List of English words with dual French and Old English variations

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This list of English words with dual French and Old English variations lists various English words with redundant loanwords. After the Norman invasion of England in 1066 many of the more refined English (Old English) words describing finished products were replaced with words borrowed from Anglo-Norman (such as "beef," a prepared food). In contrast, common unfinished equivalents continued to use the native English term (such as "cow," a living animal). This replacement can be explained by the fact that meat was an expensive product at the time and that the lord and nobleman of Norman origin were eating it more often than the commoners, who were raising the livestock. This duality is also mirrored in French, where "beef" is bœuf, but "cow" is vache. These dual words later formed the basis of the Middle English wordstock, and were eventually passed into the modern language.[1]

In some cases, these dual variations are distant etymological twins, as in cow/beef, both from Proto-Indo-European *gʷōus, but in other cases, such as calf/veal, they come from distinct PIE roots.

Generally, words coming from French often retain a higher register than words of Old English origin, and they are considered by some to be more posh, elaborate, sophisticated, or pretentious. However, there are exceptions: weep, groom and stone (from Old English) occupy a slightly higher register than cry, brush and rock (from French). Words taken directly from Latin and Ancient Greek are generally perceived as colder, more technical, and more medical or scientific – compare life (Old English) with biology (classical compound – a modern coinage from Greek roots).

List of English words with dual Old English/Old French variations[edit]


Old English origin words Old French origin words Notes
cow (OE )
ox (OE oxa)
beef (AN beof; OF boef) [2]
calf (OE cealf) veal (AN vel; OF veel, veal) [2]
swine (OE swīn)
pig (OE picga)
pork (OF porc) [2]
sheep (OE scēap) mutton (OF moton) [2]
hen (OE hen, henn)
chicken (OE cicen)
poultry (OF pouletrie)
pullet (OF poulet)
deer (OE dēor)
hart (OE heorot)
venison (AN venesoun) [2]
dove (OE dūfe) pigeon (OF pijən)

Other words:

Old English origin words Old French origin words notes
thinking, mindful pensive [3]
kingly royal [3]
almighty omnipotent
brotherly fraternal [3]
motherly maternal
fatherly paternal
sisterly sororal
ask, beseech enquire [3]
lord liege
lovesome amorous
bring, bear carry
amaze, stun astonish
wordbook dictionary
fair, fair-haired blond(e)
ghost phantom, spirit
uphold, undergird, upstay support
smell, stench odour
hue, blee colour
blossom flower
help, bestand, bestead aid, abet, assist
buy purchase
belief faith
beget engender
wonder ponder
selfhood identity
sake, ground reason, cause
weep, sob cry
knowledge science
lawyer attorney
to flee to escape
thrall serf, captive
hearty cordial
deem consider, judge
harbour, haven port
sunder sever
sunstead solstice
evennight equinox
answer reply, response
follow ensue
fall, harvest autumn
leave permission
seethe, plaw boil
hunt chase
wisdom prudence, sagacity
weird, fremd strange
behaviour manner
uncouth rude
owndom, belongings property
folk, lede (leod) people
forgive pardon
darling favourite
worthy valuable
to forsake to abandon
drought, dearth famine
wish, will, yearning, longing, want (verb) desire (verb and noun)
span distance
tumble somersault
drink (noun + verb) beverage, imbibe
deal amount
everlasting eternal
freedom liberty
brittle frail, fragile
weak feeble, faint
wild savage
betrothal proposal
kingship monarchy
forebear, forefather ancestor
reckless intrepid
awesome, unbelievable incredible
erstwhile previous
tough difficult
homesickness nostalgia
hopelessness despair
wholesome, healthy, healthful salutary, salubrious
aching painful
daring, boldness audacity
midday noon
to withstand to resist
overlive survive
hearsay rumour
unwilling, loath reluctant
wilful deliberate
wont accustomed
lovely, fair beautiful
anger, wrath ire, rage
angry, wrathful irate
bloodthirsty sanguinary
windpipe trachea
woodwork carpentry
beset surround
warmongering belligerent
deathly lethal, mortal
forgiving indulgent
forespeech preface
abide, acknowledge comply, obey, observe
stern severe
foe enemy
friendly amicable
downtrodden oppressed
inn tavern
woodland, woods forest
to rue to lament, to regret
rueful regretful
ruthless remorseless
weapon arm
lithe gentle
grave tomb
graveyard cemetery
outspoken, straightforward honest, frank
green verdant
snake serpent
fire flame
clattering noise
cook (noun) chef
house mansion
nought zero
offspring progeny
live, abide, dwell reside
think conceive
bookcraft literature
twin double
foretell predict
foreshadow presage
forechoice preference
leave egress, exit, depart
belly stomach
upbringing nurture
understand comprehend
laughable ridiculous
foreguess assume
needs requirements
adder viper
behead decapitate
forbid, ban prohibit
forelook preview
forbearance patience
gift present
thoughts ideas
wed marry
wedlock marriage
withtake receive
flawless perfect
maim mutilate
end finish
room chamber
stone rock
smother suffocate
mar spoil
beam ray
milt spleen
heed attention
groom brush
hanging pendant
bodily corporal
handbook manual
come arrive
womb uterus
dog canine
maidenhood virginity
win (noun) victory
stronghold fort, fortress
earl count

Words now obsolete, archaic or dialectal:

Old English origin words Old French origin words Obsolete, archaic or dialectal words Notes
eld age eld
hosen, britches pants hosen, britches
atter venom, poison atter
athel noble athel
atheling, drighten prince atheling, drighten
aset appoint aset
bilewit innocent bilewit
chevese concubine chevese
edder vein, artery edder
stound hour stound
wanderstar planet wanderstar
wort plant wort Survives in the names of certain plants and fungi.
burn broil broil
note use, utility note Survives with a changed meaning, today meaning a short record or explanation.
bookstaff, bookstave letter bookstaff, bookstave
steven, reard voice seven, reard
barrow mountain barrow
dwimmer magic dwimmer
thorp village thorp Survives in many place names, such as Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire, England.
ettin giant ettin
forhold detain forhold
forthgang progress forthgang
forthfare departure forthfare
frith peace frith
gavel rent gavel
grith asylum, sanctuary grith
glim candle glim Glim was an 18th century back-formation from "Glimmer",

and doesn't predate "Candle".

handfast contract, pledge handfast
leech physician leech The meaning of the small bloodsucking creature coexisted

with the meaning of physician. The former is still used today.

lich corpse lich
liss relief liss
reave rob reave Today found mostly in "Reaver", meaning robber or highwayman.
rime number rime
ruth pity ruth Usage persists to a greater degree in "Ruthless" and to a lesser degree "Ruthful".
arm, wantsome poor arm, wantsome
armth poverty armth
ord point ord
overgive surrender overgive
sooth reality sooth
norn complain norn
firen crime firen
mensk honour mensk
eam uncle eam
quethe declare quethe
roo calmness, tranquility roo
sheen beautiful sheen
shild fault shild
weasand oesophagus weasand
woning residence woning
wight creature wight
wayfare journey wayfare
waterstuff hydrogen waterstuff Calque of a German translation of the French term
sourstuff oxygen sourstuff Calque of a German translation of the French term
umbe around umbe
yeartide season yeartide

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephan Gramley, Kurt-Michael Pätzold, A survey of modern English (Routledge, 2003) [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f Transactions and proceedings of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 34, (New Zealand Institute., 1902) pp. 135–145
  3. ^ a b c d Anglo-Saxon and Latinate Words by M. Birch