There’s a tale as old as time, one where older people fret about what the youth of today are doing to language. And yes, many Old English words have been lost through the ages. Our modern English is a world apart from ye olde English that dates back to 1150 CE.
But there’s a difference between Shakespear’s Elizabethan English (which came centuries after Old English) and Early Modern English and Old English. In fact, proper Old English was the language spoken by Germanic invaders in Britain before the Norman Conquest of 1066. If someone used accurate Old English today, you probably wouldn’t recognize the language.
Nevertheless, we rounded up an interesting collection of Old English words that might actually deserve some time in the spotlight again!
Most Impressive Old English Words
Vomitorium is a word that dates back to ancient Rome, and contrary to what it sounds like, a vomitorium wasn’t a particular room used to throw up in. it actually refers to a passageway in a large building (like a theater or something similar) where people could easily pass in and out. They were aptly named thanks to the way people could spew out of buildings by using them.
Wyrd is not an antique relative of our modern “weird”, but it might, depending on your state of mind. Wyrd refers to the way that fate and destiny interact with your own choices. It’s not like fate you can’t escape, but more in the way things happen, almost like an interlinked series of events.
Crapulous dated back to 1536 and was the term used to describe a hung-over feeling. And we think it’s pretty suitable actually. The word comes from the Latin term crapula, which means ‘intoxication’, and that Latin term was derived from an even older Greek word that was used to describe the headache you get after drinking too much alcohol.
Cockalorum is a word that is used to describe a small, boastful, and self-important person back in the day. The term derives its meaning and imagery from a rooster and might trace back to the obsolete Flemish word ‘kockeloeren’, which means ‘to crow’.
Without sounding crass, you could compliment someone’s butt in style by using the word callipygian, which means that they have shapely buttocks. The term made its way into the English language a little later than the age of Old English, but it’s derived from the ancient Greek word kallipygos, which was first used to describe the statue of Aphrodite showing off her perfect behind.
There’s something about the word ‘bedswerver’ that sounds a little more whimsical than its meaning, which is ‘cheater’ or ‘adulterer’. The word was penned by Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language, and its description: “one that is false to the bed, one that ranges or swerves from one bed to another”. Although nobody is sure whether this word was a Shakespearean invention, we do know that its first and most notable appearance was in the play The Winter’s Tale.
Old English was a fascinating variation of the modern English we use today, but if you’re not a linguist, it might be hard to see how and when particular phrases and words were used. On the other hand, we reckon the words we mentioned here hit home and might just deserve being reclaimed and used instead of modern slang! For more fascinating language facts and tips, check out our blog.