5 Old English words and their modern translations

Old textsEnglish is an old language that has changed a lot over time. New words are created daily, and old words fall out of fashion, become forgotten, or their meanings evolve.

Although many forgotten Old English words are now rarely used in daily conversation, they still have the power to add a certain historical flavour to historic and fantasy novels. As such, it’s highly likely that you will recognise at least some Old English words from this list!

The underlined words below are all examples of old English. We still use these words today, though we say and write them differently.

Old English

When I was young, I lived in a small hus with my little sweostor and my older brodor. My faeder was called Mark and my modor was called Doris.

 Modern English

When I was young, I lived in a small house with my little sister and my older brother. My father was called Mark, and my mother was called Doris.

Here are some more Old English words that are no longer in everyday use.. Can you guess their modern day translations?

Hark! Can you hear that?

Click here to reveal the translation.
Used only as an order to tell somebody to listen.


Let’s go back whence we came to see if we can find the right path.

Click here to reveal the translation.
From where.


Good night! I’ll see you on the morrow.

Click here to reveal the translation.
On the next day; tomorrow.


It’s a good film, verily. You should see it.

Click here to reveal the translation.
Really; truly.


Good bye! I’ll see you anon.

Click here to reveal the translation.


Although many old English words are rarely used in modern day contexts, they do demonstrate how flexible languages are. Modern substitutes should be used in day-to-day writing, conversations, and in English language assessments like the Oxford Test of English. But that shouldn’t stop you slipping an Old English word into conversation with a friend, see if they notice and pick you up on it!

Have you come across any other Old English words? Share them below in the comments! 

Want to revise English compound nouns? See if you can identify all 10 listed here, we’ve left some clues to get you started. Don’t forget to leave a comment with your score!

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

Every year we help millions of people around the world to learn English. As a department of the University of Oxford, we further the University’s objective of excellence in education by publishing proven and tested language learning books, eBooks, learning materials, and educational technologies.

3 thoughts

  1. I use them all except verily. My mother used to say, ‘Now you hearken unto me young B’ She was born in Andover, Hampshire, UK. in 1917.

  2. This article was super interesting! I love getting to know about old English words and their modern translation.

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