A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
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A lostell

Disperse! A command for a crowd to go to their homes, or soldiers to their quarters; used also by heralds to the finished fighters at a tournament. From Old French a I'ostel (whence English hostel), to your quarters. The Kyng, said Hall's CHRONICLES (1548) caused the heraldes to cry a lostell, and every man to departe. Old ostel, hostel, became hotel, and gave Sarah Bernhardt her one pun. When she became famous, the public wished to know whether she was married to the man she was living with. No one dared ask, but one reporter ventured to inquire: "Where were you married, Madame Bernhardt?" Knowing his intent, the actress mischievously replied: Naturellement, a l'autel! (Naturally, at the altar -- altar, in French, having the same sound as hotel). Cp. hostelity.


One who steals cattle in herds. From Latin ab, away + agere, to drive. Hence, abaction, cattle-stealing. Hammond in his commentary ON PSALMS (1659) speaks of abactors, whose breaking in . . . is attended with the cattles passing through or going out. Lamb, in a letter of 1829, refers to an abactor's wife. There is no English verb to abact, but N. Bailey's ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY of 1751 includes abacted, drawn away by stealth or violence.


To estrange; to make mad. From Latin ab-, away + alienare, to estrange, to give to another; alienus, belonging to another. John Gaule in PYSMANTIA THE MAG-ASTRO-MANCER (1651) says: Extasies of prophets did not so abalienate their minds as that they apprehended not what they did. S. Clark in his LIVES (1683) states: Neither difference of opinion, nor distance of place, nor seldomness of converse, nor any worldly respect, did cause the least abalienation. Note that one meaning of alienation (from 1450 on) is also loss of mental faculties; Lord Brougham on THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION (1862) speaks of a state of mental alienation.


A state of always desiring more. In the 1731 edition of his ETYMOLOGICAL DICTONARY, N. Bailey traces this to a medieval Latin word abartia, insatiableness. The word, in both languages, seems to be the lexicographer's invention.


To report or disclose a secret crime. The word seems another invention of the fertile N. Bailey in his ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY (1751).


A lazy monk; a fat sluggard, a porridge-belly. A term used in scorn by the anti-Catholics of the 16th and 17th centuries. Thus Cotgrave in 1611 defined archimarmitonerastique: an abbeylubber, or arch-frequenter of the cloyster beefe-pot. THE BURNYNGE OF PAULES CHURCH (1563) said it was a commen proverbe to call him an abbey-lubber, that was idle, wel fed, a long lewd lither loiterer, that might worke and would not.


A secret place, especially for hiding things. Also abditory. From the Latin abdere, abditum, from ab, away + dare, to put. The word is used of a chest in which religious relics are kept, or money -- but also, by Dr. Robinson in EUDOXA (1658) to say: In the center of the kernel of grain, as the safest abditory, is the source of germination. Hence also abditive, remote, hidden.


An alphabet book; a primer. Used from the 15th to the 18th century; also abscedary, absedary. ABCDary; accent on the see. Also used as an adjective, relating to the alphabet; needing the alphabet, illiterate. Also abecedarie; abecedario (plural abecedarii) , a teacher, or a learner, of the ABC's. Cp. abece; abseybook. Florio in his translation (1603) of Montaigne said: There is a kind of abecedarie ignorance preceding science; another, doctorall, following science.


To ride away. Latin ab, away + equus, horse. In 17th century dictionaries.


A waiting-woman. In the BIBLE (FIRST BOOK OF SAMUEL, XXV. 24-31) Abigail of Carmel throws herself at the feet of King David, calling herself "thine handmaid ... I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid . . . thine handmaid" -- until he marries her. In Beaumont and Fletcher's play THE SCORNFUL LADY (1610) the "waiting gentlewoman" is named Abigail; from the popularity of the play, the name became the common term for a maid-servant. Smollett in HUMPHREY CLINKER (1771) speaks of an antiquated abigail, dressed in her lady's cast clothes. Congreve in THE OLD BACHELOR (1693) indicates another role she often played: Thou art some forsaken abigail we have dallied with heretofore.


As a noun, a servile person; one cast off, an outcast. Latin abicere, to cast off; ab, away + iacere, iactum (in compounds iectum, whence also conjecture and many an object). Shakespeare in RICHARD III (1592) speaks of the Queen's abjects; Shelley in PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (1818): The subject of a tyrant's will Became, worse fate! the abject of his own.


To send abroad; to send far off, as used to be done with a son in disgrace. Latin ab, away + legare, legatum, to send on a message, whence legate. An ablegate is (still) a messenger of the pope, that brings his insignia to a newly appointed cardinal. Hence ablegation, despatch, dismissal. Used in the 17th century.


A foreboding, especially of ill. Also to abode, to presage, to be ominous; an abode was also (17th century) a prediction. Shakespeare has both noun and verb in HENRY VI, PART THREE (1590): The owle shrieked at thy birth, an evill signe, The night-crow cryde, aboding lucklesse time . . . Tush man, aboadments must not now affright us.




Indifference. Accent on the aff. Also adiaphoricy; Greek a, not + diaphoros, differing; dia, apart + pherein, to bear. The form adiaphorism was used especially of religious indifferentism. Hence adiaphorist, adiaphorite, one that is indifferent (as of religious matters, or among the creeds) ; also adiaphoral, adiaphorous, adiaphoristic. An adiaphoron is a matter of indifference; specifically, a practice or belief for which there is no church decision, which is therefore left to the will of the individual. J. Smith (SELECTED DISCOURSES; 1652) said: These we may safely reckon, I think, amongst our adiaphora in morality, as being in themselves neither good nor evil.


From Latin ad, to + vesper, evening: advesperascere, advesperatum, to draw toward evening; this word means to grow toward night. It exists in 17th and 18th century dictionaries.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by appearances in the air.


An unexpected blow after one has ceased to be on guard, a further disaster when it seems life can bring no more, a misfortune that 'caps the climax.' Used from the 15th century. Butler in HUDIBRAS (1663) knows the unrelenting drive: What plaguy mischiefs and mishaps Do dog him still with afterclaps.


A source of inspiration; poetic power. Aganippe was a fountain on Mount Helicon, sacred to the Muses. THE LIFE OF ANTONY A WOOD (1695) said: Such towering ebullitions do not exuberate in my aganippe.


A sea-monster. So-called in early dictionaries, and so felt to be in Tudor times: later identified with the eager, a tidal bore, also eagre, q.v. The bores (unusually high tidal waves) were found especially in the estuaries of the Humber, Trent and Severn. Lyly in GALLATHEA (1592) said of Neptune: He sendeth a monster called the agar, against whose coming the waters roare, the fowles flie away, and the cattel in the field for terrow shunne the bankes. Sprigge in 1647 neatly defined eager, a sudden surprisal of the tide.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by sharp points.


A young, thoughtless person; a coxcomb. Also earling. Jonson in CATILINE (1611) says: Some more there be, slight airlings, will be won With dogs and horses.


A meteorite. A letter of 1608 said: They talk of divers prodigies, as well in these parts as in Holland, but especially airstones.


To speed up; brighten; to fill with alacrity. Also alacrify. Latin alacris, brisk, lively. Hence alacrative, pertaining, or tending, to alacrity; speeding up; sprightly; also alacrious. Warner in ALBION'S ENGLAND (1602) spoke of his alacrious intertainments, and upright government.


A form of the French a la mort, to the death; mortally sick, dispirited. Common from 1550 to 1800. Also all amort, amort. Thus Shakespeare in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596): What sweeting, all-amort?; Dryden in THE WIFE OF BATH'S TALE (1700): Mirth there was none, the man was a-la-mort; Keats in. THE EVE OF ST. AGNES (1820): She sighs . . . all amort.


A simpleton, silly fellow. Ford in his FANCIES (1638) confessed: I am ... an oaf, a simple alcatote, an innocent.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the planet that reigns over a nativity; see apotelesm; a form of astrology.


A tippler (used in scorn). Guilpin, in SKIALETHEIA, OR A SHADOWE OF TRUTH IN CERTAINE EPIGRAMS (1598) said: There brauls an aleknight for his fat-grown score.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by a cock's picking up grains.


An early type of apparatus, used for distilling, especially by the alchemists. From 1500 to 1700 almost completely supplanted by the shorter form limbec, q.v.; then the full form reappeared, often in figurative use, as when Scott in WAVERLY (1814) speaks of the cool and procrastinating alembic of Dyer's Weekly Letter, or Walpole in a letter of 1749, the important mysteries that have been alembicked out of a trifle.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with dough.


Dearly. Especially in the expression to love alife; Shakespeare in THE WINTER'S TALE (1610) has: I love a ballad in print alife. Some editions print this o' life, as though it meant as one's life; but it is probably an adverbial form from lief, dear, which survives in the expression I'd just as lief.


The universal solvent sought by the alchemists. Also alcakest, alchahest; cp. alembroth; alexicacon. The word alkahest was created by Paracelsus (cp. bombast), as though from an Arabic form; a number of English words begin with Arabic al, the. Hence alkahestic, alkahestical. It has also been suggested, however, that alkahest is (1705) from the German word Al-gehest, which signifies all spirit. There remains the old query: if the universal solvent be found, what container will hold it? The word has also been used figuratively, as of love; Carlyle (MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS; 1832) said Quite another alcahest is needed. Alger in THE SOLITUDES OF NATURE AND OF MAN (1866) spoke neatly of an intellectual alkahest, melting the universe into an idea.


To allure. After the Latin allectare, frequentative form of allicere, from ad, to + lacere, to entice, laqueus, a noose, a snare. Sir Thomas More in HERESYES (1528): To allect the people by preaching. Allectation, found only in old dictionaries, and the once-used (1640) allection were formed from allect, to mean an alluring, enticement. Allective, as adjective and noun, was more frequent in the 16th and 17th centuries; Elyot in THE GOVERNOUR (1531): There is no better alective to noble wits; Gabriel Harvey in PIERCES SUPEREROGATION (1592): Her beautiful and allective style as ingenious as elegant. THE REMEDY OF LOVE (1532) speaks of most allective bait, which has its place and allective power in our time. The same meaning appears with the forms alliciate and allicit. See illect.


The action of dashing against or striking upon. Latin al, ad, to + laedere, laesum, to dash, strike violently, whence the frequent collision. Thus also, to allide. Donne, in a sermon of 1631, held the old view that the allision of those clouds have brought forth a thunder.


This is a formal term for an alien; hence, sometimes, with a measure of scorn, a Philistine. It is from Greek allos, other + phyle, tribe. It is mainly a 19th century term. J. Pritchard, in BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE of 1844, speaks of the allophylian nations.


Misused for mallycholly, a corrupt form of melancholy (Greek melan, black + choler, bile). Dame Quickly in Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) says: She is given too much to allicholy and musing; in his THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA the Host Says to Julia (disguised as a boy): Now, my young guest, methinks you're allycholly. I pray you, why is it? Julia responds: Marry, mine host, because I cannot be merry. To cheer her, he has sung the charming song Who is Silvia?


A dance; also, the music therefor. References in the 17th century and later speak of a slow tempo, and grave or solemn measures, but many references indicate a livelier dance, also called the almain-leap. Thus Jonson in THE DEVIL IS AN ASS pictures a man take his almain-leap into a custard. Also almaun, alman, almane, aleman, almond. The word literally meant German (French aleman, allemand); Almany, Germany, and an Aleman was a German, almain-quarrel, a dispute over nothing, an unnecessary argument, almain-rivets, a flexible type of light armor, first worn in Germany.


An official, in a monastery, or the household of a noble, whose function it was to distribute alms. The word was naturally popular; it took many forms, including almner, aumoner, almoseir, almousser, almaser; almosner, almoisner, almosyner; almener, almonar, almoigner, aumere, amonerer. These are all roundabout from Latin eleemosynarius, relating to alms; Greek eleos, compassion. Almoner was also the purse such a person carried; by extension, a bag, a purse. Other forms for alms were almose, almus, almous. The almonry (see ambry) was the place where the alms were distributed; also almosery. Cavendish in THE LYFFE AND DEATH OF CARDYNAL WOOLSEY (1557) wrote: Now let us retorne agayn unto the almosyner, whose hed was full of subtyll wytt and pollecy.


In addition to the mountains (which are probably from Latin albus, white, whence also perfidious Albion: the white cliffs o Dover) alp (alpe, awbe, olph) meant (1) a bullfinch; 15th to 17th century; (2) an elephant; elp. Hence alpesbone, ivory; 13th century; (B) a bogie, nightmare; BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of 1836 mentioned those alps and goblins, those nixies and wood-nymphs.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with barley meal.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with dust.


An entertainment where the various courses are served together, the viands and the desserts at the same time. The term was used during the 17th and 18th centuries; the practice continues at parties and picnics.


Relating to friendship; friendly. Also amicous. Used in the 17th century. Latin amicitia, friendship; amicus, friend; amare, amatum, to love. These forms were superseded by amical and amicable; the latter, however, is a late variation of amiable; similarly, appliable existed before applicable.


A wreath, a garland, a circlet of flowers for the hair. Greek ana, together, up + deein, to bind; Greek diadeein, to bind around, gave us English diadem. Used from the 17th century. Shelley in ADONAIS (1821) has: Another clipt her profuse locks, and threw The wreath upon him, like an anadem. In the 17th century the form anadesm was used for a surgeon's bandage.


Secretary or stenographer


Compound interest. Term used in the 17th and 18th centuries for the "yearly revenue of usury, and taking usury for usury." From Greek ana-, back, again + tokos, interest. (Literally this tokos meant something produced, from tiktein, tektein, whence all our technologies and techniques, not to mention (puro-, pyro-, fire) our pyrotechnics. Or consult any bank. (The accent falls on the second syllable.)


Doubtful. From Latin an, am, ambi, both (as in ambiguous, ambidextrous) + capit-, head. A 17th century term, used in astrology when a planet hung hesitant over one's birth, whether to tip toward evil or toward good. The form ancipitate is used literally of two-headed things; the form ancipital means having two sharp edges, like certain blades of steel or grass.


(1) A musical instrument, like a lute, used in the 17th century and in Browning's Sordello (1863). (2) a gold coin of France, minted by Louis IX; also by the English King Henry VI in Paris. It bore a representation of St. Michael subduing a dragon. From French angelot, diminutive of Latin angelus, angel; Greek aggelos, messenger (the angels were the messengers of God). (3) a small cheese, first made in Normandy, stamped with the coin, the angelot. Various recipes exist for the making of angelots, angellet . . . and within a quarter of a year they will be ready to eat.


Of a different sort (a different "gate," or way) . Also anothergaines, anotherguess, anotherguise, anotherkins. Sidney in ARCADIA (1580): If my father had not played the hasty fool ... I might have had anothergaines husband. Dryden in AMPHITRYON (1690): The truth on't is, she's anotherghess morsel than old Bromia. Butler in HUDIBRAS (1664): When Hudibras about to enter Upon anothergates adventure . . .


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using human entrails.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the observation of personal characteristics.


To turn upside down. The antipodes (Greek anti, opposite + pous, podis, foot) were formerly pronounced with three syllables, thus developed a singular form, an antipod, antipode; Taylor, in MAD FASHIONS (1642) declared: This shewes mens witts are monstrously disguis'd, Or that our country is antipodis'd.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with flowers (She loves me, she loves me not!).


At any time. We still say somewhere and anywhere, but have lost the convenient and pleasant somewhen, anywhither, and anywhen. (Anywhere used to be written separately; before 1450, its forms were owhere, oughwhere, aywhere.) Carlisle in SARTOR RESARTUS (1831) wished you were able, simply by wishing that you were anywhen, straightway to be then! Similarly, elsewhere calls for as elsewhen; indeed Robert A. Heinlein, on its republication in 1953, changed the title of a story to ELSEWHEN.


A powerful chamber organ, with keys and barrels, invented in 1817. H. Coleridge in his ESSAYS (1849) wrote: Sing 'Songs of Reason' to the grinding of a steam apollonicon.


The casting of a horoscope (accent on the pot). Greek apo, off + teleein, to finish; teleos, complete; telos, end, whence teleology, the doctrine of final causes. Literally apotelesm meant (17th century) the result, the sum and substance; one's horoscope settled one's outcome. Also apotelesmatic, apotelesmatical (accent on the mat), relating to the casting of horoscopes.


Sharp; clear. From Latin argutus, from arguere, to make clear, to assert -- whence English argue. Argute tastes are sharp; argute sounds are shrill -- Landor wrote to Barry Cornwall in 1864 of a rich but too argute guitar; argute persons are sharp, subtle, shrewd, especially in details. Thus the QUARTERLY REVIEW of 1818 speaks of argute emendations of texts. Browning, in ARISTOPHANES' APOLOGY (1875): Thou, the argute and tricksy. There is also an adverb, as in Sterne's TRISTRAM SHANDY (1762): "You are wrong," said my father argutely.


A wretched creature. Old English earm, poor. In the play THE LONDON PRODIGAL (1605), formerly attributed to Shakespeare, occurs the exlamation: O here God, so young an armine! The word was more frequent in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the shoulders of beasts.


This is a word much discussed by commentators, apparently coined by Shakespeare, to mean Begone! He uses it in MACBETH (1605): Aroynt thee, Witch, the rump-fed ronyon cries, and also in KING LEAR. The nearest to an earlier use seems to be an old Cheshire exclamation: Rynt you, witch. The word has been used by writers after Shakespeare; in Sir Walter Scott's works it appears seven times; both Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning used it. In Cheshire, the milkmaids may say to a cow: Roint thee!, whereupon it moves off --"the cow being in this instance," Nares remarks in his 1882 GLOSSARY, "more learned than the commentators on Shakespeare." Ronyon is an alternate spelling for runnion, which Samuel Johnson defines as a mangy creature, from French rogne, the itch. Shakespeare uses it not only in MACBETH but also in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR: Out of my door, you Witch, you Rag, you Baggage, you Polecat, you Runnion. No one seems to have followed Shakespeare in using runnion as a scornful term for a woman; in the only other recorded use (1655), the word refers to the male organ.


Originally a variant of errant, wandering, present participle of Latin errare, to stray. The original form is still used in knight errant. In such expressions as thief errant, arrant thief, the term meant a roving robber or highwayman; hence, a professed, manifest thief; hence, anything manifest, downright; thorough (thoroughly bad). The word is quite common from the 14th century to about 1850, and is still used, as by Chaucer, Langland, Shakespeare, Fuller, Richardson, Fielding -- TOM JONES (1749): The arrantest villain that ever walked upon two legs -- Washington Irving, a half-dozen times, occasionally without opprobrious implications, as in THE SKETCH BOOK (1820): a tight brisk little man, with the air of an arrant old bachelor. More often there is an implication of evil -- arrant coward -- which sometimes becomes part of the meaning of the word, as in a letter (1708) of Pope: You are not so arrant a critic . . . as to damn them without a hearing.


To smile at; to please. From Latin arridere, ad, at + I, to laugh, whence also risible. Mainly in the 17th and 18th century, Jonson in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) has: 'Fore Heavens, his humour arrides me exceedingly. Lamb in ESSAYS OF ELIA (1823): That conceit arrided us most . . . and still tickles our midriff to remember. The adjective arrident (accent on the long i) occurs, but rarely, meaning smiling, pleasant; Thomas Adams wrote, in 1616, of a pleasing murderer, that with arrident applauses tickles a man to death.


A soldier mechanic who does repairs


A worshipper of bread. Used in the 17th century against the Catholics, as by Lewis Owen in SPECULUM JESUITICUM (1629): Dare you (artolaters) adore a piece of bread, for the living God? Also artolatry, bread worship, from Greek artos, bread + latreia, worship. Used figuratively of one that gives preeminence to his "daily bread/' to the material aspect of living.


A coward; especially, one that stayed home by the fire while his fellows went forth to combat. Swedish aske, ashes + fisa, to blow, to pass wind. Also askebathe. Used from the 13th to the 16th century. There was also a form axwaddle, defined by Nares: One, who by constantly sitting near the fire, becomes dirty with ashes; an idle and lazy person.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the position of the stars; a form of astrology.


Courtly; relating to a court. Watson, in 1602, contrasted aulicall, martial, and rural. Greek aule, hall, court; cp. aulary. T. Adams in his COMMENTARIES (1633; 2 PETER) said: God affects not aulicisms and courtly terms. Aulicism, a courtly phrase. De Quincey (WORKS, 1853) spoke of investing the homeliness of Aesop with aulic graces and satiric brilliancy.

Aurum potabile

A potion of minute particles of gold in an oil, to be drunk as a cordial. Directly from the Latin: drinkable gold. Quarles in JUDGMENT AND MERCY (1644) puns upon the potion: Poverty . . , is a sickness very catching. The best cordial is aurum potabile.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the winds.


To blind; to hoodwink. Via French aveugle from Latin ab, away + oculus, eye. Sharington is quoted (1547) in Froude's HISTORY OF ENGLAND as being so seduced and aveugled by the lord admiral. The still current inveigle is from the same source, although it is suggested that Medieval Latin aboculus is a shortening of albus oculus, blind (literally, white eye).


To pluck off, tear away. Latin a, from + vellere, vulsum, to pluck, pull, whence also convulsion, revulsion. Hence avulsion, the action of pulling away, plucking off; forcible separation; also, a portion torn off. Lamb in a letter of 1822 rejected the literal sense, saying that the eyes came away kindly, with no Œdipean avulsion.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using a balanced hatchet.


An early variant of baboon. From the French; also babian, babioun. Used in the 17th century as a contemptuous term for a person. Massinger in THE PARLIAMENT OF LOVE (1624) says Farewell, babions! Also bavian, in which form the word appeared in Dutch. The bavian was a frequent comic figure in the old morris dance, where his long tail and tumbling antics added much to the jollity.


Revelry; drunkenness. From the Bacchantes, revelers at the festival of Bacchus, Roman god of wine (and father of Hymenaeus, god of marriage) . There is also a verb, to bacchanalize (accent on the first syllable), as well as the adjective bacchant. Thus Thomas Moore in his translation (1800) of the ODES of Anacreon: Many a roselipped bacchant maid Is culling clusters in their shade; and Byron in DON JUAN (1821) : Over his shoulder, with a bacchant air, Presented the o'erflowing cup. The word bacchanal, still used of the revel (bacchanalia) was earlier used of the reveling person; by extension, one whose emotions are out of control. Thus Nashe in NASHES LENTEN STUFFE, OR THE PRAYSE OF THE RED HERRING (1599) tells jestingly the story of Hero and Leander, which Musaeus (500 A.D.) and Marlowe (1598) had more seriously told. Nashe ends, when the tide carries the corpse of Leander away: At that Hero became a franticke bacchanal outright, and made no more bones but sprang after him, and so resigned up her priesthood, and left worke for Musaeus and Kit Marlowe.


Berry-eating; living mainly on berries. Latin bacca, berry. The accent is on the siv. Also bacciferous, berry-bearing; bacciform, shaped like a berry.


A blow, a drubbing. In the 16th century. So O.E.D. Bace was also a variant of base, as the name of an old game, later called prisoners' bars, prisoners' base. By act of Parliament during the reign of Edward III, playing bace was prohibited in the avenues of Westminster palace while Parliament was in session. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) says: So ran they all as they had been at bace, They being chased that did the others chase.


Stand backl The origin is unknown; "Back there!"? At times spelt bacare, baccare and pronounced in three syllables, like a yokel pretending to Latin, Shakespeare, in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596): Bacare, you are mervaylous forward. The word appeared in a proverbial saying, Backare, quoth Mortimer to his sow.


A pretender, a false friend; an enemy masked as a friend. From the 15th century. I have had backfriends, said Southey (LIFE; 1827) , as well as enemies. By a few in the 16th century, and Scott in QUENTIN DURWARD (1823) backfriend was used in the opposite sense, of a backer, a friend standing firmly at one's back.


A wine from Bacharach, a town on the Rhine; the flavor was much appreciated in the 17th century. Hence also bacharach, backrak, bachrag, bachrach. Fletcher and Massinger's THE BEGGAR'S BUSH (1620) has: My fireworks and flap-dragons and good backrack.


The line of the flagellant. Relating to the rod, or to punishment by flogging. Thackeray in THE VIRGINIANS (1858) states that the baculine method was a common mode of argument. Bacul was used in the 15th century for a religious staff or crosier. From Latin baculus, a rod, the symbol of power, also used in English. Hence baculiferous, bearing a cane, like the dandy of yore. The common bacillus was named from its shape: Latin bacillus, little rod; diminutive of baculus. Baculometry, says Bailey in his DICTIONARY (1751), is the art of measuring accessible or inaccessible distances or lines, by one or more staves.


Frivolous, jesting. Via French badine, silly, from Late Latin badare, to gape. Its only literary use is in F. Spence's translation (1685) of THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE HOUSE OF MEDICIS: a dialog completely bouffon, waggish, and badeen, between the head and the cap. The noun from the same source remains in use, as in Disraeli's ENDYMION (1880), which warns: Men destined to the highest places should beware of badinage. We have used other forms: the verb to badiner -- a character in Vanbrugh's THE RELAPSE (1697) wishes that Loveless were here to badiner a little; badinerie -- Shenstone, in his WORKS AND LETTERS (1712) laments that the fund of sensible discourse is limited; that of jest and badinerie is infinite; badineur -- Pope wrote to Swift, on December 19, 1734: Rebuke him for it ... as a badineur, if you think that more effectual. Many a badeen badger (q.v.) has built a reputation on a caustic tongue, as in the play THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER; the more insulting he is, the more his sycophants -- and the audience -- laugh.




An old title, lower than baron, superior to bachelor and knight: a knight entitled to bring a company of vassals into the field under his own banner. From Old French baneret, bannered; cp. bandon. Later the title was awarded on the battlefield, for valiant deeds in the king's presence. Sometimes, when this occurred, the knight's pennon was cut to the shape of a banner (square) whence the suggestion in Sir William Segar's HONOR, MILITARY AND CIVIL (1602) : I suppose the Scots do call a knight of this creation a Bannerent, for having his banner rent. The official English heralds have not allowed the title since 1612, the year after the rank of baronet was created.


A brat; a young child. Drayton in his ECLOGUES (1593) pictures lovely Venus . . . Smiling to see her wanton bantlings game. More often the word is a term of scorn; originally it meant bastard, probably a corruption of German bankling, begotten on a bench. Thus, in FATHER KNICKERBOCKER'S HISTORY OF NEW YORK (1809) Washington Irving mentions a tender virgin, accidentally and unaccountably enriched with a bantling. The word is also used figuratively, as when Byron wrote, in a letter of 1808: The interest you have taken in me and my poetical bantlings ... These, who has not had?


From the Spanish barbacoa, perhaps from Arawak (West Indies) barbacoa "wooden frame on posts," on which people slept or used to cook meat. By 1733, it had come to mean a social gathering in the open where animals were roasted.


Originally, this was a threshing floor, Old English bere~tun, barley enclosure. Then it was used of a farm yard; especially, of the farm a lord kept for his own use. It was also applied to a chicken coop or larger pen, but the lord kept claim (1783) to the eggs of the bartons of his demesne. A book on HUSBANDRY by George Winter (1787) declares that stale urine and barton draining are greatly preferable to dung. In contrast, we are told of a fine grove of Scotch and silver fir on the barton of Bridestow. And Southey in THE POET'S PILGRIMAGE TO WATERLOO (1816) speaks of Spacious bartons clean, well-wall'd around, Where all the wealth of rural life was found.


(1) To fight, to contend with blows or arguments. In the latter mood, replaced by debate. Also, to beat the wings (as a falcon or hawk) and flutter away from the perch. Hence, to be restless or impatient. Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) bids night Hood my unmann'd blood, bayting in my cheekes. (2) To beat or flutter down; to end. In R. Brunne's CHRONICLE (1330) we read: Bated was the strife. Also, to cast down; hence, to humble, depress; to be dejected; to lower, reduce, lessen. In these senses, a shortening of abate. At bate, at odds, contending. The word is frequent in Shakespeare, in various senses. Hence bated breath, subdued breathing, bateless, that cannot be blunted; Shakespeare in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593) has: Haply that name of chaste unhappily set This bateless edge on his keen appetite. bateful, quarrelsome, batement, lessening, abatement. bate-breeding, quarrel making, inciting to strife; Shakespeare in VENUS AND ADONIS speaks of This sour informer, this bate-breeding spy.


Deep-bosomed. Also bathykolpic; Greek bathos, deep + kolpos, breast. Both forms have been used spelled with uk, yc, uc. The word bathos, descent from the sublime to the ridiculous, springs from Pope's satire BATHOS, THE ART OF SINKING IN RHETORIC (1728) , a travesty of Longinus' essay ON THE SUBLIME. Hence bathetic, fashioned after pathetic; also bathotic. While a plain and direct road is paved to their hypsos, or sublime, said Pope, no track has been yet chalked out to arrive at our bathos, or profund. Other words formed with bathy-, deep, include: bathyal, of the deeper regions of the sea; bathybic, dwelling in the deeps, also bathypelagic.bathylimnetic, living at the bottom of a marsh or lake, like the ondines.


A flat-sided stick with a handle, for beating clothes. Shakespeare in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) has: I remember the kissing of her batler. Later editions say batlet, as though a diminutive of bat. The battledore was originally a batler or beetle, sometimes cylindrical for mangling, but usually flat. Hence, other instruments of that shape: a paddle, a wood for putting loaves into an oven; especially, a small bat for hitting the shuttlecock in the game also called battledore. Other forms of this word, common from the 15th century, were batylledore, batyndore, batteldoor, and the like. The word was also used figuratively, as by Lowell in 1879: So they two played at wordy battledore. The game, once vigorously enjoyed, has been replaced by tennis, ping-pong (table tennis) and, especially badminton. Badminton, from the country seat of the Duke of Beaufort, was also in the 19th century the name of a drink, a 'grateful compound' of claret, sugar, and soda-water. The shuttlecock (also shittlecock, shoottlecock, and more) was a piece of cork tufted with feathers, used as far back as the 15th century, and is used frequently (literally and figuratively) by poets and playwrights of the 16th and 17th centuries who, as Sears said later (1858) in ATHANASIA, were only playing at shuttlecock with words.


In addition to the too well known activity named by this word, to battle meant to furnish with battlements, and also -- quite apart -- to nourish, supply with rich pasture or food; also, to make soil fertile; hence, to grow fat, to thrive. In this sense the word was also spelled batle, battel, and is related to batten. The adjective battle meant nourishing; fertile, fruitful. Douglas in his AENEIS (1513) spoke of battill gras, fresche erbis and grene suardis. Hence also batling pastures (battling, batteling) , nourishing, fertilizing; growing fat; Fuller in A PISGAH-SIGHT OF PALESTINE (1650) exclaimed: A jolly dame, no doubt, as appears by the well-battling of the plump boy.


Joyous; forward; gay. Old French baud, gay; Old Low German bald, bold, lively. The adjective was used in THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE (1400) ; the noun baudery (q.v.), jollity, was more frequent. There is also a verb bawdefy, to bedeck, to make gay. Somehow, in the transfer from French to English, bawd -- perhaps compounded with bawd, earlier bad, a cat, a pussy, a rabbit, used in slang senses -- came to be applied to a pander. Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) cries A baud, a baud! meaning a hare; but in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) he has Touchstone tell Audrey We must be married, or we must live in baudrey. The earliest form of bawd in the sense of pander (male or female) is bawdstrot; this became bawstrop and, especially in the plays of Middleton, bronstrops, as in A FAIR QUARREL (1617) : I say thy sister is a bronstrops.


Brushwood; especially, a bundle of light wood (as for bakers' ovens) tied with one withe or band; a fagot is tied with two. The word was used figuratively, of slight things, as in Chapman's EASTWARD HOE (1605) : If he outlast not a hundred such crackling bavins as thou art; and Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596): Shallow jesters, and rash bavin wits, Soon kindled and soon burnt.


Fine fellow. A jocular term of endearment, from French beau coq, fine cock, used in the same way. Shakespeare uses the word in TWELFTH NIGHT, and twice in HENRY V (1599) e.g.: The King's a bawcock, and a heart of gold.


Bawdy misbehavior. Used by Dampit, in Middleton's A TRICK TO CATCH THE OLD ONE (1608) . Like Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais, Middleton liked to invent resounding words. Dampit, an unscrupulous: usurer and a drunkard, when his serving maid well, wench Audrey tries to get him from his cups to his bed, favors her with fine examples: Thou quean of bawdreaminy! . . . Out, you gernative quean! the mullipood of villainy, the spinner of concupiscency! . . . Out, you babliaminy, you unfeathered cremitoried quean, you cullisance of scabiosity!


Baker. Originally feminine; from 10th through 15th century used of both sexes; thereafter masculine. In the 16th century, a new feminine form was fashioned: backstress. Sir Walter Scott used the word in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) : One in appearance a baxter, i.e. a baker's lad, handed her out of her chair. After about 1400, however, baxter was rarely used save in Scotland.


To bask in the sun, or before a fire. The word is probably a mild form of bake. Hence beeking, exposure to genial warmth. Cockeram (1623) defines aprication (q.v.) as a beaking in the Sunne.


Friendly greeting. Also belaccoyle. Cp. bel-. Spenser, in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) her salewed with seemly belaccoil, Joyous to see her safe after long toil.


A kind look, a loving look. Italian bel guardo. Spenser uses the word in THE FAERIE QUEENE and in his HYMNE IN HONOUR OF BEAUTIE (1596): Sometimes within her eyelids they unfold Ten thousand sweet belgards, which to their sight Doe seem like twinckling starres in frostie night.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using arrows.


To take away; to rob; to deprive. Also beneme; after 1500 usually benum, benumb. (Benum, to deprive, added a b by analogy with dumb, limb, etc. The meaning was gradually limited to depriving (a part of the body) of its capacity for feeling. Numb is a shortening from benumb. Benim was a common word from the 10th to the 16th century; Chaucer uses it several times -- twice in THE PARSON'S TALE (1386) : the likeness of the devil, and bynymeth man from God . . . bynymeth from man his witte.


Blessing. A shortening of the Latin benediction, which is now the usual English word. Shakespeare, in KING LEAR (1605), refers to the bountie and the benizon of heaven. Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828) : I have slept sound under such a benison. Back in 1755 Samuel Johnson in his DICTIONARY said of benison: "not now used, unless luricrously," but the word still survives in historical fiction and in poetry. Cp. malison.


A short coat worn by men in the late 18th and early 19th century. Brewer derives it from the name of a tailor, but it is more probably a Biblical transference, Benjamin being the youngest brother of Joseph. An 18th century ladies' riding cloak was called a joseph, from the "coat of many colors" in the Bible. Thus Goldsmith in THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD (1766) pictures Olivia dressed in a green Joseph, richly laced with gold, and a whip in her hand. Peacock in NIGHTMARE ABBEY gives us the younger brother: His heart is seen to beat through his upper benjamin.


(1) An old stalk of grass, left in late winter and early spring; eaten then by cattle, or the seeds by birds. An early form of bent (grass). (2) An herb (often identified as the avens) which the middle ages believed drove the devil away; hence called (herb) bennet, Old French beneite; Latin benedicta, blessed. The ORIUS SANITATIS (1486) quotes Platearius: 'Where the root is in the house the devil can do nothing, and flies from it; wherefore it is blessed above all other herbs.' Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais, ascribes to it another quality: Fervency of lust is abated by certain drugs, plants, herbs, and roots . . . mandrake, Rennet, keckbuglosse. [There is a different opinion regarding mandrake; cp. mandragora.]


To make beastly. Latin bestia, beast. Used in the 17th century especially of liquor, as by Owen Feltham in RESOLVES (1628) : Drunkenness . . . bestiates even the bravest spirits. The verb was sometimes Anglicized to beastiate. Bestiary means (1) a fighter of wild beasts in the Roman amphitheatre; (2) a moralizing treatise, using animals to point lessons, as written in the Middle Ages. A bestiarian, however, is a friend of the animals, especially, in the 19th century, an antivivisectionist.


A raw recruit. Later, a beggar, a rascal. Shakespeare in HENRY VIi, PART TWO remarks that Great men oft dye by vile bezonians. And Massinger, in THE MAID OF HONOUR (1632) , speaks of the slut who would, for half a mouldy biscuit, sell herself to a poor bisognion. The word was originally besonio. It is from the Italian bisogno, need, want, applied in derision to the raw soldiers who came to Italy from Spain, in the 15th and 16th centuries, without proper equipment or means. Robert Johnson, in his translation (1601) of Botero's THE WORLD, AN HISTORICALL DESCRIPTION, speaks of a base besonio, fitter for the spade than the sword. Both forms, after a lapse of two centuries, were revived in historical novels: Scott in THE MONASTERY (1820) : Base and pilfering besognios and marauders; Bulwer-Lytton in THE LAST OF THE BARONS (1843) : Out on ye, cullions and bezonians!


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the Bible.


To tipple; a humorous diminutive from Latin bibere, to drink, whence also imbibe; see bib. Used in the 18th and 19th centuries. BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE (1828) tells of persons who bibulate gin and water with the housekeeper. ST. JAMES'S GAZETTE of April 12, 1882, speaks of the extraordinary capacity for bibulation displayed by the regular soldier. The word bibulous was more frequently used; it meant both fond of drinking and (technically) able to absorb moisture; Cowper in his translation (1790) of the ODYSSEY speaks of bibulous sponges.


The moustache. In Mabbe's translation (1623) of Aleman's GUZMAN DE ALFARACHE we read: It seeming perhaps unto them that . . . the bearing their bigotes high, turn'd up with hot yrons . . . should be their salvation and bring them to heaven. The word is Spanish, apparently unconnected with bigot.


As the 1600s gave way to the 1700s, the popularity of wigs soared -- and so did their size. Important men sported larger perukes than commonfolk -- "big wigs." The term was not a compliment.


Scurrilous and violent abuse. By the 16th century Billing\'s Gate, London, brought inevitably to mind the foulmouthed workers (women as well as men) in the fish-market there, and by the midnth century the name of the gate was being used for the language there spoken. The Third Earl of Shaftesbury, in CHARACTERISTICKS (1710) speaks of philosophers and divines who can be contented to . . . write in learned billingsgate. The word is quiescent, but the practice still is loud. Bailey (1751) defines a billingsgate as "a scolding impudent slut." THE PRESENT STATE OF RUSSIA (1671) stated: If you would please a Russian with musick, get a consort of billingsgate nightingales, which, joyn'd with a flight of screech owls, a nest of jackdaws, a pack of hungry wolves, seven hogs in a windy day, and as many cats with their corrivals . . .


Inheritance, birthright. So in the O.E.D. In his notes to Shakespeare's MACBETH (1605), however, G. B. Harrison defines the word as meaning native land. Macduff is speaking, fled to England from Scotland and Macbeth's savagery: Let us rather Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men Bestride our downfall'n birthdome.


Shame; mockery, scorn. Old High German bismer, ridicule, from bi, by + smier, smile. Also bismere, bysmer, bismor, busmar, busmeyr, and the like. Bismer is also a verb, to mock; and from 1300 to 1550 was applied to a person worthy of scorn. From the time of King Alfred (about 890) to the mid-16th century, the word was used, e.g. Chaucer, THE REEVE'S TALE (1386) As ful of hokir and of bissemare. (Hokir, contempt, abuse.)

Black acre

A name used in court, to distinguish one plot of ground from another: black acre; white acre; green acre -- somewhat like "party of the first part" etc. The colors were perhaps originally chosen from various crops. After a time, to black-acre meant to litigate over land; in Wycherley's THE PLAIN DEALER (1677) the litigious widow is Mrs. Blackacre; her son Jerry Blackacre is so well trained by her in court procedure that he wins all of her land.


Usually pronounced blaggurd or blag-ahrd. A low, unprincipled, contemptible person; a scoundrel. From the 1530s, of uncertain origin. perhaps once an actual military or guard unit; more likely originally a mock-military reference to menial scullions and kitchen-knaves of noble households, black-liveried personal guards, shoeblacks, the servants of an army or camp followers. By 1736, sense had emerged as "one of the criminal class." Can be used as an adjective ("blackguard language") or as a verb, meaning "to revile (or ridicule or denounce) in scurrilous (or abusive) language" or "to behave as a blackguard." Other forms include blackguardism and blackguardly. Not to be confused with The Black Guard (aka "Masters of the Blackness"), the corps of black-African slave-soldiers assembled by the Alaouite sultan of Morocco, Moulay Ismail (reigned 1672–1727).


A dealer in grain. Found only in the dictionaries (Bailey, 1751) . Blaed was Old English, from a common Teuton form, for blade (of grass, as opposed to leaf) -- though influenced by Latin bladum, Old French bled, corn, wheat. By the 11th century blade was transferred from plants to the broad flat part of an oar, a spade and the like; and by the 14th, to the blade of a knife and a sword.


(1) Pale; bashful; backward. Used from Old English through the 17th century, surviving in dialect. Scott tried to revive the word in QUENTIN DURWARD (1823) : You are not blate you will never lose fair lady for faint heart. (2) To babble, to prate. Pepys in his DIARY (1666) entered: He blates to me what has passed between other people and him. Loud talk and empty chatter being what they are, other words developed: blaterate, to babble; blateration; blateroon, a foolish talker. Also blather; blether; bletherskate; blatherskite, a noisy talker of nonsense. This word became common in the United States from the lines Jog on your gait, ye bletherskate in MAGGIE LAUDER (1650), which was a favorite song in the American Revolution. Burns, in TAM O' SHANTER (1790) speaks of A bletherin, blusterin, drunken blellum. Even Coleridge (1834) was annoyed by blethering, though he did not go so far (American- wise) as to call the offender a blethering idiot!


Divining; indicating "by sensation" the location of subterraneous springs. Derived from a Mr. Bleton who, according to the MONTHLY MAGAZINE of 1821 "for some years past has excited universal attention by his possessing the above faculty." A bletonist, bletonite, a practitioner with the divining-rod -- whose most effective instrument was (naturally) of witch-hazel.


This color word was very popular in compounds and phrases. Thus blue apron, a tradesman; hence, blue-apron statesman, a tradesman who interferes in politics, blue beans, bullets (of lead) ; blue-beat, to beat black and blue, blue blanket, the sky. blue blood, (one of) aristocratic heritage, from the Spanish idea that the veins of aristocratic families show through the skin a 'truer blue' than those of commoners, blue bonnet, also blue cap, a Scotsman. To burn blue, of a candle, to burn without red or yellow light: an omen of death, or sign of the presence of ghosts or the Devil. Shakespeare in RICHARD III (1594) says: The lights burne blew! blue bottle, a beadle; also a policeman. Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART TWO says to a beadle: I will have you as soundly swindg'd for this, you blue-bottle rogue. Also blue coat, as in the American boy's taunt: Brass button, blue coat, Couldn't catch a nanny-goat! But blue coat likewise (Shakespeare, Dekker) , being then the garb of lower servants and charity folk, was used to mean a beggar, an almsman, blue-dahlia, a rarity or most unlikely thing. blue devil, an evil demon; in the plural, blue devils, despondency, also the blues. Byron in DON JUAN (1823) declares: Though six days smoothly run, The seventh will bring blue devils or a dun. Also, the horrid sights in delirium tremens. blue fire, a stage light for eerie effects; hence (19th century) sensational, as blue-fire melodrama. blue funk, a spell of fright, nervous dread, blue gown; in Scotland, a licensed beggar; in England (17th century) a harlot; especially one in prison (where a blue gown marked her shame). blueman, also bloman, blamon, a Negro. From the 13th to the 17th century, blo was used for blue, bluish black, lead colored, blue hen, in the expression Your mother must have been a blue hen, a reproof given to a braggart, from the saying, No cock is game unless its mother was a blue hen. To shout blue murder, to cry out more from fear than because of actual danger, blue ruin, a bad quality of gin; gin. blue story, an obscene or pornographic story, [In French, conte bleu is an old wives' tale; a lascivious or obscene story is conte gras.] Other blue compounds, like bluebeard, blue stocking, blue ribbon, remain well known. Cp. red.


Female writer


A shy maiden; a modest girl (literally, little blusher). Jonson in THE STAPLE OF NEWS (1625) Though mistress Band would speak, or little blushet Wax be ne'er so easy. Jonson, who likes the word (and why not?) seems to be the only one who has used it.


Among the forgotten meanings of bob are: a bunch of flowers; an ornamental pendant; an ear-drop; Goldsmith in SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER (1773) : My cousin Con's necklaces, bobs and all. In the 17th century, bobbed hair, a bob, meant hair drawn into a bunch in the back, or with a bunched or tassel-like curl; also, a man's wig so made. Thus, bob-wig, bob-peruke. The refrain of a song: to bear the bob, join in the chorus; Lestrange in his FABLES (1692) : To bed, to bed, will be the bob of the song. A trick, befoolment; to give the bob, to fool, mock, impose upon. A blow with the fist; a sharp rap; hence, a rap with the tongue, a rebuke -- this sense combined with the one before, to develop the meaning, a taunt, scoff, bitter jibe; thus Shakespeare in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) : He that a foole doth very wisely hit, Doth very foolishly, although he smart, Seeme senselesse of the bob. Hence also the verb, as in Shakespeare's OTHELLO: Gold, and Jewels, that I bob'd from him. To bob off, to get rid of fraudulently. Also blind-bob, an early name for the game of blind-man's buff.


The earliest type of cannon. Also bumbard, boumbard. It was introduced in the late 14th century, but did not prove effective. It was usually loaded with a stone, weighing sometimes 200 pounds. Also, from the shape, a leather jug for liquor; hence, a heavy drinker (17th century) . Also, from the sound, a deep-toned wooden musical instrument, like a bassoon; bombardo. A bombardman was a pot-boy, bartender; a bombard-phrase was a loud-sounding utterance, inflated language. Shakespeare mentions the drinking jug in THE TEMPEST and in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) : that huge bombard of sacke. Thomas Heywood in PHILOCOTHONISTA, OR THE DRUNKARD OPENED, DISSECTED AND ANATOMIZED (1635) spoke of the great black jacks and bombards at the Court, which, when the Frenchmen first saw, they reported . . . that the Englishmen used to drink out of their bootes. (Champagne from milady's slipper?) Jonson in his translation (1640) of Horace's THE ART OF POETRY said: They . . . must throw by Their bombard phrase, and foot and half-foot words. Also cp. sesquipedalian.


A protection. From the French: bonne, good + grace, grace. Specifically, a shade hanging from a woman's bonnet to protect her face from the sun and, later, a broad-brimmed hat for the same purpose. A commentator of 1617 speaks of bonegraces, now altogether out of use with us. The word was also used figuratively, as by Thomas Heywood in TROIA BRITANICA (1609): A grove through which the lake doth run, Making his boughs a bongrace from the sun. Sir Walter Scott revived the word in GUY MANNERING (1815). On the sea, a frame of old rope etc. hung over a ship to protect it "from damage of great flakes of ice" (Bailey, 1751) and other encounterings was also called a bongrace.


Keeper of an inn


A prompter in a theatre. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries. Nothing like the current bookkeeper or bookmaker.


A going about; by extension, circumlocution; equivocation, quibble. About + gate (gait), going. R. Bruce in a sermon of 1591 said: The boutgates and deceites of the heart of man are infinite.


One who works with brass


Beer manufacturer


Metal Worker


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using thunder.


A variant form of burning. Skelton (WORKES; 1529; cp. shyderyd) declared: Oure days be datyd To be chek matyd With drauttys [moves] of deth Stopping cure breth, Oure eyen synkyng, Oure bodys stynkyng, Oure gummys grynnyng, Our soulys brynnyng.


An 18th century fashionable case for a lady's tweezers and the like. Used by Pope; explained by Arbuthnot in JOHN BULL (1712) as from to bubble a beau, to dazzle or fool a gallant. Also spelled bubble-boy; explained (in THE MONTHLY MAGAZINE of 1807) as probably a misspelling for bauble-buoy, a support for baubles. They now dangle from jingly bracelets or lie concealed in a purse.


A bailiff; one that makes arrests. The term is one of contempt (bum, buttocks; cp. bumrowl) , implying that the bailiff is close upon the debtor's back. The similar French word is pousse-cul. Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) says: Scout mee for him at the corner of the orchard like a bum-baylie. The word was used by Washington Irving and Thackeray (1859) . A similar word of scorn was bumtrap; The noble bumtrap, observes Fielding in TOM JONES (1749) into the hands of the jailer resolves to deliver his miserable prey. Tucker in THE LIGHT OF NATURE PURSUED (1768) spoke of the two necessary ministers of justice, a bumbailiff and Jack Ketch.


Sometimes Burgonmaster. Mayor


A side stroke. Hence other meanings grew: (1) a calamity as a side effect of the main action, as in the statement that inequality is a by-blow of man's fall; (2) a blow that misses its aim, as in Bunyan's PILGRIM'S PROGRESS (1684) : Now also with their by-blows they did split the very stones in pieces; (3) an illegitimate child -- an unintended side-effect; thus Motteux in his translation (1708) of Rabelais remarks that Kind Venus cured her beloved by-blow Aeneas, and Browning in THE RING AND THE BOOK (1868) refers to A drab's brat, a beggar's bye-blow.


A contraction of By Our Ladykin, by our darling lady-- referring to the Virgin Mary, and used as a mild oath. Also the simpler byrlady -- berlady, burlady, birlady, byleddy; bylakin, belakin, berlakin, and more. Shakespeare swears Berlady thirtie yeares in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) and Berlaken, a parlous feare in


A braggart; a spitfire (etymologically, the second letter of spitfire should be h: Latin cacare, Spanish cagar, to void excrement + Spanish fuego, fire) . The word came into English as a term of contempt because it was the name of the Spanish galleon Drake captured in 1577. Bailey explains it, in 1731, as the name of a Spanish fly that by night darts fire from its tail. Fletcher in THE FAIR MAID OF THE INN (1625) cries: She will be ravished before our faces by rascals and cacafugos, wife, cacafugoes!


Tennis. The 16th and 17th century term, from Flemish caestespeel, from French chasse, chase + speel, play. Also the Dutch kaats, place where the ball hits the ground. There were many spellings -- cachepule, kaichspell, cachespale, etc. -- in the 16th century, before the French name for the game, tennis, took its place.


A depraved condition: of a person -- body or mind -- or of a state, as MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE of November 1883 said that Ireland lies fretful and wrathful under a grim social cachexy of distressful centuries. From Greek kakos, bad + exia, exis, habit, state, exein, to have, to be in a condition. Hence also cachectic, cachectical, cacexicate, cachexicate. Other English words come from Greek kakos, bad. Cack, to void excrement (see cacafuego); Cranmer in 1549 tells of a man who cacked out the Devil. The fish cackerel was a small Mediterranean fish, eaten only by the poor, so-called in scorn; others, as Johnson records in 1755, say that eating it is laxative. cacodaemon, an evil spirit, a nightmare; cacodemoniac, one possessed; cacodemonic, bringing misfortune, cacochyme, cacochymic, full of evil humors, cacodorous. cacodox, holding evil opinions: cacodoxy. cacoethes (4 syllables) , an evil habit, an 'itch' to do, as the insanabile cacoethes scribendi (incurable itch to write) Addison (1713) quotes from Juvenal, saying it is as epidemical as the small pox. cacolike was a 16th and 17th century scornful perversion of Catholic, cacology, ill report; bad speaking, cacomagician, sorcerer. There are others, in medicine and prosody (cacophonous, cacorhythmic, etc) . Jeremy Bentham, countering More's UTOPIA, supposes a Cacotopla or worst possible government. The O.E.D. (1933) probably errs in calling Bentham mistaken. Erasmus, when he wrote IN PRAISE OF FOLLY, was living with More, and the Latin title is a pun on More's name (as though IN PRAISE OF MORE: ENCOMIUM MORIAE) . More punned in his title UTOPIA: the beautiful (eu-) place that is no (ou-) place. The world must be ever vigilant, to avoid Cacotopia. cacozelia (perverse imitation, like "copying the cough of genius" or the manners and tactics of a Hitler) is quite pervasive, easily caught. It is sometimes spelled cacozeal, which is, more properly, misdirected zeal; whence cacozealot; cacozealous. cacozelia (the term) was used especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, as by Spenser and Puttenham; Bulwer (1644) warns lest imitation degenerate into cacozeale, developing a left-handed Cicero.


To laugh loud and long, immoderately. From the 15th century, through Browning (THE RING AND THE BOOK, 1868) ; the practice extends farther. Scott, in GUY MANNERING (1815) mentions the hideous grimaces which attended this unusual cachinnation. Also cachinnator; cachinnatory. Sometimes in the theatre one can sympathize with Hawthorne, who in MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE (1846) threatened instant death on the slightest cachinnatory indulgence.


Pointed; of a tree, pyramidal in shape. Latin cacuminem, point, peak, top. Hence cacuminate, to sharpen, especially at the top, as with a stake; to shape like a pyramid; also cacumination. M. Collins in PEN SKETCHES (1879) wrote of Luminous books (not voluminous) To read under beech-trees cacuminous.


A cheap article for sale, especially prepared to ensnare the undiscriminating. A 19th century term from cad. Before its current meaning of a vulgar person, cad grew through several senses. In the 17th century, it meant a goblin, a familiar spirit, as when Bishop King wrote in his POEMS (1657) : Rebellion wants no cad nor elfe But is a perfect witchcraft of itself. In the 18th century, it was used for an unbooked passenger in a coach, whose fare was pocketed by the driver; in the 19th, for an assistant or helper; a cheap laborer; an omnibus conductor (Hood; Dickens, PICKWICK PAPERS; Thackeray, THE BOOK OF SNOBS) ; then as a school term (Eton, Oxford; in Scotland, caddie) for a fellow that did odd jobs, as around the sporting fields, then contemptuously, for a townsman (as opposed to a gownsman). Hence, the current use.


A yarn; a worsted tape, used for garters and the like; hence, short for caddis ribbon or caddis garter. Shakespeare uses it in THE WINTER'S TALE (1610) : He hath ribbons of all the colors i' the rainbow, points more than all the lawyers in Bohemia can learnedly handle, though they come to him by the gross -- inkles, caddises, cambrics, lawns; and in HENRY IV, PART ONE.


(1) a barrel, from Latin cadus, a large earthenware vessel. From the 14th through the 18th century, especially a barrel of herrings holding six great hundreds (6 score in a great hundred); later the cade held 500. (2) A pet; a lamb or a foal raised by hand; hence, a spoiled or petted child. See cosset. (3) A kind of juniper bush, yielding cade oil, used by veterinarians. To cade may mean, from (1), to put into a keg or, from (2), to pamper.


Falling. Latin cadentem, falling; cadere, to fall. Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) : With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks.


A cloth, of rich silk, popular in the 16th century. Also capha. The Wardrobe Accounts of King Henry VIII (for 18 May, 1531) list white caffa for the Kinges grace. Cavendish in THE LYFFE AND DEATHE OF CARDYNALL WOOLSEY ( (1557) spoke of Woolsey's habytt, which was other offynne skarlett or elles of crymmosyn satten, taffeta, dammaske, or caffa, the best that he could gett for money.


A captive; later, a poor wretch; a despicable wretch, a villain. In many spellings, including caytive, chaytif, via French from Latin captivus, captive. A very common word from the 13th through the 17th century. Also caitifhede, wretchedness; wickedness; caitifly; caitifty, captivity; wretchedness; villainy. Wyclif and Chaucer use the verb caitive, caytifue, to imprison. Caitisned, chained, listed in Bailey's DICTIONARY (1751) and elsewhere as used by Chaucer, is a 1560 misprint for caytifued, in Chaucer's TESTAMENT OF LOVE (1400).


A piper. From Latin calamus, reed, which is used in English as the name of various reeds and rushes, especially the sweet flag. In Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS, the section of 45 poems first published in 1860 is called CALAMUS. Possibly from the curling leaves of rushes came Latin calamistrum, curling-iron, whence 17th century English (Burton, ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY; 1621) calamistrate (accent on the mis) , to curl or frizzle the hair. Also in the 17th century: calamize, to pipe or sing.


In addition to its still current senses (in use since the 14th century) calendar was used to mean a guide, a model -- Chaucer (LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN; 1385); Shakespeare (HAMLET; 1602): He is the card or calendar of gentry. Also, a list, as of canonized saints (17th century) or of prisoners awaiting trial (16th century) ; a record; Shakespeare (ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL) : The kalender of my past endevours. Also, a record in the sense of a sign; Lodge (EUPHUES GOLDEN LEGEND; 1590) : Nor are the dimples in the face the calendars of truth.


A tropical disease afflicting sailors, who in delirium fancy the ocean to be a green field and wish to leap into it and play. It is also used figuratively, of a burning passion or zeal, as in a poem (1631) of Donne: Knowledge kindles calentures in some. Pure chastity, Bishop Thomas Ken piously observed in 1711, excels in gust The calentures of baneful lust. Congreve in LOVE FOR LOVE (1695) uses the word to mean the victims of the disease, as Ben exclaims: I believe all the calentures of the sea are come ashore.


A mixture of rum and spruce beer, imbibed by misguided Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries; as L. de Boileau described it in his RECOLLECTIONS OF LABRADOR LIFE (1861), "more of the former and less of the latter."


In the latter part of the eighteenth century, Jonathan Witherspoon, president of Princeton, used campus, the Latin word for field, (frequently for pugilistic contests) to describe the open area around his college's buildings.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future - using, altar smoke.


(1) An iron collar used for punishment, in the 13th through 16th centuries. (2) An ornamental collar or neckline, later called a carcanet. In the PROGRESS of Queen Elizabeth I, of 1572, we read that she received one riche carkanet or collar of golde, having in it two emeralds. Stanyhurst's AENEIS (1583) speaks of a garganet heavy. Carcanet was sometimes used for a circlet for the head; it might be, as in Herrick's HESPERIDES (1648), a carkanet of maidenflowers, or even (1876) a carcanet of smiles.


A poultice, plaster -- in the 17th century made with herbs and flour, or (1612) of bread crumbs, milk, and a little saffron. In the 19th century (1866), the well known mustard plaster or cataplasm. Shakespeare knew it too; in HAMLET (1602), Laertes puts a poison on his sword So mortal that but dip a knife in it, Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare. Collected from all simples that have virtue Under the moon, can save the thing from death That is but scratched withal.


. A close friend. In Tudor times, cousin was used by close friends, without blood relationship; in AS YOU LIKE IT Shakespeare has Rosalind and Celia say, Sweet my coz. Jonson suggests that cater-cousin meant quarter-cousin, "from the ridiculousness of calling cousin or relation to so remote a degree," but there is no ridicule intended, in the use of the word. It may be from cater, to care for, to feed, cater-cousins being those that have eaten together, as companions means those that have broken bread together. Shakespeare used the expression in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) : His maister and he (saving your worships reverence) are scarce catercosins; and writers since have followed him.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using mirrors.


One who filled up cracks in ships or windows or seems to make them watertight by using tar or oakum-hem fibre produced by taking old ropes apart.


A crafty device or trick; trickery; a precaution. Cautela, in Roman law, was an exception made as a precaution, from caut~, the past stem of cavere, to take heed (cp. caveat] ; this also gives us English caution, but the two forms developed different meanings. Cautelous means wary, heedful (cautious) , but more commonly deceitful, wily, as in Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS (1607) : Your son . . . caught With cautelous baits and practice.


Suitable for felling, as a straight tree or a battered prizefighter. Latin caeduus; caedere, to fell. Used in the 17th century. Cp. caducous.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using ashes.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using melted wax on water.


Carriage maker


Candlemaker. Also dealer or trader; one who makes or sells candles; retailer of groceries, ship supplier


(1) A fickle person; a waverer; a turncoat. (2) A person or thing secretly substituted for another. Especially, of a child -- particularly, of an ugly or stupid child -- supposedly left in infancy, by the fairies, in exchange for the real (and of course beautiful and bright) child stolen. Hence, a half-wit (as in Pepys' DIARY, 28 December, 1667) . Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590) has the King of the Fairies say: I do but beg a little changeling boy, to be my henchman. [Note that Oberon refers to the child taken; the word usually refers to the child left amongst us humans.]


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using clouds.




Wig maker


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by reading palms.


A cavalier servente; a recognized gallant of a married woman. In Italy, 15th through 18th century. Pronounced chi-chis-bay-o. Mentioned by Sheridan in THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL (1777), but the pious Wesley exclaimed (1782) : English ladies are not attended by their cicisbys yet; nor would any English husband suffer it. The practice was a growth from the troubadour days of medieval southern France.


To tame; to render mild or harmless. Latin cicur, tame. Sir Thomas Browne in PSEUDODOXIA EPIDEMICA (1646) tells of poisons so refracted, cicurated, and subdued, as not to make good their . . . destructive malignities. Cotton Mather, in THE ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF NEW ENGLAND (1702) : Nor did he only try to cicurate the Indians. The verb was sometimes shortened to cicure. Hence circuration, domestication.


Short for citizen. Also citt. Feminine (used by Dryden, 1685) , citess; Johnson (1751) used cit as a feminine. Cit was used in the 17th and 18th centuries, usually with some measure of scorn, for a townsman as opposed to a squire, or a tradesman as opposed to a gentleman. Pope in a SATIRE of 1735 asks Why turnpikes rose, and now no cit or clown Can gratis see the country or the town. The Prologue to Hannah Cowley's THE RUNAWAY (1776) pictured the Londoner, still seeking the countryside, scorned by the actor: Let cits point out green paddocks to their spouses; To me, no prospect like your crowded houses.




A key; especially, to a cipher. A 17th and 18th century term, directly from Latin clavis, key. Hence also clavicular, pertaining to a key (also to the clavicle, 'little key," the collar-bone) . The clavicymbal, a 15th to 17th century name for the early harpsichord; clavicytherium, a sort of harpsichord, an upright spinet, of the same period. A claviger, a key-keeper; one that carries a key -- but also (Latin clava, club) one that carries a club; also clavigerous. Clavis, key, from the sense, key to a cipher came also to mean a glossary (key to a language).


To call; to call on, appeal to; to summon; to call to witness; to speak to; to name. A very common word with a range of meanings, used in many forms from the 8th through the 18th century: clipian, clep, cleap, clip. Especially frequent in the 16th century was the form yclept, named; as in Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : Judas I am, ycliped Machabeus; this has survived as an archaism, as in Byron's DON JUAN (1823) : Microcosm on stilts, yclept the Great World. The forms occur throughout early literature, frequent in Chaucer, in Spenser -- VISIONS, 1591: I saw the fish (if fish I may it cleepe) . . . the huge leviathan -- and in Shakespeare -- HAMLET, 1604: other nations . . . clepe us drunkards. Hence cleper, one who calls; cleping, a name; a vocation; Wyclif in 1382 urged that ye walk worthily in the cleping in which ye ben clepid.


An instrument anciently used (Bailey, 1751, says by the Egyptians) to measure time by the running of water out of one vessel into another; a water-clock. Similarly, the instrument using the fall of grains of sand to tell time was a clepsammia. Clepsydra is from Greek kleps, from kleptein, to steal (whence also kleptomaniac) + hydor, water.


Originally in English (10th century) , an ordained officer of the church. Hence, a person of book learning; one able to read and write; a scholar; a pupil. Greek kleros meant piece of land, estate, heritage; klerikos, relating to an inheritance; by the 2d century this came to be applied to those that carried on the Christian inheritance; i.e., the clergy, the clerics. Caxton in his Prologue to ENEYDOS (THE AENEID; 1490) spoke of that noble poete and grete clerke Vyrgyle; elsewhere he mentioned Plato the sage . . . and his clerke named Aristotle.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using dice.


The servant of a salesman who stood at the door to invite customers; one who received the matter in the galley from the compositors and arranged it in due form ready for printing; one who makes eyelet holes in boots using a machine which clicked.


Old form of eclipse. Also clips, clypse, clippis, and the like. Phaer, in his translation (1558) of the AENEID, tells us that Coribantes beat their brasse the moone from clips to cure. Hence clipsi, clipsy, dark, obscure; in the ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE (1400) we read that love is now bright, now clipsi of manere.


"A fluid medicine of different qualities," says Bailey (1751), "to be injected into the bowels by the fundament." From Greek klyster, from klyzein, to wash, drench. Sometimes for nutrition, usually as an enema -- the common word for enema, 14th through 17th century. Also clister, or beginning with g. Also used figuratively, as by Greene in GREENES MOURNING GARMENT (1590) : My purse began with so many purging glisters to waxe not only laxative, but quite emptie. In the interlude of THE FOUR P'S (see palmer) the 'pothecary's lie is a story of a man with an eight days' constipation; when a clyster is administered the result is so violent that a stone wall miles away is knocked down and the stones tumble into a stream so that one can walk over dry-shod.


A variety of apple, somewhat tapering; especially, a variety that could be cooked while still unripe. Hence, a raw youth, as when in THE ALCHEMIST (1610) Jonson hails the arrival of a fine young quodling. Also codlin, querdlyng, codlyng, quadling, and more. Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) similifies: As a squash is before tis a pescod, or a codling when tis almost an apple. Hot codlings were roasted apples, sold in the London streets from the 17th century. A folk song of 1825 ran: A little old woman, her living she got, By selling hot codlings, hot, hot, hot. By 23 February, 1881, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH lamented: Hot codlings may now be sought for in vain. The word codling may have come from coddle, one meaning of which was to cook (we still have coddled eggs, cooked gently; but coddled pease were roasted; and hot codlings may also have meant roasted peas) . Codling also may mean a small cod (fish) ; also, the scrotum; cp. codpiece. Sylvester, in his translation (1605) of Du Bartas, wrote of The wise beaver who, pursu'd by foes, Tears off his codlings, and among them throwes.


Cornering the market; buying up the available supplies. Literally (Latin co-, com, together + emere, emptum, to buy: caveat emptor, let the buyer beware; cp. caveat) the word means joint purchasing; Chaucer in his translation (1374) of Bothius thus understood the word: coemptioun that is to seyn comune achat or hying to-gidere. And in ancient Rome, one type of marriage ceremony consisted of the husband's buying the wife and the wife's buying the husband; this too was called coemption. Bacon in his ESSAYS (1625, ON RICHES) said that monopolies, and coemption of wares for resale, where they are not restrained, are great means to enrich.




A fool, a simpleton. A frequent term in the 16th and 17th centuries. Also coaks, coax, coxe. The origin is unknown, though the creature is still familiar. The word survives in the verb to coax, which originally meant to make a cokes of, to fool. Jonson In THE DEVIL IS AN ASS (1616) wrote: Why, we will make a cokes of thee, wise master; we will, my mistress, an absolute fine cokes. Samuel Johnson in 1755 called coax "a low word'*; it has become gentler If not more genteel.


Coal miner


Money-changer; usurer; miser. Also collibist. Greek kollybistes, money-changer; kollibos, small coin. From 14th through 17th century; Bishop Hall in his SATIRES (1598) has: Unless some base hedge-creeping collybist Scatters his refuse scraps on whom he list. From the same source (possibly influenced by Latin collibere, to please; col-, together + libet, it pleases), colliby was a 14th and 15th century word meaning a small present.


Peddler of books


A newcomer; anyone not a native to a place; by extension, a novice. Common in 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, used into the 19th, carrying some measure of scorn, as Harrison in THE DESCRIPTION OF ENGLAND (1587) speaks of the comeling Saxons.


A messmate, a boarder. From Latin com-, together + mensalis, pertaining to the table, mensa, table. The eucharist, commented Bishop Hall (1624) makes us commensals of the Lord Jesus. The word commensal is still used in biology, of a plant or animal that lives attached to or as tenant of another, sharing its food. The host may also be called a commensal The commensal is to be distinguished from the parasite, which eats the body of its host.


"Things which give beauties not before in being, as paints to the face; differing from cosmetics, which are only to preserve beauties already in possession." Thus Bailey's DICTIONARY, 1751: not in the O.E.D. A usable word, save that every woman wishes to be thought "in possession/'


As an adjective: convenient, suitable. Used in the 17th century. Via French from Latin com, together + modus, measure. Applied to women in the 18th century, meaning accommodating, usually with bad implications. Steele in THE CONSCIOUS LOVERS (1722) speaks of one of those commode ladies who lend out beauty for hire. Hence, as a noun: (1) a procuress. This sense was also used figuratively, as when Gibber in the Epilogue to his version of JULIUS CAESAR (1721) spoke of making the tragic muse commode to love. (2) A small piece of furniture for holding a chamber pot. (3) A tall headdress for women, worn especially in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, built on a wire framework, often with silk or lace streamers hanging over the shoulders. The commode, however (as Addison pointed out in his essay on LADIES' HEADDRESS IN THE SPECTATOR, 1711, No. 98), never aspired to so great an extravagance as in the 14th century, when it was built up in a couple of cones or spires, which stood so exceedingly high on each side of the head, that a woman who was but a pigmy without her headdress appeared like a colossus upon putting it on. This headdress was also called a fontange (from French Fontanges, the estate of a mistress of King Louis XIV). The olden fontanges, Addison continued, were pointed like steeples, and had long pieces of crape fastened to the tops of them, which were curiously fringed, and hung down their backs like streamers.


A collection to help someone. Welsh cym-, together + porth, support, help. A commorth (comorth) might be made at a wedding, or at the first Mass of a new priest, or to redeem a murderer or felon. Apparently the practice was abused, for laws were passed against taking a commorth, under Henry IV (1402) and again under Henry VIII (1534).


To address (by name), to call, call upon, as one may compellate a saint. Hence compellation, a calling upon; a name or form of greeting, an appellation (the current term in this sense); a reproach, reproof, calling to account. Bastwick in THE LETANY (1637) wrote: The worst things are varnished over with finest names and compellations. Note that compellative means related to address, to a word used as a title; compellatory means compulsory; compellant, compellent mean compelling, constraining; Richard Congreve in ESSAYS (1873) spoke of the compellent contagion of great examples.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using shells.


To agree. Accent on the second syllable; used since the 16th century. Perhaps originally a facetious substitution of the more formal dog for cur in the verb concur; Lyly's GALLATHEA (1592) makes that juxtaposition. In Heywood's THE ROYALL KING (1637) the clown says to the bawd: Speake, shall you and I condogge together?


To join in agreement. French gré, liking. In the 16th century, gree was a common shortening of agree. Agree, ad, to give accord to; congree, com, to give accord together. Shakespeare in HENRY V(1623 edition) speaks of government congreeing in a full and natural close. The 1600 quarto edition, however, has congrueth with a mutual consent, and Shakespeare's form may be congrue; Latin congruus, agreeing, suitable, congruere, to meet together, whence also incongruous.


Patching together; hence, a heterogeneous gathering; F. Saunders, in the Preface to A SALAD FOR THE SOLITARY (1853) calls the book a consarcination of many good things for the literary palate. Also consarcinate, to patch together; used mainly in the 17th century. The HISTRIOMASTIX (1610) aptly remarks that stage plays are consarcinated of sundry merry, ludicrous officious artificial lies.


Joining of boards to form a platform or floor. Latin com-, together + tabula, table, plank. Hence also the verb, to contabulate. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries.


To despise. Used from the 15th century; surviving in the noun, contempt. Latin con (with intensive force) + temnere, to despise; Greek temnein, to judge. In the 16th century the form to contempne was used. Hence contemner, a scorner; contemnible, despicable. The sense of this verb fused with, or was lost in, that of to condemn.


