Medieval terminology

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Medieval terminology

Postby Greyowl » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:23 pm

I'm looking for a kind of medieval thesaurus, where I could enter a modern word and find old English counterparts. In particular, I'd like to find medieval terms connected with medical care, e.g. for 'medication', 'treatment', 'drug', 'therapy', etc.?

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Medieval terminology

Postby Brother Ranulf » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:56 pm

"Medieval" isn't the name of a language, a culture or a specific time period - it covers a huge era with developments across the board in all of Europe. You need to be precise about the time and place, since terminology in England (for example) changed radically throughout the middle ages. A Londoner in 1000 AD would not have been able to understand a Londoner from 1500, since language had evolved dramatically. Similarly, Old French evolved into Middle French and Old High German into Middle German.

"Old English" is the language of the Saxons and it began to be replaced by Early Middle English somewhere in the 12th century; by 1500 Middle English had been gradually replaced by Early Modern English. The language of educated people was always Latin, while the aristocracy spoke Anglo-Norman French. Both of these would be familiar to an educated surgeon/medicus and these languages have given English many of its medical, technical and scientific terms.

The Middle English Dictionary can be found here:

The Anglo-Norman dictionary is at:

The Medieval Latin term rememdium means "cure, remedy, nostrum, medicine" and it would be the general term among educated people for all the words you mention. The average English manorial worker would not have been able to understand Latin and rememdium would have meant nothing at all to him.

Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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