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


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


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


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


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


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


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


(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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


A bat (the animal); plural, rearmice. Also reremice; hryremus, reremows, and more. William Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590) says: Some warre with reremise for their leathern wings. The word was used in the 12th century and still survives in dialects; Robert Browning in PARACELSUS (1835) queried: Do the rearmice still Hang like a fretwork on the gate? The German word for bat is Fledermaus, flitter-mouse; the French, chauve souris, bald mouse. The origin of the English word is not clear; the first syllable may be from Old English hreran, to move (flitter).


Several compounds of this common word have had wide currency. (1) smellfeast. A parasite, a greedy sponger; one who learns where a feast is being prepared, and comes uninvited. Very common 1550-1700; Robert Browning in THE RING AND THE BOOK (1869) says: The smellfeasts rouse them at the hint There's cookery in a certain dwelling-place. (2) smellfungus. A faultfinder, a complaining person. This term was coined by Sterne as a nickname for Tobias Smollett, whose TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY (1766) was a constant grumble. Washington Irving in SALMAGUNDI (1808) said: Let the grumbling smellfungi . . . rail at the extravagance of the age. (3) smellsmock. A licentious man. Thomas Heywood in A MAIDENHEAD WELL LOST (1634) declared: I think you'll prove little better than a smellsmock, that can find out a pretty wench in such a corner.


Horrid, loathsome. Frequent almost to the 17th century; revived by Walter Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816): Like an auld dog that trails its useless ugsome carcass into some bush or bracken. Then used by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Robert Browning. Also ugglesome; uglisome (16th century); cp. yglesome. A stronger form of ugly (which Chaucer in THE CLERK'S TALE, 1386, spells igly).
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