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The Laws of Æthelberht: A student edition


Lisi Oliver, Department of English/Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics, Louisiana State University

[Online Note: The text presented here is by no means an "online edition" of the Laws of Æthelberht, but rather a transcript of the work published in OEN. Apart from a few simplifications in the format, no special accommodations have been made for reading the text online. The reader might wish to consult the accompanying .pdf file for a more user-friendly version.]

This edition is dedicated to the memory of Patrick Wormald

Her mon mæg giet gesion his swæð.

"To a Lawyer, even a Practicer at the Bar, this Language cannot be but of great Use; since the very Elements and Foundations of our Laws are laid in this Tongue." – Sir John Fortescue Aland.

"To tell the Government of England under the old Saxon laws, seemeth an Utopia to us present; strange and uncouth: yet can there be no period assign'd, wherein either the frame of those laws was abolished, or this of ours entertained; but as Day and Night creep insensibly, one upon the other, so hath this Alteration grown upon us insensibly, every age altering something." – Sir Henry Spelman

"[The Old English language will] reward amply the few weeks of attention which would alone be requisite for its attainment; a language already fraught with all the eminent science of our parent country, the future vehicle of whatever we may ourselves achieve, and destined to occupy so much space on the globe, claims distinguished attention in American education." – Thomas Jefferson



The laws of Æthelberht, king of Kent, were probably recorded between 597 and 604. They represent the oldest text we have in Old English, the oldest extant vernacular laws in a Germanic language, and the earliest legal collocation from the Anglo-Saxon territories, or, in fact, from anywhere in the British Isles. Legal historians have studied these laws to determine to what extent they prefigure legal precepts that form the basis of our current system. In addition to giving us our first look at English laws, however, this collection of statutes provides a wealth of information about topics such as social practices, the status of women, medical knowledge and the stratification of rank in early Anglo-Saxon England. The task of the translator is to extract that information from these often terse statements.


Historical background

The story of the recording of Æthelberht's laws is inextricably bound up with the mission to convert Anglo-Saxon England. It begins with an almost certainly apocryphal anecdote related in Bede's Ecclesiastical History II.1, which immortalizes three of the worst puns in history. The future Pope Gregory the Great, in the days before his papal election, was wandering one day in the market place of Rome:

As well as other merchandise he saw some boys put up for sale, with fair complexions, handsome faces and lovely hair. On seeing them, he asked, so it is said, from what region or land they had been brought. He was told that they came from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were like that in appearance. He asked again whether these islanders were Christians or still entangled in the errors of heathenism. He was told that they were heathen. Then with a deep-drawn sigh he said, 'Alas that the author of darkness should have men so bright of face in his grip, and that minds devoid of inward grace should bear so graceful an outward form.' Again he asked for the name of the race. He was told that they were called Angli. 'Good,' he said, 'they have the face of angels, and such men should be fellow-heirs of the angels in heaven.' 'What is the name,' he asked, 'of the kingdom from which they have been brought?' He was told that the men of the kingdom were called Deiri [men of Deira, a Northumbrian kingdom]. 'Deiri', he replied, 'De ira! [From wrath!] good! snatched from the wrath of Christ and called to his mercy. And what is the name of the king of the land?' He was told that it was Ælle; and playing on the name, he said, 'Allelulia! the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts.' (Quotations from Bede are taken from Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors, eds., Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969).

Bede himself seems to have regarded this colorful story as questionable: he prefaces it with the disclaimer that "it has come down to us as a tradition of our forefathers," and in this very passage carefully distinguishes oral tradition from authorial voice with the phrase "so it is said." But pagan slaves were, in fact, sold in the Roman markets, and such an encounter may well have provided Gregory with his introduction to the Anglo-Saxon peoples and planted the seeds of his future mission of conversion.

In 590, Gregory was elected to the papacy. He was a highly literate man passionately committed to the preaching of the gospel, and his Pastoral Care, an essay of instruction as to how a priest should govern his flock, was one of the most widely-read works of the Middle Ages. In 595 he dispatched a Roman mission of 40 monks headed by the cleric Augustine to the Anglo-Saxon territories. Although this rather undistinguished monk may seem a strange choice to lead such an important expedition, perhaps in Gregory's view, Augustine was especially qualified for this mission by his biblical scholarship: the bringing of the Bible's message to the Germanic pagans was the core of Gregory's purpose. After a difficult journey, the tired mission finally arrived on the eastern shore of Kent in 597. Æthelberht, the king of Kent, allotted the Roman mission a dwelling in Canterbury, and Augustine's first masses were held in the Church of St. Martin, which still stands outside the medieval walls of Canterbury.

For such an important figure in both the religious and legal history of England, we know very little about Æthelberht. Even his birth and death dates are difficult to establish with any precision. Bede's Ecclesiastical History II.5 begins as follows:

In the year of our Lord 616, the twenty-first year after Augustine and his companions had been sent to preach to the English nation, King Æthelberht of Kent, after ruling his temporal kingdom gloriously for fifty-six years, entered upon the eternal joys of the heavenly kingdom. He was the third English king to rule over all the southern kingdoms, which are divided from the north by the river Humber and the surrounding territory; but he was the first to enter the kingdom of heaven.

But Bede contradicts himself later in the same chapter, when he states that Æthelberht died 21 years after his conversion. If we assume this to have occurred in 597, the date of would be 618 rather than 616. Drawing on Bede, Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks—an important contemporary continental source—and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, we can come up with the following approximate biography:

Æthelberht was born between 560 and 562; his father bore the Frankish name Eorminric. Due, perhaps, to family connections, around 580 Æthelberht married Bertha, daughter of the Frankish king Chari-bert, himself the grandson of the powerful king Clovis, first of the Frankish kings to accept Christianity. The Christian princess Bertha was learned in letters, and when she came to England from the continent she brought her chaplain Liudhard who, as a cleric, was surely literate at least in Latin, and may perhaps even have tried his hand in the recording of the Anglo-Saxon language, so closely related to his own native Frankish tongue. Between 587 and 590 Æthelberht succeeded to the Kentish kingdom. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us that in the year 592 "there occurred a great slaughter at 'Woden's barrow', and Ceawlin [king of the West Saxons] was driven out"; this opened the way for Æthelberht to become the dominant ruler in the south of England. Æthelberht was recognized as imperator or overlord of the kingdoms south of the River Humber when he accepted the Christianizing mission headed by Augustine in 597. We know the day—May 26—but not the year of Augustine's death; we can establish parameters of 604 to 609. Æthelberht himself died in either 616 or 618.

The only surviving copy of Æthelberht's laws is preceded by a rubric which states: These are the decrees which King Æthelberht set in Augustine's time. This would imply a date for the collection of between 597 and 604. Most modern scholars agree that Æthelberht's conversion to Christianity provided the impetus for the recording of the law (although they postulate a wide variety of specific motivations). Bede claims that Æthelberht wrote his laws iuxta exempla Romanorum 'according to the examples of the Romans'. There is, however, no evident influence of Roman legislation in the text of Æthelberht. Patrick Wormald has argued convincingly that Bede meant precisely that the laws were committed to writing after the manner of the kings of the federated nations of the Roman Empire. Where Æthelberht's laws differ crucially from those of his Continental cousins, however, is that they are written in English. Only the peoples of the British Isles—the Anglo-Saxons, the Irish, and perhaps later the Welsh—recorded their laws in the vernacular in single-digit centuries; all other early Germanic laws are all recorded in Latin. Æthelberht's laws represent a series of firsts: our first text recorded in the Anglo-Saxon territories, our first text recorded in Old English, and our earliest Anglo-Saxon legal collection.

