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Frith

Frith is an Old English word often and usually erroneously simplistically translated as "peace". In terms of Anglo-Saxon and post-Anglo-Saxon culture, however, the term has a great deal broader scope and meaning, and is certainly deserving of careful examination. Frith has a great deal to do not only with the state of peace but also to do with the nature of social relationships tending to engender peace.

Moreover it has strong associations with stability and security. The word friūgeard meaning "asylum, sanctuary" was used for sacrosanct areas. A friūgeard would then be any enclosed area given over to the worship of the gods.

Frith is inextricably related to the state of kinship, and is probably the strongest indicator of frith. In this respect the word can be coterminous with another significant AS root word, sib, and indeed the two are frequently interchanged. The word in this context does not just express the simple realities of blood ties but has also to do with all the concomitant benefits and duties which kinship brings about and engenders.

Frith is also used in the context of fealty, as an expression of the relationship between a lord and his or (as on occasion) her people.

Frith also has a legal significance in that the peace was effectively kept in Anglo-Saxon times by the frith-guild, an early manifestation of rough justice.

From this root are derived many other words, such as fréodom (our modern word freedom), the German word for a church friedhof (peace-house), the name Frederick (peace-ruler).



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