A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
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An early type of apparatus, used for distilling, especially by the alchemists. From 1500 to 1700 almost completely supplanted by the shorter form limbec, q.v.; then the full form reappeared, often in figurative use, as when Walter Scott in WAVERLY (1814) speaks of the cool and procrastinating alembic of Dyer's Weekly Letter, or Horace Walpole in a letter of 1749, the important mysteries that have been alembicked out of a trifle.


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.


Baker. Originally feminine; from 10th through 15th century used of both sexes; thereafter masculine. In the 16th century, a new feminine form was fashioned: backstress. Sir Walter Scott used the word in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) : One in appearance a baxter, i.e. a baker's lad, handed her out of her chair. After about 1400, however, baxter was rarely used save in Scotland.


A raw recruit. Later, a beggar, a rascal. Shakespeare in HENRY VII, PART TWO remarks that Great men oft dye by vile bezonians. And Massinger, in THE MAID OF HONOUR (1632) , speaks of the slut who would, for half a mouldy biscuit, sell herself to a poor bisognion. The word was originally besonio. It is from the Italian bisogno, need, want, applied in derision to the raw soldiers who came to Italy from Spain, in the 15th and 16th centuries, without proper equipment or means. Robert Johnson, in his translation (1601) of Botero's THE WORLD, AN HISTORICALL DESCRIPTION, speaks of a base besonio, fitter for the spade than the sword. Both forms, after a lapse of two centuries, were revived in historical novels: Walter Scott in THE MONASTERY (1820) : Base and pilfering besognios and marauders; Edward Bulwer-Lytton in THE LAST OF THE BARONS (1843) : Out on ye, cullions and bezonians!


A protection. From the French: bonne, good + grace, grace. Specifically, a shade hanging from a woman's bonnet to protect her face from the sun and, later, a broad-brimmed hat for the same purpose. A commentator of 1617 speaks of bonegraces, now altogether out of use with us. The word was also used figuratively, as by Thomas Heywood in TROIA BRITANICA (1609): A grove through which the lake doth run, Making his boughs a bongrace from the sun. Sir Walter Scott revived the word in GUY MANNERING (1815). On the sea, a frame of old rope etc. hung over a ship to protect it "from damage of great flakes of ice" (Bailey, 1751) and other encounterings was also called a bongrace.


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.


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.


(1) Head of hair. Latin crinis, hair. Thomas Chatterton has a roundelay (1778) "My love is dead, Gone to his death-bed All under the willow tree," with the line: Black his cryne as the winter night. The etymological spelling was used by Sylvester in his translation (1614) of Du Bartas: Priests, whose sacred crine felt never razor; also in prosaic reference in the BRISTOL JOURNAL of October 1768: hose of goatskin, crinepart outwards. (2) To shrink, shrivel. This verb is probably from Gallic crion, to wither. Used from the 15th into the 18th century, it was revived by Walter Scott (THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN, 1818) and used in a letter of Jennie Carlyle (1849) : He had grown old like a golden pippin, merely crined, with the bloom upon him.


In the phrase curule chair, a seat shaped like a camp-stool with curved legs, but of costly wood inlaid with ivory, occupied by the highest magistrates of ancient Rome. Hence, curule, pertaining to high civic office, eminent. The word was used in English in the 17th century; it was revived by Walter Scott in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818); Samuel Butler shifted its application in HUDIBRAS (1663): We that are merely mounted higher Than constables in curule wit.


A crustade, q.v. From the 14th century; but by 1650 the recipe had changed and a dariole was a cream tart. In that sense Walter Scott revived the word in QUENTIN DURWARD (1823): Ordering confections, darioles, and any other light dainties he could think of.


Dark, sombre, solitary; hence, secret; hence sly, deceitful, evil. Chaucer in THE MILLER'S TALE (1386) has: Ye must been ful deerne as in this case. The word appears from BEOWULF (10th century) to Walter Scott who in WAVERLEY (1814) speaks of the dern path. Dern is also used as a noun, in the senses: a secret; secrecy; a place of concealment; darkness. The word was common in Old Teutonic; there is also a verb dern, to hide, to keep secret Other early forms are derned, darned, hidden; dernful, dreary; dernly, secretly; dernhede (1300) and dernship (darnscipe, in the ANCREN RIWLE, 1225), secrecy.


An inert or sluggish fellow, a 'drone/ Also in the names of insects, drumble-, drummel-, dumble-: a drumble-bee, a humble-bee, bumble-bee; drumble-dore, a clumsy insect; hence, a heavy, sluggish, stupid person. Hence, to drumble, to drone, mumble; to move sluggishly. In this sense, used by Shakespeare (MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR; 1598) ; revived by Walter Scott (THE FORTUNES OF NIGEL; 1822) : Why, how she drumbles -- I warrant she stops to take a sip on the road. There are two other verbs, to drumble: (1) to sound like a drum (the drumbling tabor; 17th century). (2) to trouble, disturb; to make drumly or turbid. Drumly, cloudy (of the sky), turbid (of water) was used from the 16th into the 18th century. And from Dutch drommeler, a boat, a heavy-set man, English in the 16th and 17th centuries used drumbler, drumler, for a small but fast boat, especially used as a privateer or by pirates.