To make sad. French contrister; Latin com (with intensive force) + tristare, to sadden; tristis, sad. Contristate was used in the 17th century (by Bacon and others) with the same meaning. Bacon also noted, in THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING (1605), that Solomon observed that in spacious knowledge there is much contristation. The shorter verb, contrist, was used into the 19th century, by Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais; by Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1761); in the 1625 translation of Boccaccio's DECAMERON: that your contristed spirits should be chearfully revived.


One who makes or repairs vessels made of staves & hoops, such as casks, barrels, tubs, etc.


From Old English copp, meaning "top," "head." About 1700, the word cop came to mean "capture or catch," a definition that evolved into a noun for someone who captures criminals -- a policeman. The form cop was also used in the 15th century to mean spider (as spincop, also spyncop, spincoppe); whence also cobweb.


A person with whom one copes; an adversary. Hence, a love partner, paramour. Hence, a partner or colleague; a partner in marriage, spouse; by extension, a confederate (cheat) at cards or other gaming; more vaguely, often with contempt, a fellow. Also copemate; cp. copeman. Lisle in his translation (1625) of Du Bartas: Fooles, idiots, jesters, anticks, and such copesmates as of naughtworth are suddenly start up. Jonson, in EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR (1598) : O, this is the female copesmate of my son. Shakespeare in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593) : Mis-shapen Time, copesmate of ugly Night . . . eater of youth, false slave to false delight, Base watch of woes, sin's packhorse, virtue's snare.


A raven. Via Old French corbel from Latin corvellum, diminutive of corvus, raven. The corbel's fee was part of a deer left by the hunters for the ravens (for good luck and propitiation) . From its shape, in profile like a raven's beak, corbel was used by architects in Medieval France and England to mean a projection, jutting out from the face of a wall, to act as a support. It was usually a plain, unadorned architectural feature (although Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE, 1596, speaks of a bridge . . . with curious corbes and pendants graven faire) until Scott seized on the term in THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805) and gave it decorations: The corbels were carved grotesque and grim. Since then, historical novelists (and some historians) have elaborated the decorations.<br><br>Latin corvus, raven, apparently had another diminutive, corvetto, from which a variant of corbel came into English -- corbet, with the same architectural significance. Chaucer used this in THE HOUS OF FAME (1384) : How they hate in masoneryes As corbetz and ymageryes. This passage was misunderstood, and 17th and 18th century dictionaries define corbet and corbel, erroneously, as "a niche in a wall, for a statue, etc." So even Britton's DICTIONARY OF THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE MIDDLE AGES, in 1838.


Shoemaker, originally any leather worker using leather from Cordova/Cordoba in Spain


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using a sieve.


An 18th century style of stays, named from the maker. Pope in THE ART OF POLITICKS (1729) inquired: Think we that modern words eternal are? Toupet, and tompion, cosins and colmar Hereafter will be called by some plain man A wig, a watch, a pair of stays, a fan.


A lamb (or other quadruped) brought up by hand, a cade lamb. See cade. Also cossart. Hence, a pet, a spoiled child. Not used before the 16th century. To cosset, to fondle, to pamper, was used 17th through the 19th century. A cossety child (or cat) is one that expects and likes to be petted and pampered.


Originally an apple-seller -- costard, apple; monger, dealer. Thence, a pushcart salesman; also used figuratively -- Miss Mitford (1812) From all the selected fruits of all the poetical costermongers . . . could ye choose nothing more promising than this green sour apple? -- and as a term of abuse -- Shakespeare, HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597): Virtue is of so little regard in these costermonger times, (the monger is pronounced mun' fa.) Hence also costermongering, costermongery, costermongerdom. Also, tout court, coster. Various other combinations have been used, such as costerditty, street song; costerwife, a woman with a stall for selling apples and the like. Cp. applesquire.


A light, crisp cracker, usually curved or hollow. Also crackenelle, crackenal, and the like. As Lord Berners put it, in his translation (1523) of Frolssart: Whan the plate is hote, they cast of the thyn paste thereon, and so make a little cake in maner of a crackenell, or bysket. In English biscuit; in the U.S., cracknel has been replaced by cracker or cookie.


A toy, a rattle. Hence, an empty talker, one who rattles on. Latin crepundia, a rattle, from crepare, crepitum. to rattle, tinkle; whence crepitare, to crackle, etc. (see creve) and English crepitation, crackling; crepitate, to crackle, (17th and 18th centuries) to break wind. Although idle talk continues, crepundian was used mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries. Nashe (Greene's MENAPHON, 1589) speaks of our quadrant crepundios, that spit 'ergo' in the mouth of every one they meet.


A style of woman's hair, worn in the 17th century: the curl'd lock at the nape of the neck, and generally there are two of them. Literally, heart-breaker.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using cake dough and barley.


A potter. As a surname, Rick Hamelin tells us: According to a paper on Crocker and related surnames by David Croker, the name can be traced in use as far back as 1221 in Gloucestershire, England. The author stated that a tax list dated 1313 or possibly a Lay Subsidy included three men of Bristol who were designated 'le Crokkere' (i.e. the crock maker) and one 'le potter' and suggested that from the 14th century, the trademan was called by either name. Those of the trade arriving on the Arbella and Abigail to Massachusetts in the early 17th c. were called 'potters' on the ship's listing.


A prostitute. One of Peele's JESTS (1598) is headed: How George gulled a punk otherwise called a croshabell -- a word but lately used, he explains, and fitting with their trade, being of a lovely and courteous condition.


Originally, a small hook (French crochet, diminutive of croche, hook; women still crochet with a small hook; cp. crocheteur). By transference, many other meanings, among them: (1) an ornamental hook, a brooch; Steele in THE TATLER (1710) tells of a crochet of 122 Diamonds, set . . . in silver. (2) a hookshaped symbol for a note in music; (3) a whimsical fancy; a perverse and peculiar notion. Shakespeare plays on both these senses in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599): Why these are very crotchets that he speaks, Note notes forsooth, and nothing. From (3) came (4) a fanciful device or construction. Less literarily and more literally (5) a bracket, in typography [crotchets]. A dealer in odd conceits and deliberately perverse opinions is a crotchet-monger.




(1) Head of hair. Latin crinis, hair. Thomas Chatterton has a roundelay (1778) "My love is dead, Gone to his death-bed All under the willow tree," with the line: Black his cryne as the winter night. The etymological spelling was used by Sylvester in his translation (1614) of Du Bartas: Priests, whose sacred crine felt never razor; also in prosaic reference in the BRISTOL JOURNAL of October 1768: hose of goatskin, crinepart outwards. (2) To shrink, shrivel. This verb is probably from Gallic crion, to wither. Used from the 15th into the 18th century, it was revived by Scott (THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN, 1818) and used in a letter of Jennie Carlyle (1849) : He had grown old like a golden pippin, merely crined, with the bloom upon him.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by unrevealed means.


Also Cristallomancy.Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using images in a crystal ball.


A piece cut off; hence, a slice, strip, shred. In the 18th century this became coupon. Also to culpon, to cut, to slice; (16th and 17th centuries) to border or ornament with strips or slices of a different-colored material. Old French colper; couper, to cut; from Latin colaphus, Greek kolaphos, a blow. Chaucer, in THE KNIGHT'S TALE (1386) : He hath anon commanded to hack and hew The okes old, and laie them all on a rew, In culpons well araied for to brenne. A 15th century cookbook recommended: Take eeles culponde and clene wasshen . . .


To call as does a quail. An echoic word. Urquhart in his translation (1693) of Rabelais mentions curring of pigeons . . . curkling of quails.


One who dresses the coat of a horse with a currycomb; one who tanned leather by incorporating oil or grease


In the phrase curule chair, a seat shaped like a camp-stool with curved legs, but of costly wood inlaid with ivory, occupied by the highest magistrates of ancient Rome. Hence, curule, pertaining to high civic office, eminent. The word was used in English in the 17th century; it was revived by Scott in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818); Butler shifted its application in HUDIBRAS (1663): We that are merely mounted higher Than constables in curule wit.


Fighting of dogs and bears; bear-baiting, Greek kynos, dog + arctos, bear + machia, fighting. Butler in HUDIBRAS (1663) declared That some occult design doth ly In bloudy cynarctomachy. [The arctic region is the region not of the polar bear but of the Great Bear constellation.] The Batrachomyomachia, the battle of the frogs and the mice, is a mock epic written in ancient Greece in Homeric style; it is sometimes used as a symbol of a war over trivial things, like the Big-endian and Little-endian war (over which end of the shell of a soft-boiled egg to open, to eat it from the shell) in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (1726; LILLIPUT): The books of the Big-endians have long been forbidden. Carlyle (in FRASER'S MAGAZINE; 1832) said: Its dome is but a foolish Big-endian or Little-endian chip of an eggshell compared with that star-fretted dome.


Licentious, lewd; also, a licentious person; a prostitute. Literally, of Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean, anciently known for the worship of Aphrodite. Used from the 16th century. THE SATURDAY REVIEW in 1859 spoke of the cyprian patrol which occupies our streets in force every night; but forty years earlier J. H. Vaux in his MEMOIRS told of a very interesting young cyprian whom I . . . attended to her apartments.


A boat. From Late Latin cyula, which is from Old English ciol, whence keel, boat. Holland in his translation (1610) of Camden's BRITAIN wrote: Embarqu'd in forty cyules or pinnaces, and sailing about the Picts' coasts . . . in every ciule thirtie wives.


Energy; activity; capability. Shortened from audacity; Latin audax, audacem, spirited. Sampson in THE VOW BREAKER (1636) declared: I have plaid a major in my time with as good dacity as ere a hobby-horse on 'em all.


Things, according to Bailey (1751) "which excite tears from their acrimony, as onions, horseradish, and the like." A number of English medical terms have been formed from Greek dacry, tear. Hence, dacryopoetic, producting or causing tears, like a 'tear-jerker' screen-play.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using a suspended ring.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using finger rings.


Rotted wood. Blount (1674), and Bailey after him, call it "the heart or body of a tree thoroughly rotten," and suggest the word is a corruption of dead oak. Its etymology is unknown.


Skilful, inventive. From Daedalus, the legendary inventor and architect, who built the Labyrinth for the Minotaur in Crete. When King Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus (they first devised the Labyrinth, then showed Ariadne how Theseus could escape from it) , Daedalus fashioned wings on which they flew away. Despite his father's warning, the presumptuous Icarus flew too near the sun; his wings melted off, and he fell into what was thereafter known as the Icarian Sea. Daedalus landed safely in Sicily. The word daedal was also applied to the earth, as inventive of many forms; variously adorned, as in Spenser's THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596): Then doth the daedale earth throw -forth to thee Out of her fruitful lap abundant flowers. Hence also daedalian, skilful, ingenious. Both these forms are also occasionally used in the sense of labyrinthine, mazy -- as daedalian arguments; or as in Keats' ENDYMION: By truth's own tongue, I have no daedal heart! Hence daedalize, to make intricate.


(1) A person deficient in sense or in courage; one who is daft. So Chaucer, in THE REEVE'S TALE (1396). Hence to daff, to play the fool; to make sport of. (2) to remove, to take off. A variant of doff, to do off. Thus Shakespeare in THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT (1597) has There my white stole of chastity I daff'd. Hence, to thrust aside, as Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) speaks of Prince Hal that daft the world aside; or to put off, as in OTHELLO (1604) : Every day thou dafts me with some device, Iago. Daffing the world aside was a frequent phrase, after Shakespeare. Johnson, misunderstanding Shakespeare's usage, erroneously taking the past form for the present, put in his DICTIONARY (1755) a non-existent verb, to daft.


A poetic-- and to some extent still a popular -- form of daffodil, which itself is a variant of affodill, which is a corruption of asphodel, which is directly from Greek asphodelos. Strew me the ground with daffadowndillies, cried Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579); the inevitable rhyme appears in Henry Constable's poem DAIPHENIA (1592) : Diaphenia like the daffadowndilly, White as the sun, fair as the lily, Heigh ho, how I do love thee! Fair flower of spring.


A pendant; anything short and pointed, as the straight horn of a young stag. Diminutive of dagger, from French dague, dagger. Hence (1) the points of a cloak or dress slashed at the bottom as an ornament (Chaucer and the 15th century) . (2) The top of a shoelace (I5th to 18th century). (3) A lock of wool about the hinder parts of a sheep, dirty and draggling. (4) A hand-gun or heavy pistol (of the 16th to the 18th century). In the 16th and 17th century dag and dagger was a frequent phrase; Johnson (1751) hence mistakenly defined dag as dagger. For an instance of its use, see slop. Note, however, French dague, dagger; and to dag meant to stab (14th century) before it meant to shoot. There is also a word dag of Norse origin, used from the 17th century (and in dialects) to mean dew, or a gentle rain or mist.


As a noun. Estimation, honor; delight, joy. By extension, fastidiousness. Old French daint&eacute;, pleasure, titbit; Latin dignitatem, worthiness; dignus, worthy, whence also dignity, indignation. (Eliezer Edwards, in WORDS, FACTS, AND PHRASES, 1881, says that the first meaning of dainty was a venison pasty, from French daine, a deer. A pleasant thought, but oh dear!) In the sense of fastidiousness, Shakespeare has, in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : The King is wearie Of daintie, and such picking grievances. As joy, Dunbar in TWA MARYIT WEMEN (1508) : Adew, dolour, adew! my daynte now begynis. Also, to make dainty, to hold back, scruple, refuse. Shakespeare has, in ROMEO AND JULIET: ah ha, my mistresses! which of you all Will now deny to dance? She that makes dainty, she, Til swear, hath corns.


The Bellis perennis, "a familiar and favorite flower," says the O.E.D. Old English daeyes eage, day's eye; its white petals fold in at night, hiding its central sun until the dawning. In olden times, it was an emblem of fidelity; knights and ladies wore them at tourneys, and Ophelia gathered them, to be strewn on her grave. There is indeed beauty, as Spenser sees it in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) in the grassye ground with daintye daysies dight.


Color-blindness; especially, inability to discriminate red and green. From John Dalton, English chemist (1766- 1844), who developed the atomic theory -- and was afflicted with color-blindness. The word was first used (1827) by Prof. Pierre Prevost of Geneva; it was objected to by the British, in that it associates a great name with a physical defect (as though the crippling from infantile paralysis were called Rooseveltism); the word is therefore seldom used in English, though daltonisme is the current French term. A daltonian is a person afflicted with color-blindness.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using a laurel tree, or branch therefrom.


One who serves at table; a steward; a waiter. Latin dapem, feast (see dapatical) + ferre, to bear. A 17th and 18th century word.


Mean-spirited; of little worth. A 17th century term (accented on the cadge) from Italian dapoco, of little (value).


A crustade, q.v. From the 14th century; but by 1650 the recipe had changed and a dariole was a cream tart. In that sense Scott revived the word in QUENTIN DURWARD (1823): Ordering confections, darioles, and any other light dainties he could think of.


An umpire, a mediator. Day, as a verb, meant (1) to dawn; in this sense, also daw. (2) to appoint or set a day; hence, to appoint a time for decision, for arbitration. Thus also dayment, daying (15th to 17th century), arbitration. Lupton in 1580 uttered a sound lament: to spende all . . , that money and put it to dayment at last. Hervey in his MEDITATIONS (1747) wrote that Death, like some able daysman, has laid his hand on the contending parties.


Concealed, latent. Latin de, away + latescere, inceptive of latere, to lie hid, whence latent. Used from the 17th century; also delitescence, delitescency. The Preface to an 1805 reprint of Brathwait's DRUNKEN BARNABY speaks of republishing this facetious little book after a delitescency of near a hundred years. Sir William Hamilton in his LECTURES ON METHAPHYSICS (1837) declared: The immense proportion of our intellectual possessions consists of our delitescent cognitions.


Behavior; treatment (of others). Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) has: All the vile demeane and usage bad, With which he had those two so ill bestad. Cp. bestad. The early form of demeanor. Also a verb, to behave; manage; employ; deal with. The sense of demean, to lower, developed about the 18th century, probably by analogy with debase; the earlier and natural English form for this sense is bemean, which was superseded by demean.


A belt of gold or silver in front, silk or other material behind; a girdle with ornamental work only in front, Latin demi, half; Old French ceint, Latin cinctum, girdle; cingere, cinctum, to bind; cp. ceint. Also dymysen, dymison, demicent. Many 15th and 16th century records refer to such items as a dymysen with a red crosse harnossid with silver wrought with golds; my dymyson gyrdylle and my coralle beydes.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with the help of demons.


Dark, sombre, solitary; hence, secret; hence sly, deceitful, evil. Chaucer in THE MILLER'S TALE (1386) has: Ye must been ful deerne as in this case. The word appears from BEOWULF (10th century) to Scott who in WAVERLEY (1814) speaks of the dern path. Dern is also used as a noun, in the senses: a secret; secrecy; a place of concealment; darkness. The word was common in Old Teutonic; there is also a verb dern, to hide, to keep secret Other early forms are derned, darned, hidden; dernful, dreary; dernly, secretly; dernhede (1300) and dernship (darnscipe, in the ANCREN RIWLE, 1225), secrecy.


Folly; idle trifling. THE SPECTATOR of 17 September, 1887, spoke of the maturity of sweet desipience. Also desipiency. Latin de, from + sapere, to taste, to have taste, to be wise. Hence sapid; insipid, tasteless, sapience, wisdom. Thus desipient; used since the 17th century; Stevenson in THE TIMES (2 June, 1894) : in his character of disinterested spectator, gracefully desipient.


A table; early variant of dais. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) pictures Shamefastnesse, who ne ever once did look up from her desse. Hence the verb desse, to pile in layers, used by farmers (17th-19th centuries) of stacking straw or hay. Hence dessably, well arranged.


Second marriage. Greek deutero-, second + gamos, marriage. Goldsmith, in THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD (1766) uses both deuterogamy and deuterogamist. THE ECHO of 7 September, 1869, expressed the English law: We do not allow deuterogamy until the primal spouse is disposed of by death or divorce.


To lynch. As lynch law comes from a practitioner (or place of practice) , so to dewitt comes from a victim. Two victims: the brothers John and Cornelius De Witt, Dutch opponents of William III, Stadtholder of the United Provinces, were murdered by a mob in 1672. Their name was used, in connection with mob violence, into the 19th century, as by Macaulay in his HISTORY OF ENGLAND (1855) .


A potion prepared from the thorn-apple, employed to produce stupefaction. Also deutery, doutry, dutra, deutroa, dutry; varied from datura; Sanskrit dhattura, the name of the plant (Datura Stramonium) . Its powers were thought similar to those of the nightshade. Butler in HUDIBRAS (1678) wrote: Make lechers and their punks, with dewtry, commit phantastical advowtry. Fryer (1698) pictures the Indian practice of widow-burning (suttee): They give her dutry; when half mad she throws herself into the fire, and they ready with great logs keep her in his funeral pile. On the other hand, said Ken in HYMNOTHEO (1700) : Indian dames, their consorts to abuse, Dewtry by stealth into their cups infuse.


A dairy woman, dairymaid. Cheese, said Trevisa in his translation (1398) of Bartholomeus' DE PROPRIETATIBUS RERUM, slydeth out bytwene the fyngres of the deyewife. Also deywoman. Scott (1828, THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH) renewed the use of this form, after Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : For this damsell I must keepe her at the parke, shee is alowd for the day-woman.


The goddess of the moon, patroness of virginity and of hunting. Latin Diana, corresponding to Greek Artemis; French Diane, whence also English Diane, Dian. Used in various ways. As an adjective, unsullied: snow of Dian purity. With reference to Diana of the Ephesians (BIBLE; ACTS 19) ; by making silver shrines for her Demetrius made "no small gain": a source of wealth; (1681) our woolen manufactures which is our Diana. In alchemy (from the color of the moon), silver: Sol, gold; Mercury, quicksilver; Venus, copper; Mars, iron; Jupiter, tin; Saturn, lead. Dian's bud, the wormwort (q.v.) was used as an antaphrodisiac, or a cure for love-blindness, to keep maids virgin.


An early form of jasper. Also diasprie. Not of marble, said R.D. in HYPNEROTOMACHIA (1592), but of rare and hard diasper of the East.


As a noun. Ten; especially as a unit of exchange: a parcel of ten hides or skins. Roundabout (Old English dicor) from Latin decuria, a company or parcel of ten; decem, ten. In trade with the American Indians, dicker became a verb, to deal in skins; hence, to bargain, haggle, barter, trade. By extension, a dicker, a lot, a large but vague number or amount, as in Sidney's ARCADIA (1580) Behold, said Pas, a whole dicker of wit.


Double-bellied. Greek di-, two + gastr-, belly, whence also gastronome, one skilled in what goes into the belly. Gastronomy was first used as the title of a poem by Berchoux (French, Gastronomie, 1801) ; the ending was formed after astronomy. Digastric is used in anatomy, of certain muscles (as that of the lower jaw) that have twin swellings.


Crossing of swords, hand-to-hand fighting; more often, wrangling, verbal disputation. Latin di, dis, asunder + gladiari; gladius, sword, whence also the flower gladiola; gladiator. Also digladiator; to digladiate, to contend, dispute. Used since the 16th century. Hales in GOLDEN REMAINS (1656) spoke of mutual pasquils and satyrs against each others lives, wherein digladiating like Eschines and Demosthenes, they reciprocally lay open each others filthiness to the view and scorn of the world.


A tearing to pieces. Dilacerate (sometimes delacerate) is an emphatic form of lacerate, from Latin dis-, asunder and lacerare, to tear; lacer, mangled, torn. The riddles of the Sphinx, observed B. Montague in 1805, have two conditions annexed . . . dilaceration of those who do not solve them, and empire to those that do. See exenteration; dilaniation


A ripping or cutting to pieces. Latin di-, apart + laniare, laniatum, to tear; lanius, butcher. Frequent, especially figuratively, in 16th and 17th century sermons. We read of the dilaniation of Bacchus, and Overbury in a letter to Cromwell (1535) exclaimed There be many perverse men, which do dilaniate the flock of Christ. See dilaceration.


A child born when the parents are old. So Bailey, in 1751. The O.E.D. suggests that it may be a corruption of darling (little dear), applied to the youngest child. In country dialects (dilling pig), the word is applied to the weakling of a litter.


A deep, shady dell, a dingle, q.v. Frequent in 16th and 17th century verse. Jonson in THE SAD SHEPHERD (1637) says: Within a gloomy dimble she doth dwell, Downe in a pitt, ore-grown with brakes and briars. For another instance, see slade.


To divide into halves; to reduce to half. Latin di, dis, asunder + medium, middle; hence also dimidiation. Dimidiated, halved, but also dimidiate as an adjective; Lamb in his POPULAR FALLACIES (ESSAYS OF ELIA; 1825) says that the author of TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS allows his hero a sort of dimidiate preeminence: -- Bully Dawson kicked by half the town, and half the town kicked by Bully Dawson.


A serpent whose bite was fabled to cause a raging thirst. From Wyclif (1382) through Milton (PARADISE LOST, 1667: see ellops) and Shelley, who in PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (1821) Say: It thirsted As one bit by a dipsas. The plural is dipsades. From Greek dipsa, thirst, whence dipsomaniacs. Sylvester in his translation (1618) of Du Bartas says: Gold bewitches me, and frets accurst My greedy throat with more than dipsian thirst.


Pillaging; snatching away; dragging apart (as when a man is tied by the legs to two stallions whipped off in different directions Cp. diffugient) . From Latin di-, asunder + rapere, reptum whence also rape. Fairly common (as was the sacking of captured towns) 15th-18th century.


To efface the outlines of, erase, blot out; to become effaced, to vanish. Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) says: Sometimes we see a clowd that's dragonish, A vapour sometime like a beare or lyon, A towered citadel, a pendent rock . . . That which is now a horse, even with a thoght The racke dislimes and makes it indistinct As water is in water.


Stevedore, dock worker who loads and unloads cargo.


A trifling sum; a very litde. Originally (perhaps via Norwegian dveit, a piece cut off, dvita, to cut) a Dutch coin worth half an English farthing. Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) says: They will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar; Mrs. Carlyle in a letter of 1849 exclaimed: As if anybody out of the family of Friends cared a doit about W. Penn!


This common form came into the language from three sources; it has had many meanings. (1) Old English dal, dael, whence also deal. The state of being divided; division. Hence, a portion (16th to 18th century, a portion of a common field) ; one's portion or lot in life: Happy man be his dole. From this meaning came the current uses of dole, a gift made in charity, food doled out. (2) Late Latin dolium, grief, whence French deuil; Latin dolere, to grieve, to suffer; dolor, grief, pain, anguish; also in English, dolor. Hence dolorific, doloriferous, causing pain, suffering grief. Grief, mental distress; mourning; lamentation. To make dole, to lament; dolent, mournful; clothes, weeds of dole, mourning garments. Also pain; also, that which rouses sorrow, a piteous thing. A dole tree (19th century, e.g., Stevenson, dule tree), a gallows, a hanging-tree. From this dole also came indolency, indolence, which first meant freedom from pain, insensibility or indifference to pain; thus, also, an indolent ulcer, one causing no pain. From this came the current meaning of indolent, lazy; Addison in verses of 1719 wrote: While lull'd by sound, and undisturbed by wit, Calm and serene you indolently sit. (3) Greek dolos, deceit. Guile, deceit; deliberate mischief; in Scotch law, dole means the malicious or evil intent that makes a misdeed a crime. Thus Chambers in his CYCLOPAEDIA (1753) stated: Under dole are comprehended the vices and errors of the will, which are immediately productive of the criminal act. Hence also dolose, intentionally deceitful; maliciously intended; dolosity, hidden malice; deceitfulness. Lord Cranford in THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN (31 July, 1861) wrote: Without accusing his . . . learned friend of being dolose, he did accuse him of having misled their lordships. -- The word dole took many forms, among them dool, dule, deol, del, doylle, dol, doale, doel, dowle, duyl, duill, dulle. In hunting, said Turberville in his VENERIE (1576), the houndes must be rewarded with the bowels, the bloud and the feete . . . it is not called a reward but a dole. Milton used the word figuratively in his APOLOGY FOR SMECTYMNUS (1642) : Who made you the busy almoner to deal about this dole of laughter and reprehension? A dole-window was a window from which doles were distributed, as to a breadline.


One that dotes, a simpleton. A variant of dotard; see doddard. Shakespeare has, in CORIOLANUS (1607) : Such a decay'd dotant as you seem to be.


One who finds water using a rod or witching stick.


(1) Mistress; wench. From the 14th century (first as slang: the mistress of a beggar or a vagabond) , prostitute; then wench; later, sweetheart. Shakespeare has a refrain in THE WINTER'S TALE (1611) : With hey, the doxy over the dale. (2) Opinion, especially in regard to religion. Since the 18th century. Warburton, followed by John Quincy Adams (1778) and countless others, remarked: Orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is the other man's. Greek doxa, opinion.


A medicinal drink, frequently prescribed in the 17th century. The Water Poet (WORKS; 1630) spoke of dragon-water in most high request.


A dealer in dry goods.


One who drives a long strong cart without fixed sides for carrying heavy loads.


A surgeon's assistant in a hospital.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using dripping blood. Reade in THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH (1861) has: I studied at Montpelier . . . There learned I dririmancy, scatomancy, pathology . . . The reference here is to diagnosis rather than divination. The form driry is a variant of dreary, which first (Old Saxon dror; Old Norse dreyri, gore) meant gory, bloody; then horrid, dire, cruel then sad, melancholy, and finally the current dismal, gloomy, BEOWULF shows the first meaning, as does Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) : With their drery wounds.


Honey-dew; manna. Greek drosos, dew; meli, honey. Four syllables, accent on the second. A pleasant word, in Bailey (1751), although the O.E.D. ignores it.


One who drives cattle, sheep, etc. to market; a dealer in cattle.


An inert or sluggish fellow, a 'drone/ Also in the names of insects, drumble-, drummel-, dumble-: a drumble-bee, a humble-bee, bumble-bee; drumble-dore, a clumsy insect; hence, a heavy, sluggish, stupid person. Hence, to drumble, to drone, mumble; to move sluggishly. In this sense, used by Shakespeare (MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR; 1598) ; revived by Scott (THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL; 1822) : Why, how she drumbles -- I warrant she stops to take a sip on the road. There are two other verbs, to drumble: (1) to sound like a drum (the drumbling tabor; 17th century). (2) to trouble, disturb; to make drumly or turbid. Drumly, cloudy (of the sky), turbid (of water) was used from the 16th into the 18th century. And from Dutch drommeler, a boat, a heavy-set man, English in the 16th and 17th centuries used drumbler, drumler, for a small but fast boat, especially used as a privateer or by pirates.


(1) A kind of wood used for handles, as of knives; probably boxwood. Hence, a hilt made of this wood; Shakespeare has in MACBETH (1605) I see ... on thy blade and dudgeon, gouts of blood. Hence, from dudgeon-dagger, shortened to dudgeon, a dagger. (2) Perhaps the same word, from "looking daggers" (?), came to mean resentment, anger. Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) says They often parted in deep dudgeon -- but usually the preceding adjective is high -- no one has ever been seen in low dudgeon. See couth; clapperdudgeon.




In 1711, Joseph Addison wrote in The Spectator that "I exercise myself an Hour every Morning upon a dumb Bell." The word comes from the heavy weights hung on the end of bell ropes to help ringers pull them. The association of this word with a "stupid person" did not appear until the 1920s.


(1) An early form of endure, used from the 13th through the 17th century. The form during, now used as a preposition, was originally a participle of dure. French durer, to last; Latin durare, to harden, be hardened, last; durus, hard. Hence also, as an adjective (2) hard. Related to dour. Even in the 19th century, Bulwer-Lytton (in HAROLD; 1848) wrote: In reply to so dure a request. Marlowe and Nashe in DIDO (1594) had: I may not dure this female drudgery.


An undersized creature; a dwarf. Also durgan. Fielding in THE TRAGEDY OF TRAGEDIES; OR TOM THUMB (1730) has a character cry: And can my princess such a durgen wed!


A tidal wave; especially, the high crest of the tide's rushing up a narrowing estuary -- as in the Humber, Trent, and Severn rivers. Also eager, higra, hyger, eger, egre; agar, q.v.; aegir, eygre, and more. Sir Francis Palgrave (1851) wrote it eau-guerre, as though 'warring waters' Drayton in POLYOLBION (1612) wrote: with whose tumultuous waves Shut up in narrower bounds, the higre wildly raves. Dryden in a THRENODY of 1685 wrote that His manly heart . . . like an eagre rode in triumph oer the tide.


To bring forth lambs, to yean. Also eanian, enen, enye, eyne. Thus eaned, born (used of a lamb) ; eanling, a young lamb. Shakespeare in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) tells of all the eanelings which were streakt and pied. Dire as a smiting haile, said Daniel in an ECLOGUE (1648) , to new-ean'd lambs.


(1) Relief from pain or annoyance. Chaucer has, in THE REEVE'S TALE (1386) : Some esement has lawe yshapen us. Hence, stool of easement, toilet; dogs of easement, a second string to relieve tired dogs on a hunt. (2) Refreshment, comfortable board and lodging. So revived by Scott in THE MONASTERY (1820). (3) Advantage, comfort, enjoyment. Also revived by Scott, in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818). (4) The right to use something not one's own, as a roadway through a neighbor's ground, or water from his spring -- as a legal term, this is still current.


One that fishes below bridge, commonly at ebbing water. From ebb + er, one who + man. Also hebberrnan, Used in the 18th century, along the lower Thames.


To trumpet forth. Hence ebuccinator; as Becon declared in NEWS OUT OF HEAVEN (1541) : The ebuccinator, shewer, and declarer of these news, I have made Gabriel. See abuccinate.


Elderberry wine. From the name of the (dwarf) elderberry tree. An English recipe of 1713 suggests making a white ebulum with pale malt and white elderberries. Apparently a countryside favorite in the 18th century; red ebulum is still common, home-made, in the United States.


An aid to the coming of life. Greek ekkaleo bion, I evoke life. Pronounced in six syllables, accent on the by. Thus, applied in 1839 to an egg-hatching apparatus invented by O.W. Bucknell. Also used figuratively, as in HARPER'S MAGAZINE (1880) : Willis's HOME JOURNAL was at one time a very eccaleobion for young writers.


Behold. Latin, used in phrases, especially Ecce Homo (THE BIBLE: JOHN 19) ; hence, a representation of Christ with the crown of thorns. Ecce signum, behold the sign; Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) has Falstaff (after his rout at the misfired robbery at Gadshill, when he 'lards the lean earth as he walks along') telling of his fierce battle and his miraculous escape, declare: I am eight times thrust through the doublet, four through the hose; my buckler cut through and through; my sword hacked like a handsaw -- ecce signum! Hence also ecceity, the quality of being present (used mainly in the 16th century).


Eche and eke are very common English words, Old English ecan, Old Teutonic form aukjan, related to Latin augere, auxum (whence English auxiliary) and to Greek auxanein, to increase. As a verb, eche (ich, eke, ayke, eak, etc.) meant to increase, to add, to prolong, to supplement (eke out) , as Shakespeare in the Prologue to HENRY V (1599) asks the audience to still be kind And eech out our performance with your mind. As a noun, eche (eke) meant something added, especially, an extra piece on a bell rope. To eken meant to the bargain, in addition, as did also on eke and eke (as an adverb): in addition, moreover, also; as Sterne said in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1759) : Supposing the wax good, and eke the thimble. As an adjective eche also meant everlasting; in eche, forever. An eke-name was an added name (like Plato, Broadshouldered; Oedipus, Swell-foot) ; folk-etymology transferred the n, making it a neke-name, whence nickname. Cp. napron. The act of enlarging or adding was eking, as when Spenser laments in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) : But such eeking hath made my heart sore -- but eking is also used as that which serves to eke out, as by D'Israeli in QUARRELS OF AUTHORS (1814) : Suppressed invectives and eking rhymes could but ill appease so fierce a mastiff. By way of reverse English, note that an eker, water-sprite, is a 14th century mistake for a niker, a water-sprite, mermaid, a common Teutonic form related to Sanskrit nij-, to wash. Other forms, for water-elf, mermaid, are nix, nixie. Kingsley in HYPATIA (1853) elucidates: 'What is a nicor, Agilmund?' 'A sea-devil who eats sailors.'


The feminine form of editor, usually applied in scorn, as by THE LONDON QUARTERLY REVIEW (September, 1847), discussing the novels of George Sand, semivir obscoenus, and claiming that these works -- if translated, and an attempt is now being made by an English editrix -- will help bring on that new religion which is to recognize virtue and vice as developments of human nature equally respectable -- that moral code of which adultery and incest are to be the cardinal virtues, and marriage the unpardonable sin -- when that glorious consummation is reached, we shall have something to substitute for the anile dogmas and outworn precepts of the Gospel.


To sweeten; to soften. Latin e, out + dulcor, sweetness, whence also dulcify q.v., to make sweet, as coffee or one's disposition. In THE CHARACTER OF ITALY (1660) we read: We will allay the bitterness of this potion with the edulcorating ingredients of their virtues. Hence edulcorator, one who or that which sweetens. Swines dung, farmers were told by Worlige in 1669, is supposed to be a great edulcorator of fruit.


(1) A second time, again; after, A common word from the 9th to the 16th century. Used also in combinations: eftcastle, the after-part of a ship, opposite of forecastle; eftsith, eftsithes, once more, from time to time; eftsoon, eftersoon, eftsoons, a second time, afterwards, or (in modern archaic use, as in Coleridge's THE ANCIENT MARINER, 1798) immediately. Shakespeare, in PERICLES (1608) : Eftsoons I'll tell thee why. (2) Perhaps as a corruption of deft; used in this manner only by Dogberry in Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599) : Yea, marry, that's the eftest way. Dogberry is an ancestor of Mrs. Malaprop. (3) An ewt, or a newt. CELIA'S ARBOUR (1878) by Besant and Rice says: We used to hunt as boys for . . . the little ewet, the alligator of Great Britain. But Lyly earlier (EUPHUES, 1580) warned: All things that breed in the mud are not efts.


A 17th and 18th century form of laboratory. Every great person, said Evelyn in ST. FRANCE (1652), pretends to his elaboratory and library.


A pop-gun; a toy gun made of the hollow shoot of an elder, the young branches of which are pithy. Shakespeare in HENRY V (1599) : That's a perilous shot out of an elder gunne. Note also, in his THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSO, heart of elder, faint heart, in humorous contrasting allusion to heart of oak, stout heart.


Pertaining to freedom; as a noun, a deliverer. Greek eleutheros, free. Eleutherian Jove, Jove (Zeus) as the protector of freedom. Hence eleutherism, a zeal for freedom; W. Taylor in 1802 spoke of a Miltonic swell of diction and eleutherism of sentiment. When excessive, this is called eleutheromania. Carlyle in THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1837) says: Eleutheromaniac philosophedom grows ever more clamorous . . . nothing but insubordination, eleutheromania, confused, unlimited opposition in their heads.


An itch to be buying. Latin emere, to buy; Caveat emptor, Let the buyer be ware! Everyman's wife, in America, is noted for her emacity. Also emptional, that may be purchased -- but of a person, emptitious, venal, open to a price. A market place was an emptory; as in Ray's FLORA (1665) : The flower-market, the common emptory of trash and refuse.


The act of placing under embargo (Italian imbargo; Latin in + barra, bar) . Also imbargement, embargemenL Shakespeare in CORIOLANUS (1607) uses the word in the sense of hindrances, prohibitions: Nor sleep nor sanctuary . . , The prayers of priests nor times of sacrifice, Embarquements all of fury, shall lift up Their rotten privilege and custom 'gainst My hate to Marcius.


Escape by swimming; swimming out. Also enatant, coming to the surface. Rare words, of the 17th and 18th centuries.


A handbook, a concise guide. Greek en, in + cheir, hand + -idion, a diminutive suffix. Coverdale in his translation (1541) of THE OLD FAITH., states that Moses made an enchiridion and sum of all the acts of his time. Bailey in his 1751 DICTIONARY defines enchiridion as 'a small portable pocket book.'


Hostile. Also enmious; enemiable, with the feelings of an enemy. Thus enemicitious, inimicitious, inimicitial, inimicous, mainly 17th century forms replaced by inimical. Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1761) spoke of driving the gall from the gall-bladder . . . of his Majesty's subjects, with all the inimicitious passions which belong to them. More in THE HISTORIE OF KYNG RYCHARDE THE THIRDE (1513) spoke of an action as no warning, but an enemious scorne.


One wrought upon or possessed by a devil; hence, a fanatical devotee. Latin energumenus; Greek energoumenos, past participle of energeein, to work upon; en, in + ergon, work. Accent on the gyu. Used in the 17th and early 18th centuries; renewed by Scott and others in the 19th. Morley in MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE of February 1885, spoke of the seeming peril to which priceless moral elements of human character were exposed by the energumens of progress. Also energumenist, one possessed by devils; Gaule in SELECT CASES OF CONSCIENCE, CONCERNING WITCHES AND WITCHCRAFT (1646) sought to discriminate: The meerly passive be simply deemoniacks, but not energumenists.


To plunge into the water. Also, to drive into the water, as a bird of prey would another bird. French en, in + eau, water; Provencal aigua; Latin aqua, as in aquatics. Used from the 15th into the 17th century; in Shakespeare (MEASURE FOR MEASURE; 1603) it has been misprinted emmew and enmew, explained by some commentators as 'keep in the coop' -- the bird fears to come out. Shakespeare says: This outward-sainted deputie Whose settled visage and deliberate word Nips youth i' the head,, and follies doth enmew As falcon doth the fowle, is yet a devil. The BOOK OF ST. ALBANS (1486) made the sense clear: Yowre hawke hath ennewed the fowle in to the ryver.


To graft in; an early form of engraft. Used since the 15th century. Also ingraff. Used by Swinburne (ATALANTA IN CALYDON; 1864) meaning to beget. Shakespeare used it in the passive voice, meaning to be closely attached: HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : You have beene so lewde, and so much ingraffed to Falstaff.


"The first square of an odd number" --17th century. Three syllables. Greek enneas, enneados, nine. Hence, a set of nine persons or things; Porphyry, who studied under Plotinus in Rome (262 A.D.) divided the works of his teacher into six enneads. Also enneatic, occurring once in nine days, months, throws of dice, etc. The enneatical year, every ninth year of life. Nine was, in many periods (especially as three contained in itself), deemed the perfect number.


Nightmare; a demon that leaps upon people and causes nightmare. A 17th century term, probably from Greek epi, upon + allesthai, to leap. A demon in female form, supposedly having carnal intercourse with men in their sleep, was a succubus; from Latin sub, under + cub-, root of cumbere, to lie. In the feminine forms succube (two syllables) and succuba, the word also meant a strumpet; Jonson in THE ALCHEMIST (1610) has: I walked naked between my succubae. The forms were quite common from the 14th century. C.K. Sharpe in the Preface to Law's MEMORIALS (1818) tells us that Benedict of Berne for forty years . . . had kept up an amatory commerce with a succubus called Hermeline. This, despite the fact that in 1797 the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA had assured its readers: The truth is, the succubus is only a species of the nightmare. Barham in THE INGOLDSBY LEGENDS (1838) cries: Oh! happy the slip from his succubine grip That saved the Lord Abbott. The demon that sought carnal intercourse with women in their sleep was the incubus; Latin in, upon + cumbere, to lie. There were civil and ecclesiastical laws concerning incubi, in the Middle Ages. The incubus also consorted with witches, who had a pet term for it, incuby. In the 17th century, incubus began also to be used of any great burden, hanging on one like a nightmare. A miser, brooding over his wealth, was called (17th century) an incubo. From the same Latin source come the brooding terms relating to incubation. One possessed by an ephialtes was sometimes said to have gone witch-riding.


Adapted for display; used to show off; especially, among the ancients, of orations to display one's ability. Also epideiktic, epideictical; Greek epideiktikos; epi, upon; deiknunai, to show. Farrar in THE LIFE OF CHRIST (1874) said: He would not work any epideictic miracle at their bidding.


Reasonableness, equity -- as opposed to rigid law, to the strict letter. Greek epi, according to + eikos, likely, reasonable. Also epicay, epicheia. Latimer in a Sermon of 1549 declared: For avoydyng disturbance in the communewealth, such an epiky and moderation may be used.


To snatch away, to carry off. Hence ereption. Latin eripere, ereptum; e, out + rapere, to snatch. Bishop Joseph Hall in A PLAINE AND FAMILIAR EXPLICATION (BY WAY OF PARAPHRASE) OF ALL THE HARD TEXTS OF THE WHOLE DIVINE SCRIPTURE (1633) noted The suddaine and inexpected ereption of Isaac from his imminent and intended death. THE ATHENAEUM of 1865 (No. 1951) went to pagan mythology to observe: Pluto erepts Proserpine.


A literary production, an elucubration. Greek ergasia; ergon, work. R. Humphrey in his translation (1637) of St. Ambrose spoke of ending the whole ergasie or tractate with it.


A pecuniary payment, as compensation for murder or other violent crime, accepted in Ireland into the 17th century. Also eriach, earike, erycke, earik; Irish eiric. Spenser noted it, in THE STATE OF IRELAND (1596) : In the case of murder . . . the malefactor shall give unto them [the friends] or to the child, or wife of him that is slain a recompence, which they call an eriach. R. Bagwell commented on it, in IRELAND UNDER THE TUDORS (1885): This blood-fine, called an eric, was an utter abomination to the English of the sixteenth century.


Amusement, diversion. Apparently applied originally to boxing and wrestling; esbatement comes via Old French from Latin ex, out + battere, to beat. Used in the 15th and 16th centuries.


To shake. Old French esbrandeler (modern ebranler) from a Teutonic stem brant, to quiver (like fire) , to burn. Hence the brand in the burning. Queen Elizabeth, in a letter of 1588, declared emphatically: Never shall dread of any mans behavior cause me doo aught that may esbrandill the seat that so well is settled.


Fit to eat; pertaining to food. From Latin esca, food; whence also esculent, good to eat, as the esculent snail. Escal is found only in 17th and 18th century dictionaries; esculency is slightly more common.


A necklace of several rows of gold links, named from its resemblance to the chains of a slave. French esclavage, slavery. By extension, any similar adornment, as triple rows of beads or jewels. Colman and Garrick in THE CLANDESTINE MARRIAGE (1766) inquire: How d'ye like the style of this esclavage? A time nearer to our own affected the slave anklet, which for a while transferred the application from the physical resemblance to the idea, and was worn as a sign that one's affections were in bondage.


Well rounded in the calf of the leg. Originally, Essex calf, a calf grown in Essex county; then used contemptuously of a native of the country. By punning practice, Essex-growth, development of the calf of the leg; You would wish, we read in the play LADY ALIMONY (1659), that his puny baker-legs had more Essex growth in them. A good legge, said the Water Poet (WORKS; 1630) is a great grace if it be discreetly essex'd in the calfe, and not too much spindled in the small.


Representing character or manners. Greek ethos, character + poietikos; poieein, to make, represent. Hence ethopoeia, delineation of character; moral portraiture. Urquhart in THE JEWEL (1652) spoke of a man pranking, with a flourish of mimick and ethopoetick gestures.


To intend, to purpose; to ordain, destine; to aim, direct; direct one's course; to arrange, set in order, prepare. Also to guess, conjecture. A common word from the 12th century; after the 14th mainly in northern dialects. Among its forms were atlien, attle, ahtil, atthill, eitle, attile, ettelle. Hampole in THE PRICKE OF CONSCIENCE (1340) mentioned a daughter the whilk he luved specialy and eghtild to mak hir qwene of worshepe. Hence ettle, ettling, ettlement, intention; endeavor -- ettle was also used (18th century) to mean opportunity; ettling (13th century) to mean conjecture; withouten eni etlunge, without any guessing, unquestionably. Ettler, a schemer; an aspirant. Scott in THE MONASTERY (1820), reviving the word, said: They that ettle at the top of a ladder will at least get up some rounds.


A prayer-book. Greek euche, prayer + log; legein, to say. Also euchologue, euchology. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries; the first form, mainly in reference to the Greek Church. Lingard in his study (1844) of THE ANGLO-SAXON CHURCH refers to the liturgical and euchological forms of her worship. Hence also euctical, relating to prayer; supplicatory.


A sound mixture of qualities; health, well-being. Greek eukrasia, good temperature; eukratos, well-tempered; eu, good + kra-, kerannunai, to mix. Hence eucratic, happily blended -- of a drink or a person's characteristics. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries.


A variant of euripus, a channel of violent and uncertain currents. Originally a proper name, of the channel between Negropont and the mainland. Used, often figuratively, in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries; thus Drummond of Hawthornden asked, in 1649: What euripe . . . doth change as often as man? And THE PALL MALL GAZETTE of 16 February, 1884, remarked: Although all nations are nowadays more or less unquiet, Paris seems to lie in a very euripus of change.


Wandering of one's thoughts: listed in the 15th century as a 'branch' of accidia, one of the seven deadly sins. See accidie. In the 17th century, evagation was used of a more literal wandering, as of clouds or (they feared) of planets. It was also then applied to a digression (in speech or writing) and to a (pleasant) departure from propriety, as when Walton (1638) remarked: You married men are deprived of these evagations.


That which grows out, as hair, nails, feathers. By extension, an excessive outgrowth, as when Warner in ALBION'S ENGLAND (1606) says that wit so is wisedomes excrement. Shakespeare uses the word in THE COMEDY OF ERRORS: Why is Time such a niggard of hair, being as it is so plentiful an excrement? and in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : It will please his grace to dallie with my excrement, with my mustachio. The word is from Latin excrementum; ex, out + crescere, to grow; it has been replaced by excrescence. The excrement that survives is from Latin ex + cernere, cretum, to sift, whence also secrete, secret, secretary, secretion; concern, discern, and the frequent indiscretion.


Keeping watch. From Latin ex, out + cubare, to lie down; cumbere, to lie; cp. succubus. An excubitor is a sentinel; G. White observed, in 1775, that the swallow is the excubitor to the housemartins ... announcing the approach of birds of prey.


(1) To shake off, get rid of (as dust, or undesired qualities). (2) To shake out the contents; hence, to investigate; to probe the truth from someone. (3) In 18th century law, to shake out one's property, i.e., to take a man's goods for debt. From Latin excutere, excussus; ex, out + quatere, to shake. (In Latin the verb also meant to search by shaking one's robe.) The word was often in religious mouths, especially in the 17th century, as when Bishop Hall (1620) spoke of the just excussion of that servile yoke.


Action. A blunder of Mistress Quickly, in a legal matter, in Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : I pray ye, since my exion is entered . . . let him be brought in to his answer.


Rousing; that which causes one to awake. The noun was used in THE MECHANIC'S MAGAZINE of 1823, of an early alarm clock: The newly invented hydraulic expergefactor rings a bell at the time when a person wishes to rise. From Latin expergefacere; expergere, to arouse + facere, to make. Ex is used as an intensive; so is per in pergere, to make haste, continue; regere, to lead straight, to guide. The action of awakening someone, or the state of being aroused, is expergefaction. Used since the 17th century; Howell in THE PARLEY OF BEASTS (1660) says that he, after such a long noctivagation . . . returned to my perfect expergefaction. R. North, in his LIVES (1734) coined a new form: I should perceive a plain expergiscence though I had no sense of drowsiness.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the entrails, usually plucked from a fowl. Urquhart in his translation (1693) of Rabelais, uses the form extispicine; Bailey (1751) has extispice; the most frequent form is extispicy. One that inspected the entrails of the sacrificial victims was an extispex, from Latin exta (used also in English), entrails + specere, spex-, to look at.


To wander, figuratively: away from; into; at will; beyond proper bounds. Latin extra, beyond, outside + vagari, to wander, whence vagrant. Also the current extravagance, a spending beyond proper bounds. Also extravage, to go beyond the sphere of duty; to talk off the subject, to ramble; used in the 17th and 18th centuries, Wordsworth in THE PRELUDE (1805) speaks of schemes In which his youth did first extravagate.


Burning up. S. Parker, speaking (1720) of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, said: The frightful effects which this exustion left are still remaining. Some think the wrathful divine exustion has begun again. The verb exust, to burn up, was used into the 19th century; the form exust was also used as an adjective, burnt or dried up. From Latin ex, out + urere, ustum, to burn; whence also combustion. Also exustible, capable of being consumed by fire.


Cast skins, shells and other coverings of animals; figuratively, cast-off articles of apparel. Thackeray in CATHERINE (1840) looks at the old-clothes man and wonders at the load of exuvial coats and breeches under which he staggers. FRASER'S MAGAZINE in 1855: Crabs of mature age and full size cease to exuviate. Huxley in 1880: The young crayfish exuviate two or three times in the course of the first year.


Like a bean. Latin faba, bean. Used in the 18th century. Figuratively, lanky, 'skinny.'


See cunctation. Propertius used the phrase licens Fabius of the Fabian priests of Pan, who had the privilege of licentious conduct at the Lupercalia; hence late 16th century references (Florio; Nashe) to a flaunting fabian, a roisterer.


One that does, acts, performs. Latin facientem, present participle of facere, to do, to make. Bishop Hacket in his MEMORIAL TO ARCHBISHOP WILLIAMS OF YORK (1670) inquired: Is sin in the fact, or in the mind of the facient?


Extremely wicked, infamous; grossly criminal. The word, naturally, is accented on the sin. From Latin facinorosus, full of bad deeds; facinus, a (bad) deed; facere, to do. Also facinerose (in the dictionaries) , facinerious, facinorious, as in Shakespeare's ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601) : He's of a most facinerious spirit.


A deed, a thing done. Latin facere, factum, to do. Hence, used of a noble deed or exploit (earlier fait; this sense survives in feat) ; also as an evil deed, a crime. The last was the most common meaning in the 16th and 17th centuries; it survives in the phrases accessory after (before) the fact. In the very fact, in the very act. The current sense, of a thing that is so, developed in the 17th century. Fact was also, more rarely, used to mean guilt, as when Massinger in THE EMPEROR OF THE EAST (1632) said: Great Julius would not rest satisfied that his wife was free from fact, but, only for suspidon of a crime, sued a divorce.

Factor Agent

Also Commission Merchant. One who acts or transacts business for another; Scottish steward or bailiff of an estate


Eloquent; also a noun, eloquence; facundity. Latin facundus. Hence facundious, fluent, glib, facundate, to make eloquent (a 17th century term; not to be confused with fecundate; Latin fecundus, fruitful) . The words are from a form of Latin for, fari, fatum, to speak; whence also the forum and one's fate: that which has been spoken. Lord Berners (Sir John Bourchier) in his early 16th century translations used simple terms, apologizing for not using fresshe ornate polysshed Englysshe on the ground that he was unequipped with the facondyous arte of rethoryke. Warner in ALBION'S ENGLAND (1606) knew how often eloquence displays but facundious fooles.


A very common verb, from the late 16th century. (1) To fit, be suitable, to fit in with; to get along well with. (2) To agree; to fit together; to piece together (fadge up). (3) To fit in with; hence, to get along, thrive. It won't fadge, it won't succeed. Fadging, well matched, well suited, fitting. There is also a noun fadge, with the basic sense of something flat: a fiat bundle (of pieces of leather, etc.) ; a large flat loaf; a dumpy person. Hence fadgy, unwieldy; corpulent. Fuller in THE HISTORY OF THE WORTHIES OF ENGLAND (1661) : The study of the law did not fadge well with him; Milton, in the Preface (1643) to his treatise on DIVORCE: They shall . . . be made, spight of antipathy, to fadge together; Wycherley in THE COUNTRY WIFE (1675) : Well, sir, how fadges the new design?


Beans; kidney beans. From the Italian. Jonson in CYNTHIA'S REVELS (1600) says: He doth learn to make strange sauces, to eat anchovies, macaroni, bovoli, fagioli, caviare. Bovoli are periwinkles, snails.


Still occasionally in use, meaning a bundle of sticks, tied together for firewood, fagot had various other meanings. Its origin is unknown, though its meaning is similar to Latin fascis, which in the plural, fasces, was applied to the bundle of rods with an axe in the middle, carried before the highest magistrate as a symbol of his authority, the revival of which in modern Italy gave name to the Fascist Party. In England faggot is the preferred spelling; other forms were faggat, faget, fag(g)ald. Forgotten meanings include: An embroidered figure of a bundle of firewood, which recanted heretics had to wear on their sleeve, as a sign of what they had deserved. Similarly, to fry a faggot, to be burnt alive; fire and faggot, the stake, burning alive; to bear a faggot, to carry a faggot, to have renounced heresy. Fagot was also used of bundles of other things, in general. Also (from the shape) a rolled cake of chopped liver and lights, mixed with gravy and stuffed into a sausage-skin (19th century) . From the 16th into the 19th century, a term of abuse for a woman; Lodge in CATHAROS (1591) tells us: A filbert is better than a faggot, except it be an Athenian she handfull. (Filbert, a term rather of endearment, after the color and comparatively low height of the hazel tree.) In the 17th century, fagot came to be used of a man quickly hired to answer "Here!" in a shortage of soldiers at mustertime; hence, one used to fill a deficiency; also, a dummy. From this came the 19th century use faggot, faggot-vote, one manufactured to help carry an election, as by temporarily transferring to persons not otherwise qualified enough property to entitle them to vote. Thus in the DAILY NEWS of 16 April, 1879, a candidate averred that he had not the slightest doubt he would win, unless he were to be swamped by faggots. Bishop Montagu, in one of his DIATRIBES (1621) cried out: You deserved to fry a fagot!


Glad, well-pleased. Also fagen, fein, fayen, feene, vein, vayn, fyene, feign and more. Full fain, glad and fain. In the phrase fain to, glad to; then, content to, as the lesser of two evils; hence, necessitated, obliged, as when D'Israeli in THE AMENITIES OF LITERATURE (1841) remarks that Ascham, indeed, was fain to apologise for having written in English. Also apt, wont; favorable, well-disposed; Spenser, in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) : Whose steadie hand was fain his steed to guyde; Rossetti, in DANTE AND HIS CIRCLE (1850): I . . . saw Love coming towards me, fair and fain. I would (had) fain, I would gladly . . . Fain was also a verb, to be glad (of, on) ; to make glad, hence to welcome; to rejoice in. There was an old proverb (echoed by Scott) : Fair promys maketh fools fain.


A trimming for petticoats and other garments; a flounce. Also falbeloe, fallbullow; furbelow. (Origin unknown; not from a fur trimming, fur below.) In the plural, furbelows, it came to be used (in the 18th century) of overdecorative, showy trimming or ornaments; hence figuratively, rhetorical furbelows. NEW CRAZY TALES (1783) lists things to be found in London's second-hand shops, on Monmouth Street: The rags of peasants, and the spoils of beaus, Mix'd with hoop-petticoats and falbeloes . . . Here on one hook I oftentimes have seen The warrior's scarlet and the footman's green; And near a broken gamester's old roqu'laure The tatter'd pawn of some ill-fated whore; Hats, bonnets, scarves, sad arguments of woe, Beavroys and riding-hoods make up the show.


A blacksmith, one who shoes horses.




Favorable, propitious, gentle. Latin Favonius, the west wind. From 1650. Keats (1821) : Softly tell her not to fear Such calm favonian burial.


A dangling curl of hair. Marston, in THE METAMORPHOSIS OF PIGMALIONS IMAGE (1598) speaks of a man that Can dally with his mistress dangling feake, And wish that he were it. Feak is also a variant form of feague, q.v. Also, in falconry, feak, to wipe the beak after feeding. Also (16th into 19th century) to twitch, to pull (as one's vest) ; to fidget, busy oneself with trifles.


A corruption of fay, faith, used in exclamations and as a mild form of swearing. Also i'fegs, q.v. Sometimes in forms with -kin, a diminutive (as in odds bodkins, a corrupt euphemism for God's bodykin) . Many variants have been used, especially by the playwrights: Jonson (1598, EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR) : By my fackins! (1610, THE ALCHEMIST) : How! Swear by your fac? Heywood (1600, EDWARD I, PART ONE) : No, by my feckins! Middleton: By my facks, sir! Vanbrugh: No, by good feggings. Also faiks, faix, fecks, fags. These forms led to confusion with faex, fex, dregs, excrement (Latin faex, faecem; the plural of which, faeces, is the form that has survived in English), faeces, feces, which may also have been in the minds of the playwrights.

Fell Monger

One who removes hair or wool from hides in preparation for leather making.


This word has had odd shifts of sense. Latin feria, holiday, was originally applied, in ecclesiastical English, to weekdays (as opposed to the Sabbath) that called for certain observances, as Ash Wednesday. Hence, a weekday; then, a weekday on which no holy day or holiday falls. Thus ferial, pertaining to a weekday, as opposed to a festival. But there also continued in use the sense of a weekday to be especially observed; hence ferial, pertaining to a holiday; from the 15th through the 17th century, a ferial day, ferial time meant that the law courts were closed; Mrs. Byrne in UNDERCURRENTS OVERLOOKED (1860) said that Admiral Mackan ordered that all works in the navy should be suspended on ferial days. Hence feriate, feriot, vacation, holiday; also ferie; in his THRE LAWES (15S8) Bale spoke of Sondayes and other feryes. And the rare verb ferie, fery, to keep holiday; To abuse the sabbothe, cried Hooper in A DECLARATION OF THE TEN HOLY COMMAUNDEMENTES (1548), is as mouche as to fery unto god, and work to the devill. Also feriation, cessation of work, holiday taking. Sir Thomas Browne in PSEUDODOXIA EPIDEMICA (1646) exclaimed scornfully: As though there were any feriation in nature!


A twig, a small piece of straw -- sometimes used in allusion to the Biblical mote in one's neighbor's eys. Hence, a small stick or pointer used to help children learn. Common 14th through 17th century. Also as a verb, fescue, to guide in reading, with a stick (which may be a pointer or used to rap one over the knuckles) ; Milton in ANIMADVERSIONS . . . SMECTYMNUS (1641) speaks of a child fescu'd to a formal injunction of his rote-lesson.


Hasty. From Latin festinare, to hurry; festinus, in haste, quick. Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) has Advise the Duke where you are going, to a most festinate preparation. Festinate is also a verb, to hasten -- mainly of the 17th century, but used by Shelley in a letter of 1812. Shakespeare also uses the adverb, in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : Bring him festinatly hither. To Suetonius we owe the caution Festina lente, make haste slowly, also rendered The more haste, the less speed. Noun forms are festinance, festinancy, festination, haste -- as when one proceeds with festination towards one's destination.


An early form, replaced by fetch. Also in phrases: to fet again, to bring to, restore to consciousness. To fet in, to take in a supply of. To fet off, to pick off (as a marksman does), to kill. In fine fet, short for fettle, q.v. Used from Beowulf; in the 15th and 16th centuries, mainly in the past forms. Chaucer, in THE SOMPNER'S TALE (1386) : Forth he goth . . . and fat his felaw. Udall, in RALPH ROYSTER DOYSTER (1553) : Shall I go fet our goose?


A figure-caster, an astrologer. Figure-casting, said Archbishop Abbot in his EXPOSITION UPON THE PROPHET JONAH (1600) , to judge of nativities . . . is a lying vanity. Figure-flinger is a term of contempt for one who indulges in such practices; it was used from the 16th into the 18th century. Hearne in his REMINISCENCES (1723) stated: Being much addicted to astrology, he gave over his trade and set up the trade of figure-flinging and publishing of almanacs. Both terms were also applied (figure-casting by Swinburne in his STUDIES OF SHAKESPEARE, 1880) to persons that took a literal view of the world, 'casting,' calculating, with numerical figures only.


The color of a dead leaf. The word is a 17th century corruption of French feuille morte, dead leaf. Also in the forms feuillemort, fillemort, foliomort, philemort, philamot. Browning in SORDELLO (1840) says: Let Vidal change . . . His murrey-coloured robe for philamot, And crop his hair.


(l)"Hemp early ripe"; so Bailey, 1751. A corruption of French femelle, female; in popular terminology, the female hemp. Actually, what is called the fimble is the male plant of hemp, which yields a shorter and weaker fibre than the carl hemp or female plant. Popularly, the weaker fibres were called female, fimble; the stronger, carl, male. (2) A ring for fastening a gate. (3) (As a verb) to touch lightly and frequently with the tips of the fingers, as a woman may fimble a jewel at her breast; to move over or through without harming, as a scythe may fimble (i.e., not cut) the grass.


Mouldiness; mould. Also as a verb, to grow mouldy, to make mouldy. Finewy, finewed, mouldy. The last form existed (16th-18th century) in many variations: fenowed, finnowed, vynued, vinewed; vinnowed, vinnied, whinid; Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606) has: Speake then you whinid'st leaven, speake!


A making fit, preparation; that which is fit; one's duty. Used only in Shakespeare before the 19th century; then (often in the plural, fitments, fittings) , in the sense of furniture, furnishings. In Shakespeare's CYMBELINE (1611) : 'Twas a fitment for The purpose I then followed; in PERICLES the Bard complains of the consistently virtuous Marina: We must either get her ravished or get rid of her. When she should do for clients her fitment and do me the kindness of our profession, she has me her quirks, her reasons, her master reasons, her prayers, her knees; that she would make a puritan of the devil, if he should cheapen [bargain for] a kiss of her.


A bottle or vessel. The 1539 BIBLE (SAMSON) says: Isai toke an asse laden with breed, and a flacket of wyne. Also (possibly from the shape) a puff or bunch of hair, such as might hang on each side from beneath a lady's cap (16th and 17th centuries) .


Unemployed. Used first (16th and 17th centuries) of actors; the playhouse flag was lowered where there was no performance. Rowley in the appropriately entitled THE SEARCH FOR MONEY (1609) included foure or five flag-falne plaiers, poore harmlesse merrie knaves, that were neither lords nor ladies, but honestly wore their owne clothes.


To importune, to demand earnestly. From the 17th century. Hence, flagitation, an earnest or passionate request. (Occasionally has been used in error for .) Latin , to demand earnestly; , eagerness; hence, a passionate deed, a burning shame, an outrage. This shift in meaning was carried over into English. flagitious, extremely wicked, villainous; flagition, flagitiousness, villainy, burning shame. Riches, said J. Keeper in 1598, are the infamous offspring of covetousness, and guilty even of the same flagition.


A large bottle for holding wine or inferior liquors; especially a metal one (carried by pilgrims before scoffiaws) with a screw top. Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais points out that the bottle is stopped . . with a stoppel, but the flaggon with a vice. Also, a large bottle for use at table, usually with a handle, a spout, and a lid. Scott, in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828) , says: He set the flagon on the table, and sat down.


(1) A river. Especially applied, 14th- 16th century, to the Jordan: the flem Jordan. Also, an artificial channel, such as a mill-stream; in this sense the word survives in dialects. Also as a verb, fleam, to flow; thus R. Buchanan wrote in 1863: As the vapours fleam'd away, behold! I saw . . . a nymph. (2) In medical use, a blood-letting instrument, a lancet. Via French and Latin from Greek phlebotomon; phleb-, vein + temnein, to cut.


A mocking look or speech; "a deceitful grin of civility" (Johnson) . As a verb, to laugh in a coarse or impudent manner, to sneer; to smile fawningly. Common from the 17th century; Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) has: Mark the fleeres, the gybes and notable scornes That dwell in every region of his face. Carlyle in his REMINISCENCES (1866) gives us the one use of the word in a pleasant sense, an innocent fleer of merriment.


Exile, flight; a fugitive, an outlaw; to put to flight, chase, outlaw, banish. Common from the 9th to the 16th century; the early noun form from the verb to flee; replaced by flight, from to fly. Hence several Old English words, including (1) flemaflare, the right to forfeit an outlaw's property (in Bailey's DICTIONARY, 1751); (2) flemensfirth, the entertaining of a banished person; hence, a penalty exacted by the king for such entertainment. Old English flymena fyrmth, entertainment of fugitives. Old charters give this in many forms, as flemenfremith, flemeneferd, flemenefenda.


A maker of arrows; a dealer in bows and arrows. By extension (rarely), an archer. From French fteche, arrow. A common word until the 19th century; it survives as a name.


A light or loose woman. Also flirt-gillian; gill-flirt. Gill (Remember Jack and Jill) is a pet form of Juliana. Not in print before Shakespeare, who in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) cries: Scurvy knave, I am none of his fturt-gils; Beaumont and Fletcher, in THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE (1613) : You heard him take me up like a flirt gill, and sing bawdy songs upon me.


Full of, or resembling, waves. Latin fluctus, wave. Used literally and figuratively, since the 16th century. Leigh Hunt in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1850) suggests a classification: waves, wavelets, billows, fluctuosities, etc.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using leaves (of a book; later, tea leaves)


A fool. Also folet, foult. Hence folthead, foltry, folly. Cp. follify. In the 14th and 15th centuries; also as a verb, to folt, to act like a fool; folted, foltish, foolish. Drant in his translation (1566) of Horace's SATIRES wrote of the foolishe frantycke foultes.


A mixture of meat or vegetables chopped and seasoned for use as a stuffing or garnish. Late 17th cent.: from obsolete force [to stuff,]

Forcible feeble

A weak person who makes great show of strength (physical or moral). Shakespeare first used the expression as a play on a name, in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) ; Shallow calls: Francis Feeble! but Falstaff rejects him as a recruit: Let that suffice, most forcible Feeble. The term came into wider use in the 19th century, as in Disraeli's CONINGSBY (1844) : Italics, that last resort of the forcible feebles.


A pair of scissors. The Late Latin word, used humorously in English, as in Pope's THE RAPE OF THE LOCK (1714), The peer now spreads the glittering forfex wide, To inclose the lock. Note also forficate, shaped like a pair of scissors, and forficulate: (1) shaped like a small pair of scissors; (2) as a verb, to feel a creeping sensation, as though a forficula (earwig) were crawling over one's skin; Bulwer- Lytton said in THE CAXTONS (1849) : There is not a part of me that has not . . . crept, crawled, and forficulated ever since.


Cross, disagreeable; (of a horse) mettlesome, fiery. Also frampard, frampull, frampled, frompered (Bunyan, 1688) . Shakespeare, in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) remarks: She leads a very frampold life with him.


A person of free or loose behavior; usually applied to a man; but Spenser (THE FAERIE QUEENE, 1596) speaks of a woman as a fair franion. Lamb, in a poem of 1810, speaks of Fine merry franions, Wanton companions. Also spelled fronion, frannion, frannian. The old play KING EDWARD IV PART ONE said: He's a frank franion, a merry companion, and loves a wench well.


To rage, to roar. We are told (through the 16th and 17th centuries) that, especially at rutting time, an hart bellows, a buck groyns ... a boar freams. Hence frement, roaring; fremescence, a rising sound; Carlyle in THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1837) says: Fremescent clangour comes from the armed Nationals . . . Confused tremor and fremescence, waxing into thunderpeals, of fury stirred on by fear.


Strange. More commonly, a stranger, a foreigner, an enemy. Used in the 16th century. Also fren; altered from frend, correctly fremd, a common Teuton term meaning foreigner, enemy; also as an adjective, foreign, wild, hostile, strange, unusual. It is related to from. Child's collection of BALLADS has one that sings: I wish I had died on some frem isle, And never had come home! Spenser uses frenne, foe, in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL) : So now his friend is chaunged for a frenne -- with a gloss explaining that the form of the word was influenced by forenne, foreign.


One who fulls cloth; one who shrinks and thickens woolen cloth by moistening, heating, and pressing; one who cleans and finishes cloth.


A smoked herring (pilchard). Recommended by Fuller (1661) with oil and lemon. Also fumatho, fumado, fair maid. Spanish fumado, smoked.


Raging with fury. Also furybound, furebund. Jonson in THE POETASTER (1601) includes furibund in a list of inkhorn words; Carlyle in THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1837) speaks of a waste energy as of Hercules not yet furibund.


Dusky, swarthy, of sombre hue. Latin fuscus, dusky. Used since the 17th century. De Quincey in a letter of 31 July, 1855, wrote: Some confused remembrance I had that we were or ought to be in a relation of hostility, though why, I could ground upon none but fuscous and cloudy reasons. Ivor Brown in I GIVE YOU MY WORD adduces an amusing instance from a play, THE DEVIL AND THE LADY, that Tennyson wrote at the age of fourteen. A character, finding the Devil disguised as a woman, exclaims: What jejune, undigested joke is this, To quilt thy fuscous haunches with the flounced Frilled, finical delicacy of female dressf Hast thou dared to girdle thy brown sides And prop thy monstrous vertebrae with stays? In technical terms fusco is a combining form meaning dull, dusky: fusco-ferruginous, dull rust-colored; fusco-piceous, dull reddish-black; fusco-testaceous, dull reddish-brown.


To cudgel. Latin fustigare, fustigatum, to beat to death; fustis, a knobbed stick. Used from the 17th to the mid-19th century; now only for humorous effect. The Earl of Bristol exclaimed, in 1667: Heaven send him a light hand, to whom my fustigation shall belong! Hence also fustigator, whipper.


A fat, frowzy woman (fusty, mouldy + lugs, implying heavy). Burton in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1621) states that every lover admires his mistress, though she be ... a vast virago, or ... a fat fustylugs. Fusty (from fust, a wine cask, q.v.) was used to mean stale (wine too long in the cask); then mouldy bread; then anything no longer fresh; seedy, dull. Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606) says At this fusty stuff The large Achilles . . . laughs out a lowd applause. Hence fusty-rusty, out-of-date, old-fashioned; ill-humored.


A tax. Used in the 15th and 16th centuries as gabel, gable; related to gavel, q.v. The word was then forgotten; revived as a foreign word (French gabelle), referring to Italy and France; especially, the tax on salt in France before the French Revolution. Dickens, in A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859) calls the farmer-general (tax collector) M. Gabelle.


