A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
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Originally a variant of errant, wandering, present participle of Latin errare, to stray. The original form is still used in knight errant. In such expressions as thief errant, arrant thief, the term meant a roving robber or highwayman; hence, a professed, manifest thief; hence, anything manifest, downright; thorough (thoroughly bad). The word is quite common from the 14th century to about 1850, and is still used, as by Chaucer, Langland, William Shakespeare, Thomas Fuller, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding -- TOM JONES (1749): The arrantest villain that ever walked upon two legs -- Washington Irving, a half-dozen times, occasionally without opprobrious implications, as in THE SKETCH BOOK (1820): a tight brisk little man, with the air of an arrant old bachelor. More often there is an implication of evil -- arrant coward -- which sometimes becomes part of the meaning of the word, as in a letter (1708) of Alexander Pope: You are not so arrant a critic . . . as to damn them without a hearing.


Awry, crooked. From the Celtic; Welsh cam, crooked; hence (also in English) cam, perverse, obstinate. Shakespeare, Peter Anthony Motteux (in his translation, 1708, of Rabelais) used the k form, which Johnson gives in his DICTIONARY (1755). Clean kam, also kim kam, quite crooked, perverse, contrary to the purpose; Shakespeare has, in CORIOLANUS (1607): This is clean kamme. The 17th century might say: Everything went kim kam, or all this chim-cham stuff. Hence also the verb kimbo, to set awry; crooked -- like an arm akimbo. Samuel Richardson in CLARISSA (1748) thinks it ill for a wife to come up with kemboed arm. May you not have to cry, as Aubrey in 1692: This year all my businesses and affairs ran kim-kam.


One that is loved; an 18th century term. Samuel Richardson in SIR CHARLES GRANDISON (1754) said: The lover and lovee make generally the happiest couple.


To cleanse, purify; to make oneself spruce. Latin mundus, clean. Used from the 16th century; Samuel 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.


See ween. Samuel Richardson in PAMELA (1742) notes that Half the misunderstandings among married people are owing to . . . mere words, and little captious follies, to overweenings, or unguarded petulances. The word has survived mainly as an adjective, as in Shakespeare's TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (1591): Go base intruder, overweening slave. John Aubrey (1697) said: No reason satisfies him but he overweenes, and cutts some sower faces that would turn the milke in a fair ladie's breast.


An excessive rent; a rent virtually equal to the value of the property. Also a verb; It was a maxim with his family, we read in Samuel Richardson's CLARISSA (1748) never to rackrent old tenants or their descendants. There is a current echo in TAXI'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of 1884: Every year growing worse than the last in this rackrent country. Pity the farmer, the needy, hard-rackrented hinde, of Sylvester's (1591) Du Bartas. James Mill in THE HISTORY OF BRITISH INDIA (1818) observed that one third to the cultivator, and two thirds to the proprietor, would be accounted a rackrent in England.


A curl, or artificial lock of hair atop the head, especially as peak adornment of a periwig. Also toupee (the current spelling, meaning a patch of false hair to cover a bald spot) , tupee, toppee. For an illustration of this use, see cosins. From the first sense, toupet was used of a person of fashion, a gallant, a beau -- who wore a toupet. Hence toupet-coxcomb, toupet~man. Samuel Richardson, in CLARISSA HARLOWE (1748): A couple of brocaded or laced-waistcoated toupets, with sour screwed up half-cocked faces. Again: no mere toupet-man, but all manly.


To set down one's foot forcefully; hence, to tramp; to go about. Used from the 14th century; in the 17th century replaced by trapes, traipse, which is still current, to go traipsing around. A trapse was (17th into the 19th century; later in dialects) a gadabout; a slovenly woman. In 1749, Samuel Richardson wrote in a letter (4 August): The lowest of all fellows, yet in love with a young creature who was traping after him.
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