Can You Guess What These Olde English Words Actually Mean?


By: Heather Cahill

6 Min Quiz

Image: / Whiteway / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Olde English was an art in itself. While today if you can speak it, you are probably considered to be pretty talented, in the past it was just the perfect way to communicate. Some would argue that it was much more difficult to speak, but with any language, there will always be elements that are a little more difficult. Luckily, anyone who has English skills today will be able to make some good educated guesses into what the words of the past really meant. If that sounds like you, then get ready to test all of that knowledge!

One great thing about the English language is that it is always evolving. As we start to evolve as people, we can modify our language with it. While we evolve with the times, it's important to stop and appreciate where the language once started. The start of Olde English was in the 1100s, when it was the first form of English known to be spoken. We've come a long way since then, but there are still some similarities.

So, if you think you could communicate with the people of the past, it's your time to shine. Take the quiz to see how well you know your Olde English!

Buying a new home means that you'll probably do this to it. What does "bedight" mean?

Buying a new home is an exciting thing to go through, but what comes next is even better. If you we're to tell someone that you were going to decorate your home in Olde English, you'd use "bedight" instead. Now you can say "bedight the halls" instead of "deck the halls"!


Someone says, "come hither," to you. What should you do?

One of the more common terms to hear, whether it is in movies or other media is "hither." It can be used in a variety of different ways, but almost always is used to refer to a certain place or "here."


A father might "betroth" his daughter to someone. What is he doing?

While we would say that someone is being given away in marriage nowadays, in the past "betrothed" was a simple word used to say the same thing. You could say that things were more simple back then, but then words like "andwyrdan" exist!


There's a reason that it's called the "Loch Ness." But do you know what "ness" actually means?

Did the Loch Ness get its name from Olde English or did Olde English get the word from Loch Ness? One thing is for sure, and that is that Nessie's name wasn't always used to refer to the monster.


If you're holding a "withy," you're holding which of the following?

This is one of those words that you never thought needed to be a separate word. Doesn't the word "stick" just get the job done? In the past, it didn't, so this word made sure to let people know that not only did you have a stick, but it was strong as well.


Someone wants to tell you a "dyrne." What are they trying to tell you?

If you said this to someone today, they might look at you and say "what?" It would give the whole mystique of the secret away. Many years ago, everyone would have known the word, making it much easier to keep that dyrne, a dyrne.


"Wite" sounds like a color, but the different spelling also has a different meaning. Which of the following is it?

It might have been a little confusing for the people of the past, as so many words were similar to this one. The color white was known as "whit" and the word "wheat" was also very similar.


It would feel pretty good to be "flighty." Do you know what it means?

For anyone who isn't described as "flighty," dealing with someone who is can be a little difficult. Often, they can be unpredictable and change their minds on things they like, things they want to do and much more.


If you're going "bedward," you're doing which of the following?

This term is a little more straightforward than others, but still an interesting way to say that you're going to bed. You wouldn't have been judged on this choice of words in the past, but you might get a few funny looks if you used it nowadays!


While it might have existed in different forms in the past, "lyft" was not used for a ride sharing app. Do you know what it really meant in Olde English?

Instead of saying you're going out for some fresh air, in the past, you might have said, "I'm going out for some fresh lyft." The word was used for other similar words as well, such as "breeze."


You might feel like "crapulous," but do you know when you would feel this?

In addition to feeling crapulous, it's no doubt that you might get a stomach ache along with it. Luckily, the word has been shortened throughout the years and has become much easier to say. Now we just feel like crap.


A dog would be known to "groke." Do you know what they are doing?

Dogs are known to stare anyone with some good looking food down in hopes that they will get some for themselves. In the past, the word "groke" was used to describe it, whereas today, we know it better as "begging."


You would not want to be known as the "rawgabbit" of the town. What does this awful sounding term mean?

A gossiper was known as a "rawgabbit" in the past. If you think of the word "gab" that we sometimes use today, it makes sense why they would have called someone who talked about other people a word like this.


Though it sounds like something you might not want to be called, if you know the meaning, then you'll know that it's a compliment. What is a "snottor?"

Albert Einstein might have been called a snottor for the smarts he had. Hearing the word being used for someone doesn't sound too pleasant, but after finding out that it means wise, it can really put a smile on someone's face.


Many of us "agen" something, whether it's a good or bad thing. Do you know the meaning of the word?

You might agen your own home or maybe even a car. Even if you don't, chances are that you know someone who does. You can even agen your own style or personality; it doesn't have to be physical.


You'd have to work hard to find some of this important thing. What is "ar?"