A loose upper garment of coarse material, as worn by pilgrims, hence, by beggars; after Shakespeare in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) , applied to Jews. In THE TEMPEST Shakespeare has Trinculo, come upon Caliban in the storm, for protection creep under his gaberdine, whence the word is sometimes used to mean protection, as when Lord Bentinck in the CROKER PAPERS for 8 September, 1847, said: They have crawled into the House of Commons under the gabardine of the Whigs.


Originally, a companion, from the Old English gaed, fellowship + ling (diminutive personal suffix, as in darling, duckling). Then it was applied to a companion on a trip; hence, to a traveler, and finally to a vagabond. From the sense of wanderer, by back-formation came the verb to gad, whence also a gadabroad and the more frequent gadabout Gadling appears from BEOWULF (10th century) through the 17th century, as in a poem by Wyatt in Tottel's MISCELLANY (1542) : The wandring gadling, in the summertide, That finds the Adder with his reckless foot.


An old man, a "grandfather." Sometimes used as a title or form of address, to a man below the rank of Master, as when Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828) says: You have marred my ramble. Gaffer Glover. Gaffer was probably a contraction of godfather, with the vowel changing to a because of association with grandfather. So, for the female, with gammer, q.v. Occasionally used humorously, as when Randolph in HEY FOR HONESTY (1651) says: This same gaffer Phoebus is a good mountebank and an excellent musician.


A variant form of gaping. The ending -and was frequent for -ing in early Northern and Scottish words. In a lyric of Dunbar (1508) we are reminded that Deth followis lyfe with gaipand mowth.


An early form (in Chaucer; in Spenser's THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR, 1579) of galosh. Also golosh, galoge, galache, galoshoes, etc. The galage was a wooden shoe or sandal with leather thongs; later (17th century) , an overshoe. Spenser's gloss explains galage as 'a start-uppe or clownish shoe,' clownish meaning peasant's.

Galanty show

A shadow show; shadows of miniature figures are thrown on a wall or screen. Also gallantee, gallanty; accent usually on the ant. Performed in the early 19th century, by 1860 Mayhew declared (in LONDON LABOUR AND THE LONDON POOR): The galantee show don't answer, because magic lanterns are so cheap in the shops. It has, however, survived in children's play.


(1) A plant, the bog-myrtle, also called sweet gale, from the twigs of which gale-beer is made. Crabbe in THE BIRTH OF FLATTERY (1807) says: Gale from the bog shall yield Arabian balm. (2) The current sense of a very strong wind was long softened, in poetry and figurative discourse, to a gentle breeze. Addison, in THE SPECTATOR (No. 56, 1711) : He felt a gale of perfumes breathing upon him; Massinger, in THE DUKE OF MILAN (1623): One gale of your sweet breath will easily Disperse these clouds; Marvell in a letter of 1669 hopes for some unexpected gaile of opportunity. (3) A periodical payment of rent, or the rent thus paid. Hanginggale, rent in arrears. Used from the 17th into the 19th century; perhaps a contraction of gavel, q.v. (4) Singing, a song; merriment. This sense is related to Old English galen, to sing; Italian (and thence English) gala -- but this sense died in the 14th century; KYNG ALYSAUNDER in the 13th century said: The nyghtyngale In woode, makith mery gale.


A mildly aromatic root of East India, used in medicines and in cookery. Bailey in 1736 listed as tasty condiments cardamums, cloves, cubebs, galangal, ginger, mace, and nutmegs. The word is via French and Arabic from Chinese Koliang- kiang, mild ginger from Ko (in Canton province) . Also applied to the English sedge. Especially, a dish seasoned with galingale, as in Beaumont and Fletcher's THE BLOODY BROTHER (1616) : Put in some of this [poison], the matter's ended; dredge you a dish of plovers, there's the art on't; or in a galingale, a little does it. Tennyson pictured the land of the Lotus-Eaters (1833) : Border'd with palm and many a winding vale, And meadow, set with slender galingale.


As an adjective: valiant, sturdy; full of high spirits, lively, light-hearted; spruce, light-hearted in looks. Also gaillard, galyeard, gagliard, and more. Chaucer in THE COOK'S TALE (1386) says: Gaillard he was as goldfinch in the shawe. As a noun: (1) A man of spirit; a merry fellow, a man of fashion. (2) A lively dance, in triple time. Shakespeare asks, in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) : Why dost thou not goe to church in a galliard, and come home in a carranto? Cp. coranto; pavan. Hence galliardise, gaiety, revelry; a merry prank.


A kind of tight-buttocked wide hose or breeches worn in the 16th and 17th centuries; later, it became a term of ridicule for breeches wide at the knee. French garguesque, from Italian grechesco, Greek style (alia grechesca) . Usually plural; also gaskins; gallybreeches; gailyslops; gallygaskins, garragascoyne, galigascon, and more. Also, from its appearance, the flower the cowslip. Used figuratively in THE POETICAL REGISTER of 1794: While in rhyme's galligaskins I enclose The broad posteriors of thy brawny prose. Sterne says, in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1761): His whole thoughts . . . were taken up with a transaction which was going forwards . . . within the precincts of his own galligaskins.


(1) To yelp. Caxton's translation (1481) of THE HISTORYE OF REYNART THE FOXE stated: He mawede and galped so lowde that martynet sprang up. Old Saxon galpon, to boast; Dutch galpen, to bark, yelp; yelp is another form of this word. By association with gape, however, galp more frequently (14th to 17th century) meant to yawn, to gape; to vomit forth; also to gape after in desire, as in the AENEIS of Stanyhurst (1583), which pictures Charybdis with broad jaws greedelye galping. Chaucer in THE SQUIRE'S TALE (1386) has: With a galpyng mouth them alle he keste.


A keeper of the goal, a jailer.


To do, to make; to cause, to make (someone) do (something) as What garres thee greete? (q.v..) in Spenser's THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL), A common word from the 13th century; later mainly Scotch and dialectal. Burns in TAM O' SHANTER (1790) has: He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl; Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) : Ye like to gar folk look like fools.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by using (1) rumbles of the belly a sort of "fatiloquency," said Rabelais (1533), long practiced in Ferrara (2) ventriloquism (3) a child looking into the "belly" of a glass bottle of water.


(1) (Verb) (a) to handle; especially, to fondle or mishandle a female. R. Fletcher, translating (1656) the EPIGRAMS of Martial, said: Each lad took his lass by the fist and . . . squeezed her and gaumed her. Also goam. (b) To smear with a sticky substance. Also gome. Hence gaumy, daubed, smeary; sticky, (c) To stare vacantly, to gawk, to look like a fool. All these were common, shading into dialect use, 17th into the 19th century. (2) (Noun) (a) heed, attention, notice; understanding. More commonly gome (13th to 16th century); but the other spelling lasted into the 19th century in compounds: gaumless, stupid, lacking sense; gaumlike, with an intelligent air; She were a poor, friendless wench, says Mrs. Gaskell in SYLVIA'S LOVERS (1863) , but honest and gaumlike. (b) Gome, also guma, gom, etc., a man. This was a common Teuton word, its root ghomon being related to Latin homo, hominis, man. It survived in poetic use into the 1 6th century, and was the original ending of bridegome, wedding man, later corrupted into bridegroom.


Barren, unproductive; by transference (scantily produced) rare, scarce, uncommon; hence rare, unusual, extraordinary. A common word (gesne, gayson, gesen, etc.), 10th into the 17th century. Cp. peason. Also used as a noun (16th century) : a rarity. Udall in his paraphrase of Erasmus (1548) spoke of precious stones that are gayson to be found. That charming song of 1584, Fain would I have a pretie thing To give unto my ladie, has a stanza: Some goe here and some go there, wheare gazes be not geason, And I goe gaping everywhere But still come out of season. A legended shield was described, in a verse to Bossewell's ARMORIE (1572) : The siege of Thebes, the fall of Troy, in beaten massie golde, dan Vulcan hath set out at large, full geazon to beholde.


A dimple in the cheek that comes with smiling. Greek gelasinos; gelan, to laugh. Sampson Lennard in his translation (1612) of Charron's WISDOME, spoke of the cheeks somewhat rising, and in the middle the pleasant gelasin. Also gelastic, risible, causing or related to laughter. Both, naturally, are pronounced with a soft g. T. Brown had a prescription: My friendly pill, he said (WORKS; 1704) causes all complexions to laugh or smile . . . which it effects by dilating and expanding the gelastic muscles, first of all discover'd by myself.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by observing the manner of laughing.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the stars at birth; a form of astrology.


Noble; having the qualities expected of those of high birth, gentle, courteous, (of ladies) graceful. From Latin genitum, past participle of gignere, to beget. From meaning born, the Latin gentum came to mean born of Roman blood; then well-born; hence, noble in conduct. Villiers, in THE REHEARSAL (1672) speaks of a man so modest, so gent. Spenser, who uses the word 14 times in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) there says, for example, He loved, as was his lot, a lady gent. The form gent was supplanted by gentle, from French gentil, and by genteel, re-adopted from gentil in the late 16th century.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by digging in the earth.


Full; closely akin. Said of children of brothers and sisters, as sister-german, first cousin; loosely used of other kinship, as in Shakespeare's TIMON OF ATHENS (1607) : Wert thou a leopard, thou wert germane to the lion. Also germain, germeyn, germayne, germane, jarman, jermaine, and the like. Latin germanus, in the same sense; germen, germinem, sprig, sprout, bud; also used in English to mean germ; by Shakespeare first, in MACBETH, and in KING LEAR: And thou all-shaking thunder, Strike flat the thicke rotundity o' th' world, Crack natures moulds, all germaines spill at once That makes ingratefull man. Shakespeare uses german in HAMLET -- The phrase would be more germaine to the matter, If we could carry cannon by our sides -- in the sense of closely connected, pertinent, relevant; this sense has continued, usually with the spelling germane.


(1) A cat, especially a male cat. Gib is a pet name of Gilbert. To play fy gib, to look or speak threateningly (as though scolding -- Fie! -- a cat) . To play the gib (of a woman) , to be quarrelsome; hence gib was used as a term of reproach for an old woman; Drayton in HEROIC EPISTLES (1598) piles it on: Beldam, gib, witch, nightmare, trot. Also your gibship, in scorn of a woman. A gib-cat, gibbed-cat, a gelded male cat. (2) The form gib also (Latin gibba) meant hump -- used from the 15th century; hence gibbous, protruberant; gibbose; gibbousness, gibbosity. (3) Also (16th century) gib, a hook; gibby or gibby-stick, gib-stick, gibbey, a stick with a hooked or curved handle; also a candy in that shape, like a peppermint cane. -- 'Sblood, says Falstaff in Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART ONE (1597), I am as melancholy as a gib-cat. In HAMLET, the Prince, bitterly taunting his mother, alludes to the King in several ways: For who that's but a Queen, fair, sober, wise, Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib, Such dear concernings hide?


The early form of giant, 10th into the 17th century. Via Latin gigantem, from Greek gigas, giganto-. This form of the Greek word survives in gigantic, which was preceded in English by gigantean and gigantal; thus Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais says: This gigantal victory being ended, Pantagruel withdrew himself to the place of the flaggons.


A wanton woman; rarely, also, a dissolute man. Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART ONE says: Young Talbot was not born To be the pillage of a giglot wench. The influence of the word giggle developed the forms giglet, gigglet, and softened the meaning (18th and 19th centuries) to a laughing, romping girl. Cp. fizgig. Thus Shakespeare cries, in MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1603) : Away with those giglets, whereas in Chambers' JOURNAL OF POPULAR LITERATURE for 1885 we find the query: Why should female clerks in the postal service consist of pert giglets hardly out of their teens? Hence giggly means prone to giggle, but gigly (15th through 17th century) meant lascivious.


A narrow-minded, conventional member of the middle class. This was not a nobleman, said Carlyle (MISCELLANY, 1830), or gentleman, or gigman, but simply a man! Carlyle, who coined the word, explained it by quoting from a trial (of Thurtell) : "What do you mean by 'respectable?" "He always kept a gig." [This gig is not 'a romping girl,' but 'a light two-wheeled one-horse carriage.'] Hence, the gigmania of the times; gigmanism, the typical middle-class attitude; gigmanity, the group that manifests this attitude. Mrs. Grundy was a gigwoman.


A leg or haunch (of mutton or veal); a slice; a minced meat or sausage. Also, a leg-of-mutton sleeve. From the French; also gigget, jigotte, jigget. M. Scott in THE CRUISE OF THE MIDGE (1834) said that a good practical sermon should be like a jigot o' mutton, short in the shank and pithy and nutritious. A 1676 recipe for roast gigget of mutton: Take your gigget with cloves and rosemary, lard it, roast it, baste it with butter, and save the gravy, and put thereto some claret wine, with a handful of capers; season it with ginger and sugar, when it is boiled well, dish up your gigget, and pour on your sauce.


A pouch or purse, usually hung from the girdle. Also gypcyere, gypsire, gipciere and the like. Chaucer, in the Prologue to THE CANTERBURY TALES (1386): A gipser al of silk Heeng at his girdel. Planche's HISTORY OF BRITISH COSTUME (1834) lists A gypsire of purple velvet garnished with gold.


Jesus. A euphemism; also jysse, jis, gisse, gys. Used in mild exclamations, as in mad Ophelia's song in Shakespeare's HAMLET (1602) : By gis and by Saint Charity, Alack, and fie for shame! Young men will do't, if they come to't; By cock, they are to blame. Note that By cock here is another euphemism, replacing By God -- with one of the bard's bawdy puns.


A musical instrument, like the guitar, strung with wire. Also ghittern, getron, gyterne, guthorne, guiterne; guiterre, whence guitar. Also cithern, q.v. Used from the 14th to the 17th century; revived (the word) by Scott in OLD MORTALITY (1816). Hence, to gittern; a gitterner.


Of a pale green passing into greyish blue. Greek glaukos, sea-color. Shelley in PROMETHEUS UNBOUND (1820) has Panthea say Ere-while I slept Under the glaucous caverns of old Ocean. Also glaucy, mainly in poetry, as in Barnes' madrigal in PARTHENOPHIL (1593) : Sleep Phoebus still, in glaucy Thetis' lap.


Used in the 14th century as a noun, meaning chatter; then and into the 18th century as a verb, meaning to talk deceitfully, to flatter. Also glavir; cp. glother. To glaver on was to lavish blandishments on. Hence glavery, flattery. Jonson in THE POETASTER (1601) says: Give him warning, admonition, to forsake his saucy glavering grace.


Window glassman


The soil; cultivated land; especially, land assigned to a clergyman as part of his benefice. A very common word, 14th to 18th century; thereafter mainly used poetically. Sometimes used to mean a clod, or a small lump (this was the Latin sense: gleba, glaeba, clod) ; also figuratively (1583) : Judas Iscariot, for a gleib of geir, betrayed his Master. Glebose, glebulent, glebous, abounding in clods; clod-like. Gleby soil, however, is rich, fertile soil.


A stiff starched collar, worn in Spain in the 17th century. Also golille, golilia, golila, golillio. Spanish golilla, diminutive of gola (Latin gula, whence gullet) , throat. A gullable (now gullible) person is one who will swallow anything, i.e., believe any tale. Cp. gull Wycherley in THE GENTLEMAN DANCING-MASTER (1673) said: I had rather put on the English pillory than this Spanish golilia.


(I) A foolish person. See widgeon. (2) A hiss, as in the theatre -- not the more vulgar sound meant today by the expression give him the bird. Also, sibilation in general; Tennyson in his MEMOIRS (1897) says that to write good blank verse requires a fine ear for vowel-sounds, and the kicking of the geese out of the boat. When an audience disliked a performance, the actors used to say (18th and early 19th centuries): The goose is in the house. (3) In special combinations: All his geese are swans, He always exaggerates; thus, to turn every (a) goose into a swan. Sound (all right) on the goose (in U.S. politics) , on the right side. The old woman is picking her geese, It is snowing. Also see Winchester goose. To shoe the goose, to spend one's time in unnecessary labor. Goose without gravy (in the British navy) : a flogging that does not draw blood. To say bo to a goose (boe, boh, booh), to speak; usually this expression is used in the negative; Blackmore put it coyly in CRADOCK NOWELL (1866): Bob could never say 'Bo' to a gosling of the feminine gender. (4) A game, also called fox and geese, played from the 16th to the 19th century; on a squared board with counters (17, in 1801) ; every fourth and fifth square pictured a goose, and doubled the move of a player landing thereon. Goldsmith in THE DESERTED VILLAGE (1770) refers to the royal game of goose; Byron in DON JUAN (1823) made play with this idea: For good society is but a game, The royal game of goose, as I may say. (5) A tailor's smoothing-iron; the handle had the shape of a goose's neck. Shakespeare plays on this meeting when the porter in MACBETH (1606), opening the gate of hell, extends the invitation: Come in, taylor; here you may rost your goose.


A young man; a serving-man, lackey. Maria Edgeworth In IRISH BULLS (1802) remarks that even the cottiers and gossoons speak in trope and figure. Gossoon is a transformation of garsoon, from from French gar&ccedil;on, boy.


An earhtenware jug, big-lbellled, Hence gotchy, bloated, swollen. Also gotch-gutted, corpulent; gotch-bellied. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries.


Slender, lean. Latin gracilem, slender. Also gracill, gracilent (18th century), gracilious (17th century). gracilescent, growing slender; narrowing, gracility, slenderness, leanness. Not to be confused (as it sometimes is) with graceful, from Latin gratia, thanks, attractiveness; gratus, pleasing, whence also grateful Among poets and fictioneers of the 19th century, the sound of the word affected its sense; it was used as meaning gracefully slender; e.g., in HARPER'S MAGAZINE (April, 1888): Girls . . , beautiful with the beauty of ruddy bronze, gracile as the palmettoes that sway above them.


To make ready, to prepare; hence to equip, to array. In HOBIE NOBLE (in Child's BALLADS, 1775) we hear that Hobie has graithd his body weel. Chaucer uses graith in THE REEVE'S TALE (1386). The word is from Old Teutonic; the Old English form was geraede, the prefix ge + raidh, whence English ready. To graith in the grave was to bury. Graithing meant preparation, hence also furniture, attire; SYLVESTRA (1881) by Annie Ellis says The lass was . . . willing, but sadly in want of graithing. Graithness (not used since the 15th century) meant readiness.


Anger; grief. Also, in the plural, troubles (in the 12th century, devils). Also graim, greme. Grame also was an adjective, sorrowful; and a verb, as in the phrase It grames me. The word is related to grim. Wyatt in his poem THE LOVER'S APPEAL (1557) inquires And wilt thou leave me thus? Say nay! Say nay! for shame! To save thee from the blame Of all my grief and grame.


Thank you. Also as an exclamation of gratefulness, or surprise: Mercy on us! Old French grant merci, great thanks. No gramercy, no special merit; also What gramercy. . ?, what reason. . . ? In Greene's A NOTABLE DISCOVERY OF COOSENAGE (1591) the coney said to the verser (cp. pedlers French) : "Now gramercy, sir, for this tricke," saith the connie. "lie domineere with this amongst my neighbors." Gramercy Park, New York is from Dutch Krummersee, crooked (arm of the) sea, which, there bent into Manhattan Island.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by using handwriting.


A rioter, bully, footpad. Latin grassator, from grassari, grassatus, to riot, to lie in wait, to attack. Hence grassation, assault; Donne (1610) speaks of violent grassations. The verb grassate, to rage, and the adjective grassant, raging, were used mainly of disease, though North spoke in 1734 of thieves,malefactors, and cheats, everywhere grassant.


Foul-smelling, fetid. Latin gravis, heavy + olere, to smell. Hence also graveolence. The accent is on the second syllable, e. Used 17th into the 19th century; applied to rancid butter, bad eggs, hell; also figuratively as in Bulwer- Lytton's ENGLAND AND THE ENGLISH (1833) : He strives to buoy himself from the graveolent abyss of his infamy.


Also gremious. Relating to the lap or bosom; hence, protecting, intimate. (Latin gremium, lap, bosom, therefore shelter.) Hence also, dwelling within the "bosom" of an alma mater; gremials (16th into the 19th century) were resident, active members of a university or society. A 1669 harangue against prostitutes called for a repentance that will snatch you out of their gremial graves.


A color: white and red; pale purple or red. Literally (French gris-de-lin) flaxgrey. Used from the 17th century. Killigrew in THE PARSON'S WEDDING (1663) averred: And his love, Lord help us, fades like my gredaline petticoat.


A blockhead; a 'great noddle.' Also groutnoll, grouthead, growthed, and more. Used from the 16th century; Urquhart's translation (1653) of Rabelais revels in the forms: Noddie meacocks, blockish grutnols, doddi-pol-jolt-heads.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by spinning in a circle (divided into zones) until falling from dizziness, the prophecy dependent upon the zone in which one fell. It's simpler to play roulette.


A fetter, a shackle for the leg. Usually in the plural: gives, guives, guyves; the word was probably once pronounced with the g hard, as in give; now the g is soft, as in gem. A common word (and instrument) since the 13th century. The word was often used figuratively. Shakespeare in THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT (1597) speaks of Playing patient sports in unconstrained gives; Disraeli, in CONINGSBY (1844), of the gyves and trammels of office. Gyve was also used as a verb, to fetter; as by Shakespeare in OTHELLO: I will give thee in thine own courtship. CIRCUMCISION (15th century) declared: My wittis be so dull with rudenes, And in the cheynes of ignoraunce gyved.

Hab Nab

Hit or miss; at a venture; at random; anyhow. Probably from Old English habbe, to have; nabbe, not to have. Also hab or nab; later, hob a nob, hob or nob, hob and nob; Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (I60I) says hob, nob is his word; give't or take't. Used from the 16th century; in the 18th century it was used when glasses were lifted to drink: Hob or nob, come what may. Hence, to drink hob or nob, to drink together in companionship -- whence the current use of hobnob today.


Maker of hoes.


Vain regret; the heedlessness that results in this. Also had-i-wist, literally, if I had known. Used from the 13th to the 17th century. Gower In CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) wrote: Upon his fortune and hs grace Cometh hadiwist full ofte a place. The BABEES BOOK (1460) warned: Kepe thee will from hadde-y-wyste. There was a common 16th century proverb: A wise man saith not, had I wist.


Apart from the sound of laughter, but perhaps arising as an exclamation of surprise, haha has been used since the 17th century (also aha, ah ah, ha! ha!, hahah, haw-haw) for a sunken fence, a trench, ditch, or other boundary to a garden that does not obstruct the view and is not visible until one is nigh into it. R. S. Surtees in SPONGE'S SPANISH TOUR (1852) tells of a hound that ran a black cart-colt, and made him leap the hawhaw. The word was also used figuratively; Mason in his EPISTLE TO SIR W. CHAMBERS (1773) wrote: Leap each ha-ha of truth and common sense. It became an 18th century fashion, as De Foe noted in his TOUR OF GREAT BRITAIN (1769) to be throwing down the walls of the garden, and making, instead of them, hawhaw walls.


In various combinations, half-bull, a pontifical letter of a new pope before his coronation -- the bulla being stamped with only one side of the seal, the side representing the apostles. half-cap, a slight and almost discourteous salute; Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607): With certaine halfe-caps, and cold moving nods, They froze me into silence. half-dike, a sunken fence, a haha. half-labor, a way of paying rent: half the crops or other product of the tenant's toil, that went to the landlord. halfheaded, stupid. halflang, halfling, a stripling, one not fully grown. halfman, a eunuch. halfkirtle, a short-skirted, loose bodied gown, commonly worn by courtesans; hence, a courtesan; Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART TWO: You filthy famish'd correctioner! if you be not swinged, I'll forswear half-kirtles. halfner, one that shares 50-50 (16th century). half-seas-over, midway toward a goal; Dryden in 1700: I am half-seas over to death; the sense of half-drunk came in the 18th century. half-tongue, of a jury half of whom were foreigners, as used to be allowed In England, in criminal prosecution of a foreigner. half-word, an insinuation; so used by Chaucer.


Holiness; a holy place, a chapel; a holy relic -- by which one might take an oath; hence, since the 16th century, By my halidom, often used as a mere exclamation, e.g., In Shakespeare's TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (1591) : By my hallidome, I was fast asleep. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the word was often spelled halidam, holidam, holydame, as though referring to 'Our Lady.' It is from Old English halig (German heilig), holy + dom, state.


The art or craft of fishing, or a treatise thereon. Halieutic, relating to fishing. Greek halieutikos; halieutes, fisher; halieuein, to fish; hals, the sea. Sir Thomas Browne in his treatise on VULGAR ERRORS (1646) mentions four books of cynegeticks or venation, five of halieuticks or piscation. Cynegetics, hunting, the chase, is also a 17th century word, from Greek kyn-, dog + hegetes, leader. President Eisenhower was an expert In halleutics as compared with President Washington, who fished two hours In the Hudson without so much as a nibble -- which may be why many presidents after Washington have taken up halleutics.


Writing about the sea. Although the word was used mainly In the 17th and 18th centuries, the practice lures many; in the early 1950's there was a flood of haliographic volumes. The word is from Greek hals, hali-, the sea + graphia, writing; but note that hals also means salt (the sea is salt) as in halogen, salt-forming, and haligraphy is a treatise or writing on the nature of salts.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using salt.


Gallows-bird; 'a bundle fit for the rope.' Used in the late 16th and the 17th century, especially by the dramatists. Beaumont and Fletcher, in THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE (1609) said: If he were my son, I would hang him up by the heels, and flea him, and salt him, whoreson haltersack! and in FOUR PLAYS IN ONE declared: Thy beginning was knapsack and thy ending will be haltersack [born bastard, to die hanged].


The obvious meaning, a saw used with one hand, occurs in Shakespeare's HENRY VI, PART ONE (1596): My buckler cut through and through, my sword hackt like a handsaw. There is less immediate point to the noted remark in Hamlet: I am but mad north north-west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw. It is plausibly suggested that handsaw here is changed from dialectal harnsa, for hernsew. This is itself a variant of hernshew, hernshaw, heronsaw, heronshew, heronshaw, and more, from Old French heronceau, a little heron. Thus the expression would mean: I know the bird of prey from the bird it preys on, I know my nose from my eyebrow. Early lexicographers (Cotgrave, 1611, followed by Johnson, 1755) took the ending shaw (q.v.) to mean wood, and explained hernshaw, heronshaw, as a wood where herons breed. A menu of 1440 called for pygge rosted . . . and hernesewes. The young heronshowes (1620) are by some accounted a very dainty dish.


A token of good luck; specifically, a gift as a token of good wishes for the New Year or a new occupation, a marriage, the first sale of the day, and the like. Probably in origin 'a giving of the hands,' a handshake, or a gift in the hand. Also hancel, hansel. By extension, the first sum received (on a new day, or as a first instalment); hence, the first trial or experience or specimen of a thing usually with hope or sense of good luck. Bring him a six-penny bottle of ale, Jonson has in BARTHOLOMEW'S FAIR (1614); they say a fool's handsell is lucky.


A game played since the 14th century, in which an object is shaken in the two hands held together; the hands are suddenly closed, and one must guess which holds the object. Usually the question was asked in a verse e.g., Handy-pandy, Sugar-candy, which hand will you have? Hence, used of two things when it doesn't matter which is chosen; also, a shifting, as from hand to hand; an object held in the closed hand, a covertly proffered bribe. To play handy-dandy, to juggle or toy with as though of no value; Carlyle, in FREDERICK THE GREAT (1862) : You cannot play handydandy with a king's crown. Also handidandy; handy-bandy; handy-spandy. Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) says, Change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the theefe?


A frequent nickname of Johannes; Jack. In the phrase hans en kelder (Dutch, Jack in the cellar) , an unborn child. Used by Dryden in THE WILD GALLANT (1663) ; Lovelace in a poem (1649) says: Next beg I to present my duty To pregnant sister in prime beauty, Who well I deem (ere few months elder) Witt take out hans from pretty kelder. Cleveland, the next year, used kelder figuratively: The sun wears midnight; day is beetle-brow'd, And lightning is in kelder of a cloud.


(1) Chance, fortune; hence, good fortune (whence the present meanings of happily and happiness; haply still means by chance). Chaucer, in THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN (1385) says: Hap helpeth hardy man alday. Milton, in PARADISE LOST (1667), said the serpent wish'd his hap might find Eve separate. Hap was also a verb; Shakespeare says, in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596) : Hap what hap may, I'll roundly go about her. (2) To cover; Hogg, in THE QUEEN'S WAKE (1813) pictures Her bosom happed wi' flowerets gay. Especially, to cover to keep warm; Nashe in A WONDERFULL, STRANGE, AND MIRACULOUS ASTROLOGICALL PROGNOSTICATION (1591) says that he shall hop a harlot in his clothes all the year after. This was perhaps slantwise reference to the word hap-harlot, used in the 16th and 17th century to mean a coarse or ragged coverlet. (3) To seize (Dutch happen, to snatch). In 16th and 17th century legal writings. (4) To turn to the right. A Scotch term, used as a call to a horse; opposite of wynd, to turn to the left. Hence the 18th and 19th century expression neither to hap nor to wynd, meaning without turning, on a straight course.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by soothsaying.


Also aruspicy. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the appearance of things being sacrificed (i.e. by inspecting sacrificed animals).


One who combed out or carded flax.


An escutcheon; especially, a square or diamond-shaped background on which are the armorial bearings of a dead person, often placed on his former home. The word is a shortened variant form of achievement, which also once had this special sense. Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) has No trophee, sword, or hatchment o're his bones. It was also used figuratively, as in John Fletcher's VALENTINIAN (1614): My naked sword Stands but a hatchment by me, only held To shew I was a soldier.


An early variant of haughty. Cp. haut Elyot in THE BOKE NAMED THE GOVERNOUR (1531) said: Yet is not majestie alwaye in haulte or fierce countenaunce, nor in speche outragious or arrogant, but in honourable and sobre demeanure . . .


Dealer in hay.


Keeper of fences.


The act of making, or the fact of being, dull or blunt. latin hebes, hebetis, dull; hebere, to be dull, sluggish. Cp. hebe. Hence English hebetate, to make or to be dull or blunt; used in the 16th and into the 19th century. In the 16th century hebete was also used as a verb, to make dull; hebescate, to grow dull or blunt Also hebetant, making dull. Both hebetate and hebete were also used as adjectives meaning dull, sluggish; Fitzgerald (translator of the RUBAIYAT of Omar Khayyam) wrote In a letter of 1840: I am becoming more hebete every hour. The 19th century chose more elaborate forms; hebetize, to make dull; hebetude, used in the 17th century for dullness, sluggishness, lethargy, became in the 19th hebetudinosity; Leigh Hunt, in THE INDICATOR (No. 37, 1820) used the adjective: dull, uninformed, hebetudinous.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --, using the entrails of sacrificed animals.


A plant (e.g., the Christmas rose); also, the drug extracted therefrom. From ancient days its medicinal and poisonous properties were known; in medieval and Elizabethan times it was highly esteemed as a cure for madness. So popular was it that the O.E.D. lists 15 derivative terms, such as helleborate, prepared with hellebore; helleboric, relating to it; helleborose, helleborous, full of, or related to, it. I am represented, protested Sit W. Hamilton as late as 1856, as one who would be helleborised as a madman for harbouring the absurdity. The name itself took many forms, among them elebre, elevre, hellebarus, helleboraster, hellebory. Bishop Hall in THE INVISIBLE WORLD (1652) said: These errors are more fit for hrllebore than for theological conviction; and in 1830 Scott (DEMONOLOGY) spoke of wretches fitter for a course of hellebore than for the stake.


Legacy-hunting. latin heredium, legacy + petere, to seek. Hence the adjective, heredipetous. Accent on the dip. In Milman's HISTORY OF LATIN CHRISTIANITY (1855) we read: Heredipety or legacy hunting is inveighed against, in the clergy specially. Today it may mark the man that marries a millionaire's daughter. There is but coincidental similarity to serendipity, q.v.


The day before yesterday. Probably a corruption of ereyesterday. Used in the 17th century.


Relating to the west (the ancient Greeks meant Italy; the Romans meant Spain) ; to the place where the sun sets, the land of the evening star. Greek Hesperia, the land of the west; Hesperus, the evening star. The Hesperides were the nymphs (3, 4, or 7, according to the tale) , daughters of Hesperus. With a never-sleeping dragon, they guarded the tree of the golden apples in the Isles of the Blest, beyond the Pillars of Hercules at the western edge of the world. Ruskin in MODERN PAINTERS (I860) names four Hesperides: Aegle, Brightness; Erytheia, Blushing; Hestia, Spirit of the hearth; Arethusa, Ministering. From the guardians, Hesperides came to be used for the garden, the Isles of the Blest, the Fortunate Islands; hence, a golden land of promise, of beauty and happiness, in the unreached west. Shakespeare in PERICLES (1608) used the word as singular, referring to Antiochus" daughter -- See where she comes, appareled like the spring! -- Before thee stands this fair Hesperides, With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touch'd. Hence hesperian, hesperidian, hesperidean, relating to the fortunate islands, idyllic, wonderful. References to the story were very common in the 16th and 17th centuries; Milton uses it several times, e.g., in COMUS (1654) warningly: Beauty like the fair hesperian tree Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard Of dragon-watch.


A variant form of highest. Also hexist. Found in the medieval proverb: When bale is hext, boot is next; a little later: When bale is highest, boot is nighest. Sackville differs, in lament at the fall of Troy in A MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES (1563): O Troy, Troy, there is no boot but bale.


A 16th and 1 7th century country dance, a variation of the hay. Perhaps the hay of Guy or Guise; there was also a 15th century French dance known as the German hay, haye d'allemaigne. Also haydeguy, heyday guise, hydegy, hydaygies, and a number of other forms that attest its popularity. Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) goes With heydeguyes, and trimly trodden traces. In addition to the still current meaning of mown grass, hey (hay) meant (1) a net for catching rabbits and other small game; (2) a hedge; especially one erected, not grown, sometimes called dead hey as opposed to the quick hey, a hedge of living bushes or trees; (3) a serpentine country dance. Hogarth in THE ANALYSIS OF BEAUTY (1753) said: One of the most pleasing movements in country dancing is what they call 'the hay': the figure of it, altogether, is a cypher of S's or a number of serpentine lines interlacing or intervolving each other. Hay was also an exclamation (in fencing) on hitting an opponent; in Latin the cry was habet, he has it, when a gladiator was struck. Hence hay, a home-thrust; Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) cries: Ah the immortal! passado, the punto revcrso, the hay.


An early variant of hiccough, hiccup. Also hicket, hitchcock, and more. Donne in POLYDORON (1631) said; Laughter is the hichock of a foolish spleen, but he notes himselfe judicious, or stupid, that changeth not his countenance upon his owne talke.


To bend; to slope; to bow to, to submit; to sink, decline, fall; to bend one's course; to turn aside; also, to bend toward, to incline to, to favor. Used literally or figuratively, from the 9th to the 16th century. Also used transitively: to bend something; to pour out (by tilting the container) ; this too was used figuratively, as to hield his wrath. The word hield was likewise used as a noun, meaning a slope, an incline; on held, in a bent-over posture. Hence, figuratively, an inclination; also, a decline, as in Nashe's LENTEN STUFFE (1599) : His purse is on the heild. Among other spellings of this common word were heald, heeld, helde, hulde, heel (in nautical use, as when a ship inclines, heels over).


A bitter purgative. Greek hiera, sacred + pikra, bitter. Also hickery-pickery, higry-pigry, and the like. Hierapicra has the accent on the first syllable, pronounced high. It was used from the 14th into the 18th century; used figuratively also, as in a sermon (1639) by Bishop Ward: There is too much of this bitter zeal, of this hierapicra in all our books of controversies.


Itinerant peddler.


In the phrase sworn at Highgate, put through a ludicrous rituaL Highgate was a spot on a hill, on the north road to London, where about 1600 a gate was erected, for the collection of a toll for the Bishop of London. Taverns naturally were opened nearby; at these, it became the custom to require an oath of all that stopped there before entering London. The traveler was sworn on a pair of horns fastened to a stick -- that is, on pain of cuckoldry -- never to kiss the maid when he could kiss the mistress; never to eat brown bread when he could get white; never to drink small beer when he could get strong. [Cp. small beer.] Then he was fit to be trusted in the big city.


Called, named. Thus Sidney (1580) : Even he, the King of glory hight. This form has survived, poetic or archaic, as in Irving's SALMAGUNDI PAPERS (1808): A little pest, hight Tommy Moore. From Old English haitan (cp. hest), this was one of the commonest verbs from the 8th to the 15th century; forms still survive in dialects. It meant to command, bid; call, summon; call (by name), name. It was also used in the phrase I hicht, I assure you. It had many forms. In the present tense, hat, hot, hiht, hight, hete; Chaucer in THE MAN OF LAW'S TALE (1386) : To grete God I heete. In the past tense, heht, heycht, hight, hahte, heet, heitte; hote (by error; Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR, 1579): A shepheard trewe, yet not so true as he that earst I hote. Spenser also uses the word (archaic by his time) in senses not elsewhere found: THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR, Say it out, Diggon, whatever it hight; THE FAERIE QUEENE, Charge of them was to a damsel hight . . . But the sad steel seiz'd not, where it was hight. As a noun, hight had the same meanings as hest: a command; a promise, a vow. But also hight (from hie) meant exertion, haste; and (from Old Teutonic hycgan, to hope) meant hope, glad expectation, joy. These two forms (haste; joy) were less common, lasting from the 10th scarcely beyond the mid-13th century. Hight was also an early variant spelling of height. With these nouns were verbal meanings: hight, to hope, to rejoice, to exult; by transference, to adorn, beautify, set off. Hence highter, an embellisher. Also hightle (14th and 15th centuries) , to adorn; hightly (llth to 13 century) , hopeful, joyous; delightful.


Propitiatory. Greek hilasmos, propitiation. Used in the 19th century.


Something or someone worthless; applied to a beast (as a horse) , a man or (less commonly) a woman. Perhaps hilding is from hield (q.v.), to bend down, to turn waywardly. Shakespeare uses the word In ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601), in CYMBELINE: A base slave, a hilding for a livery, a squire's cloth; in ROMEO AND JULIET: Out on her, hilding; and as an adjective in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : Some hielding fellow, that had stolne The horse he rode on.


Roof tiler.


A variant of hymns. Gascoigne in CERTAIN NOTES OF INSTRUCTION (1575) wrote that the most frequent verse form of his day, the poulter's measure . . . although it be nowadays used in all theames, yet in my judgement it would serve best for psalmes and himpnes. Poulter's measure was a rhymed couplet, an Alexandrine (12 syllables) followed by a fourteener. Its name was drawn from the practice of the poulter (poultryman) of giving two extra eggs with the second dozen. Cp. baker's dozen. For an example of poulter's measure, see appere. The fourteener rhymed couplet, broken into lines of four and three feet (thus with the rhyme in the second and fourth lines) became the common "short meter" of the metrical psalms and the popular ballads, renewed (1798) in Coleridge's RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER. Sternhold's metrical version of 19 of tht Bible PSALMS (1547; all the PSALM, 1562) popularized the form, but by his monotonous iambics with many monosyllables -- And with my myce upon the lorde I do both cal and crye, And he out of his holy hyl Doth heare me by and by -- contributed to the later quest of more varied diction.


In addition to its still current uses (noun: the female of the deer; adjective, posterior, as the hind quarters), hind, earlier hine, meant a servant, especially a farm servant; hence, a rustic, a boor. Shakespeare uses all senses of the noun. In AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) Touchstone proves he can ring the rhymes on Rosalind -- For a taste: If a hart do lack a hind, Let him seek out Rosalind; servant in the same play and MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR; rustic in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST and HENRY IV, PART ONE. The use as rustic also occurs In Milton (1645) and Jonson, who in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) protests: Why should such a prick-ear'd hine as this, Be rich?


A spouse who is a hindrance. In his COMMONPLACE BOOK (1843) Southey noted: There are hindermates as well as helpmates in marriage. [Helpmate was coined in the 18th century, modeled on helpmeet, a spouse. Helpmeet, however, is the result of a misreading, a running together, of two words in THE BIBLE, GENESIS: an help meet (suitable) for him, meaning Eve.] Thus hindersome, obstructive, harmful (from the 16th century); hinderyeap, cunning, deceitful (11th and 12th centuries); hinderful, impious, evil (13th to 16th century) . A hinderling, a mean or degenerate person; also (11th century) on hinderling, hindforth, backwards; (19th century) hinderlings, buttocks, as in Scott's ROB ROY (1818).


The burning of a horse in sacrifice. The word is used in 19th century discussions of (east) Indian practice.


The fountain of inspiration; the draught that poets drink. Hippocrene (Greek, fountain of the horse; it lowed from a rock on Mt. Helicon where the hoof of Pegasus struck) was the name of a fountain sacred to the Muses. O for a beaker, cried Keats in the ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE (1820), Full of the true, the blushful hippocrene.


Rough, bristly. Latin hispis, hispidem, with rough hairs. Used from the 17th century; also hispidity. Hence hispidulate, hispidulous, somewhat hispid. Used still in zoology and botany, the word has been used figuratively, as (1848) in the harsh and hispid law.


A stew of various meats and vegetables. Also hotchpot, hotch-potch, hodgepodge. The earliest form was hotchpot, hotch, to shake, mix + pot. It was changed to hodge probably because of the wide use of the name Hodge to mean a farmer or countryfellow in general. Hodge is a nickname for Roger. Hence, hodge-razor, a razor to sell to a greenhorn; hence Carlyle used the term to mean something only to sell, a sham -- in his MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS (1843; DR. FRANCIA) : Hodge-razors, in all conceivable kinds, marketed, 'which were never to but only to be sold!' The other meanings of hodge-podge are still used. Cp. olio.


A pudding made with many ingredients. Shakespeare uses the word figuratively, of the big-bellied Falstaff, in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) : Ford: What, a hodgepudding? a bag of flax? Mistress Page: A puft man?


Secrecy, concealment; hence intrigue; hence muddle, confusion, trouble. Also, one who keeps things secret; hence, a hoarder, a miser. This is one of a group of terms with the same meaning, from the 15th century: hudder-mudder, hucker-moker, hokermoker; the form that has survived is hugger-mugger, sometimes shortened to hugger-mug. In hugger-mugger, secretly. Speaking of Polonius, in Shakespeare's HAMLET (1602) , the King says We have done but greenly In huggermugger to inter him. Hugger-mugger and hugger are also verbs, meaning to keep secret, to act or meet in a clandestine manner, to act in a muddled way. (Hugger also, in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in Scotland, meant a stocking without a foot.) Mary Charlton in THE WIFE AND THE MISTRESS (1803) spoke of someone who had saved a mort of money . . . and behold, it was all hugger-muggered away.


The last day of the year; also, a gift given on that day. Especially in Scotland and northern England, since the 17th century. The children go from house to house, singing carols and crying Hogmanay! -- hagman heigh; hanganay; hogmynae -- in hope of a present. A similar custom had developed earlier in France, to the cry of Aguillanneuf! Note, however, that hogmoney was the name given, to the early 17th century coinage of the Seiners (now Bermudas) Isles: copper pieces, silvered, with a hog on the obverse.


A high or piquant flavor; a relish; a highly flavored dish. Also, a 'high' or putrescent flavor, an offensive taste or smell, a stench. Also hogo, hough goe, how go, huggo, and the like; corruptions of French haut gout, high taste. Walton in THE COMPLEAT ANGLER (1653) favors garlic: To give the sawce a hogoe, let the dish (into which you let the pike fal!) be rubbed with it. Hogoo is also used figuratively, as by Crowne, in his play SIR COURTLY NICE (1685) : Lock up the women till they're musty; better they should have a hogo, than their reputations.


A copse, a grove. Used from the 8th century (BEOWULF), often in the phrase holtis hie, which may have led to the 16th and 17th century use of holt to mean a wooded hill. Scott differentiates, in THE WILD HUNTSMAN (1796) : The timorous prey Scours moss and moor, and holt and hill. Hence holtfelster, holtfeller, a woodcutter.


One that owes homage to a king or overlord; hence, an humble servant. Used figuratively, as by Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): Thou blushest Anthony, and that blood of thine Is Caesar's homager.




One who made hoops for casks and barrels.


Also Holster. Also Ostler. A groom who takes care of horses, often at an inn.


One who sold small wares.


An early variant of hurricane. Shakespeare, followed by Drayton, used the word for a waterspout, as in KING LEAR (1605) : Rage, blow, you cataracts, and hyrricanos spout.


A farmer who cultivated the land.


In Saxon times (hus-thing: house-assembly) a special council called by the king. In King Cnut's reign (1016-35) the hustings-weight set the standard for precious metals. The word husting (usually plural) was later used of the highest court of London; also, of the temporary platform from which nominations for Parliament were made; hence, the parliamentary election proceedings. Commenting on Macaulay's words against the "Jewish disabilities" in Parliament, THE LONDON QUARTERLY REVIEW (September, 1847) said: The principle, then, which is to receive its final triumph and complete development in a Judaizing parliament, is that the end of government has nothing to do with religion or morality; that 'an essentially Christian government' is a phrase meaning just as much as 'essentially Protestant cookery' or 'essentially Christian horsemanship'; that government exists solely for purposes of police and that therefore ( to quote the words of Lord J. Russell himself the other day on the London hustings) --'a man's religious opinions ought not to affect his civil privileges'. But the misfortune is that the proposition involved in this great principle is both philosophically untenable and historically false.


Also Ydromancy. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with water (in many ways).


With an insatiable thirst. The medical term (thirsty as a man with hydropsy or dropsy) is hydropic; hydroptic is favored by the poets. Thus Donne in A NOCTURNAL UPON ST. LUCY'S DAY (1649) says The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk, and Browning in A GRAMMARIAN'S FUNERAL (1855) has Soul-hydroptic with a sacred thirst.


An old form of hence, away from here, departed. Thus gone hyne, is no more. Also heir and hyne, in this world and the next. Hyneforth, hyneforward, hyneward; henceforth, hence. Rolland in THE COURT OF VENUS (1560) said God ordanit luve to be baith heir and hine.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the "tongue bone" or how the tongue wags.


In faith. By my faith. See fegs. A favorite oath of 17th and 18th century playwrights. Also (Jonson, 1610) i' fac; (Fletcher, 1625) i' fex; (Wycherley, 1673) y' facks; (Steele, 1709) i'fackins. Fielding (1742) and others omit the apostrophe: ifags; ifacks; Congreve uses it as a statement, in THE OLD BACHELOR (1687) : Nay, dear Cocky, don't cry; I was but in jest, I was not ifeck. Also (Wycherley, 1672) i'fads.


Relating to medicine; medical; medicinal. Greek iatros, healer, iasthai, to heal. Also iatrical. (The first i is long). Hence iatrology, the science of medicine. THE ENGLISHMAN'S MAGAZINE of February 1865 mentioned, of Aesculapius, The iatric powers with which he is credited. Burton in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (162!) spoke of iatromathematical professors, meaning persons that applied astrology in their medical practice; but in 17th century Italy a school of iatromathematicians arose, whose system of physiology and medicine was based on mechanics and mathematics.


(I) Over-ambitious or presumptuous; leaping high to one's own ruin. From Icarus, son of Daedalus (cp. daedal), who in escaping from Crete, despite his father's warning flew so high that the sun melted the wax that held his wings, and he fell into the Aegean (Icarian) Sea. Thus Disraeli has, in CONINGSBY (1844): Your Icarian flight melts into a very grovelling existence. (2) Relating to an ideal republic, as described in Voyage en Icarie (1840) by Etienne Cabet, who later founded (and named Icaria) several communistic settlements In the United States. Nordhoff, in his history of COMMUNISTIC SOCIETIES IN THE U.S. (1875) used the word of persons: The Icarians reject Christianity (which had its communism before them).


A figurative expression. Greek eikasma, simile; eikazein, to make like, to depict; eikon, likeness, whence English iconoclast, image-smasher. Hence icastic, figurative. Henry More in the MYSTERY OF INIQUITY (1664) stated: The difficulty of understanding prophecies is in a manner no greater, when once a man has taken notice of the settled meaning of the peculiar icasms therein.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the next fish caught.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using images.


Jaundiced. Greek ikteros, jaundice; also, a yellowish-green bird the sight of which supposedly cured persons afflicted with the disease. In the 17th century, the word was used figuratively, as when Bishop William Barlow wrote, in his ANSWER TO A NAMELESS CATHOLIC'S CENSURE (1609) : His gall overflowes, and he must void it by his pen in his icteritious pamphlet.


An individual or personal state of feeling. Greek idios, one's own, personal, private + pathos, feeling. The accent falls on the op. Among the many forms compounded from idios, mention might be made -- will be made of -- idiorepulsive, self-repelling; idiocrasy, a 17th century short form of idiosyncrasy; idioglottic, using words of one's own invention, like James Joyce; idiolatry, self-worship (a nonce-word but a widespread status); idiorrhythmic, living in one's own way (especially, of monasteries that allowed freedom to the individual; opposed to coenobitic) ; idiotion, q.v. a dictionary of words of one dialect or region.


An ignoramus. (Italian ignaro, ignorant.) Used in the 17th century as a common noun, probably from Spenser's use of it as a name, in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) : His name Ignaro did his nature right aread.


Sluggishness, sloth. (Accent on the first syllable.) From Latin ignavus, idle, sluggish; in, not + gnavus, busy, industrious. Carlyle, in a pamphlet of 1850, exclaimed: Nations, sunk in blind ignavia, demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness.


Vomiting fire. (From Latin ignis, fire + vomere, to vomit.) The accent falls on the ni (short i) . Obviously of volcanoes, but frequent, figuratively, in 17th century sermons and pamphlets, as in Harsnet's A DECLARATION OF EGREGIOUS POPISH IMPOSTURES (1603): What a monstrous coil would six or seven ignivomous priests keep in hell!


Forgiveness; forgiving spirit Accent on the no. Latin in, not + gnoscere, notum, to take notice of; root gno, to know, as also in ignore, ignorant; recognize. To ignore first meant to be ignorant of; the meaning 'to pay no attention to' was first applied In the 19th century. Trapp in his COMMENTARY (1647; I CORINTHIANS) speaks of innocency and ignoscency. Note, however, that ignote means a person unknown, or (as an adjective) unknown; ignotion, an ignorant and erroneous notion; ignotism, a mistake due to ignorance.


To ensnare, entangle, as in a noose; Latin in + laqueare, to snare; laqueus, noose, net; remembered in the goodly Dr. Laqueur. See laqueat. Hence also illaqueate, ensnared; illaqueation; illaqueable, Coleridge (in his LITERARY REMAINS, collected 1834), says: Let not . . . his scholastic retiary versatility of logic illaqueate your good sense.


To entice, allure, charm. It were therefore better, said Elyot in THE GOVERNOUR (1531), that no music be taught to a noble man, than . . . he should . . . by be illected to wantonness. From Latin illicere; in + the root lacere, to entice, related to laqueus, a snare, a noose. See illaqueate; allect The form illect developed more complicated forms: illective, attractive; illectation, enticement; but also illecebration, allurement, and illecebrous (accent on the le, short e), alluring, also used by Elyot: The illecebrous dilectations of Venus. Note that with the prefix de, down, the common words delightful, delicious, delectable, are from the same source.


Fearless. From Latin in, not + pavidus, fearful. Thackeray in PENDENNIS (1849) remarked that Calverley and Coldstream would have looked on impavidly. These forms appeared only in the 19th century; in the 17th, irnpavidity was used, in the sense of foolhardiness: impavidity, or lack of just fear.


A form in Shakespeare's CYMBELINE (1611) for imperceiverant, not perceiving, imperceptive, undiscerning. The positive form perceciverant was used (once?) in the 16th century. Shakespeare says: The lines of my body are as well drawne as his . . . yet this imperseverant thing loves him in my despight.


To pawn, to pledge. Latin in + pignor-, from pignus, a security, a pledge, a pawn. Cp. hypo- (hypothecate). Used in English from the 16th century; also impignoration, as in Hakluyt's VOYAGES (1598): all arrestments, reprisals, and impignorations of whatsoever goods and marchandises in England and Prussia . . . are from henceforth quiet, free, and released. From the 17th century the simple forms were also used: pignorate, to give or to take as a pledge; pignoration; pignorative, pawning; pignoratitious, relating to pawning or things pawned,


Diligence, quickness, alertness. From Latin in, not + piger, pigris, sluggish, slow. In 17th and 18th century dictionaries. Also impigrous (accent on the imp), diligent, quick, ready.


To fatten. Latin in, in + pinguis, fat. Thus Gideon Harvey, in MORBUS ANGLICUS (1666) states that Rhenish wines do accidentally impinguate.


Replenished; filled Latin in, in + plere, pletumr to fill; whence also complement, complete; implement; plethora is from the Greek form plethein, to fill. Implete is listed by Puttenham in THE ARTE OF ENGLISH POESIE (1589) as a word "not so well to be allowed by us"; it was used through the 17th century, then dropped, (19th century America used implete as a verb, to fill.) Other words on Puttenham's list audacious, egregious, compatible have, in spite of his disapproval, lingered.


To place or set upon, to impose; to impose upon; to 'lay' upon, to wager. Latin im, in, on + ponere, positus, to place; whence imposition. Shakespeare is the only writer that has used the word in the sense of to wager (HAMLET, 1623 edition; the Quartos have impound, impawn'd) : The King sir has wag'd with him six Barbary horses, against the which he impon'd as I take it sixe French rapiers and poniards -- and as the effeminate Osric is speaking, the spelling may be intended to indicate an affected pronunciation of impawn, to pledge; to put in hazard.


Originally this was an adjective (16th century), meaning flesh-colored. There was a slightly earlier verb, to incarn, to cover with flesh, make flesh grow, embody in flesh -- as in THE MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES (1563) : The duke of Glocestre that incarned devyll. Cp. incarnate. Since Shakespeare's use in MACBETH (1605), however, incarnadine has meant colored blood-red or, as a verb, to redden. After the murder of the King, Macbeth exclaims: Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous incarnadine, Making the green, one red. Lady Macbeth responds: A little water clears us of this deed, not knowing that she will later lament: What, will these hands ne'er be clean? . . . Here's the smell of the blood stil. All the perfumes of Arabia will notsweeten this little hand.


This not wholly unremembered word was used by Shakespeare HENRY V, 1599; TITUS ANDRONICUS) only in reference to the devil in human shape. He also used, in the same sense, the forms incardinate, incarnal, incarnation.


To enclose; embrace. Used first by Shakespeare, in ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA (1608) : What ere the ocean pales, or skie inclippes, Is thine, if thou wilt ha't.


Delicate, pretty, choice. The word was popular, especially among playwrights (Marlowe, Middleton, Jonson) around 1600. Shakespeare used it twice in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : My sweet ounce of man's flesh, my inconie Jew . . . most sweet jests, most inconie vulgar wit. There are several guesses as to its origin; it may be a corruption of French inconnu, unknown, hence rare, hence choice.


To thicken, to condense; to dull, stupefy. Latin crassus, thick, crass. Also as an adjective, as in a sermon of Hammond's (1659) : Their understandings were so gross within them, being fatned and incrassate with magical phantasms. Also incrassant, thickening; incrassative, able to thicken; incrassation, incrassion. Used from the 17th century; current as scientific terms.


To scold, rebuke. Latin in, against + crepare, to make a noise, creak. Hence increpative, increpatory, chiding, rebuking; increpation, reproof, rebuke. Used in the I6th and 17th centuries, especially in sermons.


A dandy, a fop; first used in 1795 of the French. Via French, literally, unbelievable -- as one was, to behold -- from Latin in, not + credere, to believe. Supposed to have been borrowed from or influenced by a favorite phrase of the time: C'est vraiment incroyable, It's really incredible! Carlyle in SARTOR RESARTUS (1831) asks mockingly: Wert thou not, at one period of life, a buck, or blood, or macaroni, or incroyable, or dandy, or by whatever name ... such phenomenon is distinguished?


To search into, investigate. From Latin indagare, to investigate, hunt for, explore. Hence indagator, indagation; indagacious, inclined or eager to investigate; indagative, characterized by seeking; indagatory, relating to or of the nature of investigation. The word was occasionally (in the 17th century) spelled as though confused with indicate; thus in 1653 we find mention of the soul, the indigatrix of all things.

Indian Summer

The first known use of Indian summer appeared in 1778, when a French-American farmer used the phrase to describe a period of "smoke and mildness" that preceded the frost. Elsewhere, this extended season is known as St. Martin's summer, as occurring around Martinmas (November 11).


Of native origin; an early form of indigenous; also, indigenary, indigcnal, indigenital. An indigene, indigena, a native. Latin indu, an early form of in + gen-, gignere, gentium (whence genital) , to bear, to be born. Indigenity, the state of being native. Note that indigent, lacking, deficient; poor -- indigency, indigence -- are from Latin indu + egere, to want. And that indigerablc, that cannot be digested, is from dis, apart + gerere, gestus; digerere, to set in order, to digest. Indigest, undigested, crude, shapeless, confused, was in use from the Hth century; Shakespeare used it as a noun, a shapeless mass, in KING JOHN (1595) : You are born To set a forme upon that indigst, Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.


A hero regarded as the patron deity of his city or country. A common practice among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans; of their rulers, it became routine. The COMPLAYNT OF SCOTLANDE (1549) mentioned Amasis the sycond, quhilk was the last kyng and indegete of the Egiptiens, explaining: Indigetes war goddisof Egipt quhilkis hed beene verteouse princes quhen thai lyvit.


The act of pointing out; indication; demonstration; a declaration. Also, calculating or conversing by means of the fingers; also, interlocking the fingers of two hands, as children used to sit in school or sweethearts walk. Also to indigit, indigitate, to proclaim, to call by name, to point out, to point to; to interlock fingers. Latin indigitare, indigitatum, associated with digitus, finger (whence also the ten digits) but probably different in origin and originally meaning to invoke a god; hence, to call upon, to proclaim, to declare. Cp. indigitament. The sense, to point out, to point to, is of course sprung from the association with digitus. Sir Thomas Browne in PSEUDODOXIA EPIDEMICA (1646) declared that Juvenall and Perseus were no prophets, although their lines did seeme to indigitate our times.


Unworthy. Used from the 15th century; Latin in, not + dignus, worthy; whence also dignity. Indignation first meant the act of treating a person as unworthy of attention or regard; earlier, indignancy, indignance; Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) : With great indignaunce he that sight forsooke. To indign (from the 15th century), to be indignant at, to resent; to treat with indignity. Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) has: All indign and base adversities make head against my estimation.


Incapable of being taught. From Latin in, not + docere, doctus, to teach -- whence also doctor, doctrine, and more. Note that docere also gives English both docible, apt to be taught (16th through 18th century), and the still current docile, easily taught; hence, submissive to training. Hence also indocile, untractable; indocility, unruliness. But also (17th into the 19th century) indocibility, incapability of being taught; Jeremy Taylor in 1647 speaks of pevishness and indocibleness of disposition. As early as 1666 we find comment on the English indocible humor.


To entice, to allure. From Latin in, in + csca, bait, food. Prynne, in HISTRIOMASTIX (1633) cries out upon all the inescating lust-inflaming solicitations . . . that either human pravity or Satan's policie can invent Hence also inescation. Inescatory was used, more literally, in the 19th century: inescatory traps, and others with snares. From Latin esca also came inesculent, not edible; Peacock in CROTCHET CASTLE (1831) says: I care not a rush (or any other aquatic and inesculent vegetable) who or what sucks up either the water or the infection. See escal.


Unlucky, ill-omened. See faust. A fairly common word, 17th into 19th (Bulwer-Lytton; Lowell) century. Motteux, in his translation (1708) of Rabelais, exclaimed O most infaust who opiates there to live!


Fitting with a buckle or clasp; especially, the fastening of the sexual organs, the application of a chastity lock. From Latin in, in + fibula, a fastening, shortened from figibula from figere, fixus, to fasten, to fix. Infibulation (the word) was English, 17th into the 19th century; the sexual practice was applied to young male singers by the Romans, to girls among many primitive peoples, to women by the medieval Crusaders. The verb is listed in 17th and 18th century dictionaries, but DeQuincey in his essay on Sir W. Hamilton (1847) says 'Infibulate' cannot be a plagiarism, because I never saw the word before; and, in fact, I have this moment invented it. John Bulwer, in ANTHROPOMETAMORPHOSIS (1650) , describes masculine infibulation as "buttoning up the prepuce with a brass or silver button."


Not witty. Facete is an older form of facetious. Peacock in CROTCHET CASTLE (1831) uses three forms: Mr. E: Sir, you are very facetious at my expense. Dr. F: Sir, you have been very unfacetiouSj. very inficete, at mine. The forms are from Latin facetus, polite, urbane; hence, merry, witty, jocose.


To pour in; to infuse, steep. Latin in + fundere, fudi, fusum. A primer of 1559 said: By infunding thy precious oil of comfort into my wounds. Also infude, infound, the latter usually in figurative use, as when More in RICHARD III (1513) wrote of the great grace that God giveth and secretly infowndeth in right generacion after the lawes of matrimony. To some extent these forms have been supplanted by the current infuse. Hence, an infundible, a funnel; infundibular, funnel- shaped.


To bury, entomb. Giles Fletcher wrote in CHRISTS VICTORIE (1610) : Disconsolat (as though her flesh did but infunerall Her buried ghost) she in an arbour sat . . . weeping her cursed state.


Used by Shakespeare (SONNET 86; 1598) to mean entomb: Was it the proud full sail of his great verse, Bound for the prize of all too precious you, That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse, Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?


(1) A kind of linen tape; a piece of this. Unwrought inkle, the yarn from which this tape is made. Autolycus, we are told in Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE (1611), hath ribbons of all the colours i' the rainbow, points . . , inkles, caddysses [see caddis], cambrickes, lawnes. In combinations: inkle-beggar, one that pretends to sell tape, as today pencils; inkle-eloquence, cheap, tawdry flow of words -- THE WESTMINSTER MAGAZINE of 1774 remarked: I have seen a powdered coxcomb of this gawzy make . . . flatter himself with the power of his inkle-eloquence. Thick (great) as inkle-weavers, intimate -- "the inkle-looms being so narrow and close together." Cp. nonesopretty. (2) As a verb, inkle, to hint, to let something be known. Hence, to guess at, surmise, get an inkling of; Blackmore has, in LORNA DOONE (1869) : She inkled what it was. In the 16th century, inklcth meant a hint or surmise; this has survived in the form inkling. Inkless, of course, means without ink; inknot, to tie in, to ensnare (the k is silent, as in knot) -- Long's translation (1879) of the AENEID speaks of a smitten snake: The rest, Retarded by the wound, delays it there Inknotting knots and twisting round itself.


To pollute; to corrupt. Also inquination. Used from the 15th century, popular in the 17th. Sir Thomas Browne used the word more than once; in 1646: An old opinion it was of that nation, that the ibis feeding upon serpents, that venomous food so inquinated their . . . eggs within their bodies, that they sometime came forth in serpentine shapes and in 1682: The soul may be foully inquinated at a very low rate, and a man may be cheaply vitiom, to the perdition of himself.


To carve, engrave, sculpture on something. Used in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Also to inscuip; to insculpture (18th century) Insculpture, a figure, design, or inscription carved upon something, was used in the 17th century, first by Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607): On his gravestone this insculpture which With wax I brought away.


Thickened. Also a verb, to thicken; Latin in + spissare, spissatum, to thicken; spissus, thick. Cp. crassitude. Hence inspissant, something that thickens; inspissation, the action (or an act) of thickening; BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of 1839 said: He could imbibe sixteen tumblers of whisky punch, without any other external indication than a slight inspissation of speech. Noted is Johnson's remark, quoted by Boswell, 16 October, 1769: In the description of night in Macbeth, the beetle and the bat detract from the general idea of darkness -- inspissated gloom.


To make tender, soften, mollify. Johnson prayed, according to Boswell (23 April, 1753): J hope they intenerate my heart. (Daniel used the same expression in a Sonnet of 1595, as the well-read Johnson probably knew.) D. Gray in his WORKS (1861) wrote: The teeming South Breathes life and warm intenerating balm. The verb intenebrate, of course, means to darken, to obscure. Latin tener, tender; tenebrae, the shades, darkness. Hence, inteneration, softening; intenebration, darkening, obscuring.


Without possibility of return. Latin ir, in, not + re, back + meare, to go, pass. This word, used from the 16th century, was sometimes taken as meaning irremediable, without possibility of cure, Dryden's AENEID (1697) said: The chief without delay Pass'd on, and took th' irremeable way. Pope in the ILIAD (1720) said: My three brave brothers, in one mournful day, All trod the dark irremeable way. Johnson (widely read but here with different application) wrote in a letter to Mrs. Thrale (3 October, 1767) : I perhaps shall not be easily persuaded . . . to venture myself on the irremeable road Today we think less undeviatingly of matrimony.


To bedew, to sprinkle. From Latin in + rorare, to bedew; ros, rorem, dew. A recipe of Lovell (1661) pleasantly suggests: They are to be fried and irrorated with the juice of oranges. Rawley in his edition (1638) of Bacon's HISTORY NATURAL AND EXPERIMENTAL OF LIFE AND DEATH says that to the inoration of the body, much use of sweet things is profitable.


A pet form of John, used in many senses and combinations. Especially, Jack, a name for a representative of the common people. Every man Jack, every single one. Hence, a low-bred or ill-mannered fellow; Shakespeare uses it several times in this sense (MERCHANT OF VENICE, 1597, bragging Jacks; RICHARD III; ROMEO AND JULIET: ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA). To play the jack, to play mean tricks; THE TEMPEST: Your fairy , . . has done little better than plaid the Jacke with us. Also, the figure of a man that strikes the bell on a clock; Jack o' the clock (RICHARD II) . In musical instruments (virginal, spinet, harpsichord) , an upright piece of wood on the back of the key-lever: press the key, the jack rises and an attached quill plucks the string. Shakespeare uses it as though it were the key: How oft, he says in SONNET 128, Do I envie those jackes that nimble leape To kisse the tender inward of thy hand. A measure of drink, half a pint (1787, Yorkshire); a quarter of a pint (1877, Lincolnshire), apparently as thirsts shrank. In this sense, half the northern Gill (associated in many references to Jack and Jill, in various senses) . Shakespeare in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1593) puns on jacks and jills, boys and girls, and measures for drinks (jugs) in Grumio's ordering tike household preparations: Be the jacks fair within, the jills fair without, the carpets laid, and everything in order? In the old game of bowls (somewhat like the Scotch curling), a jack was a smaller bowl for the players to hit; Shakespeare says in CYMBELINE: Was there ever man had such lucke? When I kist the jacke upon an upcast, to be hit away? This was also called the jack-bowl. Other uses, in combination, include: Jack among the maids, a gallant, a ladies' man. Jack at a pinch, one always ready, a handy person. Jack in office, a pompous, self-important petty office-holder. Jack in the low cellar, an unborn babe. Jacks o' both sides, "clawbacks and pickthanks," fellows that smile on both of two rivals or rival parties. Jack-o'-the-green, a figure of the May-pole gaiety, decked with ribands and flowers, carrying a garlanded staff. Jack's alive, a 19th century game: a burning piece of paper or match is passed around; whoever is offered it must accept it; the one in whose hand it burns up or goes out must pay a forfeit. Until then, each one receiving it cries "Jack's alive!" There was also a jack, short for jacket, used from the 14th century for a sleeveless, padded leather jacket worn by soldiers and in fencing. It is probably from this that the waxed leather jug was called a jack. To the buttery-hatch, said MUCEDORUS (1598), to Thomas the butler for a jack of beer. jack-a~dandy, a conceited, affected fellow, a fop; jack-a-dandyism.

Jack Ketch

The hangman. Jack Ketch (Catch, Kitch) was the common executioner from about 1665 to 1686; he seemed so bloodthirsty when the Duke of Monmouth and other political offenders were executed that his name was given to the hangman in the Punch and Judy show, newly introduced (Punchinello) from Italy; thereafter, it became the common term for an executioner, especially in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.


Originally, a night watchman. Also a will-o'-the-wisp, friar's lantern; hence, something misleading or elusive. Also jackalentern, jack-o'-lantern, jack-a-lanthorn. Sheridan in THE RIVALS (1775) has: I have followed Cupid's jack-a-lantern, and find myself in a quagmire. Rarely used as a verb: Meredith in ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS (1891) pictured: His puckish fancy jack-o'-lanterning over it.


A figure shaped like a man, set up to be thrown at, originally during Lent; later, at amusement parks. Also jack-a-lent; ]ack~o'-Lent. Hence, a butt; also, a puppet; a contemptible person. Shakespeare in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) has: See now how wit may be made a jacke-a-Lent when 'tis upon ill imployment . . . You little jack-a-Lent, have you bin true to us?


A buffoon; especially, a clown serving a mountebank. Also as an adjective, jackpudding nonsense. Used since the 17th century. Also jackpuddinghood Cp. bagpudding. Fielding in THE COVENT GARDEN JOURNAL (1752) protested that writers are not . . . to be considered as mere jackpuddings, whose business it is to excite laughter.


A restless tossing of the body. From Latin .jactare, frequentative of iacere, to throw. Even in Roman times the verb developed the sense of tossing words about; that is, of boasting; hence in English jactation, boasting, ostentatious display. Jactator (17th and 18th centuries) , a boaster. Hence also jactance (from the 15th century) , jactancy (from the 17th) boastfulness, vainglory. The Latin developed still another form, jactitare, to throw out publicly, often with implication of a false statement to harm someone; hence also in English jactitation, a boastful public declaration: especially jactitation of marriage, false declaration that one is married to a person, for the advantages that may ensue. There were laws covering this in England for four centuries; the DAILY NEWS recorded a case in 1892.


A fish peddler


A privy. See ajax. In Shakespeare's KING LEAR (1605) we find both forms: I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes with him . , . . None of these rogues and cowards but Ajax is their fool. The word is short for Jacques' house (Jack's house; Jack being a common term for man. Today we make similar reference to the John) A jakes-farmer, cleaner of the jakes.


This was originally an echoic word, meaning to make a harsh sound. Similar are charre, gorre, churr, chirr, chirk, chark. Jar was also used of a clock's ticking; Shakespeare in RICHARD II (1593) has: My thoughts are minutes and with sighs they jarre Their watches on unto mine eyes. By extension, to jar, to wrangle, to dispute; Marlowe in HERO AND LEANDER (finished by Chapman; 1598) says that Hero's lookes yeelded, but her words made warre; Women are won when they begin to jarre. Thus having swallow'd Cupid's golden hooke, The more she striv'd the deeper was she strooke.


Listed in the Sussex dialect GLOSSARY of 1875 as meaning a weary journey. That was the original meaning of jaunt (which now means a light and easy pleasure trip) . However, the verb jaunce (16th century) meant to make a horse prance up and down, to cavort; and jaunce in the second Quarto of Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) may be an error for jaunte; the first Folio has jaunt: Lord how my bones ake; fie what a jaunce have I had! Carlyle in REMINISCENCES (1866) said of a honeymooner, He was on his marriage jaunt.


A swine in America, which has its navel upon its back. So Bailey's DICTIONARY (1751) ; our folklorists might make something of this back-bellied critter, which the O.E.D. ignores. The nearest the DICTIONARY OF AMERICANISMS (1951) can come is to list the javalina (havalena), a piglike animal of the Southwest.


