origin: middle english

If mayhap looks to you like a relative of its synonym perhaps, you’re right—the words are related. Both ultimately derive from the Middle English noun hap, meaning “chance” or “fortune.” Mayhap was formed by combining the phrase  "(it) may hap" into a single word. Hap in the phrase is a verb essentially meaning “to happen,” and the verb hap comes from the noun hap. Perhaps came about when per (meaning “through the agency of”) was combined directly with the noun hap to form one word. Today, mayhap is a rare word in contrast with the very common maybe and perhaps, but it does show up occasionally.

  • <p> <b>Me:</b> *buys journal on Amazon*<p/><b>Amazon:</b> look at all these other journals you can buy<p/><b>Me:</b> but this one has 160 pages and i don't know what I'm even planning to do with it.<p/><b>Amazon:</b> But look, this one is a Canterbury journal.<p/><b>Me:</b> Canterbury, like the Canterbury Tale. Like Geoffrey Chaucer? I could be the next Chaucer. I could fill that entire journal with iambic pentameter. Maybe even using Middle English. I could totally do that.<p/><b>Amazon:</b> I don't think you can actually do that. Who even reads Middle English anymore?<p/><b>Me:</b> Shut up Amazon, I have to find a reference book for writing in Middle English. Either help me out or get out of my way.<p/><b>Amazon:</b> Actually, I think I have just the thing to help you with that.<p/></p>

Lordynges, Ich wold invite ye to celebraat the monthe of Aprille, the ferthe of the yeere, as a feste yn honour of swich tonges that are dede! Usen ye the hasshe tagge #whanthataprilleday to marken swich poostes and sondry tweetes.

Taken ye joye yn Oold Englissche and Middel Englische, or al swich langages wiste as “auncient” or “dede.” Usen ye Latoun or Hebrewe if ye wisshe. Oonly tagge yower poostes whan ye hem hath writen, so that yower felawes mighte hem enjoye!

So you want to read Middle English lit?

In honour of it soon being the Harrowing of Hell - the greatest episode in Piers Plowman, maybe tied with the dreams within dreams - here is my fun and somewhat irreverent guide to the big names of Medieval English literature. They’re in a subjective order of ascending difficulty when reading in Middle English, but when in translation, it’s similar except Gawain is easier and Piers Plowman is basically just as hard. Onwards, to knights and strange religious dream poems feat. weird Biblical apocrypha.

  • Morte Darthur (/other spellings/Works) by Thomas Malory - More fun than could be expected from a huge book (if you get the bright red complete works edition) written like a five year old tried to spell more modern English. Malory’s prose Arthurian stories have everything you might want from an epic - knights, fights, magic, the chosen one being too good for this world, Gawain recognising Lancelot from how he rides a horse - and some you might not - incest, doomed love affairs, accidentally killing people and starting all-consuming feuds.
  • Various medieval drama - Medieval plays, usually short and part of a cycle that was performed around a city for a special occasion, basically encompass the Bible from creation to the apocalypse. Don’t say they didn’t think big. There are anthologies of some of the best bits and you can find them online too (try the York cycle for a starting point). There’s weird comedy with Lucifer stealing God’s chair and jokes whilst Christ is being nailed to the cross. Really.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer - The big name. I’ve not specified a work first because it depends. Obviously there’s The Canterbury Tales, which true to its name is separate tales told by fictional pilgrims. Some are very dirty (try the Miller’s Tale if that’s your interest). Or read The Wife of Bath’s Prologue because she had a fun life. If you like Greek stuff/the Trojan War/Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, try Troilus and Criseyde, though it is quite long and you will get pissed off at Pandarus. Or if you like a crazy narrative involving retelling part of the Aeneid and also flying on the back of an eagle trying to explain physics to medieval people, go for my personal fave House of Fame.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by (imaginatively) the Gawain poet - SGGK is a fantastic story told in a cinematic style, but it is also quite tough Middle English so good to read in translation first. Read it for the great descriptions or for the part where Gawain keeps having to kiss the Green Knight as part of a weird deal they made.
  • Piers Plowman by William Langland - On the surface, Piers Plowman doesn’t sound like much fun. A huge medieval dream poem in alliterative verse which features complex theology and dreams within dreams that are less heist-based than Inception. Once you read it, you’ll discover it still isn’t great fun, but it is also is, because it’s incredibly weird and features Christ jousting the devil in Hell.
cool things about the history of english

- In old english the letter thorn (equivalent to modern day theta or eth) was written þ, but over time the way the letter was written changed so by middle english, the sound “th” was written with a Y. So when you see “ye old shoppe” the “ye” is actually pronounced “the”.

- In early modern english there were formal and informal second person pronouns. English has lost the informal “thou/thee”. This phenomenon occurred first in the north american colonies. Interestingly, the portuguese colony brazil lost its informal second person pronoun (tu) as well and only uses the formal você (this might be the case for spanish too but idk).

- What we refer to as irregular verbs in english actually used to be the standard. Only the verbs we use most often have failed to switch to the new system of conjugating verbs in english.

- Because English has had so many influences from other languages it has many synonyms. For most words of germanic origin you can find a latin-derived synonym (kin/family, lucky/fortunate). There is also the well known distinction between anglo-saxon roots of animals (cow, sheep) and the norman french roots of the words for the meat from those animals (beef, mutton). 

Pet peeve: Shakespeare's writings are not "Old English."

This is Shakespeare.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

This is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Now wyl I of hor seruise say yow no more,
For veh wyȝe may wel wit no wont þat þer were;
An oþer noyse ful newe neȝed biliue,
Þat þe lude myȝt haf leue lif-lode to cach.
For vneþe watȝ þe noyce not a whyle sesed,
& þe fyrst cource in þe court kyndely serued,
Þer hales in at þe halle dor an aghlich mayster,
On þe most on þe molde on mesure hyghe;
Fro þe swyre to þe swange so sware & so þik,
& his lyndes & his lymes so longe & so grete,
Half etayn in erde I hope þat he were.
Bot mon most I algate mynn hym to bene,
& þat þe myriest in his muckel þat myȝt ride;
For of bak & of brest al were his bodi sturne,
Bot his wombe & his wast were worthily smale,
& alle his fetures folȝande, in forme þat he hade,
        ful clene;
    For wonder of his hwe men hade,
    Set in his semblaunt sene;
    He ferde as freke were fade,
    & ouer-al enker grene.

This is Beowulf.

Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,

monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra

ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning!
Ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned,
geong in geardum, þone god sende
folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat

þe hie ær drugon aldorlease
lange hwile. Him þæs liffrea,
wuldres wealdend, woroldare forgeaf;
Beowulf wæs breme (blæd wide sprang),
Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.

Only one of these is Old English, and it is the one you can’t read at all. I have read Beowulf, but only in a translation. The other two are Middle English (mostly doable in its original form, if you have good sidenotes or a dictionary), and early modern English (a difficult turn of phrase, but otherwise entirely readable). And let me tell you, after having been staring at Middle English poetry for the past half hour, Shakespeare is dead easy in comparison. Don’t take medieval literature classes, they’ll kill your brain.

And now you have learned a thing! Please stop calling Shakespeare “Old English.”

I just met up with one of my best buddies and he gave me these two gifts ; u; the book is one I saw at an antique shop and wanted really bad but didn’t have the money for, and the little banner he wove by himself! I think I’m gonna use it as part of my future altar ❤

Miri It Is
Mediæval Bæbes

“These are the knights of summer and winter is coming.”
– Catelyn Tully Stark, A Clash of Kings

Translation of the original Middle English:
Merry it is while summer lasts
With birds’ song;
But now draws near the wind’s blast
And weather strong.
Ei, ei, what, this night is long!
And I with very great wrong
Sorrow and mourn and fast.
Sorrow and mourn and fast.



[sen-ten-shuh s] 

1. abounding in pithy aphorisms or maxims:
    a sententious book.

2. given to excessive moralizing; self-righteous.

3. given to or using pithy sayings or maxims:
    a sententious poet.

4. of the nature of a maxim; pithy.

Sententious came to English from late Middle English. It ultimately derives from the Latin adjective sententiōsus “meaningful.” Sententious entered English in the 1400s.

“Lost amid the 10,000 words of the Presidential message, neglected alike by writers of news leads and editorials, is the most sapient and sententious utterance of Calvin Coolidge. “Water is the irreplaceable natural resource,” he solemnly informs the Congress. “Its precipitations cannot be increased.”
- Bay Stater, “Incontrovertible: To the Editor of The New York Times,” New York Times, December 8, 1926

How to Use Thou

• Thou - subject = Thou tweetest.
• Thee - object = He loveth thee.
• Thy - possessive (thine before a vowel) = Thy car.

Remember: Thou is informal. You is formal. If trying to woo someone or talk to a superior, use ‘you.’ You art more lovely and fair than a rose. Talking to a friend, relative, or someone beneath you, use 'thou.’ Thou weed, thou toad, thou canker-blossom!

So let's get this one straight.


