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


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


A variant form of muleteer, one that tended mules. Of Cardinal Wolsey we read in George 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.


Short for epistle. Also pistel, pistol, pystol, pistelle, pystle, and the like. Chaucer uses the word pistel to mean story. As a verb, to write an epistle on, to satirize; in PAPPE WITH A HATCHET (1589) we read: Take heed, he will pistle thee. A pistoler (pystoler) might be a letter-writer, or a church officer assigned to read the Epistle; Cardinal Wolsey had in his private chapel (said George Cavendish in 1557) a deane who was allwayes a great clarke and devyne; a subdeane, a repeter [rehearser] of the quyer; a gospeller; a pystoler; and xii syngyng prestes.
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