A rascal. Also jawvell, jevel, javilL Likewise havel, cavel, a worthless fellow; possibly from cavel, a stick of wood. Used since the 14th century. Spenser in MOTHER HUBBERDS TALE (1591) noted that Expired had the terme, that these two javels Should render up a reckning of their travels. Roper reported (THE LIFE OF SYR THOMAS MORE; 1557) that when More was preparing himself for his execution (the executioner by custom receiving the clothes the victim wore), as one that had bine invited to some solempne feaste, chaunged himself into his best apparell, which Master Lieutenant espienge, advised him to put it off, sayenge that he that should have it was but a javill. "What, Master Lieutenant," quoth he, "shall I accompte him a javill that shall doe me this day so singuler a benefit? -- Javel was also, In the 15th and 16th centuries, a northern word for jail; javeler, jailer. A wordbook of 1483 reads: a javelle, gaola, ubi a presone.


It is not this word, but its meaning, that is frequently forgotten. It has no connection with juvenile, being from Latin jejunum, fasting, abstinent; hence, barren, feeble; spiritless, dry; insignificant, trifling. It developed these meanings in Latin, and carried them all into English. Thus J. Beale in the PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS of 1670 wrote of poor and jejune people, who are accustomed to drinks almost as weak as water. The most frequent application of the word is to speech or writing that seems dull, insipid, flat. Hence jejunery (rare) ; jejuneness, jejunity. The 'seconde subtyll gutte' (1398) of the intestine is called the jejunum because it is usually found empty in autopsies.


(1) A dandy, a fop. Also, in the phrase Jemmy Jessamy (Jessamine) an effeminate or great fop. In the 18th century, a scale of eight degrees of sophisticate was listed; a greenhorn, jemmy, jessamy, bright, flash, puzz, pizz, and a. smart. (2) a riding-boot. (3) a light cane. A London street cry of the 18th century was: Come buy my pret-pret-pretty leetle jem-em-em-emmy sticks! (4) a great-coat (5) a burglar's crowbar. See jessamy. Jemmy is a pet-form of the name James. In all these meanings, the form jimmy was sometimes used; for the 5th, jimmy has survived.


Relating to breakfast. Latin ientare, to breakfast. Amherest, in his TERRAE FILIUS: OR THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD (1721) declared: Nothing more . . . can be expected from these jentacular confabulations. Alexander Knox in a letter to Jebb (1811) wrote: I therefore wish to close at this ante-jentacular hour. Hence jentation, breakfasting, breakfast Jeremy Bentham (died 1832) used to speak of his exercises in his garden as his antejentacular and postprandial circumgyrations. The O.E.D. gives only 19th century references for prandial (Latin prandium, luncheon), dinner and postprandial, the latter mainly jocular: postprandial potations, postprandial oratory. In Latin prandium (prae, before + dies, day) originally was breakfast; then, a late breakfast, usually of bread with fish or cold meats, eaten near noon; in England noon was at first the dinner hour. HARPER'S MAGAZINE for July 1883 spoke of expenses legal, medical, funereal and prandial.


A short strap, fastened one to each leg of a hunting hawk; on its free end was a ring to which the leash was attached. Also ges (plural gesses), chess, gest. Also used figuratively as in Shakespeare's OTHELLO (III iii; 1604) and Braithwait's THE ENGLISH GENTLEMAN (1830): Intangled with the light chesses of vanity.


A form of jessamine, jasmine. Hence, a yellow color; a perfume of jasmine. By extension (one that perfumes himself, or wears a sprig of jessamine), a dandy, fop. See jemmy. Another list than given there names the eight degrees of sporting sophisticate (1753): greenhorn, jemmy, jessamy, smart, honest fellow, joyous spirit, buck, and blood.


The spurt of water, or an opening therefor, in a fountain. French jet d'eau; jeter, to throw + d'eau, of water. Evelyn recorded in his DIARY for 22 October, 1644: The garden has . . . fountaines, especially one of five jettos.


A counter; an early form of the chips for calculating the score in cardgames. It was a piece of metal, ivory, etc., with an inscription or design; hence, a token, a medal. From French jeter, to cast; to cast up, calculate. The jetton became a collectors' item; Snelling in 1769 wrote a book entitled View of the Origin, Nature, and Use of Jettons or Counters, especially Those Known by the Name of Black Money and Abbey Pieces.


As Jill, a common name for a girl: every Jack shall have his Jill -- whether or not she come tumbling after. It is a variant of Gill, short for Gillian, Juliana, a very common Middle English name. By deterioration, jill (also gill; jillet, jelot, gillot; and gillver from gilliflower, q.v.) came to mean a giddy or flighty girl, a jilt; then, a loose woman. The original sense of jilt was a non-virgin; a strumpet; a kept woman; the current sense in to jilt, to raise hopes in love then cast off, may be of another origin. The Water Poet (WORKS; 1630) tells: But the mad rascall, when hee's five parts drunke, Cals her his drab, his queane, his jill, or punke, And in his fury 'gins to royle and rore, Then with full mouth, he truely calls her whore.


A large clasp knife. This word was used mainly in Scotland and northern England, from the 17th into the 19th century. It took various forms: jactaleg, jackylegs, jockylegs, and the like. There is an unverified suggestion that such knives were imported, and first made by Jacques de Liege, whence by corruption jockteleg. It is more likely that the large knife was worn at the side of the leg, jack being a word commonly applied to many tools. For quotation, see keelvine.


Cheerful, merry, gay. A common word, especially favored by poets, since Chaucer's TO ROSEMOUNDE (1380) : Therewith ye ben so mery and so jocunde. The o came into the word by association with Latin jocus, joke, jest; the word is from Latin jucundus, pleasant, from juvare, to help, to please. Hence also the rare English forms jucund, jucundity (16th, 17th, 18th centuries). Jocund was used by Shakespeare (ROMEO AND JULIET, 1592: Jocond day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountains' tops) , by Milton (L'ALLEGRO, 1632: And the jocond rebecks sound) , by Scott and more. Also jocundary; and the nouns jocundity, jocundness, jocundry. With Milton let us call the Muses to favour our close jocondrie -- or if we must, say with Byron We'll wear our fetters jocundly.


A stool with the parts joined (fitted) together, as made by a skilled hand. In 16th to 18th century expressions, (possibly with reference to the new-style privy or close stool) used to ridicule or insult: I cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool; used by Lyly (1594), Shakespeare, allusively in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596) and in full in KING LEAR, and more.


(1) An instrument for lighting pipes (19th century) . (2) A stand for holding toast and the like, with legs, but also hooks, so that it may be hung on a grate. (3) Brother Jonathan, the United States collectively, as John Bull for England; or a representative citizen. Said to be Washington's appellation (recalling the BIBLE: SECOND BOOK OF SAMUEL, i) for Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut. Lowell in THE BIGLOW PAPERS (1848) contrasted the English and the American: To move John you must make your fulcrum of solid beef and pudding; an abstract idea will do for Jonathan. Now Brother Jonathan has given way to Uncle Sam.


A pot or bottle used by alchemists and medieval doctors. Often used to hold urine for analysis; hence, a chamber-pot. So used by Chaucer (1886) and Shakespeare (HENRY IV, PART ONE; 1596; II i). By extension, as a term of abuse, a dolt, a foolish fellow.


A large drinking-bowl, a punchbowl; the contents thereof; especially, a bowl of punch. From the 18th century (Fielding; Goldsmith in SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER, I773: Then come put the jorum about, And let us be merry and clever) Also used to mean a large quantity, as when ST. JAMES'S MAGAZINE of December 1872 speaks of someone's being treated to a jorum of gossip.


(1) Possession (of something good) , enjoyment (of) ; pleasure, delight. French jouissance; jouir, to enjoy; Latin gaudere, to rejoice. All our joy and rejoicing come from the same source. The English word was also spelled jouisance, joysaunce, jouysaunce, and the like, Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) is glad To see those folkes make such jouysaunce. The 17th century misread the old u -- u being often used for v --and spelled the word jovisaunce (as in jovial, which, however came from Jove, Jupiter, and meant the disposition of one born under the influence of the planet Jupiter) in editions of Spenser and elsewhere, as in GOD'S PLEA (1657) by Reeve; We cannot abdicate wonted jovisances.


One who had served his apprenticeship and mastered his craft, not bound to serve a master, but hired by the day.


Also Joiner. A skilled carpenter.


To slit the throat of, to slay. Latin jugulum, collar-bone, throat, neck. Also jugulator, cut-throat. Ivor Brown in A WORD IN YOUR EAR (1945) suggests that Thackeray was thinking of Elizabethan songs --"Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo" when he spoke of the jugulation of a pseudosongstress.


A sweet cake, made since the 17th century. Also jumble. Often baked in the form of rolls or rings; Holmes in ELSIE VENNER (1860) speaks of hearts and rounds, and jumbles, which playful youth slip over the forefinger before spoiling their annular outline with a bite. A recipe from THE CLOSET OF RARETIES (1706): Take a pound of fine wheat flower', and as much white sugar, mix them into a paste with the beaten whites of eggs; put to the paste a pound of blanched almonds well beaten, and, half a pound of sweet butter; add half a pint of cream, and so mould it all well together with a little rosewater. Shape them into forms, and bake them in a gentle oven.


A tight-fitting garment; especially, a woman's outer garment of the 17th century. Also justacor, justycoat; chesticore, and more. From the French juste, right + au corps, to the body. Pepys in his DIARY for 26 April, 1667, has the entry: With her velvet cap . . . and a black just-au-corps. THE WESTMINSTER GAZETTE of 28 July, 1896, observed that in the Pyrenees the women look gorgeous in red justaucorps.


Awry, crooked. From the Celtic; Welsh cam, crooked; hence (also in English) cam, perverse, obstinate. Shakespeare, Motteux (in his translation, 1708, of Rabelais) used the k form, which Johnson gives in his DICTIONARY (1755). Clean kam, also kim kam, quite crooked, perverse, contrary to the purpose; Shakespeare has, in CORIOLANUS (1607): This is clean kamme. The 17th century might say: Everything went kim kam, or all this chim-cham stuff. Hence also the verb kimbo, to set awry; crooked -- like an arm akimbo. Richardson in CLARISSA (1748) thinks it ill for a wife to come up with kemboed arm. May you not have to cry, as Aubrey in 1692: This year all my businesses and affairs ran kim-kam.


An Indian dish much favored by the English in the 18th and 19th centuries: rice boiled with split pulse, onions, eggs, butter, and condiments. The English variety usually added cold fish, but served it hot. In the 17th century it was simpler: kitsery, pounded beans and rice boiled together. Also cutchery, ketchery, quicharee. Often served as part of the English breakfast.


A lump of fat, the fat of a slaughtered animal rolled into a lump. In Shakespeare: HENRY IV, PART TWO: Did not goodwife Keech the butchers wife come in then? In HENRY VIII (referring to Cardinal Wolsey, son of a butcher) : I wonder That such a keech can with his very bulke Take up the rayes o' th' beneficiall sun And keepe it from the earth. Some commentators on HENRY IV, PART ONE explain tallow catch as tallow keech.


As a verb, to cool. From the 9th century; Old English coelan; a common Teutonic form, koljan, whence also cool. Hence, to cool a hot liquid by stirring; by extension, to cool the passions, make less violent or ardent, to mitigate, lessen; to cool down, to lessen, grow less; HOW A MERCHANDE DYD HYS WYFE BETRAY (1460) said: The marchandys care began to kele. Shakespeare's song in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) runs While greasie Joane doth keele the pot. The HALI MEIDENHAD (1230) urges the man to kele thi lust, and a PENITENTIAL PSALM of 1508 sought to kele the hete of unlawful desyre. Thus in MERLIN (1450), The kynge yet was not keled of the love of the stiwardes wif.


A bargeman.


A wooden pencil. Also keelie vine; keelivine pen, a pencil. Keel was a reddish iron-ore used (15th to 19th century) for marking sheep. Vine referred to the wood (cedar) into which the keel (and later, lead) was put. The word was used in the 18th and 19th centuries; it also took the form killow, which in the 17th century (Johnson, 1755, also gives cullow; collow meant soot) was used to mean graphite. FRASER'S MAGAZINE of October 1833 has: In a hole he had jocktolegs, keelavine-pens ... or whatever else he could purloin.


As a noun. Care, attention; to nim (take, give) keep, to take notice; hence, care in watching. Hence, a place for keeping something, a cupboard, a meat-safe (to keep flies from flesh In summer: 17th century), a reservoir for fish; a clasp, button, or lock. Especially (translating Italian tenazza, hold) , the innermost, strongest, central tower of a castle, which served as the last defence; a stronghold. Thus Burke in a letter of 1796: Like the proud keep of Windsor rising in majesty of proportion, and girt with the double belt of its kindred and coeval towers. Scott gave the word fresh life for historical stories.


An early form of comb, which replaced it (also kemm) by the 17th century. See compt. The form kemb developed several meanings: to beat; to lacerate with a rake or comb; figuratively, to smooth, make elegant, as in Chaucer, THE SQUIRE'S TALE (1586) : So peyntcd he and kembde at point devis As wel hise wordes as his countenannce. Whence also kempt, combed, surviving In unkempt, kempster, a comber (of wool) , originally female, the male being kember. C.p. kemp.


Wool comber


Vainglory; the empty desire of praise or repute. Greek kenos, empty + doxa, glory, opinion; dokein, to seem. Found only in 17th and 18th century dictionaries.


The act of beheading. Greek kephale, head + tomos; temnein, to cut, as in atom, uncuttable, indivisible portion, appendectomy, and many more. The more usual form in English is cephalo-; but either form of this word is in deliberate quest of pedantic humor, as when THE SATURDAY REVIEW of 15 February, 1890, referred to the violent kephalotomic method for the abatement of party spirit proposed by Swift.


An early 19th century French military cap, with a flat top sloping toward the front, and a horizontal peak. Now used historically. In OF WHALES AND MEN, R. B. Robertson (1954) remembers: A century ago, in the days of corsets and kepis and before steel and plastics pushed our flesh and the flesh of our women in ways God never intended it to go, whalebone was the most valuable part of the baleen whale.


Accent on the nos (short o) . Greek keraunos, thunder and lightning; the thunderbolt. (Thunder alone was bronte, as with Charlotte.) Hence Greek keraunoscopia, the observation of thunder and lightning; divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --therefrom.


A chapped chilblain, especially on the heel. Hence, to tread upon one's kibe, to annoy. Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) says: The toe of the pesant comes so neere the heeles of our courtier, hee galls his kibe. And the CONTEMPORARY REVIEW of June 1883 said of suicide: How closely this spectre follows on the kibes of pleasure and extravagance.


(1) A fancy dish; not a substantial English recipe, but one of those 'somethings' the frivolous French concoct. From French quelque chose, something; hence kick-choses, kickshaws; this was later treated as a plural, whence 17th century kickshaw. Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) calls for a joint of mutton, and any pretty little tiny kickshawes. (2) By extension, anything elegant but trifling or unsubstantial; in Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) we hear Sir Andrew Aguecheek: I delight in masks and revels sometimes altogether, and Sir Toby Belch: Art thou good at these kickshawses, knight? Milton, in his essay on EDUCATION (1644) applies the word to persons: The Monsieurs of Paris to take our hopeful youth . . . and send them over back again transformed into mimicks, apes, and kickshoes. As early as 1658 we find protest against the kickshaw language, which these chameleon times love to feede on -- a pattern of speech and writing never since wholly set aside.


A whim or erratic fancy. Also kickie-wickie; kicksey-winsey, kicksy wincy, kickshiwinches; probably humorous variants of kickshaw, q.v. Shakespeare uses the first two forms (according to the edition) in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601) , as a jocular term for a wife: He weares his honor in a boxe unseene That hugs his kicky-wicky heare at home, Spending his manly marrow in her arms, Which should sustain the bound and high curvet Of Mars's fiery steed.


A cask, half a barrel ia size. Also kempkin, kinkin, via Dutch, perhaps from Latin quintale, fifth. By a statute of 1531, the beer kilderkin contained 18 gallons; that for ale, 16. There was also a kilderkin of butter, 112 pounds. The word was used figuratively, as by Peele in EDWARD I (1593) : Pluck out thy spigot, and draw us a fresh pot from the kinderkin of thy knowledge. And the cask grew smaller; thus Dryden says in MACFLECKNOE (1682); A tun of man in thy large bulk is writ, But sure thou'rt but a kilderkin of wit.


A swashbuckler, braggadocio; person (that thinks he is) of importance. From kill + cow, the cow being the most unwarlike of creatures. Richard Harvey in PLAINE PERCEVALL THE PEACE-MAKER OF ENGLAND (1590) exclaimed: What neede all this stir? this banding of kilcowes to fight with a shadow? Nashe in return (cp. bum; gallimaufry) calls Gabriel Harvey the kilcow champion.


An insatiable brat, presumed to be a changeling substituted for the genuine child. Near unto Halberstad, we read in Henry Bell's translation (1652) of Luther's COLLOQUIA MENSALIA, was a man that also had a killcrop, who sucked the mother and five other women dry, and besides devoured very much.


A small wicker-basket. Perhaps a diminutive of kipe, basket; kipe has been common since the year 1000, though now only in dialects. Also kibsey, kybzey. Gervase Markham, in COUNTRY CONTENTMENTS (1615) advises: With a gathering hook, gather those which be full ripey and put them into your cherry-pot, or kybzey, hanging by your side or upon any bough you please.


An earlier form of carat, "the weight of 3 grains." Arabian qirat; Greek keration, little horn; fruit of carob tree (locust bean); hence, a small measure. Turner in A NEW HERBALL (1568) says that if one kirat of it be given in wine, it maketh a man wonderfully dronken.


Used in various phrases, among which might be mentioned: to kiss the book, to swear by kissing the Bible, to kiss the cup, to drink, to kiss the post, to arrive too late and be shut out, to kiss the rod, to accept punishment submissively. to kiss the stocks, to be placed in the stocks; similarly, to kiss the clink. A kiss-cow is one that 'kisses the cow for the milk,' stoops to indignities for a consideration; also used as an adjective, as THE THE NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE in 1840: We have no such kiss-cow tastes. A kiss-me quick was (19th century) a small boanct set far back on the head; also, a curl of hair in front of the ear. As names of various flowers. The heartsease has been called kiss-me, kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate. Love-in-a-mist ss also kiss-me-twice-before-I-rise. Southernwood is called kiss-me-quick-and-go, perhaps because it is also called boy's love -- maiden's ruin. Also see kissing.


kissing-comfit. A small sweet confection for perfuming the breath. For a quotation from Shakespeare, see eryngo. This of course invited a kiss, and was sometimes called a kissing cause, as in SWETNAM ARRAIGNED (1620): Their very breath is sophisticated with amber-pellets, and kissing causes. A kissing gate, one that opened in a U-shaped enclosure, so that but one person could go through at a time; a kiss was the accepted fare. THE WESTMINSTER GAZETTE of 7 November, 1896, noted the disappearance of the last of the kissing-gates on Parliament Hill. kissing-strings, strings of a bonnet tied under the chin, the ends hanging. Scott in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) remarks that the old-fashioned terms of manteaus, saques, kissing-strings, and so forth, would convey but little information even to the milliners of the present day. Also try kiss.


A northern form of chest, used from the 13th century. Applied especially to (1) Noah's ark, (2) the basket into which the infant Moses was put, (3) a coffin. Also (in Scotland, from the 17th century) a verb, to put into a chest or coffin. I wad fain see thee kisted, I wish that you were dead.


To make known: by words, to announce, tell; by acts, to show, prove, indicate; to make manifest, to exhibit, discover; to appear; to show oneself; to acknowledge, admit, recognize. Kithe (also kythe, kyth, kith, kuthe; and in the past forms kydde, kithed, kudde, ikid, icud. kyde, etc.) was very common from the 9th to the 16th century. Chaucer used it, as in the LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN (1385) : I shall anon it kythe . . . She kytheth what she is. Scott sought to revive the word in THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL (1822) in the sense of proof: It would have kythed Cellini mad, had he never done ony thing else. The noun form, kith, went through more changes of meaning: knowledge, acquaintance; especially, knowledge of proper behavior; (as early as the 9th century) the country one knows, one's native land; then, persons known and familiar. Kith and kin originally meant country and kinsfolk; later, friends and relatives; by the mid-18th century it had become merely a loose phrase for kinsfolk. Sometimes it was corrupted to kiff and kin, as in Middleton's A CHASTE MAID IN CHEAPSIDE (1620) : A mayd that's neither kiffe nor kin to me. In his BUIK OF THE CRONICLIES OF SCOTLAND (1535) Stewart spoke of the grit wonder and miraclis that tha kid.


To tickle; hence, to excite, rouse (usually pleasantly) ; to puzzle with a riddle (tickle one's curiosity) ; also, to 'tickle' the fiddle and the like. This was a common word from the 10th century, and is still used in Scotland. Also kickle. Hence, as an adjective, kittle, ticklish, hard to handle, risky (a 'ticklish' situation) , delicate. TRUTH for I 1 September, 1890, said: Cleopatra is a kittle character for a London theatre, unless played by some French actress who has no character to lose.


A plant, of interbranched and knotted creeping stems, with tiny pink and crimson flowers. It was used --particularly the variety called male knotgrass -- to stunt growth, especially of the boys that played female roles in the Tudor theatre. Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590) cries: You dwarfe! you minimus, of hindring knotgrasse made. Beaumont and Fletcher in THE COXCOMB (1612) declare: We want a boy extremely for this function. Kept under for a year with milk and knotgrass; In my time I have seen a boy do wonders.


The habit of using literal expressions. In 19th century dictionaries; Greek kyrios, authoritative, proper + lexia, speaking; lexis, speech, word, as also in lexicographer.

Lac virginis

(1) A cosmetic; used in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Literally (Latin), milk of the Virgin. Nashe in PIERCE PENNILESSE HIS SUPPLICATION TO THE DIVELL (1592) said: She should have noynted your face over night with lac virginis. (2) A wine; perhaps a translation of German Licbfraumilch. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE said, in a poem of 1820: The parsons should grow misty On good lac virginis or lachryma Christi.


To catch in a net or snare; to variegate, streak with color (originally, from gold and silver lace) ; hence, to lash, whip (leaving streaks of the lash); to cut lines along the breast of a bird, for cooking -- laced fowl. Lace is via Old French from Late Latin laciare, Latin laqueare, to ensnare. Cp. laqueat. To lace coffee, from about 1675 to 1725, was to add sugar; Addison, in his satiric notes for A CITIZEN'S DIARY (SPECTATOR; 1711) wrote: Mr. Nisby of opinion that laced coffee is bad for the head. In most instances, a laced beverage is one to which a dash of brandy has been added. Laced mutton (sometimes just mutton), a strumpet, prostitute -- perhaps from wearing a bodice; or, with the waist drawn tight In Shakespeare's THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (1591), Speed says of Julia: Aye, sir. I, a lost mutton, gave your letter to her, a, laced mutton, and she, a laced mutton, gave me, a lost mutton, nothing for my labour. Lost mutton, of course, suggests the more serious lost sheep, which would also include the laced mutton.


Latin for tears; used by Beaumont and Fletcher; see sippet Lacrima (lachryma, lachrymae) Christi, a strong, sweet red Italian wine; sometimes just lacrima (lacrimae): literally, the tears of Christ. Also lachrymable, tear-worthy; lachrymabund, with tears ready to fall; lachrymation, weeping, lachrymental, mournful. (All these, instead of chry, may be spelled cri or -- naturally -- cry). Caxton has a rare use of the verb, in his translation (1490) of THE BOOK OF ENEYDOS: Thenne she began somewhat for to lachryme and sighe upon the bed. Fielding in THE AUTHOR'S FARCE (1731) boasted: Tokay I have drank, and lacrimae I have drank. Archaeologists have guessed that the tiny phials found in ancient Roman tombs were intended to hold tears, and call them lachrymatories (accent on the lack, which refers to evidence) . Carlyle in his MEMOIRS OF LORD TENNYSON (1842) declared: There is in me what would fill whole lachrymatories, as I read. The word was humorously applied to a lady's handkerchief, as in THE NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE in 1825: Women will be stationed in the pit with white cambric lachrymatories, to exchange for those that have become saturated with the tender tears of sympathy.


A person that owns no land; hence, a common person. Cardinal Vaughan in THE WESTMINSTER GAZETTE of 29 August, 1899, declared that the transference of the great commons of England to the rich created a lackland and beggared poor. King John of England, the Plantagenet, who ruled 1199-1216, was called John Lackland, a common appellation of younger sons, said the PENNY CYCLOPAEDIA of 1839, whose age prevented them from holding fiefs.


(1) A variant of lake, q.v., meaning play. (2) A variant of lay, pertaining to the laity, not of the church. Also used as a noun, meaning a layman, one not of the clergy. Lamb in IMPERFECT SYMPATHIES (ESSAYS OF ELIA; 1833) points out that oath-taking creates a sort of double standard of truth: A great deal of incorrectness and inadvertency, short of falsehood, creeps into ordinary conversation; and a kind of secondary or laic truth is tolerated, where clergy truth -- oath truth -- by the nature of the circumstance, is not required.


A medicine to be taken by licking, often given (in the 17th and 18th centuries) on the end of a licorice stick. Latin lambere, lambitus, to lick, whence lambent flames. Also lambative, lambetive; Steele in THE TATLER (1710, No. 266) has: Upon the mantle tree ... stood a pot of lambetive electuary.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using candles or what burns (and how it burns or how the wick floats about) in a lamp.


To pierce, thrust through. Latin lancinare, lancinatus, to tear to pieces, was changed in meaning (in Cooper's THESAURUS, 1565) by association with lance. In the Near East, lancinated chunks of meat are cooked before an open fire. Donne, in a Sermon of I630, declared that Every sin is an incision of the soul, a landnation. An acute, piercing pain Is a lancinating pain.


To make a hell on earth for. Shakespeare thus uses it (unless the text be corrupt) in THE WINTER'S TALE (1611): You are abus'd, and by some putter on, That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the villaine, I would land-damne him.


To fasten with a thong; especially, to tie together the legs of an animal to prevent its straying. Also, as a noun, a thong for such binding; a hobble. Probably from Latin lingula, thong, diminutive of lingua, tongue; but no intermediate French word has been found, Trapp In his commentary (1647) on the BIBLE: ROMANS wrote of this carcase of sin to which I am tied and langold.


A kind of shot for cannon, 17th into the 19th century, of bolts, bars, and other Irregular pieces of Iron, used especially against the rigging and sails of enemy vessels. Also langridge, langrel, langrill. Nelson in 1796 declared: It is well known that English ships of war are furnished with no such ammunition as langrage.


Worthy of being stoned. In 17th and 18th century dictionaries. Phillips (1706), however, defined lapidable as marriageable, fit for a husband. Originally lap meant a fold in a garment; especially a fold of the toga over the breast, serving as a pocket or pouch; the use of this, in such phrases as the lap and bosom of the Church, led to the current sense. Latin lapis, stone, has given us many English forms, e.g., lapidify, to turn to stone; cp. lapidity. lapidescence, turning to stone, as was the lot of those that looked Medusa in the eye; petrifaction (Latin peter, rock, on which the Catholic church stands).


Keeper of the cupboard.


A washerwoman; early and rarely also a washerman. Old French lavandier, lavandiere; Latin lavanda, things to be washed; lavare, to wash, cp. laver, The plant probably derived its name from being used (at least as early as the 16th century) for perfuming baths or for laying in newly washed linen; it may, however, be from lividual, diminutive of lividus, livid, bluish, shifted in form by association with the use. A lavendry (14th to 16th century) was a laundry. To lay in lavender, to store away carefully for future use; hence (15th and 16th centuries) to pawn; to put where one can do no harm, as in prison. References to such pawning are frequent; Chapman in EASTWARD HOE (1605) says: Good faith, rather then thou shouldest pawne a rag more lie lay my ladyship in lavender,, if I knew where. Greene in THE UPSTART COURTIER (1592) pictured a persistent evil: The poore gentleman paies so deere for the lavender it is laid up in, that if it lie long at a broker's housey he seems to buy his apparell twice.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using a bowl of water reflecting candle flames, a practice still current in some Slavic lands, especially at Christmastide.


Leather maker.


The art of healing. At leechcraft, under medical care. From leech, to heal; used from the 12th century into the 17th, as by Fletcher in THE LOYALL SUBJECT (1618) : Have ye any crack maidenhead to new leach or mend?; revived by Scott in IVANHOE (1820) : Let those leech his wounds for whose sake he encountered them. Also leche, lichc, leach; from the 9th to the 14th century, Icchne q.v., to give medicine, to heal. Also, 19th century, to leech, to bleed by applying leeches. The blood-sucking worm was probably named because it served as a leech, a physician.


(1) The earlier form of lose, in all Its senses. A common Old English word, continuing through the 16th century. (2) To loose, to relax, to unfasten; hence, to set free, release. This also was used into the 17th century, as by Middleton in YOUR FIVE GALLANTS (1608) : Keep thou thine own heart . . . I leese you again now. From the past forms lorn, loren, came the noun lorel, meaning a 'lost' soul, a worthless fellow, a blackguard, used by Chaucer (1374) and rather frequent (Spenser, THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR, 1579: Thou speakes lyke a lewde lortell), often in contrast to lord. A cock-lorel, cocklorel, was a jolly but thorough rogue; Gascoigne in 1577 spoke of a piece of cocklorels musicke . . . such as I might be ashamed to publish in this company. This form came from the name of the captain of the boat containing a varied assortment of rogues, of all trades, in the satiric poem Cocke Lorelles Bote (printed, 1515, by Wynkyn de Worde) From another past tense form of leese, losen (lost) , came a form losel, also meaning a lost one, a scoundrel; later, with weakened force, a ragamuffin, a ne'er-do-well. This form, from the 14th century, lasted longer, being used by Carlyle (1832), and Browning in A BLOT IN THE 'SCUTCHEON (1843): Wretched women . . . tied By wild illicit ties to losels vile. Both these nouns developed further forms: lorelship, loselism, loselry, rascality, lewdness; lorelly, loseling, loselly, loselled, rascally, lewd; lazy. Note that leeser, from the two verbal meanings, developed several senses, two contradictory; (1) a loser; hence (2) a destroyer; (3) a deliverer: Wyclif (in the second sense) speaks in 1380 of lesars of mennys soulis; a PSALTER of 1300 (in the third sense) speaks of God as my helper and leser mine.


(1) Lovable; pleasant. Middle English leofsum; lief + some. Used since the 1 2th century. Burns in his song IN SIMMER WHEN THE HAY WAS MAWN (1792) sighs for The tender heart o' leesome love, The gowd and siller canna buy. The form leesome lane, however, is a variant of leelane, all by one's lone. (2) Lawful; permissible; right. This sense is from Middle English lefsum, leave (permission) + some. In the same sense leeful (leveful, laifull, lyefull, etc.) was used from the 13th century to Burns (FOR A' THAT AN' A' THAT, 1814) . The form leesome (lesume, leisom, leifsome, etc.), lawful, was used from the 14th century into the I8th; Douglas in his AENEIS (1513) said: So that it lesum be Dido ramane In spousage bound. Blind brutal boy, said Montgomery in 1600, in a sonnet on Cupid, that with thy bow abuses Leill [loyal] leesome love by lechery and lust.


(1) A court which lords of some manors were privileged to hold, once or twice a year; the jurisdiction of such a court; hence, a district in general. (2) A list of persons eligible for certain offices; hence, to be in leet, on the leets, etc. Short leet, a select list of candidates. (3) In phrases two-leet, two-way-leet, three leet, etc,, a orossway. THE READER of 21 October, 1865, speaking of a vacant professorship, said: The patrons are the Faculty of Advocates and the Curators, the former having the right of presenting to the latter a leet of two, from which the appointment must be made. For a further instance of its use, see waive.

Legem pone

Cash down; ready payment. These are the first two (Latin) words of the fifth section of PSALM 1 19, which opens the Matins service on the 25th of the month; March 25 was quarter day, when payments were due. Hence, in the 16th and 17th centuries, legem pone was used to mean payment, as when Motteux in his translation (1694) of Rabelais said: They were all at our service, for the legem pone. Harvey in his NEW LETTER (1592) said bluntly: Without legem pone, wordes are winde.


A petty befogged lawyer, a pettifogger; also as an adjective, pertaining to petty or verbal questions of the law. Accent on the third syllable, lee; Latin leguleius, a little dealer in law; lex, legem, law. Also leguleious: Henry More in AN EXPLANATION OF THE GRAND MYSTERY OF GODLINESS (1660) decried the leguleious cavils of some pragmatical pettifoggers.


To teach; to guide; to learn. Also learen, later learn; laren, ler, leryn, leir, lear. A common Teutonic word; whence also lore. Note that (although this sense is now vulgar) as early as 1200 learn meant to teach; Shakespeare uses it in THE TEMPEST (1610): The red-plague rid you For learning me your language. Hence lered, learned; Chaucer says in THE DOCTOR'S TALE (1386) : For be he lewed man or ellis lered. [The earliest meaning of lewd was lay, not in holy orders; hence, unlearned, artless, vulgar; belonging to the lower orders.] The expression lered and lewed was common from the 12th to the 16th century; This lewde and learned, said Ascham in THE SCHOLEMASTER (1568), by common experience know to be most true.


Making glad. Latin laetare, to rejoice, make glad; laetus, cheerful. Motteux in his translation (1694) of Rabelais said that pleasant notes wake your soul with their letating sound. A rare but pleasant wor.


A noisy game formerly played at Christmas: each player in turn must leave his seat, which another takes. Played in the 16th and 17th centuries; later called Going to Jerusalem (the route was crowded; Mary had to seek shelter in a stall) . From French (faire) lever le cult to make (someone) lift his buttock. Later, in the interest of decent speech, the game was called level-sice, levell-suse; French assise, seat; as Sylvester in his translation (1608) of Du Bartas wrote: Ambitious hearts do play at level sice. The word came to be used generally: to keep level-coil, to engage in noisy sport or noisy activity or riot. Also, as an adverb, alternately, each in turn, Nashe, in THE UNFORTUNATE TRAVELER (1594) : The next daie they had solempne disputations, where Luther and Carolostadius scolded levell-coyle. Ben Jonson, in A TALE OF A TUB (I6SS) : Young Justice Bramble has kept level-coyl Here in our quarters, stole away our daughter.


A trumpet call for awakening. Italian levata, Latin levare, levatus, to raise. The word was used in the 17th and 18th centuries, then supplanted by the French word reveille.


To smooth, polish; to reduce to a paste or smooth powder. From Latin levigare, levigatus, to smooth; levis, smooth. Hence also levigation; levigable: (I) able to be smoothed: Evelyn in POMONA (1664): Useful is the pear-tree . . . for its excellent coloured timber, hard and levigable; (2) able to be powdered; Browning in CHRISTMAS EVE: Dust and ashes levigable.


Lightning. Used from the 13th century, as noun and as verb, especially by poets: Gower, Chaucer, Dunbar, Spenser, Scott, Poe, Longfellow, Swinburne. Other forms were leven, leyven, levyn, leaven. Hence levining. Also combined, as in levin-brand (earlier brond), levin-fire, levin-darting. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) speaks of when the flashing levin haps to light Upon two stubborne oakes. For a use of levin-brond, see quooke.


A red Tuscany wine; from Aleatico. Also leaticke, leathick. Drunk in the 17th century.


This was a common form, with various meanings. (1) From the 8th century; a charm. (2) As a verb. From the 14th century, to castrate; also, figuratively, to cut off, as when Fulke wrote in TWO TREATISES AGAINST THE PAPISTS (1577) : In the latter end, where he libbeth off the conclusion of Origens wordes . . . In the 17th century, to suckle, to suck persistently. From the 15th century (also lyp) , to sleep; defined in a CANT DICTIONARY of 1700 as lib, to tumble or lye together. Middleton and Dekker wrote in THE ROARING GIRL (1611): Oh I wud lib all the darkemans. [Lightmans, the day; darkmans, the night; thieves' cant of the 16th to 18th century.] Hence libbege, 16th to 18th century cant for a bed.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by the burning of incense (so the Fates are not incensed).


The post-Freudian spread of this word may deserve the reminder of its earlier use. In the BIBLE (I JOHN) appear the warnings against the lust of the flesh (voluptas) lust of the eyes (curiositas), and pride of life (vana gloria). Marlowe in his day was accused of these enormities; Beard's THEATRE OF GODS JUDGMENTS (1597) for example, described him as "suffering his lust to have the full raines". St. Augustine (died 430 A.D.) in his CONFESSIONS stressed this triple danger. In his commentary on the saint, AUGUSTINUS (1641), Cornelius Jansenius listed the urges as libido sentiendi, libido sciendi, libido excellendi: lust to experience, to know, to surpass. Pascal (died 1662) in his PENSEES stressed not pride but the will (the flesh, the mind, the will) and therefore made the third urge libido dominandi, lust to dominate. These desires mark the main figures of Marlowe's plays.


Short for delicious; possibly, also, the origin o luscious. Also licius. Used from the 15th to the 17th century.


To bid for, set a price on. Latin licitari; liceri, licitum, to make a bid. Also licitation, bidding; putting up the price; offering for sale at auction, licitator, a bidder at an auction. Ecclesiastical persons, said a pamphlet of 1601, are not to study how to murder princes, nor to licitate kingdoms. The form licit, lawful, is from Latin licere, licitum, to be permitted.


Pleasant to the palate, hence sweet, delightful; skilful in preparing dainties; fond of delicious fare, having a keen relish for pleasant things, especially food and love. Hence, lustful, wanton. Also liquorish (q.v.) , liccorish, licorish; in another form, lickerous, liquorous, lykerowse, likerose, and many more -- all of them variants of lecherous. From Old High German leccon (French lecher), to lick, as when one licks the lips. Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607) has licourish draughts and morsels unctions. The holy man, said Southey in THE QUARTERLY REVIEW of 1828, had a licorish tooth. Go to, Nell, warned Heywood in EDWARD IV, PART ONE (1600) , ye may be caught, I tell ye; these be liquorish lads. Chaucer pictures a lady (in THE MILLER'S TALE, 1386) : And sikerly she hadde a likerous eye; Hoccleve called adultery (1420) this likerous dampnable errour. Bacon, said Wilson in THE HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN (JAMES I; 1652), was one of those that smoothed his way to a full ripeness by liquorish and pleasing passages. Note the warning, however, In THE BOOK OF THE KNIGHT OF LA TOUR (1450) : No woman shulde ete no lycorous morcelles in the absens ... of her husbond.


The sky; the heavens (in this sense, sometimes plural) ; the air, the atmosphere. Related to loft, aloft; German Luft, air. Also in combinations: lifttike, like the heavens; lift-fowl, high-lying birds. Used from BEOWULF to the 15th century; later in Scotland, as in RURAL LOVE (1759) : The dearest lass beneath the lift, and in Burns' WILLIE BREWED A PECK O' MAUT (1780) : It's the moon, I ken her horn, That's blinkin' in the lift saw hie. To lift meant, originally, to move up into the air; hence a modem airlift doubles the idea.


(1) Short for listen. (2) To be pleasing to. An impersonal verb form, common Teutonic; also leste, lyste, lust, and more. Me list, I like, I desire. Bishop Hall, in the Prologue to his SATIRES (VIRGIDEMIARUM; 1597) said: I first adventure: follow me who list, And be the second English satyrist. The word lingered In poetry; Lowell in THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL (1848) tells that the musing organist First lets his fingers wander as they list And builds a bridge from dreamland for his lay.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using (precious) stones.


A man who makes his living by dyeing. Used by Chaucer, and into the 18th century.


Short for lovelock, so called because it secured a loved one: a long strand of hair, hanging at the left ear, often plaited and tied with a riband. Fashionable among men in the 16th and 17th centuries; King Charles I wore one until 1646. William Prynne wrote a treatise The Unlovelyness of Lovelocks, objecting also in his HISTRIOMASTIX (1632; for this aspersion on the king, he was imprisoned in London Tower, was fined &pound;5,000, and had his ears sliced): More especially in long, unshorne, womanish, frizled, love-provoking haire, and lovelockes, growne now too much in fashion with comly pages, youthes, and lewd, effeminate, ruffianly persons. Dogberry, in his usual confusion (Shakespeare, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; 1599) mixes his terms: And also the watch heard them talk of one deformed; they say he wears a key in his ear, and a lock hanging by it. Locks were also artificial. They were worn by women as well; Pepys in his DIARY for 29 October, 1666, records: My wife (who is mighty fine and with a new pair of locks). From the supposed effect of the lovelock, it was sometimes called a heartbreaker; Butler In HUDIBRAS (1664) said: Like Samson's heart-breakers it grew In time, to make a nation rue.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using words.


Short for belong. Rowlands, in HUMORS ORDINARIE (1607) cried: Bid me go sleepe; I scorne it with my heeles, I know my selfe as good a man as thee: Let goe mine arms I say, lead him that reeles, I am a right good fellowf doest thou see? I know what longes to drinking, and I can Abuse myself as well as any man.


Forbearance, long-suffering. Common, especially In religious use (the longanimity of God) from the 15th to the 18th century. In a TRACT of 1724, Warburton exclaims: Constancy is a word too weak to express so extraordinary a behavior, 'twas patience, 'twas longanimity. Even more of a lay application appeared In THE SPECTATOR of 11 January, 1890: His longanimity under the foolishness of the young woman is really marvellous. Lowell misused the word, as though it meant long-drawn, In THE BIGLOW PAPERS (1861) and in CAMBRIDGE THIRTY YEARS AGO (1854) : He is expected to ask a blessing and return thanks at the dinner, a function which he performs with centenarian longanimity.




To put a protective coating on; e.g., military armor, or clay on a chemical retort (18th century) "before it is set over a naked fire." Latin loricare, loricatus, to clothe in mail; lorica, a leather cuirass or corselet of thongs; lorum (vlorum) , a leather strap or strip. Hence also in English, loric (Browning, 1855) , a cuirass, more often lorica; lorum, lore, a thong, a rein. By way of Late Latin and old French, lorain came into English meaning the straps of a horse's harness, often jewelled or studded with metal. Hence (French lorenier, loremier) from the 12th to the 19th century, English lorimer, maker of mountings for horses' bridles, of bits and other small iron ware; a worker of wrought iron. Hence lorication (by error, occasionally, lorification), covering with a protective coat.


Maker of horse gear


Stale urine, used by barbers (15th to 18th century) as a hair wash, etc, Latin lavare, lautum, lotum, to wash, whence also the current form, lotion. Cp. lant. In Jonson's THE SILENT WOMAN (1609), heaping execrations upon a barber, Morose says: Let him be glad to eat his sponge for bread; Truewit adds: And drink lotium to it.


As a verb: (I) To bend, stoop; make obeisance; to bow, submit. Used from the 9th into the 19th century. In MERLIN (1450), we read: The archebisshop lowted to the sword, and sawgh letters of golde in the steel; In Conan Doyle's THE WHITE COMPANY (1891): I uncovered and loutcd as I passed. Also luten, lowte. (2) To lurk, lie hid; sneak. Used 9th to 16th century; Gower in CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) said that love luteth in a mannes herte. (3) To mock, treat with contempt; also, to lout someone out of something. Udall In RALPH ROYSTER DOYSTER (1553): He is louted and laughed to skorne, For the veriest dolt that ever was borne; Shakespeare In HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591): I am lowted by a traitor villaine, And cannot helpe the noble chevalier. Hence louter, a worshipper; louting, bowing, cringing; Keats in a letter to J. Taylor (23 August, 1819) : Is this worth louting or playing the hypocrite for?


One that is loved; an 18th century term. Richardson in SIR CHARLES GRANDISON (1754) said: The lover and lovee make generally the happiest couple.


Fond of making love. A 17th century coinage, after libertine. Dekker in THE PATIENT GRISSILL (1603) : These gentlemen lovertine, and my selfe a hater of love. (The early libertine sought political, not amatory, freedom.)


A thin pastry-cake. Enjoyed in the 14th and 15th centuries, with cheese and wine. From Old French loseingne, a variant of losange whence English lozenge. Hence lozen was later (17th century) used for a lozenge-shaped pane of glass, etc. Fountainhall's JOURNAL of 1665 noted: One of his servantes brook a lossen.


Eager for gain. Latin lucrum, gain (whence the current lucre) + petere, to seek. Used in the 17th century. Also lucrify, to put to gainful use; lucrific, lucriferous, bringing gain; lucrous, gainful, covetous (J. G. Cooper, in THE TOMB OF SHAKESPEARE, 1755: Free from the muck-worm miser's lucrous rage).


Full of light, shining; brilliant; lucid. Thus Thomson in THE SEASONS: WINTER (1746) : Luculent along the purer rivers flow. Jonson in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) speaks of a most debonaire, most luculent ladie. Also lucid; lucent, shining, luminous, but also translucent, dear, as in Keats' EVE OF ST. AGNES (1820): lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon. Latin lux, lucem, light. Cp. crepuscular. Lucific, producing light; lucifugous (accent on the sif), shunning the light; lucigenous, begotten or born in the daytime.


(1) A euphemistic form of Lord, used especially in mild oaths of the 18th century, and by clerks and lawyers In court. (2) In the plural (and Scotland), the buttocks. Also, luddock, buttock. (3) A variant form of loud.


A slow match; a torch. To set lunt to, to light Also smoke, especially from a pipe; hot vapor. Dutch lont, match; lonstock, matchstick, gave us English linstock (limstock, linestoke, lyntstock), a three-foot staff, pointed to stick in the ground or a ship's deck, with a forked head to hold a lighted match; used from the 16th century, for firearms, rather than tobacco. To lunt, to kindle; to smoke (a pipe) ; (of smoke) to rise up, to curl, Hence lunting, smoking, glowing; (of the eyes) flashing. There was also a Danish lunte, lazy, used of a horse, spiritless, tame. A HISTORY OF JAMES VI (1588) mentioned a man that had a loose lunt, quhilk negligently fell out of his hand amang the great quantity of pouldcr.


One-eyed. Latin luscus; hence luscition, dimness of sight. A 17th century term.


A sluggard, a lazy or idle fellow. Also lusk. There was also a verb, to lusk, to lie hid; to skulk; to lie idly or lazily; used from the 14th into the 17th century. Hence lusking, skulking; idling; luskish, lusk, sluggish, lazy. It does seem a bit like old-time slander for Sir Thomas More to have said, in THE CONFUTACYON OF TYNDALES ANSWERS (1532) : Frere Luther and Gate Calate hys nonnc lye luskynge togyther in lechery. Well may they bee cowards, said Holland in his version (1600) of Livy, and play the idle luskes.


Relating to or used for sport or as a pastime. Of speech or writing; in a playful style. Also lusory; Latin lusorius, belonging to a player; lusor, player; ludere, lusus, to play; whence also ludicrous, delusive, allude, and all the illusions that play upon us. In the 17th century, lusory was also used for delusory, illusory., deceptive. Shaftesbury In CHARACTERISTICS (1711) said that God, as a kind tutor, was pleased to . . . bear with his anger, and in a lusory manner expose his childish frowardness. Disraeli In CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE (1823) observed: There is a refined species of comic poetry, lusory yet elegant.


Also lustir, luster. (1) A period of five years. Occasionally used for four years, as in college references. Also lustral and (directly from latin) lustrum; probably from lucre, lavere, to wash. The lustrum was originally the purificatory sacrifice made for the people by the censors, after the census. The first year of the lustrum, during which the census was taken, was the lustran (Latin lustrum annum) . Lustral is also an adjective, relating to the lustrum or to purification by sacrifice. Thus lustrant. lustrical day, Christening day. lustrific, purifying; lustrative, lustratory. lustrable, that which may be purged. Latin lustrare, lustratum, to make bright, to purify by propitiatory sacrifice; hence English to lustrate, to lustre; lustration. Lustratory is humorously applied to washing, as in lustratory applications of the brush. (2) A den; a cave (17th century), From Latin lustrum (from luere) a bog; a wilderness, a haunt of beasts; hence (in Latin) a house of ill fame; debauchery. (3) Latin lustrare, to make bright, is associated with lux, lucem, light (luc-strare) ; hence, in addition to the still current sense of shining by reflected light, sheen (lustrious, lustrant, lustry, lustreful; lustrement; lustrification; lustrify. lustring, lutestring, q.v.; lustrée, a glossy silk fabric), other meanings developed: lustre, a lustrous wool; a thin dress material, of cotton warp and woollen weft, highly lustrous; a glass ball set among lights to increase the brightness; a prism of glass hanging from a vase or a chandelier; often pendants of these tinkled with wafted air; a chandelier. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (a bluestocking and perhaps the first English woman writer of note) in a letter to her sister (8 September, 1716) described the magnificence of the apartments in Vienna: All this is made gay by pictures and vast jars of Japan china,, and large lustres of rock crystal. And at table the variety and richness of their wines is what appears the most surprising; the constant way is to lay a list of their many names upon the plates of the guests along with their napkins, and I have counted several times to the number of eighteen different sorts, all exquisite in their kinds.


A glossy silk fabric; a garment or ribbon made thereof. Elizabeth Browning, in AURORA LEIGH (1856) : As if you had . . . held your trailing lutestring up yourself. Walpole in his MEMOIRS OF GEORGE in (1797) used the word figuratively, of a very pretty lutestring administration which would do very well for summer wean Hence, to speak in lutestring, to use silken, polished phrases. The word is probably a corruption of lustring, with the same meaning, from lustrine, which is both English and French; named because of the lustre of the fabric. Also, of course, lutestring means a string for a lute.


A fabulous beast, hybrid of wolf and dog. Greek lykos, wolf. In Guillim's book on HERALDRY (1610) two hybrids are together: castorides, dogges ingendred by a fox and a bever; lydscus, of a wolfe and a mastiffe.


The sharing, or state of sharing, another's happiness; taking pleasure in others' joy; (in religious reference) beatitude. Greek markarismos; makar, happy. Hence also macarize, to deem happy or blessed. Whately makes it clear in his COMMONPLACE BOOK (1864) : A man is admired for what he is, macarized for what he has, praised for what he does . . . The words 'felicitate' and 'congratulate' are used only in application to events, which are one branch only of 'macarism' ... To admiration, contempt seems to be the direct contrary; censure, to commendation; pity, to macarism.


A dandy, an exquisite of the late 18th century, who affected the fashions and tastes of continental society. The word grew fashionable from the Macaroni Club (1760), which took its name from the Italian food, then little eaten in England, hence highly esteemed by these young blades. For a somewhat different use, see circum- (circumforaneous). Horace Walpole in a letter to the Earl of Hertford (1764) spoke of: The Maccaroni Club (which is composed of all the travelled young men who wear long curls and spying glasses). The OXFORD MAGAZINE of June 1770 elaborated: There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up amongst us. It is called a macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion. Hence also, macaronism, macaronyish. See Macaronic.


Verse, usually burlesque, in which are mingled words of various languages; originally, Latin and the native tongue. Bailey (1751) defines macaronics as verses in which the native words of a language are made to end in a Latin termination. The word was first used in this sense by Teofilo Folengo ("Merlinus Cocaius") for his BOOK OF MACARONICS, published in 1517. In the second edition, Folengo says he took the name from macaroni, "a sort of powdered wheaten paste with cheese, coarse, rude, and rustic." Hence also, as an adjective, macaronic, jumbled, mixed as in a medley. From the desire of the dandy, the exquisite, the fashionable young gentleman of the 1750's and I760's to enjoy what he considered the superior tastes of Europe, came the macaroni (q.v.) . Those that remember the zoot-suit watch chains of the 1940's will smile at the follies of 1780; It is the custom, you know, among the macaronies, said Madame D'Arbley in her DIARY for 9 December, 1783, to wear two watches. As late as 1825, at the horse races, macaroni stakes were those ridden by gentlemen, not professional jockeys. Even earlier, however, the term had come to be used in mockery; THE MONTHLY MAGAZINE (III, 1797) spoke of this fanciful aera, when macaroni philosophers hold flirtation with science; and most dwellers to the west of the North Atlantic recall (though they may have forgotten the meaning of the word) the Revolutionary song Yankee Doodle came to town, Riding on a pony; Stuck a feather in Ms hat and called it macaroni . . . Yankee Doodle dandy.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the largest thing nearby.


The action of killing; especially, of ritual sacrifice. Latin mactare, mactatum, to slay; hence also to mactate; a mactator, a killer; one that officiates at a ritual killing. In the HISTORY OF EGYPT (1838) M. Russell referred to the deity before whom the mactation is about to be performed.


Spotted, stained; polluted. Often used in opposition to immaculate, as in Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1594), where Armado protests: My love is most immaculate white and red, and his page, Moth, retorts: Most maculate thoughts, master, are masked under such colors. Latin macula, spot, is used as a scientific term in English; also macule. macular, relating to maculae, spots. From the 15th century there were verb forms, macule, maculate, to spot, to pollute. Bradshaw in THE LIFE OF SAINT WERBURGE OF CHESTER (15 IS) wrote that a sensuall prynce . . . purposed to maculate this vyrgyn gloryous. In the 17th and 18th centuries, maculature was in the dictionaries, as blotting paper, or a waste sheet of printed paper. T. Adams wrote, in THE DEVIL'S BANQUET (1614) , of the lutulent, spumy, maculatorie waters of sinne: maculatory, apt to defile; lutulent (Latin lutum, mud), muddy; see luteous. Thus maculation, defilement; Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606): I will throw my glove to death himselfe, That there's no maculation in thy heart.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using spots.


Relating to cooking. (Soft g followed by long i; jy.) Also magirological. Greek mageiros, cook. Hence also magirist, magirologist, expert at cooking; magirology, the art of cookery. PUNCH (21 May, 1892) spoke of immortal contributions to mageiristic lore. Since Greek mageia is magic, we may admit the relationship; as THE SCHOOL OF GOOD LIVING (1814) observed, from the very first appearance of magirology in Greece, it produced effects absolutely magical. For current evidence, consult LES AMIS D'ESCOFFIER.


Eminent; glorious; munificent Imposing, exalted; highly eulogistic. In later use, occasionally suggesting the pompous, grandiloquent. Latin magnus, great + fic; facere, to make. Also magnifical. Milton in PARADISE LOST (1667) speaks of Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Vertues, Powers, If these magnific titles yet remain Not meerly titular. Gaxton (ENEYDOS; 1490) : This gentylman ... of name magnyfyque.


As a noun. Physical strength; force, power. Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606) : with all our main of power; frequent in the phrase used in the nursery rhyme of the man who had "scratched out both his eyes": "With all his might and main, he jumped into another bush And scratched them in again." Also, the chief part, main body (MERCHANT OF VENICE V. i. 97; HAMLET: against the main of Poland) . The main point, chief concern (HAMLET II. ii. 56) . The main-land (KING LEAR III. i. 6) . The ocean (KING JOHN II. i. 26; RICHARD III. iv. 20; OTHELLO II. i. 3, 39) . A broad expanse (SONNET 60: Nativity once in the maine of light Crawles to maturity) . The object aimed at, goal; Webster in THE DUCHESS OF MALFI (1623) : Bosola: You say you would fain be taken for an eminent courtier? Castruccio: "Tis the very main of my ambition. In the 19th century, to turn on the main, to begin to weep copiously; from the main, the chief pipe, drain, or other duct for water. Thus Dickens in THE PICKWICK PAPERS (1837) : Blessed if I don't think he's got a main in his head as is always turned on. Also main, short form of domain; mains (from the 16th century), a farm attached to a mansion house. In dice (the game of hazard) , main, maine, mayne: a number (from 5 to 9) called by the caster before he throws; if he 'throws in' or 'nicks' that number, he wins; if he 'throws out' aces, or deuce and ace ('crabs') he loses. If any other number, he keeps throwing until that number (his 'chance') comes again, when he wins, or his main comes, when he loses. This was a very common use of main, 15th to 19th century; it was extended to apply to a match at bowling, boxing, shooting, and to a main at cocks, cock-fight. A Welsh main (1770) starts with say, 16 pair of cocks; the 16 winners are matched, then the 8 winners, and so till one triumphs as in a tournament at tennis. Shakespeare uses main in the gaming sense, in HENRY VI, PART TWO and in HENRY IV, PART ONE: Were it good To set the exact wealth of all our states All at one castf To set so rich a main On the nice hazard of one doubtful hour?


(1) Without a husband. Shakespeare in SONNET 9 (1598) says The world will waile thee, like a makelesse wife. From the year 1000, make as a noun meant match, mate, equal; the make, the like. Chaucer in THE COMPLAYNT OF MARS (1374) says: God gif every wyghte joy of his make! Hence (2) makeless, matchless, without equal. So used from the 13th into the 1 7th century, later in dialects. THE MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES (Buckingham; 1563) wrote of a makeles prynce in ryches and in myght.


A small quantity added to make up a certain weight; especially, in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, a small candle added to whatever is being sold, to make a pound. Hence, an insignificant person or thing, used to fill a gap or the like. Thus Paine in his COMMON SENSE (1776) said of America: By her dependence on Britain she is the make-weight in the scale of British politics. Anna Seward in a letter of 1793 said: It is no custom of Shakespeare's to give us merely makeweight epithets. Hallam in his INTRODUCTION TO THE LITERATURE OF EUROPE (1839) derided an incestuous passion brought forward as the makeweight of a plot, to eke out a fifth act. In the 19th century, an extra slice of bread sometimes used to make up the legal weight of a loaf. It was a moment of deep pathos in LITTLE GERTY, THE LAMPLIGHTER'S DAUGHTER (1876) , when the hungry child confesses she has eaten the makeweight.


Saucy, impudent; a presumptuous person. Bailey (1751) suggests that the word is from Latin male, ill + partus gotten, bred; or else from male + apert, ready. Cp. apart. The O.E.D. says its meaning shows that it was understood as though from mal + apert, bold, hence improperly bold -- but that it is from Old French malapert, used by Eustache Deschtamps as the opposite of appert, espert (English expert), clever; hence it should have been used to mean clumsy. However, Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) says I must have an ounce or two of this malapert blood from you, and Scott in THE BETROTHED (1825) continues this meaning: you are too malapert for a young maiden.




Evil machination; fraud; guile. Old French mal, evil + engin, device. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) speaks of such malengin and fine forgery. Milton (1641) said that the Protector Cromwell's brother through private malice and malengin was to lose his life.


Misfortune. Direct from French malheur, earlier maleur; mal, evil + eur, fortune; eur is shortened from Latin augurium, fortune, augury. Also maleheure, malure, mallure, etc. Used from the 15th into the 18th century, as in CHAUCER'S DREAM (1500) : I wofull wight full of malure, Am worse than dead.




Used figuratively, from the 18th century, to mean one engaged in or fond of trivial occupations or adornments. Hence, man-millinery, apparel (or activity) on which attention is lavished trivially or beyond its desert. Hazlitt in POLITICAL ESSAYS (1814) said: The 'Morning Herald' sheds tears of joy over the fashionable virtues of the rising generation., and finds that we shall make better man-milliners, better lacqueys, better courtiers than ever. Scott in a letter of 22 August, 1819, remarked that there goes as much to the manmillinery of a young officer of hussars as to that of an heiress on her bridal day.


An officer in charge of purchasing provisions, as at a monastery or college. Latin mancipium meant a bondslave, which sense also came to English manciple; Latin manus, hand + capere (cipi, cepi), captum, to take; whence a host of words: concept, inception, captor, captive, emancipation,, etc Chaucer, in the Prologue to THE CANTERBURY TALES (1386) praises his man: A gentil maunciple was ther of a temple Of which achatours myghte take example For to be wise in byynge of vitaille.


To dress up (inferior wares) for sale; also, to deal in slaves. Latin mango, mangonem, a furbisher; a monger, a siavedealer; from the root mac-, mag-, big; to magnify. The English monger and its compounds stem from mango. Hence mangony, mangonism, the art, craft, or practice of furbishing things for sale; also (17th and 18th centuries), the treatment of plants so as to produce changes and new varieties, A mangonist, one that dresses up wares for sale. Used by the 17th century dramatists (Marston; Jonson).


An herb, a variety of nightshade (cp.dwale), supposed to induce madness. The name is from Greek mania, madness; mainesthai, to be insane. Thus Butler In HUBIBRAS (1678): Bewitch hermetick-mem to run Stark staring mad with manicon.


A 'kind of serpent,' described in various ways; the O.E.D.'s favorite picture gives it the body of a lion, the head of a man, the quills of a porcupine, and the tail (sting) of a scorpion. The word is from Aristotle's mantichoras, but the better manuscripts have martichoras, probably 'man-eater' in Old Persian, from martiya, man + the root xar, to eat. Other forms and descriptions include mantichora (with double rows of teeth in its mouth), monecore, mantissera, marticora, (of a red color, a man's head 'lancing out sharp prickles from behind'). The creature flourished in writings from the 13th to the 17th century; but Kingsley's WATER BABIES (1863) mentions unicorns, firedrakes, manticoras. Two of the forms of the word became quite distinct: (1) mantegar. Arbuthnot in 1714 (MARTINUS SCRIBLERUS) spoke of the glaring cat-a-mountain . . . and the man-mimicking manteger. The word came to be used of a kind of baboon. (2) mantiger. This might be a changeling (lycanthrope) that can assume the form of a tiger; it was also used (17th to 19th century) of a man as fierce as a tiger; Tylor in PRIMITIVE CULTURE (1871): The Lavas of Birma, supposed to be the broken-down remains of a cultured race, and dreaded as man tigers. Skelton, cursing (1529) the killer of Philip Sparrow, his little friend's bird, prayed that the manticors in the mountaynes Myghte fede them on thy braynes!


Liable to wither or fade. Bailey (1751) lists marcessibility, marcessibleness; marcescent (applied to a plant, withering but not falling off) was more common. Latin marcescere, to fade, the inceptive of marcere, to be faint, droop, wither. Use in the BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER made the negative immarcescible (usually erroneously changed to immarcessible) more common still; there are several 16th and 17th century references (1542, 1548) to the immarcessible crowne of glory (in 1543 uncorruptible was substituted; In 1662, never-fading). In 1640 we find it more strongly: Palms of victory and immarcessible ghirlands of glory and triumph to all eternity. Hence immarcescibleness, immarcessibleness, imperishableness.


Weak; exhausted; withered, decayed. Also marcidious; marcidity. Latin marcidus, withered; marcere, to wither; cp. marcescible. T. Taylor in his translation (1822) of Apulelus, wrote: She dismissed her marcid eyes to sleep.


(1) A hammer. Also martews, marteaulx, marteaux. After the 15th century, the word was used especially of a large hammer used as a weapon in war. Thus martel~de~fer, iron hammer. The grandfather of Charlemagne was Charles Martel (the Hammer; 689?-741). (2) martels, a medieval French game (Rabelais calls it martre; Ronsard, martes), 'fivestones.' (3) An old form of marten, martin, the animal. (4) A short form of Martilman, Martinmas (mainly Scotch). Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) uses martel as a verb: Her dreadfull weapon . . . Which on his helmet martelled so hard . . . Hence martelaise, marteleise, martileys, a fighting with hammers; a sound hammering.


(1) A fool, a dupe. So used in the 16th and 17th centuries, perhaps from the bird (the bird martin, of the swallow family, and the animal, martin, marten, marton, survive) ; Fletcher in THE ISLAND PRINCESS (1621) remarked: We are all meere martins. (2) A monkey. From the name given the monkey in the story of REYNARD THE FOX. Also, martin-drunk; Nash in PIERCE PENNILESSE (1592) lists various kinds of drunkard, including lion-drunk; the sixt is martin drunke, when a man is drunke and drinkes himselfe sober ere he stirre. (3) From St. Martin; Martinmas, 11 November, martin chain, a chain of imitation gold, martin dry, a pear that ripens about Martinmas. St. Martin's evil, inebriety. St. Martin's rings, -stuff, -ware, imitation, counterfeit. St. Martin's summer, what in the United States is called Indian summer (as occurring about Martinmas) ; Shakespeare uses this figuratively in HENRY VI, PART ONE: This night the siege assuredly Ile rayse: Expect St. Martins summer, halcyons dayes.


(1) An early name for the bird, the martin, q.v., being its diminutive form. (2) The demon whose function it was to summon (and to dismiss) assemblies of witches. Noted by Jonson in THE MASQUE OF QUEENS (1609). (3) A military engine, for hurling large stones. (4) A system of military drill, devised by General Martinet, of the army of the French King Louis XIV. Hence, the current sense, a strict disciplinarian, a stickler for form.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the quantity of items.


A bowl, a drinking cup; originally, one made of hard wood. Also, mazzard; mazer. Old High German masar, an excrescence of hardwood; a large knob (or knot) on a tree; later, a maple tree, a drinking cup of such wood. Both forms were used, by extension (from the shape) to mean the head; by Shakespeare in OTHELLO (II iii) and in HAMLET (1602), of the skull: Chapless, and knockt about the mazard with a sextons spade. Jonson in one of his court masques (1620) said, If I had not been a spirit, I had been mazarded.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using a suckling babe. Greek mazos, breast, whence also the amazon.


Soft-spoken; applied to excessive delicacy of speech, prudery, or to hypocrisy, sycophancy; to one that does not venture to speak his mind. Hence, mealy-mouthedness. The word is usually related to meal, flour; but E. Edwards (in WORDS, FACTS, AND PHRASES, 1881) points out that Shakespeare uses honey-mouthed and suggests that mealy-mouthed may have come from Latin mel, English mell, honey. Dekker in THE GENTLE CRAFT (1600) says This wench with the mealy mouth, is my wife, I can tell you. The word mealy alone sometimes has the same meaning, as in (1697; Leslie, SNAKE IN THE GRASS) thy mealy modesty. The term was also used, more generally, to mean over-scrupulous, as in Malkin's translation (1809) of GIL BLAS: You are not mealy-mouthed about receiving a commoner into your pedigree.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using sleep, induced by drugs or poppies.


Speaking sweetly. Latin mel, honey. More common were mellifluent, mellifluous, sweet as honey (mainly of the voice or speech) ; but also literally sweetened with or as with honey. Shakespeare has, in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) A mellifluous voice, as I am true knight; Francis Meres in PALLADIS TAMIA (1598) hailed mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare.


Ease and fluency in the telling of lies. The gracious word mendaciloquent occurs only in 17th and 18 century dictionaries, but a HISTORY OF LONDON CLUBS in 1710 refers to a witty and famous gentleman in the art of mendatiloquence. Hence mendacity. Cp. mendicity.


The condition of a beggar; the practice of begging. Latin mendicus; mendicare, to beg. [Mendacity, the quality of being mendacious; the practice of lying, is from Latin mendacem, prone to lying, false; mendax from the form mentnax; mentiri, to lie. Cp. mendadloquence.] Other forms for begging are mendicanting (17th century); mendication (17th into the 19th century, mainly of begging religious orders); and the earlier (15th century) mendience. Through the 15th century a beggar, mendicant, was called a mendivaunt.


Humanity; courtesy; reverence; honor; an honor; an ornament. A common word from the 13th into the 16th century, from Old Norse mennska, humanity, related to English man. As a verb mensk meant to reverence; to dignify; to adorn. Hence menskful, honorable, stately, gracious; menskless, ungracious; mensking (14th century), honor, courtesy. The Scotch form of the word, still in use in the 19th century, was mense; Scott in ROB ROY (1818) says: We hae mense and discretion, and are moderate of our mouths.


A dealer in textile fabrics; a dealer in small wares. Latin mercem, merchandise. Common from the 12th century. Also mercership (rare), mercery, the business or wares or shop of a mercer. The Mercery, the Mercer's Company (in London since the 14th century). The process of preparing cotton goods for dyeing, to mercerize, is named from the discoverer of the process (1844), John Mercer. The original word survives also in Mercer Street, just west of Broadway in the business section of New York.


The Roman god (Greek Hermes) of traders and thieves, of eloquence and feats of skill; presider over roads; guide of the dead to their new abode; messenger of the gods, and mischiefmaker. Pictured as a young man with winged sandals and hat, holding the caduceus. Hence mercury, a signpost; also, a newspaper; a messenger, a bearer of news (Shakespeare, RICHARD III, II i; 1594); a go-between, especially, in amatory instances (Shakespeare, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, II ii). Also a nimble live-by-his-wits; a dexterous thief (Jonson, EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR, I ii; 1599). The planet nearest the sun. Cp. Diana. And used as an emblem of liveliness, wittiness, or inconstancy; wit. Congreve in THE OLD BACHELOR (1693) said he was as able as yourself and as nimble too, though I mayn't have so much mercury in my limbs (probably with reference also to the element mercury, quicksilver, named after the volatile god). Walpole in GEORGE II (1797) said: He had too much mercury and too little ill-nature to continue a periodical war.


The rabble. Used in the 14th century. The ending means a heap, a group; similarly canaille, the rabble, meant literally a pack of dogs (Latin canis, dog). Latin merda, excrements, dung (French merde) was used in English from the 15th to the 18th century in the forms merd, merde, mard. Hence merdiferous, carrying or farming dung; merdivorous, feeding on dung; merdous, merdose, full of or covered with dung or ordure. Burton in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1621) said that to dispute of gentry without wealth, is . . . to discusse the originall of a mard. Cleveland in THE RUSTICK RAMPANT (1658) wrote: This merdaille, these stinkards, throng before the gates


Brine for pickling. From mere (1); also mersaus, miresauce; Latin muria salsa, salt pickle; mare, the sea, whence marinated and the marines. See marinorama. Occasionally used in butchery, as recorded of the man that (Fabyan, CHRONICLES; 1494): slewe the sayde servauntes of his brother, and hacked theym in small pecys, and cast them after in meresawce. Marinated herring is pickled in what the 14th 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries called meresauce.


This is a variant of malkin, a diminutive of Maud. Malkin became a general term of contempt, meaning a slattern; then it was applied to a mop or (in the navy) to a sponge on a stick, for cleaning cannon; also to a scarecrow or grotesque effigy. It was also used as a name for a witch (in Shakespeare's MACBETH, 1605, Grimalkin, gray malkin), hence, for a cat. In the form merkin, a pussy, it was used for the female "pudendum" and also (15th to 18th century) for a wig or counterfeit hair for a woman's privy parts. Just as the small-pox (so common that, in the 18th century, servants were sought that had already recovered from the disease, hence could not contract it and infect their masters) disfigured the face, so the great pox often left traces farther down, which a merkin might mercifully mask.


Government by a part. Used in the 17th century. Greek meros, part. mero- is used as a combining form in many scientific words, as meropia, dullness of sight, partial vision; merorganize (19th century), to bring to a partially organized state.


Able to speak. Greek merops, speaking. A 19th century word; also merop. Badham in PROSE HALIEUTICS felt that mute creatures are as capable of jealousy and resentment as loud-tongued merapic man! Not to be confused with meropia (Greek meros, part + ops, eye); cp. merocracy. There was also a form meropic (16th century), merops (17th), bee-eater, the name of a bird, taken directly from the Greek.


An extravagantly bedecked fop of the "Directory" period in France (1795-99; ended by Napoleon's coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire -- 9 November -- 1799). The fine lady of the time was a merveilleuse. (These are the French forms for marvellous.) About the same time there strutted the inconcevable (inconceivable) and minced the incroyable (unbelievable). The merveilleux tried to revive the costumes of classical Greece; the merveilleuse, commented the DAILY NEWS of 19 October, 1892, walked half naked in the Champs Elysees.