To the modern eye, these stipulations seem more distinguished by ambiguity and omission than by what they actually tell us. But, as Wallace-Hadrill says, many early laws "must first and foremost have struck their readers as a form of kingly literature … A royal book is made, to be stored, it may be, with the books of the Bible—not inappropriately, since the Bible, too, was a repository of law." (J. M. Wallace-Haddrill, Early Germanic Kingship in England and on the Continent [The Ford Lectures, 1970; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971], 44). These laws of the Kentish people may well be intended not as a record of legislation, but rather as a monument to the king, providing permanent evidence that, by committing their laws to writing, they had joined the ranks of the civilized peoples of Europe.


The manuscript

The only extant copy of Æthelberht's laws postdates the original compilation by more than six centuries. It is preserved in the collection of Anglo-Saxon law known as the Textus Roffensis (Rochester Cathedral Library MS A. 3. 5), compiled in Rochester in the first quarter of the twelfth century. This codex has an adventurous, if not at times actually disreputable, history: through the course of centuries it has been purloined, given to a ten-year-old boy to copy, annotated by Elisabeth Elstob (who wrote the first English-language grammar of Old English in 1715), and dropped into the river Thames.

The manuscript is vellum, ca. 225 x 155 mm (about 9 x 6 inches). The leaves have clearly been trimmed, as shown by the prickings (a line of small holes incised down the sides of a page which allowed the scribe to rule the page and keep his writing straight), but it is hard to say by how much, as this trimming does not impinge on the text itself. A water stain can be seen on all the pages from its immersion in the Thames, although the early folios containing the Kentish laws are virtually undamaged. The laws contained in the first part of the Textus Roffensis are all written by the same scribe; we can assume he was a careful copyist because he has often corrected himself when he found himself modernizing.


The language

The original text of Æthelberht's laws would have been the first in Old English, and the surviving copy, though it is one of the latest Old English manuscripts, still exhibits many spellings which seem to be archaic when compared, for example, to the "Classical" Old English of the West Saxon King Alfred or the tenth-century homilist Ælfric. After centuries of copying, however, these archaisms appear only sporadically. They include:

  • indication of vowel length by doubling (laadrinc mannan §13, taan §71, foot §80)
  • representation of the dental fricative, later commonly spelled þ or ð, as th (thl §7) or d (widobane §50, 2v3/4)
  • spelling the ligature æ as a digraph (Aet §21.1 and §21.2).
  • use of the genitive singular -æs (ceorlæs §26, lyswæs §9, Ðeowæs §82)
  • use of the instrumental singular in -i (ceapi §76)
  • representing the diphthong -eo- as -eu (freum §15, leudgeldum §64)
  • retaining an archaic final vowel in Gyfe §67.1 (for Gif)

Traces of archaism in the syntax (either generally or within the genre of legal writing) can be seen in the lack of univerbation in the participial compound of-aslagen (§§39, 80); the final position of the verb in the apodosis (or "then" clause); the use of weorðan for the passive auxiliary; and the use of the prepositionless dative for amount of restitution used in restricted (probably the oldest) sections of the laws. On the morphological front, several compounds used in Æthelberht's laws appear otherwise either rarely or not at all in the corpus of Old English: mæthl-frith §7, drihtin-beage §12, laadrinc-mannan §13, leodgeld/leud-geld §13/§24, be-byreþ §23, weg-reaf §23.1, §82, hlaf-ætan §26, riht-ham-scyld §32, feax-fang §33, hrif-wund §62, cear-wund §63, wælt-wund §68 (if these last three are, in fact, compounds), fri-wif §72, loc-bore §72, mægð-bot §73, mægþ-man §77, and gæn-gan §77.2. The text also contains several hapax legomena (words which appear nowhere else in the surviving corpus of Old English), whose meaning often proves elusive: fedesl §17 (which retains the archaic suffix -isl, later consistently metathesized to -ils in tri-syllabic words with subsequent loss of s [as gyrdisl > girdels > girdle]), læt §27, hion §36, and lærest §60 (which appears otherwise in Old English as læs(es)t).

There are stylistic elements in the laws of Æthelberht that seem to hark back to a preliterate version. Although we cannot claim that the text we have is a transcription of something ever actually spoken, we can point to certain mnemonic features that accord well with what we might expect for laws preserved by oral transmission. First of these is the head-to-toe physiological ordering of the personal injury laws. Second is the overall structure, which similarly moves from top to bottom, according to status. Finally, there are traces of the poetic device of alliteration, which might have served as an aid to memory (for example, §67: Gif man þeoh ðurhstingþ…).


Chronological layering

We can distinguish both the very earliest materials and the very latest in this compilation of laws. The oldest part is set off linguistically by its use of the archaic prepositionless Dative of Quantity; this section contains the laws dealing with ceorlas, the personal injury laws, and possibly the laws dealing with esnas (as a subset of ceorlas). The most recent laws are those dealing with the church, which obviously must at least post-date Æthelberht's conversion. The syntax alone sets the first seven clauses apart from the rest; further, they are (excepting the single term ynce) the only clauses to incorporate Latinate terminology. There is no direct evidence that the stipulations dealing with the church were part of the first written compilation, but we know that they were certainly in place no later than 731, when Bede comments upon them in his Ecclesiastical History.

The chronological order in which other clauses may have been added is more difficult to determine. The provision in §65.1 about sending representatives to plead one's case may have always belonged to the earliest section in which it is contained; although it could have been added to address a specific case, there are parallels in Germanic literature outside the Anglo-Saxon territories attesting to such a procedure. The subclauses in §67 use the term ynce, borrowed from Latin, to measure the depth of wounds, and thus are either added fairly late to the personal injury laws, or demonstrate a later terminological replacement. Paragraph §24.2 deals with an absconding murderer and may or may not have been added in response to a specific case. Paragraphs §9, §10 and §13 share the stylistic feature of the figura etymologica in the apodosis, which suggests that at least the first two of these may have been added by the same compiler.


Selected editions and English translations

  1. Benjamin Thorpe, Ancient Laws and Institutions of England (London). First English translation. (Reprinted in Haddan and Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents Relating to Great Britain and Ireland, (Oxford), Vol. III.).
  2. Felix Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen (Halle). This edition of Anglo-Saxon laws has set the standard not only for students of Anglo-Saxon law, but for medieval scholars in general. The editions are accompanied by translations, notes and glossaries in German.
  3. F. L. Attenborough, The Laws of the Earliest English Kings (Cambridge). Principally an English version of Liebermann's translations with greatly abridged notes.
  4. Dorothy Whitelock, English Historical Documents I: c. 500-1042 (London). An English translation, based heavily on Attenborough with some additional notes by Whitelock. Omits personal injury clauses.
  5. Peter Sawyer, ed., Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, Vol. VII: Textus Roffensis, Part I (Copenhagen). A facsimile of the Textus Roffensis, prefaced by an extensive codicological introduction.
  6. Lisi Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law (Toronto). Edition, translation and commentary in English which summarizes most of the important issues in previous scholarship and discusses difficulties of interpretation. Contains a bibliography of scholarship pertinent to the Kentish laws through the twentieth century.
  7. Patrick Wormald, King Æthelberht of the Kent-people and the first English code of law (In commemorative volume rededicating the West Portal of Canterbury Cathedral). Translation into English; more literal than its predecessors to be "as consistently faithful to the wording of the original Kentish as I can make it without total sacrifice of modern grammar or sense." Brief but excellent commentary from England's preeminent scholar of Anglo-Saxon law.


Notes on the edition

The manuscript of Æthelberht's laws is written continuously; the choice of paragraph numeration thus depends on the editor. All previous editions are based on that done by Johan de Laet in 1620, with only minor changes in the arrangement of clauses. De Laet's numeration often does not consider the syntactic connection between clauses, and thus presents a somewhat simplistic view of textual interrelationships. The following edition is taken from Lisi Oliver, The Beginnings of English Law (University of Toronto Press, 2002), which provides a revision of the paragraph breakdown based on considerations such as stipulative subjunctives and referential pronouns. (For ease of reference, The Beginnings of English Law supplies in square brackets in the right margin the numeration used by previous editors, including Attenborough, whose translation also appears in English Historical Documents I.)

