Monday, September 18, 2017

Anglo-Norman and Sound Art

Describing the meaning and semantic range of Anglo-Norman words has always been, and still is, the primary function of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary. However, the online AND ( also provides material, tools and research possibilities for medievalists, linguists and many other disciplines. When Dr. Alan Chamberlain, Senior Fellow in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Nottingham, visited us last week, to talk about a new and exciting project he proposes between his Mixed Reality Lab (University of Nottingham) and the Anglo-Norman Dictionary, the cross-disciplinary potential of online AND resources was clearly central to his ideas.
Dr. Chamberlain explains his views on scholarly innovation through incorporating Anglo-Norman and the AND in his Experimental Digital Humanities and Sound Art:

Funnily enough I’d been reading a book on medicine in medieval society and had come across the Anglo-Norman word mire referring to a specific sort of medical practitioner.  I’d looked up and come across the AHRC funded Anglo-Norman Dictionary project, and I’d met the Principal Investigator (Dr Geert De Wilde) previously at a Digital Humanities conference and a Sound Art symposium.  So I thought I’d get in touch. 

Dr. Geert De Wilde (AND) and Dr. Alan Chamberlain (University of Nottingham) 

As someone who researches HCI (Human Computer Interaction) archives, their building and design are interesting, but I think that the Dictionary is much more than an archive, it’s a great resource that goes beyond mere semantics, and provides a resource for anyone that wants to engage with and use the content that they hold and work with.  Currently I lead the Design and Performance strands of the EPSRC funded FAST Project, so it was interesting to see how the dictionary dealt with semantics and sound from a historical perspective. It’s not difficult to see how this might be developed in the future, as another strand of the dictionary.

I’m currently working on developing an immersive opera-based experience with the Finnish composer Maria Kallionpää, and in August I performed a work that I’d been developing with Prof Dave De Roure and Pip Willcox, from the University of Oxford and Bodleian Library, based on Ada Lovelace. Our investigation and experiments started to form a methodology that we called –‘Experimental Digital Humanities’. The performance can be found here: 

 I’ve just started to look at working with the Anglo-Norman Dictionary Project and using their content and expertise to inform another piece that I have started to mentally sketch out, and I would like to work more with them in the future. I already have a pile of references and notes – both on Anglo-Norman medicinal sources and on semantic fields within the dictionary of ‘sound’ (cf. their extremely useful ‘Search by semantic or usage labels’ option) from the visit. 

The research that is funded in the UK is of international importance and really does offer people the chance to work together to explore and create innovative and impactful experiences that wouldn’t normally happen.

- Dr Alan Chamberlain (note the Anglo-Norman Dictionary entry on his name!) is a Senior Fellow in the Department of Computer Science (Mixed Reality Lab), University of Nottingham, a visiting Academic at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Friday, May 5, 2017

AND site update: Search by semantic tag

The revised semantic labeling system

Already in the first published fascicle of AND1 (back in the late 1970s), the English definitions sometimes were given a semantic category label. For example, sub abatre1, the sense ‘to abate, put an end to’ was labelled ‘(law)’ and the sense ‘fir tree’ sub abiet had the label ‘(bot.)’. These bracketed items served to clarify the semantic context, identifying the first example as a legal term and the second as belonging to the semantic domain of botany

However, even in the first phases of the AND2, no clear editorial policy, let alone statement, existed about what labels should be used, where or why. In practice these labels (eccl., orn., med., nav., culin., arithm. etc.)  were inserted ad hoc, as and when an individual editor thought it would clarify a definition. As a result, such labels as were present were seriously inconsistent.

(For further discussion of this, see Geert De Wilde, ‘Re-Considering the Semantic Labels of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary’, in: David Trotter, Present and Future Research in Anglo-Norman: Aberystwyth Colloquium, July 2011, Aberystwyth, The Anglo-Norman Online Hub, 2012, pp. 143-50; available for download on

As a major 'deliverable' of the AHRC award which funded the revision of letters N to Q between 2012 and 2017, the labeling of entries was completely re-thought and re-implemented A-Z. A more comprehensive and clearly defined set of 105 semantic labels was established, drawing on but also extending and rationalizing those already AND, and on semantic systems applied by the OED, the HTE and the disciplines used in TLF. 

