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Old English Core Vocabulary


Christine Rauer, University of St Andrews


For a number of undergraduate Old English modules which I organise, I have compiled a list of some 500 Old English words which could be regarded as literary core vocabulary. Some of the words are among the most frequent in Old English literature; some are of particular importance on account of their literary or linguistic usage. Several colleagues have asked me whether they could use my list for their teaching, and I am very happy to make this list available to other teachers of Old English. The vocabulary list can be accessed at:


This list of Old English Core Vocabulary is intended as a teaching aid: the idea is that students learn this list of words by heart. It can be used in undergraduate or postgraduate Old English teaching, either for compulsory or optional assessments, or just for background. Vocabulary tests can be made easier or harder, depending on whether the examined translation is from Old English to Modern English, or vice versa, or both, and depending on how much time students are allowed to memorise the vocabulary. A sample vocabulary test, from one of my third-year modules, can be found on the website.

In case of interest, I'm very happy to provide more information on how I use this vocabulary list. I'm pleased and proud to say that twenty-first-century students are just as good at learning things by rote as their twentieth-century (and tenth-century) predecessors. I can also confirm that they tend to be keen on this kind of thing, as it gives them a break from translating and essay-writing.

I try to keep the word list as stable as possible; the insertion of updates and corrections is limited to one week during the summer, when students are unlikely to be using it formally. There are no plans for moving this page to another address.

Dr Christine Rauer

Lecturer in Medieval English Literature

School of English

University of St Andrews

St Andrews KY16 9AL

United Kingdom