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]

Middle French spellings are distinct from Old French spellings in, among others, the following ways.

  • 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 gone back to fait in Modern French (Latin: factum). Another example is poinct (Latin punctus, Modern French point).
  • Hypercorrection, notably adding extra letters to Old French words that are not consistent with either Latin or Ancient Greek. For example savoir become sçavoir (Modern French: savoir) although the Latin is sapō. Another case is mistaken etymology. Nenufar becomes nenuphar, although nénufar ‎(water lily) is not from Ancient Greek, but from Arabic.
  • Replacement of the letter i with the letter y, even in conjugations. Thus, Old French bois, foi and minuit become boys, foy and mynuyt
  • The letter z is often used to form plurals instead of s. The plural of eau is usually eauz, although eaux is also used. The z cannot be used to form the plural of a word ending in a mute e, as this would add an extra syllable.


Middle French is more standardized than Old French, mainly due to the invention and increasing use of the printing press. There is still some variation in spelling, but not as much as in Old French.

See also[edit]