"Ye Olde" is a pseudo-Early Modern English stock prefix, used anachronistically, suggestive of a Merry England, Deep England or "Old, as in Medieval old" feel. A typical example would be Ye Olde English Pubbe or similar names of theme pubs.
The anachronistic use of "Ye Olde" dates at least to the early 20th century, as seen in the image at below right (image 1908). The use of the term "ye" to mean "the" is based in Early Modern English, in which the could be written as þe, employing the Old English letter thorn, þ. During the Tudor period, the scribal abbreviation for þe was (or "þe" with modern symbols); here, the letter ⟨þ⟩ is combined with the letter ⟨e⟩. Because ⟨þ⟩ and ⟨y⟩ look near-identical in medieval English blackletter (as the ⟨þ⟩ in compared with the ⟨y⟩ in ye), the two have since been mistakenly substituted for each other. The connection became less obvious after the letter thorn was discontinued in favour of the digraph ⟨th⟩ (resulting from the use of printing presses from France which lacked a way to print thorn).
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, ye retrieved February 1, 2009
|Look up ye olde in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Askoxford.com, Oxford Dictionary's FAQ: Why is 'ye' used instead of 'the' in antique English?