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


Friendly greeting. Also belaccoyle. Cp. bel-. Edmund 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. Edmund 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.


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) Joseph 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 Edmund Spenser and Puttenham; Bulwer (1644) warns lest imitation degenerate into cacozeale, developing a left-handed Cicero.


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 William Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : Judas I am, ycliped Machabeus; this has survived as an archaism, as in George Gordon Byron's DON JUAN (1823) : Microcosm on stilts, yclept the Great World. The forms occur throughout early literature, frequent in Chaucer, in Edmund 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.


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 Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE, 1596, speaks of a bridge . . . with curious corbes and pendants graven faire) until Walter 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.


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 Edmund 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 John Keats' ENDYMION: By truth's own tongue, I have no daedal heart! Hence daedalize, to make intricate.


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 Edmund 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.


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 Edmund Spenser sees it in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) in the grassye ground with daintye daysies dight.


Behavior; treatment (of others). Edmund 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 table; early variant of dais. Edmund 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.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using dripping blood. Charles 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 Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) : With their drery wounds.


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 Edmund 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. Charles Kingsley in HYPATIA (1853) elucidates: 'What is a nicor, Agilmund?' 'A sea-devil who eats sailors.'


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. Edmund 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.


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; Edmund 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 Walter Scott) : Fair promys maketh fools fain.


A person of free or loose behavior; usually applied to a man; but Edmund 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.


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! Edmund 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.


An early form (in Chaucer; in Edmund 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.


To do, to make; to cause, to make (someone) do (something) as What garres thee greete? (q.v..) in Edmund Spenser's THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL), A common word from the 13th century; later mainly Scotch and dialectal. Robert 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.


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. Edmund 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.


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. Edmund 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. William 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; William Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) cries: Ah the immortal! passado, the punto revcrso, the hay.


Called, named. Thus Philip Sidney (1580) : Even he, the King of glory hight. This form has survived, poetic or archaic, as in Washington 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; Edmund 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.


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


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; Edmund 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. William Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) has: All indign and base adversities make head against my estimation.


A rascal. Also jawvell, jevel, javilL Likewise havel, cavel, a worthless fellow; possibly from cavel, a stick of wood. Used since the 14th century. Edmund 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.


(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, Edmund 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.


(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 Thomas 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 (Edmund 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; George 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 Robert 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.


Lightning. Used from the 13th century, as noun and as verb, especially by poets: Gower, Chaucer, William Dunbar, Edmund Spenser, Walter Scott, Edgar Allan 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.


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


(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). Edmund 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.


Ill-shaped, abortive, misformed. Also miscreated. Edmund 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), Robert 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.


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


(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 Edmund Spenser; by Philip Sidney in ARCADIA (1586): Nothing can endure where order n'is. (The introduction of the apostrophe marked the dying of the form.)


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 Edmund 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.


To crow over, exult over; to triumph over, subdue. Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) wrote: Then gan the villein him to overcraw. William Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) has: The potent poison quite overcrowes my spirit. Walter 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. Edmund 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 Thomas 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.


A toad. Generally pictured in the Middle Ages (as William 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). Edmund 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.]


To subdue, daunt. Probably a variant of quail. Used by Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590): Therewith his sturdie corage soon was quayd, And all his senses were with sudden dread dismayed.


To please, gratify; to act so as to please; to be acceptable; to be suitable; to appease. Used from the 8th century; John Palsgrave in 1530 says I queme . . . This worde is now out of use. Edmund 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.


An old variant of quaked, past tense of to quake. Chaucer used quok, quoke; Edmund 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.


Also rablement; variant forms of rabble; used also (Edmund Spenser, THE FAERIE QUEENE; 1590) of the tumult a rabble might cause. William 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 dissolute fellow. The word was common in the 17th century. Coming earlier and outlasting rakeshame was the form rakehell, sometimes abbreviated to rakel. Edmund 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., Oliver Goldsmith in THE GIFT, 1777: Cruel Iris, pretty rake, Dear mercenary beauty) used rake of a woman.


A sucking-fish, little but believed to have the power to stop a ship. Edmund 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.


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 Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590; III, 11) speaks of sad lovers he means constant ones. John 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 Samuel Taylor 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!


Together. From the 14th century; earlier samen, samed, both from the 9th century. Common Teuton forms, whence also same. Edmund 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.


A shortened form of disperse, perhaps influenced by Italian sperso; spergere, to scatter. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries; by Edmund Spenser in his translation (1591) of Bellay's VISIONS and in THE FA√čRIE QUEENE; by Thomas Dekker in THE WHORE OF BABYLON (1603): Are those clowds sperst that strove to dimme our light?


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), Ben 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 Edmund 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); Thomas 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; Michael Drayton, Robert 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.


Torch. See tede. Latin taeda, pine-torch. Edmund 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.


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. Edmund 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.


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. Edmund 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.


A form of unneath, short for underneath. Used by Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; JANUARY). Also unneth, unneths.


A variant of upbraid, used by Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590); by Spenser, John Marston, and others. The form is an error, from assuming that upbraid is the past tense.


An animal newly weaned. Also wennell, weynelle, weanneL Used since the 15th century; by Edmund 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 variant though popular form of wit, to know; the past tense forms were wot, wist Cp. wit. Edmund 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. William 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 Edmund 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. Edmund 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 Samuel Taylor Coleridge's ANCIENT MARINER (1798): Ah wel-a-day! what evil looks Had I from old and young!


Some time ago; recently. Also whyleare; erewhile. Used by Chaucer (1386), Shakespeare (THE TEMPEST III ii 127; 1610), and John Milton (1630); revived in MARMION (1808) by Scott. Edmund 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.]


(1) A gimlet; an auger. From the 13th century. Gilbert 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; William 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; Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MARCH) says of Cupid: He was so wimble.


Unaccustomed. Edmund 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. Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) speaks of one Through unadvised rashness woxen wood. William 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 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 (Edmund Spenser); ysprout, ysteer; star-ypointing (John 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; Thomas 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.


See y-. Edmund Spenser has, in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL), the charming line to "faire Elisa": yclad in scarlet, like a maiden queene.


(1) To draw stitches tight; to bind tightly. Revived by Walter 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. John Skelton; Edmund Spenser; William 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 Thomas 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.
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