The official language of 59 countries and one that has proliferated since the sixth century, English has made its wordly rounds. Due to the conquering nature of the English-speaking people, this language has evolved over the centuries, picking up letters and even whole words from other languages and cultures. But in its earliest forms, English—now known as Old English—was vastly different from the language spoken today. Studying Old English opens a window into the past. If you’re hoping baby will be a scholar themselves or you simply want the chance to encourage your geekdom all life long, an Old English baby girl, boy, or gender-neutral name would make a studious choice.
Related Baby Names Lists
Check out these related baby names lists to discover more baby names
Trending Baby Names Lists
Check out these trending baby names lists to discover more baby names
How is Old English different from today’s English?
To put it plainly, today’s English syntax is more streamlined than Old English. The utterance of adjectives and nouns was typically very thorough and what today’s writing and speakingstandardsd would consider redundant. But disregarding pure syntax, the actual letters, spelling, and words themselves were hugely different from the English spoken and recognized today. For starters, the Old English alphabet was only 24 letters, rather than today’s 26. Though it might be easy to imagine the old alphabet was the same as today’s with just two letters missing, it actually used the Latin alphabet which was developed from a runic alphabet, making a great deal of the language look entirely unrecognizable today! This alphabet is now considered the Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet. Some examples of these early characters are æ, ð, ƿ, and ȝ to name just a few.
Is Old English one of the oldest languages in the world?
The short answer to this question is “no.” But the more nuanced answer takes into account the reality of human speech; humans have been speaking to each other for around 50,000 years—not taking into account the rest of the incredibly wide spectrum of human communication which is estimated to be approximately two million years ago. But as for the languages that could still be recognized today, English doesn’t even make it into the top ten oldest spoken languages. Languages still spoken today that are older than Old English include Egyptian, Sanskrit, Greek, Chinese, Aramaic, Hebrew, Farsi, Tamil, Korean, and Italian. These languages range from 4,700 to 2,100 years old, whereas English is approximately 500–700 years old.
Where did Old English come from?
Unsurprisingly, Old English is a language that came from Britain. During the time of the Anglo-Saxons—roughly in the year 450 all the way until the early 1100s—Old English was one of the lasting trade-offs of these settlers, even past the Norman Conquest. It’s, naturally, the earliest form of the English language still spoken today, but it looked vastly different thanks to the runic and Latin base it has. The Anglo-Saxons settled in areas in today’s Wales and England and at this time they spoke Old English, but after the Norman Conquest in 1066, the language would shift. The Norman Conquest ensured that the Normans, French, Flemings, and Bretons would have a stake in the English language.