Thou, Thee, Thy, Thine & Ye: Meanings & Usage

In works of old, high-fantasy or historic fiction one may have chanced across the strange words: thou, thee, thy, thine and ye. While most people understand the gist of the words (that they all refer to people), the way each is to be correctly (formally) deployed is somewhat less well understood.

Thou, thee, thy, thine and ye are archaic personal pronouns (words which are substitutes for nouns or noun-phrases) which are generally articulated in the form of subject and object (depending upon the pronouns relation to the structure of a sentence). Subject pronouns in modern English typically take the form:

  • I (singular)
  • we (plural)
  • you (singular and plural)
  • he/she/it (singular); they (plural); it (dummy)

Example: I like writing.

Whilst object pronouns take the form of:

  • me/us
  • you/you
  • him/her (singular); them (plural); it (dummy)

Example: Writing likes me.

Modern English reflexive pronouns (self-referential pronouns) typically take the form of:

  • myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself (singular)
  • ourselves, yourselves, themselves (plural)

Example: I myself find writing difficult.

The Middle English pronouns follow a similar trajectory:

  • Thou = you when the subject (“Thou liketh writing.”)
  • Thee = you when the object (“Writing liketh thee.”)
  • Thy = your possessive form of you. (“Thy blade well serves thee.”)
  • Thine = your possessive form of you, typically used before a noun. (“Thine writing smacks of mastery.” or, “The writing is thine.” — thy own can be used in place of thine to similar effect)
  • Ye = you all | all of you used when referring to a group of people (“Ye fools!”)

Or, to put it more formally:

Subject form | Object form

I — I               | Me — Me

You — Thou  | You — Thee

You — Ye       | You — You

Just like with modern English pronouns, the more you (or rather, thou) practice with the words and use them in your sentences, the easier it will be to write fluently with them. Don’t agonize over precision of grammar if, in doing so, the fluidity of the writing is shattered, especially if your (thy) work is fictional (save when it is a work of historical fiction) and focus instead on the particular way your characters speak as they won’t always speak with ‘perfect’ grammar and syntax.

Fiction Writer’s Compendium: Rare English Words

E. M. Forster once said, “English literature is a flying fish.” Logos has gone fishing and below provides the bounty of our catch.


absquatulate — to leave somewhere abruptly

adscititious — additional

anfractuous — winding or circuitous

anguilliform — resembling an eel

apple-knocker — (US informal) an ignorant or unsophisticated person

argle-bargle — copious but meaningless talk or writing

argute — shrewd

astrobleme — an eroded remnant of a large, ancient crater made by the impact of a meteorite or comet

barn burner — (N. Amer.) a very exciting or dramatic event, especially a sports contest; first used in relation to an exceptionally good hand at bridge

benthos — the flora and fauna on the bottom of a sea or lake

bergschrund — a type of crevasse

bezoar — a small hard, solid mass which may form in the stomachs of animals such as goats or sheep

bibliopole — a person who buys and sells books, especially rare ones

bilboes — an iron bar with sliding shackles, used to fasten prisoners’ ankles

bindlestiff — (N. Amer.) a tramp

bingle — (Austral. informal) a collision

blatherskite — a person who talks at great length without making much sense

bobsy-die — a great deal of fuss or trouble

boffola — (N. Amer. informal) a joke that gets a loud or hearty laugh

boilover — (Austral. informal) a surprise result in a sporting event

borborygmus — a rumbling or gurgling noise in the intestines

bruxism — involuntary and habitual grinding of the teeth

bumbo — a drink of rum, sugar, water, and nutmeg

burnsides — a moustache in combination with whiskers on the cheeks but no beard on the chin

cacoethes — an urge to do something inadvisable

callipygian — having shapely buttocks

callithumpian — like a discordant band or a noisy parade

camisado — a military attack carried out at night

canorous — melodious or resonant

cantillate — to chant or intone a passage of religious text

carphology — convulsive or involuntary movements made by delirious patients, such as plucking at the bedclothes

catoptromancy — foretelling the future by means of a mirror

cereology — the study or investigation of crop circles

chad — a piece of waste paper produced by punching a hole

chalkdown — (S. African informal) a teachers’ strike

chiliad — a thousand things or a thousand years

claggy — (Brit. dialect) sticky or able to form sticky lumps

clepsydra — an early clock using the flow of water into or out of a container

colporteur — a person who peddles books, newspapers, or other writings

commensalism — an association between two organisms in which one benefits from the relationship and the other derives neither harm nor benefit