The outcome is a searchable semantic network underlying the dictionary definitions, which will be extended and refined as the revision of entries progressively adds new material, and as earlier sections of the AND are reworked. Further labels may be added and others may still be adjusted. However, as it is, the present system provides solid information and a reliable outcome that, for the first time, enables AND-users to study and investigate the Anglo-Norman language from a semantic perspective.

Searching the labels

The brand new label searching interface can be entered either from its link on the site home page (‘Search by semantic or usage labels’), or from the dictionary’s entry-browsing interface, using  the ≡ icon, near the top right of the screen.

The label searching interface opens. In the left-hand area is an alphabetical list of the semantic labels. [A second tab in that area lists Usage labels (i.e. labels that do not indicate semantic areas, but ‘usage’, such as ‘ironic’, ‘curse’, ‘euphemism’ ‘figurative’), and a third one Groups of labels, which are in effect pre-selected multi-label queries which automate and combine some of the separate steps for building a label query, which are described below)].

The ‘info’ symbol displays explanatory information (in the second column) about how exactly each label is defined, with, in some cases, hints about possible alternative or additional labels.

Highlight one or more labels, click ‘search’, and all entries with there relevant senses will appear in the second box.

Click on any blue headword, and the third column will show a fuller extract from the entry concerned, comprising the part(s) of speech of the labelled sense(s) and the actual sense itself, with its gloss and the attestation(s) attached to it, including their sigla and location reference.

Multiple search terms and logical operators

You may select as many labels as you wish.  Each time a dropdown-menu will appear between two selected labels offering the options ‘AND’, ‘OR’ and ‘NOT’. 

The logical operator ‘OR’ retrieves every sense that has either of the labels concerned alone (as well as both of them together). ‘AND’ between two search terms produces a smaller number of results because both of the labels must be present on a given sense. Finally ‘NOT’ removes all instances of a given semantic tag (for example ‘weapons’ but NOT ‘military’).

The most common group queries have already been added under the third tab in the first column of preconfigured ‘Groups’.

For example, the group ‘Fauna’ represents the string ‘amph. OR crustacean OR horses OR ich. OR insect OR mammals OR orn. OR rept. OR zool.’, and retrieves all Anglo-Norman lexis for animals. As with the other searches, further semantic tags can be added or removed. Furthermore, the results can be ‘pruned’, as all extracts in the right hand can also be removed individually.  (They can always be restored by reselecting them in the central column).
It is possible to download the results of each search, by clicking on the ‘download the extracts below’ button: a file will be sent to your browser with the extracts concerned which you can then store and view locally. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

AND site update: interface and layout

In the new updated version of the AND site (, there are now various ways of adjusting the way an entry is displayed and, to a certain extent, to customize the dictionary’s interface.

1. Font size. You can enlarge or reduce the font size of displayed entries using the A+ and A- buttons on the button bar near the top of the screen.

2. Hide citations. You can hide or reveal the citations in a displayed entry using the ‘[SHOW/HIDE] Citations’ button, also on the button bar. Particularly in longer entries, this option may be useful to get a quick overview of the full semantic range of a word.

It has to be noted that unlike the ‘sense boxes’ already available for a while in longer entries, this new feature includes a) all of the semantic tags and b) all locutions and their senses.

3. Display layout. Using the "gear wheel" setting icon at the top of the screen you can choose between three display layouts for the entry: "Compact", roughly equivalent to the previous standard layout, or "Normal" or "Expanded" which add progressively more white space and line-breaks between entry components. These layout settings "stick" for the remainder of your session unless you choose to change them.

Older features remain active and may be worth reminding of:

1. Expand the reference. If you click or tap on any reference siglum following a citation, bibliographical information for that siglum will appear in a small window of its own.

2. Look up any word in any citation. If you double-click on any Anglo-Norman form within a citation, the server will send back, in an overlaid window, the results of looking up the form you have double-clicked on in the Dictionary, followed by a list of all the citations in which that form occurs. (This feature does not work on tablets or touchscreen devices.)

3. Get a list of consulted entries. The server maintains a list of the entries you have consulted, either by choosing them from a pick list, or by following cross references within entry bodies, for as long as your session lasts. (Your "session" generally comes to an end when either close down your browser, or load a completely different site into the tab or window you have been using to view the AND). In the button bar near the top of the main browsing interface, you will see a link labelled "List entries visited". Clicking this link will cause whatever wordlist you have displayed to the left of the screen to be replaced by a list of the entries you have viewed so far.

