List of English words with dual French and Anglo-Saxon variations

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This list of English words with dual French and Anglo-Saxon variations describes various English words generally describing the same person, place or thing with two or more different words. After the Norman invasion of England in 1066 many of the more refined English (Anglo-Saxon) words describing finished products were replaced by words imported 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 boeuf, but "cow" is vache. These dual version 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 Anglo-Saxon origin, and are considered by some to be more posh, elaborate, sophisticated, or pretentious. Compare drink (Anglo-Saxon) and beverage (French). However, this is not always the case: weep, groom and stone (from Anglo-Saxon) 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 (Anglo-Saxon) with biology (classical compound – a modern coinage created from Greek roots).

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


Anglo-Saxon 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) [2]
deer (OE dēor)
hart (OE heorot)
venison (AN venesoun) [2]
snail (OE snægl) escargot (AN escargot)
dove (OE dūfe) pigeon (OF pijon)

Other words:

Anglo-Saxon origin words Old French origin words notes
thinking, mindful pensive [3]
kingly royal [3]
almighty omnipotent
brotherly fraternal [3]
ask, beseech enquire [3]
lord liege
bring, bear carry
amaze, stun astound
sex (from Latin "sexus") gender
fair, fair-haired blond(e)
ghost phantom
uphold, undergird, upstay support
smell, stench odour
hue, blee colour
blossom flower
help, bestand, bestead aid, abet, assist
buy purchase
belief faith
wonder ponder
selfhood identity
sake reason, cause
weep, sob cry
knowledge science
lawyer attorney
shirt blouse
hearty cordial
deem consider, judge
harbour port
sunder sever
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
drought, dearth famine
wish, will, yearning, longing, want (verb) desire (verb and noun)
span distance
tumble somersault
drink (noun + verb) beverage, imbibe
deal amount
freedom liberty
haven port
brittle frail, fragile
weak feeble, faint
almighty omnipotent
wild savage
betrothal proposal
kingship monarchy
thorough, thoroughgoing exhaustive
reckless intrepid
awesome incredible
tough difficult
homesickness nostalgia
hopelessness despair
wholesome, healthy, healthful salutary, salubrious
aching painful
daring, boldness audacity
unwilling, loath reluctant
wilful deliberate
wont accustomed
lovely, fair beautiful
anger, wrath ire, rage
angry, wrathful irate
bloodthirsty sanguinary
woodwork carpentry
warmongering belligerent
deathly lethal, mortal
forgiving indulgent
abide, acknowledge comply, obey, observe
stern severe
foe enemy
friendly amicable
inn tavern
woodland, woods forest
to rue to lament, to regret
rueful regretful
ruthless remorseless
weapon arm
grave tomb
graveyard cemetery
outspoken, straightforward honest, frank
green verdant
snake serpent
fire flame
cook (noun) chef
house mansion
offspring progeny
live, abide, dwell reside
think conceive
motherly maternal
fatherly paternal
sisterly sororal
bookcraft literature
twin double
foretell predict
leave egress, exit, depart
belly stomach
understand comprehend
laughable ridiculous
needs requirements
behead decapitate
forbid prohibit
gift present
thoughts ideas
wed marry
end finish
room chamber
stone rock
groom brush
lovely beautiful
kingly regal
hanging pendant
bodily corporal
come arrive
dog canine
maidenhood virginity

Words now obsolete, archaic or dialectal:

Anglo-Saxon origin words Old French origin words notes
eld age
hosen, britches pants
athel noble
atheling, drighten prince
stound hour
burn broil
note use, utility
bookstaff, bookstave letter
steven, reard voice
barrow mountain
frith peace
frithful peaceful
ruth pity
arm, wantsome poor
armth poverty
forekind ancestor
firen crime
eam uncle

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