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Native to

Previously used:

Native speakers
20,000 (2011–2015)[1]
Early forms
Latin (French orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3nrf (partial: Guernésiais & Jèrriais)
Linguasphere51-AAA-hc & 51-AAA-hd
Areas where the Norman language is strongest include Jersey, Guernsey, the Cotentin and the Pays de Caux.

Norman or Norman French (Normaund, French: Normand [nɔʁmɑ̃] , Guernésiais: Normand, Jèrriais: Nouormand) is a Romance language which can be classified as a langue d'oïl, which also includes 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.


Further information: Old Norman

When Norse Vikings from modern day Scandinavia arrived in Neustria, in the western part of the then Kingdom of the Franks, and settled the land that became known as Normandy, these North-Germanic–speaking people came to live among a local Gallo-Romance–speaking population.[4] In time, the communities converged, so that Normandy continued to form the name of the region while the original Norsemen were largely assimilated by the Gallo-Romance people, adopting their speech but still contributing some elements from Old Norse language and Norse culture. Later, when conquering England, the Norman rulers in England would eventually assimilate, thereby adopting the speech of the local English.[citation needed] In both cases, the elites 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.[5] 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.[citation needed]

Geographical distribution

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, "Le Roy (la Reyne) le veult" ("The King (the Queen) 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

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
alosier alosier se vanter, se targuer to brag, to pride oneself on
ardre ardre, ardeir brûler to burn
caeir caeir, caïr «choir», tomber to drop, to fall over
calengier calungier, chalongier
(became challenge in English)
négocier, débattre to negotiate, to argue
d'ot od, ot avec with
de l'hierre (f.)
de l'hierru (m.)
de l'iere du lierre of ivy
déhait dehait chagrin, malheur grief, hardship
ébauber, ébaubir esbaubir étonner to surprise
éclairgir esclargier éclaircir to lighten
écourre escurre, escudre secouer to shake, to mix
essourdre essurdre, exsurdre élever to raise, to lift
haingre (adj.) haingre maigre thin, skinny
haingue (f.) haenge haine hatred
haiset (m.) haise barrière or clôture de jardin faites de branches garden fence
herdre erdre adhérer, être adhérant, coller to adhere, to stick
hourder order souiller to make something dirty
iloc (with a silent c) iloc, iluec there
itel / intel itel semblable similar
liement liement, liéement tranquillement quietly, peacefully
maishî maishui, meshui maintenant, désormais now, from now on
manuyaunce manuiance avoir la jouissance, la possession to have enjoyment
marcaundier marcandier rôdeur, vagabond prowler, walker
marcauntier marcantier mouchard, colporteur canary
marganer marganer moquer to make fun of, to mock
marganier marganier moqueur, quelqu'un qui se moque mocking, teasing
méhain meshaing, mehain mauvaise disposition, malaise loss of consciousness, feeling of faintness
méhaignié meshaignié malade, blessé sick, injured
méselle mesele lèpre leprosy
mésiau or mésel mesel lépreux leper
moûtrer mustrer montrer to show
muchier mucier cacher to conceal / to hide
nartre (m.) nastre traître traitor
nâtre (adj.) nastre méchant, cruel mean, nasty
nienterie (f.) nienterie niaiserie nonsense, insanity
orde ort sale dirty
ordir ordir salir to get something dirty
paumpe (f.) pampe en normand: tige

en anc. fr.: pétale

souleir soleir «souloir», avoir l'habitude de to have habit of / to get used to
targier or tergier targier tarder to be late / slow
tître tistre tisser to weave
tolir tolir priver, enlever to remove, to take something away from somebody
trétous trestuz tous, absolument tous all, absolutely every

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

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

Examples of Norman French words with c- / qu- and g- instead of ch- and j in Standard French

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

Norse influences

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)
beach grass, dune grass milgreu, melgreu *melgrös, pl. of *melgras melgrös, pl. of melgras (Icelandic) oyat
(black) currant gade, gadelle, gradelle, gradille gaddʀ (-) cassis, groseille
damp (cf. muggy), humid mucre mykr (cf. English muck) myk (Norw.) humide
down (feather) dun, dum, dumet, deumet dúnn dúnn (Icelandic), dun (Dan., Norw., Swed.) duvet (from Norman)
dune, sandy land mielle, mièle melʀ melur (Icelandic), mile (Dan.), mjele (Norw.), mjälla (Swed.) dune, terrain sableux
earthnut, groundnut, pignut, peanut génotte, gernotte, jarnotte *jarðhnot jarðhneta (Icelandic), jordnød (Dan.), jordnöt (Swed.), jordnøtt (Norw.) arachide, cacahuète
islet hommet/houmet hólmʀ hólmur (Icelandic), holm (Dan., Norw.), holme (Swed.) îlot, rocher en mer
mound (cf. howe, high) hougue haugʀ haugur (Icelandic), haug (Norw.), hög (Swe.), høj (Dan.) monticule
ness (headland or cliff, cf. Sheerness, etc.) nez nes nes (Icelandic, Norw.), næs (Dan.), näs (Swed.) cap, pointe de côte
seagull mauve, mave, maôve mávaʀ (pl.) mávar (pl.) (Icelandic), måge (Dan.), måke/måse (Norw.), mås (Swed.) mouette, goëland
slide, slip griller, égriller, écriller *skriðla overskride (Norw.), skrilla (Old Swed.), skriða (Icelandic), skride (Dan.) glisser
wicket (borrowed from Norman) viquet, (-vic, -vy, -vouy in place-names) vík vík (Icelandic), vig (Dan.), vik (Norw., Swed.) 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 (Cherbourg, 2002)

Influence of Norman on English language

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
cabbage < caboche = chou (cf. caboche)
castle < castel (borrowed from Occitan) = château-fort, castelet
catch < cachier (now cachi)[6] = chasser
cater < acater = acheter
cauldron < caudron = chaudron
causeway < caucie (now cauchie)[7] = chaussée
cherry (ies) < cherise (chrise, chise) = cerise
fashion < faichon = façon
mug < mogue/moque[8] = 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 canvas, captain, cattle and kennel, exemplify how Norman retained Latin /k/ that was not retained in French.

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

Norman immigration in Canada

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. For example the word "placoter" can mean both to splash around or to chatter comes from the Normand French word "clapoter" which means the same thing.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Norman at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "Voices - Multilingual Nation". BBC. Archived from the original on 15 December 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (24 May 2022). "Glottolog 4.8 - Oil". Glottolog. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Archived from the original on 11 November 2023. Retrieved 11 November 2023.
  4. ^ "Norman". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 24 March 2022. Retrieved 22 July 2020. Norman, member of those Vikings, or Norsemen, who settled in northern France...The Normans (from Nortmanni: "Northmen") were originally pagan barbarian pirates from Denmark, Norway, and Iceland
  5. ^ Elisabeth Ridel (2010). Les Vikings et les mots. Editions Errance.
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Catch"
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Causeway"
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ GEOFFRION, LOUIS-PHILIPPE (1927). ZIGZAGS AUTOUR DE NOS PARLERS (in French). Quebec. p. 60.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)