Something put in the middle, serving as a balance, or to reconcile two opposed principles, etc. Accent on the soth. Also mesothet. Greek mesos, middle + thesis, putting, theton, placed. These -- also mesothetic, mesothetical -- are 19th century terms. Froude in THE NEMESIS OF FAITH (1849) spoke of the final mesothesis for the reconciling of the two great rivals, Science and Revelation. Kingsley in ALTON LOCKE (1850) was more sprightly: A curious pair of 'poles' the two made; the mesothet whereof, by no means a 'puncturn indifferens,' but a true connecting spiritual idea, stood on the table -- in the whisky bottle. Mr. Carlyle, said FRASER'S MAGAZINE in 1837, avoids the synthetical, as well as the analytical, and looks down upon both from the mesothetical.


Sad, mournful. Latin maerere, maes-, to be sad; maestitia, melancholy, sorrow. Also mestful (the 16th century uses this mestfull verse . . . most meatfull bird am I). Hence mestifical, rendering sad.


Also Meteoroscopy.Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using shooting stars.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by examining the face.


A variant form of muleteer, one that tended mules. Of Cardinal Wolsey we read in Cavendish's LYFFE (1557): In the stabyll he hade a mayster of his horsses; a clarke of the stable, a yoman of the same; a sadler, a farrier, a yoman of his charyot, a sompter man [driver of pack horses], a yoman of his stirrope; a mewlyter; xvi gromes of his stable, every of them kepyng iiii great geldyngs.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the smallest thing nearby.


Threatening, menacing. Latin minacem; minari, to threaten. (From the same Latin words, via the French, comes menace.) Minacy was a 16th century term meaning menace. Minaciousness, the state of being threatening; minacity, threatening, denunciation. These words were used mainly in the 16th and 17th centuries, but lingered into the 19th. The adjective has been replaced by minatory, which in the 16th and 17th centuries was occasionally used as a noun; Evelyn in his DIARY for 22 September, 1686, spoke of the Emperor sending his minatories to the King of Denmark.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using found minerals.


One inclined to put the least possible faith in something, such as tales of flying saucers. Sometimes contracted to minifidian. Both forms may also be used as adjectives, Also minimifidianism, coined by Coleridge in AIDS TO REFLECTION (1825). Lady Bloomfield's supernatural stories, reported THE SPECTATOR (2 December, 1882) are not of a kind to challenge the scutiny of a minimifidian in pneumatology. Pneumatology (Greek pneuma, breath, air, spirit) was the science or theory of spirits. In the 17th century it was in the division of Special Metaphysics, which dealt with God, angels, demons, and the human soul -- in its study of the last of these, it was the early term for psychology. Hence also pneumatological, pneumatologist. Cp. pneumo-. Jonson in his comments (1765) on Shakespeare's HAMLET observed: According to the pneumatology of that time, every element was inhabited by its peculiar order of spirits.


A beloved, darling, favorite; a favorite child, servant or animal; a royal favorite. Shakespeare, in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) : A sonne . . . Who is sweet Fortune's minion, and her pride. In each of these senses the tone deteriorated, so that minion came to mean a mistress; a spoiled pet; one raised beyond desert by favor. The word was also used figuratively, as when John Bay in PEREGRINATIO SCHOLASTICA (1640) smiled upon Violets, roses, and lillies, and like mineons and darlings of the spring. The word may be related to Old High German minnja, minna, love (as in the Minnesinger) or to Celtic min, small. Among its orthographic forms are minyon, mynion, mignyon, minnion. Minion was also an adjective, dainty, elegant; and a verb, to treat as a minion, to caress. Also minionize (1) to play the wanton, (2) to raise to the position of a favorite, to minionship. It is no wonder, exclaimed Bryce in THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH (1888), if he helps himself from the city treasury and allows his minions to do so. [Note that minion is also the Hebrew word for a quorum for prayer: ten males over 13 years old. Thus you can guess what happened when Principal Edward Kelly, in an elementary school in a Jewish neighborhood, rang his bell and with pedantic humor said to the responding monitor, Abraham Cohen: "Boy, fetch me a minion!"]


One who issued local currency.


To venture; to sport amorously. Mainly in Scotland, since the 16th century. A song of 1768 has the line: He there wi' Meg was mirdin' seen. As a noun, mird is a variant of merd; cp. merdaille. Cokaine in his translation (1669) of OVID spoke of oyntments made of the spawn of snakes, spittle of Jews, and mird of infants.


Ill-shaped, abortive, misformed. Also miscreated. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) says: For nothing might abash the villein bold Ne mortall steele emperce his miscreated mould. Henley in THE SPECTATOR (No. 396, 1712) wrote of that mongrel miscreated (to speak in Miltonic) kind of wit, vulgarly termed the pun. Shakespeare (HENRY V; 1599), Browning (THE RING AND THE BOOK; 1868) , and Swinburne (SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE; 1871) use miscreate; Swinburne: Fancies and passions miscreate By man in things dispassionate. But also to miscreate , to create amiss, used since the 17th century; Meredith in THE TRAGIC COMEDIANS (1880) has: The thick-featured sodden satyr of her miscreating fancy.


An antidote to poison; a universal medicine or preservative. Named after Mithridates VI, King of Pontus, who sought to make himself immune to poison by constantly taking antidotes. Also mithridaticon, mithridatium, mithridatum; mithrydate, metridate, medridate, and the like. A host of 16th and 17th century prescriptions call for mithridate, as in S. Kellwaye's DEFENSE AGAINST THE PLAGUE in 1593: Take a great onyon, make a hole in the middle of him, then fill the place with mitridat or triacle, and some leaves of rue . . . D'Urfey in THE COMMONWEALTH OF WOMEN (1686), scorns the notion: Fools may talk of mythridate, cordials, elixers. D'Urfey puts the accent on the myth. The word was often extended to refer to any preservative, as by Lyly in MIDAS (1592): That which maketk me most both to sorrow and to wonder, is that music (a methridat for melancholy) should make him mad. Lodge in PHILUS (1593) cried: Oh pleasing thoughts, apprentises of love, Forerunners of desire, sweet methridates The poison of my sorrowes to remove, With whom my hopes and fear full oft debates. Hence, mithridatic, immune (like Mithridates) ; Helps in REALMAH (1868) said: Poison has no more effect on my mithridatic constitution than ginger-beer. Mithridates, defeated by Pompey, committed suicide in 63 B.C.


Sending. Latin mittentem, present participle of mittere, missum, to send, whence also missive, missile, mission, intermittent. Mittent was used in the 17th century; particularly, In the physiology of the four humours (see humour), of the body part (part mittent) that sent vicious humours to the part recipient. There is no connection with mitten; note that In the 18th century, a mitten was a glove that covered the arm but not the fingers.


This word, used for a tumultuous crowd, is short for Latin mobile, easily moved, fickle. This was used in the phrase mobile vulgus, the fickle crowd, the excitable common people. In this mobile (three syllables) has also become an English word; Lord Chief Justice Jeffries, in his Charge given at the City of Bristol, 21 September, 1685, exclaimed: Up starts a poppet prince, who seduces the mobile into rebellion! (Cp. Poppet) D. Defoe in THE TRUE-BORN ENGLISHMAN (1701) He grants a Jubilee, And hires huzzas from his own Mobilee. From the 17th century there have been a verb and a noun mob (also mab). The verb meant to muffle up the head; hence, to go in disguise, hence to frequent low company; also, to dress untidily. Gay, in an ECLOGUE of 1720 speaks of a woman at the theatre: in the gallery mob'd, she sits secure; Defoe in 1727 speaks of those that go amobbing. As a noun, mob meant (1) a strumpet R. Head has, in THE ENGLISH ROGUE (1665): We kist and parted; I sighed, she did sob; she for her lusty lad, I for my mob. (2) négligé attire, a mob-dress; Swift in the JOURNAL TO STELLA (1710) speaks of ladies all in mobs undrest. (3) a mob-cap, a cap worn indoors by women in the 18th and 19th centuries; Dickens in DAVID COPPERFIELD describes one "with side-pieces fastening under the chin." Moore in his MEMOIRS (1828) says of a woman, after the fashion for mob-caps had faded: Her beauty was gone; her dress was even prematurely old and mobcappish. In the 18th century, a mobbed-head was a harlot; also, by way of a play upon the idea of a night-cap, a mob was fashionable slang (as in the plays) for a drink. Note, however, that mobbie, mobee is from the Carib mabi, meaning a West Indian fermented drink made of sweet potatoes, with ginger and snakeroot; also applied to peach and apple brandy.


This word, which rolls on pirate tongues in many a rousing tale, names a gold Portuguese coin; Portuguese moeda d'ouro, money of gold. Also moedore, moydor, moider. Accepted in England in the early 18th century, at an evaluation of about 27 shillings, the coin gave its name to such a sum, as a general term. Thus Leslie Stephen, in HOURS IN A LIBRARY (1874) speaks of tangible subjects which he can weigh and measure and reduce to moidores and pistoles.


This is a shortening of Molly, a pet-name for Mary. Since the 17th century, it has been used to mean a prostitute, or especially, the unmarried female companion of a vagrant or thief. This sense survives in the phrase gangster's moll. It probably was first applied from Moll Cut-purse, nickname of a notorious wench of the 17th century, made a character In several plays (e.g., Middleton and Dekker's THE ROARING GIRL, 1611). Moll Thompson's mark was a slang phrase of the 18th century; Take away this bottle, it has Moll Thompson's mark on it: Moll Thompson's mark, her initials, MT, empty. (Thus, the seven letters one speaks on pouring the last drops from a bottle: OICURMT.) In the same years, Moll Blood meant the gallows; Scott in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) has: Three words of your mouth would give the girl the chance to nick Moll Blood.


To make soft, smooth, or easy. Latin mollire, to soften. Also molliable, mollifiable, that can be softened or soothed, mollicine, mollicinous, softening; in Latin used of mollicinum emplastrum, soothing plaster, mollifaction, mollification; nouns of action surviving in the verb, to mollify, mollificativc, something that soothes or softens; also, as an adjective, that causes softening or soothing. These are mainly 17th and 18th century terms.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the motions and forms in molten lead.


A mixture of two kinds of grain (usually wheat and rye) sown together. It made an excellent bread, the usual type in religious houses before their suppression in England; hence also monkcorn. The word is from mong, a mingling + corn, Mong, a mingling; hence also intercourse, then commerce, was common from the 12th to the 15th century, and survived in dialect into the 19th. It was also applied to mixtures of various kinds of meal, such as ground mongcorn. The verb mong (9th to 16th century) meant to traffic (with) , to barter. From the same source comes the common word among, mixed with, often shortened to mong. In 19th century England, a muncorn team meant a team of horses and oxen mixed.


A trafficker, a dealer. From mong, to traffic; see mongcorn. The g is hard, as in Mongol. From the 16th century (both alone and in compounds) monger has implied a petty or disreputable traffic, A character in Ford's THE LADIES TRIALL (1639) protests that he is no monopolist of forged corantos, monger of gazettes. [See coranto (2).] Hence also monging, mongering, mongery. Among terms of scorn compounded with this form are fashion-monger, mass-monger, news-monger, pardon-monger, salvation-monger, scandal-monger, whore-monger, word-monger.


Madly; as influenced by the moon. An English development like lunatic; Latin luna, the moon. Also moonling, a fool. (Jonson, THE DEVIL IS AN ASS; 1616). Middleton and Dekker in THE ROARING GIRL (1611) declare: The man talks monthly . . I see hee'l be starke mad at our next meeting.


Born on the hills, born amid mountains. So in Bailey (1751). From Latin montem, mountain + gignere, genitus, to beget. (The root gen has given us many English words, from genus and genital to generous and generalissimo.)


A simpleton. In Jonson's THE DEVIL IS AN ASS (1616) : I have a husband . . . But such a moonling, as no wit of man Or roses can redeeme from being an asse. In spite of this scorn, moonling is a soft word for a witless one. Note that a moon-man (Shakespeare, HENRY IV, PART ONE, 1597) is one that works by night; especially, a nightpad, robber.


"Moonshine" originally meant "moonlight" and "a trifling," but a 1785 British dictionary defines it as the white brandy smuggled on the coasts of Kent and Sussex. Perhaps its color reminded people of the moonlight.


A meeting, encounter. Hence, an assembly, especially one that forms a legislative or judicial court. In Anglo-Saxon and early English days there were the gemot, witenagemot, burg-mote, hall-mote, hundred-mote, and more. Hence moot, an action at law, a plea; an argument, disputation. At Gray's Inn (and the English Inns of Court since the 16th century), the discussion of a hypothetical case, by students, for practice; a case for such discussion. Hence, as an adjective, a moot case, a moot problem, debatable, doubtful, not decided. This was a very common word from the 9th to the 17th century; related to meet. The verb to moot meant to converse, then to argue, especially, to argue a doubtful case, or an imaginary case for practice. A mooter was a speaker, especially one who argued in court or in a moot hall in the Inns of Court. Earlier, a moot hall was a place where the moot (council of court) meetings were held; also in the moot-house or on the moot-hill, mote hill. The moot cases and mooters were often satirized; thus Skelton in COLYN CLOUTE (1529) : Stand sure, and take good fotyng, And let be all your motyng, Your gasyng and your totyng; and James Gilcrist in THE INTELLECTUAL PATRIMONY (1817) : Probably neither the one nor the other understands what he is writing about more than a big school-boy or mooting babbler.


Foolish divination, a 17th century term that pretty much covers all divination practices.


A teamster.


Legitimate (used of a child). Latin mulier, woman, was used in English in the CURSOR MUNDI (1375) to mean wife: Isaac his son of mulier was. In the 16th and 17th century, there was frequent opposition, in wills and other documents, of bastard aine (eldest) and mulier puisné (youngest). Hence mulierly, legitimately, muliery, legitimate offspring, mulierty, legitimacy. In the original Latin sense of the word, we had English muliebral, pertaining to women; muliebrious, effeminate; muliebriousness, effeminacy; muliebrity, womanliness, womanhood. Hence mulierous, mulierme (four syllables, accent on the mu) fond of women; Reade in THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH (1860) asks: Prithee tell me; how did you ever detect the noodle's mulierosity?


A state of depression or low spirits. In his mulligrubs; sick of the mulligrubs, sometimes used of the stomachache. The word seems to have been a grotesque invention, but some spellings try to shape it toward meaningful forms: mouldygrubs, male-grubbles, mulligrumphs, and the like. The word was used by Nashe (1599), Fletcher (1619), and Dryden (1678); Scott in his JOURNAL for 19 September, 1827, said: Surely these mulligrubs belong to the mind more than the body.


A liquor of honey mixed with water or wine; boiled together, says Bailey (1751). Latin mulcere, mulsum, to sweeten. A 16th and 17th century word; see mead. In the same centuries a similar drink was called melicrat, melicrate, from Greek meli, honey + kra-, to mix. Such drinks were very popular in ancient times, and for several centuries in England, often being used to offset the bitterness of medicines.


An old fogey; an obstinate adherent to old and erroneous ways; also, an old notion or tradition pigheadedly retained after it has been proved untenable. The term became popular in the 16th century after the story in Pace's DE FRUCTU (1517) of an illiterate priest who always said quod in ore mumpsimus ('which we now take into our mouth') in the Mass, and when corrected said: "I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus." The priest perhaps knew the Old English word to mump, to munch; to move the jaws as though chewing; also, to mumble, mutter; to grimace with the lips. The Water-Poet Taylor in URANIA (1615) spoke of a man with Not a tooth left to mumpe on beanes and pease. A mump was a 'mouth' (as made when sounding the word mump) , a grimace. In THE LADY MOTHER (1635; Bullen's OLD PLAYS) we are told: Gallants now court their mistress with mumps and mows as apes and monkes do. Gascoigne in THE SUPPOSES (1575) exclaims: If this olde mumpsimus . . . should win her, then may I say . . . farewel the sight of my Polynesta.


To cleanse, purify; to make oneself spruce. Latin mundus, clean. Used from the 16th century; Richardson in CLARISSA BARLOWE (1748) has: mundified . . . from my past iniquities. Hence also mundifier mundificant; mundification. mundificative. A COUNTRY GENTLEMAN'S VADE-MECUM of 1699 recommends a beau new-come to the city to steer to the next barber's shopf to new rig and mundifie.


Foolish antics. A coined word, used in the 16th and 17th century, frequently in attacks on the Catholics, as when Hollyband (1593) spoke of the crossings which the papistical priests do use in their holy water, to make a meadlew muse. Lyly, if he wrote THE MAIDES METAMORPHOSIS (1600), said: Good master wizard, leave these murlemewes, and tell Mopso plainly, whether Gemulo . . . shall win the love of the fair shepherdess, or not.


(1) Mulberry color; a mulberrycolored cloth. Latin morum, mulberry; cp muricide. Such a cloth, from its popularity, then its cheapness, became a term of contempt for a woman, as in Middleton's MICHAELMAS TERME (1602) I'll take no notice of her -- scurvy murrey kersey. Jonson, in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) says: I had on a gold cable hatband . . . which I wore about a murrey French hat. (2) A stew of veal, prepared with mulberries. A 15th century dish, before the English lost the art of cooking: Take molberys and wryng a gode hepe of them through a cloth; nym vele . . .


Johnson, in THE CONNOISSEUR (No. 138; 1756) : Those who call a . . . man a cabbage ... an odd fish, and an unaccountable muskin, should never come into company without an interpreter. Johnson himself failed to provide one. In the 16th century, however, muskin was used to mean a pretty face; hence, one's darling, sweetheart. It was also (17th century) a variant form of misken, a titmouse. (A titmouse, in case you've forgotten, is a tiny bird -- of several species, including the chickadee -- hence itself has been used as a term of endearment. So, by the way, has cabbage -- in French: mon chou -- with which Johnson started.)


In the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, a night bonnet; later, a (linen) cap for an infant or an elderly lady. Queen Victoria, In MORE LEAVES (1884) says: The old mother, Mrs. Brown, in her white mutch. . . and a few neighbours stood round the room. Cp. coif. Hence, mutchless, bare-headed.


A liquid measure, about three-quarters of an imperial pint (15th century) or one-fourth of the old Scots pint. In THANES OF CAWDOR (1591) we find: Item three muskingis aquavitye. Scott in WAVERLEY (1814) has: He whistled the 'Bob of Dumblain,' under the influence of half a mutchkin of brandy.


A loose woman; see lace. Shakespeare in MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1604) uses it in this and the literal sense, as Lucio abuses the Duke, accusing him in one phrase of lechery and impiety (eating meat of a Friday): The Duke, I say to thee again, would eat mutton on Fridays. He's not past it yet,, and 1 say to thee he would mouth with a beggar though she smelt brown bread and garlic. The word was frequent in 16th and 17th century pamphlets and plays; also muttanmonger; and in the 17th century there were muttontuggers at Oxford.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using mice. Chambers' CYCLOPEDIA of 1727 remarks: Some authors hold myomancy to be one of the most ancient kinds of divination; and think it is on this account that Isaiah ( Ixvi, 17) reckons mice among the abominable things of the idolater.


A spot, blemish. Latin naevus. Dryden in his ELEGY ON LORD HASTINGS (1649) has: So many spots, like naeves, our Venus soil; One Jewell set off with so many a foil. Also used figuratively, as by Aubrey (LIVES; 1697) : He was a tall, handsome, and bold man; but his naeve was that he was damnable proud. Hence naevous, naevose, maculate.


In addition to the old horse -- being driven into oblivion by the "tin Lizzie"' but once used as a term of abuse for a person, as when Shakespeare in ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606 ) cries upon Yon ribaudred nagge of Egypt -- whom leprosy overtake! -- nag has the still current meaning, as a verb, to constantly scold, to keep up a dull gnawing pain. The original sense of this word was to gnaw, to strip off bark or covering; Its past participle was nakt, whence probably naked. See nake. The Water Poet (WORKS; 1630) extended the equine nag to naggon: My verses are made To ride every jade, But they are forbidden Of jades to be ridden, They shall not be snaffled Nor braved nor baffled; Wert thou George with thy naggon That fought'st with the draggon, Or were you great Pompey My verse should bethump ye, If you, like a javel, Against me dare cavil.


Swimming. Also nayaunt; via Old French noiant, present participle of noire from Latin natare, natatum, to swim; cp. natatile. Used from the 16th century, especially in heraldry.


To strip, to lay bare. First used in the14th century, 500 years after the adjective naked. See nag. Also naken, to strip. One sense of naker, q.v., is one that denudes. It occurs in Chaucer and Douglas; Tourneur in THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY (1607) cries Come, be ready; nake your swords!


A kettle-drum. From Persian naqara. Naker meant also (1) one that denudes; cp. nake. (2) nacre. The drum occurs only in the 14th and 15th centuries, as in Chaucer's THE KNIGHT'S TALE (1386): pypes, trompes, nakers, and clariounes -- until revived by Scott in IVANHOE (1819): A flourish of the Norman trumpets . . . mingled with the deep and hollow clang of the nakers.


A state of abnormal deficiency. Greek nanos, stunted. Hence also nanism, the state of being dwarfed. The process of dwarfing trees is nanization. All were used in the 19th century. There is no relation with inanity, from Latin inanis, empty.


An aromatic ointment, of ancient use; also, the plant that yielded It. See spikenard. Wycllf's BIBLE (John, xii; 1382) tells that Marie took a pound of oynement spikenard, or trewe narde, precious. Poets like the word, from Skelton (1526) : Your wordes be more swefcr than ony precyous narde to Browning (PARACELSUS, 1835) : Heap cassia, sandal-buds and stripes Of labdanumy and aloeballs, Smeared with dull nard.


A nostril. Usually in the plural; from the 14th century, but mainly in 17th century verse, as In Jonson's EPIGRAMS (1616) and Butler's HUDIBRAS (1616): There is a Machiavilian plot, Though every nare olfact it not.


A contraction of hath not. nathe, the nave of a wheel. nathlcss, natheless, nevertheless. (From the 9th Into the 19th century.) nathemore, nevermore; never the more. nather, neither.


A laborer working on a canal or other earthwork (18th century); shortened to navvy. When Bob, in THE TICKET-OF-LEAVE MAN (1863) wonders who will deliver his warning of the burglary plot, the drunken navigator nearby says that he will. "You?" "I, Hawkshaw, the detective." See ticket-of-leave.


Accepting no refusal. Sylvester in THE MAIDEN'S BLUSH (1618) said: Like a naylesse wooer, Holding his cloak, shee puls him hard unto her.


(1) Refusal, saying nay. A late use, as in BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of April 1898: There be no nayword from me. (2) A watchword, a password. Used into the 19th century; apparently first by (twice) in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598); see mumbudget. Shakespeare also seems to use the word in the sense of a laughing-stock, a byword, as when Maria in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) says of Malvolio: If I do not gull him into a nayword, and make him a common recreation, do not think I have wit enough to lie straight in my bed. Some editions print this as an ayword; wherefore THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE (1777) says that nayword meaning a byword is probably a crasis [combination] of an ayeword.


One who herded cows


A verse (usually the first verse of the 51ST PSALM, in Latin) the reading of which saved one's neck. By virtue of the Biblical text "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm" any person in holy orders brought before a secular court (later, any one that could read -- being thus potentially a cleric) could plead privilege of clergy. The Bishop's commissary, always present, pronounced Legit (he reads). A branding on the hand might then be inflicted, instead of the common felon's hanging. The 51ST PSALM begins, in English: Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Shipley in his GLOSSARY (1872) mentioned the deputy of the bishop . . . appointed to give malefactors their neckverses, and judge whether they read or not. An old song, reprinted in THE BRITISH APOLLO (1710) satirically ran: If a monk had been taken For stealing of bacon, For burglary, murder, or rape, If he could but rehearse (Well prompt) his neckverse, He never could fail to escape.


(Greek nekros, corpse; Latin nigrem, black). Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by communicating with the dead. Necromancy is also the general term for illicit divination, black magic; also nygromauncy, negromancy, nigromancy (early form), nycromancy, necromonseys.


Like nectar; fragrant. In TO HIS MISTRESSES (HESPERiDES, 1648) Herrick says: For your breaths too, let them smell Ambrosia-like, or nectarel. Also nectareous, nectarious, nectarous, full of or like nectar; nectarean, nectarian, as Gay in his verses on WINE (1708) : Choicest nectarian juice crown'd largest bowles.


Also Necyomanty. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by calling up the devil or other damned spirits.


Fire produced by the vigorous friction of dry wood (as when the Boy Scouts imitate the Indians). In the 15th and 16th centuries (and later) such a fire was held to possess magical properties, especially for the healing of cattle. Thus an extract from the PRESBYTERY BOOK OF STRATHBOGIE (1644) informs us that It was regraited by Mr. Robert Watsone that ther was neidfire raysed within his parochin . . . for the curing of cattell. Also, to take needfire, to start to burn spontaneously; Stewart in his translation (1535) of THE BUIK OF THE CHRONICLIS OF SCOTLAND wrote: That tyme his stalf, in presens of thame all, it tuik neidfire richt thair into his hand. Scott, in THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805) , used the word to mean bonfire or beacon -- The ready page with hurried hand Awaked the needfire's slumbering brand -- and to some extent that use has persisted.


The nave of a church. French nef; Latin navem, ship. Also, an incense-holder shaped like a boat; also called (15th and 16th centuries) navet, navette; and (19th century) navicula (Latin, diminutive of navem, ship) . Also, nef, a silver or gold vessel in which napkins, saltcellar, etc., for the lord's table were kept; every officer of the household, said Maria Edgeworth In HELEN (1834), making reverential obeisance as they passed to the nef.


Abominable, unmentionable. Latin ne, not + fandum, what ought to be spoken, gerundive of for, fan, fatum, to speak. Nefandous was used from the 17th into the 19th century (Southey) ; in the 15th and 16th centuries a shorter form was used, nefand. The printer Caxton in 1490 cried out against a grete, horribyle, nephande, and detestable cryme. Note that ineffable (cp. effable) has developed the opposite connotation, of something good beyond the power of words to express, as ineffable happiness. Unspeakable usually has unpleasant connotations; unutterable may swing with the emotions, either way.


A lover of the woods (such as Wordsworth) . From Greek nemos, glade + philos, loving. [Not to be confused with Latin nemo, nobody, used as a name, Captain Nemo, by Jules Verne, and in an early comic strip.] Hence also nemophilous, nemophily. Hence nemoral, related to or frequenting groves or woods; nemorose, nemorons, woody, "shadowed and dark with trees." Evelyn in SYLVA (1679) said that Paradise itself was but a kind of nemorous temple, a sacred grove planted by God himself.


An early name for the water-lily -- still used. The word, though now applied to the white or yellow varieties, is roundabout from Sanskrit nil, blue + utpala, lotus. Elyot in THE CASTEL OF HELTH (1533) recommends syrope of violetts, nemipher, or the wine of sweet pomegranates.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the kidneys


A sea-nymph, a mermaid. Three syllables. The more usual form of the word, especially when reference is to Roman or Greek mythology, is nereid, from nereides, children of Nereys, an ancient sea-god. Cowper in RETIREMENT (1781) speaks of Nereids or dryads, as the fashion leads, Now in the floods, now panting on the meads.


A perfume; also the essential oil it is made from, distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange. Developed in the 17th century -- I have neroli, tuberose, jessimine, and marshal, said Shadwell in 1676 -- and named after an Italian princess.


Ignorant. Also nescious. Latin nescire, to be ignorant; ne, not + scire, to know. Hence nescience. Used since the 17th century. Carlyle in SARTOR RESARTUS (1831) speaks of the miserable fraction of science which united mankind, in a wide universe of nescience, has acquired.


A promontory, a cape (of land). Also naes, nesse, naisse; nase; related to nose, nese. From the 12th century to the 17th, later in Scotland, nese was used for nose; in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was also used for a headland. Also nese-end, tip of the nose; neselong, face downwards (i.e., the length of the nose) ; to nese, in the 17th century -- Jonson, THE SAD SHEPHERD, 1637-- to smell. BEOWULF has naess; Morris in THE EARTHLY PARADISE (1868) says: We stood Somewhat off shore to fetch about a ness.


A variant of newt; an ewt; eft. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) uses ewftes. What! exclaims Jonson in BARTHOLOMEW FAIR (1614) , Thou'lt poyson mee with a neuft in a bottle of ale, will't thou?


See Eche. In Kingsiey's HYPATIA (1853) we find: "What is a nicor^ Agilmund?" "A sea-devil who eats sailors." Various other meanings have been attached to this form: a cheater; an 18th century hoodlum, who used to break London windows by throwing coppers at them; also, usually in the plural, the of marbles (preferably knickers) ; also, a person's snicker, a horse's neigh.


See eche. As a verb, nickname also is used to mean to misname (16th through 19th century; Coleridge in BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA, 1817; Byron, in DON JUAN, 1824; Shakespeare in HAMLET, 1602: You lisp, and nickname God's creatures; Shelley in QUEEN MAB, 1813: The fool whom courtiers nickname monarch) or to mention by mistake or to assert wrongly, as when in Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) the King says: The virtue of your eye must break my oath and the Queen retorts: You nickname virtue: vice you should have spoke.


(1) Cramped handwriting. Charlotte M. Yonge in THE DAISY CHAIN (1856) said that Ethel's best writing was an upright disjointed niggle . . . a still wilder combination of scramble, niggle, scratch, and crookedness. (2) To work or to move about, in a trifling or ineffective way; to be overly critical; to cheat. (3) To copulate with. A niggler is therefore (a) a lascivious person; (b) one who works ineffectively (especially in the arts), producing trifling or over-detailed or minute work.


See dwale. The berries of different varieties of nightshade are narcotic or poisonous. The deadly nightshade Is also called belladonna (beautiful lady); from it is extracted atropine. The juice of belladonna enlarges the pupil of the eye, enhancing its attractiveness but weakening its vision; love is blind. The word was often used figuratively, as when O. Wmslow in THE INNER LIFE (1850) dedared: Satan has ever sought to engraft the deadly nightshade of error upon the life-giving Rose of Sharon.


To take. A very common Teuton form; the root nem is related to Greek nemein, to possess. Found in English into the 17th century, in the various senses of take, including to steal, and to take off, to steal away. Gay, for example, in THE BEGGAR'S OPERA, has: I expect the gentleman about this snuff-box, that Filch nimm'd two nights ago in the Park. Hence nimmer, a thief, especially a petty one; nimming, pilfering; taking bribes.


An effeminate fellow. Probably a humorous or contemptuous elongation of nymph. Jonson in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) queries: What brisk nimfadoro is that in the whit virgin boot there?


Coffee. A 17th and 18th century term. Ninny, a simpleton, is probably a shortening of an innocent. From it, in the 19th century, came ninnyish; ninnyism; ninnyship. From the 16th century, a thorough simpleton was a ninnyhammer; Urquhart in Ms translation (165S) of Rabelais preferred ninnywhoop. Of a group of coffee drinkers HUDIBRAS REDIVIVUS (1705) remarked: Their wounded consciences they heal With ninnybroth.


A purser of a ship. In the 18th and 19th centuries. Also, a mean, niggardly person. Used as an adjective, as when Sala In LADY CHESTERFIELD (I860) referred to this nipcheese, candle-end saving, pebble-peeling . . . principle. A pebble-peeler, of course, is a skinflint. So is a nlpcheese. So, in one sense, is a nipper, though this may also mean a boy helper; a quick lad; a pickpocket -- one that nips, in various of the verb.


A small vessel for liquids, containing no more than half a pint; also, that amount of liquor. Used from the 17th century. Hardy in THE MAN HE KILLED (1914) says: Had he and I but met By some old ancient inn, We should have set us down to wet Right many a nipperkin.


A fine ale, or other good liquor; hence, as an adjective, of prime quality. Also with Latin or Italian endings, nippitato; nippitatum; the most frequent, nippitaty. Nashe, in SUMMER'S LAST WILL (1600) complained that never cap of nipitaty in London came near thy niggardly habitation! Urquhart in his translation (1695) of Rabelais, sums up one Weltanschauung (another nearly forgotten word! The world has grown too small): 'Tis all one to me, so we have but good bub and nippitati enough.


(I) In Scandinavian folklore, a friendly goblin, which frequents barns and farmhouses. Identified with the Scotch brownie and the German kobold. (2) An early contraction of is not, also none is; cp. nys. Used from the 9th century; by Spenser; by Sidney in ARCADIA (1586): Nothing can endure where order n'is. (The introduction of the apostrophe marked the dying of the form.)


Envy, hatred. Also a verb, to envy, to hate. A common Teutonic form, used in English into the 14th century. Also to nither, to thrust down, abase, humble; oppress. (This is related to nether, lower, and is perhaps a different word; it was used until the mid-16th century, later in dialects.) Also nytherian, nidder, nether. Thus nithful, envious, malicious.


A base coward, a most despicable wretch. A common Teuton word. By misreading of the th (Saxon thorn), the form niddering developed, the O.E.D. says in 1596; Bailey in 1751 gives the forms niderling and niding. Scott, reviving the word in IVANHOE (1819) speaks of threatening to stigmatize those who staid at home as nidering.


A water-elf. See eche; nixie. Also (from German nichts, nothing) nothing, nobody. Nix! as a signal meant somebody's coming. Keeping nix, keeping watch so nobody will surprise one. Ainsworth in ROOKWOOD (1834) coined a phrase which has been copied by Hood, Thackeray, and more: Nix my dolly, pals, fake away. The first three words mean chuck it, never mind.


A water-nymph. See eche. This form, a diminutive of nix, q.v., was first used by Scott, in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) and in THE PIRATE (1821) : She who sits by haunted well Is subject to the nixie's spell.


Cp. couth. Nocent was used from the 15th into the 18th century, rather rarely later. Also nocence, nocency. From Latin nocentem, harmful; nocere, to hurt, whence not only innocent but innocuous. There was no English form nocuous, but harmful was represented by nocible (15th century, Caxton), nociferous (18th century, Evelyn), and nocive, nocivous (16th and 17th centuries) T. Adams in THE FATAL BANQUET (1620) has: I would iniquity was not bolder than honesty, or that innocence might speed no worse than nocence. Milton in PARADISE LOST (1667) speaks of Adam before the fall: Nor nocent yet, but on the grassy herb Fearless, unfeared, he slept.


Wandering by night. The accent is on the ti, short i. Also, noctivagous. Noctivagation was prohibited and punishable by fine where there was a curfew, as in many towns into the 17th century. For a sample of its use, see expergefacient.


As a noun, in special senses: (1) rumor; especially evil report, slander, scandal. Hence, reputation. A Towneley Mystery of 1460 said: Thou has an yll noys of stelyng of shepe. Occasionally, high, repute, note, making a noise in the world. (2) An agreeable or melodious sound. Thus from Chaucer (1366) to Coleridge, THE ANCIENT MARINER (1798): It ceased; yet still the sails made on A pleasant noise till noon, A noise like of a hidden brook. (3) A company (of musicians). This was a frequent 16th and 17th century use; Jonson in THE SILENT WOMAN (1609): The smell of the venison, going through the street, will invite one noyse of fidlers, or other. In Deloney's JACKE OF NEWBERIE (1597): They had not sitten long, but in comes a noise of musitians in tawny coates, who (putting off their caps) asked if they would have any musicke. The widow answered no, they were merry enough. "Tut" quoth the old man, "let us heare, good fellowes, what you can doe, and play mee The Beginning of the World" "Alas" quoth the Widow, "you had more need to hearken to the ending of the world." "Why, Widow" quoth hee, "I tell thee the beginning of the world was the begetting of children, and if you finde mee faulty in that occupation, tume mee out of thy bed for a bungler." Although it is perhaps the most popular in actual use, a noise of musicians is one of the large series of "nouns of assemblage" originally humorous or ironic in intent, such as a gaggle of gossips, a frown of critics, a prowl of proctors, a dampness of babies, a charm of fairies, a duty of husbands, a questionnaire of wives -- many of which are gathered (s.v. Sports Technicalities) in Eric Partridge's useful USAGE AND ABUSAGE. He omits a glee (or a pest) of punsters and an obsolescence of lexicographers, but includes a galaxy of milkmaids, a gush of poets, a superiority of young people -- and (modestly enough) a covey of partridges. Wycherley in THE PLAIN DEALER (1674) protested: I cou'd as soon suffer a whole noise of flatterers at a great man's levee.


One that stands rigidly firm, as though saying: Touch me not! Try not to move me! Landor in his EXAMINATION OF SHAKESPEARE (1864) dedared: If a dean is not on his stilts, . . he stands on his own ground: he is a noli-me-tangeretarian. There are, also, women of the sort. Noli me tangere (Latin: Touch me not; used in the BIBLE: JOHN, 20, when the resurrected Christ appears to Mary Magdalene) has had several uses: (I) an eroding ulceration of the face; hence, an abomination. Smollett in HUMPHREY CLINKER (1771) says: She's a noli me tangere in my flesh, which I cannot bear to be touched. (2) Someone or something not to be tampered with. Whitlock In ZOOTOMIA (1654) said: Learning was no such noli me tangere, in the Apostles account (5) A picture of Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene. (4) A warning against meddling or interfering; this sense may still be used.


Unwillingness, Used in the 1 7th century as the converse of volition. Latin nolle, to be unwilling. Precisely, in A HUMBLE ENDEAVOUR . . . ABOUT THE FREE ACTIONS OF MEN (1690) Corbet pointed out that between volition and nolition there is a middle thing, viz. nonjvolition.


The top of the head; the head,, usually in good-humoured scorn; the noddle. Also nowl, noul, knoll, nole. See totty. Noll is really a double of knoll, top, summit -- applied to the head. It was used from the 9th century; later often in the phrase drunken noll; hence, by transference, a noll, a drunken fellow, a stupid fellow. By the 16th century, it was usually associated with drunkenness, as in Spenser's THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) : Then came October full of merry glee; For yet his noule was totty of the must. The word is also played upon in Garrick's impromptu epitaph for Oliver Goldsmith: Here lies Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll, Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll.


Occasion, purpose. The word occurs only in phrases: for the (very) nonce, for the particular (present) purpose, on purpose; hence, temporarily. In Middle English, and archaically later, often used as a metrical tag, of vague meaning, rhyming with stones and bones (banes), Thus, in a ballad of 1400: The lyon hungered for the nanes, Ful fast he ete raw fless and banes. Leigh Hunt, in a poem of 1832: A cup of good Corsican Does it at once; Or a glass of old Spanish Is neat for the nonce. The word nonce is a transfer (like a newt for an ewt, etc) from Old English for than anes, for that once. Also with the nones, on condition (that) ; in the nonce, at that moment, at once; at the very nonce, at the very moment Thus Browning, in CHILDE ROLAND TO THE DARK TOWER CAME (1855): Fool, to he dozing at the very nonce, After a life spent training for the sight! A nonceword, a word created for the nonce, for that particular occasion.


A standstill. Perhaps a humorous shortening of non compos mentis, not master of one's mind; perhaps a substitute for nonplus, the state of being nonplussed, at a loss. Used by Shakespeare in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599): We will spare for no witte I warrant you: heere's that shall drive some of them to a noncome. The speaker is Constable Dogberry, whose command of words is distinctively dogberrial.


An article of feminine adornment, worn in the 17th and 18th centuries. By some other name, it is doubtless still being displayed. There were listed, in 1700: webb-cane and leather hooping, gartering of all sorts, nonesopretties, pins and needles, inkle and spinnel. Also a flower; see Hymen's torch.


A device for raising water from a well; the device as well as the word came via Spain from the Arabs. It consisted of a revolving rope or chain of pots or buckets that were filled below and emptied when they came to the top. Townsend in his JOURNEY THROUGH SPAIN (1792) said: Every farm has its noria. Knight in his DICTIONARY OF MECHANICS (1875) said: The true Spanish noria has earthen pitchers secured between two ropes which pass over a wheel above and are submerged below.


A bunch of flower. Also, a representation of this. By extension, anything pleasant, especially to sight, taste, or smell. T. Hawkins (1626) spoke of the nosegay of the elect; Swift (1738), of a choice flower in the nosegay of wit. Goldsmith in THE GOOD-NATURED MAN (1768) : I have a drop in the house of as pretty raspberry as ever was tipt over tongue . . . the lost couples we had here, they said it was & perfect nosegay.


A sense of superiority on the part of a group, Latin nos, we, is the plural of ego, 1; thus nosism is to a group what egotism is to an individual. The word nosism is also employed to name the practice of using the "editorial" we, of employing a plural for an ordinary singular. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE (1819) said that the nosism of the other luminaries of the Lake School is at times extravagant enough, and enough withal.


This is the form of the word as coined by Paracelsus; it appears also as nostoch, nostock; Bailey in 1751 gives nostick. It is a genus of unicellular algae, but more interestingly defined in Charlton's translation (1650) of Van Helmont's PARADOXES: nostoch understandeth the nocturnall pollution of some plethoricall and wanton star, or rather excrement blown from the nostrills of some rheumatick planet ... in consistence like a gelly, find so trembling if touched. Also called, until the 19th century, star slough, or star-shot gelly ... a substance that falls from the stars.


Whimsical, full of notions; headstrong, obstinate. So used in the 19th century. More rarely, in the 17th, notionate was a verb meaning to come at by thinking. A notionist (from the 17th century) was one that formed notions (Lamb, in a letter; 1825: such a half-baked notionist as I am), especially odd or crotchety ideas; one that held extravagant religious opinions was a high notionist. Sewel in his HISTORY OF THE QUAKERS (1720) exclaimed upon a high notionist, and rich in words.


This Greek word for intellect (nous, noos, mind) was used in English, 17th into the 19th century, for common sense, intelligence. Pope in THE DUNCIAD (1729): Thine is the genuine head of many a house} And much divinity without a nous. Also Byron in DON JUAN (1819). A story in THE GRAPHIC of 8 November, 1884, said: I am glad that my people had the nous to show you into a room where there was a fire. In early 19th century (university) slang, the nous box was the head.


A simpler form for innovation. Novation was common in Scotland from 1560 to 1650; Chapman in BUSSY D'AMBOIS (1607) uses the word to mean a revolution. Hence also novator, novatrix; J. B. Rose in his translation (1866) of Ovid's METAMORPHOSES said Nature the novatrix remoulds the frame. Also novaturient (17th century), desirous of novelty or change.


A game of dice in which the principal throws were nine and five. Shakespeare mentions it in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : Abate throw at novum, and the whole world againe Cannot pricke out five such.


Cattle, oxen. Sometimes singular, a bullock, an ox. A common Norse term; Old English neat, an animal of the oxkind, used in English from the 8th Into the 19th century. Also nolt. Cp. tate. When William Morris, In JASON (1867) said The herdsmen drove Full oft to Cheiron woolly sheep, and neat, he did not mean neat (i.e., clean) sheep. The word is related to Old Teutonic naut-, neut-, to possess. There is, from this, an English word nait (14th to 17th century), to possess, to use, to enjoy. Cp. pestle; vendible.


Readiness for marriage, Latin nubes, c!oud, veil; whence nubere, nuptum, to don the (marriage) veil, whence also English nuptials. Nubile means (a girl) of marriageable age; the other forms, however, have brought into English only the primary sense: nubilation, cloudiness; nubilate, to cloud over, to render obscure (also used figuratively); nubiferous, cloud-bringing, obscuring; nubilose, nubilous, cloudy, vague -- as in Peacock's MELINCOURT (1817): Pointing out innumerable images of singularly nubilous beauty. Many airplanes find themselves nubivagant (accent on the second syllable), journeying among clouds.


Triviality, trifling. Latin nugax, nugacem, trivial; nugari, nugatum, to jest, play the fool, talk nonsense. The Latin word nugae, trifles, was used in the same sense in 19th century English. Hence also nugal, nugacious, trifling; more often nugatory, nugatorious, worthless; nugament, a trifle, a trifling opinion. Myles Davies in his ATHENAE BRITANNICAE (1716) scorns the quisquilian nugaments. (Cp. quisquilious.) nugator (17th century), a trifler, a worthless fellow; nugate, to act foolishly or to talk nonsense. There may be some difficulty, remarked Henry More in REMARKS ON TWO LATE INGENIOUS DISCOURSES (1676), but there is no nugality at all.


A slight refreshment of liquor, originally taken in the afternoon; then it moved ahead and became equivalent to luncheon, its own hour being given over to afternoon tea. From Middle English none, noon + shench, draught, cup. See shenk. Also nonsenches, nunchings, nuntions (usually with a final s until the 17th century); nuncion, noneshyne, nunching and nunch. Jane Austen in a letter of 1808 wrote: Immediately after the noonshine which succeeded their arrival, a party set off for Buckwell. Urquhart in his translation (1694) of Rabelais, says there is no dinner like a lawyer's and no nunchion like a vintner's. A monk's nuncheon: "as much as another man eats at a large meal." Defined by Johnson (1755) as "a piece of victuals eaten between meals", nuncheon has been used also by Scott (NIGEL; 1822) , Browning (PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN; 1845). Luncheon was first used in 1580. Lunch (first used in 1591, translating Spanish lonja de tocino, piece of ham) meant a hunk, a piece; it may be a variant of lump (note hump and hunch). Johnson defined luncheon: "as much food as one's hand can hold". These two words replaced nuncheon for the snack between breakfast and dinner. There was for a long time no formal noon meal, though there was often an afternoon dinner, among the non-working classes, at three, and a supper about ten. The Almacks Club in 1829 declared the word luncheon unsuited to "polished society"; Macaulay in 1853 objected to the detested necessity of breaking the labours of the day by luncheon.


A variant of uncle. Used since the 16th century; by Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605). Also nunky.


This word is forgotten less often than its meaning, as it is often used when nymphomania is intended. Nympholepsy is a state of rapture inspired in men by nymphs; hence, an urge toward something unattainable. De Quincey in his RECOLLECTION OF THE LAKES AND THE LAKE POETS (1839) said: He languished with a sort of despairing nympholepsy after intellectual pleasures. And Bulwer- Lytton in GODOLPHIN (1833) said that the most common disease to genius is nympholepsy -- the saddening for a spirit that the world knows not. Hence nympholept; Bulwer-Lytton in RIENZI has: The very nympholept of freedom, yet of power -- of knowledge, yet of religion! and Birrell in OBITER DICTA (1884) : The nympholepts of truth are profoundly interesting figures in . . . history. Also nympholeptic. Thus a nymphomaniac is a woman obsessed with sex; a nympholept is a devoted and often ascetic man.


A wanton girl. Originally a variant diminutive of nice. Skelton in the interlude MAGNYFYCENCE (1520) has: Where I spy a nysot gay, That wyll syt ydyll all the day.


(1) A wizard. Hebrew obh, a necromancer. (2) Short for obolus, a Roman coin; used in English of a halfpenny. Thus in Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) Pointz reads a list: Item, sack, two gallons . . . 5 s. 8d.; Item, anchovies and sack after supper ...2s. 6d.; Item, bread . . . ob. and Prince Hal cries: O monstrous! but one half-pennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack! (3) In the phrase ob and sol, abbreviated in old books of divinity: objection and solution; therefore, subtle disputation. Burton in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1621) Speaks of a thousand idle questions, nice distinctions, subtleties, obs and sols. An ob-and-soller is a subtle disputant, as in Butler's HUDIBRAS (1678): To pass for deep and learned scholars Although but paltry ob-and- sollers. (4) ob. Abbreviation of obiit, died; used in lists to indicate the date of a person's death. (5) ob-. The Latin preposition, used in many words as a prefix; also in many English (17th and 18th century, some earlier) words, as an intensive, or with the meaning, in the opposite direction. Thus (Chaucer) obombrid, clouded over. Among words thus formed in English are obacerate, to stop one's mouth, 'shut one up'; obambulate, to walk about; obcaecation, blindness (mental or moral) ; obdulcorate, to sweeten thoroughly; obnubilate, to hide or cover as with a cloud, used also of mental obfuscation; obreptitious, containing a falsehood for the sake of obtaining something, obreption, seeking something by deceit, from ob + repere, to creep. The converse of this is subreption, seeking something by suppressing the truth. [Obscene is from ob + scaena, stage, scene: not to be put on the stage, indecent.] Also obserate, to lock up; obstipate, to block or stop up, to stuff, to produce constipation (mental, moral, or physical) ; obstreperate, to make a loud noise -- Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1765) has: Thump -- thump -- obstreperated the abbess . . . with the end of her goldheaded cane against the bottom of the calash. Other forms of this word survive, e.g., obstreperous. Obstupefaction is an emphatic form of stupefaction. Obtemper, obtemperate (since the 15th century), to obey, comply. Obumber, to overshadow, obscure (Chaucer's obombrid) ; but obumbilate is probably a scribe's error for obnubilate; obumbrate, to overshadow; obvelate, to veil over, to conceal, also obvele. Obvolve, to wrap around, muffle up, disguise. (6) In the German phrase als ob, as if: the philosophic and aesthetic doctrine of Hans Vaihinger, formulated in 1878, the idea that things should be accepted 'as if' they were so.


A light-house; light-bearer. Greek obeliskos, a small spit (whence also obelisk) + lychnion, lamp-stand. Accent on the penult, like. Motteux in his translation (1694) of Rabelais says: We were conducted . . . by those obeliscolychnys, military guards of the port, with high-crown'd hats.


The act or fact of doing away with, or of so being done. Replaced by obliteration. G. Hickes in TWO TREATISES ON THE CHRISTIAN PRIESTHOOD (1711) spoke of a perfect obliterature of all injuries.


To announce that the omens are unfavorable (as might a Roman magistrate, thus preventing or voiding some public action) . Obnunciation, the announcing of bad news or ill omens; hence, the dissolving of the (Roman) assembly. To obnundate is defined, in 17th century dictionaries, to tell ill news.


To put under obligation. Latin ob, upon, over + stringere, strictum (whence also strict, constrict, etc.), to bind. Hence obstrictive, obstriction. Milton in SAMSON AGONISTES (1671) tells that God hath full right to exempt Whomso it pleases Him by choice From national obstriction. The translation (1660) of Amyraldus' TREATISE CONCERNING RELIGION shows the background of a later Soviet practice: It was never lookt upon as unjust or strange, for those who are obstringed one to another by those bonds to partake in the punishment of their relatives.


To deafen; to dull the hearing or the wits. Used in the 17th century.


An imitation silver; hence, a base metal. Also used figuratively, as when Sir Francis Palgrave in 1857 spoke of the dawning spirit of conventional honour gilding the ockamy shield of chivalry. The word is a corruption of alchemy, by which it was sought to convert base metals into silver and gold.


Sloth. Via French from Latin ocium, otium, ease; whence also otiose; otious (17th century), leisurely, idle, at ease. Cp. otiation. In English, otium is occasionally used; Thackeray in PENDENNIS (1849) says: Mr. Morgan was enjoying his otium in a dignified manner, surveying the evening fog, and enjoying a cigar. Scott (THE MONASTERY; 1820) and others have used the Latin phrase otium cum dignitate, dignified ease. The term otiosity usually puts more emphasis on the idleness, the state of being unemployed. This form was earlier ociositie; Caxton in POLYCRONICON (1482) spoke of alle thoos men whiche thurgh the infyrmyte of our mortal nature hath ledde the moost parte of theyr lyf in ocyosyte, rebukingly; but Thackeray in VANITY FAIR referred with but mild satire to a life of dignified otiosity such as became a person of his eminence.


To set eyes on. Latin oculus, eye. In the play EVERY WOMAN IN HER HUMOUR (1609) we hear of Diana bathing herself, being occulated by Acteon. Oculation also meant the same as inoculation, to put in little eyes or buds (like the 'eyes' of a potato).


(1) A euphemistic shortening of God, used in mild imprecations, especially in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Congreve in LOVE FOR LOVE (1695) ejaculates: Odd! I have warm blood about me yet. Also used in many phrases, mainly as a possessive: od's bodikins, od's wounds (odsoons), odzooks (hooks') and many more fantastic. In some cases -- as in Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598): od's me -- the od's may be short for God save. (2) od, a supposed force permeating all nature, especially manifest in magnets, heat, light, and mesmerism. Postulated by Baron Von Reichenbach (1788-1869) and widely discussed if not accepted in the 19th century, before electricity (as in atomic energy) moved the notion into more scientific channels. Hence odic, relating to the force called od; Reichenbach photographed odic lights. The form was used in compounds to indicate specific aspects of the universal force: biod, the pervasive force in animal life; chemod; heliod (of the sun), etc. Elizabeth Barrett Browning in AURORA LEIGH (1856) mentioned That od-force of German Reichenbach Which still from female finger-tips burns blue.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the teeth.


Also Oinomancy. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using wine.


A drink, wine mixed with honey. Favored of the ancient Greeks; oinos, wine + meli, honey. Used figuraatively, as by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (WINE OF CYPRESS; 1844) : Those memories . , . Make a better oenomel.


To increase by interest (of money); to lend at interest; to take interest. From the 12th to the 15th century, usually mentioned as an abomination or a crime. Also as a noun, usury. Old English wokor, increase, related to Latin augere, auctum, to grow, increase, whence also augment and auction. Also ocker, okyre, ocur, ockar, okker, and more. Hence okerer, usurer, one that takes interest for lending money. Lyndesay in 1552 links fornicatoris and ockararis; Skene in 1609 recorded: All the gudes and geir perteining to ane ockerer, quhither he deceis testat or untestat, perteins to the King.


Among the meanings at one time acquired by this common old word, from the notion of long practice and experience it came to mean experienced, skilled, as when Defoe said in COLONEL JACK (1722): The Germans were too old for us there. And from the notion of long continuance old came to mean abundant, plentiful, as in the quotation under Blowen, and when Shakespeare has, in MACBETH (1606) : If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key. This sense also appears in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, and-- News! old news! -- THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. In KING LEAR, in Edgar's song on the heath, old is used for wold, forest, wooded downs; open country.


A dish, originally Spanish and Portuguese, made with pieces of meat and fowl, bacon, pumpkin, cabbage, turnips and what more you will, stewed or boiled and highly spiced. Spanish olla, Portuguese olha (both pronounced olya) , Latin olla, pot. By extension, any dish of many ingredients; see hodgepot. Thence applied to any heterogeneous mixture; Disraeli in TANCRED (1847) spoke of an olio of all ages and all countries. Especially, a mixture or collection of various artistic or literary pieces; a musical medley. The Duchess of Newcastle in 1655 wrote a book entitled: The Worlds Olio: Nature's Pictures drawn by Fancie's Pencil to the Life. THE SATURDAY REVIEW of 7 June, 1884, explained a new form: The second part of a minstrel show is the 'olio' -- and this is only a variety entertainment, of banjo-playing, clogdancing, and the like.


(1) A token of peace or good-will, a peace offering. This meaning is drawn from the BIBLE: GENESIS 8, when the dove returns to Noah on his ark, bearing an olive-branch, a sign that the Lord's wrath was slaked. (2) Usually in the plural; olive-branches, children. This is from the BIBLE, PSALM 128 (Coverdale's version, 1535: Thy children like the olyve braunches rounde aboute thy table). Jane Austen in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1796) reported: The rest of his letter is only about . . . his expectation of a young olive-branch.


A Shakespearean form, for omission. Used in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600 : Omittance is no quittance.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future and gaining mystical insight -- by steadily contemplating one's navel. Also, foretelling how many children a woman will have, by the number of knots in the umbilical cord of herfirst-born. Greek omphalos, navel.


Relating to dreams. Greek oneiros, a dream, has been used for a number of English words. Among these, we may note: oneirocrisy, oneirocriticism, oneirocritics, the art of interpreting dreams; hence, an oneirocritic, onirocritic, such as Joseph in the BIBLE; also oneirocrite, a judge or interpreter of dreams, oneiropompist, a sender of dreams; one that makes another dream (Greek pompos, sending). Also oneiroscopy, oneiromancy. Another term (15th century) for divination by dreams was sompnary, cp.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by using dreams.


To burden. Also onerate. Latin onerare, oneratum, to load, burden; onus, oneris, a burden. Onus is a current English word. Also onerous; earlier forms of the adjective were onerable, onerarious, onerose. Hence, onerosity. An onerary (18th century) was a ship of burden; oneration (17th century) was the action of loading; especially, of loading the stomach with food. Hobbes in LEVIATHAN (1651) spoke of all onerations and exonerations of the body. In the sense of onus, burden, fault, developed also the still current exonerate, to unload, to clear of fault. Joye in his EXPOSITION (BOOK OF DANIELL; 1545) exclaimed: Behold with how few single pure and easye institucyons Christ ordened and not onered his churche.


A claw. French ongle; Latin ungula, hoof, claw, talon; diminutive of unguis, nail. Caxton in his printing (1484) of Aesop's FABLES said of the lion: within his ongles he took the rat. Used into the 17th century.


Ready to weep: readily weeping; with the eyes full of tears (as though watery from peeling onions). Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) says: Looke they weepe, And I an asse, am onyon-ey'd.


Also Onomatechny.Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the letters of one's name.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using nails reflecting the sun.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by the inspection of eggs.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using serpents.


A maker; a workman. (Accent on the pif.) Also opifex. Latin opus, work, and the forms fex, fic, from facere, to make, do. Thus opifice, the making of a work; the thing made, as an edifice (which has survived). The words were used mainly in the 17th century, though asf late as 1761 Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY said: So many playwrights and opificers of chitchat have ever since been working upon . . . my uncle Toby's pattern.


Rich; plentiful; sumptuous; splendid. Also opimous. Henry More in MYSTERY OF INIQUITY (1664) spoke rebukingly of those great and opime preferments and dignities which thy ambitious and worldly minde so longingly hankers after.


Marriage late in life. Greek opse, late + gamos, marriage. J. McCulloch, in THE HIGHLAND AND WESTERN ISLES OF SCOTLAND (1824) said: Nor is there any danger of Donald's being flogged for opsigamy by the Highland nymphs as the Spartans were of old.


As a noun. (1) A church officer or a civil judge who has authority by right of his position; an officer in charge of a convent; a staff of officers in regular service; a church officer whose function was to give the neckverse, q.v., or to prepare the condemned for death. From the 13th century. In the 17th century, a prompter in the theatre. In ordinary (of a ship) laid up for repairs. (2) A prescribed or customary procedure; a regular custom; a church manual. (3) A customary, regular fixed meal; hence, a fixed allowance of anything. By extension (16th century), a public meal regularly offered at a fixed price in a tavern, table d'hote; hence, the persons frequenting such a meal. By further extension, a tavern where such meals are provided; a diningroom. Thence, a gambling game played at a tavern. A very common word. Here, said a book of 1502, endeth the booke named the Ordynarye of Crysten Men . . . emprynted in Flete Strete by Wynken de Worde. For another instance of the word's use, see whetstone.

Ordinary Keeper

Innkeeper with fixed prices.


Characterized by appetite or desire. Used in the 18th and 19th centuries mainly in philosophical and medical works. Greek orektos, longed for; oregein, to stretch out, grasp for, desire. Symonds in THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY (1881) Speaks of that blending of the reason with the orectic soul which we call will.


Adorned or covered with ore or metal. Feltham in RESOLVES DIVINE, MORALL, AND POLITICAL (1623) cried out upon obscene scurrilities that the stage presents us with . . . or'd and spangled in their gaudiest tyre. Oredelf (ore + delve, dig) was the early term (to the I7th century) for the right a man might claim to the minerals dug in his ground.


A goldsmith (15th century; rare . More common in the 15th century, and revived in the 19th, was orfevrerie, the work of a goldsmith. Via French from popular Latin aurifabrum, a worker in gold. Orfrays, orfray, orphis, offreis, are variant forms of orphrey, which came ultimately from Latin aurum, gold + Phrygius, Phrygian. The original form had an s, but was taken for a plural, so that the forms without s came into use. Orfray meant gold embroidery; a richly embroidered stuff, especially an ornamental border on an ecclesiastical garment. Thynne in 1599 distinguishes between orefryes 'a weved clothe of golde' and 'goldsmythe woorke,' orfevrerie. Chaucer in THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE (1366) says Of fyn orfrays hadde she eke A chapelet so seemly on. A York Mystery of 1415 lists orfevers, goldbeters, monemakers.


A syrup, or a cooling drink made therefrom. In the 15th century it was made from barley (French orge, from Latin hordeum, barley) and was apparently not very tasty. As late as 1845 Thackeray (MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS) speaks of pulling a queer face over a glass of orgeat (pronounced orjaw). Later, the syrup was made from almonds, or from orange-flower water, and presumably made orgyan a more succulent drink. Hannah More (but that was in BAS BLEU, 1786) exclaimed: Nor be the milk-white streams forgot Of thirst-assuaging, cool orgeat.


Proud; swelling, violent; splendid. Also orgillous, orgueilous, orguillous, orgullows. From orgueil, orguil, orgul, pride. Orgueil is direct from the French (12th century) , presumably from an Old High German form urguol, renowned. Orgueil has not been used since the 16th century, save as a fresh borrowing from the French. The 15th century also used orgulity, pride. Shakespeare used the adjective in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606): From iles of Greece The princes orgillous, their high blood chaf'd Have to the port of Athens sent their shippes. The word then dropped from the language, until revived by Southey (1808), Scott (1820), Bulwer-Lytton (in HAROLD, 1848: This our orgulous Earl shall not have his triumph) and subsequent journalists.


A prayer. From Old French oreisun, orison (French oraison) ; Latin orationem, whence also oration. Common in English from the 12th to the 19th century. Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) has the Prince say: Soft you now, the fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy orizons Be all my sins remembered. Less pious is the Urquhart translation (1653) of Rabelais: To the same place came his orison-mutterer.


A silken fabric popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. The name is from Ormuz, a port near the entrance to the Persian gulf, frequented especially by Portuguese traders. Also ormasi, armosie, armozeen. Hakluyt in his VOYAGES (1599) speaks of armesine of Portugal. The term armozeen was applied particularly to a plain stout silk, usually black, used for clerical gowns, mourning scarfs, and the like. The Scotch used the form ormasi.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using birds.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by the flight of birds.


A large Iute-like instrument, with from six to nine pairs of metal strings, played with a plectrum. Invented, the story goes, by John Rose of London about 1560, the orpharion was popular through the 17th century. Cp. cithern. Jonson in THE POETASTER (1601) cries: Another Orpheus! an Arion riding on the back of a dolphin; and the name orpharion is a combination of Orpheus and Arion telescoping the two mythical musicians. Drayton in his ECLOGUES (1593) said: Set the cornet with the flute, The orpharion to the lute.


A mechanism representing the motions of the planets about the sun. Invented about 1700 by George Graham, made by the instrument-maker J. Rowley, it was named (by Dean Swift) after a purchaser, Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery. Young in NIGHT THOUGHTS (1742) said of something belittling, it dwarfs the whole, and makes an universe an orrery. Lowell in his ITALIAN JOURNAL (1854) said; When that is once done, events will move with the quiet of an orrery. Sir John Herschel in his ASTRONOMY (18S3) said, speaking of the magnitudes and distances of the planets: As to getting correct notions on the subject by drawing circles on paper or, still worse, from those very childish toys called orreries, it is out of the question.


Usually in the plural, orts, scraps left over from a meal, or fodder left by cattle; refuse leavings; hence as a term of contempt, to make orts of, to treat shabbily. Shakespeare uses the word in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593), in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA; and in TIMON OF ATHENS: some slender ort of his remainder; George Eliot, in SILAS MARNER (1861): Their feasting caused a multiplication of orts, which were the heirloom of the poor. Used figuratively in the 17th century, as when would-be wags followed the nimble-tongued for the orts of wit that fell from their mouths.


A rectangle. Greek orthos, right, as in orthodoxy (doxos, opinion). Used in the 17th century.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using things dug up. Greek oryktos, dug up.


To yawn from drowsiness. Latin oscitare, oscitatum, to gape; os, mouth + citare, to move, actuate. Hence oscitant, yawning, drowsy; oscitation, oscitance, oscitancy. These, however, developed the further sense of inattention, hence negligence. All the forms have been in use since the 17th century. THE NATION (New York, 15 February, 1900) said: That they all went astray owing to a coincidence of oscitancy is clearly beyond belief.


See exosculation. An osculary was something to be kissed; Latimer in his SERMON BEFORE THE CONVOCATION of 1537 spoke of manuaries for handlers of rcliques . . . oscularies for kyssers. A representation of Christ or the Virgin Mary, to be kissed during Mass, was called an oscillatory; this form survives as an adjective, as when Thackeray in PENDENNIS (1849) said: The two ladies went through the oscillatory ceremony. Also osculable, capable of being kissed; worthy of kissing, lovely. osculant, kissing. osculum, a formal kiss; osculum pacis (Latin) , the kiss of peace. osculatrix, a female that kisses; also, the developable surface generated by the tangents of a non-plane curve; osculation is used in mathematics for kissing -- contact -- of a higher order, touching at three or more points.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using bones


A good Shakespearean form, for which we have substituted elsewhere, some where else. Romeo says of himself: This is not Romeo; he's some otherwhere.


Taking one's ease. Latin otiari, otiatum; otium, leisure. Hence, otiant, at leisure, indolent, doing nothing. Cp. ocivity. Puttenham in THE ARTE OF ENGLISH POESIE (1589) spoke of those that manage to seeme idle when they be earnestly occupied . . . and do busily negotiat by coulor of otiation.


Past of owe, in all its senses. Thus Greville, in THE LIFE OF SIR PHILIP SIDNEY (1652) spoke of his understanding heart that knew what was due to itself, and what it ought to others... the respect inferiors ought to their superiors. A collection of CONCEITS in 1639 mentioned a gentleman who had ought him money a long time.


Originally a name of the blackbird or the thrush; applied to a person of dark hair or complexion. Also ouzel, woosel. "And how doth . . . your fairest daughter and mine, my god-daughter Ellen?" asks Shallow in Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) and Silence replies: Alas, a black ouzel!


(1) To go beyond the bounds (literally) , or (figuratively) to be excessive; to put out of bounds, expel. (2) An old form of outrage, in its various uses. (5) From the 17th century, to flash out as a ray; to excel in radiance. Thus Benlowes in THEOPHILA (1652) has: Thou outray'st all diamonds of the skies. Chaucer uses the word in the first sense, in his BOETHIUS (1374) : They ne sholden not owtrayen or forlyven from the vertues of hyr noble kynrede.


Excessive self-esteem or self-confidence; arrogance; presumptuousness. Via 12th century French outrecuider from Latin ultra, beyond + cogitare, to think. Scott revived the word; in IVANHOE (1819) he has: It is full time . . . that the outrecuidance of these peasants should be restrained. See also surquedry.


To crow over, exult over; to triumph over, subdue. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) wrote: Then gan the villein him to overcraw. Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) has: The potent poison quite overcrowes my spirit. Scott, reviving the word, gives credit for its earlier use to Spenser.


(1) An opening, orifice, hole. From the 13th to the 18th century; both literal and figurative. (2) An open, exposed place. Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) has: The wasteful! hylls unto his threate is a playne overture. (3) The opening up of something; revelation, disclosure. Used by Shakespeare in THE WINTER'S TALE, and in KING LEAR (1605): It was he That made the overture of thy treasons to us. The still current sense of a beginning dates from the 16th century; in music, from the mid-17th. In the 16th and 17th centuries, some writers confused overture with overturn, overthrow; thus Nashe in CHRIST'S TEARS (1593) : Consider, howe his threats were after verified in Jerusalems overture. In a troublesome passage in CORIOLANUS -- When steele grows soft as the parasites silke, Let him be made an overture for th' warres -- overture may mean overthrower: "When a soldier turns flatterer, he brings dishonor on war"; some editors improve matters little by changing the word to coverture, which would seem the opposite of an overture.


See ween. Richardson in PAMELA (1742) notes that Half the misunderstandings among married people are owing to . . . mere words, and little captious follies, to overweenings, or unguarded petulances. The word has survived mainly as an adjective, as in Shakespeare's TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (1591): Go base intruder, overweening slave. John Aubrey (1697) said: No reason satisfies him but he overweenes, and cutts some sower faces that would turn the milke in a fair ladie's breast.


A drink or syrup of vinegar and honey, used from Saxon times into the 19th century, as a medicine. Greek oxys, sour + meli, honey. Elyot gives one formula in THE CASTEL OF HELTHE (1533): Oximell is, where to one part of vyneger is put double so moche of honye, foure tymes as moche of water.


Abounding in fodder or food. Also pabular, pabulary, relating to forage or food. Pabulum, directly from the Latin, is properly applied to food of plants and animals; its use for human food is pedantic or humorous. It is, however, applied figuratively, as when Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1765) declares: Such a story affords more pabulum to the brain than all the frusts, and crusts, and rusts of antiquity. The Latin root pa- is also the source of pasture, pastor, and pater (father, the feeder of the family) .


To make peaceful. As a verb, this is rare; in the 17th century pacate was used as an adjective meaning pacified, tranquil: a pacate, humble, self-denying mind. Latin pacare, pacatus, to pacify; pacem, peace. Hence also pacative, calming, sedative; pacation. Coleridge remarked, in his essay ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH AND STATE (1830) : Reasonable men are easily satisfied; would they were as numerous as they are pacable!


A magic horse, which can convey one instantly whithersoever one may desire. Also used of a very swift steed. In the 16th and 17th centuries, usually the phrase Pacolet's horse was used; later pacolet alone -- as now a frankenstein is often used for Frankenstein's monster. Pacolet was the name of a dwarf (in the romance of Valentine and Orson) who made a magic horse of wood that could transport him instantly to any desired place. Thus Sidney, discussing the drama's 'unity of place' in his APOLOGY FOR POETRIE (1580) said: I may speake . . . of Peru, and in speech digresse from that, to the description of Calicut; but in action, I cannot represent it without Pacolets horse. The pacolet is the western equivalent of the magic carpet.


Done or settled by agreement. Latin pactum, agreement (English pact), paciscere, pactum, to come to an agreement, the inceptive form from pacare, to make peace. Cp. pacate. The word is found only in 17th and 18th century dictionaries.


A toad. Generally pictured in the Middle Ages (as Shakespeare phrases it in AS YOU LIKE IT) as ugly and venomous; hence, a pad in the straw, a lurking or hidden danger. In the 17th century, pad came into use as slang for path, the road. Hence, on the pad, tramping; to stand pad, to beg by the way; gentleman (knightt squire) of the pad, highwayman. Also, footpad. By the end of the 17th century, pad was used alone, to mean highway robber. Pad, the toad, by the 14th century developed a diminutive paddock, which was applied to both the toad and the frog (Wyclif's BIBLE: EXODUS in 1382 uses froggis; in 1388 paddokis). Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; DECEMBER) pictures The grieslie todestoole . . . And loathed paddocks lording on the same. The word was applied to an evil person (or a familiar spirit in the shape of a toad) , as in Shakespeare's MACBETH (1605) Padock calls anon: faire is joule, and foule is faire. For another quotation, cp. gib. Hence to pad, to rob, as in Sedley's THE MULBERRY GARDEN (1668): What, ladies, come apadding for hearts here, in your vizards? . . . What, rob us of our liberties without a word? not so much as Stand and deliver? [Both wizard (now male) and witch (now female) were earlier applied to either sex.]


The land, domain, or state of mind of the pagans; pagandom. Also payeny, paeni, paygne, paynye, and the like; via Old French paienie; paien, whence English payen, pagan; Latin paganus, of the country, rustic; pagus, a province, the countryside. Cp. paynim. Lord Berners in THE BOKE OF DUKE HUON OF BURDEUX (1533) said: He slew Sorbryn, the moost valyant knyght in all pagany. Thus also paganalian, relating to the rustic feasts and festivals (May Day, Thanksgiving, country fairs) which in Roman times were held in each pagus or rural district and called paganalia; English, paganals.


