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definition - ANGLISH

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Anglish or Saxon English is a form of English linguistic purism, which favours words of native (Germanic) origin over those of foreign (mainly Romance and Greek) origin.

The earliest form of English (called Old English) emerged during the 5th century, when Germanic-speaking tribes (the Anglo-Saxons) migrated to Britain and eventually established the Kingdom of England. Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the language borrowed extensively from Norman and to a lesser extent from other Romance languages.

Anglish is thus an attempt to "revitalise" the native Germanic element in English, or even to "purify" it of non-Germanic elements. This is achieved by using existing Germanic equivalents of Romance words ("fathom" rather than "ascertain"), by resurrecting archaic or obsolete words ("forbus" for "example"), borrowing from Old English ("fraign" for "question"), and sometimes by using new words coined from Old English roots ("owndom" rather than "property").



In the 1500s and 1600s, controversy over unnecessary foreign borrowings (known as "inkhorn terms") was rife. Writers were introducing many complicated words, mainly from Latin and Greek. Critics saw this as unnecessary and pretentious, arguing that English already had words with identical meanings. However, many of the new words gained an equal footing with the native Germanic words, and often replaced them.

Writers such as Thomas Elyot flooded their writings with foreign borrowings, whilst writers such as John Cheke sought to keep their writings "pure". Cheke wrote:
I am of this opinion that our own tung should be written cleane and pure, unmixt and unmangeled with borowing of other tunges; wherein if we take not heed by tiim, ever borowing and never paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt.
In his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote:
Bad writers –especially scientific, political, and sociological writers– are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones.

A contemporary of Orwell, the Australian composer Percy Grainger, used a similar language for his writings which he called "blue-eyed English". Lee Hollander's 1962 English translation of the Poetic Edda (a collection of Old Norse poems), written almost solely with Germanic words, would also inspire many future "Anglish" writers.

In 1966, Paul Jennings wrote a number of "Anglish" articles in Punch, to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the Norman conquest. He gave "a bow to William Barnes, the Dorset poet-philologist". The pieces included a sample of Shakespeare's writing as it might have been if William the Conqueror had never succeeded.

In 1989, science fiction writer Poul Anderson wrote a text about basic atomic theory called Uncleftish Beholding. It was written using only words of Germanic origin, and was meant to show what English might look like without foreign borrowings. In 1992, Douglas Hofstadter jokingly referred to the style as "Ander-Saxon". This term has since been used to describe any scientific writings that use only Germanic words.

Anderson used techniques including:

  • extension of sense (motes for 'particles');
  • calques, i.e., translation of the morphemes of the foreign word (uncleft for atom, which is from Greek a- 'not' and temnein 'to cut')
  • calques from other Germanic languages like German and Dutch (waterstuff from the German wasserstoff / Dutch waterstof for 'hydrogen'; sourstuff from the German sauerstoff / Dutch zuurstof for 'oxygen');
  • coining (firststuff for 'element'; lightrotting for 'radioactive decay').

Another approach, without a specific name-tag, can be seen in the September 2009 publication How We'd Talk if the English had Won in 1066, by David Cowley. This is based on updating known Old English words to today's English spelling, and seeks mainstream appeal by covering words in 5 Steps, from easy to "weird and wonderful", as well as giving many examples of use, drawings and tests.[1]


From William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Act 3, Scene 1):

