Uhtcare— pronounced oot-care — is a lovely Old English word that dates back to the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Wife’s Lament’, and was probably used throughout medieval times.
I heard it for the first time today in the Something Rhymes With Purple podcast by Susie Dent and Gyles Brandreth.
Uhtcare translates to ‘dawn care’ and relates to the anxiety of lying in bed worrying about the coming day before it has even really started. It comes from the OE words uht meaning before dawn and cearu/caru meaning anxiety.
It wasn’t just the beauty of the word that struck me, but also the timeliness of hearing it today. Completely forwallowed after a night of very little sleep courtesy of painsomnia, I could totally relate to that feeling! I was lying in bed before dawn this morning wondering if it were at all possible for me to actually make it to work today. I thought about the lessons I wanted to teach, and how much effort it always takes to ensure that a substitute teacher has everything they need to deliver my lessons effectively.I also felt incredibly guilty about the fact that we have only just returned to face to face teaching, and there I was thinking about staying home.
Still, I knew I wouldn’t be a safe driver today, and I also knew there was very little likelihood of me teaching anything effectively at all.
So, I got up at 5.45 am and made sure all my lessons, material and extra notes for my replacement for the day were loaded in the school’s system and ready to go.
Given that we don’t really have an adequate alternative for such a useful and expressive word in today’s English, It is a shame that this word has fallen out of use. Maybe it’s time to bring it back.
Uhtcare: lying awake before dawn, worrying about the day.Tweet
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