Old English/Time

Telling the timeEdit

In Old English, time was often told using real-world references, like we would do when we say "It's midday" or "It's noon" or "It's midnight". Clock time was probably used mostly in monasteries (one of whose jobs it was to keep track of such time) and perhaps also other institutions - not so much by the common people; but it was known of. In Old English, they counted from about 6 o'clock as zero hour when telling the time (so 9 o'clock was the third hour), but you could just use the modern standard practice.

Common time-of-day references:

  • Hit is ǣrmorgen - It's early morning (before 6 o'clock)
  • Hit is prīm - It's about 6 o'clock in the morning
  • Hit is undern - It's about nine o'clock in the morning
  • Hit is middæġ - It's midday
  • Hit is nōn - It's noon (about 3 o'clock in the afternoon)
  • Hit is ǣfen - It's evening (late in the day)
  • Hit is niht - It's night-time
  • Hit is midniht - It's midnight

Otherwise, one could just say something which in Modern English would literally be translated "It the (x)th hour (of the morning/after midday). Although they used 6:00 as zero-hour in OE times, I will here used the modern standard practice of counting from midnight:

  • Hit is sēo seofoðe tīd morgenes - It's 7:00 AM
  • Hit is sēo nigoðe tīd morgenes - It's 9:00 AM
  • Hit is sēo þridde tīd æfter midæge - It's 3:00 PM

"Prica" (weak masculine gender) was a useful word which was used to mean both "quarter of an hour" or "a fifth of an hour". You could use to to show much before or after a particular hour it was, like in Modern English. I will here use it to mean " a quarter of an hour", since that is what we do these days:

  • Hit is prican ofer þǣre ōðerre tīde - It's quarter past two
    • (Notice that "prica" is used in dative - this is because it is here used actually like an adverb, to modify the preposition "ofer", so it needs to be declined)

Time wordsEdit

  • time - sēo tīd, se tīma
  • year - þæt ᵹēar
  • season - se tīma
  • month - se mōnaþ
  • week - sēo ƿucu
  • day - se dæᵹ
  • hour - sēo tīd
  • space of time, interval - þæt fæċ
  • clock - þæt dæᵹmǣl

Saying ageEdit

In Old English, one could say age either like Modern English "I am twenty" (with no "year") or "I am twenty years (old)", but you could also use "ƿinter" to show age. The words "ġēar" and "ƿinter", if included, would be in the genitive, which would literally mean, for example, "of x years (of age)" (e.g. "Iċ eom tƿentig ƿintra" - "I am of twenty winters (of age")

Here's how to do it:

  • Iċ eom þrittiġ - I'm thirty
  • Hē is tƿā and tƿentiġ ġēara - He is twenty-two years old
  • Hēo is þrēo and fēoƿertig ƿintra - She's forty-three years old

Days of the WeekEdit

To say what day of the week it was, one would say, for example:

  • Hit is Mōnandæġ - It's Monday

These are the names of the days of the week:

  • Mōnandæġ
  • Tīƿesdæġ
  • Ƿōdnesdæġ
  • Þunresdæġ
  • Friġedæġ
  • Sæternesdæġ
  • Sunnandæġ

Months of the YearEdit

One would say what month it was similarly to Modern English:

  • Hit is se Ǣrra Līða - It's June

The months are:

  • January - se Æfterra Gēola, Ianuarius (Latin: se Ianurius)
  • February - se Solmōnaþ Februarius (Latin: se Februarius, þæs ~i)
  • March - se Hrēþmōnaþ, se Hlȳdmōnaþ, se Hlȳda, Martius (Latin: se Martius)
  • April - se Ēastermōnaþ, Aprēlis (Latin: se Aprilis)
  • May - se Þrimilċemōnaþ, se Þrimilċe, Maius (Latin: se Maius)
  • June - se Sēremōnaþ, se Ǣrra Līða, Iunius (Latin: se Iunius)
  • July - se Mǣdmōnaþ, se Æfterra Līða, Iulius (Latin: se Iulius)
  • August - se Ƿēodmōnaþ, Agustus (Latin: se Agustus)
  • September - se Hāligmōnaþ, se Hærfestmōnaþ, Septembris (Latin: se September)
  • October - se Ƿinterfylleþ, Octobris (Latin: se October)
  • November - se Blōtmōnaþ, November (Latin: se November)
  • December - se Gēolmōnaþ, se ǣrra Gēola, December (Latin: se December)

Notice that December and January, and June and July, have similar names, except that they have either "se Ǣrra" or "se Æfterra" prefixed to them? That's because they were once considered to be joined together. To refer to them joined together, use the words:

  • June and July together - se Līða
  • December and January together - se Gēola

Also, in the calendar used in Old English times, the extra day of a leap year was not added to February. Instead, it was put between "se Ǣrra Līða" and "se Æfterra Līða". It was called "Þrilīða", but using it would cause difficulties because it wouldn't fit well with the modern calendar.

Seasons of the YearEdit

  • Spring - (se) lencten - (from February 7 to May 8)
  • Summer - (se) sumor - (from May 9 to August 6)
  • Autumn - (se) hærfest - (from August 7 to November 6)
  • Winter - (se) ƿinter - (from November 7 to February 6)

How to Tell DatesEdit

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronical, shorthand dates are written off to the side of the page using a fairly international style taken from Latin. However, it is not entirely clear how this was read aloud. There examples of written "natural speech" dates in Old English. Natural speech dates in Old English were quite straightforward and conformed to normal grammatical rules unlike our commonly abbreviated spoken date format in Modern English, like this:

  • Hit is se nigoða dæġ Hlȳdan þæs hundtēontigoðan ġēares - It is the ninth of March, 100 AD
    • Literally, "It is the ninth day of March of the hundredth year"
  • Hit is se tēoða dæġ Lenctenes - It's the tenth day of spring
  • Iċ ēode þider on Hlȳdan þæs þūsendoðan nigon hundtēontigoðan nigon and nigontigoðan ġēares - I went there in March 1999
    • Notice that the year is read a full ordinal number, like in Modern English "one-thousand nine-hundred and ninety-ninth year" rather than the normal Modern English practice "nineteen ninety-nine"


  • All Saint's Day - (se) ealra hālgena dæġ
  • Christmass Day - (sēo) Crīstes mæsse
  • Lammas Day (August 1) - (se) Hlǣfmæssan dæġ, (sēo) Hlǣfmæsse

How to tell when something occursEdit

  • from...to/until... - fram (acc.) ōþ (acc) - fram ǣrne morᵹen ōþ ǣfen
  • in the morning - on morᵹen
  • in the day - on dæᵹe
  • in the dusk - on fōrannihte
  • in the evening - on ǣfenne, æt ǣfenne, tō ǣfenne
  • early in the morning - ǣr on morᵹen
  • at dawn - on dæᵹrǣd, on ūhtan, tō þǣm dæᵹrǣd
  • at noon - on midne dæᵹ, tō middæᵹe
  • at dusk - on fōrannihte