final -n) or ar(e)n.
  • The northern dialects used ar (showing early loss of final n from OE earun) as well as other forms such as er (possibly a Norse form, but possibly also a low-stress form) and bes (also used for the second-person and third-person singular).

Even though are was a form used in the more northern dialects, how did it enter the standard language, which was based on an East Midlands dialect? In standard Early New English, there was some northern influence on morphology, and as part of this, are came to replace be (which is preserved only in the phrase the powers that be).

What do the other West Germanic languages use for be and are?

  • German has sein, and the first-person and third-person plural form use sind (akin to OE sind). The second-person plural uses seid.
  • Dutch has zijn, and the plural is also zijn, a form historically based on the present subjunctive zij (akin to OE sīe).
  • West Frisian has wêze (akin to OE wesan), and the plural is binne, which uses a b- inflection from a verb akin to OE bēon.

Brethren

The OE word brōþor (brother) usually had brōþor as a plural, and generally showed umlaut only in the dative singular brēþer. However, in Middle English, brether was widely used as a plural form. This form was later combined with the -en plural ending, which resulted in brethren, a double plural. The latter part is not particularly important, since the main concern is how the plural came to have the umlauted vowel.

It so happens that the plural in Old Norse was bróðir, which would match phonetically with the umlauted vowel in the Northumbrian and Mercian dialects of Old English, so brether may have come from or greatly strengthened by the Norse form. There is some evidence that the vowel may have been a native change, since in a late Mercian text, broeþre (in which oe represents the umlauted vowel) is found as a gloss for Latin fratres (brothers). Such a form could be explained as analogy from the dative singular, since nouns with umlauted plurals such as mann show umlaut not only in the plural nominative and accusative but also in the dative singular. Of course, this is only one attestation, so it is uncertain whether this was a sign of the rise of the umlauted plural. In Middle English, brether seems to have been regularly and earliest used in the northern and East Midlands dialects, so Norse influence may have played a role in the common use of brether in those dialects. The umlauted plural appears in other dialects such as the Southwest Midlands dialects and the southern dialects, though these forms are attested later, so the possibility of the Norse-influenced form spreading to those dialects cannot be ruled out.

In short, it is possible that the umlauted plural was a native innovation, but given its rarity in Old English, it seems that Norse influence, at the very least, contributed to the rise of the umlauted plural, especially in the northern and East Midlands dialects. Of course, brethren ended up being replaced with brothers in most contexts anyway, and this change happened in Early New English.

What do the other West Germanic languages use for brother and brothers/brethren?

  • German has Bruder, and the plural is Brüder, an umlauted form. This appears to have been a later innovation, given that the plural in Old High German was bruoder (identical to the singular).
  • Dutch has broer (the general word for brother) and broeder (used in figurative senses). The plurals are broers and broeders.
  • West Frisian has broer. The plural is broers or bruorren.

Came

It is occasionally said that came, the past tense of come, had its roots in Norse kvam, as the original past tense in OE was cōm (which would now be coom). But there is reason to doubt this; not only is the earliest attestation of cam in an mid-12th century Kentish document, but in Middle English, cam(e) forms were also used mainly in the midlands and the southern dialects, which would be the opposite of what we would expect from a Norse borrowing.

Whence did the cam(e) form come, then? OE cuman (come) is a Class 4 strong verb (see here for more about strong verbs), but the vocalism in normal Class 4 verbs is different from the vocalism in OE cuman. For comparison, here are the principal parts for the Class 4 verbs beran (bear) and cuman (come). The principal parts are the infinitive, the past singular, the past plural, and the past participle.

  • beran, bær, bǣron, boren
  • cuman, c(w)ōm, c(w)ōmon, cumen

There is no similarity in the vowels to suggest analogy. Middle English variants for came such as keme seem to have come from past plural forms such as bǣron, so analogy definitely affected the verb at some point. But since keme is attested later than cam, analogy probably played a role only after cam created the basis for it.

In any case, there is another irregular Class 4 verb: niman (take). Its principal parts are:

  • niman, nam (or nōm), nōmon (or nāmon), numen

The variant forms in parentheses are analogical; nam is the inherited form, with nōm formed by analogy with the past plural nōmon. And nāmon is simply nam with analogical vowel lengthening and the addition of the plural suffix.

Anyway, the similarities between cuman and niman are far greater. There is correspondence in the past singular (cōm and nōm), the past plural (cōmon and nōmon), and the past participle (cumen and numen). The only principal part that differs is the infinitive, but since there are enough similarities to allow for analogy, it is reasonable to argue that the variant form nam led to or greatly contributed to the rise of cam.

What do the other West Germanic languages use for come and came?

  • German has kommen, and the past tense is kam.
  • Dutch has komen, and the past tense is kwam.
  • West Frisian has komme, and the past tense is kaam.

Fled

The past tense and past participle form fled (fledde in Middle English) is unexpected, since flee in Old English was a strong verb and used forms that did not resemble fled at all. The origin of fled is obscure; it is sometimes attributed to Norse influence, since early examples of fledde are found in Middle English works with Norse influence. Moreover, fledde resembles Swedish flydde, and in Middle Swedish, verbs ending in a long vowel formed their past tense with -dde. Hence, an earlier Norse dialect may have formed the past tense of flee thus, and the form then entered English.