The site has been redesigned to be fully usable on Apple Ipad devices, including the Ipad Mini 2 and later. Some Android-based tablets will also give satisfactory results, but there is too much variability among Android devices to support them comprehensively. It is also not practicable within the project's current budget to make all the features of the Dictionary usable on mobile telephones. However for occasional use to look up A-N words where no other device is available, the main browsing / searching interface (though not other portions of the site) will adapt to the dimensions of a phone-sized display, enabling the main facilities of that interface (the scrolling wordlist and the search by free-form entry).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

AND site update: search options

Last week, the lay-out and presentation of the online AND [] was updated (for the first time since it was opened to the public back in 2006!), making it compatible for use on computers, tablets or handheld devices and adding new features. In the next couple of blog-posts, we will talk you through some of the possibilities and changes.

One immediately striking difference is that the main AND page now has two search boxes – two main ways of accessing entries in the dictionary.

1. Use ‘jump to’ for browsing the alphabetical list of headwords.

At start-up, the left-hand area of the screen shows a segment of the headword list starting with the first entry. As before, forms in white link directly to a substantive entry. Forms in yellow indicate a cross-reference headword, and lead automatically to the referenced substantive entry or entries. Click or tap on a headword to fetch the entry into the main area of the screen.

You can alter the point at which the wordlist begins by typing one or more letters into the "Jump to" box just above the list. For example, tapping or clicking in the "Jump to" box then pressing the "g" key will move the wordlist to the first entry that starts with that letter.

You may type as many letters as you wish. If you type in a sequence of letters that is an AND headword, the list will be updated to start at that word. Otherwise, the list will start at the alphabetically closest match to whatever you typed in. You may then move through the wordlist by clicking or tapping the up or down arrow buttons above or below the list.

You can change the list start position at any time by typing into the "Jump to" box.

Please note that this is not intended as a search mechanism. If a given form is indeed an AND headword, this method will locate the entry concerned. But the AND contains many variant and/or inflected forms which do not figure as headwords, hence you will not find them by headword browsing. For a thorough search, you should use the method described next.

2. Use ‘search’ for entering a form to find a specific entry

If your search term matches any headword or variant form, or on any word that is recognized as an attested form of a headword item, you will see a list of the matched entries on the left, from which you can select entries to be displayed in the main area.

The list of matched entries will replace the standard alphabetic headword list on the display, but you can recover that list at any time using the RESTORE A-Z WORDLIST button above it.

By checking the box to the right of the input area you may ‘use regular expressions’ in your search term, i.e. search for parts of words: if you are unclear about what that means, please consult the full documentation.

In the next blogpost we will show you how, for the first time, you are now able to customize the lay-out and contents of any AND-entry.

Monday, January 30, 2017

WoM: Welsh words in Anglo-Norman

Last month, we discussed the presence of loanwords from Irish in Anglo-Norman, and this month, we would like to look further into the linguistic contact between Anglo-Norman and Celtic languages – this time focusing on Welsh. While there has been considerable research into the influence of (Anglo-)French on the Welsh language, particularly in the literary sphere, linguistic contact between the two languages in the administrative and judicial spheres remains relatively poorly studied[1]

Among the materials and sources used for the compilation of the AND we find two editions that bring together documents written in Wales by Welshmen: the Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales, and the Calendar of Ancient Petitions Relating to Wales. The former contains mainly records of correspondence between the English royal court and nobles in Wales, while the latter provides evidence of petitions from individuals throughout Wales to the English king. There are limitations to using these two works - they are primarily calendars, intended to discuss the contents of the document, and often do not include the text. Although hardly indicative of there ever being widespread levels of comprehension of Anglo-Norman in Wales, this documentation does suggest the presence of scribes, notaries or other public servants, in all parts of Wales, with a high level of linguistic competence in Welsh, Anglo-Norman and Latin.

(Aberystywth Castle)

Trotter’s examination of the above mentioned texts, supplemented with his own transcriptions of a limited number of documents in Welsh archives, unearthed twenty Welsh words used in Anglo-Norman context. Of these, nine are currently included as entries in the AND: amobres, commot, frith 3, havoterie, hildenraeth, keveretz, kymorthas, merchet 1 and obeduz. As with Irish, all of the loanwords occur in administrative documentation, and for Welsh, a great number of the terms refer to legal concepts.[2] There is currently no evidence of Welsh words being used in Anglo-Norman literary texts, though it is known that a number of Anglo-Norman works were composed or copied in Wales.