comminatory — threatening, punitive, or vengeful

concinnity — elegance or neatness of literary or artistic style

coprolalia — the involuntary repetitive use of obscene language

coriaceous — like leather

couthy — (Scottish; of a person) warm and friendly; (of a place) cosy and comfortable

criticaster — a minor or incompetent critic

crottle — a lichen used in Scotland to make a brownish dye for wool

croze — a groove at the end of a cask or barrel in which the head is fixed

cudbear — a purple or violet powder used for dyeing, made from lichen

cupreous — of or like copper

cyanic — blue; azure

dariole — a small round metal mould used in French cooking for an individual sweet or savoury dish

deasil — clockwise or in the direction of the sun’s course

decubitus — (Medicine) the posture of someone who is lying down or lying in bed

deedy — industrious or effective

defervescence — (Medicine) the lessening of a fever

deglutition — the action or process of swallowing

degust — to taste food or drink carefully, so as to fully appreciate it

deipnosophist — a person skilled in the art of dining and dinner-table conversation

dight — clothed or equipped; to make something ready for use

disembogue — to emerge or pour out (used of a river or stream)

disenthral — to set someone free from enslavement

divagate — to stray or digress

divaricate — to stretch or spread apart

donkey engine — a small auxiliary engine on a ship

donkeyman — a man working in a ship’s engine room

doryphore — a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic of others

douceur — a financial inducement or bribe

draff — dregs or refuse

dumbsize — to reduce the staff numbers of a company to such low levels that work can no longer be carried out effectively

dwaal — (S. African) a dreamy, dazed, or absent-minded state

ecdysiast — a striptease performer

edacious — that which is fond of eating

emacity — fondness for buying things

ensorcell — to enchant or fascinate someone

entomophagy — the eating of insects, especially by people

erf — (S. African) a plot of land

ergometer — an apparatus which measures energy expended during physical exercise

erubescent — reddening or blushing

eucatastrophe — a happy ending to a story

eviternity — eternal existence or everlasting duration

exequies — funeral rites

exsanguine — bloodless or anaemic

extramundane — outside or beyond the physical world

flews — the thick pendulous lips of a bloodhound or similar dog

floccinaucinihilipilification — the action or habit of estimating something as worthless

flocculent — having or resembling tufts of wool

forehanded — (chiefly N. Amer.) prudent or thrifty

frondeur — a political rebel

fugacious — transient or fleeting

funambulist — a tightrope walker

furuncle — a boil

fuscous — dark and sombre in colour

futz — to waste time or busy oneself aimlessly

gaberlunzie — (Scottish archaic) a beggar

gaita — a kind of bagpipe played in northern Spain and Portugal

gallus — (Scottish) bold or daring

gasconade — extravagant boasting

glabrous — (of skin) hairless or (of a leaf) having no down

glaikit — (Scottish & N. English) stupid, foolish, or thoughtless

gnathic — having to do with the jaws

gobemouche — a gullible or credulous listener

guddle — (Scottish) to fish with one’s hands by groping under the stones or banks of a stream

habile — deft or skilful

haruspex — a religious official in ancient Rome who inspected the entrails of sacrificial animals in order to foretell the future

hirquiticke — “one past fourteene yeeres of age, beginning to bee moved with Venus delight” (Henry Cockeram, An English Dictionary, 1623)

hoddy-noddy — a foolish person

hodiernal — of today

howff — (Scottish) a favourite meeting place or haunt, especially a pub

humdudgeon — an imaginary illness

hwyl — a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy which is associated with the Welsh people

illywhacker — (Austral. informal) a small-time confidence trickster

incrassate — thickened in form or consistency

incunabula — books printed before 1501

ingurgitate — to swallow something greedily

inspissate — to thicken or congeal

inunct — to apply ointment to someone or something

jumbuck — (Austral. informal) a sheep

jumentous — resembling horse’s urine

keek — (Scottish) to peep surreptitiously

kenspeckle — (Scottish) conspicuous or easily recognizable

kinnikinnick — substance consisting of dried sumac leaves and willow or dogwood bark, smoked by North American Indians

