Male beings lifeless things abstract notions

fæder (father) hlāf (bread) stenc (stench)

sunu (son) stān (stone) fǽr (fear)

cyning (king) hrōf (roof) nama (name)

dōm (doom)





Female beings lifeless things abstract notions

Mōðor (mother) tunge (tongue) trywðu (truth)

Dohter (daughter) meolc (milk) huntinз (hunting)

Cwēn (queen) lufu (love)

Зōs (goose)





Living being lifeless things abstract notions

cicen (chicken) ēaзe (eye) mōd (mood)

hors (horse) scip (ship) riht (right)

mæзden (maiden)





The grammatical category of number was formed by the opposition of two categorical forms: the singular and the plural.


Nominative Singular Nominative Plural

Fisc (fish) fiscas

Ēaзe (eye) ēaзan

Tōð (tooth) tēð

Scip(ship) scipu




The old English noun formed its paradigm by the opposition of three genders, two numbers and four cases. Thus, presumably, the noun had twenty-four word-forms.

On the whole the same phenomenon could be observed in Common Germanic. In the course of the development of Old English, however, the original paradigm had undergone great changes due to the fusion of the original stem suffix and the original grammatical ending into one element which from the point of view of Old English is to be regarded as a grammatical ending. As a result of that fusion nouns that are known to have had different stem suffixes originally in Old English acquired materially different endings in the same case, for example:


Nominative plural


a-stem ō-stem n-stem

stān-as (stones) car-a (care) nam-an (names), etc.


The original stem suffixes were formed both by vowels and by consonants. Thus there were two respective principal groups of declensions in Old English: the vowel declension (“strong” declension) and the consonant declension (“weak” declension).

The vowel (strong) declension comprises four principal paradigms: the a-stem, the ō-stem, the u-stem and the i-stem paradigm.

The consonant declension comprises nouns with the stem originally ending in –n, -r, -s and some other consonants.

In rare cases, however, the new form is constructed by adding the ending directly to the root. It is these words that formed the so-called root-stem declension.


Declensions in Old English

Declension   Case and number Vowel (strong) stem Consonant (weak) stem Root stem
  Nom. Sing.   Nom. Plur. a ō u i N r s  
stān caru sunu wine (stone) (care) (son)(wine) Stanas cara suna wine (Stones)(cares)(sons)(wine) nama fæder lamb (name) (father) (lamb) Naman fæderos lamb fōt (foot) fēt (feet)


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