In general, I have not included citation references in the footnotes; first, as these are so numerous as to bog down an edition primarily intended for classroom use and second, as these are easily available in The Beginnings of English Law. Citations are included for articles targeted at specific clauses, and for articles that have appeared since the publication of the edition in book form.


Editorial conventions

The Old English characters þ and ð (with its capital Ð, both representing the sounds spelled by modern English th, have been preserved, but Old English 'wynn' is transcribed as 'w'. The abbreviation 7 for 'and' has been retained. The scribe occasionally but inconsistently marks long vowels with an accent; I have left these where they occur in the manuscript. Where the scribe uses an abbreviation stroke, I have expanded the form (using italics), except for the common abbreviation scill for scilling.

Medieval punctuation was far less elaborate than that used today: a raised dot or "point" served where we would use a comma, semi-colon, colon or period. Furthermore, the text is pointed in places in which we would use no punctuation at all: for instance, numerals are typically set off by a point on either side. In editing the text, I have adopted modern punctuation practice, although the reader should keep in mind that this necessarily imposes an interpretation on the clause structure that may not have been intended by the medieval scribe. Following a period, I have changed lower-case characters to upper-case when necessary. Capitals that exist in the manuscript are bold-face, newly-created capitals are not.

There is no consistency in the practice of word (or morpheme) division: for example, sometimes the bound prefix ge- is written with its verbal stem, and sometimes it stands alone (§19, 1v2 geligeþ 'lies' versus §21, 1v4 ge ligeþ). Although the partition or fusion of morphemes in the manuscript can in some cases provide linguists with prosodic clues (for example, the clitic or unstresed status of the demonstrative may be indicated by the lack of separation in seman 'the man' in §28.1 1v2), I have chosen to normalize throughout. Where contiguous but separated words seem unambiguously to form a compound, I have written them together (thus ciricfriþ 'church peace' §6, 1r5 and wegreaf 'highway robbery' §23.1, 1v10); where there is ambiguity about whether to interpret such elements as a compound, I have left them separate and discussed the alternatives in the notes (thus ambiht smið—either 'official smith' or 'official (and) smith'—§13, 1r14, and hrif wund—either 'abdominal wound' or 'abdomen (becomes) wounded'—§62, 2v20).

Where I have emended the text or restored illegible readings, the supplementary or changed characters are enclosed in square brackets. Thus M[æthl]frith §7 indicates that the letters æthl are an editorial emendation or (in this case) restoration of letters which are no longer legible in the manuscript; similarly ge[s]elle indicates that the s represents an editorial change from the manuscript reading of gefelle. Where I have emended the text by deletion, the characters that I consider to be superfluous are enclosed in round brackets: thus forgelde(n) indicates that the manuscript reading of forgelden makes better sense as forgelde. These editorial choices are discussed in the notes at the bottom of the page.

Page breaks are indicated between slashes—/1r/ stands for 1 recto (the "front" side) and /1v/ stands for 1 verso (the "back" side).


Þis syndon þa domas þe Æðelbirht cyning asette on AGustinus dæge [1]

[The title is in red ink, different from the black of the text proper. The diphthong in Latin "Augustinus" is anglicized to a monophthong.]

1. Godes feoh 7 ciricean XII gylde. [2]

2. Biscopes feoh XI gylde.

3. Preostes feoh IX gylde.

4. Diacones feoh VI gylde.

5. Cleroces feoh III gylde.

6. Ciricfriþ II gylde.

7. M[æthl]friþ II gylde.

[Mæthlfriþ: Only a hook from what could have been the t remains legible in the manuscript. The restoration is based on the transcription made by Francis Tate in 1589.]

8. Gif cyning his leode to him gehateþ 7 heom mon þær yfel gedo, II bóte, 7 cyninge L scillinga.

9. Gif cyning æt mannes ham drincæþ [3] 7 ðær man lyswæs hwæt gedo, twibote gebete.

10. Gif frigman cyninge stele, IX gylde forgylde.

11. Gif in cyninges tune [4] man mannan of slea, L scill gebete.

12. Gif man frigne mannan of sleahþ, cyninge L scill to drihtinbeage.

13. Gif cyninges ambiht smið oþþe laadrincmannan ofslehð, [5] [med]uman leodgelde forgelde.

[meduman: Thus restored by Liebermann, presumably on the model of §24. The lower part of the d in [med] is still legible in the manuscript.]

14. Cyninges mundbyrd, [6] L scillinga.

15. Gif frigman freum stelþ, III gebete, 7 cyning age þæt wite 7 ealle þa æhtan. [7]

16. Gif man wið cyninges mægdenman geligeþ, L scillinga gebete.

16.1. G if hio grindende þeowa sio, [8] XXV scillinga gebete.

16.2. Sio [9] þridde, XII scillingas.

17. Cyninges fedesl, [10] XX scillinga forgelde.

18. Gif on eorles tune man mannan /1v/ ofslæhþ, XII scill gebete.

19. Gif wið eorles birele [11] man geligeþ, XII scill gebete.

20. Ceorles [12] mundbyrd, VI scillingas.

21. Gif wið ceorles birelan man geligeþ, VI scillingum gebete.

21.1. Aet þære oþere ðeowan, L scætta. [13]

21.2. Aet þare þriddan, XXX scætta.

22. Gif man in mannes tún ærest geirneþ, VI scillingum gebete.

22.1. Se þe æfter irneþ, III scillingas.

22.2. Siððan gehwylc scilling.

23. Gif man mannan wæpnum bebyreþ ðær ceas weorð, 7 man nænig yfel ne gedeþ, VI scillingum gebete.

23.1. Gif wegreaf sy gedón, VI scillingum gebete.

23.2. Gif man þone man of slæhð, XX scillingum gebete.

24. Gif man mannan ofslæhð, medume leodgeld C scillinga gebete.

24.1. Gif man mannan ofslæhð, æt openum græfe, XX scillinga forgelde, 7 in XL nihta ealne leod forgelde.

24.2. Gif bana of lande gewiteþ, ða magas healfne leod forgelden. [14]

25. Gif man frigne man geb[inde]þ, XX scill gebete.

[gebindeþ: Thus restored by Liebermann, presumably on the model of §81. The lower part of all characters is still visible.]

26. Gif man ceorlæs hlafætan [15] ofslæhð, VI scillingum gebete.

27. Gif læt [16] ofslæhð, þone selestan LXXX scll forgelde.

27.1. Gif þane oþerne ofslæhð, LX scillingum forgelde.

27.2. Ðane þriddan, XL scillingum forgelde(n).

[forgelden: I follow Liebermann in emending this to the singular forgelde.]

28. Gif friman edorbrecþe [17] gedeþ, VI scillingum gebete.

28.1. Gif man inne feoh genimeþ, se man III gelde gebete.

[se man: written as seman.]

29. Gif friman edor gegangeð, IIII scillingum gebete. /2r/

30. Gif man mannan ofslea, agene scætte 7 unfacne feo gehwilce gelde.

31. Gif friman wið fries mannes wif geligeþ, his [18] wergilde abicge, 7 oðer wif his agenum scætte begete 7 ðæm oðrum æt þam [19] gebrenge.

32. Gif man rihthamscyld [20] þurhstinð, mid weorðe forgelde.

33. Gif feaxfang [21] geweorð, L sceatta to bote.

34. Gif banes blice weorðeþ, III scillingum gebete.

35. Gif banes bite weorð, IIII scillingum gebete.

36. Gif sio uterre hion [22] gebrocen weorðeþ, X scillingum gebete.

36.1. Gif butu sien, XX scillingum gebete.

37. Gif eaxle gelæmed weorþeð, XXX scill gebete.

38. Gif oþer eare nawiht gehereð, XXV scill gebete.

39. Gif eare of weorð aslagen, XII scill gebete.

40. Gif eare þirel weorðeþ, III scill gebete.

41. Gif eare sceard weorðeþ, VI scill gebete.

42. Gif eage of weorð, L scillingum gebete.

43. Gif muð oþþe eage woh weorðeþ, XII scill gebete.

44. Gif nasu ðyrel weorð, VIIII scillingum gebete.

44.1. Gif hit sio an hleore, III scill gebete.

[an: This must be emended, either to on 'on' or ane 'one'.]