kylie — (Austral.) a boomerang

labaruma — banner or flag bearing symbolic motifs

logomachy — an argument about words

lollygag — to spend time in an aimless or lazy way

luculent — (of speech or writing) clearly expressed

macushla — Irish an affectionate form of address

meacock — a coward or effeminate person

merkin — artificial covering of hair for the pubic area

merrythought — a bird’s wishbone

mim — (Scottish) modest or demure in an affected or priggish way

mimsy — rather feeble and prim or over-restrained (coined by Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass)

minacious — menacing or threatening

misogamy — the hatred of marriage

mistigris — joker or other extra card played as a wild card in some versions of poker

mollitious — luxurious or sensuous

monkey’s wedding — (S. African) simultaneous rain and sunshine

mouse potato — a person who spends large amounts of their leisure or working time on a computer

mudlark — person who scavenges in riverside mud at low tide for anything of value

muktuk — the skin and blubber of a whale, eaten by the Inuit people

nacarat — a bright orange-red colour

nagware — computer software which is free for a trial period and thereafter frequently reminds the user to pay for it

natation — swimming

noctambulist — a sleepwalker

noyade — an execution carried out by drowning

nugacity — triviality or frivolity

nympholepsy — passion or rapture aroused in men by beautiful young girls

obnubilate — to darken, dim, or obscure something

ogdoad — a group or set of eight

omophagy — the eating of raw food, especially meat

omphalos — the centre or hub of something

onolatry — the worship of donkeys

operose — involving or displaying a lot of effort

opsimath — a person who begins to learn or study late in life

orectic — having to do with desire or appetite

orrery — a clockwork model of the solar system, or the sun, earth, and moon

ortanique — a cross between an orange and a tangerine

otalgia — earache

paludal — living or occurring in a marshy habitat

panurgic — able or ready to do anything

parapente — aerofoil parachute, used for gliding

parapha — flourish after a signature

patulous — (of the boughs of a tree, for example) spreading

pavonine — to do with or resembling a peacock

pedicular — to do with lice

peely-wally — (Scottish) looking pale and unwell

peever — (Scottish) hopscotch

periapt — an item worn as a charm or amulet

petcock — a small valve in a steam engine or boiler, used for drainage or for reducing pressure

peterman — a person who breaks open and robs safes

pettitoes — pig’s trotters, especially as food

piacular — making or requiring atonement

pilgarlic — a bald-headed man, or a person regarded with mild contempt

pinguid — resembling fat; oily or greasy

piscatorial — connected with fishermen or fishing

pleurodynia — severe pain in the muscles between the ribs or in the diaphragm

plew — a beaver skin

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis — an invented term said to mean ‘a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust’

pogey — (Canadian informal) unemployment or welfare benefit

pollex — (Anatomy) the thumb

pooter — a suction bottle for collecting insects and other small invertebrates

portolan — a book containing sailing directions with hand-drawn charts and descriptions of harbours and coasts

posology — branch of medicine concerned with the size and frequency of doses of a medicine or a drug

possident — a possessor, i.e. a person who owns something

pother — a commotion or fuss

pre-loved — second-hand

presenteeism — the compulsion to spend longer at work than is required or to continue working despite illness

previse — to foresee or predict an event

probang  — a strip of flexible material with a sponge or tuft at the end, used to remove a foreign body from the throat or to apply medication to it

prosopagnosia — an inability to recognize the faces of familiar people, typically as a result of brain damage

puddle jumper — a small, light aircraft which is fast and highly manoeuvrable and used for short trips

puddysticks — (S. African) children’s word very easy

pyknic — a technical description of a stocky physique with a rounded body and head, thickset trunk, and a tendency to fat

pyroclastic — relating to fragments of rock erupted by a volcano

ragtop — a convertible car with a soft roof

ratite — (of a bird such as the ostrich or emu) unable to fly because of having a flat breastbone, to which no flight muscles are attached

rawky — foggy, damp, and cold

razzia — a raid carried out by Moors in North Africa

rebirthing — a form of therapy involving controlled breathing and intended to simulate the trauma of being born

resurrection man — a person who, in past times, illicitly exhumed corpses from burial grounds and sold them to anatomists for dissection

retiform — resembling a net

rhinoplasty — plastic surgery performed on the nose

rubiginous — rust-coloured

rubricate — to add elaborate capital letters (typically red ones) or other decorations to a manuscript

rude boy — Jamaican a lawless or rebellious unemployed urban youth who likes ska or reggae music

