Norman language

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Native to

Previously used:

RegionNormandy and the Channel Islands
Native speakers
Unknown due to conflicting definitions (2017)
Early form
Latin (French orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3nrf (partial: Guernésiais & Jèrriais)
Glottolognorm1245  Normand[2]
Linguasphere51-AAA-hc & 51-AAA-hd
Langue normande.png
Areas where the Norman language is strongest include Jersey, Guernsey, the Cotentin and the Pays de Caux.

Norman or Norman French (Normaund, French: Normand, Guernésiais: Normand, Jèrriais: Nouormand) is, depending on classification, either a French dialect or a Romance language which can be classified as one of the Oïl languages along with French, Picard and Walloon. The name "Norman French" is sometimes used to describe not only the Norman language, but also the administrative languages of Anglo-Norman and Law French used in England. For the most part, the written forms of Norman and modern French are mutually intelligible. This intelligibility was largely caused by the Norman language's planned adaptation to French orthography.


When Norse invaders from modern day Denmark, Norway and Sweden arrived in the then-province of Neustria and settled the land that became known as Normandy, these Germanic-speaking people came to live among a local Romance-speaking population. In time, the communities converged, so that Normandy continued to form the name of the region while the original Normans became assimilated by the Gallo-Romance people, adopting their speech. Later, when conquering England, the Norman rulers in England would eventually assimilate, thereby adopting the speech of the local English. However, in both cases, the élites contributed elements of their own language to the newly enriched languages that developed in the territories.

In Normandy, the Norman language inherited only some 150 words from Old Norse.[3] The influence on phonology is disputed, although it is argued that the retention of aspirated /h/ and /k/ in Norman is due to Norse influence.

Geographical distribution[edit]

Norman is spoken in mainland Normandy in France, where it has no official status, but is classed as a regional language. It is taught in a few colleges near Cherbourg-Octeville.

In the Channel Islands, the Norman language has developed separately, but not in isolation, to form:

The British and Irish governments recognize Jèrriais and Guernésiais as regional languages within the framework of the British–Irish Council. Sercquiais is in fact a descendant of the 16th-century Jèrriais used by the original colonists from Jersey who settled the then uninhabited island.

The last first-language speakers of Auregnais, the dialect of Norman spoken on Alderney, died during the 20th century, although some rememberers are still alive. The dialect of Herm also lapsed at an unknown date; the patois spoken there was likely Guernésiais (Herm was not inhabited all year round in the Norman culture's heyday).

An isogloss termed the "Joret line" (ligne Joret) separates the northern and southern dialects of the Norman language (the line runs from Granville, Manche to the French-speaking Belgian border in the province of Hainaut and Thiérache). Dialectal differences also distinguish western and eastern dialects.[citation needed]

Three different standardized spellings are used: continental Norman, Jèrriais, and Dgèrnésiais. These represent the different developments and particular literary histories of the varieties of Norman. Norman may therefore be described as a pluricentric language.

The Anglo-Norman dialect of Norman served as a language of administration in England following the Norman conquest of England in 1066. This left a legacy of Law French in the language of English courts (though it was also influenced by Parisian French). In Ireland, Norman remained strongest in the area of south-east Ireland, where the Hiberno-Normans invaded in 1169. Norman remains in (limited) use for some very formal legal purposes in the UK, such as when the monarch gives royal assent to an Act of Parliament using the phrase, "La Reyne (le Roy) le veult" ("The Queen (the King) wills it").

The Norman conquest of southern Italy in the 11th and 12th centuries brought the language to Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula, where it may have left a few words in the Sicilian language. See: Norman and French influence on Sicilian.

Literature in Norman ranges from early Anglo-Norman literature through the 19th-century Norman literary renaissance to modern writers (see list of Norman-language writers).

As of 2017 the Norman language remains strongest in the less accessible areas of the former Duchy of Normandy: the Channel Islands and the Cotentin Peninsula (Cotentinais) in the west, and the Pays de Caux (Cauchois dialect) in the east. Ease of access from Paris and the popularity of the coastal resorts of central Normandy, such as Deauville, in the 19th century led to a significant loss of distinctive Norman culture in the central low-lying areas of Normandy.

