Looking at the origin of the word 'because' I find it evolved from the phrase 'by cause', which was influenced by the French par cause de ; 'by cause' appeared in Middle English. What word was in use before, ex. in Old English?

2 Answers 2


Beowulf mostly uses some form of "forþon" (variations: forþan, forþam, etc.), though in a couple of places (such as lines 2638 and 2641) it uses "þe."

  • Is that related to 'for then' or something like that?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 15, 2015 at 5:24
  • @curiousdannii: maybe, or maybe it's related to "forth on." Dunno.
    – user438
    Mar 15, 2015 at 15:48
  • 4
    No, it's for "because of" plus þon instr. of the demonstrative pronoun se "that", or alternatively plus þam dat. of the same pronoun.
    – TKR
    Mar 15, 2015 at 17:17
  • @TKR So it would be "for thon"?
    – Zgialor
    Mar 15, 2015 at 23:26
  • @Zgialor: Yes, þ is an older spelling of th.
    – TKR
    Mar 15, 2015 at 23:49

for is an old-fashioned-sounding synonym of "because": e.g.,

I dared not go outside, for it was raining.

But I am not sure if for was the direct predecessor of because.

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