|States:||formerly the Netherlands, Belgium, Northern France, Western Germany|
|Extinct:||Evolved into Old Low Franconian by the 6th century|
Old Frankish was the language of the Franks and it is classified as a West Germanic language. Once it was spoken in areas covering modern Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and adjacent parts of France and Germany.
The Franks are descended from Germanic tribes from the Nordic countries that settled parts of the Netherlands and western Germany during the early Iron Age. From the 4th century they are attested as moving from the Roman Empire into what is now the southern Netherlands and northern Belgium. In the 5th and 6th century they expanded their realm and dominated Roman Gaul completely as well as client states such as Bavaria and Thuringen.
Old Frankish has introduced the modern French word for the nation, France, to mean "land of the Franks". By the year 900 Frankish had evolved into Old Low Franconian (including Old Dutch) in the area that was originally held by Franks of the 4th century, while in Valois and Île-de-France (Paris) it was replaced by Old French as the dominating language.
The language of the Franks managed to survive as Old Low Franconian in the north but it was superseded by French in the south. It had some impact on Old French. Old Frankish is almost entirely reconstructed from loanwords in Old French, and from Old Dutch, but in 1996 an intriguing find was made of what appears to be a Frankian inscription.
It is known from Roman sources that the Franks settled the region between the large rivers in the Netherlands known as the Betuwe. After many attempts to drive them off the Roman general (later emperor) Julianus "Apostata" granted them this territory together with the Scheldt valley in 355. However, there are precious few remains to attest to their presence in the Betuwe. In 1996 a leather sword sheath was found near the town of Bergakker, near Tiel, with a rune inscription. Such writing was known from the Frisian neighbors but it was not known that the Franks had used it as well. The find sparked a lot of discussion and some of the runes are hard to read. However, there is consensus that the find dates from the period 425-450 and that the inscription is most likely Frankian.
Bernard Mees interprets the runes als haþuþȳwas ann kusjam logūns, mean "Haþuþȳw's. I(he?) grant(s) a brand (sword) to the chosen". The author also argues that the words show characteristics that correpond to the ones claimed for the later Old Low Frankonian or its western branch Old Dutch. If this interpretation holds this inscription could be viewed as the oldest phrase in (Old) Dutch.
Most French words of Germanic origin came from Frankish (most of the others are English loanwords, see Franglais), often replacing the Latin word which would have been used. This can be shown with the examples in the table below.
|French||Old Low Franconian||Dutch or Other Germanic Cognates||Latin/Romance|
|alène "awl" (Sp alesna, It lesina)||MDu elsene, else, Du els||L sūbula|
|alise "whitebeam berry" (OFr alis, alie "whitebeam")||MDu else, Du els, elzeboom "alder", OHG elira, erila, G Erle "alder"||non-native to the Mediterranean|
|baron||Du bar "serious", OHG baro "freeman", OE beorn "noble"||Germanic cultural import|
|bâtard "bastard" (FrProv bâsco)||OFris bost "marriage", WFris boaste, boask "marriage"||L nothus|
|bâtir "to build" (OFr bastir "to baste, tie together")||OHG bestan "to mend, patch"||L construere (It costruire)|
|bleu "blue" (OFr blou, bleve)||MDu blā, blau, blaeuw, Du blauw||L caeruleus "light blue", lividus "dark blue"|
|bois "wood; woods"||MDu bosch, busch, Du bos "bush"||L silva "forest" (OFr selve), L lignum "wood" (OFr lein)|