Old French influences[edit]

Norman French preserves a number of Old French words which have been lost in Modern French. Examples of Norman French words of Old French origin:

Norman French Old French French Meaning
tolir tolir priver, enlever to remove , to deprive sb. with sth.
targier ou tergier targier tarder to be late / slow
calengier calungier, chalongier (became challenge in English) négocier, débattre to negotiate , to argue
tître tistre tisser to weave
muchier mucier cacher to conceal / to hide
orde ort sale dirty
hourder order souiller to make sth. dirty
ordir ordir salir to get sth. dirty
haingue (f.) haenge haine hatred
haingre (adj.) haingre maigre thin , skinny
haiset (m.) haise barrière ou clôture de jardin faites de branches garden fence
herdre erdre adhérer, être adhérant, coller to adhere, to stick
méselle mesele lèpre leprosy
mésiau ou mésel mesel lépreux leper
méhain meshaing, mehain mauvaise disposition, malaise loss of consciousness , feeling of faintness
méhaignié meshaignié malade, blessé sick , injured
de l'hierre (f.)
de l'hierru (m.)
de l'iere du lierre of ivy
marganer marganer moquer to make fun of , to mock
marganier marganier moqueur, quelqu'un qui se moque mocking , teasing
marcauntier marcantier mouchard, colporteur canary
marcaundier marcandier rôdeur, vagabond prowler , walker
nartre (m.) nastre traître traitor
nâtre (adj.) nastre méchant, cruel mean , nasty
nienterie (f.) nienterie niaiserie nonsense, insanity
souleir soleir « souloir », avoir l'habitude de to have habit of / to get used to
ardre ardre, ardeir brûler to burn
caeir caeir, caïr « choir », tomber to drop , to fall over
moûtrer mustrer montrer to show
itel / intel itel semblable similar
iloc (with a silent c) iloc, iluec there
d'ot od, ot avec with
paumpe (f.) pampe en normand : tige

en anc. fr. : pétale

liement liement, liéement tranquillement quietly , peacefully
essourdre essurdre, exsurdre élever to raise , to lift
écourre escurre, escudre secouer to shake, to mix
éclairgir esclargier éclaircir to lighten
déhait dehait chagrin, malheur grief , hardship
maishî maishui, meshui maintenant, désormais now , from now on
alosier alosier se vanter, de targuer to brag , to pride oneself on
ébauber, ébaubir esbaubir étonner to surprise
trétous trestuz tous, absolument tous all , absolutely every
manuyaunce manuiance avoir la jouissance, la possession to have enjoyment

Examples of Norman French words with -ei instead of -oi in Standard French words

Norman French Standard French Meaning
dreit droit right (law)
la peire la poire pear
le peivre le poivre pepper
la feis la fois time
le deigt le doigt finger
creire croire to believe
veir (final r is silent) voir to see
beire boire to drink
neir (final r is silent) noir black
aveir (final r is silent) avoir to have
la feire la foire fair (trade show)

Examples of Norman French words with c- et g- instead of ch- et j in Standard French

Norman French Standard French Meaning
la gaumbe la jambe leg
la vaque la vache cow
le cat le chat cat
le quien le chien dog
la cauche la chausse, la chaussure shoes
le câtel (final l is silent) le château castle
la quièvre la chèvre goat
cachier chasser to chase / to hunt
catouiller chatouiller to tickle
caud chaud hot
la cose la chose thing

Norse influences[edit]

Examples of Norman words of Norse origin:

