Where is the root morpheme in the Old English cristalla (crystal) and cymen (cumin)?

Where is the root morpheme in the Old English cristalla (crystal) and cymen (cumin)? It seems to be wrong to identify the morphemes in loanwords from etymological point of view. Answer There is an Old English word cristal, Crystal: From Old English cristal (“clear ice/mineral”), so I would assume that “cristalla” has the root of … Read more

Where is the root morpheme in Middle English talon (talon, claw) and muscheron (mushroom)?

Is it possible to consider -on, -eron as suffixes (as they are in Middle French)? Answer The etymologies for talon and mushroom are not completely settled, but in both cases it seems clear that the Middle English word (talon or mussheron) was imported (from Old French) in its full form: the Old French talon comes … Read more

Are English language books translated to contemporary English?

Were Shakespeare books translated to contemporary English? Which version is more common? Is there a rule to choose which books will have its language updated? Are poems updated too? From which year I should expect that books have a “translation”? Answer Shakespeare is considered Modern English, and is almost never rendered in contemporary English. It … Read more

What were nightmares called before “nightmare” was used in that sense?

Apparently the word “nightmare” has only been used in the sense of “bad dream” since c. 1829. Before then the term referred to the agent causing the dreams—a mare < mera, mære ‘goblin, incubus’. What word or phrase was used earlier? I’m interested, in particular, in the meaning “bad dream” as opposed to “creature causing … Read more

What is the meaning of “runneth”?

What is the meaning of “runneth” in My Cup Runneth Over? Answer “runneth” is the Early Modern English third person singular of “run” (suffix -th, written -eth after consonants, and the consonant doubled). So, it would be “runs over” in Modern English, i.e. “overflows”. As noted in the link in your question, this quotation means … Read more

Is the “wit” in “to wit” the root of any other English words?

…and if not, where’d it go? One obvious venture is that the noun “wit”, in the sense of cleverness and general know-how, has an etymological affinity with the Old English witen, “to know”, and which Merriam-Webster informs me the “wit” in to wit is a conjugation of. I can kinda-sorta see it, but the connection … Read more

Why does English spelling use silent letters?

Why have a letter in a word when it’s silent in pronunciation, like the b in debt? Can anyone please clarify my uncertainty here? Answer In general, never trust words in the English language to be phonetic! This is largely a consequence of English being such a fast-evolving language, and importantly, owing its vocabulary to … Read more

Archaic text suggestions

I’m interested in learning Archaic English. As a starting point, I guess simple texts that are easy to comprehend would be a good choice. I would appreciate any suggestions. Answer There really isn’t any “language” called Archaic English. Do you mean Old English? If so, there are textbooks for studying that. Look for books on … Read more