|broder "to embroider" (OFr brosder, broisder)||G Borste "bristle", Du borstel; OS brordōn "to embroider, decorate", brord "needle"||L pingere "to paint; embroider" (Fr peindre "to paint")|
|broyer "to grind, crush" (OFr brier)||Du breken "to break"||LL tritāre (Occ trissar "to grind", but Fr trier "to sort"), LL pistāre (It pestare "to pound, crush", OFr pester), L machīnare (Dalm maknur "to grind", Rom măcina, It macinare)|
|choisir "to choose"||Du kiezen "to choose", OS/OHG kiosan||L eligēre (Fr élire "to elect"), VL exeligēre (cf. It scegliere), excolligere (Cat escollir, Sp escoger, Pg escolher)|
|chouette "barn owl" (OFr çuete, dim. of choë, choue "jackdaw")||MDu couwe "rook", Du kauw, kaauw "chough"||not distinguished in Latin: L būbō "horned owl", ōtus "id", ulula "screech owl", ulucus (cf. Sp loco "crazy"), noctua|
|cresson "watercress"||MDu kersse, korsse, Du kers, dial. kors||L nasturtium, LL berula (but Fr berle "water parsnip")|
|danser "to dance" (OFr dancier)||OHG dansōn "to drag along, trail"; further to MDu densen, deinsen "to shrink back", Du deinzen "to stir; move away, back up", OHG dinsan "to pull, stretch"||LL ballare (OFr baller, It ballare, Pg bailar)|
|déchirer "to rip, tear" (OFr escirer)||MDu scēren, Du scheuren||VL extracticāre (Prov estraçar, It stracciare), VL exquartiare "to rip into fours" (It squarciare, but Fr écarter "to move apart, distance"), exquintiare "to rip into five" (Cat/Occ esquinçar)|
|dérober "to steal, reave" (OFr rober)||MDu rōven, Du roven "to steal"||L subtrahere "to remove" (It sottrarre "to steal")|
|écang "scutcher, swingle"||MDu swanc "wand, rod", Du (dial. Holland) zwang "rod"; further to MDu swinghel, swenghel "swingle", Du zwengel, zwingel||L pistillum (Fr dial. pesselle "scutcher, swingle')|
|écran "screen" (OFr escran)||OHG scrank "barrier", G Schrank "cupboard", Schranke "fence"||L obex|
|écrevisse "shrimp, crayfish" (OFr crevice)||Du kreeft "crab", G Krebs "crab"||L cammārus "crayfish" (cf. Occ chambre, It gambero, Pg camarão)|
|éperon "spur" (OFr esporon)||MDu spōre, Du spoor||L calcar|
|étrier "stirrup" (OFr estrieu, estrief)||MDu steegereep, Du (dial. West Flemish) steegreep||LL stapia (later ML stapēs), ML saltatorium (cf. MFr saultoir)|
|flèche "arrow"||MDu vliecke, OS fliuca, MLG fliecke "long arrow"||L sagitta (OFr saete, Pg seta)|
|franc "free, exempt; straightforward, without hassle" (LL francus "freeborn, freedman")||Du (dial. Flemish) vrank "carefree, brazen", OHG franko "free man"; MDu vrec, Du vrek "insolent"||L ingenuus "freeborn"|
|frapper "to hit, strike"||MDu reppen "to move", Du reppen "to hurry", OHG hraffōn "to snatch", G raffen "to grab"||L ferire (OFr ferir)|
|frelon "hornet" (OFr furlone, ML fursleone)||MDu horsel, Du horzel||L crābrō (cf. It calabrone)|
|freux "rook" (OFr frox, fru)||MDu roec, Du roek||not distinguished in Latin|
|garder "to guard"||MDu waerden, OS wardōn||L cavere, servare|
|givre "frost (substance)"||LG Geiber, G Geifer "drool, slobber"||L gelū (cf. Fr gel "frost (event); freezing")|
|grappe "bunch (of grapes)" (OFr crape, grape "hook, grape stalk")||MDu crappe "hook", Du (dial. Holland) krap "krank", G Krapfe "hook", (dial. Franconian) Krape "torture clamp, vice"||L racemus (Fr raisin "grape", Prov rasim "bunch", Cat raïm, Sp racimo)|
|guérir "to heal, cure" (OFr garir "to defend")||MDu weeren, Du weren||L sānāre (Sard sanare, Sp/Pg sanar), medicāre (Dalm medcuar "to heal")|
|guigne "heart cherry" (OFr guisne)||G Weichsel "sour cherry", (dial. Rhine Franconian) Waingsl, (dial. East Franconian) Wassen, Wachsen||non-native to the Mediterranean|
