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Prof Richard Dance

Prof Richard Dance is Professor in Early English in the ASNC Department and Director of Studies and College Lecturer in ASNC at Magdalene.

After studying in Oxford, I came to Cambridge in 1997 as a Research Fellow. I have been a lecturer in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic since 2001, where I am currently Professor in Early English and Head of Department. I am a Fellow of St Catharine’s College. My other roles include serving as a Series Editor for Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies (Liverpool University Press), a Council Member of the Early English Text Society and an etymological consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary.


Research Interests

My main interests are the language and literature of the Old and Middle English periods. I have written on a number of works and authors, including Wulfstan of York, The Battle of Maldon, Ancrene Wisse and La3amon’s Brut, as well as texts at the ‘transition’ between Old and Middle English. I am especially interested in contact, diversity and change in early English language and culture, with a focus in particular on Anglo-Scandinavian interactions in the Viking Age and their consequences for the development of English vocabulary. My most recent book is a comprehensive etymological study of the words derived from Old Norse in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This forms part of ‘the Gersum Project’, a collaborative project to investigate the Scandinavian influence on northern Middle English alliterative verse.

Professional Affiliations

Council member, Early English Text Society

Consultant (etymology), Oxford English Dictionary

Editor (Old English), The Literary Encyclopedia (online)

Advisory board member, Anglo-Saxon England

Selected Publications

Words Derived from Old Norse in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: An Etymological Survey, Publications of the Philological Society 50, 2 vols (Oxford, 2019) (

'North Sea Currents: Old English and Old Norse in Comparison and in Contact', in Books Most Needful to Know: Contexts for the Study of Anglo-Saxon England, ed. P. E. Szarmach, Old English Newsletter Subsidia 36 (Kalamazoo, 2016), pp. 61–84

'H. M. Chadwick and Old English Philology', in H. M. Chadwick and the Study of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic in Cambridge, ed. M. Lapidge, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 69/70 (Aberystwyth, 2015), pp. 83–97

'Getting A Word In: Contact, Etymology and English Vocabulary in the Twelfth Century' (The Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture 2013), Journal of the British Academy 2 (2014), 153–211

'Ealde æ, niwæ la3e: Two Words for "Law" in the Twelfth Century', New Medieval Literatures 13 (2012 for 2011), 149–82

'"Tor for to telle": Words Derived from Old Norse in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight', in Multilingualism in Medieval Britain (c. 1066–1520), ed. J. A. Jefferson and A. Putter (with the assistance of A. Hopkins), Medieval Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe 15 (Turnhout, 2013), pp. 41–58

with Laura Wright (eds.), The Use and Development of Middle English: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Middle English, Cambridge 2008, Studies in English Medieval Language and Literature 38 (Frankfurt am Main, 2012)

'English in Contact: Norse', in English Historical Linguistics: An International Handbook, Vol. 2, ed. A. Bergs and L. J. Brinton, Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science 34.2 (Berlin and New York, 2012), pp. 1724–37

‘“Tomar3an hit is awane”: Words Derived from Old Norse in Four Lambeth Homilies’, in Foreign Influences on Medieval English, ed. J. Fisiak and M. Bator, Studies in English Medieval Language and Literature 28 (Frankfurt am Main, 2011), pp. 77–127

‘The Old English Language and the Alliterative Tradition’, in A Companion to Medieval Poetry, ed. C. Saunders, Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture (Oxford, 2010), pp. 34–50

Glossary and assorted Notes in Ancrene Wisse: A Corrected Edition of the Text in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 402, with Variants from Other Manuscripts, ed. B. Millett, vol. 2, General Introduction, Notes on Text, Glossary and Bibliography, Early English Text Society o.s. 326 (Oxford, 2007 (for 2006))

‘“Þær wearð hream ahafen”: A Note on Old English Spelling and the Sound of The Battle of Maldon’, in The Power of Words: Anglo-Saxon Studies Presented to Donald G. Scragg on his Seventieth Birthday, ed. H. Magennis and J. Wilcox (Morgantown WV, 2006), pp. 278–317

‘Sound, Fury and Signifiers; or Wulfstan’s Language’, in Wulfstan, Archbishop of York: The Proceedings of the Second Alcuin Conference, ed. M.Townend, Studies in the Early Middle Ages 10 (Turnhout, 2004), 29–61

‘The AB Language: the Recluse, the Gossip and the Language Historian’, in A Companion to Ancrene Wisse, ed. Y. Wada (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 57–82

Words Derived from Old Norse in Early Middle English: Studies in the Vocabulary of the South-West Midland Texts, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 246 (Tempe, AZ, 2003)

‘Is the Verb Die Derived from Old Norse? A Review of the Evidence’, English Studies 81 (2000), 368–83

The Battle of Maldon line 91 and the Origins of Call: A Reconsideration’, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen100 (1999), 143–54