Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Thorn By Any Other Name

The Letter Thorn
The now obsolete letter Þ (lowercase) and þ (uppercase), known as 'thorn' was used up until the early 1700's to represent a 'th' sound. It is said to have been derived from the Saxon word for ‘giant’. Most often it looks exactly like a y, and it is in this form that it is to this day misunderstood in countless establishments with names like 'ye olde barber shoppe'. Holding down the ‘alt’ key then typing in 0222 and 0254, can give you the thorn letters on most text editors.

Examples of ‘thorn’ used to spell the word ‘the’:

Ordinarily a ‘thorn’ with a superscript ‘e’ is the word ‘the’.
Examples of ‘thorn’ used to spell the word ‘that’:

When you see 'Þat' or a ‘thorn’ with a superscript ‘t’, it should be transcribed as 'that'.
An example of the two forms used together is:

Where it states, ‘that he the said Nicholas my son’.
Note: when transcribing documents it is good practice to convert the thorn letter into italics. I prefer to italicize the whole word.

Where a ‘y’ is used in place of an ‘i’, sometimes the word ‘it’ gets confused with ‘that’, but as you can see there is no superscript ‘t’:

Also an example of ‘if’, note the longer tail than the ‘t’:

For more information on the letter thorn see:


Word of the Week:
Favel = Yellow

No comments: