Old English Vocabulary: Your First 700 Words

This is a list of approximately 700 of the most common or useful Old English words, given in normalized Early West Saxon forms. The goal of this list is to provide you with a relatively small core vocabulary to study so that you can move on to reading texts quickly. I recommend you use a spaced repetition system such as Anki to familiarize yourself with these words as quickly as possible. You do not need to be able to go from Present-Day English to Old English (at first, anyway) – just concentrate on being able to recognize the meanings of the Old English words. When you get to original texts, you will find them much less painful to read if you know these 500 words already. You'll cut your trips to the dictionary in half!

My eventual goal is to use this list to produce more graded reader-style Old English material which assumes you know this core vocabulary.

This is version 0.1 of this list. On the roadmap:

  • Divide the list into different grades based on frequency.
  • Add quotations to show usage
  • Add cognates to help learning.
  • Add inflected forms, where they are very different from the dictionary form.
  • Add major spelling/dialect variants.
  • Correct the inevitable errors.
  • Find better ways to display them than a table.
Word Part of Speech Meaning
ā adv always, forever
ābūtan adv about, around
ac conj but, however
ācennan v produce, bring forth, give birth to
ācwellan v kill
ādl nf sickness, disease
ǣ nf law
æcer nm cultivated field
ǣfæst adj pious
ǣfen nm evening
ǣfre adv ever, forever, always
æfter prep after
æfterfylġan v follow
ǣġhwā pron everyone, everything
ǣġhwǣr adv everywhere
ǣġhwæþer pron each (of two)
ǣht nf possession, property; power
ǣl nm eel
ǣlċ pron/adj every, each
ælmihtiġ adj all-powerful
ǣmettiġ adj empty
ǣniġ adj/pron any
ǣr adv/conj before, previously
ǣrende nn message; errand
ǣrest adj first
ærnan v run
æsċ nm ash-tree; spear
ǣstel nm tablet
æt prep at
ætgædere adv together
ætīewan v appear; show
ætsomne adv together
æþele adj noble
æþeling nm prince
æþelu nf/nn nobility; origin, descent
āgan v possess, own
āgen adj own
āhebban v raise, lift
āhwǣr adv anywhere, everywhere
āleċġan v lay, put; set aside
ālīefan v allow
āmierran v hinder; distract; destroy
ān num one
and conj and
andwyrdan v answer
anda nm envy; hatred
andġit nn intelligence; meaning; sense
andsaca nm enemy
andswarian v answer
andweard adj present
andwlita nm appearance; face
ānfeald adj simple; sole, single
angel nm hook
angelcynn nn the English people
anġinn nn beginning
anlīcnes nf likeness; image
ānrǣd adj unanimous; resolute, persevering
anweald nm power
ānwealda nm ruler, sovereign
ār nn copper
ār nf honour, glory
ār nf oar
āriht adv properly
ārīsan v arise
ārlēas adj disgraceful, dishonourable
ārlīċe adv honourably
arod adj quick; prepared
ārweorþ adj honourable
āscian v ask (a question)
āseċġan v say; tell
āstyrian v remove; move, disturb
atelīċ adj terrible, dreadful
ātēon v draw out, lead out; deal with
āttor nn poison, venom
āwiht nn anything
āwrītan v write
āþ nm oath
bæc nn back
bæcere nm baker
bærnan v burn
bæþ nn bath
bān nn bone
bār nm boar
bāt nm/nf boat
baþian v bathe
be prep by, near; about; according to
bēacn nn sign; beacon
bēag nm ring, bracelet, armband
bealdlīċe adv boldly
bēam nm tree; beam of wood, gallows, cross
bearm nm bosom, lap
bearn nn child
bearu nm grove
bebēodan v command
becuman v arrive at, reach; happen, occur
bedǣlan v deprive
bēġen pron/adj both
beġeondan prep beyond
beġietan v get
beġinnan v begin
begnornian v lament
behēafdian v behead
behrēowsian v repent, make amends
benċ nf bench
bēodan, (ġe-) v offer; proclaim
bēon v be
beorg nm mountain; hill, mound
beorgan v save; guard, protect
beorht adj bright
bēot nn threat; vow, boast
beran, (ġe-) v carry, bear; wear; sustain; give birth to
berstan v break, burst
beswīcan v deceive, trick; cheat
bet adv better
betwēonum prep between
betwēox prep between