rug rat — (N. Amer.) a child

rumpot — (N. Amer.) a habitual or heavy drinker

sangoma — a traditional healer or witch doctor in southern Africa

sarmie — (S. African informal) a sandwich

saucier — a sauce chef

saudade — a feeling of longing or melancholy that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament

scofflaw — a person who flouts the law

screenager — a person in their teens or twenties who has an aptitude for using computers and the Internet

scrippage — one’s baggage and personal belongings

selkie — (Scottish) a mythical sea creature like a seal in water but human on land

serac — a pinnacle or ridge of ice on the surface of a glacier

sesquipedalian — (of a word) having many syllables or (of a piece of writing) using many long words

shallop — a light sailing boat used chiefly for coastal fishing

shamal — a hot, dry north-westerly wind that blows across the Persian Gulf in summer and causes sandstorms

shavetail — (US military slang) a newly commissioned officer, or any inexperienced person

shippon — (Brit. dialect) a cattle shed

shofar — a ram’s-horn trumpet used in Jewish religious ceremonies and, in ancient times, to sound a battle signal

skanky — (N. Amer. informal) revolting

skelf — (Scottish) a splinter or sliver of wood

skimmington — a kind of procession once undertaken to make an example of a nagging wife or an unfaithful husband

skycap — a porter at an airport

snakebitten — (N. Amer. informal) unlucky or doomed to misfortune

snollygoster — a shrewd or unprincipled person

sockdolager — (US informal) a heavy blow

solander — a protective box made in the form of a book, for holding items such as botanical specimens, maps, and colour plates

soucouyant — a kind of witch, in eastern Caribbean folklore, who is believed to shed her skin by night and suck the blood of her victims

soul case — (N. Amer. & W. Indian) the human body

soul catcher — a hollowed bone tube used by a North American Indian medicine man to keep a sick person’s soul safe while they are sick

spaghettification — the process by which (in some theories) an object would be stretched and ripped apart by gravitational forces on falling into a black hole

spitchcock — an eel, split and then grilled or fried

splanchnic — having to do with the the viscera or internal organs, especially those of the abdomen

spurrier — a person who makes spurs

stercoraceous — consisting of or resembling dung or faeces

sternutator — something that causes sneezing

stiction — the frictional force which hinders an object from being moved while in contact with another

strappado — a punishment or torture in which the victim was hoisted in the air on a rope and then allowed to fall almost to the ground before being stopped with an abrupt jerk

strigil — an instrument with a curved blade used by ancient Greeks and Romans to scrape sweat and dirt from the skin in a hot-air bath or after exercise

struthious — having to do with or resembling an ostrich

studmuffin — (N. Amer. humorous) a sexually attractive, muscular man

stylite — a early Christian ascetic who lived standing on top of a pillar

subfusc — the dark formal clothing worn for examinations and ceremonial or formal occasions at some universities.

submontane — passing under or through mountains, or situated on the lower slopes of a mountain range

succuss — to shake something vigorously, especially a homeopathic remedy

sudd — an area of floating vegetation that impedes navigation in a stretch of the White Nile

suedehead — a youth like a skinhead but with slightly longer hair and smarter clothes

sun-grazing — (of a comet) having an orbit which passes close to the sun

superbious — proud and overbearing

superette — (N. Amer.) a small supermarket

taniwha — a mythical monster which, according to Maori legend, lives in very deep water

tappen — the plug by which the rectum of a bear is closed during hibernation

tellurian — of or inhabiting the earth, or an inhabitant of the earth

testudo — a device used in siege warfare in ancient Rome, consisting of a wheeled screen with an arched roof (literally a ‘tortoise’)

thalassic — relating to the sea

thaumatrope — a scientific toy devised in the 19th century. It consisted of a disc with a different picture on each of its two sides: when the disc was rotated rapidly about a diameter, these pictures appeared to combine into one image.

thirstland — (S. African) a desert or large arid area

thrutch — (N. English) a narrow gorge or ravine

thurifer — a person carrying a censer, or thurible, of burning incense during religious ceremonies

tigon — the hybrid off spring of a male tiger and a lioness (the offspring of a male lion and a tigress being a liger)

tokoloshe — in African folklore, a mischievous and lascivious hairy water sprite

toplofty — (N. Amer. informal) haughty and arrogant

transpicuous — transparent

triskaidekaphobia — extreme superstition about the number thirteen

triskelion — a Celtic symbol consisting of three radiating legs or curved lines, such as the emblem of the Isle of Man

turbary — the legal right to cut turf or peat for fuel on common ground or on another person’s ground

umbriferous — shady

uncinate — (of a part of the body) having a hooked shape

uniped — a person or animal with only one foot or leg

uroboros — a circular symbol depicting a snake (or a dragon) swallowing its tail, intended as an emblem of wholeness or infinity

vagarious — erratic and unpredictable in behaviour or direction

velleity — a wish or inclination which is not strong enough to lead one to take action

verjuice — a sour juice obtained from crab apples or unripe grapes

vicinal — neighbouring or adjacent

vidiot — (N. Amer. informal) a habitual, undiscriminating watcher of television or videotapes

vomitous — (N. Amer.) nauseating or repulsive

wabbit — (Scottish) exhausted or slightly unwell

waitron — (N. Amer.) a waiter or waitress

wakeboarding — the sport of riding on a short, wide board while being towed behind a motor boat

wayzgoose — an annual summer party and outing that used to be held by a printing house for all its employees

winebibber — a heavy drinker

wish book — (N. Amer. informal) a mail-order catalogue

wittol — a man who knows of and tolerates his wife’s infidelity

woopie — an affluent retired person able to pursue an active lifestyle (from the initials of well-off older person)

wowser — (chiefly Austral./NZ) a puritanical, prudish person or a killjoy

xenology — the scientific study of extraterrestrial phenomena

ylem — (in big bang theory) the primordial matter of the universe

zetetic — proceeding by inquiry or investigation

zoolatry — the worship of animals

zopissa — a medicinal preparation made from wax and pitch scraped from the sides of ships

zorro — a South American kind of fox

Zyrian — a former term for Komi, a language spoken in an area of Russia west of the Urals

Fiction Writer’s Compendium: Middle English

Below is a resource for writers, consisting of dozens of Middle English words paired with their modern-day equivalent meanings. The list is not meant to be exhaustive of all Middle English. If there are any words you wish me to add to the list, feel free to contact me and let me know (Middle English to the left, current English to the right broken by ‘-‘).


al, or, al be that – though

als – as

anon – at once

artow – art thou, thou art

atte – at, at the

aventure – chance

axe – ask

ay – always

been – are

bet – better

beth – are; (imperative) be

brenne – burn but,

but if – unless

can, kan – know, be able

canstow – can you, you can

cas – happening, chance

certes – surely, certainly

clepe (n) – call

clerk – scholar

cokewold – cuckold

coy – quiet

ech – each

echo (o) n – each one

eek, eke – also

er, or – before; formerly

everich – every; every one

fay, fey – faith

forthy – therefore

fro – from

gan, gonne – began

hastow – have you, you have

hem – them

here – her

hight – named, called

him lest (list) – he wants

hir (e) – her, their

ich – I

ilke – same

kan – know, know how to; can

konne – learn; know how to; can

koude – knew; knew how to; could

kynde – nature

lasse – less

le (e) ve – dear

lite – little

lystes – jousting or tilting fields; enclosed grounds for formal combat

maistow, maystow – may you, you may

make – mate, husband, make

mo – more

moot – may, must, ought to; so (also, ever) moot I: as I hope to

morewe – morrow, morning

mowe – may

muche – much, many

nam – am not, namo, namoore, no more

nas – was not

nat – not

nathelees – nevertheless

ne – not, nor

nere – were not

nolde – would not

nones, nonys – occasion

noon – none, no

noot – know not

nyce – foolish

nys – is not

o, oo, on, oon, that oon – one

of – of; off

pardee: (lit. “by God”), a common oath – certainly

prime, pryme – 9 A.M.

quod – said

rakel – rash

rathe – early, soon

rede – advise; interpret; read

seistow – you say

sely – innocent, simple

seyde – said

seye – say

shaltow – you shall

sikerly – certainly, surely, truly

sith – since; then

somdel – somewhat

sooth, soothfastnesse, sothe – truth

swich – such

syn – since

than (ne) – then, than

thilke – this, that, at that

tho – those; then

tweye – two

unnethe – scarcely

unwemmed – undefiled

verray – true, veritable

wantrust – distrust

wene, -eth – think, thinks

whylom – once, once upon a time, formerly

wight – person, thing

yaf – gave

ycleped – named

ye – eye

yeve, -en, -est, -eth – give, given

ynogh – enough

ywis – surely, certainly