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Old English Word Parts


Old English Word Parts

Old English Word Parts

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, you will focus on the following objectives:
  • Understanding word origins.
  • Understanding word parts.

Old English Word Parts

Vocabulary Terms

Old English was the language of Anglo-Saxon England. Some Old English word parts survive in today’s English.

Literature Connection

Some of the words in the modern English translation of Beowulf are derived from Old English words.

“Then, when darkness had dropped, Grendel Went up to Herot, wondering what the warriors Would do in that hall when their drinking was done.”


In the quotation above, the word darkness comes from the Old English word deorc (dark), wondering comes from wundor (to wonder), drinking comes from drincan (to drink), and do and done both come from the word don (to act).

Old English Word Parts

Knowing Old English word parts can make analyzing unfamiliar language much easier. Below is a chart listing some of these word parts and their meanings.

Prefix or Suffix Meaning Example Words
a- in a condition asleep
be- completely, thoroughly befuddle
for- completely, detrimentally forsake
un- opposite of unfold
-ful full of plentiful
-ly in the manner of quickly
-ness state or condition likeness
-ship quality, state, or condition kinship
-some having the quality of burdensome

Old English Word Parts Quiz

Read the following passages from Beowulf. Using the chart above, determine which word or words contain an Old English suffix or prefix. Explain how each word is derived from Old English.

  1. “Of Cain, murderous creatures banished / By God, punished forever for the crime / Of Abel’s death.” (lines 21–23) 
  2. “That agony hung / On king and people alike, harsh / And unending, violent and cruel, and evil.” (lines 87–89) 
  3. “In the lap of their shining ship, lined / With gleaming armor, going safely.” (lines 110–111)

Answer Key

  1. forever, for-  
  2. alike, a-; unending, un
  3. safely, -ly
Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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