Some of the borrowing of Welsh legal terms seems to be driven by the need to refer to Welsh law - one document refers explicitly to the law of Howel the Good, and in the entry for keveretz we find:

aprés la conqueste de Galis lor graunta lor leis et lor usages q'il aveient [...] la conqueste [...] keveretz Howel les queiles eux et lor auncestres ount eou et usé RLiR 58 482 (National Archives SC 8/146/7288)
['after the conquest of Wales, he granted them their laws and their usages as they had [before] the conquest [...] the cyfraith Hywel which they and their ancestors had and used']

The word keveretz is intriguing, as it renders the Welsh cyfraith, ‘law, legislation’[3], but clearly reformulates it, not only adjusting the spelling, but even producing an Anglo-Norman plural.
The documents also refer to amobres, a term for 'marriage fee' from the Welsh amobrand obeduz (from Welsh ebediw) referring to 'the rendering of a live beast to a lord at the death of a tenant'. A commot was a territorial and administrative division in Wales (Welsh cwmwd) and is attested in three different source texts in Anglo-Norman. The word was, from the end of the 12th century, present in Latin under the form commotus (DMLBS 397a) and from the 13th century, also present in English (see OED commot, n 37273) so it seems likely that the Anglo-Norman word is not a direct borrowing from Welsh.

Hywel Dda , Latin translation, British Library Harley 1792 f.3

Other Welsh words refer to the specific types of taxes owed by the local population: hildenraeth,[4] that is, a tax paid in oats, is likely derived from the Welsh hildaf  'to produce (a certain amount of crop)' and treth meaning 'tax' while kymorthas, from the Welsh cymorth, refers to a tribute of cattle owed to a lord, though the sole use of it in the Anglo-Norman citation below is ambiguous:

Item, qe nulls westours, et rymours, mynstrales, ou vacabundes, ne soient sustenuz en Gales, pur faire kymorthas ou quyllages sur le commune people, les queux par lour divinaciones, messonges et excitacions, sont concause de la insurrection et rebellion q’or est en Gales Rot Parl1 iii 508
[‘Item, that no wastrels and rhymers, minstrels or vagabonds, be sustained in Wales to receive tribute or money from the common people, who, by their divinations, lies and incitations are the root cause of the insurrection and rebellion that is currently in Wales’]

Legal terms are not the only type of borrowing from Welsh - a number of agricultural terms used by the local populations are also found in these texts. Frith is the equivalent of the Welsh ffridd, meaning 'mountain pasture', though the term ultimately derives from Old English (see OED frith,n.2). Havoterie 'summer meadow' derives from the Welsh hafod or 'summer residence' or 'upland farm'.

A nostre seignur le Roy et a son consail monstrent ses povre gentz bondes de sa havoterie en le counté de Meyronnyth qe [...] RLiR 58 482 (PRO SC 8/258/12874)
[To our lord the King and to his council we show the poor bondsmen of his summer meadow in the county of Merioneth that [...] ]

Welsh borrowings slated to be added to the AND in the course of its present revision to the Second Edition, include the terms raglot, raglour and ragelotie. These all refer to the Welsh rhaglaw, that is, ‘vicegerent, viceroy, deputy’. The term raglot is equally attested in Latin from 1304 (DMBLS 2650a raglotus ‘ragler, chief officer of commot’ ) while raglour was equally used in Middle English, though the earliest citation of the word in the MED and OED is in an Anglo-Norman text (MED raglore n.; OED raglour n. 157484). The DMLBS (2649c) attests to the use of the form raglarius ‘ragler, chief officer of commot’ from 1485. Raglotia ‘office of ragler, raglership’ is attested from 1314 while raglaria is attested from 1334. It seems likely that these terms have entered Anglo-Norman through Latin.

La ragelotie de Cruthyn  RLiR 58 483 (PRO SC 8/124/6154)
[The rhaglawry of Cruthyn’]

Ultimately, there are few identified borrowings from Welsh and Irish into Anglo-Norman, and those that are present are largely as a result of the borrowing of technical vocabulary in administrative documents. This may suggest a lower degree of contact between Welsh and Anglo-Norman as well as between Irish and Anglo-Norman than that between Middle English and Anglo-Norman. However, as Trotter emphasizes in his article, it is most certainly the case that Anglo-Norman documents from these areas remain less studied, and it may be that further investigations into the archival holdings in contacts zones in Ireland, Wales and Scotland may yield further evidence of language contact between the Celtic languages and Anglo-Norman.


