I. The dictionary (1)

General introduction

The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources (DMLBS)is the most comprehensive dictionary of Medieval Latin to have been produced and the first ever to focus on British Medieval Latin. Covering a particularly long period stretching from Gildas (fl. 540) to William Camden (1600), it is wholly based on original research, that is to say on the close reading of thousands of Medieval Latin texts, both literary and documentary. This has been carried out specifically for the purpose of recording their distinctive lexical characteristics, and, as far as possible, using the best available sources, whether original manuscripts or modern critical editions. It is also based on systematic searches within computer databases, including the Library of Latin Texts (LLT-A and LLT-B), where many of the texts can be found that make up the sources for the DMLBS.

Acknowledgements and history

The printed Dictionary was prepared by a project team of specialist researchers as a research project of the British Academy, overseen by a committee appointed by the Academy to direct its work.

The project began life and continues as the Academy's part of a Europe-wide scheme, first proposed in Britain in 1913 and subsequently established under the auspices of the International Union of Academies, to create a successor to the previous standard dictionary of medieval Latin, the Glossarium ... mediae et infimae Latinitatis, first compiled in the seventeenth century by the French scholar, Du Cange (Charles du Fresne). There have been a number of similar national projects across Europe under the same overall scheme, each responsible for preparing a dictionary of medieval Latin from their particular national sources; some of these are ongoing (e.g. the DMLCS), some have reached completion (including the DMLBS), and others ceased work before reaching completion.

Following decades of research gathering quotation evidence the drafting of the Dictionary itself began in the mid-1960s at the project’s base since its inception, the Public Record Office in London, under the first editor, R. E. Latham. The printed Dictionary was subsequently published in fascicules, from Fasc. I (A–B) in 1975 to Fasc. XVII (Syr–Z) in 2013. In the early 1980s the editorial team moved to Oxford and from the late 1990s the project formed part of the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University. Following the completion of the Dictionary in print at the end of 2013, the editorial team was greatly reduced, retaining only the Editor and Consultant Editor, and finally disbanded at the end of September 2014. The Editors of the Dictionary were R. E. Latham (1967–1978), D. R. Howlett (1979–2011), and R. K. Ashdowne (2011–2014).

The preparation of the DMLBS was supported financially for most of its history by the British Academy alone, but in its final twenty years the project also received major research grants from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the Packard Humanities Institute, and the OUP John Fell Research Fund. It also benefitted from the institutional support of the British Academy and the University of Oxford, and from the work of dozens of volunteer readers who excerpted quotations from British Medieval Latin sources.

“British sources”

The “British sources” as defined here are mainly Latin texts written in Great Britain during the period mentioned above, either by British authors or by authors who lived in Britain (among them Anselm of Aosta or of Canterbury and Lanfranc). However, the DMLBS also includes British authors such as Alcuin or Wynfrith (alias Boniface), who have written abroad, as well as texts coming from territories under the administration of the English crown (such as Ireland, the Channel Islands, Normandy), and finally, letters and other documents in Latin sent to British authors and conserved among their writings.

Authors and texts (2)

Although in itself a foreign language in Britain, Latin has known in this country, mainly as a written language, a remarkable vitality in the Middle Ages. So we know the names of more than 2,000 authors writing in British medieval Latin, more than 500 of whom are regularly cited as sources in the DMLBS, without counting the many texts by anonymous authors, as well as private and public records.

British medieval texts written in Latin are not only plentiful, but also in very different genres: administrative and legal documents; stories and chronicles; literary, philosophical, scientific and religious texts; translations; glossaries ...

A series of these authors and texts can be found in the LLT-A and LLT-B, as discussed above, as well as in the Archive of Celtic Latin Literature (ACLL) and in the Electronic Monumenta Germaniae Historica (eMGH). These include texts by Gildas, Bede, Aldhelm, Wynfrith, Alcuin, Anselm of Canterbury, Lanfranc, Isaac of Stella, William of Newbury, Alexander Neckam, Aelred of Rievaulx, Eadmer, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Scotus, John Peckham, William of Ockham, Thomas Chobham, Thomas More, etc., not to mention the famous Magna Carta. Other texts making up the sources for the DMLBS (including those of John Wycliffe) will be subsequently inserted into the LLT. The online DMLBS will therefore be of great service to those users of our textual databases with an interest in these authors and texts, whether they be philologists, historians, theologians, philosophers, musicologists or others.