44.2. Gif butu ðyrele sien, VI scill gebete.

45. Gif nasu ælcor sceard weorð, gehwylc VI scill gebete.

46. Gif ðirel weorþ, VI scill gebete. [23]

47. Se þe cinban forslæhð, mid XX scillingum forgelde.

48. Æt þam feower toðum fyrestum, æt gehwylcum VI scillingas.

48.1. Se toþ se þanne /2v/ bi standeþ, IIII scill.

48.2. Se þe ðonne bi ðam standeþ, III scill.

48.3. And þonne siþþan gehwylc, scilling.

49. Gif spræc awyrd weorþ, XII scillingas.

50. Gif widobane gebroce[n] weorðeþ, VI scill gebete.

[gebrocen: Manuscript reads gebroced.]

51. Se þe earm þurhstinð, VI scillingum gebete.

52. Gif earm forbrocen weorð, VI scill gebete.

53. Gif þuman of aslæhð, XX scill.

54. Gif ðuman nægl of weorðeþ, III scill gebete.

55. Gif man scytefinger of aslæhð, VIIII scill gebete.

56. Gif man middelfinger of aslæhð, IIII scill gebete.

57. Gif man goldfinger of aslæhð, VI scill gebete.

58. Gif man þone lytlan finger of aslæhð, XI scill gebete.

59. Æt þam neglum gehwylcum, scilling.

60. Æt þam lærestan wlitewamme, III scillingas.

60.1. And æt þam maran, VI scill.

[And: changed from ond by scribe.]

61. Gif man oþerne mid fyste in naso slæhð, III scill.

61.1. Gif dynt sie, scilling.

61.2. Gif he heahre handa dyntes onfehð, scill forgelde. [24]

61.3. Gif dynt sweart sie buton wædum, XXX scætta gebete.

61.4. Gif hit sie binnan wædum, gehwylc XX scætta gebete.

62. Gif hrif wund [25] weorðeþ, XII scill gebete.

62.1. Gif he [26] þurhðirel weorðeþ, XX scill gebete.

63. Gif man gegemed weorðeþ, XXX scill gebete.

63.1. Gif man cearwund sie, XXX scill gebete. [27]

64. Gif man gekyndelice lim awyrdeþ, þrym leudgeldum hine /3r/ man forgelde.

64.1. Gif he þurhstinð, VI scill gebete. [28]

64.2. Gif man inbestinð, VI scill gebete.

65. Gif þeoh gebrocen weorðeþ, XII scillingum gebete.

65.1. Gif he healt weorð, þær motan freond [29] seman.

66. Gif rib forbrocen weorð, III scill gebete.

67. Gif man þeoh ðurhstingþ, stice gehwilce VI scillingas.

67.1. Gyfe ofer ynce, [30] scilling.

67.2. Æt twam yncum, twegen.

67.3. Ofer þry, III scll.

68. Gif wælt[-]wund [31] weorðeþ, III scillingas gebete.

69. Gif fot of weorðeþ, L scillingum forgelde(n).

[forgelden: I follow Liebermann's suggestion that this should be emended to the singular forgelde; see §27.2.]

70. Gif seo micle ta of weorðeþ, X scll forgelde(n).

[forgelden: I follow Liebermann's suggestion that this should be emended to the singular forgelde; see §27.2 and §69.]

70.1. Æt þam oðrum taum gehwilcum, healf gelde ealswa æt þam fingrum ys cwiden.

71. Gif þare mycclan taan nægl of weorþeð, XXX scætta to bote. [32]

71.1. Æt þam oþrum gehwilcum, X scættas gebete.

72. Gif friwif locbore leswæs hwæt gedeþ, [33] XXX scill gebete.

73. Mægþbot sy swa friges mannes.

74. Mund þare betstan widuwan eorlcundre, L scillinga gebete.

74.1. Ðare oþre, XX scll.

74.2. Ðare þriddan, XII scll.

74.3. Þare feorðan, VI scll.

75. Gif man widuwan unagne genimeþ, II gelde seo mund sy.

76. Gif man mægþ gebigeð ceapi, geceapod sy gif hit unfacne is.

76.1. Gif hit þonne facne is, ef[t] þær æt ham gebrenge, 7 him man his scæt agefe.

[eft: I follow Liebermann's suggestion in emending the manuscript reading of ef to eft.]

76.2. Gif hio cwic bearn gebyreþ, healfne scæt age gif ceorl ær swylteþ. /3v/

76.3. Gif mid bearnum bugan wille, healfne scæt age. [34]

76.4. Gif ceorl agan wile, swa an bearn. [35]

76.5. Gif hio bearn ne gebyreþ, fæderingmagas fioh agan 7 morgengyfe. [36]

77. Gif man mægþman nede genimeþ, ðam agende L scillinga, 7 eft æt þam agende sinne willan ætgebicge.

77.1. Gif hio oþrum mæn in sceat bewyddod sy, XX scillinga gebete.

77.2. Gif gængang geweorðeþ, XXXV scill, 7 cyninge XV scillingas.

78. Gif man mid esnes [37] cwynan geligeþ be cwicum ceorle, [38] II gebete.

79. Gif esne oþerne ofslea unsynningne, ealne weorðe forgelde.

80. Gif esnes eage 7 foot of weorðeþ aslagen, ealne weorðe hine forgelde.

81. Gif man mannes esne gebindeþ, VI scill gebete.

82. Ðeowæs wegreaf se III scillingas.

83. Gif þeow steleþ, II gelde gebete.


Notes to the Text

[1] I would like to thank Sally O'Rourke for working through the text and checking the glossary.

[2] The block of church laws almost surely represents the most recent addition to the body of laws. These first seven clauses are syntactically ambiguous, as gylde can be technically translated as noun or verb (as compensation or let him compensate). Other Germanic parallels, such as the term angylde 'single compensation', may argue for translating gylde as a noun.

[3] This probably refers to more than a casual beer: see note to §17.

[4] Whitelock translates tun as 'estate'. Although the word commonly means landed property, it can also denote a building.

[5] Liebermann takes ambiht smið as a compound meaning 'official smith'; as in other medieval manuscripts, the scribe often leaves a space between the component elements of compounds. The manuscript break between the two elements could, however, represent a word boundary, giving the meaning of 'official [or] smith.' Whether laadrinc man should be interpreted as 'lead-warrior man [=guide]' or 'bringing-warrior-man [=herald/messenger]' is unclear; Old Norse parallels may give preference to the latter.

[6] A person's mund or mundbyrd 'protection' is the right to peace for members of his/her household, retinue, and guests. Injury or damage done to any of these constitutes a violation of protection.

[7] In theory this could mean "the king shall take the fine and all the [stolen] goods." But it makes no sense to assume that the stolen goods would not be returned to the original owner. Better to take the second 7 here to be the adversative 'or' rather than the conjunctive 'and.' See parallels in §§23, 30, 80.

[8] The "grinding slave" is probably responsible for the production of meal from grain. She is valued more highly than a common slave as she has access to foodstuffs, and thus the possibility of introducing poison (or lima beans, which I personally consider almost as bad).

[9] sio can either be a 3rd person singular subjunctive or a feminine demonstrative modifiying þridde. For a possible model, compare the use of sio in §16.1.

[10] The term fedesl is a hapax legomenon and has been variously translated, generally as a member of the king's household. The -isl suffix, however, creates in Germanic an instrumental noun from a verbal root, which would give a sense here of 'feeding'. This probably refers to the responsibility of the king's subjects to provide him with sustenance: the feorm of later texts. (Duncan is paying just such an official visit to Macbeth when he is treacherously murdered). Should a person default that duty or wish to commute it to a monetary payment, he owes 20 shillings. (Lisi Oliver, "Cyninges fedesl: The Feeding of the King in Æthelberht ch. 12," Anglo-Saxon England 27 [1998]: 59-75.)