To be, or not to be – that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
and by opposing end them? To die, to sleep –
No more – and by a sleep to say we end
the heartache and the thousand natural shocks
that flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep –
to sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause. There's the respect
that makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
the oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
the pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
the insolence of office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his quietus make
with a bare bodkin?
Anglish version
To be, or not to be – that is the asking:
Whether ‘tis worthier in the mind to bear
the slings and arrows of unbound mishap
or to take fight against a sea of worries,
and by gainstanding end them? To die, to sleep –
no more – and by a sleep to say we end
the heartache, and the thousand worldly blows
that flesh is born to. ‘Tis an ending
dearly to be wished. To die, to sleep –
to sleep, maybe to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
for in that sleep of death what dreams may come
when we have shed our living body,
must make us stop. There’s the thought
that makes wretchedness of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and slights of time,
the overlord’s wrong, the strutter’s cockiness
the wrench of unanswered love, the law’s sloth,
the brazenness of might, and the spurns
that forbearing goodness of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his settling make
with a bare bradawl?
Anglish version (with revived words)
To be, or not to be – that is the fraign:
Whether ‘tis more athal in the mind to underbear
the slings and arrows of hisceous dright
or to take up gattow against a sea of agledge,
and by striming end them? To die, to sleep –
no more – and by a sleep to say we end
the heartache, and the thousand quithin stuns
that flesh is urphe to. ‘Tis a fulfilledness
austly to be wished. To die, to sleep –
to sleep, by hap to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
for in that sleep of death what dreams may come
when we have shuffled off this quelworth hame,
must give us blince. There’s the lec
that makes braughtrey of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and canks of time,
the downweigher’s wrong, the proud man’s tenquid
the warks of hospal love, the law’s ielding,
the orgol of ambit, and the spurns
that longstram earning of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his roo make
with a bare bradawl?

