useful phrases in old english

Imagine if you could go on holiday to another time. If you were to visit Anglo-Saxon England it would be like going to a foreign country. You would need a guide book explaining all the religious customs and cultural conventions and of course you would need a book of useful phrases in Old English so that  you could understand the local people. Old English sounds more like German or Swedish than modern English. The following post provides translations for those who find themselves in this unlikely scenario.


Greetings and Pleasantries 

First off you need to be able to greet people and introduce yourself:


  • Hello – Wes hāl (singular). (WESS haal) Wesaþ hāle (male)/hāla (female)/hāl (mixed plural) (WES-ath haa-leh/haa-lah/haal)
  • How are you? – Hū gǣþ? (HOO GAYTH?)
  • Fine, thank you. – Wel, þancie. (WELL, THAN-kih-eh)
  • What is your name? – Hū hātest þu? / Hwæt is þīn nama? (HOO haat-est thoo? / HWAET iss theen nah-mah?)
  • My name is ______ . –  Ic hātte ______ . (itch HAHT-teh)
  • Nice to meet you. – Ēadig, þec tō mētenne. (“AY-diy THETCH TOE MAY-ten-neh”)
  • Pleased to meet you. – Mē līcode þec tō grētenne. (MAY LEE-koh-deh THETCH TOE GRAY-ten-neh)
  • That’s a kingly name – þin nama is cynelic. (Thin nam-uh iss koon-uh-litch)
  • God keep you (plural) – God eow gehealde (God yay-ow yu-hay-ald-uh)
  • Yes. Gēse. (YEH-zeh)
  • No. Nese. (NEH-zeh)


Mind your p’s and q’s in Anglo Saxon England!


  • Please. – Bidde. (BID-deh)
  • Thank you. – Ic þē þancie. (ITCH THAY THAN-ki-eh)
  • Thanks. – Þancas. (THAN-kahs)
  • You’re welcome. – Georne! (YOR-neh)
  • Excuse me. –  (getting attention) Hīerstu. (HIEHR-stoo)
  • Excuse me. – (begging pardon) Lāda mec. (LAH-dah METCH)
  • I’m sorry. Ic besorgie (hit). (itch be-SOR-khi-eh (hit))
  • Goodbye – Bēo gesund. (singular) Bēoþ gē gesunde (male)/gesunda (female)/gesund (mixed). (BAY-oh ye-SOONDBAY-ohth YAY ye-SOON-deh/ye-SOON-dah/ye-SOOND)
  • Goodbye – (informal) Sīe þu hāl. (SEE-eh thoo haal); Sīen gē hāle (male)/hāla (female)/hāl (mixed). (SEE-eh thoo HAA-leh/HAA-lah/HAAL)
  • Good morning. – Gōdne morgen. (GOAD-neh MOR-khen)
  • Good evening. – Gōdne ǣfen. (GOAD-neh AY-ven)
  • Good night –  Ēadigne ǣfen giet. (AY-diy-neh AY-ven yet)
  • Good night – (to sleep) Gōde niht. (GO-deh nisht)


Useful Questions and Phrases

The most useful phrases in Old English!


  • I can’t speak English (well). – Ic ne cann [wel] Englisce sprecan. (itch ne kann [well] ENG-li-sheh spre-kann)
  • Do you speak English? – Spricst þu / Sprecaþ gē Englisce? (sprikhst thoo / sprekath yay ENG-li-sheh?)
  • Is there someone here who speaks English? – Is hēr ǣnig þe Englisce spricþ? (ISS HAIR AY-nee, theh ENG-li-sheh sprikth?)
  • Help! – Help! (HELP!)
  • I don’t understand. – Ic þæt ne undergiete. (itch thaat neh OONDER-YEH-teh)
  • Where is the toilet, please?  Hwǣr is se feltūn, bidde? (HWAIR iss seh fell-toon, BID-deh?)
  • I love you. – Ic þe lufie (itch thay luff-ee-eh)
  • Alas! There’s a snowstorm! – Eala!! Her bið sneawgebland. (Ay-all-uh!! Hair bith snay-ow-yuh-bland)
  • This fire is very hot þis ligbyrne ful hat is! (This liy-boor-nuh full haat iss!)
  • Watch out for the deep pit! – Beo ymbhydig færseaðes! (Bay-oh oomb-hoo-diy fair-say-ath-us!)
  • My wallet was stolen – þéofstolen mín nestpohha wæs  – (Thay-off-stoll-ehn meen nest-poch(like in Scottish ‘loch’)-ah waz)
  • Yer’ mum… – þine modor… (thee-nuh mow-door)
  • If you’re friendly I’ll give you money – Gif þu freonde sie, giefe þe gafol (yif thoo frey-ond-uh see-uh, yee-eff-uh thee gaf-ol)
  • Where has the internet gone? – Hwær cwom eormengrundwebb? (H-warr kwom ey-or-men-grund-webb)
  • Let’s sit and do nothing’ – Uton we sittan and nales don (oot-on way sit-an and naa-less don)
  • I am sick –   Ic eom seoc (man)/seoce (woman) (Itch ay-om say-ok(uh))
  • I am looking for something -Ic secce hwæthwugu (Itch sech-uh hwat-hwug-u)


At the Dinner Table

Please pass … = Gif me … (Yif me)

  • the knife = …þone seax (thoh-ne say-axe)
  • the cheeseþone ciese (thoh-ne chee-eh-suh)
  • the bread = …þone hlaf (thoh-ne h-laff)
  • the delicacyþone swetmete (thoh-ne sweht-may-te)

I drink beer/ale/wine  – Ic drince beor /ealu/wín (Itch drink-uh bey-or/ Ay-ah-loo/ ween)


Written by Tom Rowsell