Norman language

Norman (Normaund, French: Normand, Guernésiais: Normand, Jèrriais: Nouormand) is 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.

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
Areas where the Norman language is strongest include Jersey, Guernsey, the Cotentin and the Pays de Caux.

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.

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.


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 new Norman language inherited vocabulary from Old Norse. The influence on phonology is more disputed, although it is argued that the retention of aspirated /h/ and /k/ in Norman is due to Norse influence.

Examples of Norman words of Norse origin:

English Norman Old Norse Scandinavian reflexes French
bait baite, bète, abète beita beita (Icelandic), beite (Norw.), bete (Swed.) appât
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.

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Norman language spoken by the new rulers of England left traces of specifically Norman words that can be distinguished from the equivalent lexical items in French:

fashion< faichon= façon
cabbage< caboche= chou (cf. caboche)
castle< castel (borrowed from Occitan)= château, castelet
cauldron< caudron= chaudron
causeway< caucie (now cauchie)[3]= chaussée
catch< cachier (now cachi)[4]= chasser
cater< acater= acheter
cherry (ies)< cherise (chrise, chise )= cerise
mug< mogue/moque[5]= 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.

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. Some expressions that are currently in use in Canada are:

  • abrier = y faut s'abrier, y fait frète! = French Il faut s'abriter, il fait froid.
  • asteure = French maintenant, "a cette heure" (at this hour), also spelled asteur. Also in Acadian in Eastern Canada and Louisiana, and in Walloon, where it is often spelled À c't heure.
  • barrure = French barre
  • ber = French berceau «(baby's) cradle», originally a diminutive. Ber in the French of France means a «ship cradle».
  • bers = French ridelles d'un chariot
  • bleuet = French myrtille («blueberry»). (Bleuet in France is a «cornflower».)
  • champelure variant form of Norman campleuse = French robinet
  • croche = French tordu
  • garnotte = French terre-noix
  • gourgannes = French fêves de marais
  • gourgane = French bajoue de porc fumée
  • gricher for Norman grigner = French grimacer *grafigner for [gratter légèrement et sans cesse] *graffigner for [égratigner]
  • greyer or greiller for [préparer]
  • ichite or icite for [ici]
  • itou for [aussi]. (Also in France, but old-fashioned or obsolete. Still used in e.g. folksongs.)
  • jouquer or juquer for [jucher]*
  • mitan for [milieu]. (Also in France, but old-fashioned or obsolete. Still used in e.g. folksongs.)
  • marcou for [chat mâle (angevin, gallo, également)], = French matou.
  • marganner for [déganer]
  • maganer for [maltraiter ou malmener]
  • pigoche for [cheville]
  • pognie for [poignée]
  • pomonique for [pulmonique]
  • racoin for [recoin]
  • ramarrer for [rattacher]
  • ramucrir, for [devenir humide] (see above mucre)
  • mucrerancer for [avoir la respiration gênée et bruyante, lever, pousser avec un levier]
  • ressoudre for [réveiller, activer],
  • sacraer for [sacrer (arrête de sacrer!)]
  • v'lin for [venin]
  • vlimeux for [venimeux]
  • v'lo for [voilà]
  • y for [il, ils, elles (qu'est-ce qu'y fait ?)] (also in spoken French of France, but written as «il(s)»)
  • zius for [yeux].[6] (cf. familiar French «zieuter» "to watch", "to ogle")

See also


  1. 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. Oxford English Dictionary. "Causeway"
  4. Oxford English Dictionary. "Catch"
  5. 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.
  6. Decorde, Jean-Eugène (1852). Dictionnaire du patois du pays de Bray.


  • 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
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