Old English is the earliest written form of the English language. English is derived from dialects of North Sea Germanic spoken around the coasts of the North Sea prior to the fifth century AD. Tribes speaking these dialects included the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, who later settled in Britain. Once established on the island of Britain, the language gradually diverged from its continental neighbors. It appears to have been called "English" right from the outset (spelt Englisc in Old English), from the name of the Angles.
Letters used in Old English that have not survived in Modern English are: æ ("ash"), an amalgamated letter roughly representing a sound between "a" and "e"; þ ("thorn") and ƿ ("wynn"), borrowed from the runic alphabet; and ð ("eth"), adapted from the Latin alphabet.
|Old English||Modern English|
|Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum||Our Father, you who are in heaven,|
|Si þin nama gehalgod||Be your name hallowed.|
|to becume þin rice||Come your kingdom,|
|gewurþe ðin willa||be done your will,|
|on eorðan swa swa on heofonum||on earth just as in heaven.|
|urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg||Our daily bread (loaf) give us today,|
|and forgyf us ure gyltas||and forgive us our sins (guilts)|
|swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum||just as we forgive our sinners (i.e., sinners against us),|
|and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge||and do not lead us into temptation,|
|ac alys us of yfele soþlice.||but release us from evil. Amen.|
Some works in Old English
- "The Battle of Maldon"
- "Cædmon's Hymn" (dating from the 7th century, the oldest known work in English)
- "The Dream of the Rood"
- "The Seafarer"
- "The Wanderer"
- "The Wife's Lament"
- The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
- The Blickling Homilies
- Wulfstan's Sermo Lupi ad Anglos