Island Words, Island Worlds: The Origins and Meanings of Words for ‘Islands’ in North-West Europe

Iceland by Gerhard Mercator

This paper proposes the notion that words mirror ideas, perspectives and world- views. Etymologies and meanings of general words for ‘islands’ in a number of languages in North and West Europe are then discussed.

Old Norse Influence in Modern English: The Effect of the Viking Invasion

Old Norse

It is estimated that there are around 400 Old Norse borrowings in Standard English. These borrowings are amongst the most frequently used terms in English and denote objects and actions of the most everyday description.

Theories of the Nonsense Word in Medieval England

house of fame

The goos the cokkow and the doke also
So cryede kek kek kokkow quek quek hye

From Legible Text to Magical Pattern: Arabic Inscriptions in Muslim and Christian Spain

From Legible Text to Magical Pattern: Arabic Inscriptions in Muslim and Christian Spain

The Arabic inscriptions in this building fascinated me, and led me down a long path of research that continues today over a decade later. Today I will present some of that research, showing you some of the other structures and objects that are adorned with the same inscription.

British Library purchases the Catholicon Anglicum

The Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary (c) British Library Board

The British Library has paid £92,500 in order to keep a 500-year old dictionary from leaving the United Kingdom. They announced earlier this week that they had completed the purchase of the Catholicon Anglicum, a 15th-century English-Latin dictionary.

Alphabet Poems: A Brief History

Chaucer ABC

As a collector of alphabet books, and sometime editor of a newsletter on the subject, I have had many opportunities to consider the history of the alphabet poem. Although alphabet poems may take a wide range of forms, most are generally divided into twenty-six parts (lines, couplets, stanze…), one for each letter.

The Anglo-Saxon Name for the s-Rune: Sigel, a Precious Jewel

Vestergotland Oldest Runestone - futhark

The Anglo-Saxon rune-name sigel has been interpreted as meaning ‘sun’. In some contexts Old English sigel does refer to the sun, in others it means ‘clasp’, ‘brooch’, or ‘jewel’. All these meanings, however, are difficult to reconcile with the maritime imagery of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem’s sigel stanza.

Voynich Manuscript partially decoded, text is not a hoax, scholar finds


A Professor in Applied Linguistics believes he has decoded a few words from the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, a 600-year old work that has baffled scholars for the last hundred years.

Norse Rune code cracked

Norse rune code-  Sigurd and Lavran written their names in both the code and the common runes. It helped runologist Jonas Nordby to crack jötunvillur code. (Photo: Aslak Liestøl / Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo)

A scholar of the University of Oslo has cracked one of the rune codes used by the Vikings, revealing they were sending each other messages such as ‘Kiss me’.

The Most Significant Manuscript Sources of Medieval Croatian Vernacular Verse

Medieval Croatian

The first part of the article gives a brief overview of the history of Croatian literacy up to the first written record of poetry in the Old Croatian language.

Medieval English for Dummies

Medieval English for Dummies

A quick-and-dirty guide for would-be Time-travellers

The Anonymous Old English Legend of the Seven Sleepers and its Latin Source


The earliest extended treatment of the legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in a
western vernacular language is the anonymous Old English prose version preserved
in British Library MS Cotton Julius E vii…

The Rise of the French Language in Medieval Europe

French manuscript

A free exhibition, The Moving Word: French Medieval Manuscripts in Cambridge, begins today at Cambridge University Library.

Víking – ’rower shifting’? An etymological contribution


There is an extensive literature on the etymology of víking f. ‘freebooting voyage’ and víkingr m. ‘sea warrior’, but none of the well-known suggestions are satisfactory.

How To Tweet From Another Century

How To Tweet From Another Century

Martha Bayless shares rune sticks from centuries past that illustrate how brief and personal everyday messages (exactly like tweets) — sometimes sharing ‘too much information’— are nothing new!

Is the Author Really Better than his Scribes? Problems of Editing Pre-Carolingian Latin Texts

Page of text (folio 160v) from a Carolingian Gospel Book (British Library, MS Add. 11848), written in Carolingian minuscule. Text is Vulgate Luke 23:15-26.

Latin texts composed after ca. 600 and before the Carolingian writing re- forms that began in the late eighth century present problems that editors rarely have to face when working on classical texts (including most writings of late antiquity), or texts written after ca. 800.

Losing the null subject : a contrastive study of (Brazilian) Portuguese and (Medieval) French

Medieval French manuscript

This paper deals with the development and the use of subject pronouns in Portuguese and discusses the question of whether or not Brazilian Portuguese is a language which is losing its null subject property or which has already lost it

Heathen: Linguistic Origins and Early Context


It is my hope that this endeavor will allow the reader to have a serious understanding of the origins, early history, and more importantly the context of the word heathen, and what this might have meant for the people implied by it.

Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources completed after 100 years

Dr Giuseppe Pezzini, Dr Carolinne White and Dr Richard Ashdowne with the finished Dictionary in Duke Humfrey's Library at the Bodleian

After over 58,000 entries, 3830 pages and seventeen volumes, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources is now finished.

The Bones in the Soup: The Anglo-Saxon Flavour of Tolkien’s The Hobbit

thror's map

By reading The Hobbit from an Anglo-Saxonist point of view, we not only learn more about what inspired Tolkien to compose his narrative, we can also highlight the enduring value of studying his original sources.

A Word About Our Words

old english riddles

This may be a little hard to believe, considering the conspicuous lack of “thee” and “thou” in modern writing, but the forms of English that came before are even more foreign.

By God’s Bones: Medieval Swear Words

Holy Shit - Medieval swear words

What were bad words in the Middle Ages?

The status of hwæt in Old English


What does hwæt actually mean?

Shadow and Paradoxes of Darkness in Old English and Old Norse Poetic Language

Photo by Sayhey1111 / Wikimedia Commons

This thesis confronts, explores, and attempts to meaningfully interpret a surprising nexus of stimulating cruces and paradoxes in Old English poetry and prose and Old Norse skaldic and Eddic poetry.

When Latin gets sick: mocking medical language in macaronic poetry

Medieval medicine

Since, at the time of the rise of macaronic poetry, Latin was the language of learn- ing, including medicine, it is expected that an analysis of the Latin in macaronic poetry and its interaction with other linguistic varieties in the same, can reveal changes in the relative social position of various groups.

medievalverse magazine