bewindan v encircle; wrap in/with
bīdan, (ġe-) v wait (for); experience
biddan v ask for, beg
bifian v tremble
bigang nm course, way; worship; undertaking, business
bindan, (ġe-) v bind
bisċop nm bishop
bisiġ adj busy
bisiġu nf business, occupation
bismer nn mockery, blasphemy
bītan v bite
blāc adj pale
blæc adj black
blǣd nm splendour, glory, fame
blāwan v blow
blētsian v bless, consecrate
bliss nf bliss
blōd nn blood
bōc nf book
bodian v announce; preach; foretell
bolster nm pillow
bord nn board; shielf
brād adj broad
brecan, (ġe-) v break
breġdan, (ġe-) v pull, draw; shake
bringan, (ġe-) v bring
brōga nm terror; danger
brōþor nm brother
brūcan v use; enjoy; benefit from
brūn adj brown; dark; red
bryċġ nf bridge
būan v dwell, inhabit
būgan, (ġe-) v turn aside; bow; bend
burɡ nf city, town; castle
būtan prep/conj/adv without; except; unless; merely, only
byrġan v bury
byrne nf coat of mail
cāsere nm emperor
ċeald adj cold
ċeaster nf city, town
cempa nm soldier, warrior
ċeorl nm peasant; freeman
ċicen nn chicken
ċīese nm cheese
ċiriċe nf church
clipian v call, call out
clyppan v hug; cherish
cniht nm boy; servant
cræft nm skill; virtue
cringan v fall in battle
cuman v come
cunnan v know; can
cunnian v find out
cwellan v kill
cwēn nf queen; woman
cweþan, (ġe-) v say, speak
cwic adj alive; intelligent
cyning nm king
cynn nn kind; family; nation
cȳþan, (ġe-) v reveal; proclaim, announce
dǣd nf deed
dæġ nm day
dǣl nf part
dǣlan, (ġe-) v divide; share
dēad adj dead
dēagol adj secret, hidden
dēaþ nm death
dēma nm judge
Dene nmpl Danes
dēofol nm/nn devil
dēop adj deep
dēor nn wild animal
deorc adj dark
dīere adj dear, expensive; precious
dierne adj secret, hidden
dohtor nf daughter
dōm nm law; judgement
dōn, (ġe-) v do; make, cause; put; treat (someone) as
draca nm dragon
drēam nm joy
drēogan, (ġe-) v perform; endure, suffer
drēor nm gore, blood
drīfan v drive
dryhten nm lord
dugan v be of use, serve; be fit, be strong
duguþ f band of warriors; prosperity, benefit
duguþ nf band of warriors
durran v dare
duru nf door
dysiġ adj foolish
ēa nf river
ēac adv also, too
ēadiġ adj happy, prosperous
ēaġe nn eye
ēalā interj alas!
eald adj old
ealdor nm lord, prince
ealdor nn life; age, eternity
ealdorman n ruler, nobleman
eall adj/adv all; each; entirely
ealles adv all, entirely
earfoþ nn hardship, trouble; work
earm adj poor, miserable
ēċe adj eternal
eċġ nf edge (of a tool or weapon)
efne adv indeed; once
eft adv again; back
eġe nm fear
eġeslīċ adj terrible
ellen nn courage
ende nm end, edge
enġel nm angel
englisċ adj English
ent nm giant
eorl nm nobleman, warrior
eorþe nf earth
ēower adj your (pl)
etan, (ġe-) v eat
fæder nm father
fǣġe adj doomed
fæġer adj beautiful, pleasant
fǣhþu nf feud
fǣmne nf virgin, young woman
fæst adj secure, fixed
fæste adv firmly
fāh adj decorated, shining
faran v go, travel; fare
feallan, (ġe-) v fall
feax nn hair (of the head)
fela pron/adj many, much
feoh nn riches, money
feohtan, (ġe-) v fight; get by fighting (with ġe-)
fēond nm enemy
feor adj/adv far, distant; long ago
feorh nm/nn life; living being
feorran adv from far away
fēran v go, travel
fīf adj five
findan v find; get
flēogan v fly
flōd nm water; tide
folc nn people
fōn v catch, seize
for prep for, because of, in place of
for þām adv/conj therefore; because
for þām þe conj because
forġiefan v grant; forgive
forġieldan v pay for, repay
forhtian v be afraid
forlǣtan v leave, abandon; allow
forma adj first
forst nm frost
fram prep from; by
frēa nm lord; husband
fremde adj strange; foreign
fremman, (ġe-) v perform, carry out, do
frēond nm friend
friġnan, (ġe-) v ask, hear of
friþ nn peace
frōfor nf consolation, relief, comfort
fruma nm beginning; prince
fugol nm bird
ful adv very, fully
fultum nm help, support; army
furþum adv even
fūs adj eager
fȳr nn fire
fyren nf crime, wickedness
gafol nn tribute
galan v sing; cry, call
gān v go
gangan, (ġe-) v go, walk
gāst nm spirit; ghost; breath
ġe conj and, both
ġē pron you (pl.)