While this doesn't refer to Copper from "The Fox and the Hound," the word was actually used for the mineral. Though it sounds like it, it is definitely not what a pirate says when they're excited.


We hope you're not doing what "fudgel" means! What does this mean that you are doing?

Even back in the day before the internet, there was a word for pretending to work. Maybe employees were drawing or writing instead of playing games or chatting with friends. Texting most definitely was not part of their day back then.


This is one way of doing it, but what does "axian" mean?

Olde English had a way of making words long and hard to say compared to the version of English that we speak today. While we know it simply as "ask," it used to be said as "axian," which is much more of a mouthful.


A "beadu" is something you don't want to get into. What is it?

The word sounds similar to "battle," which is the word that we use today. If it was still used today, some might believe that it was actually another word for a bracelet made of beads.


The word "ham" might sound like a food, but it actually refers to what?

Often, Olde English was similar to the words that we used today, but the pronunciation was a little different. This is one case where this is true. While we think of "ham" as something different, it's just another pronunciation of "home."


A "wig" is something that you probably don't want to take part in. Do you know what it is?

Did you see the wig between the Flyers and the Panthers? A battle doesn't always have to be bad. You can battle for many things, such as to be at the top spot of a competition or even something as simple as an arm wrestle.


There might be one of these in your family. Do you know what a "bearn" is?

While the term was mostly used to describe a son, it could be used for a child in general as well. If you had a bearn at the time when Olde English was spoken, you probably celebrated until you felt crapulous.


If someone asked you to "cuman," what should you do?

In typical Old English fashion, "come" was a much longer word in the past. In addition to being used as a word for "come," "cuman" was also used for a group of people who were part of the Cuman-Kipchak confederation.


One word that can still be heard today is "ditty", but do you know what it meant in the past?

Chances are, you've heard your fair share of ditties throughout the years. For example, one pretty famous ditty is the song used when advertising for Goldfish. You never forget that it's the "snack that smiles back" once you've heard the jingle a few times.


The "forst" is which of the following?

First frost is something most people don't look forward to in a year, but "forst frost" is just the same thing! Technically, a guess at the meaning of this word nowadays means that all you have to do is unjumble the letters.


If you know the "lagu," then you're definitely a great citizen. But can you figure out the meaning of the word?

"Lagu" sounds like the spaghetti sauce, but it's far from that. It was a word that meant "law" in Old English, but just like so many other words, it has an odd plural form. The plural is "laga" instead of "lagus."


Emotions have always been important to humans. Which emotion is the meaning of the word "yrre?"

Anger would have been expressed by saying "yrre" in the past. If you've heard of "Beowulf," chances are you've heard this term before as well. It was often used as a descriptor in the poem.


Today, this word means something completely different but they didn't have this technology back then. The word "gif" means what?

A gif to us today is an electronic file, but in the past as we all know, these didn't exist. Instead, the word is used for "if." Gif you use this word when speaking to someone, you both might get a little confused!


Somebody yells, "ut!" Which of the following is the right thing to do?

Another example of a shorter word, you'll have to decide which one you feel is most practical. One way to test it out would be by shouting it at the next party you attend. You'll be able to see how many people can pick up on it.


If you think of a type, you'll know what this is right away. "Hund" means what?

Just like the word "hound," "hund" is a word used for a dog as well. While the plural form of "hound" is known to us as "hounds," the plural of "hund" is actually "hundas." How many hundas have you met in your life?


Most people carry a "penig" in their pocket, but do you know what that would be to us nowadays?

While pennies are carried around with us in our pockets, you might have been asked for a "penig" in the past. It's hard not to wonder if anyone with the given name "Penny" was called "penig" in the past as well.


We hope you aren't "sar," but if you are, then can you tell us what it means?

"I'm mighty sar today," is something that you might've heard back in the day. While in many cases words were much longer in the past, here's a great of example of when they were shorter, but just a little more weird to say.


You can "sellan" your clothes or even your soul. But what does it mean?

"Sellan" in the past probably would have been for the shops. Whether it's groceries or other goods, everyone would have needed to purchase things just as we do today. Maybe you'd even sellan your horse or mule as well.


Some may think these aren't real, while others may fully believe. Do you know what a "soothsayer" is?

Instead of going to a fortuneteller in the past, you would have visited the "soothsayer." Whether you believe in their powers or not, there's no doubt that the practice has been highly preserved throughout the years.


If you're reading this right now, then it has been "writtan." Can you translate the word?

If you've written something before then you would have "writtan" it in the past. As with many other words, the ones that we use today are very similar to the ones of the past. It is derived from Olde English after all!


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