[11] Although birele is masculine elsewhere in Old English, it must here be feminine in the context of §21.

[12] Whitelock, EHD, 392 states that the sense of ceorl is 'peasant proprietor.'

[13] The Kentish shilling was a gold piece containing 20 sceattas; the sceatta was a smaller gold piece equal in weight to a grain of barley.

[14] The wergild for a freeman is 100 shillings, payable in two installments: 20 shillings at the open grave and the remaining 80 within 40 days. The open grave would be the location in which blood feud would most likely break out: the payment of the first installment here may have been intended precisely to avoid this. Reinhold Schmid points out that the Frisian custom was to pronounce the accusation of murder at the open grave. Patrick Wormald hypothesizes that the stipulation that the kin is responsible for only half the wergild should the killer escape may have been inserted to address a particular case, since Germanic law generally holds the kin fully responsible for offenses committed by one of its members. It is also possible that this is a supplementary fine added to the wergild if the killer escapes, as proof that the kin-group has not supported him in his actions.

[15] Etymologically, the members of the household center themselves around the hlaf 'loaf': the hlaford 'lord' (< 'guardian of the loaf'), the hlæfdige 'lady' (< 'shaper of the loaf') and the hlæfæta 'dependent' (< 'eater of the loaf').

[16] The exact ramifications of the rank læt are unclear, as the term occurs nowhere else in Old English. The term almost certainly designates freedmen, but may also encompass indigenous Welshmen. See recent discussion in Lisi Oliver, "Who was Æthelberht's læt?", in Confrontation in Late Antiquity, ed. Linda Jones Hall (Cambridge, 2003).

[17] edorbrycþ literally means 'fence-breaking'; that is, breaking through the fence surrounding an enclosure, thereby violating the security of the property.

[18] As wif is neuter, it is grammatically ambiguous whether the wergild is that of the man or the woman.

[19] Liebermann suggests emending this to ham 'home'. I am not convinced this is necessary. Modern German still retains the idiom "bei ihm," which is more familiar perhaps in the French "chez lui," in both instances meaning roughly "at his home." Although we do not find this idiom elsewhere in English, as we have no text which predates this one, I would not rule out the possibility that we are seeing here the remnants of an idiomatic use of the demonstrative pronoun which does not survive long in the Anglo-Saxon territories. The choice of one interpretation over the other does not materially affect the translation.

[20] This word appears nowhere else in Old English, and its meaning is uncertain. Liebermann, translating the individual morphemes "right+home+shield," takes the compound to refer to the wooden door protecting the house, and by extension the concept as a whole to mean something like "disturbance of the homestead". Toller, in the Supplement to Bosworth's Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon, on the basis of a parallel in the Lex Saxonum, emends the phrase to Gif man on unriht ham oððe scyld [þurhstinð] … 'if a person unjustly stabs through a garment or shield …'. This emendation seems severe to me, as there is no other clause which, on the face of it, shows corruption in the transmission to this degree. Grimm puts forth the possibility of the right shoulderblade, followed by a very appropriate question mark, as this would be considerably out of sequence in the head-to-toe enumeration of body parts, even if we had reason to believe that hamscyld meant 'shoulderblade' (which we don't). I am more favorably inclined to accept a possible connection to the term rihthæmed 'legitimate matrimony.' This interpretation would then connect this clause to the preceding §31, both concerning the taking of another man's legal or proper wife. An open question remains as to what the "worth" of breaking the rihthamscyld might be.

[21] Line 1537 of Beowulf begins Beowulf's struggle with Grendel's mother. Klaeber's edition reads Gefeng þa be eaxle – nalas for fæhðe mearn 'he seized her by the shoulder, not at all was he anxious about the feud.' E.G. Stanley suggests changing eaxle 'by the shoulder' to feaxe 'by the hair', thus both improving the alliterative structure, and also relating the action to §33 in Æthelberht. If one accepts Stanley's emendation the fight begins with Beowulf seizing Grendel's mother by the hair and thereby dragging her to the floor.

[22] The term hion appears nowhere else in Old English, and its meaning is uncertain. In the top-to-bottom ordering of the personal injury laws, the Modern German parallel Hirn 'skull' might be attractive; however, the German term is neuter rather than feminine. §44 of the laws of Alfred states: Heafodwunde to bote, gif ða ban beoð butu ðyrel, .xxx. scillinga geselle him mon 'As compensation for headwound: if the bones are both pierced, he should be paid 30 shillings,' which provides a nice parallel to the concept of two hions, an outer and an inner, although it is still not clear what the reference to inner and outer--for Æthelberht—or both--for Æthelberht and Alfred--actually means.

[23] A word may be missing from this clause. This seems likely, as §44 has already dealt with the piercing of the nose, and the amounts of restitution are different in the two clauses. On the basis of other Germanic parallels, Liebermann suggests that the word þrotu 'throat' may have been inadvertently omitted by the scribe because of the þ of the following þirel.

[24] It is not clear what distinguishes these different types of blow. I am tempted to take §61.1 as the same as §61.2, inserted by scribal oversight; note that the amounts of restitution are identical. Then the crucial distinction would be between §61 and §61.2. Liebermann suggests that §61.2 may be struck with the open hand as opposed to a fist. Possible also is that the difference is between a right-handed and left-handed blow: Jakob Grimm claims that the Norse cognate of heah was used to distinguish the right hand. The interpretation may, however, be more straightforward: a blow delivered with raised hand is restituted by a(n additional) shilling because the windup literally allows it to deliver more punch.

[25] Either hrif is the subject of the verb with wund serving as predicate, or the two form a compound subject; see parallel §68. hrif rarely ccurs as the first element of a compound in Old English. But the Lex Alamannorum (written sometime between 584 and 629) has hreuouunt (~ hrif + wund), which also served as the model for hreuauunt in the Lex Bavariorum. Comparative evidence would thus suggest interpreting the Old English similarly as a compound, and rendering the phrase along the lines of "If an abdomen-wound occurs…." See the parallel in wælt-wund §68.

[26] That is, the wound goes right through the injured man. he cannot refer to either the stomach (hrif, neuter) or the wound (wund, feminine).

[27] The first of these clauses deals with the fine for laming a man; the second with rendering him wounded so severely that he is bedridden (compare Old Norse kararmaðr, 'man confined to his bed').

[28] Liebermann points out that these sums seem remarkably small compared to the fine stipulated for damage to the penis and speculates that perhaps §64.1 and §64.2 refer to another body part which has been omitted in the copying. But one could also interpret these clauses as referring to the scrotum as a whole; this eliminates the discrepancy, since the scrotum can be pierced without impairing the ability to engender children.

[29] The term freond can mean either 'friends' or 'kinsmen.' Note, however, that elsewhere in this text 'kinsmen' is rendered by mægas. Contemporary Germanic and Irish laws suggest that the term may refer to a mixture of kinsmen, friends and dependents. It is not clear whether this clause refers to friends of the injured man or to representatives chosen by both parties.

[30] With the exception of the nomenclature in the church clauses §§1-7, the borrowing of ynce from Latin unica 'one-twelfth' (with concomitant phonological change) is the only non-Germanic term in these laws; Old Irish law borrows the same Latin term for measuring the width of wounds.

[31] Either wælt is the subject of the verb with wund serving as predicate, or the two form a compound subject; see §63.1 and §62, both of which contain similar ambiguities. This, again, is a hapax legomenon in Old English. Liebermann suggested 'sinew' on the basis of Old Frisian waldsine; however, it is the second element sine that is cognate with sinew. Grimm, comparing Old English wealte 'ring' proposes a wound that can be stitched (with a ring-like motion of needle and thread). I believe it is more direct to simply compare this to Modern English welt--giving a translation along the lines of 'a wound that leaves/causes a welt'--which is plausible in terms of the amount of restitution required.

