Posted by Kane on September 12, 1999 at 09:01:16:
*Taken from Robert Christian's Net Book of Names*
As a follow-up to the "How's your Latin?" thread, I thought I would post a list of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) titles. The
early English lived outside the direct Carolingian sphere and they had a strong written vernacular tradition. Thus, while
Latin documents from England at this time use some Latin titles (dux, comitus, etc), there are also many documents
which preserve the Old English titles. For those who don't know, Old English was the vernacular language of the
Anglo-Saxons, spoken mainly between 400-1100 (approximately). I have included pronunciations in brackets.
Speaking of Tolkein, the Riders of Rohan more or less spoke Anglo-Saxon. As it turns out, every ancestor of
Theoden's name is an Anglo-Saxon word for king or chief or something very similar. My experience with Anglo-Saxon
titles is that they are very, very fluid, and it's hard to tell which titles are "official" and which are descriptive. "Helm", for
instance, means "protector," but it also means "king" or "chief" since the king was seen as a protector of his people.
Below is a list of Theoden's ancestors as found in *The Return of the King*, appendix B, with rough translations. I have
placed an asterisk next to terms I suspect Tolkein coined out of the Old English, as I cannot locate them directly in my
abbat/abbesse (like modern prononciation)
AEtheling (AHth-uh-ling--pronounce the ae as in "quack")
prince. Not just the son of a king, but anyone with enough royal blood to assume the throne, should the need
Ceorl (CHURL)peasant. usually a free farmer, their rights eroded over the course of Anglo-Saxon history.
chapmann (CHOP-mon)/mangere (MON-jer)
chief (it means something like "fierce one like a beast")
old warriors/young warriors. The primary divisions of a lord's military retainers.
powerful nobleman, in charge of shire or district. Held power and authority directly from the king, but were also
powerful landowners in their own rights. The equivalent of "earl."
earl. A loan word from the Scandinavian languages, following the Viking settlement of 850-900.
as noted, means "nobleman," later with the same rank as "count"
lord (lit. "man of the people")
lord (lit. "friend of the people")
descendant of kings, king
king's friend, nobleman
Reeve. An official, usually with judicial authority, appointed to oversee a shire by the king. Not a hereditary
position in practice.
gold friend, lord (he's your friend coz he gives out gold)
chief (this also means "fierce one")
Lord/Lady. These terms literally meant "loaf-guard" and "loaf-kneader."
Hundredman (like you would think)
A local official in charge of justice within a "hundred," which contained roughly one hundred families.
farmer, literally "earthling"
monk/nun. Note that modern English takes most of its terms for religious offices from Old English, while many of
the OE terms for secular offices have fallen into disuse.
Rink (RINK)/Haeleth (HAHL-eth, remember to quack)/Beorn (BAY-orn)
all words meaning man or warrior. The word waepenedman was the term used to designate "male" (yes, it's a
double entendre), opposed to wifman, which meant "person who is female" (whence we get the term "wife").
pig-guard. Later, "steward." From this word, we get the not-too-unfamiliar surname "Stewart." How royal.
thain. A member of the petty nobility.
chief. A poetic term used to designate any leader of men. Yes, it's where Tolkien got the name.
Slave. Present in diminishing numbers through the period.
king (actually, a variation on Fengel)
lord (lit. "he who rules")
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