[1] We are indebted to the work done by Prof. David Trotter on the topic, particularly the article ‘L’anglo-français au Pays de Galles: une enquête préliminaire’, Revue de Linguistique romane, 58 (1994), 461-88. Trotter provides a summary of studies on the (Anglo-)French influence on Welsh on p. 462, note 2 of his article.
[2] That’s not to suggest that the writing of Anglo-Norman by Welsh individuals was restricted to the production of administrative material. As Trotter notes (p.461), Hue de Roteland, who wrote Ipomedon [Ipom BFR] and Protheslaus [Proth ants] was from Rhuddlan (Dyfed) and a Simon of Carmarthen composed Le Chemin de Penitence [Penit].
[3] We use here the headwords and definitions of the Geriadur Prifysgol Cyrmu (
[4] It should be noted that this spelling has been rejected by the AND. The term should read hildevraeth.

Friday, December 30, 2016

WoM: Kerne and the Celtic languages

Over the last few months, our blog posts have focused on loan words in Anglo-Norman - from Greek, from Italian, from Mongolian ... This month and the next, we are going to have a look at some Anglo-Norman words borrowed from Celtic languages.

Medieval Britain was a multilingual environment, and it is clear that there was a high level of contact between Anglo-Norman, Middle English and Medieval Latin, resulting in a high level of loan words between the languages. But these were not the only languages used at this period in the Anglo-Norman regnum, which also included Ireland, Wales and Scotland. It is perhaps surprising then that relatively few words in the AND are tagged as deriving from either Welsh or Irish and no borrowings seem to have come from Scots Gaelic. This is a phenomenon that bears a closer look, suggestive of a very different contact situation in the Celtic countries than in England. Can the pattern and frequency of borrowings offer insights into the use of Anglo-Norman in Ireland, Wales and Scotland as well as offer clues about the level of contact between speakers of Anglo-Norman and the local languages? There appears to have been little work done on this perspective, to our knowledge, though we would be very happy to hear of work done on this topic![1]

There are a number of Anglo-Norman texts which were composed in Ireland - these are sometimes referred to as Hiberno-Norman works. These include La Geste des Engleis en Yrlande (Dermot2), composed around 1225, as well as numerous administrative texts extant from the period of Anglo-Norman rule, which can be found in our List of Texts under the following sigla: Affairs of Ireland, Chart St Mary's, Ireland, Irish Docs, Stats and Ords Ireland and Windsor. Despite the relatively large number of works produced in the area, there are currently only six words in the AND tagged as Irish: betagh, cro, jacoine, kerne, kernemen and grawe.

BL Arundel 14 f. 27v.; 'partially damaged map of islands including Ireland (labelled 'Hybernia') and 'Britannia' in Giraldus Cambrensis's Topographia Hiberniae' from the BL Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Betagh, may be from the Irish bétach, an adjective meaning 'doughty, valorous' but also 'violent, wanton', used substantively in the AND. It occurs once in a document from Waterford, written around 1300:

si un baron ou un chevaler ou autre gentishomme eit neifs, sicome maniere de betagh, e aventure aveigne q'il sont nees de sur la terre le avant dist baron ou chevaler ou autre frankhomme, e il ne puet pas estre demené a droiture, si com son pere estoit avant lui Bor Cust ii 89

['if a baron or knight or other gentleman has villeins, after the fashion of the betagh, and it happens that they are born on the land of the said baron or knight or other freeman, and he may not be held to right as his father was before him']

The editor of Bor Cust glosses the term as 'Irish villein' though it doesn't seem that the term had much currency in Irish.

Jascoine refers to the mythological fish encountered by Saint Brendan on his journey. The name of this fish, iasconius, may derive from the Irish íasc . The DMBLS suggests this possible etymology for the term as it appears in the Navigatio S. Brendani. The Anglo-Norman term no doubt derives from the Latin and not directly from the Irish term.

