Language of the Normans

Norman Language
Norman Language

Language was an integral part of any ruling kingdom over England during the medieval period. Keeping ruling a kingdom aside, for any day to day activity in any region, it is required that people can communicate with each other. Thus, language is the root of anything which is required to live and then rule a kingdom.

Before the Normans came into rule, the Anglo Saxons mainly followed the old English language. Likewise, when the Romans used to rule over England even before the Anglo Saxons, they used to follow their own choice of language. Similarly, when the Normans came to power, they chose which language to follow for their own good. Thus, today let us study facts on what words did the Normans bring to England?

Replacement of the Old English language

After the Normans invaded England and started ruling England, they eliminated or wiped out almost every bit of old English which was followed by the Anglo Saxons in England. This also resulted in the catholic churches losing the control of English in England.

William I the conqueror also started a systematic way to dispossess all the landowners of their land who were of the English background. As per a study by the historians, it is seen that by the end of the year 1086, approximately only 5% of the entire land belonging to England was given to people who were of the English background.

The Conqueror
King William I, the Conqueror

But this was not the end to it. With further time coming up and with further decades, this tiny number of 5% was even dispossessed and diminishing. Thus, the Normans completely disposed off the English native after coming to rule over England.

Natives of the English origin who used to speak or follow the English language were slowly and completely removed from the ecclesiastical offices and also the government offices.

By the end of the year 1075, the situation was such that the people of English native following the English language were not appointed with the role of sheriffs inside such ecclesiastical offices and government offices. The same effect then started coming on the churches. All senior members of the offices of the churches who were of the English native and followed the English language were removed.

In some cases, they were kept to their lifetime but however, as those died, they used to be replaced immediately with foreigners. By the end of the year 1096, there were no bishopric which was held by the people of the English native following the English language. Even the abbots of English started becoming uncommon, which specially happened in the monasteries.

Emigration of the Old English language and people of English native

History of English Language - Timeline
History of English Language

Due to the harsh rules and regulations implied on the English natives by the Normans, there were many Anglo Saxons and also many groups of Anglo Saxons nobles who decided to flee from the country and took shelter in places like Scandinavia, Ireland and Scotland.

In 1070, history witnessed one of the largest exoduses which took place when around 235 ships were used till Byzantine Empire for the group of Anglo Saxons nobles to flee from England. These nobles used to follow the old English language. However, this effect made the empire of Byzantine famous.

There was a high demand in need of the mercenaries in byzantine empire and thus this place became a very popular destination of flee for the nobles of the English native and following the English language.

Language bought forward by the Normans during their rule over England

The Battle of the Standard
The Battle of the Standard

After the Normans came to power over England, we have seen that they used to replace and emigrate people of English native and English language. Thus, obviously Normans bought their own language of communication. This the period in which such instances took place was the Anglo Normans period.

Anglo Normans was of the dialect of old French which was introduced and influenced from old Norse. Thus, they displaced the entire existence of old English. Slowly and steadily the words belonging to the Anglo Normans started being included in the language.

Another chief point of highlight was the usage of Anglo Normans name for children instead of the names which were present during the time of the Anglo Saxons. The speed with which male names changed, the change of female names was a bit slower. Names for male like Robert, William and Richard soon started becoming very common names.

Facts placed by the historians after study doesn’t quite tell us how much the Normans learned English which was followed by the Anglo Saxons as that was the continuous language which was present when the Normans invaded England. Similarly, the studies of the historians also doesn’t give us a clear idea on how much the lower class of people learned the Norman French language as it was a new language suddenly all together for them.

Norman French Language

Norman French is the 11th century Indo-European language of France and England.

During this era, many Norman French words entered the language. In general, the Normans were the nobility, while the native English were their servants. The names of domestic animals and their meats show this relationship. The animal name is English (“cow”, “sheep”, “pig”) while the names of the meats derived from these animals is French (“beef”, “mutton”, “pork”).

Many words have been borrowed from Norman French. These can be grouped into several types:

Legal terms (“adultery”, “slander”), military words (“surrender”, “occupy”), names of meats (“bacon”, “venison”) and words from the royal court (“chivalry”, “majesty”). The non-metric unit of volume (the “gallon”) is Norman French. There are many other words.

The Normans introduced the QU spelling for words containing KW (“question”).

New words introduced by the Normans

WordMeaning
accuse
adultery
archer
assault
assetenough
bacon
bailto take charge
bailiffcarrier
beef
butcherseller of goat flesh
button
chivalryhorseman
comfortstrengthen
courtretenue
courtesy
cricket
crimejudgement
curfewcover fire
custard
defeat
dungeon
duty
eagle
eloperun away
embezzleravage
enemynon friend
error
evidence
exchequer
fashionmake
felony
fraud
gallonjug
goblin
gourd
grammarart of letters
greasefat
grief
grocer
gutterdrop
haddock
havoc
hogmanay
honour
injurywrong
jettisonthrow overboard
joy
judgeright speaking
juryswear
justice
larceny
launchhurl
lavender
leaseleave
leisureallowed
leverto raise
liablemay be bound
libellittle book
libertyfree
liquoricesweet root
mackerel
majesty
mangle
manorremain
marriage
matrimony
mayhem
mutton
noble
nounname
nursenourish
occupyseize
odoursmell
parliamentspeaking
pedigreecrane’s foot
penthouse
perjury
pinch
platterbig plate
pleasure
pocketsmall bag
pork
prisonlay hold of
profounddeep
purloinput away
purveyor
push
quarter
question
quiet
quiver
rapetake by force
reason
rebuke
rebut
recover
remedyto heal
renownto make famous
rent
repeal
reprievesend back
reprisal
retailpiece cut off
reward
river
robe
royal
rummage
salarysalt
salmon
scavengertax collector
scullerymaker of dishes
search
sermon
sewer
share
shopcobbler’s stall
sir
slander
soilCalled ‘dirt’ in the USA.
sovereign
spawn
spy
squirrellittle shadow tail
stubblegrain stalks
subsidysupport
suitor
surname
surplus
surrender
survey
surviveover live
syllable
tallymark on a stick
taxto charge
toilstir
treason
treaty
uncle
usherdoor keeper
valley
veal
veil
venisonto hunt
vicarassistant
vice
view
virgin
vulture
wafer
waive
warden
wicketgate
wreck

But for daily communication, there were people who were bilingual, that is, could understand both the English language as well as the Norman French language which helped those people who didn’t understand either any one of the two languages.

Slowly with due course of time, Norman French started spreading more widely among people as it became the official language to be used. This is how old English slowly diminished and Norman French took up the place of English language which was during the Anglo Saxons time.

However, among all of these, the first ruler among the Norman kings, that is, William I the conqueror never showed any interest in developing the knowledge of knowing English for himself.

It is said that the languages Anglo Norman and Anglo French were languages which were eclipsed by the modern English language. But the way Anglo Norman language and Anglo-French language was used, it made a permanent impact on the influence of the vocabulary of English language. This resulted in the loss of many original words of the German language or was used as synonyms to the original words in the Anglo-French language.

Found info useful?