Minor Nouns

Minor nouns, sometimes called minor declensions, are the smallest group of nouns. They do not follow the same rules as strong and weak nouns, and though each group only contains a handful of nouns, they are commonly used ones, so it is worth familiarizing yourself with these noun forms so you recognise them when you encounter them.

U-Declensions

U-declension nouns are so-called because, in an earlier form of the language called Proto-Germanic, they all contained 'u' in their inflectional suffixes, and in Old English, the vast majority of nouns in this category still end in 'u'. Unlike Strong and Weak nouns, there are no neuter nouns, and nouns decline the same for the both masculine and feminine, with little variation between cases. Examine the blow sentence, 'Se æðela feld wridaþ under æðelum handa - The noble field flourishes under a noble hand'.

Se
Singular
Demon.
æðela
Weak
Adjective
feld
u-declension
Subject
wridaþ
Weak
Verb
under
Prep.
 
æðelum
Strong
Adjective
handa
u-declension
Dative

The only distinction in how nouns decline is between short stems and long stems in the nominative singular. Two-syllable words with a short-stemmed vowel end in 'u' when nominative, for example, 'sunu — son', 'duru — door', and 'medu — mead', while one-syllable words with a long-stemmed vowel end in a consonant in the nominative, for example, 'hand — hand', 'weald — forest', and 'feld — field'.

Sunu - Son
Nom se sunu þa suna
Acc þone sunu þa suna
Gen þæs suna þara suna
Dat þæm suna þæm sunum
Hond - Hand
Nom seo hand þa handa
Acc þa hand þa handa
Gen þære handa þara handa
Dat þære handa þæm handum

It is worth noting that by the time Old English emerged, u-declensions were already in decline and so very few nouns fell into this category. In addition, many u-declension nouns took on the endings of strong nouns over time, so you will occasionally come across examples like 'feldas' and 'wealdas' rather than 'felda' and 'wealda'. The later the manuscript, the more likely you will find a regular strong suffix on the noun.

R-Plurals

R-plurals are nouns which add an 'r' between the stem and the suffix when declining in the plural. All r-plural nouns are neuter and, in all other ways, the nouns decline normally as per the rules of strong neuter nouns.

Þa
Singular
Demon.
cildru
u-declension
Subject
dræfþ
Weak
Verb
þa
Prep.
 
lambru
Strong
Adjective
fram
u-declension
Dative
þæm
u-declension
Dative
huse
u-declension
Dative

There are four nouns in the r-plural category: 'lamb - lamb', 'æg - egg', 'cealf - calf', and 'cild - child'. All nouns decline according to the paradigm below.

R-Plurals
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt cild þa cildru
Accusative þæt cild þa cildru
Genitive þæs cildes þara cildra
Dative þæm cilde þæm cildrum
R-Plurals
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt cealf þa cealfru
Accusative þæt cealf þa cealfru
Genitive þæt cealfes þa cealfra
Dative þæt cealfe þa cealfrum
R-Plurals
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt æg þa ægru
Accusative þæt æg þa ægru
Genitive þæs æges þara ægra
Dative þæm æge þæm ægrum
R-Plurals
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt lamb þa lambru
Accusative þæt lamb þa lambru
Genitive þæs lambes þara lambra
Dative þæm lambe þæm lambrum

'C' is pronounced like 'ch' when before or after a front vowel (i, e, æ), and 'G' is pronunced soft, like the 'y' in 'year' when before or after a front vowel. So 'cild' is pronounced 'child', and 'æg' is pronounced more closely to 'ae-yuh'.

The modern English word 'egg' does not come from the Old English 'æg' but an Old Norse cognate spelled and pronounced just like the modern 'egg'. Though both words come from the same source in prehistoric Germanic 'ajjaz', the Old English 'æg' became 'egge/eye' in Middle English and fell out of usage by the 16th century, replaced by the Norse word we still use today.

Family Nouns

The family nouns are 'fæder', 'modor', 'broðor', 'sweostor', and 'dohtor'. They are the most irregular of the minor declensions.

Min
Posessive
Pronoun
fæder
Subject
Noun
geaf
Strong
Verb
his
Possessive
Pronoun
beag
Direct
Object
to
Prep.
 
his
Possessive
Pronoun
dehter
Indirect
Object

In the singular, only the dative of 'modor', 'broðor', and 'dohtor' declines. The plural of 'modor', 'broðor', 'sweostor', and 'dohtor' all decline the same way, but 'fæder' declines differently in the nominative and accusative plural.

Family Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative se fæder þa fæderas
Accusative þone fæder þa fæderas
Genitive þæs fæder þara fædera
Dative þæm fæder þæm fæderum
Family Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative seo modor þa modora
Accusative þa modor þa modora
Genitive þære modor þara modora
Dative þære meder þæm modrum
Family Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative seo dohtor þa dohtra
Accusative þa dohtor þa dohtra
Genitive þære dohtor þara dohtra
Dative þære dehter þæm dohtrum
Family Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative seo sweostor þa sweostra
Accusative þa sweostor þa sweostra
Genitive þære sweostor þara sweostra
Dative þære sweostor þæm sweostrum
Family Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative seo broðor þa broðra
Accusative þa broðor þa broðra
Genitive þære broðor þara broðra
Dative þære breðer þæm broðrum

Words with two syllables lose the unstressed vowel of the second syllable when it gains a suffix. This is called syncopation and makes the word easier to pronounce. This is why 'dohtor', 'modor', 'broðor' and 'sweostor' lose their second 'o' when they gain the 'a' and 'um' endings.

You can practice these minor declensions below.

Return to Weak Nouns Continue to i-mutation

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