Word list

Existing words

Resurrected words

AnglishLatinate equivalent
abedeto announce
adaweto execute
afounderto disable
agledge, aggledge /ˈæg.lɪdʒ/ (OE āglāc)trouble, distress, vexation
alehousepub, tavern
allieve (OE ālȳfan, ālīefan)to permit, allow
altue (OE æltǣwe)perfect, entire, excellent
ambit (OE ambiht)office, ministry, service
amear (OE ġemǣran)to define, determine the limits of
ameedto reform
amence (OE āminsian)to diminish
andette (OE andettan)to admit, confess
andgiet /'ændʒɪt/ (OE andgiet)intelligence
andsac (OE andsaca)adversary, enemy
andy (OE andig)jealous, envious
arm (OE earm)poor, miserable
armth (OE iermþ)poverty, misery
arne (OE earn)eagle
asaketo renounce
athal (OE æþel)noble
athom (OE æþm)spirit, breath
athox (OE āþexe)lizard
aust (OE ǣfæst)religious, devout; firm
behovefulnecessary, advantageous
behuide /bɪˈhaɪd/ (OE ġehyġd)opinion, belief
belart (OE belyrtan)to deceive
benote (OE benotian)to use, consume
bequeem (OE be- + OE cwēme)pleasant, pleasing
berg, berguemountain
besayto apologise
besmigh (OE besmēagan)to consider
besmitto contaminate
blee, bly (OE blēo)colour
bleat, blete (OE blēat)poor, miserable, destitute
blince (OE blinn, blinnes)pause, cessation
blive (OE belīfan)to remain, stay
bookstave, bextive (OE bōcstæf)alphabetic symbol, letter
braughtrey, broughtrey (OE brōhþrēa)calamity
brook (OE brūcan)to use; to enjoy
busen /ˈbɪzɪn/ (OE bysen)model, exemplar, example
byspel, bexpel (OE bīspel, biġspel)example; to exemplify
cank (OE canc)scorn, derision
canop (OE cenep)mustache
cape (OE capian)to look at, observe
clave (OE clēafa)compartment, department, division, chamber, cell
costen/costening (OE costnian)to tempt/temptation
davon (OE dafen & dafenian)appropriate; to be appropriate
douth (OE dugaþ)virtue, manliness
dreave (OE drǣfan)to push, force
dretchagitate, torment
dright (OE dryht)fortune, fate
dwineto languish
eacon (OE ēacnian)increase, profit, gain
eam (OE ēam)uncle (cf eme)
eandom (OE ēanian + -dōm)nature; the natural world
embave, imbave (OE ymbhabban)to include, contain
endquest, andquest (OE andcwiss, andcwist)reply
enide, inide (OE inēodan)to enter
enorthe (OE on + orþian)to aspire to
ent (OE ent)giant (n)
entish (OE entisc)giant (adj), gigantic
endric, erendrake (OE ǣrendraca)messenger
ernde/erndingto intercede/intercession
ettin (OE ēoten)giant
ettleintent, purpose, opportunity
fend (OE fandian)to try
fobcheat(er), deceive(r)
forbus /ˈfoːrbɪs/ (OE fōrebysen)example
forechoose (OE fōreċēosan)to prefer
forheal (OE forhelan)to conceal, cover up, hide
forlet (OE forlǣtan)to abandon, surrender, relinquish, give up
formase (OE for- + masian)to confuse
for sakebecause
freede, freeth (OE frēod)peace
fraign, freign (OE fræġn)question
frempt (OE fremd)strange, foreign
frithprotection, security
gainweighto balance, counter-balance
galdor (OE galdor)magic
galse (OE gǣlsa)luxury, extravagance
gammal (OE gamol)ancient
gattow (OE geatwe)arms, equipment
givol (OE ġiefol)generous, liberal
grette, greath (OE grīetu)size
guite (OE gyte)issue
hame (OE hama)covering, shell, coil
handwrit (OE handġewrit)manuscript; autograph
haulth /hɒθ/ (OE hæleþ)hero
hallow, hallowed (OE hālga)saint
hean (OE hēan)abject, lowly
Healand (OE hǣlend)saviour; the Saviour
heare, heer (OE here)an army
hearsome (OE hīersum)obedient
hisceous (OE hysc- + OE -wīs)outrageous, immoral, reproachworthy
hoff (OE hof)courtyard, court
hosp (OE hosp)contumely
AnglishLatinate equivalent
hospal (OE hospul)despised
ield, eld (OE ieldu)age
ielding (OE ielding)delay
inathom (OE in + æþm)to inspire
indrightin (OE indryhten)distinguished, noble
influce (OE in + flēwsa)influence
intingue (OE intinga)cause, reason
inver (OE infær)entrance, entry; to enter
invere (OE infēran)to enter, make an entrance
kemp (OE cenep)mustache
kitheexpose, reveal
laif (OE lāf)[the] rest, remainder
lax, lex (OE leax)salmon
leafful (OE lēaffuldevout, faithful; orthodox
lease (OE lēas)false
lec (OE lēc)respect, regard
leed, leod (OE lēod)people
leem (OE lēoma)flame
leeserelease, redeem
leeth (OE lēoþ)poem, poetry
liccome /'lɪkəm/(OE līchama)core; corporate group, organisation
lig (OE līeġ)a flame
litt (OE wlite)countenance, expression, face
lix (OE līxan)to shine
longstram (OE langstrang)patient
lox (OE)lynx
lyft (OE)air; atmosphere
mansom (OE mǣnsumian)to participate, partake, share in
meagol (OE meagol)able
meduous (OE medwīs)mediocre, average
merswin /ˈmɜːsin/, marswin (OE mereswīn)porpoise, dolphin
mightand, mightondpossible
mightly (OE mihtlīċ)possible
mordel ( < OE māra dǣl)majority, greater part
nake (OE nacian)to strip off clothes, undress (cf naked)
namile, nemil (OE nǣmel)capable, takeworthy
neave (OE nefa)nephew
nedge (OE nēalǣċan)to approach
neighledge, neilage /ˈnɛlɪdʒ/ (OE nēalǣċan)to approach
neve /ˈnɛv/(OE nebb)face
nift (OE)niece
note (OE notu)use, utility
noteful (OE notfull)useful
noteless (OE notlēas)useless
ord (OE)point
orfluce (OE or- + flēwsa)issue, outflow
orgol (OE)pride, arrogance, insolence; proud, arrogant, insolent
orlay (OE orlæġ)destiny, fate
orlegue (OE orlēġe)war, battle
outver (OE ūtfær)exit; to exit
oversend (OE ofersendan)to transmit
phelatongue (OE fela tungan)polyglot
queem (OE cwēman)to please, serve
quelworth (OE cwellan + OE -wierþe)mortal, able to be killed
quid (OE cwide)term, expression
quidol (OE cwedol)eloquent
quithin (OE cwiþ, cwiþen-)natural
raintilt (OE regn + teld)umbrella
rance (OE hramsa)onion
ricetor /'ɹaɪsɪtɚ/ (OE rīċetere)power, authority; ambition
rix, rex (OE rīcsian)to rule, reign
roard (OE reord)speech, language
roo (OE )quietness, quiet, rest
seale (OE sǣl)joy
shaftly (OE sceaft + -ly)natural
sheenful (OE scīene + -ful)beautiful, good-looking
shuild (OE scyld)fault
sield (OE seld)rare, infrequent, unusual
sigor (OE)victory
sile (OE sȳl)column, pillar
secqual (OE selfcwalu)suicide
selban (OE selfbana)a suicide; one who betakes or commits suicide
selmur (OE selfmyrþe(re))suicide, selfslaughter
somen, sommon (OE samnian)to assemble, collect
smake (OE smæc)taste; to taste
smatch (OE smæc)taste; to taste
smy, smigh (OE smēagan)to consider, think about
sprecol (OE)talkative
starrof (OE stæfrōf)alphabet
steaven, steavon /ˈstɛvɪn/ (OE stefn)voice (cf steven); opinion
stidge, studge (OE stycce)piece
stond (OE stond, stand)pause
stow (OE stōw))place
strime (OE strīman)to resist, oppose
stutch, stetch (OE stycce)piece
stoor (OE stōr)large (cf stour)
stound (OE stund)hour
sundor (OE)special, set-apart, reserved
swair (OE swǣr)serious, grave
swamb, swomb (OE swamm)mushroom
swear (OE swǣr)very
tenquid (OE tēoncwide)contumely, hate speech
thede, theed (OE þēod)nation
theign (OE þegnian)to serve
thetch (OE þeccan)to cover
thretch, thrutch (OE þryccan)to push (cf thrutch)
thring (OE þringan)to press, pressure, crowd
thuld, thuild (OE þyld)patience, endurance
thurse (OE þyrs)monster, giant
tield, teld (OE teld)tent
twight (OE twēo)doubt
twy (OE twēon)to doubt
urlaf (OE yrfelāf)inheritance, heirloom
urve, urphe (OE yrfa & yrfe)heir; heritage; to inherit
virengeor (OE firengeorn)outrageous; immoral
virguin (OE firgen)mountain
virguinbour (OE firgenbeorg)mountain
wair (OE wǣr)faith
wark (OE wearc)pain, pang
wendto proceed
wildor /ˈwɪldə(r)/ (OE wilddēor)animal
wis (OE ġewis)certain, sure
wist (OE)existence
withalin addition
withcast (ME wiþcasten)to reject, cast away
withchoose (OE wiþċēosan)to reject, decide against
withcost (OE wiþcostian)to denounce
withscore (OE wiþscorian)to refuse
wouldor /ˈwəʊldə(r)/ (OE wuldor)glory
wolk (OE wolcn)cloud
wouse (OE wōs)juice
wrexle (OE wrixlan)to exchange
wyrdfate, destiny
yeartideseason; also anniversary
yeavon, yoven /ˈjɛvɪn,ˈjʌvɪn/ (OE geofon)the ocean

