I know there are similar questions around (like this and this) but they don't really have an answer that works for me.

Are there any specific resources that would give me an idea about writing in archaic English? I am not really talking about 'Old English' or 'Shakespearean English' but more on the lines of archaic forms of words and verbs.

For example, 'Tis for it is, beareth for bear, groom'd for groomed etc.

How can we be sure about the spellings and style of writing when using archaic forms? Of course, one idea is to read a lot but anything apart from that? Any resource that could perhaps look at variants of spellings over time? The trouble with reading and picking up words (specially from the modern writers) is that you can never be sure if they are accurate and more so, it reflects a spelling from a particular time. Looking at something like a timeline of spellings would help in a choosing a more 'generalized' variant which may not be time specific.


  • Related, on the English site: Is it ever effective to use modern and archaic grammar together? Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 17:02
  • Do not write in dialect, slang or sociolect you are not fluent in. The result will be awkward and ridiculous.
    – user5645
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 10:52
  • @what: That, I am sure, is a personal opinion. There may be reasons why one would want to write in a dialect etc. in which one is not fluent. It might even be deliberate. At the same time, there may be situations that demand the use of a style like this. In that way, I choose to disagree that the result will (always) be awkward and ridiculous. I agree with the possibility of the same but it eventually just comes down to the writer, does it not? Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 13:28
  • 2
    If you only need a sentence or two, I'd look into some texts from the period and find similar examples. Here is a list of authors from the period I think you are tinking of: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:16th-century_English_writers. Besides that, the OED is full of quotes from most every time period for most words, so you can see how those words were written and how they were used in the context of a sentence.
    – user5645
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 14:44
  • 1
    Check out this answer to the first link in your question. Some rules for verbs : 1. whilstr.org/rules.html 2. dan.tobias.name/frivolity/archaic-grammar.html
    – william
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 23:10

2 Answers 2


It depends what you mean by 'archaic'. For a wider cultural reference to Archaic England, see Harold Bayley's Archaic England.

Halliwell's dictionary covers 14th century usage, and is particularly good on dialects. It references other works which you may find useful for other periods.

Sweet's work is Anglo-Saxon in focus.

There are several region-specific dictionaries that cover 'archaic' English use.

I would suggest you also get a feel for period-specific writing from primary sources - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Asser's Life of Alfred, Chaucer, Caxton's Aesop, Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England (not the right title, but it's on the Harvard law school website - sometimes referred to as Brancton), but avoid Victorian pseudo-archaic usage, which is a style in its own right.

If you've got a specific period in mind, you may get some advice that is more specifically targeted. In the meantime, I hope this helps.


See also ASNC spoken word page here


Speaking as something of a practitioner of writing in archaic language, I advise learning the way people write in current language: old texts can be a teacher of sorts. Doxology is modeled after KJV English, and the older style of English, with for the most part the simpler, appears as insets from a fictional Brocéliande in The Sign of the Grail, which has meticulous drinking in of Sir Thomas Mallory not as the beginning of modern tellings of Arthurian legend but as a last great flourish as the medieval tellings of Arthurian legend basically closed. Someone with any perception of the tradition may notice I left out a major feature from the (12th cent.) Brut to Le Morte d'Arthur (15th cent.; the work is essentially a thousand pages of sheer synopsis where one of Chrétien's complete romances is condense to a page or two) keeps on entering interminable battles between knights in which both combatants hack each other to death's door but are fully healed within a fortnight. In that regard, Chrétien de Troyes (12th cent.) didn't just deliver courtly love and worlds of wonder; he also delivered what would today be Arnold Schwarzenegger action-adventure movies.

One basic and generic piece of advice is to decide what you want to write, and read a thousand books in your preferred genre. Want to write romance? Read a thousand romances. Want to write a thriller? Read a thousand thrillers. Want to write mystery? Read a thousand mysteries. The principle is generic, and it doesn't just apply to languages where there are living native speakers. There is some extra effort needed to work on an archaic or a dead language, but the added burden can often be surprisingly light. And even if you are taking a living language, people speak about how enlightening it can be to read just one novel in the language and culture you're learning.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.