Differences Between Old English And Middle English

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by QCity Editorial Stuff

The English language has changed greatly throughout its history. The oldest form of this language is Old English, also known as Anglo-Saxon, which was spoken between about 500 and 1150 A.D., whereas Middle English was spoken from about 1100 to 1500 A.D (1). These forms are quite different linguistically; for example, Old English had no writing system at all but used a runic alphabet called Futhorc (2). Additionally, many words were spelled differently in these two periods (3). This blog post will explore some of these differences between old and middle English, including changes to their pronunciation and spelling conventions.

Old English and Middle English are two different languages that differ in many aspects. Old English is an inflected language, meaning it changes the form of words depending on their function in a sentence. Middle English was much closer to Modern English; it had lost most inflections by this period. One difference between these two languages is how they spelled the word “I”. In Old English, “I” would be written as ic or ich while in Middle English it would be written as Ie or it.

Comparison Between Old English And Middle English

Parameters of ComparisonOld EnglishMiddle English
Vocabulary Less vocabulary Huge vocabulary 
Word Not added More word added 
Suffixed Not added Added 
Not used in old English Used in Middle English 
Introduced in middle English Was in old English 

What Is Old English?

Old English is a language that was spoken in England from about 600 AD to 1100 AD. It’s called “Old” because it was the language of the Anglo-Saxons, who invaded and settled in England during this period. The Anglo-Saxons spoke a Germanic dialect which became Old English when they mixed with the Celtic languages of native Britons and Latin speakers who had been living there since Roman times.

Old English is a branch of the Germanic language family and has been around for over 1,500 years. It is often called Anglo-Saxon because it was spoken by the Angles, Saxons (and Jutes), who settled in what became England and spread into what became Scotland and Ireland. The term “Old English” refers to early versions of this language that date back to 700–900 AD. Old English includes many words not found in later versions of these languages; some examples are wibban meaning “to live,” weald meaning “to kill,” cwén meaning “queen.

What Is Middle English?

What Is Middle English

Middle English is a language that developed from Old English, the language of Anglo-Saxon settlers in Britain. In this blog post, we will go over some information on Middle English’s history and how it came to be. We’ll also talk about its influence on Modern English. 

To understand what Middle English is, let us first take a look at Old English–the language spoken by Germanic tribes who settled in Britain during the 5th century A.D., which would eventually evolve into modern-day British and American dialects like Cockney and Southern American (and more). The biggest difference between Old and Middle was vowel pronunciation (see below for more details), but there were other differences too! For instance, Old English did not have a writing system. 

10 Differences Between Old English And Middle English

1. Old English is written in runes, which are symbols that represent letters of the alphabet.

2. Middle English has a larger vocabulary than Old English.

3. There are more words for animals and plants in Middle English because it was influenced by Latin.

4. Older words in Middle English have been replaced with newer ones over time.

5. The suffixes -en and -ing were used to form new verbs from nouns in Old English but not as much in Middle English. 

6. In some cases, ‘-eth’ was added to verbs ending with a vowel sound to make them agree with the subject.

7. The letter “k” was not used in Old English.

8. There were no capital letters in Middle English.

9. The letter “j” was introduced to the alphabet in Middle English.

10. Words that end with a vowel and then an “s” (e.g., “cats”) would have been pronounced differently than words ending with a consonant followed by an “s” (e.g., “bats”). 

Interesting Statistics Or Facts Of Old English 

1. Old English was the language of England from around 450 to 1150.

2. The first known writings in Old English are runic inscriptions found on monuments and other objects, dating back to around 400.

3. Old English is a West Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of the British Isles.

4. Around 4 million people speak old English today as their native tongue.

5. “Old English” means “English before 1100” or “the form of the language used after 1066”.

6. Most words in modern-day English come from old English, but many have changed meanings over time.

Interesting Statistics Or Facts Of Middle English

1. The Middle English language is a descendant of Old English.

2. It was the first language to be written in the Roman alphabet.

3. Middle English has been around since 1100 AD and is still used today for some purposes such as poetry, theater scripts, and even novels.

4. Tristan & Isolde, one of the most well-known love stories in history, was originally written in Middle English by Thomas Malory.

5. In 1485 AD William Caxton printed what would become the first book ever printed in England.

6. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were also originally written in Middle English.

Conclusion About The Differences Between Old English And Middle English

Middle English is a period in which you will find the earliest form of the language. In Middle English, words were spelled phonetically and vowels could be omitted from written versions of the text. This was because there was no standardization for writing at this point in history. There are many differences between Old English and Middle English that have been identified by experts over the years including spelling changes, grammar alterations, word forms being expanded or simplified, etc. If you want to know more about these distinctions then it’s best to consult an expert on the subject.


Resource 01: https://www.bl.uk/medieval-literature/articles/old-english
Resource 02: https://public.oed.com/blog/middle-english-an-overview/

Scroll to Top