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How Much Vocabulary From the Middle Ages Do You Know?
by Isadora Teich

The Middle Ages, also known as the Medieval Period, were a time of tremendous upheaval in Europe. Kingdoms rose and fell on a dime and no throne was considered fashionable if it didn't have at least half a dozen claimants on it. Still, technology moved relatively slowly, which meant that life didn't change too much day to day for most people, who lived their entire lives in and around a single town.

However, a quiet but seismic change was taking place. A wondrous new machine called a printing press was created that took literacy out of the hands of the nobility and the clergy and began the slow but inexorable process of democratizing the written word. No more did people have to wait months for a monk to draw them up a Bible: they could just buy one. People who would have never learned to read before began to do so - and of course, once they could read, they wanted to write.

That meant there was a sudden explosion of words, as people documented what they thought and heard. Standardized spelling was non-existent and vocabulary differed from region to region, making Middle English a mishmash of dialects and idioms. Some great writers managed to capture some of the finest of these words and immortalize them for us, and the very best of the words they plucked from the air are still with us. Let's see if you know them!


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