Language changes over time; words and phrases come and go. In many cases, there is a good reason for words leaving our vocabulary. I am certainly grateful that modern sewer systems mean there is no longer a need for the term Gardyloo – a warning call before chamber pots were poured out of windows onto the streets below.
Other old English terms, however, still have perfectly valid meanings in our modern world and really need to be brought back, if only for the pleasure of saying them. Here are 24 words and slang terms from old and middle English (or thereabouts) that are fun to say, still useful, and should never have left us in the first place.
Exactly as it sounds, bedward means heading for bed. Who doesn’t like heading bedward after a hard day?
This one is a sneaky word; it sounds so very proper and yet it refers to abusive language and curse words.
Do you ever brabble? To brabble is to argue loudly about matters of no importance.
A most appropriate sounding word for the condition of feeling ill as a result of too much eating/drinking.
Such a sweet word to describe hair that is tangled, as if it has been matted by elves.
This very British sounding word refers to things that are not current, that belong to a former time, rather like the word itself.
Something that wakes you up is an expergefactor. For most of us it’s our alarm clocks, but it could be anything from a chirping bird to a noisy neighbor.
Fudgel is the act of giving the impression you are working, when really you are doing nothing.
This means to stare intently at someone who is eating, in the hope that they will give you some. Watch any dog for a demonstration.
Grubble might sound like the name of a character from a fantasy novel but it does in fact mean to feel or grope around for something that you can’t see.
What a fun way to describe secretive, or covert behavior.
12. Hum durgeon
An imaginary illness. Sounds more like an imaginary word. Have you ever suffered from hum durgeon?
This is a perfect word that should never have left our vocabulary, it means to confuse or jumble.
It sounds like the name of a sparkling wine, but no, it means a person who arrives somewhere, having conveniently forgotten their wallet, or having some other complicated story to explain why they don’t have money with them.
Mumpsimums is an incorrect view on something that a person refuses to let go of.
To shake something backwards and forwards is to quagswag, who knew?
We all know a few rawgabbits. A rawgabbit is a person who likes to gossip confidentially about matters that they know nothing about.
I think we can all agree this is a fantastic sounding word. It means a person who has intelligence but no principles; a dangerous combination. Watch out for the snollygosters, they live amongst us.
This old english term has the unlikely meaning of “wise.” Really?
Things that look good but are basically worthless. I said THINGS, not people.
This means lying awake worrying before dawn. We all do this, we just didn’t know there was a word for it. Say it now, like this: oot-key-are-a.
Similar to the rawgabbit, this person takes every opportunity to share their opinion about things they know nothing about. Social media is the perfect outlet for these people.
Being in a drowsy, fuzzy state, after a big night out perhaps?
And finally, I broke the alphabetical listing to save my favorite till last…
A small man with a big opinion of himself.
24 Old English Terms You Should Start Using Again
See how many of these you can work into a conversation today