ġēar nn year
ġeard nm enclosure; yard, garden; court
ġearu adj ready
ġebed nn prayer
ġebēorsċipe nm drinking party, feast
ġebētan v repair; cure
ġebiddan v pray; worship; request
ġeċēapian v buy
ġecnāwan v perceive, understand; be familiar with
ġedwild nn error; heresy
ġefēra nm comrade
ġehwā pron everyone; everything
ġehwelċ pron each, every
ġelēafa nm faith
ġelōme adv often
ġemǣne adj common, universal
ġemynd nf memory
ġenōg adj enough
ġeoguþ nf youth; young person
ġeond prop through; throughout
ġeong adj young
ġeorn adj eager
ġeorne adv eagerly; thoroughly
ġereord nn language; speech, voice
ġesib adj related, familiar
ġesihþ nf sight
ġesund adj healthy
ġeweald nn control
ġewinn nn war; battle
ġewinnan v conquer, win
ġewītan v leave, depart
ġeþēode nn languae
ġiedd nn story, song, poem
ġiefan v give
ġiefu nf gift
ġieldan v pay; repay
ġielp nm boast
ġierwan, (ġe-) v adorn; prepare
ġīese adv yes
ġīet adv still; (with negatives) yet; (with comparatives) even
ġif conj if
gnornian v mourn; regret; complain
god nm/nn god; God
gōd adj/n good
gold nn gold
grǣdiġ adj hungry; greedy
grētan, (ġe-) v greet; approach
griþ nn truce, peace
habban v have
hǣlan v heal; save
hǣlend nm healer, saviour
hæleþ nm man, hero, warrior
hǣþen adj pagan, heathen
hāl adj healthy, intact; whole
hāliġ adj holy
hām nm home; village
hand nf hand
hār adj grey; grey-haired
hāt adj hot
hātan, (ġe-) v call, name; be named; order, command
pron he, it (for masculine nouns)
hēafod nn head
hēah adj high, tall
healdan, (ġe-) v hold, keep; protect
healf nf half
heard adj hard, stern
hearg nm altar; sacred place; idol
helm nm helmet; protection
hēo pron she
heofon nm heaven, sky
heorot nm deer, stag
heorte nf heart
hēr adv here
here nm army (esp. of enemies)
hergian v pillage, plunder
hīe pron they
hierde nm herdsman; guardian
hit pron it
hlǣw nn mountain, hill; cave
hlāf nm bread; loaf
hlāford nm lord
hlēo nm shelter
hlīsa nm fame
holt nn wood, woodland
hord nn hoard
hraþe adv quickly, soon
hreþer nm breast, heart
conj how; adv
hund nm dog
hūru adv certainly, indeed
hūs nn house
hwā pron who; anyone, someone
hwǣr adv where; anywhere
hwæt interj lo!
hwæt pron what
hwæþer conj whether
hwæþre adv yet, however
hwelċ pron/adj which, what kind of; some; someone, anyone; something, anything
hweorfan, (ġe-) v turn; change
hwīl nf while, period of time
hwīlum adv sometimes; formerly
hyċġan v think; consider
hyht nm hope
hȳran, (ġe-) v hear, listen to
prep I
ielde nmpl men
iermþu nf poverty, misery
ierre nn anger
ilca pron/adj the same
in prep/adv in; into; inland
innan adv within
inne adv inside, within
īsern nn iron
interj oh!