Such an explanation has its faults, however. Swedish flydde is attested around 1350, but fledde is also attested in Ayenbite of Inwyt, a Kentish work written in 1340. Not only does the English form predate the Swedish form, but it is found in the Kentish dialect, which was a fairly conservative dialect and was outside the area of Norse influence.

A more plausible explanation is from the Middle English Dictionary, which traces the past tense form back to fleide, the past tense form of fleien (a verb meaning put to flight). The advantage of the new form is that flen and flien (fly) were often confused with each other in the past tense and the past participle, so fledde would have helped distinguish flen from flien. This is a plausible explanation since it explains why flee came to lose its strong forms, and fleien was similar enough in form and meaning and was essentially the causative equivalent of flen. One problem is that there seem to be no attestations showing fleide used as the past tense of flen, though there are attestations of flee and its inflections (including fledde) in the meaning of put to flight (which corresponded to the verb fleien), so there is evidence that shows that fleien influenced flen. Another problem is that it does not readily explain how fleide became fledde, since the expected modern reflex of ME fleide is *flaid. Perhaps fleide was altered to flede from influence of the infinitive vowel, and since flede was almost identical to past tense forms such as bledde and fedde, the form was further altered to fledde, whence modern fled.

Incidentally, shod (the past tense and past participle form of shoe) shows the same formation as fled. This is not attributed to Norse influence, nor is there any reason to do so, since Old English shows a late form with double consonants in unsceoddum, a dative plural form of unscōd (unshod). The geminated form probably came from inflected forms where gemination might have happened, e.g., *scōdra > *scoddra (compare with wīdra > widdra).

What do the other West Germanic languages use for flee and fled?

  • German has fliehen, and the past tense is floh.
  • Dutch has vlieden, and the past tense is vlood.
  • The West Frisian cognate of flee is attested as flia in Old Frisian, but appears not to have survived.

Hung

The past tense and past participle of hang is now hung, but this is unexpected, since the respective forms for OE hōn (a strong verb) were hēng and hangen. Neither of these forms would have yielded hung. So what is the source of hung?

First of all, Old English had two verbs for hang: hōn and hangian. The former was a strong verb of class 7, and the latter was a weak verb of class 2. This means that the past tense and the past participle for the latter were hangode and gehangod. Moreover, the former verb was transitive, and the latter verb intransitive. These distinctions broke down in Middle English, and the infinitive adopted the ng form, whence the modern form hang.

Proto-Germanic also had a third verb, which was a weak verb of class 1 and yielded Old Norse hengja. The OE cognate would have been *hengan, but no sign of this is attested in Old English. Forms like henge appear in the more northern dialects in ME, and given the lack of an OE cognate, it is clear that this is a Norse form. Anyway, henge later became hing as part of a regular sound change in which e becomes i before ng. As hing was the present tense, it gained the past tense form hang and the past participle form hung by analogy with verbs like sing. The past participle hung entered standard English and was extended to the past tense as well, and as a result, the current conjugation of hang shows indirect influence from the Norse verb.

The expected reflexes of the OE forms would be:

  • hing (past tense), e.g., he hung the picture on the wall > he hing the picture on the wall.
  • hang (past participle), e.g., the picture was hung on the wall > the picture was hang on the wall.

As for why the past participle would have probably become hang rather than hangen, the suffix -en is generally dropped after ng.

For an alternative solution, one can simply just use hanged in all senses, e.g., he hanged the picture on the wall, the picture was hanged on the wall.

What do the other West Germanic languages use for hang and hung?

  • German has hängen (akin to Old Norse hengja). The past tense is hing, and the past participle is gehangen. These inflected forms are from the strong verb (akin to OE hōn).
  • Dutch has hangen (akin to OE hangian). The past tense is hing, and the past participle is gehangen. These inflected forms are from the strong verb (akin to OE hōn).
  • West Frisian has hingje (akin to Old Norse hengja). The past tense appears to be hong or hinge, and the past participle hongen or hinge. The vocalic forms are newly formed and based on those of strong verbs of Class 3 such as springe (jump), and the weak forms are based on those of weak verbs of Class 2 (even though hingje was originally a weak verb of Class 1).

Other grammatical forms[edit]

Third-person plural pronouns

The third-person plural pronouns are generally attributed to Old Norse. More specifically, they is from Norse þeir (with dropping of final r), them from Norse þeim, and their from Norse þeira. Phonetically, this is reasonable; only them requires further explanation, but it is easily explained as a reduced form of theim, perhaps with some influence from the native equivalent hem.

The plural pronouns in Middle English were mostly used in the northern dialects, which is what one would expect for a Norse borrowing. Everywhere else, the native set was kept, though they, the nominative form, later spread to other dialects, likely because it was more distinct in form than the native nominative, which was often confused with the masculine singular.

