The Sounds of Old English

Vowels and Consonants 

The Old English script used the following vowel symbols: a, e, i, o, u, y, and æ.

The Old English consonants were: o, c, d, f, g, h, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, a, w, and Þ,


Old English Vowel Pronunciations

Symbol Pronunciation Resembling the Vowel of
a a Southern English “bath”, but shorter
æ æ Southern English “hat”
e e French “fue”, German “bett”
i i German “sie”, French “tree”, but shorter
o o German “wo”, French “chose”, but shorter
u u English “room”, but shorter
y y French “cru”, German “hutte”
Southern English “bath”
ǣ æ Southern English “bad”
ē e French “ete”, German “zehn”
ī i German “sie”, English “tree”
ō o German “wo”, French “chose”
ū u English “room”
ȳ y French “sur”, German “fuhren”


Other Controversial Sounds/Consonants of Old English

Symbol / Name Pronunciation
Þ / thorn “th”
Æ / ash Long “a”
c “ch” & “cuh” = can be pronounced as modern english “k”, or “ch”
g “g” & “y” = Before vowels “i” and “e”, it is pronounced like the Modern English “y”
sh “sh”
H German “bach” / semi vowels

Example from “The Battle of Maldon” 

Byrhtnoð maþelode, bord hafenode, wand wacne æsc (ash = long a), wordum mælde, yrre and anræd ageaf him andsware: ‘Gehyrst (pronounced = yþu (thorn = th), sælida, hwæt (throat clearing “h”; almost silent) þis folc (pronounced “ch”) segeð?  Hi willað (thorn = th) eow to gafole garas syllan, ættrynne ord and ealde swurd, þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah.