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Anglo-Saxon & French Words

02
May
2007
 

By Christine Lovatt

You may have noticed when solving crosswords that some words tend to have the same clue while others can have a variety of clues.

The reason for this is based in history. When foreign hordes invaded England, they often stayed – and brought their vocabulary with them.

In the long-distant days before William the Conqueror invaded England, the English language was made up mostly of words from the Germanic family of languages, along with a bit of Latin from the Romans and some Norse from the Vikings.

Once William won the Battle of Hastings, he and his merry men used French at the royal court. England became a bilingual land. The peasants working in the fields spoke their own English while the upper classes spoke French.

Words used by simple farm workers such as husband, wife, plough, egg, gate and boulder came from Scandinavia originally.

The more sophisticated words, such as parliament, government, court, council, baron and noble were all of French origin.

When the French influence had abated, the English language was left with many new words, allowing shades of meaning not available to other languages.

We have the very refined odour, scent, or fragrance from the French, while the Old English gives us smell, reek or stench.

There’s baby and infant, quick and speedy, sick and ill. Having so many words with synonyms is a dream for a crossword compiler!

Happy puzzling!

 

 

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Anglo-Saxon & French Words

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