See palacious. Note that paleaceous means chaffy; covered with chafflike scales. Its uses extend from botany to architecture; Chambers' CYCLOPAEDIA (SUPPLEMENT; 1753) described the Roman receptaculum (waiting-room): Its surface is sometimes naked, and sometimes paleaceous.


A 17th century form, supplanted by palatial. Thus Dekker in BRITTANNIA'S HONOR (1628) spoke of faire, spacious, and pallacious houses. Note that palaceous is a scientific term meaning spade-like, spade-shaped; from Latin pala, shovel. Palaceward, toward the palace, is used by Chaucer in TROYLUS AND CRISEYDE (1374): As was his wey to wende to paylaysward.


Pertaining to wrestling; athletic Also palaestral; palestric, palestrical. The palaestra, Greek palaistra (palaiein, to wrestle) , was an ancient gymnasium, a place for the teaching and exercise of wrestling and other athletics. Hence, since the 15th century, the practice of wrestling or athletics; also used figuratively, as when Thomas P. Thompson in EXERCISES, POLITICAL AND OTHERS (1840) feared the time when the conduct of criminal justice is but a palaestra or course of exercise, to be turned on occasion against perhaps the most deserving members of the community. A palestrian was a wrestler. Chaucer in TROYLUS AND CRISEYDE (1374) spoke of the feste and pleyes palestral.


A riding-horse, but not a warhorse; especially, a small saddle-horse for ladies. Used since the 12th century, lingering in romantic and poetic use. Also palefrai, paulfrey, and more. The word is via French from Greek para, beside, extra + Latin veredus, light horse. In Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, forms ending -freno developed, under the influence of Latin frenum, bridle; these came into English in palfrenier, a man in charge of horses; Thackeray in his PARIS SKETCH-BOOK (1840) commented: He calls his palfrenier a groom. Other forms of this word were palfreynyer; palfreyour, palfreur, palfrer, these three untouched of the bridle (frenum) . D'Urfey, in his PILLS TO PURGE MELANCHOLY (1719) tells that A palphry proud, prick'd up with pride, Went prancing on the way. This was a word Scott could not miss: A maiden on a palfrey white comes early in his telling.


Writing material that can be used over again, the first writing wiped or rubbed off. Greek palin, again + psestos, scraped; psao, psen, to rub smooth. Hence, parchment or other material used for a second time; this sense survives, applied to old manuscripts. Also used figuratively, as by De Quincey in SUSPIRIA (1845) : What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain?


'A sort of high spirits worked up in despite of accidents -- ready to drink too, if you will'. Thus Rabelais, who drew the word from his character -- whose name Rabelais also explains: One Friday, when people were all at their prayers, great drops of water exuded from the ground like drops of sweat. When, however, they collected and drank this marvelous dew they found it naught but brine, worse and salter than seawater. Now as it came to pass that Pantagruel was born on this very day, his father gave him a corresponding name; for panta in Greek signifieth all, and gruel in Arabic means thirsty -- wishing to suggest that on his birthday all the world was thirsty, and seeing, in the spirit of prophecy, that he would one day become the Lord of the Thirsty. Thus pantagruelism came to mean (Donaldson, THE THEATRE OF THE GREEKS; 1860) Bacchanalian buffoonery as a cloak to cover some serious purpose. Hence, pantagruelist, a jolly tippler (17th and 18th centuries) , a follower of Pantagruel; or a satirist, a follower of Rabelais. Adjectives include pantagruelistic, pantagruelian, pantagruelical, pantagrueline. Also note pantagruelion, a word Rabelais used for hemp, the material of the hangman's rope. Kingsley in TWO YEARS AGO (1857) spoke of an immediate external application . . . of that famous herb pantagruelion, cure for all public ills and private woes.


A 17th century English word that means “coming together through the binding of two ropes,” according to a 1627 publication housed at the New York Public Library’s Rare Book Division [which one? -ed]


Littleness of spirit. Latin parvus, small + animus, spirit, mind: small-mindedness; the converse of magnanimity. De Quincey in 1830 wrote of the meanness and parvanimity of Bonaparte. Several English words have been formed with the prefix parvi, small; some are scientific. Others include paruitude, parvity, smallness; parvipotent (accent on the vip), of little power; parviscient, knowing little. The common quality of man is parviscience.


Relating to the gallows. Hence, patibulate, to hang. Both terms were mainly in humorous use. Latin patibulum, a fork-shaped yoke placed on the neck of a criminal; patere, to lie open, to be exposed (as in the stocks). Hence patible was used in English (15th into the 18th century) to mean the horizontal bar of a cross; a gallows. Also in the 17th century, patible (from Latin pati, to suffer, whence also patient, long-suffering) was used to mean capable of suffering, enduring. SOCIETY of II June, 1881, spoke of that distinguished burglar, after he had been duly patibulated.

Pattern Maker

A maker of a clog shod with an iron ring. A clog was a wooden pole with a pattern cut into the end.


An old form of pet, a darling. Also, a spoiled child; Shakespeare in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596) has: A pretty peate! It is best put finger in the eye, and she knew why -- the remainer of the passage implying a cry-baby. Being very common from 1570 to 1640, the word developed other uses: as a term of scorn for a woman, especially, a proud peat. Jonson in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) described Deliro's wife and idoll, a proud mincing peat, and as perverse as he is officious. Also, a lawyer favored by a judge, referred to as his peat. Scott revived this use (in REDGAUNTLET; 1824); he also used peat (THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN; 1818) as a term of scorn for a man. Hence peatry, peatship, the character or behavior of a peat. A peatery, however, is a place where peat (chunks of decomposed and partly carbonized vegetable matter, used for fuel -- the still current sense) is dug

Pedlers French

The canting language, the special speech of the beggars, vagabonds, and thieves of Tudor times. It is used, to some extent, in plays of the period, and especially in the pamphlets and broadsides of the day. Both Harman in A CAVEAT OR WAKENING FOR COMMON CURSETORS, VULGARELY CALLED VAGABONDES (1567) and Dekker in LANTHORNE AND CANDLE-LIGHT (Part Two of THE BELMAN OF LONDON; 1609) discuss it in detail. Some of its words are from Latin: Togeman, a cloak, from toga; pannam, bread, from panis; cassan, cheese, from caseus. Others of the words follow, lightmans, day; darkmans, night; the harmans, the stocks; the harman beck, the constable; grannam, corn; ruffmans, bushes, woods, hedges, chete, thing, in many compounds as smelling-chete, a nose, also an orchard or garden; nab, head; nab-chete, cap; prattling chete, tongue; crashing chetes, teeth; fambles, hands; fambling chete, a ring; belly chete, apron; grunting chete, pig. prat, a buttock (we still speak, in the circus, of a pratfall) ; stampes, legs; stampers, shoes. A cove (cofe, co, cuffin) was a man; a mort was a woman. Hence patriarke co, patrico, priest, especially a hedgepriest; gentry cofe, a nobleman; kinchin co, a boy, also kitchen co. kinchin mort, a girl; especially, the baby girl carried by a beggar woman to win pity and elicit pence; "she is brought at her full age to the upright to be broken, and so she is called a doxy until she come to the honor of an altham." autem, altar, church; autem (altham) mort, married woman. Rome mort, queen; Rome bowse, wine; Rome vile (French ville, city), London, ken, house; quier, queer, quyer, evil; quier ken, prison; quier cuffin, justice of the peace, bowsing ken, tavern; stauling ken, place that will receive stolen goods. To cut, cutte, to say; to cant, to speak; to towre, to see, to maunde, ask; to prig, ride; to nygle, niggle, to have to do with a woman carnally. Chief among beggars was the upright, the master vagabond; his staff was called a filtchman. The jarkeman (jackman) could read and write; he provided (counterfeit) licenses, called gybes; the seals he affixed were called jarkes. The frater carried a gybe to beg for a hospital (spittlehouse). The curtsey man was a polite beggar with a piteous tale. The verser (cp. gramercy) was a thief's confederate, steering the victim (verse, to turn) into the snare. A ruffler was, or claimed to be, a veteran of the wars; a whipjack, an old mariner. These terms but scratch the surface of the Elizabethan underworld, yet in some measure I have -- if I may quote Harman -- set before thee, good Reader, the leud lousey language of these leutering luskes and laysy lorels ... an unknowen tounge onely but to these bold, beastly, bawdy beggers and vayne vacabonds.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using fountains.


A stake, used in practicing sword-craft in the 14th century. Also, an early form for pall, peel, pell. Strutt, discussing the old use in SPORTS AND PASTIMES (1801), said: The practitioner was then to assail the pel, armed with sword and shield, in the same manner as he would an adversary. Pel is via French from Latin palus, stake, whence also palisade, pale, pile, peel. The noun peel has had several meanings beside the now current rind of fruit, often candied. (1) A pillow. (2) An equal, a peer. W. Hamilton, in WALLACE (1722): In time of peace, he never had a peel, So courteous he was, and so genteel. (3) A shovel; a baker's shovel. (4) Related to pel: a stake. Hence, a fence of stakes, a palisade (from the 13th to the 16th century) ; a small castle or tower; later, especially, one of the small towers or fortified dwellings built in the 16th century along the English-Scottish border, a peel-house, shortened to peel. Chaucer in THE HOUS OF FAME (1384) has: I gan to romen til I fonde The castel gate on my ryght honde . . . Ther mette I cryinge many oon [a one] God save the lady of thys pel.


Property pilfered or stolen, booty; property; money, wealth. Thus Shakespeare in the prologue to PERICLES (1608): All perishen, of man, of pelfe, Ne ought escapende but himselfe. This progression of meanings toward social acceptance altered, and the word came to mean money, disparagingly, "filthy lucre"; then trumpery, trash -- Gosson in PLEASANT QUIPS FOR UPSTART NEWFANGLED GENTLEWOMEN (1595) decries all this new pelfe now sold in shops, in value true not worth a louse.


The quality of being very clear. Used from the 17th century, sometimes to mean physically transparent (Latin per, through + lux, lucem, light), sometimes of ideas and the mind. C. Lucas in 1756 observed that the Thames River preserves her purity and pellucidity. Of what river that washes a city can this still be said? Witness the already old jingle ending: "The River Rhone washes the city of Cologne . . . Who now will wash the River Rhone?"


A coarse woollen cloth, used in the 16th and 17th centuries. From Pentstone, a town in Yorkshire. Also pennystone, penyston, etc. An Act of Edward VI (1551) required that clothes commonlye called pennystones or forest whites . . . shall conteyne in lengthe beinge wette betwixt twelve and thirtene yardes.


An iItinerant wanderer


To do half-heartedly, to perform in a perfunctory way. Also perfunctorize; both in the 19th century. Latin perfunctor (which might well be used in English) , one that acts in order to be done with a thing; perfungi, perfunctum, to perform, carry through, get rid of; per, through + fungi, to busy oneself, be engaged.


To investigate thoroughly; to examine minutely. Also perscrutate; perscrutation; perscrutator. Latin per, through + scrutari, scrutatum, to examine; whence also scrutiny and the inscrutable ways of providence. Carlyle in PAST AND PRESENT (1843) exclaimed at Such guessing, visioning, dim perscrutation of the momentous future!


A wigmaker


A hassock; especially, one to rest the feet on or to kneel on, in church. In GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE (1575) we hear: My gammer sat her down on her pesf and bad me reach thy breches.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using tossed pebbles.


Shyster lawyer


(1) A rash driver; one that by his rashness 'sets the world on fire' From Phaethon (three syllables; the word means shining) , the son of the sun -- Helios and Clymene, in Greek mythology -- who begged permission to drive the chariot of the sun just once, but could not control the horses, which plunged down until the earth was almost burned: Zeus saved it by hurling a thunderbolt that destroyed Phaethon. Thomas Watson in A BODY OF PRACTICAL DIVINITY (1692) said: Sin is the Phaeton that sets the world on fire. (2) A light four-wheeled open carriage, used in the 18th and 19th centuries; Felton in his book on CARRIAGES (1794) said: The sizes and constructions of phaetons are more various than any other description of carriages.


An illusion; the appearance of a spectre. The word itself was originally a phantomnation; it was first recorded in the dictionaries by a misreading. The original sense appears in Pope's translation (1725) of the ODYSSEY: The phantome nations of the dead.


This is the German word for Philistine, borrowed by the English in the 19th century, for an unenlightened, uncultured person, a philistine. This use probably dates from a sermon preached by Pastor Gotze in Jena in 1693, on the text The Philistines be upon thee, Samson! (Philister uber dir, Simson!), at the funeral of a student killed by the townsmen in a quarrel between 'town and gown.' Hence, applied by students to townsmen, to all that are not students; hence, an unenlightened person. Also philistee, philistian.


Also Phyznomancy. Also Fiznomancy. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the countenance.


A crockery dealer.


An outer garment of skin dressed with the hair. Chaucer gives as a proverb (1390): After heet comethe colde, No man caste his pilchche away. Old English pylece, pelisse; see pell. Also pylche. The verb pilch meant to pick, pluck; hence, to pilfer, rob. Hence pilcher was widely used in the 17th century, as a term of abuse, as in Jonson's THE POETASTER (1601): you mungrels, you curres . . . you inhumane pilchers! Pilcher was also used as a variant of pilch, and as meaning a scabbard -- this in Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1592): Will you pluck your sword out of his pilcher by the ears?


(1) The penis. Pill and cock were used separately in this sense; pill also was figurative for testicle. The word cock took this meaning not directly from the barnyard animal, but from the watercock, supposedly representing a cock's head and comb the tap of which suggested the penis. When Lear on the heath (Shakespeare, KING LEAR, 1605) says: 'Twas this flesh begot Those pelican daughters, Edgar, disguised as a madman, sings the old song: Pillicock sat on Pillicock Hill, Halloo, halloo, loo, loo! [pelican, ungrateful, turning upon one's parents. The pelican mother supposedly fed her young on her own blood; the young thus gained strength, with which they tore her. Thus his daughters, with Lear.] (2) A term of endearment or compliment to a boy, like 'my pretty knave'; thus Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais cries: By my faith, I cannot tell, my pillicock, but thou art more worth than gold.


An alloy (5 parts copper with 1 part zinc) that looks like gold, hence used for cheap jewelry; hence, spurious; imitation, sham. From Christopher Pinchbeck (died 1732) a watchmaker of Fleet Street, London, who invented the alloy; apparently his family name is a place-name; there is a village called Pinchbeck near Spalding. An advertisement in THE DAILY POST of 27 November, 1732, read: The toys made of the late ingenious Mr. Pinchbeck's curious metal . . . are now sold only by his son and sole executor, Mr. Edward Pinchbeck. Thackeray in THE VIRGINIAN (1859) said what is true of many a young woman this hundred years later: Those golden locks were only pinchbeck. Symonds in THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY (1877) spoke of a pinchbeck age of poetry.


To enclose; to dam up (as water) ; to put (animals) in a pound. In a farming book of 1641, Henry Best pictured a sorry state of lambs: Theire excremente . . . berke together their tayles and hinder parts, and soe stoppe their fundament; the sheapheardes phrase is that such lambs are pinded, and that they must bee sette ait liberty. From the 9th century. Hence pinder (short i) , an officer of the manor whose duty it was to impound stray beasts; in Nottingham in the 1760's there were two, "one for the fields and the other for the meadows." Also pinfold, a pound, a place for confining stray cattle, horses, sheep, etc. In the ten provinces of Poland, remarked A. White in 1899, the Jews are confined as in a pinfold.


Growing fat; causing to grow fat, Latin pinguescere, to grow fat; pinguis, fat. pinguescence, the process of growing fat. pinguefy, rarely pinguedinize, to make fat. pinguefaction, the act of fattening. Southey in 1797 pictured a very brown looking man, of most pinguescent and fullmoon cheeks. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of 1825 more gruesomely pictured buttocks pinguefying on their own steaks.


Chirping like a young bird; hence, young, new-fledged. Collins in a sermon of 1607 spoke of Anacreon's fonde doves, some perfect, some pipient, some hatcht, some half hatcht. Thomas Adams in THE SPIRITUALL, NAVIGATOR (1615) castigated hypocrites, a pipient brood, cackling their own ripeness.


Short for epistle. Also pistel, pistol, pystol, pistelle, pystle, and the like. Chaucer uses the word pistel to mean story. As a verb, to write an epistle on, to satirize; in PAPPE WITH A HATCHET (1589) we read: Take heed, he will pistle thee. A pistoler (pystoler) might be a letter-writer, or a church officer assigned to read the Epistle; Cardinal Wolsey had in his private chapel (said Cavendish in 1557) a deane who was allwayes a great clarke and devyne; a subdeane, a repeter [rehearser] of the quyer; a gospeller; a pystoler; and xii syngyng prestes.


(1) A plan or map (16th century). (2) A piece of armour worn over the cuirass, or a leather jacket with steel strips. In this sense, also placcate, placard, plaquet. (3) A woman's petticoat; hence, a woman. Also, a pocket in a woman's skirt; but especially, the opening in a petticoat (to make it easy to take off) , hence used with sexual implications, as in Shakespeare's KING LEAR (1605) : Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lender's books, and defy the foul fiend!


Making the noise of waves breaking on the shore; loudsounding, used of a metallic or of a plaintive sound; hence plangor, loud lamentation; plangorous. Latin plangere, to strike noisily, beat the breast, bewail. Hence plangiferous, producing or accompanied by the sound of beating, like a lively plangiferous flagellation. Plangency might be either pleasant or unpleasant: Carlyle in FREDERICK THE GREAT (1858) says: Friedrich Wilhelm's words, in high clangorous metallic plagency . . . fall hotter and hotter; Stevenson in THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (1882) says: Her voice had charm and plangency.


Plain-speaking. Also planiloquy, plain speech. 17th and 18th century, after the Latin planiloquus of Plautus.


A wagoner. Latin plaustrum, a wagon, cart. The first syllable rhymes with law. Hence, plaustral, pertaining to a cart or wagon. Goldsmith in A CITIZEN OF THE WORLD (1762) observed: Whether the grand jury, in council assembled, had gloriously combined to encourage plaustral merit, I cannot take upon me to determine.


One who applied sheet lead for roofing and set lead frames for plain or stained glass windows.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by blowing; a vestigium of this is the blowing out of candles on a festival or birthday cake.


A pocket fiddle, used in the 17th and the early 18th century. Also pochette d'amore, an early viola d'amore.


Door keeper


(1) An apothecary. The form is a 15th to 17th century corruption (revived by Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH, 1828) of pothecar, pothecary. Also potingair, pottinger. Apothecary is via Late Latin from Greek apotheke, storehouse; pithenai, to put. The form pottinger was also another word, related to pottage and porringer, meaning (2) a vessel for holding liquid food, a small basin. Used from the 15th century. Also (B) a pottage maker, a cook. This was, earlier, potager.


Relating to, or providing, a foretaste. Latin prae, before + libare, libatum, to take a little of, to taste -- whence also libation. Thus prelibate, to taste beforehand; to give a foretaste; prelibation. Used from the 16th century; common in figurative use in the 17th, especially in religious writings, as when T. Adams in his EXPOSITION (1633) of the BIBLE: SECOND EPISTLE GENERAL OF PETER stated that the wicked have a preltbatwn of that darkness they shall go unto hereafter. Wordsworth makes poetic use of prelibation in THE PRELUDE (1805).


A tinker, a traveling mender of pots and pans; hence, a thief. A prigman (prygman, pridgeman) is one of the varieties of vagabond listed in the Elizabethan pamphlets; cp. pedlers French. Also a verb, to prig, to steal, to cheat. Shakespeare in THE WINTER'S TALE (1611) tells us a man married a tinkers wife . . . and (having flowne over many knavish professions) he settled onely in rogue: some call him Autolycus. Clowne: Out upon him: prig, for my life, prig: he haunts wakes, faires, and beare-baitings.


A drink made of wine and honey, usually taken before meals. Directly from the Greek pro, before + poma, drink. In English, also propomate. A 17th century term. See mead.


A strong material (originally silk, later worsted) used for students', clergymen's, and barristers' gowns and later for the tops of women's shoes. Pope used the word in his ESSAY ON MAN (1734): Worth makes the man and want of it, the fellow; The rest is all but leather or prunella. The word is also used as the name of a flower (the self-heal) and -- by alteration from brunella, 'the browns' -- was applied to a camp-fever prevalent among the German imperial troops in 1547 and 1566. The word was also used in the forms prunelle, prunello. Prunello is the Italian for little prune; Sir J. E. Smith in his MEMOIRS (1786) said that he Dined at Brignolle, famous for the Prunes de Brignolle, which we have corrupted into Prunellas. They were a noted product of Provence.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using heaped pebbles.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- with the intent to deceive, as when the witches promise Macbeth he'll be safe till Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane which would leave more than a dunce inane.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using spirits.


Wrought iron worker

Pumbum Worker



A prostitute, harlot. From the late 16th century; Shakespeare in MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1603) says: She may be a puncke; for many of them are neither maid, widow, nor wife. Also punque, pung. Nares (1882) notes that punk was used by Butler and Dryden, but calls it 'a coarse term, which is deservedly growing obsolete.'


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using flames.


A box or coffer. A small vase. Cp. pax. Also pix; pyxis; Greek pyxis, box; pyxos, box-tree. Especially (1) in church service, the vessel in which the consecrated bread of the sacrament is kept; (2) the box at the London mint where specimen new coins are kept to be tested; hence, the trial of the pyx, examination of the purity and weight of the coins; pyx-feast, pyx-dinner, meal of the jury of the Goldsmiths' Company, on the occasion of the trial of the pyx. (3) The mariner's compass. -- We note in Smith's DICTIONARY OF GREEK AND ROMAN ANTIQUITIES (1842) that Nero deposited his beard in a valuable pyxis, when he shaved for the first time.


Pertaining to profit, moneymaking. Latin quaerere, quaestum (querere, questum, whence query, question), to seek. In his FABLES (1694) R. L'Estrange refers to the lawyers, the divines, and all quaestuary professions.


To drink deeply, take a long draught; especially, to drain a cup at a draught. Used since the 16th century; Shakespeare says, in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596): quaft off the muscadell. Quaff up that bitter cup of affliction, Bishop Hall (1633) urged himself; but Dekker in THE WHORE OF BABYLON (1607) more gaily exclaimed: I quaffe full bowles of strong enchanting wines.


I As an adjective. The earliest sense of quaint (coint, coynte, qwaynt, and more) was wise, ingenious; also, crafty, cunning. Then it was used to mean elegant, especially in speech; clever; also cleverly wrought, hence beautiful. It is via Old French cointe (quointe, cuinte) from Latin cognitum, known; cognoscere, to know; whence also cognition', cp. coint. Its use lapsed about 1650; it was revived about 1800, mainly in its present sense. II As a noun. (1) A woman's private parts. Chaucer sought no euphemism, in THE MILLER'S TALE (1386) ; he bluntly says: Pryvely he caught her by the queynte. The O.E.D. in Victorian innocence queries whether this is from the adjective, but it is a different word, being a variant form of the common English word, akin to Latin cunnus; Burton in his translation (1886) of THE ARABIAN NIGHTS spells it coynte. From the adjective, however, does come the sense, not in O.E.D., of (2) a clever trick; a cunning device. In HANDLYNG SYNNE (cp. sigalder; slop), the bishop, looking at the magic bag, commands the witch: 'Dame', seyd the bysshop, 'do thy quentyse, And late us se how hit shall ryse'. Thys wycche here charme began to sey, The slop ros up, and yede the weye.


An early (mainly Scotch) form of (1) where. (2) quire. This may be a variant of choir, as in Shakespeare's SONNET 73 (1592): Bare ruin'd quires, where late the sweet birds sang and in Milton's IL PENSOROSO (1632): There let the pealing organ blow To the full-voiced quire below. Choir is roundabout from Greek choros, company of singers or dancers. More often (from the 13th century) quire, quair (Old French caier, French cahier; Latin quaterni, set of four; quattuor, four) was a set of four sheets of parchment or paper, folded to form eight leaves; by extension, a pamphlet or booklet; then, a poem or prose piece short enough to fit in a quire. The best known work of this sort is The Kingis Quair (1423), by James I of Scotland.


(1) An early form of quarrer, quarry, a place from which stone is obtained. Ultimately from Latin quadrus, square, four-sided; quattuor, four. From the same source came (2) quarrel, quarry, a short, square-headed arrow or bolt, used with the cross-bow and the arbalest. Also a square needle (15th century; for fishhooks); a square or diamond pane of glass (in lattice windows, 15th to 17th century); a four-sided tile; pavements in the 17th century might be wrought checkerwise with small square quarels. When persons seek to avoid a quarrel, the word is via Old French quereler from Latin querela, complaint, queri, to complain, whence both querulous and quarrelsome; querulation, querullng, the act of complaining; querulist, an habitual complainer; querulental, querulential, querelous, querulous, peevish; querulity, querulosity, a spirit of complaining. These should not be confused with forms from Latin quaerere, to ask, seek; quaestio, question, whence also request, questionable. In THE OBSERVER (No. 103; 1785), Cumberland spoke of a lady rather captious and querulental. Touchstone in THE TRIFLER (1788) averred: I have carefully examined the various subjects of complaint . . . If my third fair querulist . . .


Quarry worker


To subdue, daunt. Probably a variant of quail. Used by Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590): Therewith his sturdie corage soon was quayd, And all his senses were with sudden dread dismayed.


A thicket, a dense growth of bushes. Also queche. Hence queachy, thickly grown but also used (Peele, EDWARD I, 1593; Drayton, POLYOLBION, 1622) to mean swampy, sodden. MERLIN (1450) told that thei rode so longe till thei com to a thikke queche in a depe valey.


A woman; but in early Middle English the word developed disreputable implications; it was very common in the 16th and 17th centuries, meaning a hussy, a strumpet. The Gothic qino, woman, is related to Zend gena, Greek gyne, whence gynecology. The well-known drinking song in Sheridan's THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL (1777) has the lines: Here's to the flaunting extravagant quean And here's to the housewife that's thrifty. Scott revived the innocent sense of the word, referring to a robust young woman, as in ROB ROY (1818): It shows a kind heart . . . in sae young a quean; Mattie's a carefu' lass. For further instances, see bawdreaminy.


Evil, wicked. A most common word; also, cwead, quead, kuead, cwed, queyd, quethe. As a noun, a wicked or evil person; especially, the Devil. Hence, evil, harm. Also quedhead, quedness, quedship, evil.


To please, gratify; to act so as to please; to be acceptable; to be suitable; to appease. Used from the 8th century; Palsgrave in 1530 says I queme . . . This worde is now out of use. Spenser, when in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MAY) he wrote Such merimake holy saints doth queme, felt it necessary to write 'please' in a gloss. The form in Middle High German was bequaeme, it is fitting; English it becomes me, as in Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill. We still say becoming, but we have forgotten queme. The word was also used as an adjective, meaning pleasing, agreeable; of pleasing appearance, beautiful, smooth (of the ocean); fit, fitting, convenient, handy; friendly, well disposed.


A ball of meat or fish, made into a paste, cooked, well seasoned. V. Stuart in EGYPT (1883) enjoyed savoury quenelles of mutton enveloped in fennel leaves.


A hand-mill; usually two circular stones, the upper one turned by hand. For grinding corn; also, pepper-quern, mustard-quern. From the 10th century; used by Chaucer (1374) and Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1596) when a fairy queries Puck: Are you not he That frights the maidens of the villagery, Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern And bootless make the breathless housewife churn? Sylvester uses the mill as an image for the teeth, in his translation (1591) of Du Bartas: Two equail ranks of orient pearls . . . quernlike grinding small th' imperfect food. There was also a quern-chant, quern-song, song of the miller.


Relating to the oak, oak-leaves, or acorns. Latin quernus, from quercus, oak. In his ANIMADVERSIONS (1599) Thynne refers to the quernall crowne gyven to those which had saved a cytyzen.


(1) A body of persons appointed to make an inquiry or inquest, a jury. Shakespeare uses this figuratively, in SONNET 46 (1600): To side this title is impanelled A quest of thoughts, all tennant to the heart. Hence, from the number in such a quest, twelve. AN ALMOND FOR A PARRAT(1589): Ile have a spare fellowe shall make mee a whole quest of faces for three farthings. A questman, a member of a quest; questmonger (disreputable), one that made a business of serving on a quest or of conducting inquests. Quest was frequently used as a short form for inquest. (2) The side of an oven. A pie was quested when its side was crushed against the oven or another pie, or so pressed as to be less well baked.


One that is seeking, goes in quest of. Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) tells that thirty of his knights, Hot questrists after him, met him at gate.


To speak, declare. Also, a speech, a sound. Used from the 9th to the 16th century. Also quethe, queythe. The past of queth was quoth, sometimes still used to give an archaic effect (usually followed by the subject, quoth the colonel); quotha was short for quoth he, he said; also quodha, catha. Sometimes quotha was used in scorn, meaning forsooth! indeed! The phrase alive and quething meant alive and able to speak; when quething was forgotten, folk-practice changed the phrase to alive and kicking. In the 14th century, quething was used for bequeathing; a quethe word was a bequest, a quething word was a last farewell.


As a noun. A play upon words. From this sense of quibble came the second sense, as still in the verb, to quibble, to indulge in purely verbal argument, to avoid the issue by a turn of phrases. A quip was originally a sharp or sarcastic remark; later, any clever turn of words, as in Milton's L'ALLEGRO (1632): Quips and cranks and wanton wiles. Both quip and quibble are probably from quib, which is a shortening of Latin quibus, 'from which things' (it can be seen, etc.). The word quibus occurred frequently in legal documents, hence came to be used of the verbal aspects of the legal mind. (In French, quibus was used to mean money, 'the wherewithal'; in Dutch, kwibus, a fool.) Johnson, in his Preface to Shakespeare (1765) said: A quibble is to Shakespeare what luminous vapour is to the traveller; he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of the way and sure to engulf him in the mire.


Living. Frequent in phrases: quick cattle, quick beast, also figuratively, as the quick (fertile) earth. A quick fence is a hedge of living plants. Also quick coals, live, burning; quick spring, flowing; quick steel, brittle. It survives as a noun in the quick and the dead (The BIBLE: ACTS). Cp. wizard.


A thick fruit jelly -- thicker than a syrup, said a guide of 1616, and not so thick nor stiff as marmalade. Originally, a quince preserve (Latin cydonia, quince) ; also called quindiniac; quiddanet, quidony; codinac, codigny, a quince marmalade; cotiniate, a marmalade or confection of quinces. In the 18th century, quiddany was a general term for any fruit syrup or jelly. Hence to quiddany, to make into jelly, used figuratively in Ward's THE SIMPLE COBLER OF AGAWAM in America (1647): He will . . . quidanye Christ with sugar and ratsbane.


(1) The essence of a thing. Formed with the ending -ity from quid (Latin, what), used also in English, meaning that which a thing is. (2) A thingiIntangible or nameless. (3) A subtlety in argument; subtlety in wit. The third meaning sprang from the frequency of scholastic arguments on the quiddity (essence) of things. Also quiddit and, by alteration, quillity and quillet. Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) speaks of some tricks, some quillets, how to cheat the divell. Also Urquhart has, in his translation (1653) of Rabelais: One of them would call it . . . her staffe of love, her quillety. Still another variant appeared in Guilpin's SKIALETHEIA (1598): Then whats a wench but a quirke, quidlit case, Which makes a painters pallat of her face? A line in W. S. Gilbert's PATIENCE (1881) runs: To stuff his conversation full of quibble and of quiddity. Also quiddative, quidditative, pertaining to the essence of a thing; full of equivocations; quirky.


(1) An inquisitive person; one that is constantly inquiring Quid nunc? (Latin: What now?) (2) A curiosity, someone or something to be talked about. Used from the 18th century, as by Steele in THE TATLER (1709); still occasionally employed in satire. Speaking of Pinero's THE IRONMASTER (1884) adapted from Ohnet's LE MAÎTRE DES FORGES of the year before, M. W. Disher in MELODRAMA (1954) said: It was gloomy and that made it fashionable, for the new intellectual drama which quidnuncs talked about would of course be gloomy -- the drama of ideas from "The Robbers" to "Leah" always had been because it had always come from the other side of the Rhine where brains worked solemnly.


An arrangement of trees or other objects so that four mark the corners and one the center of a rectangle; an orchard may be a joined series of such quincunxes. Also quincunce; Latin quinque, five + uncia, ounce, one-twelfth; literally, five-twelfths; dots arranged in a quincunx signified five-twelfths of an as. [The original unit of currency at Rome, the as, was -- with many later modifications -- a bar of bronze weighing one Roman pound, twelve ounces.] Hence also quincunxial, more commonly quincuncial.


(1) A tilting post. Common in medieval knightly training, in 17th and 18th century country sports at weddings. Described in Toone's GLOSSARY (1834): "An upright post was fixed to the ground, having at the top a movable figure of a man, holding a shield . . . and at the other end a heavy sand bag; the player rode or run at full speed and attempted to strike the figure, which, if not done dexterously, he was struck and overthrown by a blow from the sandbag." Toone suggests that the word is from British gwyntyn, a vane. The O.E.D. traces it to Latin quintus, fifth, the grounds of the fifth division of the Roman legion being used for military exercises. Also quintayne, qwaintan, quyntyne, quinten, quintan, and the like. Also quintal, quintel, quintil. Shakespeare, in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) says: That which here stands up Is but a quintine, a meere liveless blocke. (2) A variant of quentin or quintin (St. Quentin in Picardy; Quintin, in Brittany, France) a kind of linen or lawn. (3) A stanza of five lines, usually called a cinquain.


The communications system or device of ancient Peru. Also quipo, quippu, quippo; Quichan quipu, knot. An arrangement of knotted and colored cords, that transmitted messages, and recorded such items as population, crops, number of workers, and tribute. Carlyle remarked (1830) that history has been written -with quipo-threads, with feather pictures, with wampum-belts. The quipu system never attained the status of writing, unlike the neighboring hieroglyphics of the Maya -- who also computed time accurately back some ninety million years, and set one date at 400 million years ago. They achieved this a thousand years before Archbishop Ussher (1581-1656) calculated that the creation of the world occurred 4004 B.C., which date for a long time after his determination was printed in the Authorized Version of the BIBLE.


Made up of rubbish. Also quisquilian, quisquiliary. From Latin quisquiliae, odds and ends; quisque, whatever it may be. Used since the 18th century. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE, in a travesty of Urquhart (1817), railed against those shallow and fidimplicitary coxcombs, who fill our too credulous ears with their quisquiliary deblaterations. FRASER'S MAGAZINE (1857) more soberly ventured into ornithology: The jay's diet is sufficiently quisquilious. Also see nugacity.


Hard to handle, ticklish. Also quisquose, quiscos, quiscoskos. Used in Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries; we read in TAIT'S MAGAZINE for 1856: the ladies maybe a wee quiscoskos.


A sum paid in lieu of services due, as in feudal times. Often used figuratively, as by Cowper in TABLE TALK (1782): The courtly laureate pays His quitrent ode, his peppercorn of praise.


Nimble, quick. Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) says: There was a little quiver fellow, and a' would manage his piece thus. From the noun quiver, a case for arrows, came a verbal form, as in Milton's COMUS (1654): Like a quiver'd nymph with arrows keen. The form quiverful was often used figuratively, meaning many, echoing the BIBLE: PSALM 127: As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.


In use in the 1700s, but it did not mean a small test until the middle of the nineteenth century. For about a hundred years before that, the noun quiz meant an odd person or thing. Its verb form meant "to make fun of." It is rumored to have been invented by a Dublin theater proprietor who, having made a bet that a nonsense word could be made known within 48 hours throughout the city, and that the public would give it a meaning, had the word written up on walls all over the city. There is no evidence to support this theory.


(1) One who does as he pleases, or believes in doing as one pleases. (2) One who indulges in or discusses quodlibets. A quodlibet was a question (usually in philosophy or religion) posed as an exercise in argument; hence, to do quodlibets, to argue, to advance or present a thesis. Latin quod, what + libet, pleases. Also quodlibetist, quodlibetary; the latter term was applied either to the arguer or to the argument. To deal in such matters (i.e., to quibble) was, in the 18th century, to quodlibetificate (accent, naturally, on the tiff). Adjectives were quodlibetal, quodlibetic, quodlibetical.


Former; that used to be. Directly from the Latin; in the 16th century, also condam. Often used in the 16th century, as by Latimer in his FOURTH SERMON BEFORE KING EDWARD VI (1549): Make them quondammes, out with them, cast them out of ther office! Hence quondamship, the condition of being out of office (also in Latimer's FOURTH SERMON). Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) says: I did converse this quondam day with a companion of the kings. Ruskin in FORS CLAVIGERA (1874) sighed over the loquacious and speculative disposition . . . of all my quondam friends.


An old variant of quaked, past tense of to quake. Chaucer used quok, quoke; Spenser in MUTABILITY (1596) tells that Jove shooke His nectar-deawed locks, with which the skyes And all the earth beneath for terror quooke, And eft his burning levin-brond in hand he tooke.


To throb, quiver, palpitate. Also quab, quag; earlier quap. Chaucer in TROYLUS AND CRISEYDE (1374) has: And lord how that his herte gan to quappe, Heryng her come. Dryden (1679) also said My heart quops. As a noun quab, quob meant (1) a shapeless thing, as an ill-written work; Ford in THE LOVER'S MELANCHOLY (1628) spoke of a trifle of mine own brain ... a scholar's fancy, a quab; 'tis nothing else, a very quab. (2) A quagmire, a marshy spot, also a quag. The verb to quag, to quiver, is used of flabby flesh "or a great dug."


Also rablement; variant forms of rabble; used also (Spenser, THE FAERIE QUEENE; 1590) of the tumult a rabble might cause. Shakespeare in JULIUS CAESAR (1601) pictures the proffering of the crown: As hee refus'd it, the rabblement showted. For another instance, see pot-fury.


A violent, noisy person. Used in the 19th century, mainly in Scotland. Probably a variant (influenced by rabid, mad) of the earlier rubiator, a scoundrel.


An excessive rent; a rent virtually equal to the value of the property. Also a verb; It was a maxim with his family, we read in Richardson's CLARISSA (1748) never to rackrent old tenants or their descendants. There is a current echo in TAXI'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of 1884: Every year growing worse than the last in this rackrent country. Pity the farmer, the needy, hard-rackrented hinde, of Sylvester's (1591) Du Bartas. James Mill in THE HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (1818) observed that one third to the cultivator, and two thirds to the proprietor, would be accounted a rackrent in England.


(1) The devil. So used in the 14th and 15th centuries. (2) Earlier raggeman, rageman (three syllables, hard g), the name given to a statue of Edward I, appointing justices to hear complaints of injuries within 25 years. By extension, a list, a roll; also called roll of ragman, ragman roll (14th and 15th centuries). By further extension, a discourse; especially, a long, rambling, and partly meaningless discourse, rigmarole. Rigmarole is a variant form of ragman roll, superseding it in this sense by 1600. Also a game of chance, played with a written roll that contained various items with strings attached, each player to pull a string and discover his prize or penalty. There is a record of two men being fined in Durham, in 1377, for playing ragman. The roll for the game was supposed to be written by King Ragman, who was praised or blamed according to the draw. Ragman's roll is also the name of certain rolls recording instruments of homage to Edward I by Balliol of Scotland in 1296 (returned to the Scots by Edward III). Also ragman('s) rew, a book or catalogue (16th century); in this sense John Olde in his translation (1556) of Walter's ANTICHRIST speaks of the noble ragge man rolls of those most holy fathers.


Ill-behaved, riotous. Smollett has Tabitha Bramble exclaim, in HUMPHREY CLINKER (1771): Roger gets this and Roger gets that; but I'd have you to know I won't be rogered at this rate by any ragmatical fellow in the kingdom. See Roger.


The act of going; a journey; the ground over which animals usually move, pasture-land. From the 14th century; the word is an early form of rake (which had these and other meanings) , which except in dialect and Scotch largely replaced raik by 1600. Also a verb, to go, walk, wander, walk through; Hogg in a poem of 1813 has: to raike the lonely glen. In another poem he uses the form as a noun: The wolf and the kid their raike began.


A dissolute fellow. The word was common in the 17th century. Coming earlier and outlasting rakeshame was the form rakehell, sometimes abbreviated to rakel. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) says: Amid their rakehell bands They spide a lady. Also rakehellonian, one of the tribe of rakehells. The noun rake, in the sense of a man of loose ways; especially, an idle dissipated man of fashion (I8th and 19th centuries) is an abbreviation of rakehelL Some (e.g., Goldsmith in THE GIFT, 1777: Cruel Iris, pretty rake, Dear mercenary beauty) used rake of a woman.


(1) The bones or mere skeleton of a thing; dried stalks. J. Bell in his translation (1581) of Haddon's ANSWER TO OSORIUS said: Natural fooles do destest the stinking rames . . . of that rebellious traytour. (2) A branch of a tree. This use is from Latin ramus, branch, oar; English ramuscle (17th century), ramuscule (19th century) is a small branch. (3) A cry; a continuous repetition of the same sound also a verb, to cry, to repeat, used since the 15th century.


A small amount of cheese, with bread-crumbs, eggs, etc., baked and served in a special mold. Also ramequin. The word was sometimes used of the mold (1894, little French china ramequin cases) in which the mixture was baked; thus The Connoisseur (1754, No. 19) said: Toasted cheese is already buried in rammelkins. The word usually occurred in the plural -- folks asked for more.


A raspscallion (cp. scullion), a ruffian scoundrel. Perhaps related to ramp, q.v. Nashe in his STRANGE NEWES (1593) advised: Pocket not up this abuse at a rakehell rampalions hands. For an instance in Shakespeare, used of a woman, see catastrophe.


A dead tree; especially, a spiky stump or stem of a tree. Hence rampick, decayed; bare. A glossary of 1881 spells the word raunpick, and explains it as "bare of bark or flesh, looking as if pecked by ravens" -- as though raun pick were converted from raven-peck. A ramp (15th to 18th century) was a vulgar, brazen female; Gabriel Harvey in his LETTERBOOK (1573) speaks of An insatiable ramp Of Messalina's stamp; the second syllable is probably pike, a pointed staff. A rampallion was (a male ramp) a ruffian, scoundrel. A man all skin and bones is rampick indeed.


To seize, to snatch; to carry off. An early (16th and 17th century) form of rape, q.v.; frequent in the phrase rap and rend. Also, to transport with joy, to rouse to rapture; apparently given this sense by back-formation from rapt. Shakespeare in CYMBELINE (1609) inquires: What . . . thus raps you?


A wine, belike made of raspberries, popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. Also raspays, respice. It was of 'a deepe redde enclining to blacke,' Said R. Mathew in 1662: A very good friend of mine . . . was feasted . . . with respass wine. Raspis was also an early name of the raspisberry, now raspberry.


Town watchman


A bat (the animal); plural, rearmice. Also reremice; hryremus, reremows, and more. Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590) says: Some warre with reremise for their leathern wings. The word was used in the 12th century and still survives in dialects; Browning in PARACELSUS (1835) queried: Do the rearmice still Hang like a fretwork on the gate? The German word for bat is Fledermaus, flitter-mouse; the French, chauve souris, bald mouse. The origin of the English word is not clear; the first syllable may be from Old English hreran, to move (flitter).


A rebellowing echo. Latin re, again + boare, boatum, to bellow. Hence reboant, loudly re-echoing. Elizabeth Browning in A VISION OF POETS (1844) speaks of Spiritual thunders . . . Crushing their echoes reboant With their own wheels.


Smoky; dirty, squalid. Related to reek. Used from the 15th century; surviving in dialect. Shakespeare uses it in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599): Like Pharaoes souldiours in the rechie painting and in CORIOLANUS: The kitchin malkin pinnes Her richest lockram 'bout her reechie necke. Note that, in the early uses of reek there were often no disagreeable implications; it means rising like mist in Shakespeare's HENRY V, in reference to the valiant English that may die in France: For there the sun shall greet them, And draw their honours reeking up to heaven; SONNET 130, which claims the poet's love as rare As any she belied with false compare, speaks of the breath that from my mistress reeks.


To disprove, prove to be false. Also refell. Common in the 16th and 17th centuries; later, supplanted by refute. Latin refellere; re, back + fallere, to deceive, whence also fail, infallible. Palsgrave (15S0): I can not refell your argument, it is so evydent.


To refresh, reanimate, comfort. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries; the noun refocillation was used, though rarely, from the 16th into the 19th, e.g., by Coleridge. Focillate appears in 17th and 18th century dictionaries. The word meant literally to warm into life (re, again); Latin focillare, focillatum is from focus, hearth. Coryat in his CRUDITIES (1611) said: The first view thereof did even refocillate my spirits and tickle my senses with inward joy; Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1760) remarked: The nose was comforted, nourished, plump'd up, refresh'd, refocillated, and set agrowing forever.


As a noun. (1) Royalty; royal authority; also, a kingdom, royal right or privilege; a ruler (Chaucer; 1385); a ring or a chalice used at a coronation. Latin regalis; rex, regem, king; whence also royal (via the French) and the adjective regal. The noun was in use from the 14th to the 17th century. The regal of Scotland, the coronation chair, placed on the stone of Scone. (2) A portable organ (usually plural, regals) common from 1550 to 1625, of reed pipes; played with keys by the right hand while the left hand worked a bellows. Also rigalle, rigoll; in French (Rabelais) regualle. (3) A groove, a slot, as in a battlement, or for a pulley or for joining boards. Used from the 15th century; also regyll, riggle; raggle, a groove in stone, as for fitting an edge of a roof.


To kindle again. Also relumine; short for reillumine. Hence, relumination. Lumination has been superseded by illumination. Latin luminare, luminatum; lumen, luminem, light. Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) declares: I know not where is that Promethean heate That can thy light relume. Often used figuratively, as in Campbell's THE PLEASURES OF HOPE (1799): Lo, nature, life, and liberty relume The dim-eyed tenant of the dungeon gloom.


A sucking-fish, little but believed to have the power to stop a ship. Spenser in his VISION OF THE WORLD'S VANITY (1591) says: There clove unto her keele A little fish, that men call remora, Which stopt her course. The accent is evidently on the rem. The word was common in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the general sense of an obstacle, of something that held one back. That authoritie, said Edmonds in his OBSERVATIONS (1604) to Caesar's COMMENTARIES, was a remora to divers other nations of Gallia from shewing that defection by plaine and open revolt.


To smooth, as with a pumicestone. Also repumication; Latin pumicem, pumice. R. Baron in THE CYPRIAN ACADEMY (1647) declared: She that wanteth [lacks] a sleekestone to repumicate her linnen, will take a pibble.


Repentance; recognition of one's mistakes; turning to a better path or opinion. Latin re, again + sapere, to taste, to discern. Hence resipiscent, returning to a sound state of mind. Sir Thomas Browne in a letter of 1672 spoke of some one so closely shut up within the holds of vice and iniquity, as not to find some escape by a postern of resipiscency.


An old variant of rhetor, a teacher of rhetoric; an orator; by extension, a windy speechifier. Also, a petty rhetorician or orator, a rhetorculist (17th century).


Pertaining to nets and webs; or to fighting with a net, like the Roman gladiatorial fighter with a net, the retiarius. Latin rete, a net. Used figuratively, as by Coleridge (see illaqueate) and Sir Thomas Browne in CHRISTIAN MORALS (1682): Our inward antagonists, like retiary and laqueary combatants, with nets, frauds, and entanglements fall upon us.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using things seen looking over one's shoulder.


To clothe, to dress; applied especially (13th to 17th century) to ecclesiastics. Latin re, again (often merely emphatic) + vestire, to clothe. A common word, used also of things, as in a poem of Surrey's in Tottel's MISCELLANY (1547): The pleasant plot revested green with warm. Also, to reinvest, in the various senses of invest From a mistaken notion that revest was the past participle (only), came a form revesh, revess, used from the late 14th into the 16th century; in 1555 it was said of a priest: After he hath ravisshed himself in the vestry, he commeth forth to the aultare.


To refute, disprove. Latin re, back + vincere, to conquer. Hence also revincible, refutable. The opinion of Copernicus, said G. Watts in his translation (1640) of Bacon's DE AUGMENTIS SCIENTIARUM, because it is not repugnant to the phenomena, cannot be revinced by astronomical principles.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using a rod or wand.


Originally, an epic poem; especially, a book of the ILIAD or the ODYSSEY, which could be presented aloud at one time. In the 16th century, rhapsody came also to mean a miscellaneous collection, a confused gathering of things, or of poems, stories, etc.; a literary work of disconnected pieces; hence, any gathering, as when Sanderson in a sermon of 1647 spoke of a cento and a rhapsody of uncircumcised nations. Shakespeare in HAMLET (1601) speaks of a rapsidie of words. Addison in THE SPECTATOR (No. 46; 1711) remarked: Thot would look like a rhapsody of nonsense to any body but myself. The still current sense, of an exalted or exaggeratedly enthusiastic expression of feeling, came into wide use in the 18th century.


The painting of mean or sordid subjects. From Greek rhyparos, filthy. Rhyparography, in Smith's DICTIONARY OF GREEK AND ROMAN ANTIQUITIES (1842) is linked with pornography; but sometimes it is synonymous with still-life or genre painting. Saintsbury in his NINETEENTH CENTURY LITERATURE (1896) uses it of descriptive writing: The Lousiad (a perfect triumph of cleverness expended on what the Greeks called rhyparography). Also rhypography. Hence rhypographic, rhypographer, rhypographist, a painter of mean subjects; Motteux in his translation (1694) of Rabelais speaks of the post of puny riparographer, or riffraff-scribler of the sect of Pyrricus. Greek rhypos, dirt, filth; but Greek rhyptein, to cleanse. Hence (17th and 18th centuries) rhyptical, cleansing; a rhyptic, a cleanser.


Hoist tackle worker


Wanton, licentious. One meaning of rig (from the late 16th century) is a wanton woman; also rigmutton; cp. lace. Nay fy on thee thou rampe, thou ryg, we read in GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE (1575). Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) has the Egyptian queen praised: For vildest things Become themselves [are seemly] in her, that the holy priests Bless her, when she is riggish. Also riggite, a mocker, one that makes game of others. Franklin in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1788) says: My being esteemed a pretty good riggite, that is a Jocular verbal satirist, supported my consequence in the society.


Also rig-my-role, riggmonrowle, and the like. See ragman. Byron in DON JUAN (1818) declares: His speech was a fine sample, on the whole, Of rhetoric, which the learn'd call rigmarole. Hence rigmarolery; rigmarolic, rigmarolish.


A ring or circle. French rigole, water-course; hence gutter, groove. Also riggal, regal. Shakespeare in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593) says: About the mourning and congealed face Of that blacke bloud, a watrie rigoll goes, Which seems to weep upon the tainted place.


A membrane. (This is a different word from rim, edge, border.) Thus rim-side, the flesh-side of a skin. Also, short for rim of the belly, the peritoneum. In the 16th century, rim-burst, rymbirst, rumbursin, a rupture. Shakespeare in HENRY V (1599) says: I will fetch thy rymme out at thy throat, in droppes of crimson blood.


Seller of fish


A bank, shore. Also rive, ryve; Old French rive; Latin ripa, bank; rivus, stream. Also (14th to 16th century) rival, ryvaile, ryval, a shore, a landing place. Persons living on opposite shores were rivals; they fished in the same stream, hence the current sense. An arrival (Latin ar-, ad, to) is a coming to the shore. Gower in the CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) wrote of the hihe festes of Neptune Upon the stronde at the rivage. Thus (17th century) rival, a small stream; rivalet, a rivulet.


Something that adds flavor of piquancy. Vanbrugh in THE FALSE FRIEND (1702) declared: Difficulties are the rocombolle of love; I never valued an easy conquest. Also roccombo, rockenbole, rockanbowl, rocombole. Literally, a kind of leek, Spanish garlic, A. Austey in THE NEW BATH GUIDE (1766) wrote of a man a woman must detest, who puffs his vile rocambol breath in her face; but Evelyn in ACETARIA, OR A DISCOURSE OF SALLETS [Salads] (1699) desired a light touch on the dish, much better supplied by the gentler roccombo.


From the name came various other uses. (1) A begging vagabond claiming to be a poor scholar from Oxford or Cambridge. Apparently in this sense the g was hard; perhaps the word was related to rogue. In the following senses, the g was soft. (2) A phallus. So used in Urquhart's translation (1653) of Rabelais. Hence, to roger, to have intercourse; for an illustration of this use (which puns on the name Roger) see Ragmatical. (3) In phrases, The Jolly Roger, the pirates' flag, a white skull with two crossed bones beneath, on a black field. Roger's blast, a whirling up of dust, somewhat as a water-spout, foreboding rain. In East Anglia, 19th century. Also, a roger, a Sir Rodger. Roger de Coverley, a country dance; also, Sir Roger. At first called Roger of Coverley; the name was changed under the influence of the popular Sir Roger de Coverley introduced by Addison in THE SPECTATOR (1711).


An earlier form of rummage, q.v. Shakespeare has, in HAMLET (1601): This, I take it, is . . . the chief head Of this post-hast and romage in the land.


Lays slates or tiles


Maker of rope or nets


Trickery, knavery. In Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) the Nurse inquires: I pray you sir, what sawcie merchant was this that was so full of his roperie? In Fletcher's play THE CHANCES (1620) ropery in the first edition is replaced in the second folio by roguery.


A cloak of knee length worn by men in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Also roccelo, rockalow, and the like. Named from the French Duke of Roquelaure (1656-1738). Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1760) speaks of wrapping myself up warm in my roquelaure, and paying a visit to this poor gentleman. After the same duke, a short cloak worn by women was called a rokelay. Scott, in WAVERLEY (1814) has his heroine put on her clean toy, rokelay, and scarlet plaid.


A cordial of the juice of the sundew. Latin rosa solis, rose of the sun, originally ros solis, dew of the sun. Because of its medicinal use, the drink has also been called rose of solace. Later it was made not of the plant sundew, but of brandy, sugar, and spices. The drink was popular from the mid-1 6th to the mid-1 8th century.

Rounce robble hobble

A representation of the tumult of thunder, in Stanyhurst's translation (1582) of the AENEIS: A clapping fyerbolt (such as oft, with rownce robel hobble, Jove to the ground clatreth). Later writers mockingly mimicked the roaring: Nashe, in Greene's MENAPHON (1589): Then did he make heavens vault to rebounde, with rounce robble hobble of ruffe raffe roaring, and thwick thwack thurlery bouncing; Jonson, in THE MASQUE OF QUEENES (1616): Rouncy is over, robble is under, A flash of light and a clap of thunder.


Heroic (in size, volume); hence applied as noun or adjective to various large things. Also rownseval, rownsifall, rounsefal, rouncifold, runsivill, and the like. We are told that certain large bones of antediluvian animals were formerly taken to be bones of the heroes that fell with Roland at Roncesvalles; hereof, I take it, said Mandeville, it comes that, seeing a great woman, we say she is a rouncival. Blount in his 1674 wordbook suggests that the large 'marrowfat' rouncival pea is so called because it first came from Roncesvalles "at the foot of the Pyrenean Mountains." Dost roare? queried Dekker in SATIROMASTIX (1602); th'ast a good rouncivall voice to cry Lanthorne and candle-light. As a noun, the word was applied to (1) a heavy fall, a crash; (2) a kind of 'tumbling verse,' used for invective or flyting, not rhymed but alliterative; (3) a monster; (4) a large and boisterous or loose woman. Nashe in HAVE WITH YOU TO SAFFRON-WALDEN (1596) pictured so fulsome a fat bonarobe and terrible rouncevalL


A horse, especially one for riding. A common medieval form, its origin unknown. In English 14th into the 16th century; revived in the 19th, as in Browning's ARISTOPHANES' APOLOGY (1875): Racehorse sired, not rouncy born. Also see Rounce robble hobble.


Besides the current sense of disorderly retreat of a defeated army, rout (via Old French from Latin rupta, a detachment; rumpere, ruptum, to break) had a range of meanings. A company, assemblage; Chaucer in THE KNIGHT'S TALE (1386) says: To the palace rode there many a route of lordes. A flock or pack of animals; a large number of things; Chaucer, in THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE (1366): to pulle a rose of all that route to bere in my honde about. Hence in rout, in order; in a rout, in a body, in a troop. The meaning of precipitate and disorderly retreat did not develop until the end of the 16th century (e.g., Shakespeare, CYMBELINE, 1611: Then beganne ... a rowt, confusion thicke: forthwith they flye), but by the 13th century the word had developed unfavorable connotations. A disorderly or disreputable crowd. (By 14th century law) a gathering of three or more persons with criminal intent. The rabble; especially, the common rowt (Shakespeare, THE COMEDY OF ERRORS), the vulgar rout. Hence, a riot, disturbance, uproar. Also, a clamor, a fuss; especially (17th-19th century) , to make a rout about something. Also, sway, influence; to rule the rout, to bear the rout, to have full control. And in the 18th and 19th centuries rout became (by humor, from the sense of disorderly crowd) a very common word for a fashionable gathering, a large evening party (Fielding, in AMELIA, 1742; Johnson, 1751; Smollett, 1771; Kinglsey, 1858; Ruskin, 1887). Hence such combinations as rout-cake, a rich cake for a reception or party; Thackeray in VANITY FAIR (1848) boasts: He managed a couple of plates full of strawberries and cream, and twenty-four little rout cakes. Routseat, rout-chair, benches or folding chairs brought in for the party; rout-glasses, rout-china, and the like. Little wonder Lady Lennox in her LIFE AND LETTERS (1767) sighed: I own I am wore to death with routing. As Hood remarks in MISS KILMANSEGG (1845): For one of the pleasures of having a rout Is the pleasure of having it over.


Weeding. Evelyn in SYLVA (1664) gave suggestions for the more commodious runcation, hawing, and dressing the trees.


Rocky. Latin rupes, rock, rupestral, rupestrean, rupestrine, relating to, growing or living among, or carved or written on rocks. Also rupicoline, rupicolous, dwelling among rocks. Evelyn in his DIARY of 27 February, 1700, noted: In this rupellary nidary do the fowle lay eggs and breede.


(1) A fur; used from the 13th to the mid-16th century. In A TREATYSE OF A GALAUNT (1550) we read: Thou ruskyn galaunt, that poverte doth menace, For all thy warrocked hoode and thy proude araye. (2) A container made of bark or roots; also, butter kept in such a vessel. Irish rusg, bark. D'Urfey in his PILLS TO PURGE MELANCHOLY (1719) said: I have ruscan and cream joy, wherewith you may slabber you. (3) A small rusk, a piece of crisp toasted bread. (4) In Ruskin linen; Ruskin pottery, Ruskin ware: after John Ruskin (1819-1900) , who believed in combining utility and art.


To give way; stand aside. Related to aroint, q.v. Also rhint, roint, roynt. Ray in 1674 recorded as proverbial Rynt you, witch, quoth Besse Locket to her mother; but Rynt thee! was the milkmaid's dismissal to a cow as she finished milking it.


(1) A member of the Sabian race, who in ancient Italy occupied the central region of the Appenines; near the valley-folk, the Hernici, beyond whom on the next range of hills were the Volscians. Used in English especially in reference to the proverb Sabini quod volunt somniant, the Sabines dream what they will. (This by anticipation winks at Freud.) Holland used the idea figuratively, when in 1610 he spoke of the town Grimsby, which our Sabins, following their own fancies, will have to be so called of one Grime a merchant. (2) As an adjective, especially in the phrase Sabine farm, a gentleman's (recreational) farm, a pleasant retreat in the country. Cp. pentice. This is from the praises sung to his Sabine farm by the poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.), who received from the wealthy Maecenas the gift of a villa in the Sabine Hills. And there were, still earlier, the ravished Sabine women who gave sons to the founders of Rome.


(1) A musical instrument: a bass trumpet with a slide (like that of a trombone); used 15th to 18th century. Elyot in THE CASTEL OF HELTH (1533) recommends that the entrayles . . . be exercised by blowyng, eyther by constraint, or playeng on shaulmes, or sackbottes. The Geneva BIBLE (1560; DANIEL) translates Aramaic sabbka as sackbut; so also the King James (1611) and the Revised (1885) versions; the correct translation is sambuca (q.v.) as in the Septuagint and the Vulgate (Greek sambuke) versions. Also sagbut, sagbout, shagbush, sackbutt. With the same variety of forms, in the 17th century: (2) a butt of sack. A butt was a large cask (Late Latin butta, wineskin) , of varying size; in the 15th century, 36 gallons; later, 108 to 140 gallons. Usually 108 gallons of ale, 126 of wine, Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) has: I escaped upon a but of sacke, which the saylors heaved o'reboord. Sack is a white wine, dry (French vin sec, dry wine) . The two meanings were punned upon by playwrights, as in Fletcher's RULE A WIFE AND HAVE A WIFE (1624): I' th' celler . . . he will make dainty music among the sackbutts.


Secure, unmolested, unchallenged; hence, innocent (of); therefore harmless. Occasionally, by extension, feeble-minded; lacking energy. Also sacklessly, without just cause, innocently. Used from the 9th century. Douglas in the AENEIS (1513) spoke of a citie sakles of batale, fre of all sic strife. Scott revived the word in IVANHOE (1819); BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE queried in 1831: That you are sackless of this murder who shall testify?


The early uses of this word were quite different from its present sense of sorrowful, which first appeared in the late 14th century. The earliest meaning of sad, from the 10th century, was sated, full, weary (of): sad of his company. It is a common Teutonic word, Old Irish satlech, satiated, akin to Latin satis, enough; satisfied. By the early 14th century, other senses had developed: (1) Firm, strong; valiant; steadfast. Thus when Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590; III, 11) speaks of sad lovers he means constant ones. Milton in PARADISE LOST (1667) says: Settl'd in his face I see Sad resolution and secure. Fabyan in his CRONYCLE (1516) told the story of Prince Hal (which Shakespeare presents in HENRY IV); but when the Prince became Henry V, Fabyan continued, sodainly he became a new man and tourned all that rage and wyldnes into sob ernes and sadnes and the vyce into constant vertue. Of things, sad meant firmly fixed; heavy (applied also to a blow, a sad stroke; to bread that hasn't risen properly; to a heavy rain and a fierce fire); dark in color; compact; solid (also as opposed to liquid; Wyclif in a Sermon of 1380 said: Ther mete was ther bileve that thei hadden of sadde thingis, and ther drynke was ther bileve that thei hadden of moist thingis) . (2) Orderly; grave; trustworthy. Chaucer in THE MAN OF LAW'S TALE (1386) said: In Surrey whilom dwelte a compaignye Of chapmen riche and therto sadde and trewe. Sad and wise, discreet, or true made a frequent coupling; this may have helped form the line in Coleridge's THE ANCIENT MARINER (1798): A sadder and a wiser man He rose the morrow morn. (3) Dignified, grave in appearance. Chaucer in THE DETHE OF BLAUNCHE (1369) speaks of the eyen my lady had; Debonayre, good, glad, and sad. (4) Mature, serious; in sad earnest meant most seriously, as when one takes one's solemn oath. (5) Solidly learned; profound. The DESTRUCTION OF TROY (1400) spoke of a philosoffer . . .In the syense full sad of the sevyn artes. In the 17th century, from its sense of firm, solid, sad came to be used (6) as a term of emphasis, especially in a bad sense: wretched, abominably bad. Gay in THE BEGGAR'S OPERA (1727) says: Our Polly is a sad slut. As late as 1892 the London DAILY NEWS (January 25) called unpolished granite a sad harbourer of soot and dust. In this sense, application to a man in the phrase a sad dog was so frequent that the expression lost its force, especially if it was said with a smile. A sadiron was a solid iron, as opposed to a box-iron. In the 14th and 15th centuries, to sad meant to make solid or firm; to compress; to make steadfast; this was also the first application of to sadden. An agricultural work of 1600 stated that corn will grow better if the ground be saddned a little in the bottom of every hole ... As they advised in the 14th century, Be sad to resist vice!


One who makes, repairs or sells saddles or other furnishings for horses.


A lizard-like animal, supposedly immune to fire. (Benvenuto Cellini, 1500-1571, recorded that when he was a boy, his father boxed his ears, so that he would remember having seen one on his hearth.) Hence, a spirit living in the element fire; as the sylph, the air; the nymph, the water; the gnome, the earth -- the four elements of medieval science. By extension, a firefighter, a soldier who braves fire in battle; a fire-eating performer; and in the 18th century, a woman that (so far as the world knows) resists temptations. Addison in THE SPECTATOR (1711; No. 198) observed: A salamander is a kind of heroine in chastity, that treads upon fire . . . Deloney in JACKE OF NEWBERIE (1597) uses the figure otherly: Ile lay my life that as the salamander cannot live without the fire, so Jack cannot live without the smel of his dame's smock.


(1) An early form of salad. Also selad, sallade, sallat, salette, and more; Late Latin salare, salatum, to salt; sal, salt. Used figuratively to mean something mixed, usually with pleasant implications. Shakespeare in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601) says: She was the sweete margerom of the sallet, or rather the hearbe of grace; and in HAMLET: There was no sallets in the lines, to make the matter savoury. By extension, to pick a salad, to do something trivial, salad days, days of green and inexperienced youth (Shakespeare, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA). (2) A light globular helmet. Probably from Latin caelata (galea) , ornamented (headpiece); caelare, caelatum, to engrave; caelum, a chisel. Shakespeare, in HENRY VI, PART TWO, says: Many a time but for a sallet, my brainpan had bene cleft with a brown bill. Heywood in EDWARD IV, PART ONE, uses it jestingly of a container: sack sold by the sallet. Also, by metonymy, the head; C. B. Stapylton in HERODIAN HIS IMPERIAL HISTORY (1652): When wine was got into his drunken sallat. The Spanish proverb has it, according to Abraham Hayward's THE ART OF DINING (1852) that it takes four persons to make a proper salad: a spendthrift for oil, a miser for vinegar, a counsellor for salt, and a madman to mix it.

Sally Lunn

A tea-cake or hot roll. Sold first at Bath about 1797 by Sally Lunn, who cried them through the town; then a baker named Dalmer bought her out; he made a song for them that helped preserve the name. Sally Lunns, said the ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF COOKERY (1892), should be cut open, well buttered, and served very hot. Dickens smacks his lips over the Sally Lunn; Thackeray in PENDENNIS (1849) delights in a meal of green tea, scandal, hot Sally-Lunn cakes, and a little novel-reading.


Together. From the 14th century; earlier samen, samed, both from the 9th century. Common Teuton forms, whence also same. Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MAY) asks: What concord han light and darke sam? There was also an early verb sam, to bring together, to join (in friendship, in marriage) ; to fasten together; to heap together, to collect. Also to coagulate, to curdle. Since the 15th century sam has been used only in dialect. Cp. samded.


An ignorant physician. Dr. Sangrado, a character in Le Sage's GIL BIAS (1735), had only two remedies: bleeding and drinking hot water. Spanish sangrador, bleeder; Latin sanguinem, blood, whence also sanguine and sanguinary. Also, sangrador. In a letter of 1820, Scott wrote: One is sadly off in France and Italy, where the sangrados are of such low reputation, that it were a shame even to be killed by them.


Hoeing. A sarcle was a hoe (18th century, translating Latin sarculum; sarire, to weed) . Hence sarcler, a weeder. Sarculation is a rare 18th century word; 17th century dictionaries list sarculate, to hoe.




One who saws; carpenter.


Also Omoplatoscopy. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the cracks in a shoulder-blade when the bone is placed on a fire.


See ciclatoun. Originally scarlet meant a rich cloth, usually bright red, but sometimes of other colors (blue, green, brown) . Other old meanings of scarlet include: a person that wears scarlet, a judge, a hunter (also, early 19th century, a scarletite); in the 18th century, a Mohock, an aristocrat street ruffian, as in J. Shebbeare's LYDIA (1755): I expected to have seen her . . . encouraging the young bloods, bucks, and scarlets at a riot in Drury-lane.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using feces or dung.




Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using shadows, or the shades of the dead.


Mocking. Also scoptical. Greek skoptikos; skoptein, to jeer. Thus scoptics, satirical or mocking writings. Chapman commented (1611) on the ILIAD: In this first and next verse. Homer (speaking scoptically) breakes open the fountaine of his ridiculous humor.


A minor or worthless author


A professional or public penman; scribe, clerk, secretary, copyist or writer. Eventually, also a notary public. Earlier (13th to 15th century) scrivein, scriveyn; French escrivain. Hence to scrive, to scriven. Also scrivenliche (Chaucer), like a scriver or scrivener. Latin scribere, scriptum, to scratch, to write; cp. scripturient. From the Italian came 16th century English scrivan, scrivano, a clerk. Chaucer (1574) addressed a copyist: Adam scryveyne if ever it thee byfalle Boece or Troylus for to wryten nuwe. Scrivener was also used, with measure of contempt, to mean an author; Southey in SIR THOMAS MORE (1829) wrote: A very little suffices for the stock in trade, upon which the scribes and scriveners of literature, who take upon themselves to direct the public, set up.


A scoundrel, wretch. A common word among 16th and 17th century dramatists; revived by Scott in KENILWORTH (1821). Shakespeare exclaims in KING JOHN (1595): By heaven! these scroyles of Angiers flout you, kings!


Also Scrutiner. Election judge


To make lucky; to improve. Latin secundare, secundatum, to direct favorably; secundus, favorable. Secundus is the gerundive of sequor, secutum, to follow, meaning that which should follow. Hence secundation, the act of helping or favoring; prosperity. Found mainly in 17th and 18th century dictionaries.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the moon.


An early form of signet, sign, token, signal. Also, a set of notes on trumpet or cornet, as a signal, in Elizabethan stage-directions, Marlowe (FAUST; 1590): sonnet; Shakespeare (HENRY VI, PART THREE; 1590) ; senet, (HENRY VIII): sennet, Dekker, sennate; Marston, synnet, signate.


Whimsical; given to spurts of playfulness or nonsensicality, as in the novel TRISTRAM SHANDY (1759) . The author, Laurence Sterne, described TRISTRAM SHANDY as a civil, nonsensical, goodhumoured Shandean book, which will do all your hearts good. Sterne also said, in a letter of 9 July, 1762: I had hired a chaise and horse . . . but, Shandeanlike, did not take notice that the horse was almost dead when I took him. Jefferson, in his NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA (1782) remarked: His style is easy and familiar, except when he affects a Shandean fabrication of words.


Wild, boisterous; visionary, empty-headed. Also shandy-pated. Used mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries, possibly related to TRISTRAM SHANDY; see Shandean. shandy (19th century) might also be a shortening of shandygaff, q.v.


Heavy trousers, buttoned on the outside of each leg, usually worn over other trousers, for rough journeys on horseback and the like. The word was used in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries; it is ultimately from Arabic sharawil, Syriac sharbala, Persian shalwar, meaning that sort of garment. The form sherwal is still used for the loose trousers worn in parts of Asia.


A greenwood, a pleasant forest. This came to be used as a general name, from the popularity of the story of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. Thus Phaer in his translation (1562) of the AENEID speaks of the shirwood great where self defence and free resort Duke Romulus uptooke.




A variant form of shivered, shattered. Skelton, when a gentlewoman sent him a skull (WORKES; 1529; cp. brynnyng) pictured the corpse With sinnews wyderyd, With bonys shyderyd, With his worme etyn maw, And his gastly jaw Gasping asyde, Nakyd of hyde.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using hot metal.


An excellent wine (especially sillery sec), from the village of Sillery, department of Marne, province of Champagne, France. The word has been extended to wine from the neighboring vineyards of Verzenay and Mailly. Also spelled celery. The Duke of Buckingham complained, in 1688: As for French kickshaws, cellery and champain, in troth we 'ave none. The wine was eagerly sought and gladly drunk in England from the 17th to the mid-19th century, especially for toasting royalty or celebrating great occasions.


See seel. Silly is used by Coleridge (THE ANCIENT MARINER, 1798) to mean idle: The silly buckets on the deck were long without rainwater.


A pretender. Thus Shakespeare has in KING LEAR (1606) a simular of virtue. He also uses it, in CYMBELINE, as an adjective, meaning having the appearance of: with simular proof enough.


A dingle or dell; a woodland glade; in some parts of England, a strip of greensward or of boggy land. Gower in CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) has: He clymbeth up the banckes and falleth into slades depe. Drayton uses it often in POLYOLBION (1622), e.g., of satyrs, that in slades and gloomy dimbles dwell. The Gum Slade, a beautiful clearing in a park at Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire, is said to be the original of Shakespeare's woodland scenes in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


This word appeared around 250 years ago meaning the language of "low, illiterate, or disreputable persons." Henry Fielding used slang in a 1743 novel.




A maker of reeds, or slays, for looms


A filament of silk, obtained by separating the strands of a thicker thread. Hence, floss-silk. Also sleeve. Also to sleave, to divide silk; to separate, split, tear apart. Akin to slive, to split, divide; cut apart -- whence, sliver. This verb was also used in the variants (past tense, sleaved) sleided, sleded; by Shakespeare in THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT (1597) and in PERICLES: When they weavde the sleded silke With fingers long, small, white as milke. Also to slive, to put on; to slide, slip, slip away; to loiter or to slip away. Shakespeare in MACBETH (1605) utters a heart-felt cry for sleepe that knits up the ravel'd sleeve of Care.


Seller of ready-made clothes in a slop shop


A sleuth-hound; a sleuth. In addition to its current uses, slot meant the hoof-marks, hence the track, of a deer or other animal -- sometimes used also of the scent. Hence, to slot, to track down. It was also used figuratively, by Milton (1645), Scott (1820) and in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH of 10 October, 1864: The Emperor, who rarely quits the slot of an idea. After the 16th century, Scott revived slot-hound in IVANHOE (1819), speaking of the misfortunes which track my footsteps like slot-hounds.

Small beer

Inferior beer. Nashe, in FOUR LETTERS CONFUTED (1592) speaks of poetry more spiritless than small beer. Hence, persons or matters of no importance, trivialities. To think no small beer of oneself, to be bloated with self-importance; Is it consistent, asked PUNCH on 18 January, 1873, for a teetotaller to think no small beer of himself? Shakespeare has the line in OTHELLO (1604): To suckle fooles, and chronicle small beer; Thackeray (1844) and others have echoed the phrase. Addison in THE WHIG EXAMINER (1710; No. 4) declared: As rational writings have been represented by wine, I shall represent those kinds of writings we are now speaking of, by small beer. Cp. Highgate.


Several compounds of this common word have had wide currency. (1) smellfeast. A parasite, a greedy sponger; one who learns where a feast is being prepared, and comes uninvited. Very common 1550-1700; Browning in THE RING AND THE BOOK (1869) says: The smellfeasts rouse them at the hint There's cookery in a certain dwelling-place. (2) smellfungus. A faultfinder, a complaining person. This term was coined by Sterne as a nickname for Smollett, whose TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY (1766) was a constant grumble. Washington Irving in SALMAGUNDI (1808) said: Let the grumbling smellfungi . . . rail at the extravagance of the age. (3) smellsmock. A licentious man. Heywood in A MAIDENHEAD WELL LOST (1634) declared: I think you'll prove little better than a smellsmock, that can find out a pretty wench in such a corner.


A light and little smile. Also smylet. Fraunce in COUNTESS PEMBROKE'S IVYCHURCH (1592) wrote that he knew her face to be framing Now with a smylet's allure, and now to repell with a frowning. Shakespeare, in KING LEAR (1605) speaks of those happy smilets That play'd on her ripe lip.


From its use as the garment next a woman's skin, smock came to be used, especially among 16th and 17th century playwrights and often with double meaning, to refer to a woman herself. Shadwell in THE VOLUNTEERS (1692) said: Thou wert a pretty fellow, to rebel all thy lifetime against princes, and trail a pike under a smock-rampant at last! Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1595) has the jesting Benvolio cry, when Peter and the Nurse come in: Two, two -- a shirt and a smock. Hence, to smock, to dress in a smock; to make effeminate -- Sylvester in BETHULIA'S RESCUE (1614): no pomp . . . had ever power his manly mind to smock; to make free with women D'Urfey in PILLS TO PURGE MELANCHOLY (1719): Then we all agree To ... smock and knock it, Under the greenwood tree, Swift in POLITE CONVERSATIONS (1738): You don't smoke, I warrant you, but you smock. Cp, smoke. In the 16th and 17th centuries, too, many compounds continued this double play: a smock-agent, smock-officer, a pander. smock-fair, happy hunting grounds for whores, smock-employment. The smocktoy Paris. Fletcher, in THE ELDER BROTHER (1625): These smock-vermin, how eagerly they leap at old mens kisses. Hickeringill, in PRIESTCRAFT (1705): Great kindred, smock-simony, and whores, have advanced many a sot to the Holy Chair, Smock-secrets are such as women discuss among themselves, smockage, intercourse. A smocker, a woman's man; a lecher; THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE in 1756 said of a man whose nature fit its pages, that he had formerly been a cocker, smocker, and foxhunter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a smock-race was a contest for females for which the prize was a smock; the Thomas Hughes that wrote TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS in his book THE SCOURING OF THE WHITE HORSE (1859) said: I see, Sir, that 'smocks to be run for by ladies' is left out. Smock-face; pale and smooth or effeminate face; a male having such a face. Hence, smock-faced, effeminate. Vanbrugh in the Prologue to THE RELAPSE (1696) says: Perhaps there's not a smock-face here today But's bold as Caesar to attack -- a play. A smockster was a go-between; Middleton in YOUR FIVE GALLANTS (1608) says: You're a hired smockster; here's her letter, in which we are certified that you're a bawd.


This word, used by Chaucer in THE REEVE'S TALE, to mean of dusky complexion, is related, in Toone's ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY (1834) to smother and smoke. It is also spelled smoterlich, and is more probably related to smut, which is, however, a later word, from the Dutch smodderen, to smut or be besmut. There is no verb to besmotre, but besmotered occurs in Chaucer's Prologue (1386) to THE CANTERBURY TALES, which tells us that the Knight's gypon was all bismotered with his habergeon. Douglas in the AENEIS (1513) speaks of a besmotterit face. Gypon or gipon, from the Old French jupon, skirt, was a word for the tunic usually worn under the hauberk, or coat of mail. After Chaucer, gipon was frequent (also as gepoun, gippon, etc.) until the 17th century. It was revived by Sir Walter Scott in THE BRIDAL OF TRIERMAIN (1813): With nought to fence his dauntless brest But the close gipon's under-vest. Hauberk, related to the Norse hals, neck + bergan, to cover (whence also the sleeveless jacket of mail, the habergeon, haberjoun; cp. acton; and the heavy cloth haberjet or hauberget, which is named in MAGNA CARTA, 1215) , was originally a piece of armor to protect the neck and shoulders; later the word was used of a long coat of armor, usually of chain mail.


To nip or pinch (with fingers or frost) ; to reprove, chide. Also as a noun, a snub, a rebuke; so used in Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597). Bishop Hall (WORKS, 1623) doubts that we do hate our corruptions; when, at our sharpest, we but gently sneap them. Shakespeare uses the verb in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE, and in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST: Byron is like an envious sneaping frost That bites the first borne infants of the spring.


The latch of a door or gate. From the 14th century; in later use, dialectal or Scotch. Also snek, snack, snake, snick. The word sometimes referred only to the lever that raises the bar of the latch. On the sneck, latched; off the sneck, unlatched. To draw a sneck (16th century, also in Burns), to act stealthily. A sneck posset, a greeting that stops at the door, a cold reception. A sneck-band, a string fastened to the latch and passed through a hole to the outside of the door, so that the door can be opened from without. Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) says: The sneck was drawn and the Countess . . . entered my dwelling. Hence, to sneck, to latch, to shut up. Sneck-drawer, a sneak thief, a sly or crafty fellow. Burns in his ADDRESS TO THE DEVIL (1785) calls him Ye auld, snickdrawing dog! There was also a sneck (18th and 19th centuries), a sharp cut, a sharp clicking sound; a snick -- and (as early as the 16th century) to sneck, to cut; to snatch. From the use of sneck, sneck-band, came the transferred use of sneck, a noose, a halter; also snecket. The imperative Sneck up! (snick up, sneik up) thus meant, Go hang! Cp. sneak-. Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1600) has Sir Toby tell Malvolio Sneck up! . . Dost think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?


This was originally the phrase stick or snee, snick or snee, to thrust or cut. It was from Dutch steken, to thrust + snijen (German schneiden), to cut. Hence snick or snee, snick and snee, to thrust and cut, to fight with knives -- as was common among Dutch sailors, 16th to 18th centuries. Hence snickasnee, a combat with cut-and-thrust knives; a knife for such a combat. Snick or snee was altered in the 18th century into snickersnee, a knife-combat, or the knife; Irving used the word in FATHER KNICKERBOCKER'S HISTORY OF NEW YORK (1809); in THE MIKADO (1885) Gilbert has: As I gnashed my teeth When from its sheath I drew my snickersnee. The word snick, in addition to meaning to cut and to hit, a cut, a slight blow, also meant a sudden noise, a click, and was a variant form of sneck, q.v. A snickle was a noose, as was a snick-up. A snick-snarl was a knot, a tangle (17th century) in a thread or the thread of an argument.


Also Snob. One who repaired shoes.


Wandering alone. (Accent on the second syllable) . Used from the 17th century; 'Monkshood' and Gamble in RUDYARD KIPLING (1902) have: Dick walks out . . . and plays the solivagant -for about ten years.


An attic; an upper room or apartment; a garret used as a storeroom, Latin solarium, sun room; sol, sun. Also a chamber in a steeple or belfry. Payne in his translation (1886) of Boccaccio's DECAMERON pictured a little uninhabited tower . . . that the shepherds climb . . . to a sollar at the top. At opposite ends of a building are the sollar and the cellar.


To collect, assemble (from the 9th century). To summon (12th to 15th century); superseded by summon. Also sumne, sompne. Hence somner (somenour, somenere), sompner, sompnour, an official summoner. Also used figuratively, as in OF REPENTANCE (HOMILIES; 1563): When the hyghest somner of all, whiche is death, shall come. A summoner (14th to 18th century) was a petty officer who notified persons to appear in court; we still issue a summons.


See oneiric. Latin somnus, sleep, is responsible for many English words, including somniloquacious, somniloquous, somniloquent, talking, or given to talking, in one's sleep; hence somniloquence, somniloquism, somniloquy; somniloquize. For others, see somniate. Coleridge transferred the notion (LITERARY REMAINS; 1833): How often the pen becomes the tongue of a systematic dream -- a somniloquist!


Truth. Common from the 8th to the 17th century; used later in poetry and in phrases in sooth, my sooth, by my sooth, good sooth, sooth to say. Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590) exclaims: Good troth you do me wrong -- good sooth you do. Also, the certainty of a matter; soothsaying, prognostication. By extension, flattery; smooth or plausible talk. Thus Shakespeare in RICHARD II (1593): That ere this tongue of mine, that layd the sentence of dread banishment On yon proud man, should take it off again With words of sooth. This use comes by association with soothe; cp. soother. Sooth also formed many compounds: cp. forsooth; soothhead, truth; soothtell, prophecy; soothfast, truthful, faithful, loyal; soothness, soothfastness; soothful, truthful; soothless, untruthful, false.


Suitability, correspondence. Also sortable, accordant, suitable. Apparently sortance has been used only by Shakespeare, in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597): Here doth hee wish his person, with such powers As might hold sortance with his qualitie.

Sortes Virgilianae

Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by opening at random to a page of Virgil's works.


Also Sortilege.Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by casting lots.


Also Sorter. Tailor.


A prediction; an omen. Also to spae, to prophesy. Used from the 13th century; frequent in Scott (GUY MANNERING; 1815) . Also in various combinations: spaedom, spaecraft, spaework, prophecy, prophesying, spaeman, spaewoman, spaewife, fortune-teller; then witch; spaewright, spaer. The spaewoman often was, or pretended to be, dumb, as deprivation of this sense reputedly endowed one with second sight. The words, if not the beliefs, have persisted in Scotland.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using bodily twitchings.


To befoul. To spat, to spot, to defile; used from the 16th century. In the LIFE OF DR. FAUSTUS (1697) , the innkeeper cried: What! Have the rogues left my pots, and run away, without paying their reck'ning? I'll after them, cheating villains, rogues, cutpurses; rob a poor woman, cheat the spittle, and rob the King of his excise; a parcel of rustick, clownish, pedantical, high-shoo'd, low-minded, plow-jobbing, cart-driving, pinchback'd, paralytic, fumbling, grumbling, bellowing, yellowing, peas-picking, hog-sticking, stinking, mangy, runagate, illbegotten, illcontrived, wry-mouth'd, spatrifying, dunghill-raking, costive, snorting, sweaty, farting whaw-drover dogs.


A buttery, a pantry; a room where foods and drinks are kept; an eating- room; an inner room of a house, a parlor. Short for dispense. Also spence, a steward; short for spencer, short for dispenser. Used from the 13th century. In ST. CUTHBERT (1450) we read: He bare the bordeclath to the spence. The form spencer has also been used for (1) a kind of wig; in the 18th century, after Charles Spencer, third Earl of Sunderland (1674- 1722); (2) a short double-breasted overcoat for men; late 18th and 19th century, after the second Earl Spencer (1758-1834); (3) a life belt, a life preserver; hence (slang), a glass of gin; after Knight Spencer, early 19th century.


A shortened form of disperse, perhaps influenced by Italian sperso; spergere, to scatter. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries; by Spenser in his translation (1591) of Bellay's VISIONS and in THE FAËRIE QUEENE; by Dekker in THE WHORE OF BABYLON (1603): Are those clowds sperst that strove to dimme our light?


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using a crystal sphere.


A woman who spins or an unmarried woman.


Thick, dense, compact, close. Latin spissus. Used 16th into the 18th century. In his foreword To the Reader, Brerewood (1614) speaks of this spisse and dense, yet polished, this copious, yet concise . . . treatise of the variety of languages. Hence also spiscious, spissous, of thick consistency; spissated, spissed, thickened; spissative, tending or serving to thicken; spissid, spissy, thick, dense. Also spissness, spissation, spissitude. A spissament is a thickening substance, as flour in gravy.


A house for the indigent or diseased; a short form of hospital. Also spittell, spyttell, spittaill, and more. In the 16th century, spittle was used of a place meaner than a hospital; hence, a foul or loathsome place. In the 17th century, because of the other meaning of spittle, spit, the form was (except in compounds) largely replaced by spital, spitall, spittal. To rob the spittle (spital) , to make profit in an especially mean fashion. In the other sense, there were the phrases spittle of the sun (16th and 17th centuries) gossamer; spittle of the stars, honey-dew. There was also an even earlier (12th to 17th century) spittle, also spitter, a small spade, related to the pointed spit for cooking. Thus, even in the 19th century, a spitful meant a spadeful; spitish, however, meant spiteful; spitling, refuse, rubbish (17th century) . And (18th century) spitpoison was an appropriate name for a malicious or venomous person.


Bawdy in speech. Latin spurcus, foul + dicere, to speak. Hence spurcitious, foul, obscene; spurcity, foulness, obscenity. Thus Feltham in RESOLVES (1628): Loose and unrinsed expressions are the purulent and spurcitious exhalations of a corrupted mind.


Maker of spurs.


Country gentleman; farm owner; justice of peace.


As a noun: A pond; a ditch of slow-moving water, a moat. Also, a dam to hold back water, a floodgate. Also used figuratively. CURSOR MUNDI in the 14th century said that Satan shall be cast into a stinck and stanck of fire. Fletcher in his version (1656) of Martial's EPIGRAMS spoke of An inundation that orebears the banks And bounds of all religion; If some stancks Show their emergent heads? Like Seth's famed stone, Th'are monuments of thy devotion gone! As a verb: hence, to dam, to strengthen the banks of a stream; to surround with a moat. Again Fletcher leans on Martial for a figurative use, saying I'll stanck up the salt conducts of mine eyes To watch thy shame, and weep mine obsequies. Both as a noun and verb this word appears also as stanch, staunch; also stinch, stainch, staynche. It is ultimately from Latin stagnum, pond, pool, whench also stagnant, stagnate. Italian stancare, to weary; from this sense, as an adjective, stank (stanck, stanke), weary, faint, exhausted. Spencer in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) says: I am so stiffe and so stanck. By dropping the first letter we attained the word tank.


To support, establish. Also statumination. Latin statuminem, a sup port; statuere, statutum, to set up, establish; stare, statum, to stand; whence also status, state, statue, stature, statute; institute, the constitution, and the status quo. Jonson in THE NEW INN (1631) says: I will statuminate and underprop thee; If they scorn us, let us scorn them.


The writing in the stars. Coined by Southey in THE DOCTOR (1835).


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using seeds in dung.


Of or appropriate to the dunghill. Also sterquilinious. Latin stercus, dung; cp. stercoraceous. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries; Howell in a letter of 1645 complained that any sterquilinious rascal is licensed to throw dirt in the faces of Soveraign Princes in open printed language.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by using a verse or a passage in a book


I. As a verb -- beyond the current senses of to lull, calm, stop -- was a short form of distil (from which the noun, a still, widely survives) . This first meant (14th century) to trickle down, fall in drops; thence, to extract the juice or essence of. Its most famous use is in that great sentence of Marlowe's TAMBURLAINE (1587): If all the pens that ever poets held Had fed the feeling of their maisters thoughts, And every sweetnes that inspir'd their harts,, Their minds, and muses on admyred theames; If all the heavenly quintessence they still From their immortall flowers of poesy, Wherein as in a myrrour we perceive The highest reaches of a humaine wit: If these had made one poems period And all combin'd in beauties worthiness, Yet should ther hover in their restless heads, One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least, Which into words no vertue can digest. II. As an adverb: always, invariably. So used from the 13th century. Thus still still, on every occasion, still as, whenever, still and anon, still an end, every so often; Shakespeare in THE TWO GENTLEMEN FROM VERONA (1591) speaks of A slave that still an end turnes me to shame. Sir John Harington in his MOST ELEGANT AND WITTIE EPIGRAMS (1618) advised: Lay down your stake at play, lay down your passion: A greedy gamester still hath some mishap. To chafe at luck proceeds of foolish fashion. No man throws still the dice in fortunes lap. For another instance, see stith.


Drop by drop. From Latin stilla, drop. Suggesting the medieval torture, as when Evelyn in a letter of 1668 says: cause abundance of cold fountainwater to be poured upon me stillatim, for a good half-hour together. Stalactites are stillatitious, that is, produced by falling drops. This word may also mean issuing or falling in drops, as the painful and stillatitious emission of urine. See stillicide.


This common early form is a gathering of several roots and many meanings. It appears also as stund, stond, stownd, stowned, stowunde, and the like. As a noun: (1) A state of amazement; see stoun. (2) A wooden container for small beer. In this sense, a form of stand; used in the 17th and 18th centuries. (3) A moment, a short time. From the 10th century. This and its developments represent the most frequent use. In one of his ENTERTAINMENTS (1603), Jonson wrote: Now they print it on the ground With their feete in figures round, Markes that will be ever found To remember this glad stound. Hence in a stound; in many stounds. By stounds, from time to time; by turns. Oft-stounds, oftentimes. That stounds, at that moment. Hence, the propitious moment, an opportunity. THE LEGEND OF ST. KATHERiNE (1225) exclaimed: Nu is ower stunde! [Now is our chancel] But also, a bad time, a time of trial or suffering; Chaucer in ANELIDA AND ARCITE (1374) cries Alas! the harde stounde. Hence, a pang, a shock, a sudden attack or sharp pain. May Jesus, says Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MAY) keepe your corpse from the carefull stounds That in my carrion carcas abounds. Variant developments of meaning include (4) station, place, position (at a given time); Drant in his translation (1566) of Horace's SATIRES wrote: Stande still in stounde, kepe whishte (I say) whilst I do prove you mad. (5) A fierce noise, roar. (From the 17th century; Drayton, Burton.) Carlyle in THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1837) says: One can fancy with what dolorous stound the noontide cannon . . . went off there. As a verb, the action of the various noun meanings: (1) To stun as with a blow, astound, stupefy. (2) To remain, stay in one place or position (13th to 15th century). (3) To cause great pain to; to give a stound or shock; to be very painful, to smart. Also, as a verbal noun, stounding; a benumbing; a delay, lingering. Stoundmeal, at intervals, from time to time; gradually; Chaucer in TROYLUS AND CRISEYDE (1374) notices this wynde that moore and moore thus stoundemele encresseth in my face.


A variant of stroll. It occurs in a burlesque Prologue to Shakespeare's KING JOHN, supposedly to be spoken before Colley Cibber's "amended" version of the play, and published in the WHITEHALL EVENING POST of 10 February, 1737: And all our modern Muses,, alias Misses, Still strole about the Temple, fond of kisses. Cibber's version of Shakespeare's play was so savagely attacked -- before it was read or seen -- that Gibber went to a rehearsal, took his version from the prompter's desk, and walked out of the theatre. It was published in 1745 and deserved the attacks. Swift in 1720 said So rotting [rutting?] Celia stroles the street, When sober folks are all abed.


A large but coarse blanket, manufactured (in Stroud, Gloucestershire?) to trade or sell to the American Indians. It was made from woollen rags. THE JOURNAL OF CAPTAIN TREAT (1752) contains the entry: Be pleased to give to the son of the Piankasha king these two strowds to clothe him.


Aphetic for destroy, but also used as a noun: in the 15th century, one who destroys; a waster, a stroy-all, stroy-good; in the 17th century, destruction. Bunyan has, in THE HOLY WAR (1692): Nor did they partake or make stroy of any of the necessaries of Mansoul.


Also Stuff Gown or Stuff Gownsman. Junior barrister. He wore an open-fronted black gown with open sleeves, gathered and decorated with buttons and ribbons, and a gathered yoke, over a black or dark suit, hence the term stuffgownsman for juniors.


Unfermented or partly fermented grape-juice, must. Also stoom. From Dutch stom, dumb. The Germans call wine that has become flat stummer Wein; the French use the phrase vin muet for stum. Stum was often used, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, for renewing vapid wines; hence, stum was applied to wine thus freshened, as by Butler in HUDIBRAS (1664): I'll carve your name on barks of trees . . . Drink every letter on't in stum, And make it brisk champagne become. Shadwell in THE SQUIRE OF ALSATIA (1688) asked: Is not rich generous wine better than hedgewine stummed? And in THE TRUE WIDOW (1679) Shadwell used the word figuratively: 'Tis the stum of love that makes it fret and fume.


A shoe. Also suppedital, suppeditary; Latin sub, under + pedem, foot. A HUNDRED MERRY TALES (1526) shows that pedantic humor did not begin in the 19th century; instead of asking the cobbler to patch one's shoes, one asked: Set me ii tryangyls and ii semy cercles uppon my subpedytals. Lodge repeated this in 1596.


'A monster-like beas'/ reported in the 16th and 17th century as inhabiting the new world. Also sucaratha. When hunted, it was reputed to take its young on its back.


A perfume or incense; especially, in the 17th century, one burned for medicinal purposes. Also, suffite, noun, and verb: to fumigate. Latin suffire, suffitum, fumigate.


Officer on merchant ship who is in charge of cargo and the commercial concerns of the ship. From Spanish sobrecargo, from sobre- over (from Latin super-) + cargo cargo. In use since 1697. In 1818, Jean Laffite appointed Jao de la Porta supercargo for the Karankawa Indian trade.


Over-ridden; worn out (of a horse) . Used by Shakespeare in HENRY V (1599): A drench for sur-reyn'd jades.


To rouse, to excite (as to a dispute or a rebellion); to stir to action; to quicken, vivify. Latin sub + citare, to excite; more familiar in the resuscitation of the drowning. Used from the 15th century. Donne in a sermon of 1631 said: Such a joy a man must suscitate and awaken in himselfe. Shelley (PROSE WORKS; 1811) wrote: wildered by the suscitated energies of his soul almost to madness.


One who provides an army with supplies


A variant form of swayed, past tense of to sway, meaning to wield. Bishop Hall, in his first SATIRE of Book 3 (1597), wrote: Time was, and that was term'd the time of gold, When world and time were yong, that now are old. When quiet Saturne swaid the mace of lead, and pride was yet unborne, and yet unbred.


Strongly, forcefully; very much; very fast; excessively. Also as an interjection, Quick! Get thee gone! A common Teutonic word, used in English into the 16th century, lingering in dialect. Also swithly. swithness, speed; Bullenden in the CHRONICLES OF SCOTLAND (1536) mentions a herald namit for his gret swithnes, harefut. Burns, in his poem TO A LOUSE, ON SEEING ONE ON A LADY'S BONNET AT CHURCH (1790) , which contains the lines O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! also contains these words to the adventuresome pediculine pest: Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle; There ye may creep and sprawl and sprattle, Wi' ither kindred jumping cattle, In shoals and nations . . . [Haffet (Old English healfheafod, halfhead, the forepart of the head) , the side of the head over and in front of the ears; by extension, the cheek. Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828) says: With the hair hanging down your haffets in that guise.]


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using figs.


Satisfaction; recompense. Short for assyth. Also syith, site, syte. Also as a verb, to give satisfaction to. Sythment, satisfaction; indemnification. Mainly Scotch; Douglas' AENEIS (1513): I have gotten my heart's syte on him (explained in the glossary: 'all the evil I wish'd him').


A coarse garment; especially, a loose outer shirt without sleeves, worn by peasants, foot-soldiers, monks. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the official dress of a herald. Common since the 13th century; hence, The Tabard Inn, in Southwark, where the pilgrims assembled in Chaucer's CANTERBURY TALES (1386). The inn stood until 1875; Toone, in his GLOSSARY of 1834, says it is now corruptly called the Talbot. Cp. courtepy; rochet.


Emaciation; wasting away. tabefact, wasted away; corrupted (15th century), tabe, tabes, gradual wasting away; consumption. Root ta, to run, melt, related to English thaw. Also tabetic, relating to emaciation; a tabetic, one afflicted with tabes.


Relating to letters, or a letter-carrier. Latin tabellarius, letter-carrier, courier; tabella, writing-tablet. Hence tabellary, a letter-carrier; a scrivener; also as an adjective, pertaining to such things; (of ancient practice) pertaining to voting tablets. A tabellion was a minor official clerk in the Roman Empire and until the Revolution in France; in England, 17th and 18th centuries.


From his voyages to the South Seas, Captain James Cook brought home numerous new words, including taboo, a Tongan word (tabu "set apart," "forbidden") he introduced into English in 1777.


A drum. Related to Persian tabirah and taburak, both meaning drum; possibly to Arabic tanbur, a kind of lyre. Also tabour, taborn, tabron, tabberone, tawberne, talburn, tawbron, and more. When the word drum was introduced, in the 16th century, tabor was used of a small drum. A taborin was one less wide but longer than the tabor, played with one drumstick, while the other hand manipulated a flute or fife. A tabret (taberett, tabberet, tabarde, tabouret) was also a small tabor, a timbrel (q.v.). Some of the Romance languages have the same word with an m; whence also, English tambour, drum, especially the large bass drum (also, a kind of embroidery or needlework made with the material stretched as on a drum-head). A tamboura was an oriental instrument of the lute family. A tamborin, tambourin, was a long narrow drum, especially of a type used in Provence. The French tambour de basque, on the other hand, is English tambourine, made familiar by the Salvation Army. From its drum-shape the low stool called tabouret drew its name; privilege (honour) of the tabouret, permission for a lady to sit in the Queen's presence. The tabor might also be the drummer, usually the taborer. Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) tells: Then I beat my tabor, At which like unbackt colts they prickt their eares.


Things that should not be mentioned. Directly from the gerundive of Latin tacere, to be silent, whence also English tacent, silent. The imperative tace (pronounced tay see) is sometimes used as an admonition to silence; since the 17th century (Fielding in AMELIA, 1752; Scott in a letter of 1821), the sentence Tace is Latin for a candle has been used to let a person know he's to keep silent on a matter. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of February 1883 referred to topics regarded as tacenda by society.


I. As a noun. (1) A spot, blemish, physical or moral; a stain, stigma; a distinctive mark (good or bad) . Caxton's THE GOLDEN LEGEND (1483): She that never had tatche ne spot of corruption. Related to touch. (2) A clasp, buckle, hook and eye, or other device for fastening. The same word as tack. (3) A flat pan for boiling maple sugar; also for drying tealeaves. (4) Tinder. Also teche, taich, tash, and more. II. As a verb. (1) To stain or taint, especially morally; to stigmatize; to blemish. (2) To fasten, lay hold of (15th to 17th century, arrest) . Replaced in this sense by attach. (3) To attack, to charge. Also teccheless, tacheless, stainless, without fault. In 1723 R. Hay wrote A Vindication of Elizabeth More from the Imputation of being a Concubine; and her Children from the Tache of Bastardy.


Shape; especially, one's shape from shoulder to waist. From the French, used in the 17th century; in the 14th century, tail was used in the same sense. Pepys in his DIARY (13 July, 1663) said that Mrs. Stewart, with her sweet eye, little Roman nose, and excellent taille, is now the greatest beauty I ever saw.


A repayment of like for like. Latin tails, like. Used from the 15th into the 18th century; replaced by retaliation. Also talio, talion. Sometimes the Latin phrase lex talionis, the law of like, is used, for such principles as the Biblical "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth"; also, for the infliction on an accuser that does not prove his case of the penalty that would have fallen upon the accused had he been found guilty. Also talionic, relating to such retaliation. Beaumont in PSYCHE (1648) observed: Just Heav'n this taliation did decree, That treason treason's deadly scourge should be.


To tire, become exhausted; swoon. Also taum, tawm. Used from the 14th to the 17th century, later in dialects. Drant in THE WAILYNGS OF THE PROPHET HIEREMIAH (1566) wrote: My babes dyd faynt, And sucklynges tawmed in the streetes.


A 16th and 17th century dainty: a tart or sugared pastry, made with cheese, cream, and eggs; an early variety of cheesecake.


One who tans (cures) animal hides into leather


A thing that only seems to exist Latin tanquam, as if; as it were. In Cambridge University, in the 17th and 18th centuries (tanquam socius, as if a fellow), a tanquam was an associate or companion of a fellow of the University.


One who puts the tap in an ale cask


A pleasant drink: (1) From the 16th century, the fermented sap of various palm trees, especially the date and the coconut. Also tingling terry; and tarea, taree; tadie, taddy; (most popular form in the 18th century) toddey, toddie, toddy. (2) hot toddy (since the 18th century), hot water, sugar, and brandy or rum or gin or whisky. Burns in THE HOLY FAIR (1786) wrote: The lads and lasses, blythely bent To mind baith soul an' body, Sit round the table,, weel content. An' steer about the toddy. The Revenue Office in 1850 ruled that The taree or juice of the palm tree is liable to duty, in its fermented or unfermented state.




An old form of tercel, q.v. The tercel-gentle was the male of the peregrine falcon -- used figuratively of a noble gentleman. In Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1595), Romeo has just left the orchard beneath Juliet's window -- He jests at scars that never felt a wound. But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! -- after their first wooing, when Juliet calls: Hist, Romeo, hist! -- Oh, for a falconer's voice, To lure this tassel-gentle back again!


Another word (for "skin art") introduced by Captain Cook, who in 1769 told how Tahitians painted themselves with "tattows." From Tahitian, Tongan, and Samoan ta-tau or Marquesan ta-tu.

The use of the word meaning "rhythmic drumming" is earlier, from the 1600s, (originally as tap-too) from Dutch taptoe, literally "close the tap (of the cask)."


Torch. See tede. Latin taeda, pine-torch. Spenser in his EPITHALAMION (1595) said of his bride: Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake, And long since ready forth his maske [merry procession] to move, With his bright tead that flames with many a flake [flash], And many a bachelor to wait on him.


One who drives a team for hauling.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using tracings in ashes.


Pertaining to monsters or prodigies. Cp. teratoscopy. Greek terata, marvels, which is also used in English of monstrous births. Hence also teratism, love of the marvellous or the prodigious. teramorphous, monstrous in appearance or form. Wollaston, in THE RELIGION OF NATURE DELINEATED (1722) pictures Herodotus, possibly delighting in teratical stories. Many playwrights picture a teratical aspect of nature on the brink of dire human events (as Shakespeare, before Julius Caesar's assassination).


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using prodigies, or natural marvels.


The male of a hawk; especially, of the peregrine falcon and the goshawk. Also tiercel, tarcel, tyercelle, and many others. Cp. tassel; gerfalcon. Also tercelet, tiercelet; tercellene. Ultimately from popular Latin tertiolus, a little third; tertius, third. Some say it is thus named because it is a third smaller than the female; Sir Thomas Browne (TRACTS; 1682) suggests another reason: When they lay three eggs . . . the first produceth a female and large hawk, the second of a midler sort, and the third a smaller bird, terecellene or tassel of the male sex. In hunting days, falcon always meant the female. In the 16th and 17th centuries, tercel was sometimes applied figuratively to a person, as by Chapman in MAY DAY (1611): Whose foole are you? Are not you the tassell of a gander? Scott in THE ABBOT (1820) revived this application: Marry, out upon thee, foul kite, that would fain be a tercel gentle!


Harsh; austere; bitter; morose. Also tetric. Latin tetricus, harsh, forbidding; taeter, foul. Hence, tetricity, tetritude, tetricality, tetricalness. Gauden in HIERASPISTES (1653) declares: It requires diligence to contend with younger ignorance, and elder obstinacy, and aged tetricalness.


Straw roofer.


That corrupts or ruins women. Greek thelys, female + phthora, corruption. M. Madan in 1780 wrote a book entitled Telyphthora; or, A Treatise on Female Ruin, in its Causes, Effects, Consequences, Prevention, and Remedy. Fourteen years later Thomas Mathias inquired, in his poem THE PURSUITS OF LITERATURE: Must I with Madan, bent on gospel truth, In telyphthoric lore instruct our youth? The prefix thely-, female, is used in various scientific terms, such as thelytokous, thelygenous, producing only female offspring; hence thelytoky; arrhenotoky, q.v., is the production only of males. Bailey in his DICTIONARY (1751) lists thelygonum, 'an herb which, when steeped in drink, is said to make a woman conceive a girl' It is equally efficacious when drunk by the man.


A variant form of than. This use was very common until the 18th century. Another instance is in the epigram Nullum stimulum ignavis (Nothing can rouse the lazy) in Henry Parrot's THE MASTIVE, OR YOUNG WHELP OF THE OLDE DOGGE (1615): Caecus awak't, was tolde the sunne appeared, Which had the darknes of the morning cleard: But Caecus sluggish thereto makes replie, 'The sunne hath further farre to goe then I'.


Also Theomagic. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by using oracles, or calling on the god.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the movements of wild animals.


A variant of thrid, thread. The original form of third, the numeral, was also thrid; Gothic thridja; Latin tertius but Greek tritos; Sanskrit trtiyas. Shakespeare may have meant thread, a constituent fibre, in THE TEMPEST (1611) when Prospero, accepting Ferdinand as betrothed to his daughter Miranda, says: I have given you here a third of my own life, Or that for which I live. In OTHELLO, Desdemona is called the half of her father Brabantio's soul; Prospero would hardly be setting much price on Miranda if we interpret third as the numeral.


A town constable. Also thridborrow, tharborough, thredbearer. Probably a corruption of Middle English fridborgh, frithborh, peace-pledge, peacesurety. The English, having lost the sense, formed various corruptions; the earliest printing of Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW (the Induction; 1586) says headborough. The tavern hostess speaks: I know my remedy. I must go fetch the thirdborough. Drunken Sly responds: Third, fourth, or fift borough, lie answere him by law -- and falls asleep. In LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST: I myselfe reprehend his owne person, for I am his graces tharborough.


(1) A hole, perforation, aperture. What we today call a nostril was originally a nose-thirl. Later, a door or a window; also, a small cavity or recess; a closet. (2) A bondsman; a variant of thrill; thrall (cp. thrall). Especially, thirlage, the obligation to take one's produce or work to a particular mill or forge (the landlord's) or to pay a fee instead. As a verb, (1) to pierce, penetrate, traverse -- and the various literal and figurative senses of thrill, as when Ramsay in THE GENTLE SHEPHERD (1725) said: His words they thirle like music through my heart. (2) To reduce to bondage or hold in servitude; to limit a tenant to a particular mill; hence, to confine or restrict, as in Bryce's THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH (1888): Great is their power, because they are deemed to be less thirled to a party or leader, because they speak from a moral standpoint. (3) To hurl, or to fly, with a spinning motion. Frequent in the 16th century, possibly by fusion with twirl or whirl. Note that thirlpool was a name for the whale (15th to 17th century). Also thirlepoll; hence it might be from thirl, opening + poll, head; but other forms of the word were whirlpool (1522) and hurlpool (1556), so that there may be a connection with the tumult of the whale's blowing. -- In the figurative sense, to pierce, Chaucer says in ANELIDA AND ARCITE (1374): So thirllethe with the poynt of rememberaunce the sworde of sorowe.


Used in the 17th century (again in the 19th); opposed to thatness, which is the quality of being something other than this. This had various forms: thissen, thisne (used by Bottom in Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM; 1596), in this manner. Also thiskin, on thiskin wise, this gate, thishow (after somehow) this wise, on this wise, in this manner, thus. this half, a-this-half, on this side, thislike, like this, in this way. this while, this whiles, during this time, meanwhile.


A hamlet; especially, in Middle English, an agricultural village. A Norse word, not common in Old English and appearing mainly (Langland, 1362; Chaucer, 1386) as throp, throop. Thorp was seldom used in literary works after the 15th century, but survived through the countryside, and was restored to poetic use by Wordsworth (THE EXCURSION, 1814: Welcome, wheresoe'er he came -- Among the tenantry of thorpe and vill) and Tennyson (THE BROOK, 1855: I hurry down . . . By twenty thorps; ENOCH ARDEN, 1864).


A beast of prey, of the dog family, named in Greek and Latin writers. Plural, thoes. Mentioned in 17th to 19th century English works, and variously identified; thus C, H. Smith in his book on DOGS (1839) says: It may be, that one of the smaller thoes of Aristotle is the true jackal. -- Phillips in 1706 defined the thos: A lynx, a creature resembling a wolf, but spotted like a leopard.


One who is held in bondage; a slave, a captive. Also used to mean the condition of a thrall, thraldom, thralship; and as an adjective: We now are captives that made others thrall; and as a verb, to thrall, to enslave, cp. thirl. By the 17th century, the verb was largely replaced by enthrall, mainly with figurative application. Thrall was used both literally (often, thrall of Satan) and figuratively. Chaucer in THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE (1366) says The God of Love . . . can wel these lordis thrallen. Shakespeare refers to the King's guards, in MACBETH (1605) , as slaves of drink, and thralles of sleepe.


Bragging; vainglorious. Also thrasonic. A thraso, a thrasonist, a swaggerer, a boaster. In Terence's play THE EUNUCH (161 B.C.) the miles gloriosus, the braggart soldier, is named Thraso (Greek thrasys, spirited). The popularity of the play in Tudor England brought the name into common use; cp. gnathonical. Hence also thrasonism, braggart behavior; to thrasonize, to play the daredevil, to brag. Shakespeare in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) mentions that Caesars thrasonical bragge of I came, saw, and overcame.


Originally, to rebuke, scold, blame. Common from the 9th to the 16th century, thereafter persisting in country speech; revived in the 19th century (Scott, C. Bronte, Bulwer-Lytton). Also threpe, threep, threppe, threip, thraip, and the like. Various meanings developed. To dispute, to inveigh (against) , to haggle, to contend. Hence, as a noun, threap, quarreling, contention, contest. To threap with kindness was rarely used in the sense of to treat with kindness; more often, to attribute kindness to, to urge to the exercise of kindness. To threap upon, to impose upon, to try to press one's beliefs upon; to press (something) upon one, to urge one's acceptance or acquiescence. Failing that, to threap down, to beat down resistance, to silence by vehement or persistent assertion, as R. W. Hamilton observed in NUGAE LITERARIAE (1841): A man will say of a clamorous talker, he did not convince me, but he threaped me down. The form threapen, in addition to these uses, borrowed the sense of threaten as well; threapening, threatening. Thence, threapland, land of disputed ownership. In the sense of strongly affirming, persisting in a (challenged) point of view, Chaucer uses the word in the Prologue to THE CANON YEOMAN'S TALE (1386): Sol gold is and Luna silver we threpe. Thus also Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816): He threeps the castle and lands are his ain as his mother's eldest son. Beaumont in PSYCHE (1648) has the fair nymph cry: Behold how gross a ly of ugliness They on my face have threaped!


With the loops of the pile-warp (that forms the nap -- of carpetry, or velvet) formed of three threads, hence producing a trebly thick pile, of the finest quality. Hence, three-piled, of the highest quality; exquisite; by deterioration, overfine, extreme. Elizabeth Barrett Browning in NATURE'S REMORSES (1861) has: On three-piled carpet of compliments. Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) speaks of the courtier's Taffata phrases, silken tearmes precise, Three-pil'd hyperboles, spruce affectation.


A song of lamentation. Also threnode, threnody (Greek ode, song); threnos. Greek threnos, lament Shakespeare uses the form threnos as a heading, in THE PHOENIX AND THE TURTLE (1601); in the body of the poem he uses threne. Stedman, in his VICTORIAN POETS (1876) calls Arnold's THYRSIS the best threnode since Shelley's ADONAIS; later he calls Tennyson's IN MEMORIAM the great threnody of our language. Other great ones are Milton's LYCIDAS and Swinburne's AVE ATQUE VALE, in memory of Baudelaire.


A very common Old English verb, with the basic meaning to press, to crowd; in this sense replaced by one of its forms, throng. By development, thring came to mean: to push forward, hasten; to press hard, oppress, repress; to press together, compress; to thrust with violence, to dash, knock, hurl (down) -- also downthring, to press down, crush. Hence also, to press through, to pierce, penetrate, burst (out). A thringer, an overthrower. Also thryng. In the past tense, thrang, thrange, thronge, throng, thrungen, thrung. Of petty assemblages, Chaucer in THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE (1366) tells: There was many a bird singing Throughout the yerde al thringing; and Douglas in the AENEIS (1513): The damecellis [damsels] fast to thar lady thringis. In less pleasant fashion, from the same poem of Chaucer's: In his sieve he gan to thringe A rasour sharpe and wel bitinge. Rutherford in a letter of 14 March, 1637, exclaims: There is no little thrusting and thringing to thrust in at Heaven's gates.


Lightning. Originally thunderlait, -layt, -leit, -leyt. From Old English ley, flame, came lait, a flash of fire, as in Malory's MORTE D'ARTHUR (1485): Ther felle a sodeyne tempest and thonder layte and rayne. Chaucer uses thunderlight (in one manuscript thonderleit) several times; after him, the picturesque term was neglected until Leigh Hunt caught it up in his FEAST OF POETS (1815): What shall move his placid might? Not the headlong thunderlight.


To cut down, to pare away; to shape by paring. Used from the 9th century. Also in the popular phrase, used by More in a DYALOGE (1529): to thwite a mill-post to a pudding-prick; figuratively, to cut down the size of, to reduce (arrogance, complacency, etc.) to proper proportions, to 'take down a peg/ A diminutive of to thwite (also thwyte, thwight, etc.) was to thwittle, whence the variant and still current whittle. A whit -- surviving in the expression no whit the (worse, etc.) -- is a shaving, whittled off; hence, an insignificant bit.


A license to be at large after part of a prison term has been served; as in Australia, and in 19th century England of convicts released for good behavior. Hence, ticket-of-leave man, ticket-of-leaver, one thus released. THE TICKET-OF-LEAVE MAN, by Tom Taylor, in May, 1863, brought to the Olympic Theatre the first great detective in the drama. His removal of disguise and selfdisclosure became traditionalized in three movements: Left hand removes cap -- he says: "I." Right hand removes wig -- he says "Hawkshaw." Left hand, holding cap, removes whiskers -- he says: "the detective."

Tide Waiter

Also "Tidewaiter",d "Tide-waiter.", or just Waiter. Customs inspector. A customs official who waited to board incoming (with the tide) ships to prevent customs evasion. From at least mid-1700s, probably earlier.


Originally, though rarely in English, short for Epiphany, the Twelfth Day (January 6) -- as in Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT. Tiffany is really short (there were some forty variant forms in Old French) for Theophany, the manifestation of God. From the meaning of manifestation, revealing, the word was given English use as tiffany, short for tiffany silk, which cloths, said Holland in his translation (1601) of Pliny, 'instead of apparell to cover and hide, shew women naked through them.' Thus also Evelyn in his DIARY for June 1645: shewing their naked arms through false sleeves of tiffany. Hence, an article made of tiffany, such as a head-dress. Also used figuratively, as in Richard Franck's NORTHERN MEMOIRS (1658): It's a tiffany plot; any man with half an eye may easily see through it.


To light, to kindle; hence, to inflame, arouse; also, to catch fire, become ignited; to become inflamed or aroused. An early word, common in Old English and developing many forms, including tend, tynd, tynne, tin, teyne, tinnd. tinder, though surviving as a noun, was in the 13th century (also tender) used as a verb, to become inflamed, to glow. Herrick in HESPERIDES (1648, CANDLEMAS DAY) said: Kindle the Christmas brand . . . Part must be kept wherewith to teend The Christmas log next year. Dryden used the verb figuratively in THE DUKE OF GUISE (1682): Shop-consciences . . . Preach'd up, and ready tined for a rebellion.


An itinerant tin pot and pan seller and repairman.


A clamor, uproar, hubbub, racket -- a great confused noise. The O.E.D. says it is of obscure origin; Bailey (1751) suggests Latin tinnitus Martius, a warlike jingling. [Note that Poe's tintinnabulation of the bells, while an echoic word, was not coined by him; Latin has tintinnabulum, a bell, a call-bell.] Also tintamare, tintamarre, tintimar. H. Greville in his DIARY for 21 November, 1834, said: Such a tintamarre I never heard, but the audience were enthusiastic. And THE ACADEMY of 28 December, 1901, complained: The just praise he wishes to utter is forestalled by a tintamar of rash eulogy.


Originally (13th century) a separate, long narrow slip of cloth, worn hanging from the hood, headdress, or sleeve. In the 15th century, also a scarf, or a short (wool or fur) cape. Especially, an ecclesiastical scarf (16th century on) worn around the neck, with the two ends hanging in front; hence, tippet-captain, tippet-knight, contemptuous terms for a priest; tippet-scuffle, ecclesiastical quarrel. Caxton in his translation (1481) of THE MIRROUR OF THE WORLD observed: They be not alle clerkes that have short typettis. The LONDON GAZETTEER in 1686 carried a notice: Lost a sable tippet with scarlet and silver strings.


A policeman, a sheriff's officer; a bailiff. From the mid-16th century (first denoting a metal-tipped staff); contraction of tipped staff (carried by a bailiff).


A rascal, scoundrel; especially, a tattling or mischievous tell-tale; Cotgrave in 1611 has: a tatling houswife, a titifill, a flebergebit. Plautus once used the word titivillitium, apparently meaning a mere trifle. This may be the origin of Titivil, which was the name of the devil that gathered up the fragments of words dropped, skipped, or mumbled in the religious services, and took them to hell to be stored up against the offending one. From this, the name was used for a devil or demon in the Mystery Plays, then extended to persons. Also tittifill, titifyl, titivillus. In Hall's CHRONICLES (1548, EDWARD IV) we read: Mistrusting lest her counsayl should by some titiville be published and opened to her adversaries.


To stagger, reel, stumble; to stammer, stumble in speech. Latin titubare, titubatum, to stagger, to stammer, to hesitate. Also, titubation. S. Clarke in his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY (1650) has: He went on without the least hesitation in his voice, or titubation of his tongue. These two forms were used from the 17th century; in the 19th century, titubant and titubancy came into use, humorously or pedantically. Thus Peacock in THE MISFORTUNES OF ELPHiN (1829) admires that amiable state of semi-intoxication which sets the tongue tripping, in the double sense of nimbleness and titubancy.


This is another of the English forms that mean their own opposite (see avaunt). (1) In the sense of motion toward or addition to. to-cast, to add. tocome, arrival (9th to 16th century); to-come, to befall, to approach, arrive (13th to 16th century). to-draught, a following, a retinue; a place that people are drawn to, a resort. to-gainst, toward with hostile intent; (1440) Charelemaine's spear that togainst the Saracins he was want to bear. to-lay, to put forward, allege. to-neighe, to approach. (2) Many more words were formed with to- in the sense of apart, asunder, in pieces, or other ideas of separation (equivalent to zer in German, Old Teuton tiz, Latin dis). To-bear, to carry in different directions; to take away; to separate persons (in feelings: make them enemies). to-bell, to swell exceedingly; to be swollen with pride or anger. to-bent, bent way over. to-blow, to puff up (with wind, or with an emotion); to blow away, scatter. to-braid, to wrench apart, pull to pieces; snatch away. to-bray, to beat to atoms. to-break, to demolish, scatter. to-brenn, to consume by fire. to-bune, to-bone, to beat severely, thrash; also to-bust. to-carve, to cut to pieces. to-chew, to chew to pieces. to-chine, to split apart. to-clatter, to knock to pieces (noisily). to-crack, to shatter. to-cut, to cut to bits: The Cassydonyens (1489) were slayne and all to-cutt and cloven. to-dash, to dash to pieces. to-deal, to divide into parts; to sever; to distribute. to-do, to sunder; to undo, open. to-draw, to pull apart, destroy by tearing to pieces. to-drese (past, to-drove), to fall apart, decay. to-drunk, too drunk. to-fare, to disperse. to-flap, to knock to pieces. to-fleet, to float away, be carried away by current or tide. to-frush, to smash, drive violently into (as with an automobile. Most of these words had dropped out of use by the 16th century.). to-gang, to go away, to pass away. to-gnide, to crush to fragments. to-go, to go in different directions, pass away, disappear. to-hale, to drag apart; to pull about. to-hene, to mutilate by stoning. to-hurt, to knock asunder. to-pull, to pull to pieces. to-race, to-rase, to hack or tear to pieces. to-rat, to break up, to scatter. to-reose, to crumble, fall into ruins. to-rush, to disperse with force, to dash to pieces. to-set, distribute, divide. to-shend, to destroy utterly, ruin. to-shoot, to burst asunder. to-skair, to scatter, disperse. to-spring, to spring apart, burst asunder. to-slive, to cleave. to-sned, to cut to pieces. to-sparple, to scatter abroad. to-squat, to crush, squash. to-stick, to prick all over. to-stink, to smell abominably. to-tight, to stretch out, spread out. to-torve, to hurl about, to dash to pieces. to-tose, to tear to pieces. to-twin, to separate, divide. to-whither, to whirl to bits. to-worth, to come to naught; to perish. to-wowe, to scatter by blowing. to-writhe, to wrench or twist apart. to-wry, to twist about.


An alarm, rung by a bell; also, the alarm bell. Provencal tocar (French toucher, originally an echoic word), to touch, strike + senh (Latin signum sign; later, bell), bell. Also used figuratively, as in A. Clarke's LIFE (1832): He thought the seizure in my foot would turn to an attack of gout. This was a tocsin to me.


(1) A watch or clock of the sort made by Thomas Tompion, in the reign of good Queen Anne. For an instance of the use of the word, see cosins. (2) Another form of tampion (q.v.) , a plug for stopping an aperture; especially, a bung for a cask, "a stopple of a great gun or mortar" (Bailey, 1751) "to keep out rain." Also tomkin, tampoon, tampkin, tomking.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by the shape of the terrain.


Relating to toreutics, the art of working in metal, ivory, etc. embossing, chasing, working in relief, and the like. Pronounced tor-you'-tic. A toreutes, an artist in ivory or metal. These are 19th century terms (except for one use, by Evelyn, torentice, in the 17th century). Thus THE ANTIQUITIES OF ATHENS (1837) called the Minerva of the Parthenon, also by Phidias, wrought in ivory and gold, the noblest example of the toreutic art.


Unsteady, shaky, tottery; dizzy; fuddled. Formed after totter, tottle. Chaucer in THE REEVE'S TALE (1386) has: Myn hed is toty of my swynk tonyght. For another quotation, see noll. Used into the 17th century, the word was revived by Scott in the 19th, in IVANHOE (1819): I was somewhat totty when I received the good knight's blow, or I had kept my ground.


A curl, or artificial lock of hair atop the head, especially as peak adornment of a periwig. Also toupee (the current spelling, meaning a patch of false hair to cover a bald spot) , tupee, toppee. For an illustration of this use, see cosins. From the first sense, toupet was used of a person of fashion, a gallant, a beau -- who wore a toupet. Hence toupet-coxcomb, toupet~man. Richardson, in CLARISSA HARLOWE (1748): A couple of brocaded or laced-waistcoated toupets, with sour screwed up half-cocked faces. Again: no mere toupet-man, but all manly.


(1) Transferred; metaphorical, figurative. (2) Transferred from hand to hand, ordinary, commonplace. (3) Transferred from generation to generation, traditional; repeated by person after person. Latin transferre, tralatum, to bear across; whence also transference and many more transfers. Hence tralation, tralatition, metaphor, figurative use. Fuller in A PISGAH-SIGHT OF PALESTINE (1650) declared men too often guilty of what may be termed tralatitious idolatry, when any thing . . . is loved or honoured above, or even with, God himself. Holder in THE ELEMENTS OF SPEECH (1669), considering the etymology of the word language, said that 'language' properly refers to that of the tongue; 'written language' is tralatitiously so called.


To set down one's foot forcefully; hence, to tramp; to go about. Used from the 14th century; in the 17th century replaced by trapes, traipse, which is still current, to go traipsing around. A trapse was (17th into the 19th century; later in dialects) a gadabout; a slovenly woman. In 1749, Richardson wrote in a letter (4 August): The lowest of all fellows, yet in love with a young creature who was traping after him.


A twister, a sudden squall with swirling gusts of wind and rain. Also travat. Portuguese travados, whirlwind. Used from the 17th century.


Toll bridge collection


As a noun. A footprint. A trodden way; a path; a way of life; Buckle in his essay on CIVILIZATION (1862) spoke of conditions which determine the tread and destiny of nations. Also, those that move on the routine paths of life; Chapman in his translation (1615) of the ODYSSEY: the bread Which now he begg'd amongst the common tread. Hence, a course or manner of behaving; custom; sometimes (16th and 17th centuries) used to mean trade, business. Also, the act of a male bird in intercourse; a tread-fowl, a male bird. Thus the treadle, the little membrane (chalaza) that holds the yolk of an egg in place; so called because it was thought to be the sperm; by extension, an egg. For this use, see fraight; cp. tredefoule.


A truce. A form, via Medieval Latin tragua, treuga, from Gothic triggwa; see treves. This bears no relation to intrigue, which is via French from Latin intricare, intricatum (whence also English intricate) to entrap; in + tricae, tricks, traps (related to Latin torquere, to twist) , whence also extricate. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) has: Which to confirm, and fast to bind their league, After their weary sweat and bloody toile, She them besought, during their quiet treague, Into her lodging to repairs a while.


A knife or other cutting instrument (14th to 16th century). A flat piece of wood (later, also metal or earthenware) usually square or circular, on which meat was cut and served. The word is via Old French and popular Latin from Latin truncare, truncatum, to cut, lop off; truncus, the trunk of a tree. The word trench (from the 15th century) meant to cut; to cut into (Shakespeare, THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, 1591: This weake impress of love is as a figure Trench'd in ice) ; to make (a cut) in (Shakespeare, VENUS AND ADONIS, 1592: The wide wound, that the boar had trencht In his soft flank) . To lick the trencher (of someone) , to toady. A trencher-beard is large and flat; trencher-art, that of the gourmet -- or the glutton. trencher-critic, one who speaks fulsome praise (in return for which, he is made full at the table), trencher-hero, one valiant at the festive board; Peter Pindar, in THE CHURCHWARDEN (1792): The trencher-heroes hate All obstacles that keep them from the plate; also trencher-knight (Shakespeare, LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST); and, in more democratic wise, trencher-labourer, and ultimately, trencher-slave. A trencher-cap (18th and early 19th century) was later called a mortar-board: the flat, square academic cap. trencher-fly, a parasite; also, trencher-friend. A trencher-man, in Sidney's ARCADIA (1586) was a cook; in Thackeray's PENDENNIS (1849), a dependent, hanger-on; usually it meant (with measure of admiration) a hearty eater, as in Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: He's a very valiant trencher-man,, he hath an excellent stomach.


A third fall into sin. Used as an adjective also, in the 16th and 17th century, J. Mill in his DIARY (1776) remarked: This being a relapse to the woman and a trelapse to the man. Latin re, again; tri, three + lapsus, fall, slip, lapse. Hence also trilapser; a church regulation of 1649 required that trelapsers in fornication be brought before the Presbyterie.


The act of leaping or dancing for joy; exultation; although to J. Johnson in THE CLERGYMAN'S VADE MECUM (1709) came other thoughts: The word implies tripudiation, or immodest dancing. Also, a divination or prophesying from the behavior of fowl (especially the sacred chickens of the ancient Roman temples) when fed. Hence tripudiary, relating to such divination, or to dancing, tripudial, tripudiant, relating to dancing. Hence, a tripudist. Ultimately from Latin tri, three + Greek pod, foot, as when skipping or dancing. From the 17th into the 19th century, tripudiate meant to leap with excitement or joy; to stamp or trample (upon) in scorn or triumph. THE SATURDAY REVIEW of 5 May, 1888, observed: On poor Colonel Slade . . . he tripudiates with all the chivalry of the f varray perfit gentil knight" of controversy that he is.


Trite, commonplace.Hence also triticism, a trite utterance or writing. Swift in 1709 wrote: A Tritical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind. Disraeli in THE AMENITIES OF LITERATURE (1841) has: To sermonise with a tedious homily or a tritical declamation. Hence also triticalness, triticality.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using wheel tracks.


(1) Faith, belief; pledged faith, covenant; fancy, supposition. (2) A boat or barge, a variant of trough. (3) Toll, trewage, q.v. (4) A variant of troll, a malevolent spirit; especially, the sea-trow. To trow is to trust, believe; the noun is troth, q.v. Hence trowable, credible. For trowandise, see truandise. The expression I trow, I believe, grew weak, and was often used to mean I suppose (I hope) , or just to emphasize a question, as in Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598): Who's there, I troa?


A scene or sound of confusion. The name is taken from Troy in Asia Minor, to which it was more than confusion Helen brought. Also Troy-fair; sometimes just Troy. Otway in FRIENDSHIP IN FASHION (1678) said ironically: And for the cittern, if ever Troy Town were a tune, he mastered it upon that instrument. Also, a labyrinth, a maze. Wright (1859) explains the notion that Troy was a town which had but one gate, and that it was necessary to go through every street to get to the market-place. They call a garden laid out spirally a city of Troy.


Savage slaughtering. Latin trucidare, for trucicaedere; trucem, ferocious + caedere, to cut down, to kill. See stillicide. In dictionaries from the 17th century; Stevenson, in a letter of 1883, uses it humorously: I loathe the snails; but from loathing to actual butchery, trucidation of multitudes, there is still a step that I hesitate to take.


A weighing; consideration. Latin trutinare, trutinatum; trutina, from Greek trutane, balance. Hence also trutinate, to weigh (mentally), to consider. The words were rather common in the 16th and 17th centuries; in that period, too, astrologers said that the first way of rectifying a nativity was by the trutine or scrutiny of Hermes. Alas, as John Foxe pointed out in THE BOOK OF MARTYRS (1570), human fragilitie suffereth not all thinges to bee pondered, trutinate, and weyed in just balance.


Originally (13th century) one that worked at fulling and dressing cloth; A cleaner of cloth goods. Tucker's earth, fuller's earth. Other meanings came much later: (17th century) , a piece of lace worn by women tucked in or around the top of the bodice; Some of the girls have two clean tuckers in the week, says Charlotte Bronte in JANE EYRE (1847); the rules limit them to one. Hence, one's best bib and tucker; see bib. Also, an instrument for tucking or plucking; a pair of tuckers, tweezers. A tucker up (to an old bachelor), a serving-maid who may well be a mistress, (19th century, colonial): daily rations taken along by a worker; to earn one's tucker, to earn about enough for one's keep.


A person who turns wood on a lathe into spindles


In addition to meaning to wink the eye, or to twinkle, or to tinkle, twink meant to chastise (by word or blow). Also twank, to spank. Both words seem echoic in origin. Elizabeth Carter ended a letter (1747): I have been called away ten times, and shall be twinked if I do not leave you. A year later, she wrote a twinkation to Mr. Richardson about it, to which I received so civil an answer that I knew not how to be angry.


A variant form of twirl. (The O.E.D. suggests that both twire and twirk, used in this sense, are misprints.) Breton, IN PRAISE OF VERTUOUS LADIES (1599): If shee have her hand on the pette in her cheeke, he is twyrking of his mustachios. The idea in twirk seems to be a combination of a twirl and a tug.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the coagulation of cheese.


A posy, a tuzzymuzzy, q.v. This form was used in the 15th century. In the early 19th century tistytosty was also used of a nosegay; but apparently this word is related to toss, and the bunch of flowers was tossed to and fro in a sort of game, also called tistytosty (teesty-tosty). In the 16th century, however, tistytosty was used (1) as a refrain: I shall be a lively lad, with hey tistye tosty. (2) as a name for a bully, a blusterer.


To make fruitful or plentiful; to give suck, to nourish. Latin uber, udder. Hence uberant, abundant; A GAG FOR THE POPE (1624) has: Like uberant springs to send forth flowing streams of truth into the world. Also uberous, abundant, rich in milk (of breasts or udders); Robert Naunton in FRAGMENTA REGALIA (1635) declared: My Lord . . . drew in too fast, like a child sucking an an over-uberous nurse. Also, uberousness, uberiy, fruitfulness, abundance. Evelyn in SYLVA (1706) speaks of the uberous cloud. Sir Thomas Herbert in A RELATION OF SOME YEARS TRAVAILE . . . INTO AFRIQUE AND THE GREATER ASIA (1634) reports that the women give their infants suck as they hang at their backes, the uberous dugge stretched over her shoulder.


One that goes everywhere. The ANNUAL REGISTER of 1767 remarked: The English being by their nature ubiquartans. Latin ubi, place; ubique, everywhere. As an adjective, ubiquarian, that goes everywhere or is experienced or encountered everywhere: the ubiquarian house sparrow. Also, ubication, the fact of being in a place; ubiation, being in a (new) place. From 1600 to 1750 ubi was frequently used in English, meaning place, location; Sir Kenelm Digby in his treatise on THE NATURE OF BODIES (1644) stated: It is but, assigning an ubi to such a spirit and he is presently [immediately] riveted to what place you please; and by multiplying the ubies . . . Hence, ubiety, condition with respect to place; thus Bailey in THE MYSTIC (1855) spoke of magic haschisch, which endows thought with ubiety. Shakespeare used other powers to give to airy nothings ubiety a local habitation and a name.


The dusk just before dawn. Also ughtentide, ughtening, the dawning. The ughten-song, uhtsong, was the religious service just before daybreak; matins. Lingard in his study of THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE (1844) stated that the nightsong . . . was frequently joined with the uhtsong; Juliet protested it was the nightingale and not the lark.


Horrid, loathsome. Frequent almost to the 17th century; revived by Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816): Like an auld dog that trails its useless ugsome carcass into some bush or bracken. Then used by Bulwer-Lytton and Browning. Also ugglesome; uglisome (16th century); cp. yglesome. A stronger form of ugly (which Chaucer in THE CLERK'S TALE, 1386, spells igly).


Moist, damp, slimy. Latin uliginem, moisture. Also uliginose. Uliginal, growing in moist ground. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries, though Smyth's SAILOR'S WORD-BOOK of 1867 lists uliginous channels: those connecting the branches of rivers, by cuts through the soil.


(1) The amount of wine (or other liquor) needed to fill the empty space in an almost full cask (because of loss by leakage or absorption). This is, more specifically, the dry ullage. Wine on ullage is wine in a cask not full. (2) The amount of wine in a partially filled cask; more specifically, this is the wet ullage. In the 19th century, the word was used for wine left in glasses or bottles; THE PALL MALL GAZETTE of 21 August, 1889, queried: "Pray what is ullage?' "The washings out of casks/' replied my friend. The word has been in use since the 13th century.


Vengeance. Latin ulcisci, ultus, to punish, to avenge oneself on. Richard Tomlinson in his translation (1657) of Renodaeus' MEDICINAL DISPENSATORY, fairly enough declares that a medicament . . . should leave in the mouth the ultion of the fault therein committed. Sir Thomas Browne in CHRISTIAN MORALS (1682) reminds us that to do good for evil is a soft and melting ultion, a method taught from Heaven to keep all smooth on earth.


See couth; cp. patulous. French ombrage, ombre; Latin umbra, shadow, whence also umbrageous -- seldom used now save in humor, as when the sycophantic fox stood beneath the tree's umbrageous limb to seduce the gullible raven. Hence also umbrosity (17th century), the state of being shady; umbrate, umbrous, umbrose. Umbratile meant shady, shadowlike; living in retirement, 'in the shade'; hence, not public, secret. Also umbratilous, shadowy, faint; unreal. Doughty in ARABIA DESERTA (1888): Many thus are umbratiles in the booths, and give themselves almost to a perpetual slumber. Also umbratic, shadowy; foreshadowing; secluded; umbratical, remaining in seclusion; Jonson in DISCOVERIES (1636) said: So I can see whole volumes dispatch'd by the umbraticall doctors on all sides. Note that umbrageous meant not only abounding in shadow but (after the secondary sense of umbrage, from the 16th century) suspicious, quick to take offence. Thus Donne in a sermon of 1630 declared: At the beginning some men were a little ombrageous, and startling at the name of the Fathers; and George Digby exclaimed in ELVIRA (1667): What power meer appearances have had . . to destroy, With an umbragious nature, all that love Was ever able ... To found and to establish.


Also unnaneld, unanneald, unanealed. See Anele. Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1759) tells: Obadiah had him led in as he was, unwiped, unappointed, unannealed. For Shakespeare's use in HAMLET, which Sterne and most later users echo, see housel. [Unaneled, not anointed, is not to be confused with unannealed, the negative from anneal, to enamel or to burn colors into glass, earthenware, or metal. This is also spelled aneal; the forms but not the senses of the two words overlap.]


To remove the stigma of cuckoldry, to unhorn. J, Moore in ZELUCO (1789) remarked, with perspicacity and probably regret: I never yet heard of any method by which a man can be uncuckolded. Also, uncuckolded, not yet horned. Shakespeare laments, in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): It is a deadly sorrow, to beholde a foule knave uncuckolded.


Relating or belonging to an uncle. More often, avuncular. De Quincey in THE SPANISH MILITARY NUN (1847) remarked: The grave Don clasped the hopeful young gentleman . . . to his uncular and rather angular breast.


To receive, to accept; to come to possess; to admit to one's presence or friendship. By extension, to have understanding in; also, to take in hand, undertake. In all these senses, underfo was the common form from the 9th century until the end of the 12th century, when underfong largely replaced it, fading after the 16th. Past tense forms included underfeng, underfangen, underfonge, underfynge. Spenser used underfong to mean to take in, seduce, entrap; Thou, he says in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; JUNE) that by treacheree Didst underfong my lasse, to waxe so light. The gloss explains this, 'deceive by false suggestion.' Similarly in THE FAERIE QUEENE: With his powre he . . . makes them subject to his mighty wrong, And some by sleight he eke doth underfong.


Unploughed. From ear, to plough, of the same root as Greek aroein, Latin arare, to plough, till, whence English arable. Shakespeare's 2d SONNET asks: For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? The poem is urging young Southampton to marry; there is a pun in husbandry.


As a verb, used by Fuller in THE HOLY WAR (1639): Whilest his old wife plucked out his black hairs . . . his young one ungrayhaired him.


A form of unneath, short for underneath. Used by Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; JANUARY). Also unneth, unneths.


Undressed; in deshabille. Also, to unready, to undress. Developed in the 16th century as the converse of to ready, to dress. In Shakespeare's HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591), when the French leape ore the walles in their shirts, they are hailed: How now, my lords! What, all unreadie so? Puttenham in THE ARTE OF ENGLISH POESIE (1589) tells of a young gentlewoman who was in her chamber, making herself unready.


Deprived of virility; without seminal power. Used by Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): Tis well for thee, That being unseminar'd, thy freer thoughts May not flye forth of Egypt. Cleopatra is talking to her eunuch, while she is aquiver for Antony in Rome.


Not suited to the town, rude, uncivil. In Wright's SPECIMENS OF LYRIC POETRY of the 13th century. This explanation is given in Herbert Coleridge's DICTIONARY OF THE OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (1863) . More probably, untoun is a variant of untowe, untowen, Middle Low German un(ge)togen, uneducated; hence, untrained, unmannered, wanton. Also untowe (n) ship, wantonness. These forms are found from the 10th to the 15th century. Note also untowned, in Wolcot (Peter Pindar's) ODES TO THE ROYAL ACADEMICIANS (1783): Find me in Sodom out . . . Ten gentlemen, the place shan't be untown'd.


A tree supposed to have existed in Java, so poisonous as to destroy all life within fifteen miles. Also, upas tree. From Malayan upas pohun, poison tree. The story of such a tree was told in the LONDON MAGAZINE of 1783, and given credence and currency in Erasmus Darwin's THE LOVES OF PLANTS (1789): Fierce in dread silence on the blasted heath Fell upas sits, the hydra-tree of death. Hence, a deadly or destructive power; thus Byron in CHILD HAROLD'S PILGRIMAGE (1818): This uneradicable taint of sin, This boundless upas, this all-blasting tree.


A variant of upbraid, used by Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590); by Sidney, Marston, and others. The form is an error, from assuming that upbraid is the past tense.


Also Ouranomancy. .Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using the heavens.


A hedgehog. Also urchun; nurchon, norchon; urchyn, urchion; hurcheon; irchin, and more. Applied to (1) a fiend; urchin of hell (16th century); a goblin or elf, which might appear in the form of a hedgehog; (2) Cupid (18th century); (3) a person: a hunchback, an ugly woman, a hag (17th century), an illtempered or scheming girl; Goldsmith in THE GOODNATURED MAN (1768) said You did indeed dissemble, you urchin you; but where's the girl that won't dissemble for a husband? a mischievous youngster (feminine urchiness)} a small child, an infant; usually with pity or scorn (this sense survives) . As an adjective, urchin, mischievous; annoying; evil.


Use, custom. Mainly in the phrases in ure, in use or practice; out of ure, out of use, disused. A very common word in the 15th and 16th centuries. Marston in THE SCOURGE OF VILLANIE (1598) calls damnation upon those that dare to put in ure To make Jehova but a coverture To shade rank filth. Wycherley in THE COUNTRY WIFE (1688) tells: Yes, a man drinks often with a fool, as he tosses with a marker, only to keep his hand in ure.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using urine.


A diver. Latin urinari, urinatus, to dive, swim under water. Hence also urinate, to dive; urination, diving. These senses were common from about 1650 to 1690. Beale in a letter (published in Boyle's WORKS; 1682) wrote that His Majesty's urinator, Mr. Curtis, published in the Gazette how he had practised . . . Which minds me how easy it were . . . for our merchants, in all their voyages, to be furnished with such urinators.


A supernatural denizen of the Scottish Highlands, akin to the English brownie. P. Graham informs us in THE SCENERY OF PERTHSHIRE (1806) , that the urisks were a sort of lubberly supernaturals, who . . . could be gained over by kind attentions, to perform the drudgery of the farm.


Whisky. From the Gaelic uisge, water + beatha, life. Similarly, the Latin aque vitae, water of life. Very frequent in the 17th century; occasionally still used.


Burning; (later) roasting. Also ustion, burning, searing; a surface that has been (or looks as though it has been) seared or cauterized. Hence, figuratively, burning desire, lust; Sanderson in a Sermon of 1624 reminded his hearers that marriage is the sole allowed remedy against . . . burning lusts; by the apostle . . . commanded in case of ustion to all men. Latin urere, ustum, to burn, whence also combustion. Hence also ustulate, scorched, or so brown as to seem scorched, as a sunburn, ustorious, able to make things burn; ustive, caustic; good for a burn; a recipe book of 1599 states that linteseede oyle is an excellent ustive oyntment.


A fine or tax paid by a male (Spartan, also Roman) citizen for not marrying. Latin uxor, wife; whence also uxorious, henpecked. The word uxorium is in Bailey (1751); not in O.E.D. Yet bachelors were taxed in England in 1695, to raise funds for the war against France; and since 1798 the British income tax has pressed more heavily upon the bachelor. Various communities in the United States have tried to impose a uxorium.


Milking of cows. Coleridge (BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA, 1817) looked for a good servant, scientific in vaccimulgence. Latin vacca, cow; whence also vaccarage, vaccary (from the 15th century), a pasturage for cows; a dairy farm. For vaccicide, cp. stillicide. Vaccine, of course, was first associated with the cow: variolae vaccinae, cow pox, drawn from the hands of a milkmaid by Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796.


Emptiness. A form in 18th century dictionaries; a variant for vacuity. Vacuation was also used (16th and 17th centuries) in this sense; but also as short for evacuation. Also vacive, vacuous. Vacuefy meant to create a vacuum, to make empty.


(1) A variant of ford (wade?) , a shallow place in a river. (2) An early form of fade, quite frequent from 1500 to 1650. Shakespeare, in RICHARD II (1593) declares: One flourishing branch of his most royall roote . . . Is hackt downe, and his summer leafes all vaded. Latin vadere, to go, whence also invade, evade, and also (3) vade, to go away, depart. Braithwait in BARNABEES JOURNAL (1638) warns: Beauty feedeth, beauty fadeth; Beauty lost, her lover vadeth. Hence also, vading, transitory, fleeting, passing away. Vadosity, the state of being fordable (17th century).


Literally (Latin) go with me: a companion; a handbook; a guide, See Vadosity. Often Vade Mecum was used as or in a book's title. The Odéon Theatre in 1797 planned a literary journal, said the MONTHLY MAGAZINE, to be a valuable vade-mecum for such persons as are not in the habit of deciding on the merits of theatrical performances. Each member of the audience was thus supplied with a pocket critic.


The condition of being vadable, vadeable, fordable. Latin vadosum; vadum, a ford. A vade, q.v., was (16th century) a shallow stretch of a river, across which one might wade. Old English wadan, wade, like Latin vadere, first meant to go, to walk, then to walk through water. From the Latin came vademecum (literally, go with me) used from the 17th century for a guide or handy reference book. Fielding in THE GRUB STREET OPERA (1731) recommended the husband's vade-mecum . . . very necessary for all married men to have in their houses. And Byron in DON JUAN (1818) called Aristotle's rules The vade mecum of the true sublime Which makes so many poets, and some fools.


Craftiness. Listed in Bailey (1751), but not in O.E.D. -- which does list vafrous, sly, crafty. Latin vafrum, cunning, crafty. Hall in his CHRONICLES (1548, HENRY VII) speaks of the Englishmen, accordyng to their olde vaffrous varletie.


(1) To lower, in sign of submission or respect (one's eyes; a banner, a lance), or to take off (a hat, or other headdress). Also vayle, vaill, veil. Hence, to acknowledge surrender or defeat; to yield. Thus Kyd in his translation (1594) of CORNELIA has: valing your christall eyes to your faire bosoms. Coryat in his CRUDITIES (1611) gives instance of figurative use: She will very near benumme and captivate thy senses, and make reason vale bonnet to affection. (2) To have power, to prevail; to be of use. Via Old French from Latin valoir, to be of value. Cp. vailable.


A fur, very popular in the 13th and 14th centuries, used for trimming or lining garments, also for slippers. It was then the fur of a squirrel with gray back and white belly. Old French vair; Latin varius, parti-colored. The fur was later replaced by miniver and ermine; the word vair (though retained in heraldry, and revived in the 19th century by Scott, Swinburne, and more) dropped from the common speech. The same lapse occurred in French; hence, in the Cinderella story, the fairy slippers of Cinderella, made of vair, made sense to the people listening as verre, and became, in English translation, not fur but glass slippers.


Short for avalanche. The a was dropped in French, when folk usage turned I'avalanche into la valanche; cp. napron. Smollett in his TRAVELS IN FRANCE AND ITALY (1766) observed: Scarce a year passes in which some mules and their drivers do not perish by the valanches.


Here is a word that, especially in surviving forms, shifted until it came to mean its own opposite. Its first use in English was as meaning good health; from Latin valetudo, valetudinem; valere, to be well. Rolland in THE COURT OF VENUS (1560) declared: There was worship with welth and valitude. Then it came to mean, in general, the state of health; Cockeram in 1623 defines it: valetude, health or sicknesse. Then it moved on, to mean ill health; Tomlinson in his translation (1657) of Renodaeus' MEDICINAL DISPENSATORY reported the valitude of many, and the death of more. Hence valetudinous, valetudinarious, valetudinary, invalid, weakly; valetudinarian (still current); a valetudinary (17th century) was an infirmary, a hospital. Sheridan, in THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL, 1777, observes that there are valetudinarians in reputation as well as constitution.


Flogging. Latin vapulare, to be flogged, to receive a lashing -- also, a tongue-lashing. Hence vapulate, to beat; to be flogged; there are blunders, said Samuel Parr in a letter of 1783, for which a boy ought to vapulate. Also vapulary, vapulatory, relating to flogging. E. Ward in THE LONDON SPY (1706) said: Like an offender at a whipping-post . . . the more importunate he seems for their favorable usage, the severer vapulation they are to exercise upon him. In the school and the Navy, as well as the vocabulary, vapulation has grown obsolete.


A 17th century variant of vase. Evelyn in a CHARACTER of 1651, stated: One of their spurs engaged in a carpet . . . drew all to the ground, break the glass and the vasas in pieces.


Emptiness, desolateness; later (1 7th century) vastness, immensity. Hence vastitude, laying waste; later, immensity. Also vastation, very common from 1600 to 1660, then supplanted by devastation. To vast (15th century) , to lay waste, to destroy; vastator, destroyer. In all these forms waste, to lay waste, was the earlier meaning. Latin vastus, empty, void; hence the void of space, the vast reaches, therefore immense. Frequently vast was used as a noun, meaning space; Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) and in PERICLES: Thou god of this great vast, rebuke these surges; Milton, Blake, Keats, Tennyson. Shakespeare also uses vastidity (MEASURE FOR MEASURE), immensity. A use of vast that shows the shift in meaning, or rather a combining of immensity and waste, is in Shakespeare's HAMLET: In the dead vast and middle of the night.


A shortened form of advance, in its various senses; frequent in the 16th century. Also vaunce-roof, vance-roof, a garret. Thomas Raymond, in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1658) claimed that the "fayned names of your fellow Cavaliers" he was accused of having (at his trial for treason) were only the names of such symples as I had caused to be gathered and hung up adrying in the vance-roof at my house. The term was used figuratively by Gurnall in THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLEAT ARMOUR; OR, A TREATISE OF THE SAINTS WAR AGAINST THE DEVIL (1655): Canst thou hide any one sin in the vance-roof of thy heart?


Full of folly; senseless; mad. Latin vecordia, madness; ve, not, without + corda, a harp-string (hence, harmony); influenced by cor, cordem, heart. Not in O.E.D., which lists vecordy, vecord, madness. The 1788 translation of Swedenborg's WISDOM OF THE ANGELS said: Hence too the terms concord, discord, vecord (malicious madness}, and other similar expressions. Caxton in the PROHEMYE to his POLYCRONICON (1482) stated: Historyes moeve and withdrawe emperours and kynges fro vycious tyrannye, fro vecordyous sleuthe [sloth], unto tryumphe and vyctorye in puyssaunt bataylles.


Rapid. Used in the 17th and 18th century; the noun velocity has survived, as also the velodrome, a speedpalace. Latin velox, velocis, swift. The velocipede lingers in memory, but the velociman, a speedy traveling-machine worked by the hands, scarcely survived the 19th century. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known in literature as Lewis Carroll) reported (in his LIFE by Collingwood; 1882): Went out with Charsley, and did four miles on one of his velocimans, very pleasantly. In 1819 there was advertised a velocimanipede, worked by hands and feet. The extremities, at least, were velocious. C. Nesse in A COMPLEAT AND COMPENDIOUS CHURCH HISTORY (1680) said: Satan was seen to fall like lightning from heaven, to wit, viewably, violently, and velociously.


The Roman goddess of love, especially sensual love; Greek Aphrodite. Hence, desire for sexual delights; see venery. Also beauty, charm; a beautiful woman; a quality that excites desire, a charm or grace; Middleton in YOUR FIVE GALLANTS (1608) pictures a pretie, fat eyde wench, with a venus in her cheeke. The second planet from the sun, between Mercury and Earth, Cp. Diana. The girdle (zone] of Venus made its possessor irresistible.


To strike so as to make sound; to strike so as to cause pain, to flagellate. Latin verberare, verberatum, to beat; verber, a lash, scourge; a whipping. Hence also, reverberate, which is current. Shirley in LOVE TRICKS (1625) cries out: You shall be verberated and reverberated, my exact piece of stolidity! T. H. Croker, in his translation (1755) of ORLANDO FURIOSO uses it for Italian tremolar, to vibrate: A fragrant breeze . . . Made the air trem'lous verberate around. Her mother, said the PALL MALL GAZETTE of 1 August, 1866, was a strict disciplinarian of the verberative school.


See stillicide. Holmes in THE AUTOCRAT AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE (1858) applied the term verbicide to punning, of which he was often guilty.


To keep on talking. Latin verbi-, word + gerere, to act, carry on. Hence, verbigeration. Listed in 17th and 18th century dictionaries. The words are now used for a psychopathological repetition of a word or phrase.


A judicial officer of the King's forest, charged with its preservation and maintenance, also against trespassers and poachers. A medieval post, though later for certain forests, notably New, Epping, and Dean. An extended form of verder, with the same meaning; via Old French verd, vert, from Latin viridus, green. The Medieval Latin name of the officer was viridarius. In English, also verdour, viridary. From the veridarii of the Bishop's Forest of Mendip, the term verderer came to be applied to a petty constable of a town; hence, certain towns and cities were divided into constabulary districts, each called a verdery. There were four verderies, e.g., in Wells. The form viridary, in addition to a verderer, might mean a viridarium, a pleasure garden, such as was attached to a villa of ancient Rome. Evelyn in his DIARY for 10 November, 1700, noted: We went to see Prince Ludovisio's villa where was formerly the viridarium of the poet Sallust.


Modest, shy. Latin verecundus; vereri, to reverence, stand in awe. Also, verecundious, verecundous. Hence, verecundity, verecundness. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wotton (RELIQUIAE WOTTONIANAE, 1639) said: Your brow proclameth much fidelity, a certain verecundious generosity graceth your eyes.


This word had a wide range of meanings, extending from the primal sense (Latin virga) , a rod. Among these are: the organ of virility; a chariot-pole; a whip; a watch (short for a verge-watch, one with a rod-like spindle for the balance, used in the 18th century). But especially, the verge was a rod or wand carried (by the Sergeant of the Verge) as a sign of authority; also a rod held by a man swearing fealty to a lord, or becoming a lord's tenant. From these political uses, a whole new series of meanings arose. Within the verge meant within the authority of; the verge of the Lord High Steward (16th and 17th centuries) extended for twelve miles around the King's court. Queen Elizabeth I was within twelve miles of Deptford when Christopher Marlowe was killed there, 30 May, 1593; the fight thus occurred within the verge, hence it was a royal inquiry that exonerated Ingram Frizer, on grounds of self-defence. In the 18th century, within the verge usually meant the precincts of Whitehall as a place of sanctuary. Hence, verge came to mean: the bounds, limits, or precincts of a place; the rim, or edge; margin, brink, border; hence also the space within a boundary, room, scope: Dryden in DON SEBASTIAN (1690) says: Let fortune empty her whole quiver on me, I have a soul that like an ample shield Can take in all, and verge enough for more. Shakespeare uses the word in several senses, also as a rim or circle, in RICHARD III (1594): The inclusive verge Of golden metal,, that must round my brow. The word survives in the expression on the verge of, as in They were on the verge of coming to blows.


Truth-speaking. Also vertloquous. Latin veri-, truth (whence verity} + loquentem, speaking, loqui, to speak. Hence, veriloquy (accent in all of these, on the second syllable). Used in the 17th century, but rare -- as it still seems to be. Also veridic, veridical, veridicous. The nouns veridicality, veridicalness, veridity were used in the 18th century; verity, used from the 14th, dropped largely out of use in the 18th, but in the 19th century verily superseded the other forms.


The juice of unripe grapes, crab-apples and the like, used as a condiment or medicine. Old French vert, green + jus, juice. Also veryose, vergus, vergws, vergious, werges, varges, vergesse and more, because the liquor was very popular, from the 14th to the 18th century. Also used figuratively, as in Middleton's A GAME AT CHESS (1624): This fat bishop hath . . . so squelch'd and squeez'd me, I've no verjuice left in me. In THE HISTORIE OF THE TRYALL OF CHEVALRIE (1605) we read: And that sowre crab do but leere at thee I shall squeeze him to vargis. Often the word was used with the sense of sour, bitter: verjuice countenance, wit. Lowell in THE FABLE FOR CRITICS (1848) says: His sermons with satire are plenteously verjuiced. Thus Edward Guilpin, in SKIALETHEIA (1598): Oh how the varges from his black pen wrung Would sauce the idiom of the English tongue!


A bright red. Also vermil, vermeon, vermion. Early and still poetic forms of vermilion, vermillion. From Latin vermiculus, a little worm, a major source of the coloring in early times. The word was used figuratively to mean a blush; blood; also, the dye or coloring to produce ruby lips and rosy cheeks. Moore in his renderings (1800) of Anacreon, speaks of many vermil, honeyed kisses. Barclay had earlier (THE SHIP OF FOOLS, 1509) advised: Take not cold water instead of vermayll wine.


Being eaten by, or infested with, worms; changing into little worms. Latin vermiculus, diminutive of vermis, verminis, worm, whence vermin and the vermiform appendix. Hence vermiculate, to become worm-eaten; vermiculated may mean worm-eaten, or so marked as to seem nibbled or crawled over by worms. Also vermified, infested with worms. Donne, in one of his LAST SERMONS (1630) , fitly spoke of putrefaction and vermiculation and incineration and dispersion in . . . the grave.


A believer that generation is caused by vermicules, or tiny worms. Latin vermiculus, diminutive of vermis, vermin-, worm. In the 18th century the Italian scientist Spallanzani spoke of the three principal systems respecting the generation of animals, the system of the ovarists, that of the vermiculists, and that founded upon the two liquors.


(1) The kerchief said to have belonged to St. Veronica, with which the face of Christ was wiped on his way to Calvary; His features became marked upon it. This cloth is still venerated as a relic; it is preserved at St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. (2) Any similar cloth or vessel or ornament thus marked, used for devotion; especially, a token worn by pilgrims. Via Old French from the name Veronica. Also vernycle; veronica, veronicle, veronique, verony. Chaucer in the Prologue to THE CANTERBURY TALES (1386) describes the Pardoner: A vernycle hadde he sowed up on his cappe. Bishop Thomas Ken in his poem PSYCHE (1711) pleaded: My soul, Lord, thy veronique make, That I may thy resemblance take.


Glass; a vessel of glass. Chaucer in TROYLUS AND CRiSEYDE (1374) bids him that hath an head of verre Fro caste of stonys ware hym in the war. French verre, Latin vitrum, glass. Used into the 16th century. Cp. vair.


Relating to the Springtime, vernal. Associated with ver, q.v., but derived from Vertumnus, the Roman god of change, god of the seasons; vertere (vortere) , versum, to turn, whence also revert, convert, controvert, diversion, vice versa. Hence vertumnal, changeable, fickle; but more often in the transferred sense of vernal, as when T. Adams says in EIRENOPOLIS (1622): Her smiles are more reviving than the vertumnall sunneshine.


An early (16th and 17th century) form of investigate. Latin vestigare, vestigatum, to track; search; especially, to follow the trail of. Hence, vestigating, a footprint, as in Sir Thomas Herbert's A RELATION OF SOME YEARS TRAVAILE . . . INTO AFRIQUE AND THE GREATER ASIA (1634), wherein he states that the Cingalese claim that Adam was there created and lived there; they believe it rather in regard his vestigatings are yet imprinted in the earth. Hence also the still current vestige, a footprint, a remainder as a reminder.


Things that should not be done. Literally (Latin) , things that should be forbidden; Latin vetare, vetatum, to forbid. Hence also vetation, a forbidding (in 17th and 18th century dictionaries); vetitive, pertaining to the veto; having power to forbid. Veto means, literally, I forbid.


Frequently traveling. Via Italian viaggiare, to voyage, from Latin via, way. A viadant (17th century) was a wayfarer. Medwin in THE LIFE OF SHELLEY (1847) remarks upon the viaggiatory English old maids, who scorn the Continent. Hence also viator, traveler; viatorial, viatorian, viatorious, long-traveling; relating to travel. Also viatic, viaticum, a supply (money or provisions) for a journey; also, the Eucharist, administered to one about to set forth on the last journey. Used from the 16th century. T. Taylor in his translation (1822) of Apuleius said: When a few days had elapsed, I rapidly collected my viatica in bundles. The word is also used figuratively: the grace of God is our viaticum, or as in a letter of J. Jekyll (1775): Bunbury's etchings and Sterne's Journey are almost as good viaticums in France as the post book. The religious sense is exemplified in Kingsley's WESTWARD HO! (1855): No absolution, no viaticum, nor anything! I die like a dog!


The act of vibrating gently or slightly. A slight vibration is a vibratiuncle. The words were used in the 18th and 19th centuries, as in Thomas Reid's AN INQUIRY INTO THE HUMAN MIND (1764): Our sensations arise from vibrations and our ideas from vibratiuncles.


A tavern keeper, or one who provides an army, navy, or ship with food.


Things that ought to be seen. The gerundive plural of videre, to see. The same form appears in agenda, things that ought to be done. Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1760) states: In my list, therefore, of videnda at Lyons this, tho' last, was not, as you see, least. From the same source came the rare (16th century) English vident, a prophet, a seer.


(1) To regard as of little value, to despise; hence, to treat slightingly. Latin vilis, worthless, vile + pendere, to weigh, estimate, consider. This sense was very common in the 16th and 17th centuries, revived by Scott in WAVERLEY (1814): a youth devoid of that petulant volatility which is impatient of, or vilipends, the conversation and advice of his seniors. (2) Confused with this, especially in the 19th century, to vilipend, to vilify, to speak of with contempt, to represent as bad or worthless. Thackeray in VANITY FAIR (1848) says: Menacing the youth with maledictions . . . and vilipending the poor innocent girl as the basest and most artful of vixens. Also vilipender; vilipenditory, abusive; vilipendious, contemptible; vilipendency, the expression of contempt; vilipension, the act of despising.


Pliable; made of pliable twigs or wickerwork. Latin viminem, osier, reed. Hence viminal, good for winding or binding (in 17th and 18th century dictionaries). Also viminious. Matthew Prior wrote, in ALMA (1717) As in a hive's vimineous dome, Ten thousand bees enjoy their home.


Wine-colored, a rosy red. In Pennant's BRITISH ZOOLOGY (1776) we read the description: the rump a fine cinereous: breast and belly, pale chestnut dashed with a vinaceous cast.


A popular musical instrument of the 16th and 17th centuries, with keys; like a spinet but without legs (hence virginal? or because favored by young ladies?). The spinet was triangular; the virginal, rectangular. Usually in the plural, the virginals, referring to one instrument; also a pair of virginals] there were also double virginals, the first in 1581. The triangle (tryangle) and the harpsicon were names for other varieties of the instrument, the harpsicon (also harpsical; an early harpsichord) being the largest. Pepys, ever gallant, on 16 March, 1663 (his DIARY tells) went home by coach, buying at the Temple the printed virginall-book for her. Pepys delighted in giving music lessons in his household; in the DIARY (19 June, 1666) he gives a teasing account of some delightful and perhaps virginal playing. The instrument was then as popular in England as the piano in pre-radio America; watching the loading of household effects into boats on the Thames during the great London fire (2 September, 1666) Pepys observed that hardly one boat in three that had the goods of a house in, but there was a pair of virginalls in it. The harpsichord, from its earliest days, was not only an instrument but a work of art, with paintings and jeweled inlay, a collector's item; Duke Alfonso II of Modena in 1598, for example, owed fifty-two harpsichords.


Possessing strength; (of a woman) physically fit for marriage. Latin vir, man, vires, strength + potentem, able. Hence, viripotence, viripotency, (accent on the rip) marriageability. Sir Edward Peyton in THE DIVINE CATASTROPHE OF THE KINGLY FAMILY OF THE HOUSE OF STUARTS (1652) noted that Mary Stuart, when she attained to viripotency, was sought for a consort to the Dauphin of France.


A liqueur: cherry brandy. Persian wishneh, cherry. An 18th century importation; Bailey in his HOUSEHOLD DICTIONARY (1736) gives a recipe: "Fill a large bottle or cask with morello cherries . . . and fill up the bottle or vessel with brandy . . ." Or you might buy Turkish visney in London around 1700 at 20 shillings the gallon.


A variant of visnomy (vysenamy, visenomy), early forms of physiognomy. The form (from the 16th and early 17th centuries) was revived by Scott in THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR (1818): The loon has woodie written on his very visnomy, and in KENILWORTH; Lamb and others continued its use.


A parting dish; wine with spices or tidbits, at bedtime or before guests leave. From French voidee, voider (whence also void, avoid): emptying, as by departure. Used from the 14th century (Chaucer, TROILUS AND CRISEYDE; 1374) to the 17th. Sometimes the voidee was quite elaborate; Holinshed in his CHRONICLES (1587) mentioned a voidee of spices with sixtie spice plates.


A large birdcage. The 17th and 18th century term for an aviary; also, the birds therein. Also volarie, vollary, volery; Latin volare, to fly. Also used figuratively, as in Jonson's THE NEW INNE (1629): She now sits penitent and solitary, Like the forsaken turtle, in the volary Of the light heart, the cage she hath abused; and in UNDERWOODS: I thought thee then our Orpheus, that wouldst try, Like him, to make the air one volary.


A woman's headdress; especially, a kerchief wrapped about the head. [Kerchief comes from French couvre-chef, cover-head.] Voluper seems short for enveloper; Old French envelopeur, a kerchief. Chaucer in THE MILLER'S TALE (1386) says: The tapes of her white voluper Were of the same suyte of hir coler. Cranmer in the BIBLE (1539) translates one of the lines of THE SONG OF SONGS (BALLETTES OF SOLOMON): Thy chekes are lyke a pece of a pomgranate within thy volupers.


Relating to or resembling a whirlpool or an abyss or chasm. Also vorageous, voragious; vorage, vorago, a whirlpool, a chasm; Latin vorago; vorare, to devour, whence also voracious, voracity; vorant, devouring; vorax, ravenous. Cokaine in DIANEA (1654) told of a voraginous place, about the banks of which those men appeare that have perished by a violent death. Reeve in GOD'S PLEA FOR NINEVEH, OR LONDONS PRECEDENT FOR MERCY (1657) used the word to mean with the swallowing capacity of an abyss, grieving that we think to get our admission under God with voraginous paunches, and soaked gullets.



Vulcan's brow

A horned brow, the sign of the cuckold. The allusion is to the amours of Mars and Vulcan's wife, Venus. Rowlands, in his satire LOOKE TO IT: FOR ILE STABBE YE (1604), stabbed all sorts of sinners with his pen, among them the "huswife" always demanding money of her husband: You that will have it, get it how he can, Or he shall weare a Vulcans brow, poore man. Ile stabbe thee.


To wound. Latin vulnerare, vulneratum; vulnerem (volnerem), a wound. The adjective vulnerable survives, vulneral, vulnerary, helpful for wounds, vulnerative, likely to produce wounds; W. Taylor in THE MONTHLY REVIEW of 1818 wrote: With a sort of hedgehog hostility, which points its vulnerative quills in every direction alike. Vulnific, vulnifical, causing wounds, vulnerose, full of wounds, badly wounded, vulneration, the act of wounding; the state of being wounded. In the 16th century, vuln, to wound, surviving in heraldry: vulned, represented as pierced by a weapon; vulning, wounding, used of the pelican, always shown wounding her own breast.


Teamster not for hire


Goods (said Bailey, 1751) that a thief drops or leaves behind him, when overcharged or close pursued, which belong to the King or the Lord of the Manor, unless the owner convict the thief within a year and a day; if so, he shall have his goods again. Also weif, wayve, wayff; earlier gwaif. Used from the 13th century in Anglo-Latin, in English since 1375, often in the phrase waif and straif (stray). Often used figuratively as by Donne in DEVOTIONS (1624): What a wayve and stray is that man that hath not Thy marks upon him! -- thus revived by Scott in PEVERIL OF THE PEAK (1823): You are here a waif on Cupid's manor, and I must seize on you in name of the deity. In the sense of a lost or homeless or neglected child, waif remains in use.


An early (and now poetic) form of wagon. Old English waen, waegen, related to way. A waner, wainman, a wagoner. Also wainful, wagon-load, and other combinations. Thus wainscot meant originally a fine imported oak, from wagon + schot, load (?) . A wainwright was a wagon builder.


A prostitute. Women in the 16th and 17th centuries wore a waistcoat, a camisole or bodice, under their gown. The waistcoateer managed without the gown. A rebuke in Beaumont and Fletcher's WIT WITHOUT MONEY (1616) runs: Doe you thinke you are here, sir, amongst your wastcoateers, your base wenches that scratch at such occasions? you're deluded.


As a noun: (1) a period of waiting; especially, in the theatre, intermission; also, an actor's time between appearances onstage. (2) A watchman, sentinel, spy; a body of guards. In particular, a watchman of the royal household that sounded the watch, on trumpet, fife, or other wind instrument. Hence, the waits, a group of wind instrumentalists maintained by a city. The word is related to Gothic wahtwo, English watch; Old French wait, guait, guet, watch, spy. Common since the 14th century. Mackyn in his DIARY (1553) said that the new Lord Mayor was attended by the craftes of London, toward Westminster, with trumpets blohyng and the whets playing. Hence, in general, wind instruments (hautboys, shawms, flutes). (3) By extension, a band of street singers and players of Christmas carols, in expectation of gifts. Thus the sound of the waits, says Irving in THE SKETCH BOOK (1820), breaks upon the mid-watches of a winter night. Whittier in THE PENNSYLVANIA PILGRIM (1872) tells how On frosty Christmas eves He closed his eyes and listened to the sweet Old wait-songs sounding down his native street.


As a noun, "a woman," said Bailey (1751), "outlawed for contemptuously refusing to appear when sued in law. She is so called as being forsaken [a waif, q.v.] of the law, and not an outlaw as a man is, because women not being sworn in leets to the King, nor in courts as men are, cannot be outlawed." The earliest (13th century) meaning of the verb waive was to punish by depriving of the protection of the law. Cp. leet.


In addition to current uses (to mark the flesh with wales or weals, etc.) wale was a verb, to choose (also with out; to wale by, to select and put aside); a noun, the act of choosing, the chosen, choice, the best; and an adjective, chosen, choice, excellent -- from the 13th century. Common forms through the 16th century, they were renewed by Scott (GUY MANNERING, 1815: The Bertrams were aye the wale o' the countryside!) and others in the 19th. Thus De Quincey in his NOTES ON LANDOR (1847) states: Our Arab friend, however, is no connoisseur in courts of law: small wale of courts in the desert. The verb form of wale was used by Burns, Carlyle, Scott, and others. The adjectival use was not revived; it may be seen in THE DESTRUCTION OF TROY (1400): She went up from that worthy into a wale chamber.


To feel nausea; to twist about; to walk unsteadily; (of water, or blood) to seethe, to boil. While along one course the form wamble is related to Latin vomere, to vomit, the meanings may have come from different roots. In the first sense, the word was also used figuratively as when Lyly in ENDYMION (1591) spoke of the rume of love that wambleth in his stomacke and Middleton in A GAME AT CHESS (1624) declares that his soul can digest a monster, without cruditie, A monster weightie as an elephant, And never wamble for it.


Despair. Used since the 13th century; often in a religious sense, despair of salvation; then, in love poems using religious imagery. Thus Wyatt (in Tottel's MISCELLANY, 1542): Renewyng with my suit my pain, My wanhope with your stedfastnesse.


Used in the phrase in the (wild) waniand -- short for in the waniand [waning] moon, supposed to be an unlucky period: an exclamatory term or imprecation, like "with a plague." Used in the 14th and 15th centuries; about 1550, replaced by wanion (wannion, wenyon, wenian); later, with a (wild) wanion. Shakespeare in PERICLES (1607) has: Come away, or Ile fetch'th with a wanion. A (wild) wanion on, with a wanion to, May a curse light upon --. Scott revived the phrases, as in WOODSTOCK (1826): He would have battered the presbyterian spirit out of him with a wanion.


A circuit made by some of a hunting party, to intercept and head back the game. Hence: an appointed station in hunting; an intercepting movement, an ambush; a crafty device or plot. A hunting servant used for intercepting the game was called a wanlasour, wandlessour. Used into the 16th century.


Misfortune, ill fate. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries. Mainly in Scotland; Douglas in the AENEIS (1513) wrote: I tuik comfort heirof, thinkand but baid That hard wanwerd suld follow fortun glaid.


A subdivision of an English shire; a meeting (later, a court) of such a district. Also wappentake, wapyntak, and many more. The word is from Old Norse vapnatak; vapn, weapon + tak, taking. In Old Norse it meant a brandishing of weapons as a vote at an assembly or gathering of warriors; in Iceland, the picking up of weapons at the end of an assembly. Hence, an assembly meetingplace or district. The shires of England that have wapentakes have large Danish elements in their history: Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Notts, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire; Nottinghamshire (1846) was divided into six wapentakes. Other shire-divisions are the hundreds.


Used by Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607): This it is That makes the wappen'd widdow wed againe. The meaning can only be guessed; some have suggested the word is a corruption of wappered, worn-out, but that hardly fits the sense. Among the meanings of the word wap are to throw, to envelop; these may afford suggestions.


Originally, an oath-breaker, a traitor. From Old Saxon war, true (Pre- Teutonic root wero, Latin verus) + Old English leogan, to lie. It had many forms, including werlau, warlaw, warlag, warelocke, warlike, warlok, warluck, warloghe, warlo. From the 10th century (and in many uses in CURSOR MUNDI, 1300) warlock was used to mean the Devil. Hence, a devil, spirit of hell; damned soul in hell; a villain, a damnable soul; a monstrous creature -- giant, cannibal, serpent, real or mythical creature hostile to man. By extension, one in league with the devil, a sorcerer, wizard, magician. From Scott's frequent use of warlock in this sense, the word grew again into currency. Dryden used the word to mean a man invulnerable (by certain metals); he spelled it (in his AENEIS, 1697) as though the word came from war, fighting + luck, fortune, saying of Aeneas: It seems he was no warluck, as the Scots commonly call such men, who, they say, are ironfree, or lead-free. The word was very common from the 9th to the 16th century. Goliath is referred to in these lines from CURSOR MUNDI: Allas! quar sal we find a man that dar the fight, for mi sake, Again yon warlau undertake? Burns used the word several times; in TAM O'SHANTER (1789) he has Warlocks and witches in a dance while auld Nick screwed the pipes and gart them skirl. Stevenson, though, would have disappointed the radio-TV give-away audience; in KIDNAPPED (1886) we read: I'm nae warlock, to find a fortune for you in the bottom of a parritch [porridge] bowl.


A tart or cake built into an elaborate decoration, carried around before a course at a dinner. Used in the 16th century; from to warn, to announce. When Archbishop Warham was "inthroned" in 1505, the warner before the first course had eight towers, with flowers and battlements; atop each tower was a beadle in full costume. Often, although buttressed with wire and wood, and decorated with feathers, silk, and beads, the warner was eaten. A development of the same sort, wrought mainly of sugar, was the subtlety, from the meaning, an ingenious contrivance. It was often made in a form that alluded to the host's or the guest of honor's name or achievements. As early as 1390 (in THE FORM OF CURY) we read of curious potages and meetes, and sotiltees. They have varied in design from a nested pelican feeding her young to St. George slaying the dragon; their main modern counterpart is the wedding-cake.


A part of a road over which a shallow stream flows. Hence, a road deeper in the middle than at the sides. Also washum (Bailey, 1751). To make washway of (with), to make light of. Donne in a sermon of 1631 declared: He that hath not been accustomed to a sin, but exercised in resisting it, will finde many tentations, but as a washway that he can trot through, and go forward religiously in his calling for all them.


An outrageous spendthrift. Used first by 17th century playwrights; Middleton, in A TRICK TO CATCH THE OLD ONE (1608): Hee's a rioter, a wastthrift, a brothellmaister. In 1868 H. Brandreth wrote a book entitled Wastethrifts and Workmen. Of the mode of producing them, and their relative value to the community.


Boatman who plies for hire.


A ford; a fordable stream. Old English waed, wado, the sea, waves; Latin vadum, the sea; a shallow place, a ford, from the root ba, va, to go. A North Riding record of 1610 stated: Forasmuch as Skipton bridge is likely to become ruinous by carriages of great burthen . . . a wath is there made passable.


An entertainment given by a master printer to his workmen, marking the beginning of work by candle-light; usually, "about Bartholomew-tide" (24 August). Later, it became an annual summer festivity of the printer's employees, with a dinner and a trip to the country. Bailey (1751) suggests that the word is from wayz, straw + goose, a stubble-goose, served at the feast. But there is no tradition that goose was served at these parties, and wase (q.v.), a wisp or bundle of straw, was never spelled wayz except by Bailey. In fact, before Bailey (and after him until people took his word for it), the form was waygoose. It is probably a folk change from an earlier, forgotten, word.


An animal newly weaned. Also wennell, weynelle, weanneL Used since the 15th century; by Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) . It was supplanted by weanling, which Bailey, however, (1751) defines as an animal ready to be weaned. In the 16th century, and later in dialects, weanyer (wanyer, wayner, wenyer) and in the 19th century weaner were also used for weanling.


A weaver, an operator of looms. Used from earliest times; after the 14th century, usually a man. Doughty, however, in ARABIA DESERTA (1888) with reference not to England remarks: Good webster-wives weave in white borders made of their sheep's wool.


A variant though popular form of wit, to know; the past tense forms were wot, wist Cp. wit. Spenser uses wetelesse for meaningless: That with fond termes and weetlesse words to blere myne eyes doest thinke (THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR, 1579); later, it meant ignorant; weetingly, wittingly, knowingly. After about 1550, weet was for 150 years a poetic form, especially in such phrases as I give you to weet. In the 18th century, it was revived in imitation of Spenser, and given new forms: I weet, he weets; weeted -- used so, e.g., by Shelley, Patmore, Swinburne. Shakespeare uses it but once, in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): -- the world to weete We stand up peerlesse.


To wilt, wither, fade; to diminish, shrink; to wane. Also, to welken. Gower, in CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) has: The sea now ebbeth, now it floweth, The lond now welketh, now it groweth. Also, to make fade, as in Spenser's THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579): But now sadde winter welked hath the day.


Alas! As an exclamation of sorrow, this dates back at least to Alfred (9th century) and was heard in many forms for a thousand years. Its earliest form was probably wellawo (wail a woe), Old English wa la wa, woe, lo!, woe. It was used as a refrain, Sing wellaway; my song is wellaway. Chaucer in THE BOOK OF THE DUCHESS (1369) tells: Phyllis also for Demophon Henge [hanged] hirselfe, so weylaway. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) echoing Gower (1390) has: Ah woe is me and wellaway, quoth hee . . . that ever I this dismall day did see. Other similar exclamations of sorrow -- formed as variants of these -- were welladay, wellanear; in Scotland wellawins. All of these had many spelling variants; wellaway has 70 listed in O.E.D. They might be spelled with one l, or with hyphens, or as three words, e.g., well y weye. The word was sometimes used to mean a lament, as in Shakespeare's PERICLES (1608): His daughter's woe and heavie welladay. If this went on, I might echo Coleridge's ANCIENT MARINER (1798): Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks Had I from old and young!


A girl, young woman; a maid-servant; used as a familiar term to a sweetheart, wife, daughter, trusted maid-servant; a disreputable or wanton woman, a mistress, a prostitute. Also weynche, winch. From the 9th to the 14th century, wenchel (wencel, wince] , a child (of either sex); a slave, a servant; a common woman. To wench, to wench out (time), to frequent prostitutes. Shakespeare uses the forms often: the wenching rogues (TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, 1606); beeing too wenchlesse (PERICLES); and (CYMBELINE) Do not play in wench-like words with that Which is so serious.


I. As a noun. (1) A man, a male. (Sanskrit vira, Latin vir, whence virility.) Hence (probably) a werewolf, werwolf, a human changed or able to change into a wolf. (2) A husband. From this sense wer, short for wergeld, (3) man-money: a price set on a man according to his rank, paid as a fine in cases of homicide or other crime, instead of other punishment. Common in llth to 15th century; revived in historical novels. Taylor in EDWIN THE FAIR (1842) quotes a law: He that within the palace draws his sword Doth forfeit an Earl's were. (4) Danger, trouble, perplexity; apprehension, dread; mental trouble, doubt, uncertainty. In were of, in danger of. This sense is from Middle English werre, whence also war, which at first meant perplexity, confusion, and has always meant trouble. To have no were, to be in no doubt. (5) A protector, defender (13th century). II. As a verb. (1) To check, restrain; repel; defend, guard; to ward off. Used in this sense in HANDLYNG SYNNE (1303): Frost ne snogh, haile ne reyne, Of colde ne hete felte they no peyne; Heere [hair] ne nailes never grewe Ne solowed [soiled] clothes ne turned hewe; Thundyr ne lightning did hem no dere, Goddys mercy ded hit from hem were. (2) To support (a cause), to maintain (an opinion). (3) To have, possess. A common Teutonic word into the 15th century, later in Scotland. Also wered, a band, troop, company; wereful, doubtful; werewall, a rampart, a bulwark, also figuratively as in Sir Richard Holland's THE BUKE OF THE HOWLAT (1450): The armes of the Douglass . . . Of Scotland the werewall.


Morbidly sentimental. Like Werther, in THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER (1774) by Goethe, which initiated an outburst of suicides. Also Werterian; Wertherism.


Owner of a wharf


One who made or repaired wheels; wheeled carriages, etc.


A sharp blow, as a box on the ear. A wherret-stopper, however (18th century) , was a bumper or other device on a boat in case of collision. Wherret was also a verb, to strike, often figurative, as in Swift's JOURNAL TO STELLA (30 September, 1711): The Whigs are in a rage about the peace, but we'll wherret them, I warrant


Figuratively, something that sharpens the wits. Randolph (WORKS; 1635) had a pedlar at Cambridge bring out a whetstone, and descant: Leaving my brains, I come to a more profitable commodity; for, considering how dull half the wits of this university be, I thought it not the worst traffic to sell whetstones. This whetstone will set such an edge upon your inventions, that it will make your rusty iron brains purer metal than your brazen faces. Whet but the knife of your capacities on this whetstone, and you may presume to dine at the Muses' Ordinarie, or sup at the Oracle of Apollo. Nares states that to give the whetstone "was a standing jest among our ancestors, as a satirical premium to him who told the greatest lie," and quotes TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE (1580) to show there were "jocular games" with the whetstone given as the greatest liar's prize. The passage is, however, obviously satiric, and the O.E.D. states that a whetstone was hung about the neck of a liar, as an actual punishment (London, 1418): He, as a fals lyere . . . shal stonde . . . upon the pillorye . . . with a westone aboute his necke. Thence, of course, many phrases attack such persons as lie for the whetstone, i.e., deserve it for their lies. Mrs. Centlivre in THE BUSIE BODY (1709) said: If you be not as errant a cuckold as ere drove bargain upon the Exchange, I am a son of a whetstone. When Sir Kenelm Digby, boasting that on his travels he had seen the philosopher's stone, was asked to describe it, he hesitated, and Francis Bacon interjected: "Perhaps it was a whetstone."


(1) A smoker of tobacco; usually contemptuous. Used from the 17th to the 19th century; so also (2) a trifler; an insignificant -- or a shifty and evasive -- person. In LADY ALIMONY (1659) we read: Such whifflers are below my scorn, and beneath my spite. (3) One of a body of advance guards, armed with javelin, battle-ax, sword, or staff, and wearing a chain, whose duty it is to keep the way clear for a procession or public spectacle. Since the 16th century; continued well into the 19th, when they were replaced by regular soldiers, constabulary, or police. By extension, a swaggerer, a bully. The earlier spelling was wiffler, wifler, from wifle, a javelin; Sanskrit vip, shaft of an arrow, rod; Indo-European wip, to wave, shake. Addison in THE SPECTATOR (No. 536; 1712) said: Our fine young ladies . . . retain in their service . . . as great a number as they can of supernumerary fellows, which they use like whifflers. Shakespeare uses the word figuratively, in HENRY V (1599): The deep-mouth'd sea, Which like a mighty whiffler 'fore the king. Seems to prepare his way.


Some time ago; recently. Also whyleare; erewhile. Used by Chaucer (1386), Shakespeare (THE TEMPEST III ii 127; 1610), and Milton (1630); revived in MARMION (1808) by Scott. Spenser used the word several times, in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) , as in the first stanza of Canto VIII: When I bethinke me on that speech whyleare Of Mutability, and well it way: Me seemes, that though she all unworthy were Of the heavens' rule, yet very sooth to say, In all things else she beares the greatest sway. Which makes me loath this state of life so tickle And love of things so vaine to cast away, Whose flowring pride, so fading and so fickle Short Time shall soon cut down with his consuming sickle. [Tickle, from the 14th century, meant uncertain, unreliable; hence insecure, dangerous. Also, in the 15th century, fastidious, squeamish; in the 16th, difficult to deal with. Some of these senses have been taken over by ticklish, as when one finds oneself in a ticklish situation.]


A fantastic object or idea; a trifle of adornment, dress, speech, or whipping-boy fancy. Reduplicated in the same period (16th century) as flimflam, jimjam, and the like, all used for trivial or frivolous objects or concerns. Skelton in THE TUNNYNG OF ELYNOUR RUMMYNG (1529) pictures a fancy hat After the Sarasyns gyse, With a whym wham, Knyt with a trim tram Upon her brayne pan. Shirley and Fletcher declare in THE NIGHT WALKER (1625): They'll pull ye all to pieces, for your whim-whams, your garters and your gloves. In the 18th century, whimwham was also used for a fancy flourish after one's signature. The word was also used, as a euphemism or double entendre, with sexual intent; thus, by the Water Poet (1641): He caus'd some formes of flowers . . . 'twixt the beast legges to be painted To hide his whimwham; and by Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1759): coaxed many of the oldlicensed matrons . . . to open their faculties afresh, in order to have this whimwham of his inserted. Also, more playfully, whimsy-whamsy. Both whim and whimsy may be shortenings of these forms, originally mock-echoic.


To whimper. A diminutive of whine. Also whinnel, whinil. Also as a noun, a whine or a whining person. Jonson in THE SILENT WOMAN (1609) speaks of a whiniling dastard.


A boy educated along with a young noble, and flogged whenever the princeling did something adjudged to merit flogging, or roused his tutor's ire. Bishop Gilbert Burnet in his HISTORY OF HIS OWN TIME (1715) mentioned William Murray of the bed-chamber, that had been whipping-boy to King Charles the First. Shakespeare uses whipping- cheer to mean 'a banquet of lashes' in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1598); the Beadle that has arrested Doll Tearsheet says: The constables have delivered her over to me, and she shall have whipping cheer enough, I warrant her. Convicted whores were then publicly whipped, often on a whipping-bench or in the whipping-stocks, or tied to the whipping-pole (-post). It is no wonder that Doll and Hostess Quickly vehemently protest.


A term of reproach, with various shades of meaning: a lively, violent fellow (such as might swing a mean whip); a lascivious or licentious one. Shakespeare used the term of an insignificant, contemptible fellow, and others (as Dickens, Thackeray, Stevenson) have followed him -- OTHELLO (1604): I am not valiant neither: But every punie whipster gets my sword. Also whipstart; largely replaced, in the last sense, by whippersnapper.


Silent, hushed; free from noise or disturbance. Also a verb, to be silent; to hush. Used by Chaucer (1400), Milton (1629), Bridges (1890; SHORTER POEMS). Shakespeare uses it in one of his most delightful songs (THE TEMPEST; 1611): Come unto these yellow sands And then take hands. Curtsied when you have, and kist The wild waves whist, Foot it featly here and there And, sweet sprites, the burden bear. Also whister, to whisper; whisterer, a whisperer. The card game whist is said to have come from the demand for silence; but at first (17th century) the game was called whisk; from to whisk, to move lightly and rapidly, as with a whiskbroom. Hence whisker, a whist-player. Lady Bristol wrote in a letter of 1723: The wiskers have promised me some diversion.


A worker in "white iron" a tinsmith; also, one that finishes or polishes metal goods, as distinguished from one, the blacksmith, that forges them; used from the 14th century,


A street sweeper.


A bleacher of cloth


Company of whores. Also whorism, whoredom. Hardy, in TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES (1891) has: If I had known you was of that sort, I wouldn't have so let myself down as to come with such a whorage as this is! From the root of whore, Indo-European qar-, came also Latin carus, dear; Old Irish cara, friend, caraim, I love. Until the 16th century, it was spelled without the w: hore, hoor, howre, heore, and more. Shakespeare uses whoremasterly to mean lecherous, in TROILUS AND CRESSiDA (1606): That Greekish whoremaisterly villaine. The defiance in JULIUS CAESAR -- The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings -- becomes ironic observation in KING LEAR: An admirable evasion of whoremaster-man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star.


Whence. A contraction of whethen; also quein, qwyne, quhene, wheyn. Used 13th to 16th century.


In the direction opposite to the usual; counterclockwise; against the apparent movement of the sun, hence unlucky. To stand (start) widdershins, (of the hair) to stand on end. Used since the 16th century; also withershins, widdersins, wodsyns, weddirshynnis, and many more; Middle High German widersinnen, to return; wieder, back, again + sind, direction, way. Alexander Montgomery, in THE FLYTING BETWIXT MONTGOMERY AND POLWART (1585) said that Thir venerabill virginis quhom ye wald call witches . . . nine times, wirdersones, about the thorne raid. It was the ritual procedure of black magic to do all things widdershins.


A wild duck; hence, a fool, a simpleton. Also wigeon. So used in the 17th and 18th centuries, as by Butler in the wordplayful HUDIBRAS (1663); Th' apostles of this fierce religion, Like Mahomet's, were ass and widgeon. The goose, the gull, and the coney (rabbit) have also been slandered in this fashion.


(1) Wigs collectively, or the practice of wearing them. (2) From the law-court wigs, wiggery was used by Carlyle to mean empty formality or 'red tape,' as in PAST AND PRESENT (1843): Some wisdom among such mountains of wiggery.


I. As a noun. A living being; then, a preternatural or unearthly being; then, a human being, gradually with pity or contempt implied. Also used of inanimate things personified, as by Chaucer in his poem (1399) To yow, my purse, and to noon other wight Complayn I, for ye be my lady dere. Aught and naught are derived from awiht, e'er a wight and nawiht, ne'er a wight. The form was common from the 8th century. Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) has: She was a wight (if ever such wights were) . . . To suckle fooles, and chronicle small beer. II. As an adjective. Strong, valiant; powerful, mighty; violent, of powerful effect; powerful to resist force, strongly built; agile, nimble, swift. Used until the 16th century, by Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST; revived by Scott, as in THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805): Mount thee on the wightest steed. Also wightlayke, whitling, a brave man, a warrior.


A variant form of will The faculty of conscious and intentional action; the power or exercise of deliberate choice in action. Often in the expression free will, but without freedom will is, in this sense, an empty word. Freud and modern mechanism have done much to discredit the power, and indeed the very notion, of the will; free-wilier (a believer in the will) is a term of contempt. Sir Philip Sidney in THE DEFENCE OF POESIE (1595) made a shrewd distinction between man's erected wit, which enables him to envision the perfect way, and his infected wil, which cannot attain it: our reason suffices, but our combersome servant passion too often proves not servant but master of our will. So true is this, that will came even to mean lust, carnal desire, as in Shakespeare's THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593): 'My will is strong, past reason's weak removing . . . Thus graceless holds he disputation 'Tweene frozen conscience and hot-burning will. Will might be viewed as life's helmsman; reason sets the course; but emotion turns askew the eyes bent on the chart, jiggles the magnetic needle, and sweeps up a storm that leaves the helmsman helpless at the wheel. Rare is the man who is master of helmsmanship . . . Only the minister and the lawyer now have great concern for the will.


An effeminate man. Also will-jill. Hermaphrodite is a telescope of the god Hermes and the goddess Aphrodite; hence English will-gill (William-Gillian), used since the mid-17th century.

Will-he, nill-he

Whether he desires or not. Latin nolens volens. Thus also will-she, nill-she; will-ye, nill-ye; finally shaping as willy-nilly, regardless of one's wishes.


(1) A basket; a fish-trap; (from 1780, also twilly or willow), a machine that revolves, with spikes inside that open and clean wool, cotton, flax. (2) As an adjective: willing; well-disposed. Lydgate in THE TEMPLE OF GLAS (1403) cries Willi planet, O Esperus so bright, that woful hertes can appese. Chaucer calls Venus well-willy, q.v. (3) See Will-he, nill-he.


(1) A gimlet; an auger. From the 13th century. White in THE NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE (1789) said that a fieldmouse nibbles a hole with his teeth so regular as if drilled with a wimble. Hence, to wimble, to bore, to pierce; figuratively, to insinuate oneself into; W. Leigh in THE CHRISTIAN'S WATCH said he did not know how this spirit hath entred and wimbled into your souls. (2) As an adjective: quick, nimble. Used 16th to 18th century; Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MARCH) says of Cupid: He was so wimble.

Winchester goose

A venereal swelling. The public brothels of the late 16th and early 17th century, at Bankside in Southwark, were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester. Shakespeare uses the term in HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591) and alludes to it in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA: It should be now, but that my fear is this, Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss. Hence, also, a prostitute; THE ENGLISH GAZETTEER of 1778 records in its discussion of Southwark: In the times of popery here were no less than 18 houses on the Bankside, licensed by the Bishops of Winchester to keep whores, who were, therefore, commonly called Winchester geese. Sometimes, in both senses, the term was shortened to goose.


In addition to the contrivance familiar for weighing anchor on a ship, windlass (16th and 17th centuries) was a variant of wanlace, q.v. Also winless, windlace, windelase, windlatch; and used as a verb: to windlass, to act craftily; to decoy, ensnare. My young mind, said Sidney in ASTROPHEL AND STELLA (1586), whom love doth windlas so. To fetch a windlass, to circle round. Hence windlass, a roundabout course of action, a crafty device. Hamlet, in Shakespeare's play (1602) declares: And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, With windlasses and with assays of bias, By indirections find directions out.


An altered form of window, from the belief that the word originated as a door to the wind. Actually, window is from Old Norse vindauga; vindr, wind + auga, eye. It replaced the Old English eyethurl. Windore was used from the 16th through the 18th century.


Like a wiseacre; of a fool that has an air of wisdom. There was an Old English word witie (9th to 14th century), meaning a prophet; prophetic; and to prophesy. This was confused with wise, and combined with seggher, sayer, taking the forms wiseaker, wiseacre. Hence also wiseacreism, wiseacrery, wiseacredom, wiseacredness. In the 17th century, the acre was occasionally interpreted as referring to land (hence, also, a wiseacres, as a singular) , as though meaning a landed fool, or one that would pass for wise because he is wealthy -- like a dogmatic millionaire. A particularly annoying brand of wiseacre is that which displays what Saintsbury in his CORRECTED IMPRESSIONS (1895) calls ex post facto wiseacreishness.


One that makes witty or caustic remarks, as though snapping a whip of words. Also, witcracker; more mildly, witwright. Shakespeare in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599) says: A colledge of witte-crackers cannot flout mee out of my humour; dost thou think I care for a satyre or an epigram? -- and in the MERCHANT OF VENICE exclaims: What a witte-snapper are you!


Rich, splendid, magnificent. Used from Old English into the 15th century, becoming a conventional epithet in alliterative verse. Also a noun, a beautiful woman; Dunbar in TWA MARIIT WEMEN (1508) said: The wedow to the tothir wlonk warpit [spoke] ther wordis. By extension, wlonk, proud, haughty; so used in BEOWULF; wlonkhede, wlonkness, pride.

Woe worth

May evil befall! A curse upon! Used especially in the 16th and 17th centuries; especially in such phrases as Woe worth the day! THE MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES (1563) ran on: Woe worth the ground where grew the tow'ring mast, Whose sailes did beare us through the waters' rore: Woe worth the winde that blew the banefull blast, Woe worth the wave, whose surge so swiftlie bore My tragicke barke to England's fatal shore. Woe worth the mast, the sailes, winde, waves and all That causelesse did conspire poore Alfredes fall.


See wone; won. Wonted (accustomed; sometimes used alone, to mean acclimatized) is a fresh past form developed (in the 14th century) when wont was used as a separate verb in the present tense. Wontedness, habituation, the state of being accustomed; wonting, making (someone) accustomed. Also wontless (q.v.), unaccustomed; unusual. Southey in JOAN OF ARC (1795) has: He . . . all astonish'd at their force And wontless valour, rages round the field. The wonting-penny, wages paid a herdsman to guard beasts in a place until they were used to it and would stay of their own accord.


Unaccustomed. Spenser in his HYMN (1596) to Beauty, to that great goddesse, queene of beauty, Mother of love, and of all worlds delight, exclaimed: Ah whither, Love, wilt thou now carrie mee? What wontlesse fury dost thou now inspire Into my feeble breast, too full of thee?


Insane, mad. Thence, vehemently excited, uncontrolled; ferocious, furious. Also wod, wode, wyd, void, wodde, and more. Used from the 8th through the 16th century. A woodman, a lunatic; to wood (14th and 15th centuries), to go mad; to rave. Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) speaks of one Through unadvised rashness woxen wood. Shakespeare plays on the word in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590): Heere am I, and wood within this wood, Because I cannot meet my Hermia. For another instance of its use, see sea.


A wild man of the woods; a savage; a satyr. Used from the llth century. Also, a representation of such a person, as in a pageant or in wood-carving. Also, wodwos, woodwyss, woodose, wodehouse, and the like. T. Wilson in his RHETORIQUE (1553) declared: Some wente naked, some romed lyke woodoses, none did anye thing by reason.


(1) Used figuratively of things resembling a pack of wool, as a spread of white water, a fleecy cloud. Thus in Nashe's LENTEN STUFFE (1599) we read that when Hero bent over to kiss the drowned Leander, boystrous woolpacks of ridged tides came rowling in and raught him from her. One is reminded of Hugo's line: The fleece of the sinister sheep of the sea. (2) Same as woolsack; especially as the seat, a bag of wool, of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords; hence, the woolsack, the Lord Chancellorship. Note that Shakespeare (HENRY IV, PART ONE; 1597) refers to fat Falstaff as a woolsack.


(1) Old present tense of wit, q.v. (2) Short for Wilt thou? Used by Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and HAMLET (1602), where Hamlet cries to Laertes, in Ophelia's grave: Woot weep? Woot fight? Woot fast? Woot tear thyself? Woot drink up eisel? Eat a crocodile? I'll do't . . . Be buried quick with her, and so will I.


A plant (artemisia absinthium) , proverbial for its bitter taste. The name is altered from the earlier wermod; the French form gives us vermouth, the liquor made by steeping wormwood in white wine. (So, for that matter, was absinthe.) The word is used as a symbol of bitter and grievous things, as when Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) wants To weed this wormwood from your fruitfull braine. Wormwood also was used for its medicinal and magical virtues. Wormwood roots under your pillow brought your lover to you in your dreams -- true dreams, issuing from the unpretentious gate of horn, not the illusory dreams from the falsely alluring gate of ivory. A Dian's bud (cp. Diana), wormwood cured one of the madness of love; indeed, wood, q.v., was an early word for mad; wormwood: it cleared your body of worms and your mind of maggots.


A general name for plants used for food or medicine; a pot-herb. Old English wyrt, root, plant. Used until the mid-17th century. It survives as the last syllable of many plants once thus used, as colewort, liverwort. Chaucer in THE CLERK'S TALE (1386) says: Whan she homward cam she wolde brynge Wortes or othere herbes tymes ofte. Chaucer uses the two words as synonymous; Verstegan in 1605 noted: Woortes, for which wee now use the French name of herbes.


(1) A variant form of wreak, q.v. Hence, wrackful, vengeful, angry; wracksome, destructive. (2) An error for rack, as in rack and ruin. Hence, the wracking of criminals; thus also Shakespeare in HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591): like a man new haled from the wrack; wracking whirlwinds (Milton, PARADISE LOST, 1663). (3) A variant form of wreck. Wreck is from a common Norse form, wrekan, to drive; originally, wreck meant to cast on shore, or anything (not necessarily goods from a ship) cast upon the shore; the North Riding records of 1666 report a warrant against 11 Britton men for riotously taking a whale and other wreck.


Recklessness; heedlessness; neglect. Originally an erroneous form (in Raleigh's HISTORY OF THE WORLD; 1634) of retchlessness, an old variant of recklessness. Thus also wretchless (16th to 18th century), heedless, imprudent; neglectful.


A constructor; especially, a carpenter, joiner or other construction worker. Sometimes (8th to 14th century) applied to the Lord. Also as a verb, to build. Also wright-garth, a joiner's yard; wright-craft, and more. There was also a noun wright, shortened from Old English gewyrht (whence also iwurht), what one deserves; hence praise, also blame, fault. Hence wrightful, having deserved something; wrightlesslike, undeservedly (13th century) . Wright, as a handicraftsman, has survived as a suffix, in such words as millwright, shipwright, wainwright; by extension, playwright.


Wrinkled. As though from a frequentative form of writhe. Shakespeare in HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591) has the French Countess exclaim in scorn, when first she sees Lord Talbot: It cannot be this weak and writhled shrimp Should strike such terror to his enemies. She soon discovers her mistake.


A female writer. The word belittles the ability of the woman in the field of letters. Thomas Nugent in his translation (1772) of Isla's HISTORY OF . . . FRIAR GERUND DE CAMPAZAS asks: Why should it not be said, she was not a common woman, but a geniusess, and an elegant writrix?


Distress; disaster. A variant of ruth, q.v. Also wroth (not to be confused with wroth, great anger, earlier wrethe, and in the 17th century replaced by wrath. Wroth as an adjective, very angry, wrathful, has lasted longer. These words are from the same source as writhe). Shakespeare in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) has Aragon, after choosing the wrong casket, say: Sweet, adieu. lie keepe my oath, Patiently to bear my wroath.


Gifts, says Bailey (1751) "bestowed upon friends, guests, and strangers, for the renewing of friendship." The singular is xenium, such a gift. Also, one made by subjects to their prince when he passes through their estates (usually traditional, often compulsory). Greek xenos, guest, stranger. Also xenagogue, one who conducts strangers, a guide; xenagogy, a guide-book; xenelasy, the expulsion of foreigners; historically, a law that could be invoked at Sparta to achieve that end. Hence xenial, of the relation of host and guest; used of such a friendly relation between two persons of different countries. The xenian Zeus, the god Zeus as protector of the rights of hospitality. A xenophile is one friendly to foreigners or foreign things; the opposite, a xenophobe. Thus xenodochy means the entertainment of strangers; xenodochium (xenodochy), a house of reception for strangers (pilgrims) , a guest-house; in the Dark Ages, often attached to a monastery.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by the first stranger that appears.


A prefix (Old English and German ge-, earlier gi-; Teutonic ga) . It had various uses, the most frequent of which was to form the past tense of verbs. Most of these died in the 15th century. From the mid-16th century poets attempting archaic effects added the prefix y, often without adding any meaning; thus yshrilled (Spenser); ysprout, ysteer; star-ypointing (Milton). The most common of the forms, still lingering in poetic use, is yclept, named; see clepe. Often the y was changed to i, as in iclosed, igranted, ipassed. The form is common in Chaucer and Lydgate, but almost completely unused by Gower. Among favorites of later poets are ybent, ybound, ybrought, yclad, ydamned, ydight, ydrad, ywrought. Also yblent, (1) blinded; (2) mingled, confused, blurred, ybrent, burned, ycore, chosen, hence choice, comely, ycoroned, ycronet, crowned, ycorven, carved, ydodded, shorn, ydought, grown strong, ydreght, drawn, yfere (noun) a companion; (adverb) in company, together -- used frequently as a tag in verse, as in Spenser's THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590): O goodly golden chains, wherewith yfere The virtues linked are in lovely wise. yfet, brought, fetched, acquired, yflawe, flayed, yflemed, put to flight; exiled, yfong, taken, seized; received, ygilt, sinned; gilded; Nashe (in MARTIN'S MONTHS MINDE, 1589): My hope once was my old shoes should be stitcht, My thumbs ygilt, they were before bepitcht. yglent, made radiant, ygyved, fettered, yhabited, clothed, yhaded, yhoded, consecrated, ordained, yhald, yielded. yheedid, headed, yheled, (1) healed; (2) covered, concealed; (3) also yeled, anointed, yhevid, grieved, yhillid, flayed. yholpe(n), helped, yhonge, hanged. yhote(n), called, etc. (from hight). ykremyd, crumbled, ykitt, ykyt, cut. yleof, mutually beloved; hence, a pair of lovers. ylogged, lodged, ymered, purified, ymet, dreamt; met. ynem(p)ned, named. ynome (n) , ynume, taken, ypitte, put. yrerd, raised, yschad, shed, ysesid, yseysed, seized, ysessed, ceased, ysinwed, sinned. yso(c)ht, sought, yteyd, tied, ythrungin, hurled, ytwynned, separated, yvenkessyd, yvenquyst, vanquished, ywaged, hired. ywhyngged, winged, ywived, married. yworewid, worried, ywroken, avenged; punished. There are many more, but most are readily recognized by dropping the y.


A degraded or bestial person. From the name invented by Swift in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (1726) , for a species of brute in the form of a man, slaves of the noble race of houyhnhnm, an intelligent tribe of the horse. Used frequently since; also as a verb; Yates in THE ROCK AHEAD (1868) spoke of a dam low-bred lot, yahooin' all over the place.


A fabulous beast with horns and tusks. Used from the 15th century; a figure in heraldry. Also gaill, gale, jall, jail, yeale, eale. Yale was also an old form of ale.


A rest-house on a post route. From the Russian; used from the 16th century. The ASIATIC ANNUAL REGISTER of 1800 said: Each night they reached a yam, and each week a city. Hence yamstchik (yamshik, yamsheek) , a driver of a post-horse.


The still current yard meaning enclosure is Old Saxon gard (whence also garden) , as in vineyard and orchard; Latin hortus, garden; related to court. There was another yard, probably related to Latin hasta, spear, meaning a stick, a slender shoot of a tree. This survives in sailyard, and the reduplicating yardstick. Other senses this yard had include: a twig; hence, a trifle, a thing of no value. A means of punishment; hence, punishment, the rod. From the use of a rod in measuring land, a yard, an area of a quarter of an acre; a measure of length: (9th to 15th century) 16 1/2 feet; (14th century and now standard) 3 feet. By optimistic transfer, the phallus (as also Latin virga, rod); Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) has one of his frequent puns: Armado: I do adore thy sweet Grace's slipper. Boyet (aside to Dumain): Loves her by the foot. Dumain (aside to Boyet): He may not by the yard.


Ready, prepared. Also as an adverb, quickly, nimbly. The adverb was sometimes used as an exclamation, as in Shakespeare's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) and THE TEMPEST, or (full yare) as a rhyming tag -- thus in the ballad of GUY WARWICK (1400): And wyth hys fyst he smote me sore: Sythen he flew awey full yore. The adjective was common from BEOWULF into the 19th century, especially as a sea term, meaning responding readily to the helm, easily manageable; thus Shakespeare (also in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA): Their shippes are yare, yours heavy.


To make ready, prepare. A verbal form of yare, q.v. Also, to put in position. To yark to, shut; yark up, open. By extension, to ordain, appoint; grant, bestow.


A mare, especially an old, worn-out mare. Also yawde, yode, yade; related to jade. Hence, a strumpet -- thus yaudson, yaldson, son of a whore, a 15th and 16th century term of abuse. Also yaudswiver (16th century), one that carnally knows a mare.


See y-. Spenser has, in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL), the charming line to "faire Elisa": yclad in scarlet, like a maiden queene.


To care for, take notice of, consider; look attentively (upon); to take care of, guard, protect; to have charge of, govern, manage, control; to observe (a command, a holiday). Also the noun yeme, care. Hence in yeme, in one's care. To nim yeme, take yeme, take note, give heed, etc. Hence yemeless, careless, negligent; yemelest, negligence; yemelich, full of care, anxious; yemer, a keeper, guardian, ruler. The forms were common from the 8th to the 15th century. Dunbar in a poem of 1520 speaks of a guardian dispoilit of the tresur that he yemit. There was also a form yemsel (yhemsale, yemseill), care, custody, used from the 12th to the 15th century.


Originally, a servant of superior rank, in a royal or noble household. Also yeman, ymman, probably related to youngman, the youth of a noble house trained as a page or a yeoman. Hence, to do yeoman service, to do excellent and faithful work (often with implication that the assignment was onerous) . The body-guard of the ruler of England (first archers, appointed when Henry VII was crowned; 1485) consists of The Yeomen of the Guard; these survived in London and the title of a Gilbert and Sullivan play (1888). By extension (15th to 17th century), a landholder under the rank of a gentleman; hence, in general, a sturdy and respected commoner. Skelton in MAGNYFYCENCE (1520) pictured life's vicissitudes: To day hote, to morowe outrageous colde; to day a yoman, to morowe made a page.


The cupping of the hands; also, as much as the cupped hands will hold. Also yaspen, ipson, yespe, espin, and the like. Used from the 14th century, lingering beyond the 16th in dialects. Old English geap, open, spacious, curved; the Old Teuton root is gaup, Old Norse gaupn, hollow of the cupped hands, whence also English gowpen, with the same meaning as yepsen.


(1) To draw stitches tight; to bind tightly. Revived by Scott in THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805) and THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818): His hands and feet are yerked as tight as cords can be drawn. Hence, to crack a whip; to strike, to beat; hence, to rouse, to excite. Skelton; Spenser; Shakespeare (OTHELLO, 1604): Nine, or ten times I had thought t'have yerk'd him here under the ribbes. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE in 1833 declared: We should yerk the yokel of a Yankee with the knout. Hence also, to jerk; to carp (at); to jerk (out) words, strike up a song; to compose rapidly, yerk up a book; to go at something eagerly, pitch into. The word was first used (1450) as a term in bootmaking, of the twitch (jerk) at the end of drawing through the thread; naturally it is used in Dekker's THE SHOEMAKER'S HOLIDAY (1600) . Shakespeare used it (again) in HENRY V (1599) of wounded steeds that with wild rage Yerke out their armed heeles at their dead masters.


Yesterday evening. Corrupted into such forms as the strene, the straine, ystrewine, yhistrewyn, yistrevyn. The ballad FAIR ELLEN (in Child's collection, 1800) has: I dreamed a dream san the straine. Scott revived yestreen, which had never been wholly abandoned by nostalgic poets.


A variant of yeasty, in the sense of frothy, insubstantial; or foamy, like troubled waters. Shakespeare uses it in HAMLET (V ii 199) and in MACBETH 1605): Though the yesty waves Confound and swallow navigation up.


See y-. Note that yferre was also a 17th century pseudo-archaism for afar. For an instance of its use, see depeint.


Ugly. An early opposite to handsome. Not in the O.E.D, Cp. ugsome. Hoby in his translation (1561) of Castiglione's THE COURTIER said that Beawtie is a face pleasant, meerie, comelye, and to be desired for goodnesse, and Foulness a face dark, yglesome, unpleasant, and to be shonned for yll.


See inkhorn. Emong al other lessons, said Wilson in THE ARTE OF RHETORIQUE (1553), this should first be learned, that we never affect any straunge ynkehorne termes, but so speak as is commonly received, neither sekyng to be over fine, nor yet livyng over carelesse.


Went. The old past tense of go. Also yead, yede. Cp. sigalder. The word was mistakenly used as a present -- yode, yede, to go, in the 16th century. Scott revived the form, in MARMION (1808): In other pace than forth he yode, Returned Lord Marmion.


Sable, the animal and its fur. Also, a woollen cloth with a somewhat furry surface, used for women's dresses. THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY of May 1889 averred: In 1188 or thereabout no person was allowed to wear garments of vair, gray, zibeline, or scarlet color.


A gem. The word, which Bulwer-Lytton uses twice, is an error; he misunderstood the Old English symbol for dg which looks like a z, thus reading zimm for gimm, gem. Thus in HAROLD (1848): Taking from his own neck a collar of zimmes . . . of great price.


A girl; a maiden. From the Italian; plural, zitelle. Mrs. Behn in THE FEIGN'D CURTIZANS (1679) exclaimed: A curtizan! and a zitella too? a pretty contradiction!


A little zone, a zonelet; especially, a girdle or belt (for a maiden's waist). Herrick says in HESPERIDES (1648), of his JULIA'S RIBAND: 'Tis that zonulet of love Wherein all pleasures of the world are wove.


A euphemistic shortening of By God's wounds, as a mild oath. Also zwounds; zoones, zauns, zownds, zons, dzowns. Shakespeare exclaimed in KING JOHN (1623) -- and the present reader well may echo him: Zounds, I was never so bethumpt with words!


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using weights.


The art of fermentation, as in the making of wine. Greek zyme, leaven + ourgia, working. For centuries, monks have been among the most skilled zymurgists.
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