Was Old English “ēalās” equivalent to Modern English “hello”?

In a question in the Spanish Language site about the origin of Spanish hola ‘hello’, one of the answers states that Old English ēalās, written ēalā before a name, already sounded quite similar to hola, and was used as an equivalent to our current hello. The user states that ēalā freond means hello friend. But … Read more

Did Old English have a middle voice or mediopassive voice?

I’ve read that Icelandic and Old Norse have a middle voice, so I wanted to know if either or both of these distinct grammatical features existed in Old English. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_(grammar)#Middle, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediopassive_voice Answer As far as I can tell from what Mitchell & Robinson say in A Guide to Old English, no. Verb forms in … Read more

How is ‘wl-‘ pronounced?

How is ‘wl-‘ pronounced at the beginning of a word? Of course, you just don’t pronounce it at all, because there is no English word that begins that way and if there were, well, that’s just not English there can’t be any. Also, even though there are many possible arbitrary consonant sequences, some that just … Read more

How homogeneous was Old English spelling?

Are varying spellings available, or was Old English rather uniform, as far as the sources show? Variant spelling may have indicated different verbal dialects, but written dialects, involuntary eye dialect, may allow greater insight into the pronunciation. Is this cleaned up and normalized in OE dictionaries? Answer Old English spelling wasn’t entirely uniform. I don’t … Read more

Why do ash (trees) and ash (burnt residue) have the same name?

I’ve often wondered why ash (trees) and ash (burnt residue) have the same name. I’ve looked up the origin of both words, but I don’t see anything that explains why the names are the same. From the Online Etymology Dictionary: ash (n.1) “powdery remains of fire,” Old English æsce “ash,” from Proto-Germanic * askon (source … Read more

Scottish, English, why not *Walish?

As the title question asks, and particularly in light of the Old English word wælisc apparently used to refer to “Welsh”, when, why, and how did the English adjective meaning “of or relating to Wales” become “Welsh”? In particular: Which of the apparently l Old English forms made it into Middle English? Where (ie, what’s … Read more

What is the grammatical name of prefixing a word by “A”?

I’ve noticed that in English, “some words” (I don’t know if it could be used on all words) could be prefixed by the letter “a” to change the meaning, here are a few examples: Side and Aside Like and Alike Live and Alive Way and Away Mount and Amount Round and Around Questions: What is … Read more

Shakespeare’s “say sooth” vs. “tell truth”

The noun sooth, pronounced /suːθ/, is now archaic and means ‘fact’,‘reality’ and ‘truth’. Its legacy persists in the words soothe /suːð/, and soothsayer meaning someone who sees the truth, a synonym of fortune teller and the French loanword clairvoyant. In Shakespeare’s plays, sooth is often used with the verb say and in the expression in … Read more

Is the “blue” in “blue moon” a reference to betrayal?

There are some previous questions on this site about the etymology of the phrase “blue moon” (What is the origin of the phrase "blue moon"? Any alternate phrase for it?, Why do we call some full moons "blue" when they're not?). But none of these posts deals with a surprising hypothesis currently mentioned on the … Read more