Variant Declensions

While almost all nouns follow the declensions seen previously, sometimes declensions can cause variations in the stem of the noun. You have already seen some of these variations in previous topics and these variations generally happen for one of two reasons: first it makes a word easier to pronounce, or second it's the result of a sound change that happened over time. Luckily, these variations tend to be regular, making them easy to spot, and they do not affect the inflectional suffix.

Disyllabic nouns

Nouns with two syllables, or 'disyllabic nouns', lose the unstressed vowel of their second syllable when an inflectional ending adds a syllable. We saw this with the feminine noun, ceaster, and the masculine noun, þegen which loses their second 'e' when declined. This is known as syncopation and the rule applies across all genders. For example, look at fugol - bird in the sentence below.

We
Subject
lufiaþ
verb
þa fuglas
direct object
on
Prep.
þære ceastre
Indirect Object
Fugol - Bird
Nom se fugol þa fuglas
Acc þone fugol þa fuglas
Gen þæs fugles þara fugla
Dat þæm fugle þæm fuglum
Heafod - Head
Nom þæt heafod þa heafdu
Acc þæt heafod þa heafdu
Gen þæs heafdes þara heafda
Dat þæm heafde þæm heafdum
Sawol - Soul
Nom seo sawol þa sawla
Acc þa sawle þa sawla
Gen þære sawle þara sawla
Dat þære sawle þæm sawlum

Nouns ending in a vowel

Nouns which end in a vowel (except u) are generally weak. However, there are a handful of exceptions and when a strong noun ends in a vowel, like ende - end, stede - place, rice - kingdom, wite - punishment, or clawu - claw, they usually drop their vowel when a suffix is added.

He
Subject
wealdeþ
verb
wite
direct object
mid
Prep.
isenum
Adjective
clawum
Indirect Object
Ende - End
Nom se ende þa endas
Acc þone ende þa endas
Gen þæs endes þara enda
Dat þæm ende þæm endum
Wite - Punishment
Nom þæt wite þa witu
Acc þæt wite þa witu
Gen þæs wites þara wita
Dat þæm wite þæm witum
Clawu - Claw
Nom seo clawu þa clawa
Acc þa clawe þa clawa
Gen þære clawe þara clawa
Dat þære clawe þæm clawum

Nouns with a stem ending in 'h'

Nouns that have a stem ending in 'h' lose it when declined. This can happen one of two ways.

If the noun ends in a consonant + h, like mearh - horse, wealh - foreigner and feorh - life, the noun loses the ‘h’ when declined.

If the noun ends in a vowel + h, like scoh - shoe and feoh - cattle/wealth, the word loses the ‘h’ and the unstressed vowel when declined. For example, the plural accusative form of the strong masculine noun scoh is scos not scoas, even though the usual strong masculine plural accusative ending is 'as', because the 'a' is dropped. However, you should note that feoh only has a singular form, much like the modern words 'cattle' and 'wealth' do not have plural forms.

Þa wealas
Subject
habbaþ
verb
scos
direct object
ond
Prep.
mearas
Direct Object
Consonant + h
Nom se wealh þa wealas
Acc þone wealh þa wealas
Gen þæs weales þara weala
Dat þæm weale þæm wealum
Vowel + h
Nom se scoh þa scos
Acc þone scoh þa scos
Gen þæs scos þara scona
Dat þæm sco þæm scom
Vowel + h
Nom þæt feoh -
Acc þæt feoh -
Gen þæs feos -
Dat þæm feo -

Nouns with 'æ' in the stem

Monosyllabic nouns with a short 'æ' in the stem, such as hwæl - whale, fæt - cup, and dæg - day, undergo a sound-change to 'a' when declined in the plural. This is because the plural suffixes contain the back vowels 'a' and 'u'. Words with a long 'æ', such as dæd - deed, læcce - leech, or dæl - part retain their 'æ' in the plural. (For a refresher on long and short vowel sounds, see the pronunciation guide)

Se horshwæl
Subject
biþ
verb
læssa
Adjective
ðonne
Prep.
oðre
Rel Pronoun
hwalas
Direct Object
Hwæl - Whale
Nom se hwæl þa hwalas
Acc þone hwæl þa hwalas
Gen þæs hwæles þara hwala
Dat þæm hwæle þæm hwalum
Fæt - Cup
Nom þæt fæt þa fatu
Acc þæt fæt þa fatu
Gen þæs fætes þara fata
Dat þæm fæte þæm fatum
Dæg - Day
Nom se dæg þa dagas
Acc þone dæg þa dagas
Gen þæs dages þara daga
Dat þæm dæge þæm dagum

As can be seen from the above examples, while the suffixes generally remain the same for all the nouns, where the addition of a suffix would make the word more difficult to say, there are slight modifications in the stem to it easier to pronounce. You can practice the variant noun declensions below.


Test Your Declensions

In the textboxes below, fill out the fully declined version of the word in brackets.


Use these buttons to insert thorn, ash and eth when you have an input selected.