New words

AnglishLatinate equivalent
aftermorrowday after to-morrow
afterwritpost script
bear back (to)to refer (to)
bear underto suffer
begainto encounter
begasteto inspire
beguiltto blame
betaleto describe
bewise, bewisento advise, direct, instruct
bewisinginstruction, direction
foreyesterday before yesterday
gainsidethe contrary, opposite side
infareentry, entrance
AnglishLatinate equivalent
longfathermale ancestor
owndomproperty, possession
orspringorigin, source
spring backto result
tweath, twaith /ˈtwɛθ/(ordinal) second
unbeguiltto excuse
wisento make or become wise
withgetto remember
withyieldto pay back, recompense


  • Paul Jennings, "I Was Joking Of Course", London, Max Reinhardt Ltd, 1968
  • Poul Anderson, "Uncleftish Beholding", Analog Science Fact / Science Fiction Magazine, mid-December 1989.
  • Douglas Hofstadter (1995). "Speechstuff and Thoughtstuff". in Sture Allén (ed.). Of Thoughts and Words: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 92. London: Imperial College Press. ISBN 1860940064.  Includes a reprint of Anderson's article, with a translation into more standard English.
  • Douglas Hofstadter (1997). Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-08645-4.  Also includes and discusses excerpts from the article.

External links

See also


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