Opinions, or more often the practice of the pronunciation of the Anglo Saxon name Aethelflaed varies greatly, even amongst Historians. Note the difference of pronunciation between Martin Carver’s consistent /æðʊlflæd/ in his BBC Radio lecture and the pronunciations of Michael Wood in the video clip linked to on this blog. Prof. Wood varies between /æðʊlfled/ (once) and /eðʊlflɪ̈d/ (twice). I do not presume to be able to judge which is correct, however I have found the following to be quite useful in drawing my own conclusions and until corrected will be pronouncing her name /eiðʊlflɪ̈d/  ay thul fleed

The main cause of difference seems to be the correct pronunciation of the letter ash (æ) in accented and unaccented forms. Note these in the quote below:

Chr. Erl. 100, 30, states “Hér com Æðelflǽd, Myrcna hlǽfdige, on ðone hálgan ǽfen Inuentione Sanctæ Crucis, to Scergeate, and ðǽr ðá burh getimbrede; and, ðæs ilcan geáres, ða”

According to Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary > http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/000306

The short or unaccented Anglo-Saxon æ has a sound like ai in main and fairy, as appears from these cognate wordsWæl wail, brædan to braid, nægel a nail, dæg, spær, læt, snæce, mæst, æsp, bær, etc.2. The short or unaccented æ stands only1. before a single consonant; as Stæf, hwæl, dæg:2. a single consonant followed by e in nouns; Stæfes, stæfe, hwæles, dæges, wæter, fæder, æcer:3. or before st, sc, fn, ft; Gæst, æsc, hræfn, cræft:4. before pp, bb, tt, cc, ss; Æppel, cræbba, hæbben, fætte, fættes, wræcca, næsse:5. before double consonants, arising from the inflection of monosyllabic adjectivesLætne, lætre, lætra, from læt late; hwætne, hwætre, hwætra from hwæt quick.3. In the declension of monosyllabic nouns and adjectives, e is rejected from the short or unaccented æ, and becomes a, when a single consonant, or st, sc, is followed by a, o, u in nouns, and by a, o, u, e in adjectives; as Stæf, pl. stafas, g. stafa, d. stafum; hwæl, pl. hwalas; dæg, pl. dagas. adj. Læt late; g. m. n. lates; d. latum; se lata the late; latost, latemest, latest: Smæl small; g. m. n. smales; d. smalum; se smala the small, etc. See short a in B. 3, p. 1, col. 1. 4. æ-, prefixed to words, like a-, often denotes A negative, deteriorating oropposite signification, as From, away, out, without, etc. Like a, ge, etc. æ is sometimes prefixed to perfect tenses and perfect participles and other words without any perceptible alteration in the sense; as Céled, æ-céled cooled.

The long or accented ǽ has the sound of ea in meat, sea. The ǽ is found in the following words, which are represented by English terms of the same signification, having ea sounded as in deal, fear; Dǽl, fǽr, drǽd, lǽdan, brǽdo, hǽto, hwǽte, hǽþ, hǽðen, clǽne, lǽne, sǽ, ǽr, hǽlan, lǽran, tǽcan, tǽsan, tǽsel, wǽpen, etc.2. The ǽ is known to be long, and therefore accented, when in monosyllables, assuming another syllable in declining, ǽ is found before a single consonant or st, sc, and followed in nouns by a, o, u, and in adjectives by a, o, u, or e; as Blǽda fruits; blǽdum: Dwǽs dull; g. m. dwǽses. The ǽ is often changed into á ; as Stǽnen stony, stán a stone; lǽr, lár lore

It might be useful to also consider how the Latin and English pronunciations below may lead to confusion


In Classical Latin, the combination AE denotes the diphthong [ai̯], which had a value similar to the long i in fine as pronounced in most dialects of modern English.[1] Both classical and present practice is to write the letters separately, but the ligature was used in medieval and early modern writings in part becauseæ was reduced to the simple vowel [ɛ] in the imperial period. In some medieval scripts, the ligature was simplified to ę, small letter e with ogonek, the e caudata. This form further simplified into a plain e, which may have influenced or been influenced by the pronunciation change. However, the ligature is still relatively common in liturgical books and musical scores.

The Latin diphthong appeared both in native words (where it was spelled with ai before the 2nd century BC) and in borrowings from Greek words having the diphthong αι (alpha iota).

Old English

In Old English, æ denotes a sound intermediate between a and e ([æ]), a sound very much like the short a of cat in many dialects of modern English.

References http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86

Further information below from the BBC

The Anglo-Saxon Alphabet

Anglo-Saxon has many of the letters found in Modern English, as well as three extra letters.

a b c d e f g h i l m n o p r s t u w x y þ   ð   æ

The Anglo-Saxon alphabet does not include j, q, or v. The letters k and z are very rarely used and are not usually listed as part of the alphabet.

