Medieval or Middle Ages

The term "Middle Ages" — "medieval" is just a direct Latin translation, from medius (middle) and ævum (age) — traditionally refers to the period between antiquity and the Renaissance. The term sometimes includes late antiquity, and sometimes excludes it. In practice, the Middle Ages usually stretch from around the fifth century C.E. (476 is a common date) through the fourteenth or fifteenth century (1453, the fall of Constantinople, is a common ending date; 1500 is another because it sports two zeroes).

The spellings "mediæval" and "mediaeval" are predominantly British.

The term "Dark Ages," which was sometimes used to refer to the entire medieval period, and sometimes just to the early Middle Ages, has nearly fallen out of critical use.

The traditional canon of Medieval English English literature includes the epic poem Beowulf, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.


From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
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