I am unsure what dictionary nowadays has translations of Middle English. As of my research, the language has changed rapidly in that time as of settlement and like migrations from other countries in that time.

Especially the Wycliffe 1380 Bible has been translated into the East Midland dialect of Middle English.

What might be the best book to help me understand that Bible?

A special word I have tried to lookup in dictionaries is: nouyt. But there are of course more and as well from other languages.

For the sake of books I suppose to be available may be rare — I don't want to try and buy.

  • 1
    MED? quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary/…
    – Laurel Mod
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 5:09
  • See quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary. As a reference request, this should be moved to meta.
    – Xanne
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 5:38
  • The OED also has a thorough account of Middle English words with examples; it's not free but many people can access through institutions or libraries.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 9:03
  • Nouyt doesn't appear in OED at all. However, I would suggest that the best book to help you understand Wycliffe's Bible is a more modern translation. KJV in Early Modern English would probably be fairly directly comparable.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 20:05
  • @lollisoft Did you notice how fraught such work can be? I recently tried to look up what I thought was a fairly simple phrase - it happened to be "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" and found 21 translations from 39 different English Bibles (which happened not to include Wycliffe.) That is to say that literally, every other version has a different idea about the same phrase! Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 22:50
  • @RobbieGoodwin Yes, I primely searched for a book in paper form NOT online. Online is a good help and made much tasks more easy. I found out that nouyt IS in the OED (at least in the book version. The y is a Yogh, then you find it as well online sites.ualberta.ca/~sreimer/ms-course/course/eng-chrs.htm). I have purchased the compact version and as well additional glasses to help increase the size of the font. I would go the way of online parallel bibles and propably the one I found in book form. The books are for having that 'in hands' feeling. And I got the OED compact for about 200€
    – lollisoft
    Commented Apr 5, 2022 at 21:36
  • @lollisoft Can you clarify that Comment? As it is, that suggest you're introducing a significant distinction between on-line and printed sources. Did you mean to do that? Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 0:28
  • @RobbieGoodwin In the Compact edition of the OED, nouȝt is referenced from Wycliffe on page 558 in the left column in 1.c (Sel. Wks III 488). There is another reference, but actually I have made only a photo of that. If you search for oed.com/view/Entry/128673 as referenced in quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary/… you will find the entry eventually as the login redirect will be omitted initially (sample views?)
    – lollisoft
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 9:32
  • @lollisoft Did you notice how much more dangerous your use of English might make such things? Your "primely" against English "primarily" might be insignificant in other cases and I think that in Biblical translation, that could be crucial. Don't you? How did it help to search for books on paper, not on-line? On-line is a good help and made much tasks more easy, but not in English… If your work includes such statements, based on such justifications, why would anyone trust it? Why would you doubt "nouyt" would be in the OED, that the y was a Yogh, or could be found as well on-line? Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 22:08
  • @RobbieGoodwin The "primely" was a mistake. And a discussion is not dangerous. It needs to be clarified - nothing more. I buy printed books, because my copy didn't get changed. In history the bible got changed on puropse and not only on translator's fault. See americancreation.blogspot.com/2015/08/… And in studybible.info/Wycliffe/Genesis Wycliffe used nouyt. That is my source and OED my dictionary for the purpose to review and translate some words. As of my assumption, the book used nouyt for simplicity in charset.
    – lollisoft
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 13:58
  • @lollisoft It's not discussion that's dangerous; rather the lack of it around points such as your own "I buy printed books, because my copy didn't get changed." That might seem clear to you but if a Gospel writer had used such idiomatic phrasing, don't you think understanding would always be due mostly to speculation, than to tomes filled with study? Do use OED as Laurel suggests and please look for the schools of red herring in "nouȝt is referenced from Wycliffe on page 558 in the left column in 1.c (Sel. Wks III 488)" and all that followed it. Commented May 11, 2022 at 16:39
  • @RobbieGoodwin I own a copy of the OED compact edition. So I decided to buy that while searching for nouyt. I simply asked for sources to help translating one simple word. The point here I asked, was because I didn't find a word like nouyd in the OED - was - because the book I have it from spelled it not in a way I could easily find. I purchased the Wycliffe bible in the version like this: ...
    – lollisoft
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 12:03
  • hugendubel.de/de/buch_gebunden/… and in other versions like the word in OED was written like nouȝt, I was searching for the correct one. Even the studybible spells it nouyt. studybible.info/Wycliffe/Genesis%201:1
    – lollisoft
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 12:05
  • Ah, I needed to translate your text to understand it. I was the person, that has posted the hint about red herring: "nouȝt is referenced from Wycliffe on page 558 in the left column in 1.c (Sel. Wks III 488)". Did you got that? In my opinion, the nouyt and nouȝt issue is an authorative writer issue. So as of the OED seemed to be handled as authorative, nouyt is wrong and thus the bought book from Wycliffe spells it wrong - maybe due to typesetting issues and workarounds. And - sorry, that I am missed the information about buying hardcopies :-) What do you mean by read herring?
    – lollisoft
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


My primary recommendation is the Middle English Dictionary. It's freely available on the web, pretty comprehensive, and easy-to-use. I use it quite a lot, and while it may not have all Middle English words, you can get far with it. Sometimes I've had the need to break down or re-spell words when searching, but that's pretty rare.

When other dictionaries give you nought, the Middle English Dictionary gives you nought, because you're searching for "nouyt".

As for other dictionaries, the OED is good too, but it requires an expensive membership or organizational subscription.

For extra help in translating the Bible specifically, I recommend BibleHub. While this only has more recent translations (KJV being the oldest), sometimes that's all you need to recognize a weird spelling change. Sometimes it's the commentary on the original text that's helpful, or the information on how interpretations changed over time.

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