English Norman French Old Norse Scandinavian reflexes French
bait baite, bète, abète beita beita (Icelandic), beite (Norw.), bete (Swed.) appât; boëtte (from Breton; maybe ultimately from Norman)
down dun, dum, dumet, deumet dúnn dúnn (Icelandic), dun (Swed., Norw., Dan.) duvet (from Norman)
earthnut, groundnut, pignut, peanut génotte, gernotte, jarnotte *jarðhnot jarðhneta (Ice.), jordnøtt (Norw.), jordnöt (Swed.), jordnød (Dan.) terre-noix
(black) currant gade, gadelle, gradelle, gradille gaddʀ (-) cassis, groseille
slide, slip griller, égriller, écriller *skriðla skrilla (Old Swed.), skriða (Icelandic), skride (Dan.) overskride (Norw.) glisser
islet hommet/houmet hólmʀ hólmur (Icelandic), holme (Swed.), holm (Norw., Dan.) îlot, rocher en mer
mound (cf. howe, high) hougue haugʀ haugur (Ice.), haug (Norw.), hög (Swe.), høj (Dan.) monticule
seagull mauve, mave, maôve mávaʀ (pl.) mávar (pl.) (Icelandic), måge (Dan.), måke/måse (Norw.), mås (Swed.) mouette, goëland
dune, sandy land mielle, mièle melʀ melur (Ice.), mjele (Norw.), mjälla (Swed.), mile (Dan.) dune, terrain sableux
beach grass, dune grass milgreu, melgreu *melgrös, pl. of *melgras melgrös, pl. of melgras (Icelandic) oyat
damp (cf. muggy), humid mucre mykr (cf. English muck) myk (Norw.) humide
ness (headland or cliff, cf. Sheerness, etc.) nez nes nes (Norw., Icelandic), næs (Dan.), näs (Swed.) cap, pointe de côte
wicket (borrowed from Norman) viquet, (-vic, -vy, -vouy in place-names) vík vík (Icelandic), vik (Norw., Swed.), vig (Dan.) guichet (borrowed from Norman)

In some cases, Norse words adopted in Norman have been borrowed into French – and more recently some of the English words used in French can be traced back to Norman origins.

A bar named in Norman

English influences[edit]

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Norman and other languages and dialects spoken by the new rulers of England were used during several hundred years, developing into the unique insular dialect now known as Anglo-Norman French, and leaving traces of specifically Norman words that can be distinguished from the equivalent lexical items in French:

English Norman French French
fashion < faichon = façon
cabbage < caboche = chou (cf. caboche)
castle < castel (borrowed from Occitan) = château-fort, castelet
cauldron < caudron = chaudron
causeway < caucie (now cauchie)[4] = chaussée
catch < cachier (now cachi)[5] = chasser
cater < acater = acheter
cherry (ies) < cherise (chrise, chise ) = cerise
mug < mogue/moque[6] = mug, boc
poor < paur = pauvre
wait < waitier (Old Norman) = gaitier (mod. guetter )
war < werre (Old Norman) = guerre
warrior < werreur (Old Norman) = guerrier
wicket < viquet = guichet (cf. piquet)

Other borrowings, such as captain, kennel, cattle and canvas, exemplify how Norman retained Latin /k/ that was not retained in French.

In the United Kingdom, Acts of Parliament are confirmed with the words "La Reyne le veult" ("The Queen wishes it"), or "Le Roy le veult ("The King wishes it") and other Norman phrases are used on formal occasions as legislation progresses.[7]

Norman immigration[edit]

Norman immigrants to North America also introduced some "Normanisms" to Quebec French and the French language in Canada generally. Joual, a working class sociolect of Quebec, in particular exhibits a Norman influence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c BBC Voices – Jerriais
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Normand". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Elisabeth Ridel (2010). Les Vikings et les mots. Editions Errance.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Causeway"
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Catch"
  6. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary. entry on "Mug¹" states that the origin of this word is uncertain—it may have been a borrowing from Norman, or it may have come from another source, and been reinforced through Norman.
  7. ^ "La Reyne le veult – why are Acts of Parliament confirmed in Norman French rather than English? – Royal Central". Retrieved 2017-05-08.


  • Essai de grammaire de la langue normande, UPN, 1995. ISBN 2-9509074-0-7.
  • V'n-ous d'aveu mei? UPN, 1984.
  • La Normandie dialectale, 1999, ISBN 2-84133-076-1
  • Alain Marie, Les auteurs patoisants du Calvados, 2005. ISBN 2-84706-178-9.
  • Roger Jean Lebarbenchon, Les Falaises de la Hague, 1991. ISBN 2-9505884-0-9.
  • Jean-Louis Vaneille, Les patoisants bas-normands, n.d., Saint-Lô.
  • André Dupont, Dictionnaire des patoisants du Cotentin, Société d'archéologie de la Manche, Saint-Lô, 1992.
  • Geraint Jennings and Yan Marquis, "The Toad and the Donkey: an anthology of Norman literature from the Channel Islands", 2011, ISBN 978-1-903427-61-3

External links[edit]