Old English Alphabet

Letters of the Old English alphabet

Christianity brought with it the Latin alphabet, which was adapted to fit the sounds of Old English



Old English letters no longer in modern English*

*some are still used in other languages such as Swedish





j, v, w ‘s’

a letter called ‘ash’. It makes an ‘a’ sound as in ‘black’

this letter is called ‘eth’. It makes the ‘th’ sounds as in ‘thing’ or ‘that’ a letter called ‘thorn’. It makes the same sounds as the letter ‘eth’

this letter was called ‘wynn’. It makes the sound ‘w’

weren’t used in Old English, while q, k and z were only rarely used could be ‘long’, as shown above, or ‘insular’, just like the modern letter was not originally dotted
in Old English was just a smaller ‘T’
was a special symbol used for ‘and’. Known as the Tironian nota

Long and short vowels – approximate sounds


æ as in modern English ‘cat

a as in modern English ‘broad’

e as in modern English ‘bed’

i as in modern English ‘sit’

o as in modern English ‘not’

u as in modern English ‘put’

y as in French ‘tu


ǣ as in ‘there’

ā as in ‘father’

ē as in ‘bed’ but longer, like ‘bade’ ī as in ‘machine’

ō as in ‘not’ but longer, like ‘note’ ū as in NE ‘boot’

ȳ as in French ‘tu’ but longer

Long and short diphthongs

ea as in modern English ‘cat’ + neutral vowel
eo two short vowels together
ie as in ‘sit’ + neutral vowel

ēa = ǣ + a

ēo = ē + o

īe = ī + e

A ‘neutral vowel’ is the sound at the end of a word like ‘leader’

image showing old english runes and their meaning
Old English Runes