Anglo-Saxon Word of the Week: Byrnwiggende

We're uncertain what a byrnie looked like, but it could have been a mail shirt, or mail-covered leather jacket.

We’re uncertain what a byrnie looked like, but it could have been a mail shirt, or mail-covered leather jacket.

Wes þu hal!

Finally getting back to some text translation today, after time away for travel, conferences, and end-of-term marking frenzies – and I discovered a neat thing I wanted to share. I came across the word byrnwiggende today. A wiggend is a warrior or soldier, and the word is commonly seen in descriptive compounds – rondwiggende, for example. Rond or rand is technically the margin or the edge of something, but it was usually used to denote the edge of a shield – so rondwiggende might get translated as sheild-warrior or shield-bearer.

All of that I knew – but what on earth was a byrn? The Clark Hall dictionary gave me corselet, and that’s a familiar enough armour term, but I didn’t really like the word. I tried the online Englisc Onstigende Wordbōc, to see if it would give me anything different – and it gave me the Modern English word byrnie – at least, they said it was Modern English. I’d certainly never heard of it, so I threw it into google, and out popped the image on the left – something I would indeed have termed a corselet. Or maybe even just a maille shirt. According to Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World (Bennet, M., et al): 

There is some dispute among historians as to what exactly constituted the Carolingian byrnie. Relying… only on artistic and some literary sources because of the lack of archaeological examples, some believe that it was a heavy leather jacket with metal scales sewn onto it. It was also quite long, reaching below the hips and covering most of the arms. Other historians claim instead that the Carolingian byrnie was nothing more than a coat of mail, but longer and perhaps heavier than traditional early medieval mail. Without more certain evidence, this dispute will continue.

A section of the Bayeux Tapestry - could those soldiers have been wearing byrnies?

A section of the Bayeux Tapestry – could those soldiers have been wearing byrnies?

There you are, then; a new word for me in both languages. Call them shield-bearers, mail-wearers, or men-at-arms – a good leader was lost without good soldiers.

In which our heroine re-discovers the internet…

Dear readers,


Part of the intention of this blog was to start a conversation about the joys, pains and just plain weird bits about studying in a foreign country. In keeping with that aim, allow me to sum up the first year of international PhD life for you: overwhelming. My efforts at chronicling events got a bit steam-rolled by the events themselves. 

And while I’m still finding life pretty full-to-the-brim, I’d rather not neglect this forum and the possibilities for communication it provides any longer, so I’m throwing regular blog posts back in the air as another plate to be juggled – and, like any good performance artist/blogger/author/teacher, I expect at least half the fun to be in the interaction. 

Things you will here in the coming months:

1. Anglo-Saxon word of the Week! – does exactly what it says on the tin: I’ll share an Anglo-Saxon word with you, along with its translation equivalent, insomuch as I am able, and some contextualization about where and how it was used in literature. This may also (read: will eventually) expand into short articles on aspects of Anglo-Saxon history and culture, as I digest my research. 

2. travel writing – I haven’t had over-abundant opportunity to travel outside of Wales since coming here, but I have several trips planned for the summer and early fall that I’d love to drag you along on, via some travel writing and photography. I’ll also be doing a little time traveling, writing posts about and sharing photographs of places I’ve been in the last year. 

3. International Student Stuff – because there were little to no online resources out there for me, when I was staring an international move in the face, and I’d like to keep someone else from having that problem if I can.

4. Poetry! Poems, writing prompts, bits and bobs about my dissertation, venting of frustrations, general writing discussion…etc. If it’s poetry, you’ll probably find it here.

5. General updates about my life, my friends, my family, and my town, probably complete with I-miss-my-cats and this-is-what-I-ate-today photos, because for all its shiny,new, academically relevant candy coating, this is still my very own blog. 

In a few weeks, I’ll  be participating in a blog tour with Kory Shrum, a long-time friend and fellow author who’s celebrating her very first book launch! We’ll be talking about our writing process, and linking to other authors’ blogs around the web. 


If you have any suggestions about things you want to see, or stuff you want to know about what the hell it is I’m doing over here – ask ’em. Bring it on. 🙂