[32] At 20 sceattas to the shilling, this represents half the sum for the 3-shilling thumbnail.

[33] Much ink has been spilt over exactly who the friwif locbore is. Until recently, the prevalent view was that she was an unmarried free woman, who thus did not yet need to bind up her hair. Recently, Christine Fell has argued that locbore means 'in charge of the locks', and that the individual named here was a sort of chatelaine. (See Christine Fell, "A 'friwif locbore' Revisited," Anglo-Saxon England 13 [1984]: 157-66).

[34] bugan in §76.3 has various meanings (from two different etymological sources), among them 'to turn, change direction' or 'to dwell, inhabit.' Previous translators have all followed the first option; Whitelock, for example, renders the clause: 'If she wishes to go away with the children…'. This has sparked reams of discussion about early Anglo-Saxon "divorce laws," for which there is no other real evidence. Carole Hough chooses rather to translate bugan as 'dwell,' with the interpretation that as long as the mother lives with the children, she retains use of half the goods of the marital household; this concept of child support is well-attested throughout Continental laws. Hough's interpretation crucially ties this clause §76.4, where the ambiguity is grammatical rather than lexical. ceorl 'husband' can be either nominative or accusative: that is, it can serve as the subject or object of the verb wille 'should wish to.' All previous translators have chosen to take it as the subject, with the children of the divorce the implied object. Thus Whitelock renders the clause: 'If the husband wishes to keep [the children], [she is to have the same share] as a child.' But Hough chooses a perfectly acceptable alternate translation of agan as 'take,' and assumes that the subject is the woman, with a new husband as the object, and translates the phrase: 'If she wishes to take [another] husband…'. That is, if the widow takes a second husband, then she is no longer entitled to half the household for child support, but inherits "as one child." (see following note). Whether the children go with her or remain to be raised by their fathers' kin is not addressed, although parallels from Continental law would imply the latter. The parallels which Hough adduces both from Continental Germanic laws and from later Anglo-Saxon laws and wills present a thoroughly convincing case by which the "Anglo-Saxon divorce laws" should now be abandoned (Carole A. Hough, "The Early Kentish 'divorce laws': a Reconsideration of Æthelberht, chs. 79 and 80," Anglo-Saxon England 23 [1994]: 19-34).

[35] This is the first reference to the Kentish practice of gavelkind, by which the oldest child is not the sole heir, but rather the inheritance is split among the children. The youngest decides the portions and keeps the hearth; the oldest gets first choice.

[36] The fioh referred to is presumably the dowry originally supplied by her paternal kin; the morgengyfe is the 'morning gift' given to her by her husband when the marriage has been successfully consumated.

[37] Bosworth supposes the esne "was probably a poor freeman from whom a certain portion of labour could be demanded in consideration of his holdings, or a certain rent … reserved out of the produce of the hives, flocks or herds committed to his care. He was a poor mercenary, serving for hire, or for his land, but was not of so low a rank as the þeow or wealh." The term is roughly cognate with Gothic asans 'harvester', so the esne was probably originally a harvester.

[38] The term ceorl can mean 'man,' 'freeman' or 'husband,' although the sense here is clearly 'husband'.



The glossary is intended to be complete, though not every occurrence of some common words is recorded. Weak verb classes are indicated by Arabic numerals, and strong verb classes by Roman numerals. Verbs are described by person, number, tense and, where necessary, mood, e.g., '3s pr. subj.' Adjectives are identified by case and number, nouns by case/number/gender, e.g., ns. = 'nominative singular', 'nsn.' = 'nominative singular neuter'. An asterisk preceding an entry indicates that the word is unique (or nearly so) in the corpus of Old English.The following common abbreviations are used:

  • a. accusative
  • adj. adjective
  • adv. adverb
  • anom. anomalous
  • art. article
  • comp. comparative
  • conj. conjunction
  • d. dative
  • def. definite
  • dem. demonstrative
  • f. feminine
  • g. genitive
  • i. instrumental
  • ind. indicative
  • indef. indefinite
  • m. masculine
  • n. neuter or nominative
  • num. number
  • p ptc past participle
  • pr. present (tense)
  • prep. preposition
  • pron. pronoun
  • pt. preterite (past tense)
  • rel. relative
  • s singular
  • subj. subjunctive
  • superl. superlative

7 'and' 1, 8, 9, 15, etc.; 'or' 15, 23, 30, 80 [see and]

abycgan 1 'to buy off' 3s pr. subj. abicge 31

æfter adv. 'next' 22.1

æht f. 'property, possessions' as. æhtan 15

ælcor adv. 'elsewhere, otherwise' 45

ænig adj. 'any' asn. 23 [see ne]

ær adv. 'early'76.2; superlative ærest 22

æt prep. 'at' 9, 21.1, 21.2, 24.1, etc.

ætgebicgan 1 'buy from' 3s pr. subj. ætgebicge 77

Æðelbirht proper name (king of Kent 587x90-616x18) title

agan pt. pr. 'own, possess' 76.4; 3p pr. ind. 76.5; 3s pr. subj. age 15, 76.2, 76.3; pr. ptc as noun dsm. agende 77

agefan V 'give, restore' 3s pr. subj. agefe 76.1

agen adj. 'own' ds. agene 30; dsm. agenum 31

agende see agan

AGustinus proper name (Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, 602-604x610) title

ambiht m. 'official' as. 13 [possibly ambiht-smið 'official smith']

an adj. 'one' nsn. 76.4; perhaps an for dsn. ane 44.1

and conj. 'and' 48.3, 60.1

asettan 1 'establish, set' 3s pt. asette title

awyrdan 1 'damage' 3s pr. awyrdeþ 64; p ptc nsf. awyrd 49

ban n. 'bone' gs. banes 34, 35

bana m. 'killer' ns. 24.2

be prep. 'by, with' 78

bearn m/n. 'child' n/as. 76.2, 76.4, 76.5; dp. bearnum 76.3

bebyran IV 'provide' 3s pr. bebyreþ 23

begetan V 'obtain' 3s pr. subj. begete 31

beon anom. 'to be' 3s pr. ind. is 76, 76.1, ys 70.1; 3s pr. subj. sie 61.1, 61.3, 61.4, 63.1, sio 16.1, 16.2, 36, 44.1, sy 23.1, 73, 75, 76, 77.1, se 82; 3p pr. ind. syndon title; 3p pr. subj. sien 36.1, 44.2

betsta adj. 'best, foremost'; gsf. betstan 74

bewyddod p ptc beweddian 'betrothed' nsf. 77.1

binnan prep. 'within' 61.4

birele f. 'cup-bearer' as. 19, birelan 21

biscop m. 'bishop' gs. biscopes 2

bistandan VI 'to stand beside' 3s pr. bi standeþ 48.1, 48.2

bite m. 'bite' ns. 35

blice m. 'exposure' ns. 34

bot f. 'compensation' d/as. bote 8, 33, 71

gebrocen p ptc brecan 'to break' 36, 50, 65

bugan I 'to dwell' or II 'to turn away, flee' 76.3

buton prep. 'outside' 61.3

butu num. 'both' np. 36.1, 44.2

ceapi m. 'bargain, deal' is. 76

geceapod p ptc ceapian 'to buy, seal a bargain' 76

cearwund adj. 'grievously wounded, wounded so as to become bedridden' ns. 63.1

ceas f. 'quarrel, strife' ns. 23

ceorl m. '(free)man, husband' n/as. 76.2, 76.4; ds. ceorle 78; gs. ceorles 20, 21, ceorlæs 26

