Dictionaries of Old English

Still under production, the Dictionary of Old English is an essential tool for Old English research. Published by the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, the Dictionary "defines the vocabulary of the first six centuries (600-1150 A.D.) of the English language, using today's most advanced technology." To date nearly one-third complete, the Dictionary is available in three formats:

Dictionary of Old English (online version) HOLLIS record [Harvard ID required]

Dictionary of Old English: A-G on CD-ROM  [Widener Harvard Depository RBS] HOLLIS Record

Dictionary of Old English [microform] HOLLIS Record 

The standard print dictionary of Old English is "Bosworth-Toller": Joseph Bosworth, An Anglo-Saxon dictionary. Supplement by T. Northcote Toller, with revised and enlarged addenda by Alistair Campbell (Oxford, 1992). [Widener RR 2141.4.5.1] HOLLIS Record; see also the digitized online version.

A practical dictionary for students is J.R. Clark-Hall, A concise Anglo-Saxon dictionary. 4th ed., with a supplement by Herbert D. Meritt (Toronto, 1984). HOLLIS Record (2nd ed. full text available online via Internet Archive)

Etymological Resources for Old English

To date there is no English-language etymological dictionary of Old English.  To find the etymologies of Old English words, several strategies are available to English speakers.  If an Old English word is continued in Modern English, sources such as the Dictionary of Old English or the glossary in Klaeber's edition of Beowulf will provide the Modern English reflex within the entry for the Old English word, e.g., OE thegn ['THANE']. Users may then search for etymological information by looking up the Modern English word in sources such as the following:

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online [Harvard ID required].  Note that OED coverage of Old English is limited to OE words that are continued in Middle or Modern English (i.e., words not recorded beyond the Old English period are excluded).

C.T. Onions, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (Oxford, 1966). HOLLIS Record

Calvert Watkins, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (3rd ed., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011). HOLLIS Record

Although much outdated, the standard German-language etymological dictionary of OE is Ferdinand Holthausen, Altenglisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Winter, 1934). HOLLIS Record

More detailed and up-to-date etymological coverage may be available for Old English words, but finding it involves further steps as well as a knowledge of German.  First, search for the etymology of the OE word in either of the Oxford sources above, then look to see if the OE word has a cognate (related form) in Old High German (OHG). Then check the entry for the OHG cognate in the Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Althochdeutschen [Etymological Dictionary of Old High German]. [WID-LC PF3961 .L56x 1988] HOLLIS Record

Subject Guide