What I am looking for is a list of words which in Old English either had a medial 'v' sound (spelt 'f'), which was dropped in Modern English, so words like 'head' from 'heafod' and 'lord' from 'hlaford' (with the 'f' in both the examples being pronounced as we would pronounce 'v'), or a medial 'g' (pronounced as a voiced velar fricative since it appears between two vowels, as far as my knowledge goes, please do correct me if I am wrong) which was again dropped in Modern English, like archaic 'wain' from 'wægn' (I am not too sure about this one), or 'hail' from 'hagal'. I am also looking for words which elided initial 'h' before 'l' (like in 'hlaf' --> 'loaf') or 'r' ('hring' --> 'ring') or 'n' ('hnutu' --> 'nut'). If someone has an explanation to why they were dropped, I would also very much appreciate that as well. (I also have no idea what tags I should have put, since the question doesn't exactly fit in any of them)

  • 6
    Why they were dropped? Because they were weak sounds that easily get lost in rapid speech – same reason virtually all dropped sounds are dropped. Along with /h/, intervocalic velar fricatives or approximants like /ɣ/ and /ɰ/ are some of the most frequently lost sounds there are – apart from English they’ve been mostly or completely lost in French, Danish, Old/Middle Chinese, Irish, Turkish, Finnish, (Post-)Proto-Indo-European, West Greenlandic, and many, many more languages around the world. Commented May 6, 2021 at 7:15
  • 5
    Why can't you just open any Anglo-Saxon dictionary, look through the entries starting with hl-, hn-, hr-, and write out the ones that have Modern English counterparts? At my first glance I found hlædel ‘laddle’, hlǣder ‘ladder’, and hlǣne ‘lean’. Here's a dictionary for you in case you don't have one: A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (4th ed. 1960, reprinted 2000, 1st ed. 1894) by J.R. Clark Hall, with a supplement by Herbert D. Meritt.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 7:34
  • 2
    Thank you very much for the dictionary, I was having trouble finding an easily searchable one. Commented May 6, 2021 at 8:18

1 Answer 1


All the following information comes from Christopher Upward's The History of English Spelling:

Words that lost initial ‘h’:

  • OE hlaf ModE ‘loaf’
  • OE hlud ModE ‘loud’
  • OE hlædder ModE ‘ladder’
  • OE hlafdiȝe ModE ‘lady’
  • OE hliehhan ModE ‘to laugh’
  • OE hlid ModE ‘lid’
  • OE hnecca ModE ‘neck’
  • OE hnæȝan mod ‘neigh’
  • OE hreddan ModE ‘to rid’
  • OE hreoȝ ModE ‘rough’
  • OE hrycȝ ModE ‘ridge’
  • OE hræfen ModE ‘raven’
  • OE hrinȝ ModE ‘ring’
  • OE hrof ModE ‘roof’

Words that lost medial [v]

  • hæfde (‘had’)
  • heafoc (‘hawk’)
  • heafod (‘head’)
  • hlafdiȝe (‘lady’)
  • hlaford (‘lord’)
  • Ƿifman (‘woman’)

Old English G that was pronounced [ɣ]

According to Christopher Upward, OE G was pronounced [ɣ] particularly between back vowels (p45). Upward says that this G has developed to W or I/Y depending on what precedes/follows the G:

  • “OE G non-initially before and/or after A, O, U normally becomes ModE W”:

    • aȝan ‘owe’
    • draȝan ‘draw’
    • ȝnaȝan ‘gnaw’
    • laȝu ‘law’
    • boȝa ‘bow’
    • ploȝ ‘plow’
    • fuȝel ‘fowl’
    • sorȝian ‘to sorrow’
    • mearȝ ‘marrow’
  • “After the front vowels Æ, E medial G typically fell silent or became incorporated into a vowel by the time of ModE, written AI”:

    • fæȝer ‘fair’
    • hæȝel/ hæȝl ‘hail’
    • læȝde ‘laid’
    • leȝer ‘lair’
    • mæȝden ‘maiden’
    • næȝ(e)l ‘nail’
    • ræȝ(e)n ‘rain’
    • sæȝde ‘said’
  • “In final position this G led to ModE Y after OE front vowels”:

    • cæȝ ‘key’
    • claȝ ‘clay’
    • dæȝ ‘day’
    • græȝ ‘grey’
    • Ƿeȝ ‘way’
    • driȝe ‘dry’
    • maniȝ ‘many’


  • OE means Old English and ModE means Modern English
  • ‘single quotation marks’ enclose Modern English words
  • italicised words are Old English words
  • “double quotation marks” have been used to enclose quotes (i.e. Upward's exact words)
  • 1
    The lists are far from being comprehensive, for example, the ones beginning with hl- end at hli-, so further words are missing, like hlot ‘lot’ or hlūd ‘loud’. The same with hn-: hnitu ‘nit’ and hnutu ‘nut’ are missing.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented May 6, 2021 at 12:36
  • 2
    BTW, the P-shaped letter in Ƿeȝ was the OE letter for W Commented May 6, 2021 at 23:03

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