Test Your Knowledge of Old English



9 Questions

What is Old English?

What are the three Germanic tribes that spoke the dialects that Old English developed from?

What was the role of Latin and Old Norse in the development of Old English?

What were the four main dialects of Old English?

What was the impact of the Norman conquest on the English language?

What is the oldest surviving work of Old English literature?

What is the difference between Old English and Modern English grammar?

What is the significance of West Saxon dialect in Old English literature?

What is the modern legacy of Old English?


Old English: The Earliest Historical Form of English

  • Old English (Englisċ) is the earliest recorded form of the English language, spoken in England and southern and eastern Scotland in the early Middle Ages.

  • It developed from the languages brought to Great Britain by Anglo-Saxon settlers in the mid-5th century, with the first Old English literary works dating from the mid-7th century.

  • After the Norman conquest of 1066, English was replaced by Anglo-Norman as the language of the upper classes, marking the end of the Old English era.

  • Old English developed from a set of Anglo-Frisian or Ingvaeonic dialects spoken by Germanic tribes known as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

  • Old English had four main dialects: Mercian, Northumbrian, Kentish, and West Saxon, with West Saxon forming the basis for the literary standard of the later Old English period.

  • Old English is one of the West Germanic languages, and its closest relatives are Old Frisian and Old Saxon.

  • Old English grammar includes many inflectional endings and forms, and word order is much freer than in Modern English and Modern Scots.

  • The oldest Old English inscriptions were written using a runic system, but from about the 8th century, this was replaced by a version of the Latin alphabet.

  • Old English literacy developed after Christianisation in the late 7th century, with the oldest surviving work of Old English literature being Cædmon's Hymn.

  • The language of government and literature became standardised around the West Saxon dialect after the unification of several of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms by Alfred the Great in the later 9th century.

  • Old English is followed by Middle English (12th to 15th century), Early Modern English (c. 1480 to 1650), and finally Modern English (after 1650).

  • Old English was influenced by Latin and Old Norse, with the latter having a greater impact on the English language than any other language, helping to move English from a synthetic language to a more analytic word order.Overview of Old English Language and Literature

  • The Old English language had a system of phonemes that included five vowels, eight diphthongs, and 24 consonants with a system of cases, genders, and numbers.

  • The language underwent sound changes like the loss of certain sounds and the emergence of independent phonemes.

  • Nouns declined for five cases, three genders, and two numbers, and were either strong or weak, while adjectives agreed with nouns in case, gender, and number, and could be strong or weak.

  • Verbs conjugated for three persons, two numbers, two tenses, and three moods, and were either strong or weak with two infinitive forms and two participles.

  • Old English syntax was similar to modern English, but with greater inflection allowing freer word order.

  • Old English was first written in runes and then in a half-uncial script of the Latin alphabet before being replaced by Insular script and then by Carolingian minuscule.

  • The corpus of Old English literature is small but significant, with some 400 surviving manuscripts.

  • Some of the most important surviving works of Old English literature are Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Franks Casket, and Cædmon's Hymn.

  • English poetry was based on stress and alliteration.

  • Old English lexicography began during the Anglo-Saxon period with English glosses on Latin texts and was later consolidated and alphabeticized to create extensive Latin-Old English glossaries with some character of dictionaries.

  • Old English lexicography was revived in the early modern period with the publication of William Somner's Dictionarium Saxonico-Latino-Anglicum and Joseph Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary of 1838.The Modern Legacy of Old English

  • The Oxford English Dictionary, Middle English Dictionary, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, and Historical Thesaurus of English all include material relevant to Old English.

  • Old English has been used by scholars and enthusiasts to create texts imitating Old English literature or transferring it to a different cultural context.

  • Examples of Old English use include Alistair Campbell and J. R. R. Tolkien.

  • Ransom Riggs uses several Old English words dubbed as "Old Peculiar" ones.

  • Some websites devoted to Modern Paganism and historical reenactment offer reference material and forums promoting the active use of Old English.

  • There is an Old English version of Wikipedia.

  • Many Neo-Old English texts published online bear little resemblance to the historical language and have many basic grammatical mistakes.

  • Old English has a modern legacy in literature, popular culture, and online communities.

  • The use of Old English in modern contexts is not always historically accurate.

  • Old English continues to inspire and influence writers and enthusiasts today.

  • The study of Old English can provide insights into the development of the English language and its cultural history.

  • Old English remains an important part of the English language and its cultural heritage.


How well do you know Old English, the earliest recorded form of the English language? Test your knowledge with this quiz, which covers the development of Old English, its grammar and syntax, and its literary legacy. From the Anglo-Saxon settlers to the influence of Latin and Old Norse, explore the history and nuances of this fascinating language. Whether you're a language enthusiast or just curious about the roots of English, this quiz will challenge and inspire you.

Ready to take the quiz?

Start Quiz