The study of borrowed vocabulary and language contact in the Old English period is technically problematic in many ways. Surviving texts give us few clues as to how loans functioned outside the clerical communities, what their regional and register distributions were, and to what extent written sources reflect the circulation of loans in spoken language. This may suggest that a descriptive catalogue of lexical loans is the only approach applicable to the Old English material. This paper, however, aims at an inferential analysis of several loans from Latin and Greek in the religious and educational domain based on contemporary approaches to linguistic innovation, diffusion and change, and the wider cultural context that would have ensured their currency and dissemination – social networks provided by medieval schools and monasteries, and the ecclesiastical community at large. Using a select body of educated loans, it argues that strong ties within monastic communities would generally have prevented contact-induced lexical change from spreading outside the monasteries. Yet the role of individual innovators with both clerical and non-clerical ties and early adopters with elementary Latin proficiency (parish priests) in diffusion of change should not be underestimated.