There are many reasons why we have problems interpreting and
translating the Elizabethan language. It is little wonder that
we need an Elizabethan language guide to assist with
Elizabethan Language translations.
Translation of the Elizabethan
The reasons why
translation of some of the Elizabethan language is problematic:
Many words used
in the Elizabethan language are no longer in use.
Other words have replaced them or the original meaning and
use of the words are no longer required
example of words now 'extinct' in the modern English
language is 'gong'. The Elizabethan word 'gong' meant dung.
The men whose job was to empty and dispose of the waste from
the privies (toilets) were called 'Gong Farmers'.
- The Elizabethan
alphabet contained 24 letters, as opposed to the present day
alphabet of 26 letters
- In the
Elizabethan alphabet the letters "u" and "v" were the same
letter as were and "i" and "j"
- The "j" was
usually used as the capital form of the letter "i" in the
- The letter "u"
was used only in the middle of a word, and the "v" was used
at the beginning.
- Another letter
which resembled a "y" was used to represent the "th" sound.
The word "the" was therefore written in a similar way as
"ye" would in the modern day
- The written form
of Elizabethan Numbers also cause confusion in translation
- Numbers were
frequently written in lower case Roman numerals, with the
last "i" in a number written as a "j". For example - viij
The above explanations provide
valuable information for those wishing to try the translation of an
Words in the Elizabethan
The number of words used
in the Elizabethan Language were constantly developing during Elizabethan
times - their vocabulary was expanding. The average number of words used
in a 'commoners' vocabulary during Elizabethan times was less than 500,
compared with at least 7,500 words that are used in modern day English.
Elizabethan writers and playwrights invented new words. William
Shakespeare invented many of the words that he used in his plays.
Shakespeare is credited with contributing more new words to the English
language than any other single person - approx 2,000. Some of the many new
words he invented to enhance the Elizabethan language and vocabulary are
Accused Addiction Amazement Arouse Assassinate Blushing Champion
Circumstantial Compromise Courtship Countless Critic Dawn Epileptic Elbow
Excitement Exposure Frugal Generous Gossip Hint Impartial
Invulnerable Jaded Label Lonely Luggage Majestic Negotiate Obscene
Premeditated Puke Scuffle Torture Tranquil Varied and Worthless
Elizabethan Language and
The Elizabethan language
and vocabulary had not been formalised. New words were being invented.
Elizabethan dictionaries were not available. Elizabethan words were therefore
written in a variety of different formats. The name of William Shakespeare
provides an excellent illustration of the confusion that this caused. The
name Shakespeare was spelt in an astonishing variety of ways during
Elizabethan times including Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, Shaxpere,
Shakstaff, Sakspere, Shagspere, Shakeshafte and even Chacsper. Shakespeare
himself always wrote “Shakspere.” However, in many formal documents his
name generally appears as Shakespeare. Interestingly, another derivation
of the name "Shake-speare" appears on the First Folio of
Elizabethan Language Guide - An
The translation of words
in the Elizabethan language and vocabulary requires a Modern English to
Elizabethan English Dictionary. The following link provides access to an
Elizabethan dictionary for an easy to follow Elizabethan language guide.
The translation and definition of the Elizabethan words and meanings used
in the Elizabethan language make the literature of the era, including the
works of William Shakespeare much easier to understand. Click the
following links for a guide to the Elizabethan language via an Elizabethan