Occasionally, the th- forms are said to be from forms of the OE plural demonstrative þā. There is some evidence that suggests that at the very least, there was overlap between the forms for the pronoun and those for the demonstrative, as shown in spellings such as tha (which is expected for the northern reflex of OE þā).

For more information on what the native pronouns beginning with /h/ would now be, see here.

What do the other West Frisian languages use for the third-person plural?

  • German has sie for the nominative and the accusative, ihnen for the dative, and ihrer for the genitive. The possessive is ihr.
  • Dutch has zij for the nominative, and hen and hun for the accusative. The possessive is hun.
  • West Frisian has sy or hja (apparently archaic) for the nominative, and har(ren) for the accusative. The possessive is har(ren).

She

See here.

I

OE ic had palatal k and yielded ich (rhyming with rich), the form used in southern ME dialects. The form ik was occasionally used in northern ME dialects and was influenced by Norse ek; the Ormulum uses icc (which suggests /k/, as Orm uses ch for /tʃ/). The ch-less form is attested earliest in northern and midlands texts, and Orm also uses i. One theory behind the modern form I is that /k/ in ik became /x/ (as shown by rare OE spellings such as ih), and then /x/ was lost entirely, which led to compensatory lengthening of the vowel and thus the right form to account for the modern pronunciation.

However, it was possible that ch was lost over time because the personal pronoun was often unstressed. According to Fulk, in early use, the ch-less forms apparently tended to be used before consonants, and the ch forms before vowels instead. In other words, it was the same distinction between a and an, in which the final n became lost in an before consonants (as the indefinite article was naturally unstressed), as well as Middle English everich and every (see -ly). Eventually, the form without ch was generalized, which is what happened with -ly and every as well. After the loss of ch, the vowel in i was lengthened as part of restressing, which would yield the modern pronunciation of I.

What do the other West Germanic languages use for I:

  • German uses ich (ch represents /ç/).
  • Dutch uses ik.
  • West Frisian uses ik.

With

In OE, the preposition for with was not wiþ but mid, which generally meant the same thing as modern with except for the use of with to mean against, as shown in the knight fought with the dragon. Meanwhile, OE wiþ had a few meanings related to location such as near and toward, but mainly meant against. Hence, there was a difference between these two sentences:

  • He swam mid the river - he swam in the same direction as the river.
  • He swam with the river - he swam in the opposite direction.

Only in Middle English did the meanings that had been mainly shown with mid become denoted by with, which gradually displaced mid.

According to this, the displacement of mid in favor of with began early in the East Midlands dialects, with the very conservative Kentish dialect resisting this change. Unfortunately, the dearth of northern texts makes it unclear how mid and with developed in the northern dialects. In any case, the meaning of with showing instrumentality was practically nonexistent in Old English, but suddenly became common in use in Middle English. As it so happens, its Old Norse cognate, við, also could show instrumentality. Given the sudden shift in the meaning of with in Middle English, the instrumental meaning its Norse cognate, and its dialectal distribution, it seems clear that Norse influence caused with to mainly show instrumentality and thus caused mid to fall into disuse.

To undo this influence, one simply needs to use mid instead of with in all contexts unless with means against. Hence:

  • I cut the meat with a knife. > I cut the meat mid a knife.
  • I sat with the children. > I sat mid the children.
  • But: The soldiers fought with the rebels. (unchanged if with means against here)

Incidentally, one context in which OE wiþ was interactional rather than oppositional was the idiomatic phrase sprecan wiþ (speak with). One can keep this, but it should be noted that Dutch and German use their cognates of mid for this, and speken mid is attested in Middle English, so it may be better to use speak mid instead.

The prefix with- already denotes opposition or separation in withstand, withhold, and withdraw, so it does not need to be changed.

Within does not need to be changed, since its current meaning was also in OE. However, without should be restricted to its older meaning of outside, which would make without the perfect opposite of within. The meaning of without denoting absence begins to be attested in Middle English. Though the current meaning of without may have been a development of its original meaning of outside, the main influence was probably the new meanings of with. To replace without meaning lacking, one can use beout, now a dialectal variant of the preposition but, e.g., he left without his coat > he left beout his coat.

The word wherewithal is a pronominal adverb that contains the archaic word withal, which came the phrase with all and meant the same thing as with (used after a phrase or a clause) or besides, nevertheless as an adverb. In Middle English, the phrase mid alle is attested, so to replace withal, we can use midal and thus say wheremidal.

What do the other West Germanic languages use for with?

  • German uses mit.
  • Dutch uses met.
  • West Frisian uses mei.

All these forms are akin to OE mid.

Syntax[edit]

Verb-object order

It is sometimes claimed that the basic word order of verb-object (VO) instead of object-verb (OV) was due to Norse influence since the shift to this order supposedly began in the more northern dialects of Middle English. However, this assumption relies on the idea that Old Norse was mainly a VO language. According to this, North Germanic languages such as Old Icelandic showed variety in word order, so it seems unlikely that Old Norse had already become mainly VO. Moreover, early Old English examples already showed that VO was a common word order, so Old English was not predominantly OV.