Skip to main content

Archaism (In Poetry) by Adelere Adesina


One organism in society, breathing as government and growing as virus, able to crystallise and to revivify, is language. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest distinctions, which make the human race different, distinct and disparate from animals. It is however, a creation that can live and die, although it can be as immortal as gods; and, gods die if their followers fail to worship them properly. It therefore can grow old and give birth to offspring. A result of ageing is archaism.

Archaism is a word that is old, or will soon become outdated and is, as a result of ageing, no longer in use. In every language still spoken by man, there are certain words that are old and sound very ancient, or even totally strange, to the native speakers of the language. There are other words that are not absolutely 'obsolete', but are quickly falling out of use. Words like these are all archaic words. An example in English is 'ye' which is the second-person, plural pronoun, 'you' in dialect form. It is however old, and can be found in few texts like the King James Version of the Bible.

However, poetry performs the miracle of embalming most of these words to prevent their decay. Whereas some words are beyond the embalmer (words found in Old English and Middle English, such as sargung, slyver, dore, con etc., and are both strange to native speakers today as much as they are totally aliens to non-native speakers), some are very well embalmed. Some of these words have, however, changed in meaning so totally that if they are used today as in those days, the interlocutors will be lost. Nevertheless, poetry preserves a considerable quantity of these words. Most poets use these words, giving the poems special touches, as do imagery, allusion, rhyme, rhythm, rhetoric devices, etc.

In literature, therefore, archaism is the use of archaic words of a language in a piece of writing. In today's literary texts, the most frequently used words are the second person, singular pronouns 'thou' and 'thee'; and their possessives 'thy' and 'thine'.

Importance of Archaism

Even native speakers of the language love to read archaic words in poems. Archaism gives the value that scarce commodities (which are as well opulent) have to poems. People give more regard to these words when they are found in texts because it takes them back to some years ago, relaying the beauty in the expressions of the ancient; and, in addition, because these words show some significant degree of knowledge of a particular language if they are properly used. They are also used to mark grammatical differences (like plurality of second person pronouns, third person verbal inflections, etc.) that are not mark in the present lexicons of a language.

Some Usage of Archaisms

Some of these archaic words like thou, thee, ye, thy, thine, thyself, mine, and the suffixes marking inflections in verbs and their uses are outlined here.

THOU: This is second-person singular, nominative (subjective) pronoun.

THEE: This is singular, objective (accusative and dative) second pronoun.

THY: This is singular, possessive (genitive) adjective. It is used before words that start with consonant letters only (with the exception of 'h').

THINE: This is singular, possessive (genitive) adjective. It is used before words that start with vowels and 'h'.

THYSELF: This is singular, emphatic and reflexive pronoun.

MINE: This is first-person singular possessive (genitive) pronoun which is used before words starting in vowel letters and 'h'.

YE: This is second-person plural, nominative (subjective) pronoun.

YE: This is a determiner meaning 'the', and is commonly used in names of pubs, shops, to make them seem old.

-EST: This is second-person, singular, present tense marker in verbs, e.g. thou makest, thou tellest, etc.

-ETH: This is third-person, singular, present tense marker in verbs, e.g. he maketh, the crown telleth, etc.

DOST: This is second-person, singular, simple present tense, e.g. Sun, thou dost rise every morn.

DOEST: This is second-person, singular, subjunctive present tense, e.g. If thou wilt plead, thou doest well.

WILT: This is second-person, singular present tense meaning 'will'.

Recognising Other Archaic Words in the English Dictionaries

Many other words are archaic and are found in the dictionary today. Any dictionary for advanced learners will indicate these words as archaic by using either of these tags before their meanings: 'old use' or 'old-fashioned'. Look up 'bedchamber', 'blackguard', 'fie', 'faery', 'phantasy', 'alehouse', 'corker', etc. in standard dictionaries to find the tags and their various meanings.

Thank you.


Popular posts from this blog

Read the story. TEARS IN MY EYES



                     TEARS IN MY EYES     The anxiety for sex prompted the award winning and young Nigerian poet (Ololade Akinlabi Ige) to sharpen the keen mouth of his pen to write the novella: TEARS IN MY EYES. This is a book for everyone to read.
The pains and agony the main character in the novella went through were meant to awake the conscience of the wicked being. 

     Ariyo is a beautiful lady. Eyes cannot deny that. She is a product of rape but she leaves behind her worries knowing fully well that the world is good for no one. But she feels it is very stupid if she eventually falls victim of what led her to life. She tries to always avoid intimate relationship with boys because she knows quite well that boys often come with different missions in which most of the time their common mission is sex, sex and sex.
     But we are all human being, this heart needs a companion. So it is for Ariyo who uncons…



Once upon a time, a woman has a big store for her chickens. The chickens are so big that they give big and good eggs everytime they release eggs. The woman fed them so much that they were weighty even after releasing eggs.
One day, a customer brought some local hens to her, she said
"Try them, they are also good hens. They give big eggs as well. You'll enjoy keeping and feeding them."

The woman collected them and added them with his chickens. The chickens and the local hens stayed together in a place.
One day, the woman gave them the normal food they eat, as the chickens pecked their food moderately, the local hens scattered it with their legs as they peck, they scattered it around and peck, they did that till they liter the whole place.
Mother hen looked at the chickens,
"We're the same now, we eat the same food. We will yield the same eggs, we will be on the postal too."
The chickens flap their feathers feebly and rested th…

One Poem by Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim


Allah has answered the prayer of the weaker animals
None think that you will survive such attack
By those big lions
For whatever they chase,
They make sure is no longer breathing
on earth
You are a rabbit that survived harassments by
Those dark dogs
Inside that forest
Think not, that is your speed that saved you
It is the protection of Allah
We are all animals
But of higher class
Not those that live in the forest
Of which some are weak
While some are strong
The weak is always threaten by the strong
Let's all learn how to live in peace
With one another


Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a young Nigerian writer, playwright and poet. He was born in the year 2001. He attended Gombe Children School for his nursery and primary school education. He is a final year student at Gombe High School. He is a member of Poets In Nigeria, Gombe Connect Center. Some of his works have been published in Tuck online magazine. He started writing at sixteen. He believes that writing will bring change in o…