The translation of words in the Elizabethan language and vocabulary requires a Modern English to Elizabethan english dictionary! The following link provides access to an Elizabethan dictionary for an easy to follow Elizabethan language guide! The translation and definition of the Elizabethan words and meanings used in the Elizabethan language make the literature of the era, including the works of William Shakespeare much easier to understand!
Translation of the Elizabethan Language to today’s English:
Firstly, lets look at the reasons why translation of some of the Elizabethan language is problematic:
- Many words used in the Elizabethan language are no longer in use. Other words have replaced them or the original meaning and use of the words are no longer required
- An amusing example of words now ‘extinct’ in the modern English language is ‘gong’. The Elizabethan word ‘gong’ meant dung. The men whose job was to empty and dispose of the waste from the privies (toilets) were called ‘Gong Farmers’!
- The Elizabethan alphabet contained 24 letters, as opposed to the present day alphabet of 26 letters
- In the Elizabethan alphabet the letters “u” and “v” were the same letter as were and “i” and “j”
- The “j” was usually used as the capital form of the letter “i” in the Elizabethan alphabet
- The letter “u” was used only in the middle of a word, and the “v” was used at the beginning!
- Another letter which resembled a “y” was used to represent the “th” sound. The word “the” was therefore written in a similar way as “ye” would in the modern day
- The written form of Elizabethan Numbers also cause confusion in translation
- Numbers were frequently written in lower case Roman numerals, with the last “i” in a number written as a “j”. For example – viij March
Shakespeare translations and understanding the real meanings behind some of the Shakespeare language in the great plays and sonnets can be difficult. And this is hardly surprising when the expressions and their meanings have been obsolete since the Elizabethan era!
Meanings of any unusual Shakespearean words that you encounter whilst reading the works in the language coined by William Shakespeare can be checked in the online Shakespearean Dictionary by clicking on the appropriate letter of the alphabet.