Declension of wæter (strong-a-stem)
The declension of this noun was subject to a couple of minor variations:
- The inflected forms often featured an epenthetic /e/ before the /r/, especially in late Old English. For example, wæteres (gen. sg.) and wætere (dat. sg.) might appear in place of expected wætres and wætre. This reverses an earlier sound change from prehistoric Old English, where short /æ/ and /e/ were regularly lost in word-internal open syllables when the preceding syllable was stressed.
- Similarly, the nominative/accusative plural varied between the expected form *wæter and *wæt(e)ru. The form with -u reverses another prehistoric sound change, where word-final /i/ and /u/ were lost following a heavy syllable or two light syllables. This makes wæter part of a small class of neuter nouns which vary between the (expected) unchanged plural and an innovative plural ending in -u. Other examples are wǣpn ~ wǣpnu (“weapons”), tācn ~ tācnu (“signs”), bēacn ~ bēacnu (“signals”), setl ~ setlu (“seats”), leġer ~ leġru (“couches”), wāgrift ~ wāgriftu (“curtains”), seġl ~ seġlu (“sails”), botl ~ botlu (“dwellings”), wolcn ~ wolcnu (“clouds”), weder ~ wedru (“storms”), bræġn ~ bræġnu (“brains”), wundor ~ wundru (“miracles”), tungol ~ tunglu (“stars”), þȳrel ~ þȳrlu (”holes”), and swefn ~ swefnu (“dreams”).