cinban n. 'chin-bone, jawbone' as. 47

cirice f. 'church' gs. ciricean 1

ciricfriþ m. 'peace of the church' ns. 6

cleroc m. 'cleric' gs. cleroces 5

cwic adj. 'alive' asn. 76.2; dsm. cwicum 78

cwiden p ptc cweþan 'said, decreed, established as law' np. 70.1

cwene f. 'wife' ds. cwynan 78

cyning m. 'king' ns. title, 8, 9;15; ds. cyninge 8, 10, 12, 77.2; gs. cyninges 11, 13, 14, 16, 17


dæg m. 'day' ds. dæge title

diacon m. 'deacon' gs. diacones 4

dom m. 'judgment, decree' np. domas title

drihtinbeah m. 'lord-ring, payment to the lord' ds. drihtinbeage 12

drincan III 'to drink' 3s pr. drincæþ 9

dynt m. 'bruise' ns. 61.1, 61.3; gs. dyntes 61.2

eage n. 'eye' ns. 42, 43, 80

eall adj. 'all' asm. ealne 24.1, 79, 80; apf. ealle 15

ealswa adv. 'likewise' 70.1

eare n. 'ear' ns. 38, 39, 40, 41

earm m. 'arm' n/as. 51, 52

eaxle f. 'shoulder' ns. 37

edor m. 'hedge, place enclosed by a hedge' as. 29

edorbrecþ f. 'breaking into an enclosure, breaking through a fence' as. edorbrecþe 28

eft adv. 'afterwards' 76.1, 77

eorl m. 'nobleman' gs. eorles 18, 19

eorlcund adj. 'nobly born' gsf. eorlcundre 74

esne m. 'servant, low-rank mercenary' n/as. 79, 81; gs. esnes 78, 80

facne adj. 'deceptive, fraudulent' nsn. 76.1

fæderingmæg m. 'paternal kinsman' np. fæderingmagas 76.5

feaxfang m. 'seizing by the hair' ns. 33

fedesl n. 'feeding' ns. 17

feoh n. 'property, possessions, goods' n/as. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 28.1, feo 30, fioh 76.5

feower num. 'four' 48; 'fourth' feorðan 74.3

finger m. 'finger' as. 58; dp. fingrum 70.1

forbrecan IV 'break' p ptc forbrocen 52, 66

forgeldan III 'pay, compensate' 3s pr. subj. forgelde 13, 17, 24.1, 27, 27.1, 32, 47, 61.2, 64, 79, 80, forgelden for forgelde 27.2, 69, 70, forgylde 10; 3p pr. ind. forgelden 24.2

forslean VI 'break' 3s pr. ind. forslæhð 47

fot m. 'foot' ns. 69, foot 80

freond m. 'friend, kinsman' np. 65.1

freum see frig

fri(g) adj. 'free' asm. frigne 12, 25; gsm. friges 73, fries 31; ds/p. freum 15

friman m. 'free man' 28, 29, 31, frigman 10, 15

friwif n. 'free woman' ns. 72

fyrest num. adj. 'first, foremost' dp. fyrestum 48

fyst f. 'fist' ds. fyste 61

gængang m. 'return' ns. 77.2

gebetan 1 'pay, recompense' 3s pr. subj. gebete 9, 11, 15, 16, 16.1, etc.

gebigan 1 'buy' 3s pr. ind. gebigeð 76

gebindan III 'bind' 3s pr. gebindeþ 25, 81

gebrengan 1 'bring, lead' 3s pr. subj. gebrenge 31, 76.1

gebyran IV 'bear a child' 3s pr. gebyreþ 76.2, 76.5

gedon anom. 'do' 3s pr. ind. gedeþ 23, 28, 72; 3s pr. subj. gedo 8, 9; p ptc gedón 23.1

gegan anom. 'enter with hostile intent' 3s pr. gegangeð 29

gehatan VII 'summon' 3s pr. gehateþ 8

geheran 1 'hear' 3s pr. gehereð 38

geirnan III 'break in' 3s pr. geirneþ 22

gekyndelice adj. 'reproductive' asn. 64

geld n. 'compensation' ds. gelde 28.1, 75, 83, gylde 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

geldan III 'compensate' 3s pr. subj. gelde 30, 70.1

geligan V 'lie with/have sexual intercourse with' 3s pr. geligeþ 16, 19, 21, 31, 78

geman 1 'cure' p ptc gegemed 63

geniman IV 'take, seize' 3s pr. genimeþ 28.1, 75, 77

geweorþan III 'become' 3s pr. geweorð 33, geweorðeþ 77.2

gewitan I 'depart' 3s pr. gewiteþ 24.2

gif conj. 'if' 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, etc., gyfe 67.1

God m. 'God' gs. Godes 1

goldfinger m. 'ringfinger' ns. 57

græf n. 'grave' ds. græfe 24.1

grindan III 'grind, sharpen' pr. ptc grindende 16.1

gylde see geld

ham m. 'home' as. ham 9, 76.1

hand f. 'hand' ds. handa 61.2

he, hio, hit pron. nsm. he 61.2, 62.1, 64.1, 65.1; asm. hine 64, 80; n/asn. hit 44.1, 61.4, 76, 76.1; gsm./n. his 8, 31, 76.1; dsm./n. him 8, 76.1, heom 8; nsf. hio 16.1, 76.2, 76.5, 77.1

heah adj. 'high' dsf. heahre 61.2

healf f. 'half' as. healf 70.1; adj. asm. healfne 24.2, 76.2, 76.3

healt adj. 'lame' nsm. 65.1

hio see he

hion ?n. '?skull' ns. 36

hit see he

hlafæta m. 'loaf-eater, dependent' as. hlafætan 26

hleor n. 'cheek' ds. hleore 44.1

hrif-wund f. 'abdominal wound' ns. 62

hwæt n. 'anything' as. 9, 72

gehwylc pron. 'each' n/as. 22.2, 45, 48.3, 61.4; dsm. gehwilce 67; dp. gehwylcum 48, 59, gehwilcum 70.1, 71.1; 'whatever' ds. gehwilce 30

in prep. 'in' 11, 22, 24.1, 61, 'in regard to' 77.1

inbestingan III 'stab into' 3s pr. inbestinð 64.2

inne adv. 'within' 28.1

irnan III 'break in' 3s pr. irneþ 22.1

is see beon

laadrincman m. '?herald/guide' as. laadrincmannan 13

læt m. 'freedman' as. 27

land n. 'land' ds. lande 24.2

lemian 2 'to lame' p ptc gelæmed 37

leod m. 'person-price' as. 24.1, 24.2

leod f. 'people' as. leode 8 [see also leodgeld]

leodgeld n. 'person-price' as. 24; ds. leodgelde 13; dp. leudgeldum 64

lerest adj. 'least' asm. lærestan 60

leswæs see lysu

lim n. 'limb' as. 64

locbore adj. 'in charge of locks' nsf. 72

lysu adj. 'depraved, dishonest' as noun, gs. leswæs 72, lyswæs 9

lytel adj. 'little' asm. lytlan 58

mægdenman m. 'maiden' as. 16

mægþ f. 'maiden' as. 76

mægþbot f. 'compensation for (injury to/offense against) a maiden' ns. 73

mægþman m. 'maiden' as. 77

mæthlfriþ m./n. 'assembly peace' ns. 7

motan pt. pr. 'be allowed to' 3p pr. moton 65.1

maga m. 'kinsman', mage f. 'kinswoman' np. magas 24.2

man indef. pron. 'one, someone' 9, 11, 12, 18, 22, etc., mon 8

man(n) m. 'man' ns. man 16, 19, 21, 28.1, 75, 76, 77, 78; as. mannan 11, 12, 18, 23, 24, 24.1, 30; as. man 23.2, 25; gs. mannes 9, 22, 31, 73, 81; ds. mæn 77.1