Grawe seems to refer to a type of cup or goblet, though the etymon remains unclear. It has been cautiously identified as Irish, due to the context, but may in fact be something else:

iii. coups e iii. grauntz hanaps qe hom appele ‘grawes’ d’argent  Affairs of Ireland 134

['3 cups and 3 big goblets of silver which one calls 'grawes']

Kerne and kernemen, from the Irish ceithern, refer to a type of lightly-armed Irish foot soldier. These terms seem to have been more widely used than the previous ones, and we find them used in a number of Irish administrative documents as well as in a letter written by Richard II from Waterford.

ou estoient de eux tuéz .clxij hommes armés et les kernes armez Lett & Pet 347.11

['there where .clxij. of their armed men and armed Irish foot-soldiers were killed']

Kerne is known in Middle English as well (MED kerne n. and OED kern n.1) so it is possible that the word entered Anglo-Norman though English rather than Irish. The earliest citation of the word is in a Latin text of 1297, which the use of it in Anglo-Norman is attested from 1316. The earliest use in an English document dates from 1423. The compound kernemen certainly suggests an English influence, though this compound does not seem to have been recorded in English.

Cro is a legal term, defined as 'fine for homicide' and appears in Irish as cro. It appears in a single, perplexing citation:

Item le cro et le galnys et le enach uniuscuiusque hominis sunt pares APS 664.

The citation, using Latin as the matrix language, but with the Anglo-Norman definite article to introduce the three terms from the other vernaculars, provides three synonyms for the same concept of 'wergild'. Firstly, cro from Irish; secondly, galnys, the Welsh galanas, an equivalent concept; and, thirdly, enach.

The last term could be from the Irish enech (found in the expression lóg n-enech 'honour-price') but also possibly a Scots Gaelic term, as it is found in a document from the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland and most likely a synonym for the other two terms. This is the only term identified as Scots Gaelic in the AND.

Ultimately, there are few identified borrowings from Irish into Anglo-Norman. This may suggest a must have been lower level of contact between the two languages than between Middle English and Anglo-Norman. However, it may also be the case that documents from these areas are must less studied, and that further investigations into the archival holdings in contacts zones in Ireland, may yield further evidence of language contact. We'll compare these results with Welsh in the next post.


[1] We'd like to thank the eDIL for their assistance, and for bringing the article H. Risk, 'French Loan-words in Irish', Études Celtiques 12 (1970/71) 585-655 & 14 (1974) 67-69 to our attention. Any mistakes in this blog are our own!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WoM: Greek lexis in Anglo-Norman

The alpha, but not quite yet the omega, of Greek lexis in Anglo-Norman.

As primarily a Romance language, Anglo-Norman more often than not traces the origins of its lexis back to Latin. As such, determiner comes from determinare, leun2 from leo and oreison from oratio – three entirely random but straightforward examples of how this type of development is so integral to the formation of a romance language that the AND will not highlight these words as Latin in origin. Evidently, Latin did not have exclusive rights to the formation of Anglo-Norman vocabulary – as our blogposts of the last few months have already testified, with examples from Mongolian (or not), Persian and Italian. Indeed, Anglo-Norman in its very nature is, to some extent, defined by an influx of Germanic, and specifically Anglo-Saxon/English, elements. For this month’s post we will take a look at the role of the second Classical language that contributed so much to the pan-European vocabulary: Greek. And what was its effect on the lexis of Anglo-Norman?

Medieval or Byzantine Greek, a term used for the language as it was used between approximately the sixth and mid-fifteenth century, was a mixture of the original Classical Greek and subsequent Koine Greek (the form of Greek which developed as the common Hellenistic and international dialect, and which was used, for example, in the Septuagint translation of the Bible and in the New Testament).

(Codex Skylitzes Matritensis, Bibliteca Nacional de Madrid, Vitr. 26-2, fol. 34v)

As before, using the ‘language tags’ that appear in the Anglo-Norman Dictionary entries, it now takes little or no effort to retrieve those words already considered to be of Greek origin. But with only 17 entries of the entire AND thus revealing themselves as ‘Greek’, the results seem at first look somewhat disappointing. Let us first take a look at those 17 entries and the contexts in which these loanwords appear.

Most of these words (7) are attested in medicinal texts: leucos, the Greek for white (λευκός), turns up in an explanation of leucoflemancie, a type of dropsy (λευκοφλεγματία):


si est dite leucoflemancia por ce qu'ele est faite de blanche fleume; leucos et blanc si est trestot une chose A-N Med i 230

(‘and so it is called ‘leuciflemancia’ because it consists of white phlegm; ‘leucos’ and white are one and the same thing’)


