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Thread: "No" in Old English

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
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    Russia
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    Russian
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    "No" in Old English

    Excuse me, if it's a strange or stupid question, but I'm burning with curiosity.
    Once my brother asked me if I know an old English word expressing denial, but deriving not from Latin or Greek. He said that maybe it's a Celtic word. But it sounds not like "no" or "not" and has no relation to "un-", "in-","im-", "a-", "dis-", "mis-" and so on.
    He is not very good at English, but I know he doesn't use to talk nonsense. So I was really interested: is it true, and such word exists, or he's understood something wrong?
    I consulted a dictionary, but found nothing like it.
    Could anybody help me?
    I realize that European languages are from the same family, and denial sounds very alike in English, German, Franch, Italian, Spanish, Russian or in Latin, but... who knows ?
    Thank you.
    Last edited by Gale_; 2nd March 2013 at 7:56 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Native language
    English, U.S.
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    5,300

    Re: "No" in Old English

    I recommend you take your question to the forum "Etymology and History of Languages",
    near the bottom of the page of forums. That's where the Old English experts are found.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Native language
    American English
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    282

    Re: "No" in Old English

    Old English for "no" was just "ne."

    Modern English "no" comes from "nā," a contraction of "ne" and "ā" (literally "not ever")

    Several negative words which have closely related positive words come from an older word with "ne" (or "nā) attached to them. I'll give you some examples:

    ever/never (ǣfre/nǣfre)
    either/neither (ǣġhwæþer/nāhwæþer)

    "not" is from "nā + wiht" (wiht in Modern English is "wight")

    "un-" and "mis-" are Germanic prefixes, but Old English had others as well, such as "wan-" (as in wanton).

    Does that answer your question?

    EDIT: My sources are etymonline.com and bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/finder/3/
    Last edited by Yondlivend; 3rd March 2013 at 9:43 PM. Reason: Added sources and corrected a typo

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
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    Re: "No" in Old English

    Yes of course, if there are no more versions.
    The matter is that I don't know what I'm searching for. If it was me who's heard that word, but it was my brother.
    But anyway thank you for your answer!
    I'll tell him everything you've told me )
    And I have to say that generally English and Old English is a very interesting theme for me, although I'm not a language expert (I'm a biophysicist). It's great that I've found this forum. Thank you very much!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    US New York
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    Lithuanian
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    5,825

    Re: "No" in Old English

    Just as a curiosity -- ne is still no in Lithuanian, but I relly don't know if they sound similar -- the Old Emlish word and the contemporary Lithuanian. It is something simialr in many Indo-European languages. You can form any negation of a verb with it, by attaching it as a prefix, some of the verbs do not necessarily mean anything bad -- just a negation of the original verb. The same with adjectives, and even some nouns that can be used as an antonym of another noun.
    Last edited by LilianaB; 3rd March 2013 at 4:56 PM.

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