lāc nn/nf gift; play; battle
lǣdan, (ġe-) v lead, bring
lǣne adj transitory, temporary
lǣran, (ġe-) v teach
lǣstan, (ġe-) v follow; perform, carry out
lǣtan v allow; cause
lāf nf remains; legacy; widow
lagu nf law
land nn land
lang adj long, long-lasting
lange adv for a long time
lār nf teaching
lāþ adj loathsome, hateful, unpleasant
lēas adj devoid of, free from
leax nm salmon
lēode nmpl people
lēof adj dear, beloved
lēoht nn light
leornian, (ġe-) v learn
lēoþ nn poem; song
libban v live; remain
līċ nn dead body, corpse
liċġan v lie; lie down
līċhama nm body
līf nn life
limpan, (ġe-) v happen, befall
lof nn praise
lōfġeorn adj eager for praise
lufian v love
lufu nf love
lyft nf air; sky
lȳtel adj little
nn more
mǣġ nm kinsman
mæġden nn maiden
mæġen nn strength, power; army
mæġþ nf girl, maiden
mæġþ nf family, nation; generation
mǣre adj famous
mǣrþ nf fame, glory
magan v can, be able
man pron one
mān nn crime
mancynn mn mankind
maniġ adj many
mann nm person; humanity (in general)
maþm nm precious object, treasure
mearc nf boundary, limit; mark, sign
mearh nm horse
medu nm mead
meniġu nf multitude
mere nm lake, pool
miċel adj big, great; much
miċele adv much
mid prep with; among
middanġeard nm the world
miht nf might, strength, power
mīl nf mile
mīn adj my
mōd nn mind; courage; state of mind
mōdiġ adj proud; reckless
mōdor nf mother
mōna nm moon
mōr nm moor
morgen n morning; tomorrow
morþor nn murder; crime
mōtan v may, be allowed to
mund nf hand; protection
mynster nn monastery, cathedral
adv not at all; never
nǣdre nf snake
nǣfre adv never
nǣniġ pron none; no one
næss nm headland, promontory
nama nm name
nān adj no
ne adv/conj not; neither, nor
nēah adj/adv near; nearby
nealles adv not at all
neorxnawang nm paradise, heaven
niht nf night
niman, (ġe-) v take
nīþ nm envy; hatred
adv now
nytt nf use, benefit
of prep from; out of; by (i.e. done by)
ofer prep across, over
offrian v offer
ofslēan v kill, slay
oft adv often
on prep on, in, at, among; to, into
onfōn v receive, accept; perceive
onġēan adv/prep back, again; against, opposite
onġietan v see, perceive, understand; seize
onġinnan v begin; attempt
ord nm point (of weapon); front, vanguard
prep until, up to
oþ þæt conj until
ōþer adj/pron other
oþþe conj or
pæþ nm path
penning nm penny
prēost nm priest
rǣd nm advice; decision; plan
rǣdan v read; advise
rēċan v care
rīċe nn kingdom
rīċe adj rich; powerful
rīdan v ride
riht, (ġe-) nn law; what is right; privilege
rōd nf cross
rodor nm sky, heaven
rūn nf mystery, secret
sacu nf dispute, strife
nf sea
samod adv together; at the same time
sār adj sore
sāriġ adj sorry
sāwol nf soul
sċeadu nf shadow; shade
sċealc nm servant; man, soldier
sċēat nm corner, angle; area, region
sċeatt nm treasure, money; coin
sċēawian v watch, look at; examine
sċeþþan v injure, harm
sċieppan v create; shape
sċīnan v shine
sċip nn ship
sċulan v should, must, have to; will, shall
det that, the; which, who
sēċan, (ġe-) v look for, seek
seċġan, (ġe-) v say, tell
self pron oneself
sellan, (ġe-) v give, sell; betray
sendan, (ġe-) v send
seofon adj seven
sēon, (ġe-) v see
sibb nf kinship; peace
siġe nm victory
simle adv always, constantly
singal adj constant, perpetual
singan v sing
sittan, (ġe-) v sit
sīþ nf time (instance); journey
siþþan conj/adj since, when, after
slēan, (ġe-) v hit, beat; slay; get by fighting (with ġe-)