|hanneton "cockchafer"||Du haan "rooster", leliehaantje "lily beetle", bladhaantje "leaf beetle", G Hahn "rooster", (dial. Rhine Franconian) Hahn "sloe bug, shield bug", Lilienhähnchen "lily beetle"||LL bruchus "chafer" (cf. Fr dial. brgue, beùrgne, brégue), cossus (cf. SwRom coss, OFr cosson "weevil")|
|héron "heron"||Du reiger "heron", OHG heigaro "heron", G Häher "jackdaw", ON hegri "heron"||L ardea|
|houx "holly"||MDu huls, Du hulst||L aquifolium (Sp acebo), later VL acrifolium (Occ grefuèlh, agreu, Cat grèvol, It agrifoglio)|
|jardin "garden" (VL hortus gardinus "enclosed garden")||Du gaard "garden", OS gardo "garden"||L hortus|
|lécher "to lick" (OFr lechier "to live in debauchery")||OLFrk leccōn "to lick"||MDu lecken, Du likken, OHG leckōn||L lingere (Sard línghere), lambere (Sp lamer, Pg lamber)|
|maçon "bricklayer" (OFr masson, machun)||OHG mezzo "stonemason", meizan "to beat, cut", G Metz, Steinmetz "mason", Du metselaar "mason"||VL murator (Occ murador, Sard muradore, It muratóre)|
|marais "marsh, swamp"||MDu marasch, meresch, maersc, Du moeras||L paludem (Occ palun, It palude)|
|osier "osier (basket willow); withy" (OFr osière, ML auseria)||LG dial. Halster, Hilster "bay willow"||L vīmen "withy" (It vimine "withy", Sp mimbre, vimbre "osier", Pg vimeiro, Cat vímet "withy"), vinculum (It vinco "osier", dial. vinchio, Friul venc)|
|patte "paw"||obs. Du (dial. Flemish) pad, patte, LG Pad "sole of the foot" ; further to G Patsche "instrument for striking the hand", Patschfuss "web foot", patschen "to dabble", (dial. Bavarian) patzen "to blot, pat, stain"||LL branca "paw" (Sard brànca, Rom brîncă, but Fr branche "treelimb")|
|poche "pocket"||MDu poke, G dial. Pfoch "pouch, change purse"||L bulga "leather bag" (Fr bouge "bulge"), LL bursa "coin purse" (Fr bourse "money pouch, purse", It bórsa, Sp/Pg bolsa)|
|sale "dirty"||MDu salu, saluwe "discolored, dirty", obs. Du zaluw||L succidus (cf. It sucido, Sp sucio, Pg sujo, Ladin scich, Friul soç)|
|saule "willow"||OHG salaha, G Salweide "pussy willow", OE sealh||L salix "willow" (OFr sauz, sausse)|
|saisir "to seize, snatch" (ML sacīre "to lay claim to, appropriate")||OS sakan "to accuse", OHG sahhan "to strive, quarrel, rebuke", OE sacan "to quarrel, claim by law, accuse"||VL aderigere (OFr aerdre "to seize")|
|tamis "sieve" (It tamigio)||MDu temse, teemse, obs. Du teems "sifter"||L crībrum (Fr crible "riddle, sift")|
|tomber "to fall" (OFr tumer "to somersault")||OS/OHG tūmōn "to tumble", Du tuimelen "to tumble"||L cædere (obsolete Fr cheoir)|
|troène "privet" (dialectal truèle, ML trūlla)||OHG trugilboum, harttrugil "dogwood; privet", G Hartriegel "dogwood", dialectally "privet", (dial. Eastern) Trögel, archaic (dial. Swabian) Trügel "small trough, trunk, basin"||L ligustrum|
|tuyau "pipe; hose" (OFr tuiel, tuel)||MDu tūte "nipple; pipe", Du tuit "spout, nozzle"||L canna "reed; pipe" (It/SwRom/FrProv cana "pipe")|
Frankish also had an influence on Latin itself; Latin words with Frankish roots include sacire, meaning "seize" (from Frankish sekjan, related to English "seek").
English also has many words with Frankish roots, usually through Old French eg. random (via Old French randon, from rant "a running"), scabbard (via Anglo-French *escauberc, from *skar-berg), grape, stale, march (via Old French marche, from *marka) among others.
Most Germanic words (especially ones from Frankish) with the phoneme w, changed it to gu when entering French and other Romance languages. Perhaps the best known example is the Frankish werra (compare English "war"), which entered modern French as guerre and guerra in Italian, Occitan, Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese.
There were five primary sources for Germanic borrowings in French: