How well do you know old English?

As English learners, we’re expected to be informed because most of the world’s important information is mainly available in the English language.

One of the obstacles of exploring English literature is the use of the English that is no longer used.

Do not be limited to information that is available in English today because it is what was developed in your era.

This piece will help you discover the meaning of old English words.

Look at words such as behold, beget, bestow, and bethink.

The prefix be- in old English meant “on all sides”. To “behold” means to look at something in its fullness, “beget” is to give birth (you get the child in its fullness), bestow is to put something down and to “bethink” is to “be thinking”.

Compare today’s common words where prefix be- is used such as befriend, beneath, before and etcetera.

Although the word “fare” today is related to price, in old English it means “travel”. It is still visible in today’s English where a “farewell” party is held for someone who is moving to another place.

The word “meat” in old English means “any food” not necessarily ‘flesh’ while to “profess” means to “teach” and professor means “teacher”.

When you come across the word “science” in old English, don’t think it’s today’s current opposite of “arts”. It is rather “general knowledge”.

We cannot mention all the words. You should read and be able to discover more.

Look at the text below from Act II Scene I of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’.

Sebastian: My bosom is full of kindness, and I am yet so near the manners of my mother, that upon the least occasion more mine eyes will tell tales of me. I am bound to the Count Orsino’s court. Farewell.

The bosom (chest) and the internal organs are so primarily mentioned as sources of reaction as it is the mind in today’s English.

Notice that “the manners of the mother” means crying. The patriarchal society believed crying was only for women.

Mine eyes means my eyes while “farewell” is a wish for “travelling well”.


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