Old English / Anglo-Saxon (Ænglisc)

Old English was the West Germanic language spoken in the area now known as England between the 5th and 11th centuries. Speakers of Old English called their language Englisc, themselves Angle, Angelcynn or Angelfolc and their home Angelcynn or Englaland.

Old English began to appear in writing during the early 8th century. Most texts were written in West Saxon, one of the four main dialects. The other dialects were Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish.

The Anglo-Saxons adopted the styles of script used by Irish missionaries, such as Insular half-uncial, which was used for books in Latin. A less formal version of minuscule was used for to write both Latin and Old English. From the 10th century Anglo-Saxon scribes began to use Caroline Minuscule for Latin while continuing to write Old English in Insular minuscule. Thereafter Old English script was increasingly influenced by Caroline Minuscule even though it retained a number of distinctive Insular letter-forms.

Anglo-Saxon runes (futhorc/fuþorc)

Old English / Anglo-Saxon was first written with a version of the Runic alphabet known as Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Frisian runes, or futhorc/fuþorc. This alphabet was an extended version of Elder Futhark with between 26 and 33 letters. Anglo-Saxon runes were used probably from the 5th century AD until about the 10th century. They started to be replaced by the Latin alphabet from the 7th century, and after the 9th century the runes were used mainly in manuscripts and were mainly of interest to antiquarians. Their use ceased not long after the Norman conquest.

Old English alphabet

Old English alphabet


Other versions of the Latin alphabet

Archaic Latin alphabet, Basque-style lettering, Carolingian Minuscule, Classical Latin alphabet, Fraktur, Gaelic script, Merovingian, Modern Latin alphabet, Roman Cursive, Rustic Capitals, Old English, Sütterlin, Visigothic Script

Old English pronunciation

Old English pronunciation

Download an alphabet chart for Old English (Excel speadsheet)


Hear how to pronounce Old English:

Sample text (Prologue from Beowulf)

Old English sample text (Prologue from Beowulf)

Note: this text is based on an original manuscript of Beowulf The spacing between the words and letters may differ from other versions of the text. It is shown in an Old English font on the left (Beowulf) and a modern font on the right.

Modern English version

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!
Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,
from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,
awing the earls. Since erst he lay
friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:
for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,
till before him the folk, both far and near,
who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,
gave him gifts:

A recording of this text:

You can also find the whole of the Beowulf story, with recording, at: http://ebeowulf.uky.edu/ebeo4.0/CD/main.html

Sample text (Article 1 of the UDHR)

Ealle menn sindon āre and rihtes efen ġeboren, and frēo. Him sindon ġiefeþe ġerād and inġehyġd, and hī sċulon dōn tō ōþrum on brōþorsċipes fēore.

Hear a recording of this text

Translation and recording by E. D. Hayes

Another version of this text by Aram Nersesian in the Old English alphabet:

Eall folc weorþaþ frēo and efne bē āre and rihtum ġeboren. Ġerād and inġehyġd sind heom ġifeþu, and hīe þurfon tō ōþrum ōn fēore brōþorsċipes dōn.

Transliteration (Latin alphabet)

Eall folc weorþaþ frēo and efne bē āre and rihtum ġeboren. Ġerād and inġehyġd sind heom ġifeþu, and hīe þurfon tō ōþrum ōn fēore brōþorsċipes dōn.

Another version of this text by Japser, provided by Corey Murray:

Ealle menn sindon frēo and ġelīċe on āre and ġerihtum ġeboren. Hīe sindon witt and inġehygde ġetīðod, and hīe sċulon mid brōþorlīċum ferhþe tō heora selfes dōn.

Anglo-Saxon Runes


Translation (Modern English)

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Samples of spoken Old English

Information about Old English | Phrases | Numbers | Tower of Babel | Books and learning materials

Information provided by Niall Killoran


Information about Old English

Old English lessons

Old English phrases
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Old_English_phrasebook#Old English

Old English dictionaries

Old English - Modern English translator

Ða Engliscan Gesiðas - the society for people interested in all aspects of Anglo-Saxon language and culture: http://tha-engliscan-gesithas.org.uk/

Beowulf in Hypertext

Recordings of Old English texts

ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font for ancient scripts, including Classical & Medieval Latin, Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Anatolian scripts, Phoenician, Brahmi, Imperial Aramaic, Old Turkic, Old Permic, Ugaritic, Linear B, Phaistos Disc, Meroitic, Coptic, Cypriot and Avestan.

Germanic languages

Afrikaans, Alsatian, Bavarian, Cimbrian, Danish, Dutch, Elfdalian, English, Faroese, Flemish, Frisian (East), Frisian (North), Frisian (Saterland), Frisian (West), German, Gothic, Gottscheerish, Gronings, Hunsrik, Icelandic, Limburgish, Low German, Luxembourgish, Mòcheno, Norn, Norwegian, Old English, Old Norse, Pennsylvania German, Ripuarian, Scots, Shetland(ic), Stellingwarfs, Swabian, Swedish, Swiss German, Transylvanian Saxon, Värmlandic, Wymysorys, Yiddish, Yola, Zeelandic

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 08.05.24


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