Wiktionary:About Old English

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Main category: Old English language

The aim of this page is to standardize the layout of Old English entries and explain the rationale behind that standardization.

Diacritical marks[edit]

Although they appeared in a few late manuscripts, by and large the Anglo-Saxons did not use diacritical marks to distinguish between short and long vowels. Such marks are modern additions used in dictionaries and textbooks – that is why some editors use acute accents (´) and others use macrons (¯). Consequently, Old English entries here should be without diacritical marks in the page title. Within the entry itself, any necessary marks can and should be used with the word as given under the part-of-speech heading. The custom here is to use macrons for long vowels. In templates, both the macron and the dot above c and g to mark palatals will be displayed, but ignored for links, thus {{m|ang|ċēse}} will display as ċēse but will link to [[cese#Old English]].

G and C[edit]

The Anglo-Saxons used the letter G for the hard /ɡ/ sound as well as soft /j/. Many modern editions distinguish between the two using diacritical marks. On Wiktionary this is normally done with a superscript dot (ġ); on some (older) entries a yogh (ȝ) is used. Do not create Old English page titles using yoghs! Contrary to what some people seem to think, the letter yogh did not exist until the Middle English period. In actual fact, the letter used by the Anglo-Saxons is called insular G, and for reference it looked like this: . Although it is now in Unicode (because it's used in Irish phonetics), there is no point using it for OE entries, any more than using manuscript forms of R, S, and all the other letters which looked different back then. Again, these marks are not used in page titles and can be piped in for links: [[gear|ġēar]] .

On similar lines, Old English C is used for both /k/ and /tʃ/. For distinction in piped links, a ċ can be used - again, this should not be used in page titles, only in head words.

Þ and Ð[edit]

These two letters (thorn and eth) were interchangeable in Old English. In common with virtually all Old English dictionaries and grammars, entries here are given with þ. There is no reason why entries using ð should not exist as well; there is a lot of work waiting for someone if they want to start creating entries for the alternative forms with eths.


Wynn was a character used by the Anglo-Saxons for /w/; it looks like this: ƿ. Wiktionary entries are acceptable both using wynn (as in most manuscripts) and using W (as in most modern editions).


Many browsers’ default fonts render Old English macrons and other special characters poorly. On Wiktionary, text marked as Old English therefore uses the special "Latinx" script code, which helps browsers choose the best font. {{lang}} tags text as Old English and applies this script formatting. It can be as a wrapper around Old English text:

#* {{circa|700}} ''Beowulf'':
#*: {{lang|ang|Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum,}}
#*: {{lang|ang|þeod-cyninga, '''þrym''' gefrunon,}}
#*:: What! We [of] Gar-Danes(lit. spear-danes) in yore-days,
#*:: [of] people-kings, trim(glory) apried(have learned of by asking or "prying"),
    • c. 700, Beowulf:
      Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum,
      þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon,
      What! We [of] Gar-Danes(lit. spear-danes) in yore-days,
      [of] people-kings, trim(glory) apried(have learned of by asking or "prying"),

Any template that requires a language code will apply the appropriate formatting to the text given to it automatically. This includes basic and widely-used templates like {{l}}, {{m}}, {{t}}, {{head}} and so on. These templates also automatically strip macrons off vowels and dots off c and g, so it is not necessary to list the forms with and without diacritics separately. For example, {{m|ang|ġēar}} renders as ġēar, which links to the diacritic-free [[gear#Old English]].




Proper nouns[edit]

{{ang-proper noun}}


See Appendix:Old English verbs

See also[edit]