smēaġan v consider; examine
sōna adv immediately
sorg nf worry; sorrow
sōþ nn truth
sōþlīċe adv truly; indeed; amen
spēd nf success
spell nn story; news
sprecan, (ġe-) v speak, talk
stān nm stone
standan, (ġe-) v stand
stefn nf voice
stōw nf place
strǣl nm/nf arrow
sum pron/adj some
sunne nf sun
sunu nm son
swā adv; conj so, thus; as if, so that
swā swā conj as, just as
swā þēah adv nevertheless
sweart adj brack
swefn nn dream
swelċ adj such a, that kind of
swelċe adv/conj likewise; approximately; as if
sweltan v die
sweord nn sword
sweostor nf sister
sweotol adj clear, distinct
swincan v toil, struggle
swīþe adv very
symbel nn feast
synn nf sin
tellan, (ġe-) v count; tell
tēon v draw, drag, pull; bring, lead
tīd nf time
til adj good
tīr nm fame, glory, honour
prep/adv to, for, from, in, as; too
trēow nf loyalty; grace; promise, covenant
trēow nn tree
tūn nm enclosure; homestead; town
tungol nn star; planet
twēġen adj two
twēo nm doubt; ambiguity
ūhta nm/nf period just before dawn
uncūþ adj unknown; unfamiliar, strange
under prep under
unnan, (ġe-) v grant, bestow; wish
ūp adv up
ūre adj our
ūt adv out
uton v let's
wæl nn slaughter, carnage
wæstm nm fruit; result
wæter nn water
pron we
wealdan, (ġe-) v control; wield; rule
wealdend nm ruler, lord
weall nm wall
weallan v well up, boil over
weard nm guard
weaxan, (ġe-) v grow
weġ nm way, road
wel adv well
wēn nf expectation, likelihood
wēnan v expect, believe
wendan, (ġe-) v change; turn; go
weorc nn work
weorold nf world
weorþan, (ġe-) v be; become; happen
weorþian, (ġe-) v honour, worship
wer nm man, husband
werod nn troop, company
wesan v be
wīċ nn village
wīde adv widely
wīf nf woman; wife
wīġend nm warrior
wiht nf/nn thing; creature
willa nm will, purpose, desire; pleasure
willan v want
wilnian v desire; seek out
wind nm wind
winnan v struggle, contend
winter nm winter
wīs adj wise
wīsdōm nm wisdom
wita nm wise person; advisor
witan, (ġe-) v know, be aware of
wīte nn punishment; penalty, fine
wiþ prep with
wlanc adj proud
wolcen nn cloud; (in plural) heavens
word nn word
wrāþ adj angry; hostile
wrecan, (ġe-) v take revenge, avenge
wreċċa nm exile, outcast
wrītan v write
wudu nm wood; forest; tree
wuldor nn glory
wund nf wound
wundor nn wonder, marvel, miracle
wunian, (ġe-) v live, dwell, stay
wynn nf joy
wyrċan, (ġe-) v make, work, do
wyrd nf fate; event
wyrm nm worm; snake, dragon
wyrt nf plant, herb
yfel adj bad; evil
ymb prep around; about
yrre nn anger
ȳþ nf wave (of water)
þā adv/conj then; when
þā þā conj when
þǣr adv/conj there; where
þæs þe conj after; because
þæt det/conj that; so that
þætte conj that; so that
þanc, (ġe-) nm/nn thought; thanks
þe rel that, who, which
þēah adv/conj though, nevertheless; although
þēah þe conj although, even if
þearf nf need
þēaw nm habit, custom
þeġn nm servant; warrior
þencan, (ġe-) v think of, imagine
þenden conj while
þēod nf nation
þēow nm slave, servant
þes pron this
þider adv thither, to there
þīn adj your (sg)
þing nn thing; reason
þolian, (ġe-) v suffer, endure
þonne adv/conj then; when
þrīe adj three
þrōwian v suffer, endure
þrymm nm glory; force
þū pron you (sg.)
þurfan v need; be obliged
þurh prep through; by means of
þus adv thus
þūsend nf/nn/nX thousand
þȳ adv therefore
þyncan v seem (to someone)

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