More on old words

I’m fascinated by words, and where they came from and love the fact that in modern English there seems to be at least two or three words for everything; our thesauruses (or is it thesauri?) must be the largest in the world! Certainly the Oxford English Dictionary has about 615,100 in its twenty-three volumes, a similar German dictionary has about 180,000, Russian  has roughly 160,000, and French  less than 150,000 words. I know that in reality English probably doesn’t actually have that many, because for example, nearly 42,000 of those words are obsolete, and apparently there are 240 ghost words, words which just live in dictionaries and are never actually used in any real sense.

So many different people have come to our islands bringing so many different languages with them which have been absorbed in a greater or lesser way, which makes our language so rich and varied. When the Vikings invaded us, actually coming from differnt parts of Scandinavia, they brought many different things, including lots of words, for example there are the words which we would recognize as Viking such as berserker,  troll, saga and yule, but what about

  • bylaw from bylög
  • sale from sala
  • heathen from heiðinn which means someone who inhabits the heath or open country
  • husband from two words hús  + bóndi
  • law from lag
  • thrift  from þrift
  • tidings from tíðindi

Bugs, bulls, reindeer and the delicious skate – all from the Vikings! There are many many more, maybe 20% of the English we use!

Here is an interesting article:

… and another:



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