Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

Medieval West - Reference Sources: Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Language

This is a guide to reference sources on the medieval West: guides to the literature, periodical indexes, encyclopedias/dictionaries, atlases/maps, biography, book length bibliographies. Last updated 06-13-2023

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries - Language

Oxford English Dictionary, Main Oversize Basement Center PE 1625 .M7 1989. Print version of the OED Online, described above. Attempts to record all English words, including obsolete ones, dialect terms before 1500, and archaisms, as well as a considerable number of scientific, technical, and slang terms, used since c. 1150. Words obsolete by 1150 and dialect terms new after 1500 are excluded. Emphasizes standard British usage and vocabulary, it admits meanings and senses used in English worldwide. Entries are based on several million excerpts from written works, primarily belles lettres. Typically entries for main words include 1) identification, pronunciation, part of speech, specification of vocation, status, earlier spellings, inflected forms; 2) morphology, with etymology, history of the form, and notes on the history of the word; 3) signification, with senses organized from earliest to most recent; 4) dates illustrative quotations listed chronologically. Each grammatical form of a main word has a separate entry.

Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus Main PA 2890 .N54 2002 v. 1-2 and CD ROM in DMC PA 2893 .N547 2004

Concise dictionary of medieval Latin that is an essential tool for medieval historians, particularly those who focus on the period 550 to 1150, where the development and usage of numerous terms are illustrated through quotations from charters, laws, and chronicles. More attention than previous edition to English literary sources from the second half of the 12th century. Includes material from Elenchus Fontium Historiae Urbanae (Leiden, 3v., 1967- ) and recent volumes of documentary material from Monumenta Germaniae Historica. German definitions have been added to the original definitions in French and English. An 83-page bibliography of sources completes the work.

Middle English Dictionary, Main PE 679 .M54. Print version of the text in the MEC, above. A Dictionary of Middle English from c. 1100-1475. The only complete dictionary of Middle English. Indispensable for study of Middle English and for explication of the literature of the period.

Anglo-Norman Dictionary, Main PB 1 .M43 v. 8 A-O/U and P-Z. "The purpose of this dictionary is to facilitate the reading and understanding of a wide variety of texts written in the French used in the British Isles between the time of the Norman Conquest [1066] and the late 15th c." Contains quotations to illustrate usage, rather like OED, but does not trace first known appearance or historical development by means of these quotes. There is a list of works quoted at the beginning, which could be useful in identifying primary sources.

Latham, Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources, Main PA 2891 .L28. A dictionary of the Latin language used in Great Britain from c. 500- c. 1550, but excluding personal and place names, as well as Irish sources before 1200. Covers Welsh only selectively. Classical Latin works used with little change have brief entries. Fuller treatment given to Postclassical words and usages. Entries provide basic meaning(s) and are accompanied by an extensive list of quotations to illustrate nuances of meaning. Indispensable for interpreting early British writings in Latin. Not yet completed. Use Revised Latin Word-List from British and Irish Sources, Main, PA 2891 .L3 1965 for parts of the alphabet not yet finished.

Non-Classical Lexicon of Celtic Latinity Main PA 2891 .H37 2005 v. 1.  Offers a detailed, authoritative description, in standard lexicographical form, of the etymology, meaning and usage of thousands of words found in the DMLCS electronic archive that are absent altogether from the Oxford Latin Dictionary, having been coined after the period covered by that work. Also embodies a comprehensive register of words that are found in standard Latin but that appear, in texts of Celtic provenance, in orthographies or forms that cannot be accounted for by mainstream European developments in Medieval Latin.

Dictionary of Old English Corpus.The Dictionary of Old English Corpus in Electronic Form is an online database consisting of at least one copy of every Old English text. In some cases, more than one copy is included, if it is significant because of dialect or date. As such, the DOEC represents about three million words of Old English and another two million words of Latin, or about six times the collected works of Shakespeare. Compiled as part of the Dictionary of Old English project at the University of Toronto, the texts in the Corpus are SGML encoded are fully conformant with the 1994 Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines. The interface for the Dictionary of Old English Corpus was developed by the Humanities Text Initiative at the University of Michigan.  See next entry for print version. 

Dictionary of Old English, print version.   Main, PE 279 .D53 1992 and Microforms PE 279 .D53 1992 (4 fiche) and Microcopy Guides PE 279 .D53 1992. Use all pieces together. Excludes personal and place names. Three types of entries: common words (have full entries); rarer words (have exhaustive entries); and grammar words (have special entries). Full entry includes headword, grammatical details, variant spellings, occurrence and usage information, definitions, illustrative citations (keyed to the accompanying List of Texts and Bibliography of Editions and to Abbreviations for Latin Sources and Bibliography of Editions). Has Latin equivalents in the same manuscript, typical collocations, and reference to the Middle English Dictionary, English Dialect Dictionary, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, and Oxford English Dictionary. Omits etymologies. Imprecise about the upper chronological limits of Old English language. Invaluable.

Bosworth and Toller, Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, Main PE 279 .B5 v. 1-2. Most complete Anglo-Saxon Dictionary available in print form. Entries include parts of speech, definition, Latin equivalents, illustrative passages, etymology, and cross references to variant and related forms.

Dictionnaire Latin Francais des Auteurs du Moyen Age=Lexicon Latinitatis Medii Aevi.  Main PA 2893 .F7 B6 1975 Look up a Latin word and find a translation of it into French.  For use by medievalists.

Le Grand Robert de la Langue Francaise, Dictionnaire Alphabetique et Analogique de la Langue Francaise,  Main PC 2625 f.R552 1986 t. 1-9. "A historical dictionary of the French language, giving, for each entry: etymology, definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and cross references to words with related meaning. Extensive quotations from French writers, selected to clarify usage and trace historical changes in meaning. Sponsored by the Academie Francaise."

Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Francaise, Main  PC 2580 f.D52 1992 v. 1-2. "Includes words from 842 CE to the present. Entries provide a detailed history of each word and dated examples of use, earliest to most recent, with examples of change in meaning."

French Language Dictionaries is a guide to our dictionaries.