Looking to learn a few new words to add to your vocabulary? How about bringing some old English words back into regular circulation? As our language evolves to incorporate new words like chillax, freegan and lol (yes, even that last one has creeped into the dictionary), we lose some beautiful old English words along the way. And some of them really deserve to be brought back; so from insults to hangovers, here’s our list of old English words you should start using.
Let’s start off with one of our favorites and one of the more common old English words. Ever eaten or drunk so much that you felt ill? Well, you felt absolutely crapulous! This word’s etymology can be traced back at least to Ancient Greece so basically, we’ve been overindulging forever.
Example: I felt crapulous after eating three family-sized pizzas.
Next time you can’t make it to that 8 am class at university, you might want to email your professor and tell them you have the woofits. Hopefully, they’ll be too embarrassed to ask what that means and you won’t have to admit that you’ve got a hangover.
Dear Professor Jones,
Sadly, I’ve got the woofits today and will be spending the day in bed.
Ever spend time nodding wisely at your computer screen or pretending to frown over some tricky figures when you’re actually doing absolutely nothing? No, neither have we, obviously. But if someone does do this, they’re fudgeling.
Example: I’m great at pretending to be super busy but for most of the day I sit at my desk and fudgel.
Know someone who just can’t stop gossiping about things they know nothing about? They’re a rawgabbit.
Example: Henry’s such a rawgabbit; he told me Jane is getting fired next week but I know for a fact it’s actually him who’s going to be sacked!
Example: Boris Johnson is a real snollygoster.
Another food-related word now. You know how some people (or animals) stare at you when you’re eating, hoping to get a bite or a scrap? They’re groking.
Example: Why are you groking at my fries? If you want some, just order them!
Here’s a wonderful word to describe someone who wants something for free. A snecklifter is a person who pops their head into a bar to check if there’s anyone in there who will buy them a drink.
Example: Oh no, here comes Timmy. Hide your wallets, the old snecklifter will want you to buy him a drink.
Whatever you do, try to avoid marrying a cockalorum. This lovely sounding word describes a very self-important man, who boasts that he’s a great man but is actually not important at all.
Example: I’ve never liked Steven; he’s such a cockalorum.
It’s not very common to have a house full of fandangles nowadays when minimalism is more fashionable. But in many of our grandparents’ houses, there were fandangles—or useless, ornamental objects—everywhere.
Example: I want to get rid of all these fandangles.
Yet another great ancient English word, or more specifically an insult, a clodpoll is a blockhead, otherwise known as a stupid person.
Example: Ursula will never pass the exam; she’s a clodpoll.
And finally, one of the most useful old English words for those of us who love a good kip is bedward. This means toward bed, in the same way that homeward means toward home.
Example: I’m exhausted; I’m going bedward.
Which of these old English words will you be using?
Whether you want to insult someone sneakily by calling them a cockalorum, a clodpoll, or a snollygoster or chat to your mates in the pub about woofits and snecklifters, these old English words are sure to make your conversation that bit more interesting. And, you’ll be able to head bedward knowing that you’ve done your bit to revive some forgotten English words.
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.