mara adj. 'more, greater' [comp. of micel] dsm. maran 60.1

medume adj. 'medium, ordinary' asn. medume 24; dsn. meduman 13

micel adj. 'big, great' nsf. micle 70; gsf. mycclan 71

mid prep. 'with' 32, 47, 61, 76.3, 78

middelfinger m. 'middle finger' as. 56

mon see man

morgengyfe f. 'morning-gift' as. 76.5

mund f. 'protection' ns. 74, 75

mundbyrd f. 'protection' ns. 14, 20

muð m. 'mouth' ns. 43

nasu f. 'nose' ns. 44, 45; d/as. naso 61

nawiht n. 'nothing' as. 38

nægl m. 'nail' ns. 54, 71; dp. neglum 59

nænig adj. 'not any' asn. 23

ne adv. 'not' 23, 76.5

ned f. 'force' ds. nede 77

niht f. 'night' gp. nihta 24.1

of prep. 'from' 24.2; adv. 'off' 42, 54, 69, 70, 71

ofer prep. 'over, more than' 67.1, 67.3

ofslean VI 'kill' 3s pr. ind. ofslehð 13, ofslæhþ 18, ofslæhð 23.2, 24, 24.1, 26, 27, 27.1, ofsleahþ 12; 3s pr. subj. ofslea 11, 30, 79; 'strike off' 3s pr. ind. of aslæhð 53, 55, 56, 57, 58; p ptc of[…]aslagen 39, 80

oþþe conj. 'or' 13, 43

on prep. 'on, in' title, 18; ?an 44.1

onfon VII 'receive' 3s pr. onfehð 61.2

open adj. 'open' dsn. openum 24.1

oðer indef. pron. 'another' asm. oþerne 27.1, 61, 79; adj. 'either' nsn. oþer 38; 'other' dsm/f. oðrum 31, 70.1, 71.1, 77.1; asn. 31; 'second' dsf. oþere 21.1; gsf. oþre 74.1

preost m. 'priest' gs. preostes 3

rib n. 'rib' ns. 66

rihthamscyld m. ?'rightful matrimony/protection of homestead' as. 32

scætt m. 'scæt (unit of money)' gp. scætta 21.1, 21.2, 61.3, 61.4, 71, sceatta 33; ap. scættas 71.1; 'property' as. scæt 76.1, 76.2, 76.3, sceat 77.1; ds. scætte 30, 31

sceard adj. 'gashed' nsf/n. 41, 45

scilling m. 'shilling' ns. 22.2, 48.3, 59, 61.1, 67.1; np. scillingas 16.2, 20, 22.1, 48, 49, 60, 67, 68, 77.2, 82; gp. scillinga 8, 14, 16, 16.1, 17, 24, 24.1, 74, 77, 77.1; dp. scillingum 21, 22, 23, 23.1, 23.2, etc.; abbreviation of indeterminate case scill 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 37, etc., scll 27, 67.3, 70, 74.1, 74.3

scytefinger m. 'shooting finger, forefinger' as. 55

se, þæt, seo dem. pron./def. art. nsm. se 22.1, 28.1, 47, 48.1, 48.2, 51, 82; asm. þone 23.2, 27, 58, þane 27.1, ðane 27.2; asn. þæt 15; ds/pm/n. ðæm 31, þam 31, 48, 59, 60, 60.1, 70.1, 71.1, 77, ðam 48.3, 77; nsf. seo 70, 75, sio 16.2, 36; g/dsf. þære 21.1, þare 21.2, 71, 74, 74.3, ðare 74.1, 74.2; np. þa title, 15, ða 24.2. [for se see also beon]

selest adj. 'best' nsm. selestan 27

seman 1 'to arbitrate' 65.1

seo see se

sie, sien, sio see beon

sin pron. 'his, hers, its' asm. sinne 77

siððan adv. 'afterwards' 22.2, siþþan 48.3

slean VI 'strike' 3s pr. slæð 61

smið m. 'smith' as. 13 [see also ambiht]

spræc f. 'speech' ns. 49

stelan IV 'steal' 3s pr. ind. stelþ 15, steleþ 83; 3s pr. subj. stele 10

stice m. 'thrust, puncture' ds. 67

swa conj. 'like, as' 73, 76.4

sweart adj. 'black' nsm. 61.3

swyltan 1 'die' 3s pr. swylteþ 76.2

sy, syndon see beon

ta f. 'toe' ns. 70; gs. taan 71; dp. taum 70.1

to prep. 'to, as' 8, 12, 33, 71

toþ m. 'tooth' ns. 48.1; dp. toðum 48

tun m. 'estate, dwelling' as. 22; ds. tune 11, 18

twegen num. 'two' np. 67.2; dp. twam 67.2

twibot f. 'two-fold compensation' a/ds. twibote 9

þa/ða see se

þæm see se

þær adv./conj. 'there, where, then' 8, 65.1, 76.1, ðær 9, 23

þære see se

þæt see se

þam/ðam see se

þane/ðane see se

þare/ðare see se

þe rel. 'who, which' title, 22.1, 47, 48.2, 51

þeoh n. 'thigh' n/as. 65, 67

þeow m. '(male) slave' ns. 83; gs. ðeowæs 82

þeowa f. '(female) slave' ns. 16.1; gs. ðeowan 21.1

þirel adj. 'pierced' ns. 40, ðirel 46, ðyrel 44; np. ðyrele 44.2

þis dem. pron. 'this' title

þone see se

þonne adv. 'then, there' 48.3, 76.1, þanne 48.1, ðonne 48.2

þridde num. 'third' nsf. 16.2; d/gsm/f. þriddan 21.2, 27.2, 74.2

þry num. 'three' as. 67.3; dp. þrym 64

þuman m. 'thumb' as. 53; gs. ðuman 54

þurhstingan III 'pierce through' 3s pr. þurhstinð 32, 51, 64.1, ðurhstingþ 67

þurhðirel adj. 'pieced through' nsm. 62.1

unagen adj. 'not one's own' asf. unagne 75

unfacne adj. 'undeceptive, without fraud' n/am/n. 30, 76

unsynnig adj. 'guiltless, without sin' asm. unsynningne 79

uterre adj. 'outer' nsf. 36

wæd f. 'clothing, weeds' dp. wædum 61.3, 61.4

wælt[-]wund either f. 'a wound which causes a welt' or adj. 'having a wound such as to cause a welt' ns. 68

wæpen n. 'weapon' dp. wæpnum 23

wegreaf n. 'robbery on the open road' ns. 23.1, 82

weorðan III 'become, occur' 3s pr. weorþ 46, 49, weorð 23, 35, 39, 42, 44, 45, 52, 65.1, 66, weorþeð 37, 71, weorðeþ 34, 36, 40, 41, etc.

weorþ n. [modified as m.] 'worth' ds. weorðe 32, 79, 80

wergild n. 'man-price' ds. wergilde 31

widobane n. [for wiþobane] 'collar-bone' ns. 50

widuwe f. 'widow' a/gs. widuwan 74, 75

wif n. 'woman, wife' as. 31 [see also friwif]

willan anom. 'want, wish' 3s pr. wille 76.3, wile 76.4

willa m. 'will, determination, consent' as. willan 77

wite n. 'punishment, fine' as. 15

wið prep. 'with' 16, 19, 21, 31

wlitewamme m. 'disfigurement of the countenance' as. 60

woh adj. 'damaged, crooked' nsm/n. 43

yfel n. 'evil' as. 8, 23

ynce m. 'inch' ds. 67.1; dp. yncum 67.2

ys see beon


Questions and projects

  1. There are several verbs that contain the prefix ge- in their stems. What is/are the function(s) of this prefix in these instances?
  2. Looking at clauses 33-71, discuss the state of medical knowledge revealed by the personal injury laws.
  3. Looking at clauses 72-78, discuss the legal position of women in early Kent.
  4. How do the laws address property protection?
  5. Take any section of 20 clauses, and normalize the text. Account for the changes you make.
  6. Discuss the uses of the dative case.
  7. Choose any clause for which you can give a different translation from either Oliver or Attenborough. Justify your change. (If Attenborough and Oliver disagree, you can instead weigh in on which translation seems more plausible to you).