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