Help:IPA for Old English

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The tables below show how the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Old English pronunciations in Wikipedia articles. Old English or Anglo-Saxon was an early form of English spoken in medieval England. It is different from Early Modern English, the language of Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

See Old English phonology for more detail on the sounds of Old English.

IPA Examples Modern English approximation
b bysiġ, lamb, habban busy
ç niht, tǣhte hue
d dōn, fæder, land, biddan do
senġan, eċġ[2] edge
ð ōþer, eorþe[3] other
f fæder, wīf, offrian[3] father
ɡ gōd, gnætt, ġeong[2] good
h hēah, hǣlþ heaven
j ġeong, næġl, weġ[2] year
k cyning, cnǣw, tusc, hnecca, axian[2][4] king
l lufu, hǣlþ, næġl love
ɫ feallan, eald[5] peal
hlāf, hlehhan[6] similar to clap
m mōdor, magan, lamb mother
n nēah, cnēo, gnætt, land, habban,
hnutu, hnecca[6] similar to snort
ŋ ġeong, drincan young
p pæþ path
r rǣdan, mōdor[7] read
eorþe, steorra[7][5]
hring[6] similar to trap
s sunne, missan, axian[3][4] sun
ʃ eadu, fi[2] shadow
t tīd, hwæt, settan tide
ċēace, wiċċe[2] cheese
v ofer, lufu[3] over
ɣ magan, lagu similar to Baghdad (Arabic)
w wīf, cwic, cnǣw wife
ʍ hwā, hwæt[6] what (Scottish English)
x hēah, þurh, hlehhan loch (Scottish English)
z bys[3] busy
θ þæt, pæþ, hǣlþ, siþþan[3] through
IPA Examples Modern English approximation
ɑ axian, sċeadu, hnecca[9] cot (American English)
ɑː ān, hlāf, hwā father
æ æfter, fæder cat
æː ǣniġ, hǣ similar to there
æɑ eald similar to Cockney mouth
æːɑ ēaġe, nēah similar to pal
e eċġ, fæder similar to late
ēþel similar to made
eo eorþe, heofon
eːo ēowu, dēor
i ilca, cwic, hāliġ quick
īsiġ, tīd need
iy siex[10]
iːy nīehst[10]
o ofer, sċeolde, heofon[9]
ōþer, mōdor
u under, ġeong, lufu[9] root
ūt mood
y scyld, yfel


  1. Old English had geminate (double) consonants, pronounced longer than single ones. They were written with double consonant letters. The double consonants in ⟨habban, missan⟩ can be transcribed with the length symbol ⟨ː⟩ or by doubling the consonant symbol: [ˈhɑbːɑn ˈmisːɑn] or [ˈhɑbbɑn ˈmissɑn]. The doubled affricate in ⟨wiċċe⟩ should be transcribed as [ˈwittʃe] or [ˈwitːʃe], with the stop portion of the affricate doubled.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 ċ ċġ sċ⟩ with represent the postalveolar sibilants /tʃ dʒ ʃ/. The letter ⟨ġ⟩ represents the palatal approximant /j/ in most cases, but /dʒ/ after ⟨n⟩. /tʃ ʃ/ developed from /k sk/ by palatalization in Anglo-Frisian, but /dʒ j/ developed partly from Proto-Germanic *j and partly from palatalization of /g/. In this help page and in some modern texts, the palatal and postalveolar consonants are marked with a dot above the letter, but in manuscripts they were written as ⟨k g sc⟩, and were thus not distinguished from the velars [k g ɣ] and the cluster [sk].
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 s f ð þ⟩ represented voiceless fricatives /s f θ/ at the beginning and end of words, and when doubled, but voiced fricatives /z v ð/ when single between voiced sounds.
  4. 4.0 4.1 In Old English, as in Modern English, ⟨x⟩ represents the cluster /ks/.
  5. 5.0 5.1 /r/ and /l/ probably had velarized allophones [ɫ] and [rˠ] in certain cases, because front vowels [i iː eː æ æː] were broken (diphthongized) before them: *fællan > feallan [ˈfæɑɫɫɑn], *erþe > eorþe [ˈeorˠðe].
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 The sonorants /r l n w/ had voiceless versions [l̥ r̥ n̥ ʍ], which developed from the consonant clusters [xl xr xn xw].
  7. 7.0 7.1 The rhotic /r/ may have been a trill [r] or an approximant [ɹ] or [ɻ].
  8. Old English had a distinction between long and short vowels in stressed syllables. Long monophthongs are marked by placing the length symbol ⟨ː⟩ after the vowel symbol, and long diphthongs are marked by placing this symbol after the first vowel symbol. In unstressed syllables, only three vowels, /ɑ, e, u/, were distinguished, but /e, u/ were pronounced i, o in certain words.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Sometimes after the palatalized consonants ⟨ċ ġ sċ⟩, ⟨eo⟩ represents /u/ or /o/ and ⟨ea⟩ represents /ɑ/.
  10. 10.0 10.1 The diphthongs ⟨ie īe⟩ occurred in West Saxon. They may have been pronounced /ie iːe/ or /iy iːy/.