hǣlu, f.n: health, safety, salvation. (“hal-oo”)

The Annunciation: 25 March


Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, Parker Library, MS 53, f. 7v. The Peterborough Psalter, early 14th century, East Anglia. The Annunciation. Read more about it on the Parker Library blog.

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015)

Karasawa notes that although hælo itself means health, luck, or salvation, the phrase hælo abead in a context like this means “saluted, made a salutation” (p. 95).

Hwæt ymb feower niht   fæder onsende,

þæt þe emnihte   eorlas healdað,

heahengel his,   se hælo abead

Marian mycle,   þæt heo meotod sceolde

cennan, kyninga betst,   swa hit gecyðed wearð

geond middangeard;   wæs þæt mære wyrd

folcum gefræge!

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 48-54a

How the Father, four nights after people hold the equinox, sent his archangel! Who made a great salutation to Mary that she would give birth to the Lord, the best of kings, as it was made known throughout the middle-earth; that was a great event known to people! (trans. by K. Karasawa)

2 thoughts on “hǣlu

  1. It seems like it ought to be but I’m having trouble tracing that etymology. The older form of hello “halloo” (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) appears in the early 16th century and means “to urge on or incite with shouts”, which doesn’t have much to do with health or salvation. I know that “wassail” comes from OE “wæs hǣl”, literally “be whole”, whole being good health. I think it’s more likely that “hǣlu” became our modern English “hale” (free from disease or infirmity) and the verb “heal”.


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