Vocabulary (3)

Like other dictionaries of “regional” medieval Latin, the DMLBS focuses primarily on the characteristics of the Latin of the reference context, be it new meanings of existing words or new words, which are not found elsewhere. These new words can have a completely Latin formation, such as we see in the verb semidormitare found in the De excidio Britanniae of Gildas (under the form semidormitantes, cf. ACLL), or they can be derived from a variety of languages, including Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Middle English, Norman, Old French, Arabic (with the discovery of philosophical and scientific texts), Old Norse, a series of Celtic and Germanic languages, as well as Greek, which remained an important influence. Examples include bridguma, cf. Anglo-Saxon brydguma; hundredsetenum, cf. Anglo-Saxon hundredseten; forcelettum, cf. Anglo-Norman and Middle English forcelet; abatamentum, cf. Old French abatement; altaraxacon, cf. Arabic al-tarakhshaqūn. Note that these few words, like many others, are not currently listed in any of the dictionaries of the DLD.

II. Using the Online DMLBS

The computerized version of the DMLBS, without at all taking away the usefulness of the printed version, presents a real asset in that it allows searching not only by headwords, but also by Latin word-forms, non-Latin word-forms, references and the full text, criteria that can be combined in a single search.

Furthermore, the many lemmas or written variants of lemmas appearing in the printed version in a truncated form have been completed and can therefore be searched. For example, the entry "clunaculum, ~abulum, ~iculum" has become "clunaculum, clunabulum, cluniculum". The same applies for cases such as "clysterizare (clist-)", which has become "clysterizare (clisterizare)".

The online launch of the DMLBS on the Brepolis platform is the result of a collaboration between Brepols Publishers and the British Academy.

The online DMLBS software is very similar to that of the DLD, as customary users of that database will have noticed.

Four languages

On the home page, you can select one of the four available languages (English, French, German, Italian).

To change the language during use, just click on one of the tabs EN, FR, DE or IT in the top banner of the search screen.


During each search you can use wildcards:
A question mark '?' allows for single character wildcard search
For example, when searching for
results may include: "mater", "pater", "later", ...
An asterix '*' allows for 0, 1 or more characters to be replaced within a word.
For example, when searching for
results may include: "ater", "pater", "quater", "confrater", ...
The '?' and the '*' wildcards can be combined and used at the beginning, the end or anywhere within the search term.
For example, when searching for
results may include: "maternitas", "paternitas", "materialitas", ...
The letters u or v, i or j can be used interchangeably.


You can, on the other hand, make use of the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT, respectively represented by “+” “,” “#”.

Ex.: the request aqua + uinum with the “Latin word-forms” criterion results in the DMLBS items that contain the word aqua AND the word uinum; aqua, uinum provides articles that contain the word aqua OR the word uinum (and those that contain both); aqua #uinum provides articles that contain the word aqua BUT NOT the word uinum.

Export to PDF

It is possible to export the result of a search into a PDF, by clicking the Export button at the right end of the banner located between the results list and the display of the selected item.

Abbreviations and bibliography

The user who wishes to read through all the bibliography of the DMLBS can do it by clicking on the Bibliography tab underneath the program’s title banner, next to the Quick Search and Advanced Search tabs.

On the other hand, when displaying an article, the Abbreviations and Bibliography buttons respectively enable you to consult the list of common abbreviations of the DMLBS and to perform a search on the bibliographical abbreviations.

Quick search

The quick search allows you to query the DMLBS by using one of the following five criteria:

You can select one of these criteria in the drop-down menu to the left of the input field.

Advanced search

The advanced search allows you to combine several criteria, by introducing one or more search terms into the input fields of your choice.

To create a logical relationship between the criteria, use the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT listed in the menu to the left of each criterion.


(1) Information supplied here about the DMLBS is based on the more extensive account available online at: http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk. For details of the structure of the dictionary and the principles followed for its compilation (entries, spelling, etymology, definitions, quotations, references, etc.), the user can usefully consult the Guide for Users at: http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk/publications/a-guide-for-users

(2) For further details see: http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk/british-medieval-latin/writers and http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk/british-medieval-latin/texts

(3) For further details see: http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk/british-medieval-latin/language/latin-in-the-middle-ages and http://www.dmlbs.ox.ac.uk/british-medieval-latin/language/latin-in-medieval-britain