Similarly we have the words melangiron for ‘black jaundice’ (related to μελάγχιμος in the sense of ‘black, dark’) and inopos (from οἰνωπός, ‘red as wine’) to refer to a certain type of reddish urine. All of these appear mid-thirteenth-century translation of Johannes Platearius’s Practica Brevis – a Latin text but including Greek elements. The term kili vena occurs several times in that same text with reference to the main vein carrying blood from the lower body into the heart. The first element in this Latinized collocation derives from κοῖλος – the Greek word for ‘hollow’. In the Anglo-Norman Euperiston (an early-fourteenth-century text believed to have been translated from Latin as well) a discussion of anorexia explains orexis as meaning ‘appetite’:


Fastidium est apelé de Galien anorexia; si est dit de ‘a’, ke est a dire 'sanz', e ‘orexis’, ke est a dire 'appetit', sicum 'sanz appetit' A-N Med ii 168.133

(‘fastidium’ is called ‘anorexia’ by Galienus; this is formed by ‘a’, that is ‘without’, and ‘orexis’, that is ‘appetite’, and thus ‘without appetite’)


Finally, at least two separate collections of Anglo-Norman medicinal recipes use to term ana with the meaning of ‘in the same amount’ (Greek ἀνά, cf. DMLBS ana1):


Pernet les freides herbes si com jubarbe e teittesoriz e teles choses ana de chescune Five Med MSS 107.S185

(‘take cold herbs, such as houseleek and stonecrop, in equal quantity’)


It is apparent that in these cases, Greek terminology is retained from an original source text, and more often than not the word remains a ‘foreign’ borrowing in Anglo-Norman, with an explicit awareness of its Greek nature and origin.

(BL, Add MS 24371, fol. 15v, John Chrysostom’s 72nd Homily on the Gospel of Matthew)

The same can be said for Anglo-Norman words that derive from Greek mythology or history. The AND currently includes catoplepa (a Latinized from (as used in Pliny) of Greek κατω-βλέπων, literally ‘down-looker’) which refers to an African animal, usually identified as either a buffalo or an antelope; lethes (Λήθη, one of the five rivers of Hades whose waters induce forgetfulness) meaning ‘amnesia’; Melos (Μήλος, a Greek island north of Crete); and omega (Ωμέγα, the last letter of the Greek alphabet). The Anglo-Norman translation of Vegetius’ De re militari mentions the use of a monoxille, a type of boat made from a single piece of wood (μονόξυλος), by the Roman military.

The AND also picked up Greek terminology from botany and philosophy, but again the results are surprisingly meagre. Firstly, yperichon is the Greek name for St John’s wort (ὑπερικόν) and appears as an ingredient in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century medical or dietary treatises in Anglo-Norman.[1] Secondly, yle, from Greek ὕλη (‘wood, timber, material’ but since Aristotle used to refer to ‘matter’; modern English hyle), is discussed and defined in the early thirteenth-century text, La Petite Philosophie:

Ore escutez des element, Ço est de yle les liemenz. Tant dit yle cum fet matire, Dunt tute rens pernent afeire; Yle est matire divine, Dunt tutes riens pernent orine Pet Phil 312, 313 and 315.
(‘Now hear about the elements, that is the attachments of ‘hyle’. ‘Hyle’ means as much as ‘matter from which everything takes form’; ‘Hyle’ is divine matter, from which everything originates’)

In a religious context, the Anglo-Norman version of Jerome’s Letter to Paulinus retains the term ogdoad (‘a group of eight divine beings’) with references to Egyptian deities, which derives from Greek ὀγδοάς (‘eight’).

One final word currently tagged as Greek in the AND is diadocupo, apparently a type of oven, which appears in a fourteenth-century Anglo-Norman collection of alchemical material and which, aside from its Greek-looking form, has not yet been identified by the editor of the text or the AND editorial team.

Clearly, the influence of Greek cannot have been as immense as that of Latin: Latin was, after all, both the source and a medieval living language, in constant contact with the Anglo-Norman world. In contrast, Greek must have been either the language of (major) historical texts or the language of communication with the distant Byzantine Empire – with which direct contact must have been minimal.[2] Still, this does not explain the overall paucity of Greek lexis as appears from our initial examination.

One reason, it should be noted, must be the very nature of the AND language tag. This tag was not intended to indicate etymology, but rather to highlight the origin of words that still seem to be loanwords or borrowings when used by Anglo-Norman scribe or authors. In many cases those two aspects will overlap, but it means that when a word is fully naturalized in Anglo-Norman, it normally does not carry a language tag. This will mainly (and understandably) affect Latin etymologies: for example, pere1 is not tagged Latin despite its origin in pater, simply because it no longer registers as a Latin loanword in Anglo-Norman, in the way, for example loquendes (‘points for discussion’) probably still did (hence the ‘Latin’ tag). The same will often be the case for Greek, and that is why an entry like apocalipse (from ἀποκάλυψις) does not currently have a Greek tag.

 (The Prognosticon of Hippocrates, Harley 6295, fol. 98r)

However, such a distinction (of etymology vs. loanword status) is often debatable, as it may be very difficult to gauge the extent to which a word is naturalized or not in Anglo-Norman, as it is for any medieval language. As such, it may be argued that some entries currently in the AND should be tagged as Greek. For example, the abovementioned ogdoadis is tagged, while ebdoadis, a similar term appearing two words earlier in the same source text, has not. Also, how about the many other Greek mythical beasts, such as gorgone, monosceros and fenix, currently included in the AND without any language tag? It is clear that a more concentrated re-consideration of the AND language tagging system could reveal a greater influx of Greek lexis.
To give but one example, a passage in the Anglo-Norman version of Mandeville’s Travels provides the names of all Greek letters of the alphabet, but so far, only omega has been given its own entry:

Si vous voilez savoir de lour A B C quelles letttres [sic] ils ount, ici les poez veer ovesqes les nouns qe ils les appellent: alpha, betha, gama, delta, ebrevis, elonge, epilmon, zetha, hetha, iota, kapda, lapda, or, ni, exi, obrevis, pi, cophe, ro, summa, thau, vi, fy, chi, psi, othomega, diacosin Mandeville 112

Fortunately, the online AND is a constant work in progress and its nature allows these omissions to be rectified in our next batch-update.

The problem also lies in a more general linguistic conundrum: very often Greek lexis reaches Anglo-Norman filtered through the medium of Latin. Particularly in Hellenistic times, Latin was prone to borrow Greek vocabulary extensively and subsequently Latinize it: for example, the abovementioned yperichon for St John’s wort (from Greek ὑπερικόν) has its Latin counterpart in hypericum (DMLBS 1192a). And randomly opening the DMLBS, we see phtisicus from φθισικόϛ (DMLBS 2270b, ‘one who suffers from consumption’, cf. AND tisik, while the new edition of P, to be published in February 2017, will contain the new entry ptisic), plectrum from πληκτρον (DMLBS 2316a, ‘instrument with which one plucks the strings of a harp or lyre’, cf. AND pleitrun), and pasta from παστά (DMLBS 2138b, ‘dough, paste’, cf. AND paste).
When such words turn up in Anglo-Norman, should the source be considered Latin or Greek? To some extent, the historical context may indicate a direct link with Greece or Greek writings: Anglo-Norman ju d’Olimpiades refers to a Greek event, even though it uses the Latin ‘i/y’ spelling instead of the Greek ‘u’ (Ὀλυμπιάς). Similarly, the abovementioned monoxille – the boat made form one piece of wood – features in a Latin text on the Roman military.

(BL, Add. MS 39594, fol. 1r)

On the whole, spelling can offer some insight into whether such a lexeme may have entered Anglo-Norman in its Greek or Latinized form (for example, the use of Greek ‘k’ versus Latin ‘c’, or nominal endings ‘-os’ and ‘-on’ versus ‘-us’ and ‘-um’), but on the whole, in a language where nominal endings are usually dropped and where ‘c’ spelling is generally preferred to ‘k’ spelling, such a distinction can rarely be made.

In conclusion, we must assume that, just as in the DMLBS, a great deal of Greek vocabulary is ‘hidden’ in AND entries that are currently tagged solely as ‘Latin’ or not tagged at all. Therefore, in this case an overview of the entries tagged as Greek in the AND constitutes only the tip of the iceberg of Greek influence on the Anglo-Norman lexis.


[1]  In Trevet’s Chronicle the word clearly retains its Greek nature:
la racine del herbe q’est en Gru appellé 'yperycon', qe nous apelloms 'herbe percee' ou 'herbe Johan' TRIV 48.76
(‘the root of the herb which in Greek is called ‘ypericon’, which we call ‘herbe percee’ or ‘herbe Johan’)
[2]  For example, the visit of Manual II Paleologus, Byzantine Emperor, to England (and his stay at the palace of Henry IV) in 1400 was a highly exceptional moment, as D.M. Nicol notes in, ‘A Byzantine Emperor in England: Manuel II's visit to London in 1400-1401’, University of Birmingham Historical Journal 12 (1970), pp. 204-25.