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List of archaic English words and their modern equivalents
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List of archaic English words and their modern equivalents

This is a list of words and spellings which are now considered archaic or obsolescent within the current status of the English language. Given both the rapidity of change in modern English and the number of versions used by nations and cultures, it should be borne in mind that dates are approximate and that the information here may not apply to all versions of English. The evolution of the English language is characterised by four phases. The first period dates from approximately 450 to 1150 AD. At this time the language made use of full inflection, and is called Anglo-Saxon, or more exactly Old English. The second period dates from about 1150 to 1350 and is called Early English (or sometimes Old English again). During this time the majority of the inflections disappeared, and many French words joined the language because of the profound influence of the Norman French ruling class. The third period dates from about 1350 to 1550, and is known as Middle English. At this time the shape of the language began to coalesce and a relatively standard orthography emerged. The last period, from about 1550, is called Modern English.

The impact of dictionaries in the definition of obsolescent or archaic forms has caused the standardisation of spelling, hence many variant forms have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

It should be noted that often poets and writers of prose with a very strong feel for the language may on occasion deliberately choose to use archaisms to emphasise a certain point or to create a mood.


Archaisms in the English language
Original word Origin Meaning Example Approx. date of obsolescence Comments
art from are present second-person singular form of the verb be thou art (="you are") unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
bilbo From Bilbao the best known place of manufacture an obscure and seldom used word for a short sword N/A unknown Bilbo Baggins is a fictional character
bobbish unknown to be in good health N/A unknown Used in 1860s
Bouncable unknown a swaggering boaster N/A unknown Used in 1860s
Bridewell unknown a prison N/A unknown Used in 1860s
caddish from the noun cad wicked N/A unknown the noun 'cad' is dying out
cag-mag unknown decaying meat N/A unknown Used in 1860s
chalk scores unknown a reference to accounts of debt, recorded with chalk marks N/A unknown Used in 1860s
coddleshell unknown codicil; a modification to one's legal will N/A unknown Used in 1860s
Coiner unknown a counterfeiter N/A unknown Used in 1860s
costermonger coster comes from Costard, a type of cooking apple , monger means trader or seller a greengrocer, seller of fruit and vegetables N/A unknown fishmonger, ironmonger and warmonger are among the surviving words ending in -monger
cove unknown a fellow or chap N/A unknown Used in 1860s
dost from do present second-person singular form of the verb do thou dost (="you do") unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
doth from do present third-person singular form of the verb do N/A unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
drab unknown a whore N/A unknown Used in Shakespeare's Macbeth: "Finger of birth-strangled babe, ditch-delivered by a drab."
dream A part of the root stock of the OE vocabulary. joy N/A before the 13th century Under the influence of Old Norse speakers in England, the phoneme dream changed its meaning from ``joy, festivity, noisy merriment" to ``a sleeping vision".
-est unknown suffix used to form the present second-person singular of regular verbs thou goest (= "you go" in modern English) unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
-eth unknown suffix used to form the present third-person singular of regular verbs he goeth (= "he goes" in modern English) unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
ducats A bullion coin (not legal tender) used in international trade money N/A Ducats were displaced by sovereigns throughout the British empire used today only in slang. Ducats are still produced by the Austrian mint. Ducat, in Latin, means "he rules," "she rules," or "it rules."
fire a rick unknown to burn a stack of hay (rick), as a form of protest N/A unknown Used in 1860s
fluey unknown dusty N/A unknown Used in 1860s
gaole unknown gaol alt. British English spelling of jail N/A mid-19th century  
Grinder unknown a tutor who prepares students for examinations N/A unknown Used in 1860s
hast from have present second-person singular form of the verb have thou hast (="you have") unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
hath from have present third-person singular form of the verb have N/A unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
heddes unknown heads N/A c. 1650s  
Indya unknown India N/A c. 1860 This spelling is still (occasionally) in use today.
ivory tablets unknown paper for notetaking N/A unknown Used in 1860s
kine Middle English kyen, a plural of the Old English cy, plural of cu, "cow" cows N/A unknown Used until late 1800s; still in Biblical use; Spenser used the form kyne
mote . may, might . . .
over the broomstick unknown to be married in a folk ceremony and not recognized by the law. Still commonly used as part of the ceremony in modern Pagan weddings by Wiccans, Witches and other alternative spiritualities. N/A unknown Used in 1860s, "over the brush" still used in British English Cf jumping the broomstick
quantum unknown money to pay a bill N/A unknown Used in 1860s. Still used in this sense in some legal terminology.
Quene OE. cwen (meaning a queen, a woman or a wife) Queen N/A c. 1650s  
rantipole unknown to behave in a romping or rude manner N/A unknown Used in 1860s
read with unknown to tutor N/A unknown Used in 1860s, still used in Caribbean English
shake-down unknown a bed N/A unknown Used in 1860s, also a modern slang term dealing with law enforcement
shalt from shall used to form the future tense of verbs thou shalt (="you will") unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
stand high unknown to have a good reputation N/A unknown Used in 1860s
thee from Old English þú,Latin tu old 2nd person singular pronoun N/A unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
wert from be imperfect second-person singular form of the verb be N/A unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
whitesmith from blacksmith, a iron worker a tinsmith N/A unknown Used in 1860s
whitlow unknown a sore or swelling in a finger or thumb N/A unknown Used in 1860s, still used in British English
wilt from will used to form the future tense of verbs N/A unknown still used in Biblical/Shakespearian/poetical language
wittles from "victuals" food N/A ? Used in 1860s, vittles still used in British and American English
zounds corrupted form of "God's wounds" expletive N/A ? still used occasionaly in British English
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