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Old English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


From āglāc (distress, torment, misery). A difficult and much-debated word. Possibly in origin a compound from the root of ece (ache, pain) +‎ lāc (ritual, performance, demonstration) (Bosworth 1882), but this is disputed.

Found mostly in poetry, and there mostly of monsters and devils, but once of Beowulf and once of Sigemund. The sole attestation in prose is also a unique relational adjectival use, in Byrhtferth's Enchiridion, where it refers to the scholar Bede as se æglæca lareow, making clear that the word is not inherently pejorative but carries a meaning of "awe-inspiring, formidable".


  • IPA(key): /ˈɑːˌɡlæː.t͡ʃɑ/


āglǣċa m

  1. (poetic) an awesome or formidable opponent, ferocious fighter
  2. a miserable being, wretch, monster


Derived terms[edit]

  • Middle English: egleche (warlike, brave)


  • Cameron, Angus, et al. "Aglac-Wif to Aglaeca." Dictionary of Old English. Toronto: Published for the Dictionary of Old English Project Centre for Medieval Studies University of Toronto by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1986/1994.
  • Gillam, "'Æglæca' in Beowulf" in: Studia Germanica Gandensia 6 (1964).
  • A. Nicholls, "Bede: 'Awe-Inspiring', not 'Monstrous': some Problems with Old English aglæca", N&Q 236 (1991).
  • M. S. Griffith, 'Some Difficulties in Beowulf, lines 894-902: Sigemund reconsidered' in: Lapidge et al. (eds.), Anglo-Saxon England, vol. 24, Cambridge University Press (1996), →ISBN, 11-42 (pp. 34-35).