(also known as Anglo-Saxon) sounds like German. It is the language of Beowulf, Cynewulf, and Alfred; spoken in England until around the 13th century. Both written and spoken forms are impenetrable to a modern reader/hearer without further study. It looks like this:

“Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.”


sounds like Welsh, and is easier for a modern person to read than to hear. It is the language of Chaucer, who died in 1400. It looks like this:

“Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,”


sounds like a broad West-country accent, but is largely understandable in both written and spoken forms (especially with modern pronounciation). It is the language of Shakespeare, who wrote around 1600. It looks like this:

“O for a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention!”


is spoken by fantasy characters, and sounds funny interesting. It began to be written in the late 20th century. It looks like this:

“With the bifrost gone, how much dark energy did the All-Father have to muster to conjure you here?”

Okay. I’m officially sick of hearing this done wrong, so all of you pipe down and listen.

‘Thee’ is an archaic form of ‘you’, as you probably know. However, it’s an informal form of address, used only for a singular audience—usually close friends or family. 'You’ is used for either multiple listeners or a less familiar setting than 'thee’.

'Ye’ is the subjective/nominative form of 'you’, just like 'I’ is to 'me’. If the person you’re addressing is the person performing the action, use 'ye’, such as 'ye eat’. (This has nothing to do with 'ye olde ___’, which is a result of the letter y replacing th in writing; therefore, 'the old’.)

The difference between thy/thine and my/mine is essentially the difference between a/an. If the word following begins with a consonant, thy or my is used; if it begins with a vowel, use thine or mine. Thy cat, thine ankle.

-eth endings are used for the third person singular only, such as ‘he maketh’. -est endings are used only with thou/thee, such as ‘thou makest.’


This was left in the kitchenette in my office (actually not that unusual). So I posted it because it amused me, @theflashisgone requested a translation, and I thought I might as well also record me reading it, because Middle English is fun. 

Audio above, translation below! Sally forth and make ye your own medieval gingerbread!

Literal transcription, just updating spelling (except where there is no modern equivalent for the word) and annotating:

Take a quart of honey and seethe it[1], and skim it clean; take saffron, powder[ed] pepper, and throw thereon[2]; take grated bread, and make it so chargeaunt[3a] that it will be leched[3b]; then take powder[ed] canelle[4], and strew it thereon enough; then make it square, like as thou wilt leche it; take when thou lechest it, and cast box leaves above, stuck thereon, on cloves. And if thou wouldst have it red, colour it with saunders[5] enough.

[1] sethen, verb: literally ‘seethe’ - ie, bring to the boiling point

[2] ie, ‘throw [them] on/in it’

[3a-b] chargeaunt, adj: usually ‘hard, pressing, burdensome’ - in this case, presumably, literally ‘pressed’; lechen, of food, to cut/slice, and leched or y-leched is the past participle, ie, sliced. Therefore chargeaunt that it wol be y-lechyd = firm enough to be sliced.

[4] canelle, n. Cinnamon. I’m still convinced that, contextually, either this or saffron must mean ginger. Or maybe you’re just meant to assume that you add lots of ginger because it is so obvious.

[5] saundre, n. Technically this means sandalwood or the powder of sandalwood - presumably red sandalwood in this instance - but I believe it could also just mean any food dye.

So! If I wanted to actually translate it:

Take a quart of honey and heat it until it is clear, skimming off any residue. Mix in saffron and ground pepper. Mix with bread crumbs to a texture firm enough to slice, then sprinkle with cinnamon powder.  Press into a tray until it is firm enough to slice. When it’s sliced wrap it in box leaves with cloves inside (presumably you may substitute grease-proof paper for box leaves!). Food dye may be added to reach the appropriate hue.

… and presumably add ginger at some point. And, you know, adjust all the quantities (since they shift a lot over time) just to get ‘a good texture that slices well’. Probably just think of it like making muesli bars: so long as you can press it reasonably firmly into a tray and it holds together when sliced, you can vary the rest of the ingredients to suit.

(It probably doesn’t need to be added that this is a very hoity-toity recipe. How many medieval peasants had access to saffron and sandalwood? Show-offs.)



[fan-taz-uh m] 

1. an apparition or specter.

2. a creation of the imagination or fancy; fantasy.

3. a mental image or representation of a real object.

4. an illusory likeness of something.

1175-1225; < Latin phantasma < Greek phántasma image, vision (akin to phantázein to bring before the mind); replacing Middle English fantesme < Old French < Latin as above

“Life is, in fact, a battle. Evil is insolent and strong: beauty
enchanting but rare; goodness very apt to be weak; folly very apt to be
defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places,
people of sense in small, and mankind generally unhappy. But the world as
it stands is no illusion, no phantasm, no evil dream of a night; we wake
up to it again for ever and ever; we can neither forget it nor deny it
nor dispense with it.”
- Henry James