Appendix:Middle French spellings

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Middle French is the form of the Modern French language spoken from approximately 1400 to 1600 AD. It was largely influenced by a few well-known writers, as most people in Francophone countries could not read or write. Notably Villon, Marot, Rabelais, Montaigne and Ronsard.

Differences from Old French[edit]

Here are some of the ways that Middle French spelling was distinct from Old French spelling:

  • The loss of the case system: for some irregular nouns, the nominative and oblique forms split into two words (cf. pute, putain)
  • Etymological reconstruction from Latin and Ancient Greek: Old French fait become faict, which has returned to fait in Modern French (Latin: factum). Another example is poinct (Latin punctus, Modern French point).
  • Adding extra letters to Old French words: the new spelling was a hypercorrection inconsistent with either Latin or Ancient Greek. For example, savoir became sçavoir (Modern French: savoir), but the Latin is sapō. Another case is mistaken etymology. Nenufar becomes nenuphar, but nénufar (water lily) is from not Ancient Greek but Arabic.
  • Replacement of the letter i with the letter y, even in conjugations: Old French bois, foi and minuit became boys, foy and mynuyt
  • The letter z is often used to form plurals instead of s. The plural of eau is usually eauz, but eaux is also used. The z cannot be used to form the plural of a word ending in a mute e, as that would add an extra syllable.


Middle French spelling is more standardized than that of Old French, mainly because of the invention and the increasing use of the printing press. However, there is still some variation in spelling.

See also[edit]