Modern transcriptions of Anglo-Saxon use modern letters, usually all in lower-case. At the time when Anglo-Saxon was written down, there was not a distinction between upper- and lower-case letters. If the font does not include the three extra letters, it is normal to use ‘th’ to represent both þ and ð , while ‘ae’ is used for æ .

Anglo-Saxon had two forms of each vowel, long and short. This was not indicated in the spelling. Modern manuscripts often use the macron (a horizontal bar over the vowel) to show long vowels. Computerised versions will often use a rising accent, since standard fonts do not include versions of the vowels with a horizontal bar over them.

Reading Ancient Manuscripts

If you are lucky enough to have access to original manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon, you will find that many of the letters are unfamiliar looking. The language was written down by monks who used the Irish alphabet, so most of the the letters used are the same as ancient Irish. To represent sounds not found in the Irish and Latin languages, the monks had to adapt versions of the Runic alphabet for the letters w, þ , ð , and æ .

All the following letters are recognisably the same as modern letters:

a b c h i l m n o p u x y

The following have shapes which are slightly different to modern usage but most are the same as Ancient Irish letters:

d e f g t

The following letters have completely different shapes from the modern equivalent:

r s w

s is represented by a letter like a modern r but with a long descending vertical stroke, like the one on a p.

r is similar to s but with the curved section replaced by a pointed top like an inverted v

w looks very similar to a p but is narrower and the curved part descends at 45° to meet the descending stroke.

The three letters þ , ð , and æ are all additional to the modern alphabet.

Ancient manuscripts sometimes put accents on some of the letters, but it is not clear what they signified. They were not indications of long and short vowels and do not appear to have affected the pronunciation in any way.


There is no single definitive set of rules for how Anglo-Saxon was pronounced. Firstly, pronunciation would have varied across England, as it does at the moment. Secondly, scholars are not completely decided on the exact pronunciation anyway. The following rules give a rough guideline.


There are seven vowels: a æ e i o u y.

In Modern English, y is sometimes a vowel and sometimes a consonant. It was always a vowel in Anglo-Saxon.

The general pronunciation of the vowels is the same as most modern European languages, but different from Modern English:

  • a as in path (North of England open ‘ah’ sound)
  • e as in pet
  • é as in pay
  • i as in pit
  • í as in peat
  • o as in pot
  • ó as in pole
  • u as in put
  • ú as in pool
  • æ as American pronunciation of man
  • y as in French tu or German fü r

The long versions of a, æ , and y (with an accent or macron) are the same but held for a longer time.


A diphthong is where a vowel is pronounced and then the sound is modified into another vowel. This is done smoothly and quickly, so that the whole thing counts as one syllable rather than two. For example, in modern English, the sounds in ‘tune’, ‘pain’, and ‘sole’ are all diphthongs: tee-oon, pay-een, and so-ull.

There were six diphthongs in Anglo-Saxon: ea, é a, eo, é o, ie, and í e. For modern speakers, the easiest way is just to say the two vowels without a break between them, one after the other, putting the emphasis on the first. So:

ea = eh – ah
é a = ay – ah
eo = eh – o (short o like in pot)
é o = ay – o (short o like in pot)
ie = ih – eh
í e = ee – eh


Most consonants were pronounced as in English. Ones which were different are given in the following table:

letter position pronunciation
f at start or end of word f
in middle of word v
beside unvoiced consonant f
doubled f
s at start or end of word s
in middle of word z
beside unvoiced consonant s
doubled s
sc usually sh
þ or ð at start or end of word th as in thin
in middle of word th as in that
beside unvoiced consonant th as in thin
doubled th as in thin
h at start or end of word h
in middle of word ch as in Loch
c in general k
before e, before i, after i ch as in church
g in general g as in garden
before e, before i, after i y as in yellow
in middle of word gh as Modern Greek ghamma or voiced version of ch in Loch
cg usually j sound as in bridge
ng with hard g as in finger, linger, not like in singer, even when at the end of a word

The two letters þ and ð were interchangeable. Modern scholars often try to use þ for the unvoiced ‘th as in thin’ sound and ð for the voiced ‘th as in this’ sound, but this was not the practice of the ancient scribes.

Exceptions: sc in ascian (to ask) is pronounced sk. The gy- prefix at start of some words is sometimes an alternative spelling of the prefix gie. In this case, it is pronounced with a y sound. The cg in docg (dog) is pronounced with a hard g.

Like in Italian and Finnish, doubled letters sound longer than single letters.

All letters are pronounced. So g at start of gnæ t (gnat) is pronounced, as are h at start of hwæ t (what) and e at end of sunne (sun).



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