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