Old English Translator Logo
Old English Translator Logo
Old English to
Modern English Translator

Project History

Background information

Old English is a much more inflected language than Modern English. When trying to translate individual Old English words, simple computer based searches of a dictionary do not work as the dictionary usually does not contain words with all the inflected endings. So you have to guess what the root word is and search for the root in the dictionary and that often is difficult and certainly takes a degree of detective work.

Guessing inflected endings / roots of words. This Old English Translator avoids this work!

In the background, a complex software analysis process has analysed a number of Old English dictionaries, unravelled their format, applied a great many of the rules of Old English grammar and produced a database with all the various inflected endings for each word. Some dictionaries give more ‘clues’ to the type and classification of word . The analysis process attempts to determine whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective etc. and what type/case is applicable – EG strong masculine noun - genitive case, verb type 1 etc. Not every dictionary contains perfect information and as this software encapsulates many of the rules of Old English grammar – this process is not 100% perfect. However – in many cases the output is correct. All comments or corrections welcome?

Search permutates accents and thorn characters.

Would it then be possible to search this database with standard tools like spreadsheets to translate Old English words? Answer No!

Many Old English texts omit accents or include accents and use different representations of the thorn character.

This translator translates each Old English word into Modern English by searching the database for each combination of the letters in the word to be translated with or without accents (as appropriate) and with each combination of the thorn character.

Modern English to Old English.

Type 'king' or 'land' or 'money' in, click on the 'Modern English > Old English' button and see how many types of Old English word have this common thread.

My plan is to continue to develop this site, so feel free to send comments to phil@blueengine.co.uk

Some Caveats:

Having carried out this complex analysis of many dictionaries I am surprised that there are a considerable number of passages with words that do not appear in the ‘database’. Over time I will improve the parsing algorithms and find new sources of data. This web site seems to translate many strange words that do not appear in any Old English / Anglo Saxon grammar books and then miss some more obvious ones. Also, correct translation depends on context and requires a good deal of skill and interpretation. This site does not in any way replace the human brain. When I look at various translations of poems like Deor by different people – they are often very different – translation can never be completely deterministic.

However – having said that – even as a novice, when I try and translate something I can ‘get somewhere’ much more quickly using this website than without it.

I hope it is helpful!

Phil Barthram

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