(1) A kind of wood used for handles, as of knives; probably boxwood. Hence, a hilt made of this wood; William Shakespeare has in MACBETH (1605) I see ... on thy blade and dudgeon, gouts of blood. Hence, from dudgeon-dagger, shortened to dudgeon, a dagger. (2) Perhaps the same word, from "looking daggers" (?), came to mean resentment, anger. Walter Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) says They often parted in deep dudgeon -- but usually the preceding adjective is high -- no one has ever been seen in low dudgeon. See couth; clapperdudgeon.


(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 Walter 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 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 Walter 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; John Gaule in SELECT CASES OF CONSCIENCE, CONCERNING WITCHES AND WITCHCRAFT (1646) sought to discriminate: The meerly passive be simply deemoniacks, but not energumenists.


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. Walter 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.


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.


An old man, a "grandfather." Sometimes used as a title or form of address, to a man below the rank of Master, as when Walter Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828) says: You have marred my ramble. Gaffer Glover. Gaffer was probably a contraction of godfather, with the vowel changing to a because of association with grandfather. So, for the female, with gammer, q.v. Occasionally used humorously, as when Randolph in HEY FOR HONESTY (1651) says: This same gaffer Phoebus is a good mountebank and an excellent musician.


A musical instrument, like the guitar, strung with wire. Also ghittern, getron, gyterne, guthorne, guiterne; guiterre, whence guitar. Also cithern, q.v. Used from the 14th to the 17th century; revived (the word) by Walter Scott in OLD MORTALITY (1816). Hence, to gittern; a gitterner.


A copse, a grove. Used from the 8th century (BEOWULF), often in the phrase holtis hie, which may have led to the 16th and 17th century use of holt to mean a wooded hill. Walter Scott differentiates, in THE WILD HUNTSMAN (1796) : The timorous prey Scours moss and moor, and holt and hill. Hence holtfelster, holtfeller, a woodcutter.


As a noun. Care, attention; to nim (take, give) keep, to take notice; hence, care in watching. Hence, a place for keeping something, a cupboard, a meat-safe (to keep flies from flesh In summer: 17th century), a reservoir for fish; a clasp, button, or lock. Especially (translating Italian tenazza, hold) , the innermost, strongest, central tower of a castle, which served as the last defence; a stronghold. Thus Burke in a letter of 1796: Like the proud keep of Windsor rising in majesty of proportion, and girt with the double belt of its kindred and coeval towers. Walter Scott gave the word fresh life for historical stories.


kissing-comfit. A small sweet confection for perfuming the breath. For a quotation from William Shakespeare, see eryngo. This of course invited a kiss, and was sometimes called a kissing cause, as in SWETNAM ARRAIGNED (1620): Their very breath is sophisticated with amber-pellets, and kissing causes. A kissing gate, one that opened in a U-shaped enclosure, so that but one person could go through at a time; a kiss was the accepted fare. THE WESTMINSTER GAZETTE of 7 November, 1896, noted the disappearance of the last of the kissing-gates on Parliament Hill. kissing-strings, strings of a bonnet tied under the chin, the ends hanging. Walter Scott in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) remarks that the old-fashioned terms of manteaus, saques, kissing-strings, and so forth, would convey but little information even to the milliners of the present day. Also try kiss.


The art of healing. At leechcraft, under medical care. From leech, to heal; used from the 12th century into the 17th, as by Fletcher in THE LOYALL SUBJECT (1618) : Have ye any crack maidenhead to new leach or mend?; revived by Walter Scott in IVANHOE (1820) : Let those leech his wounds for whose sake he encountered them. Also leche, lichc, leach; from the 9th to the 14th century, Icchne q.v., to give medicine, to heal. Also, 19th century, to leech, to bleed by applying leeches. The blood-sucking worm was probably named because it served as a leech, a physician.


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.


Saucy, impudent; a presumptuous person. Nathan Bailey (1751) suggests that the word is from Latin male, ill + partus gotten, bred; or else from male + apert, ready. Cp. apart. The O.E.D. says its meaning shows that it was understood as though from mal + apert, bold, hence improperly bold -- but that it is from Old French malapert, used by Eustache Deschamps as the opposite of appert, espert (English expert), clever; hence it should have been used to mean clumsy. However, Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) says I must have an ounce or two of this malapert blood from you, and Walter Scott in THE BETROTHED (1825) continues this meaning: you are too malapert for a young maiden.


Used figuratively, from the 18th century, to mean one engaged in or fond of trivial occupations or adornments. Hence, man-millinery, apparel (or activity) on which attention is lavished trivially or beyond its desert. Hazlitt in POLITICAL ESSAYS (1814) said: The 'Morning Herald' sheds tears of joy over the fashionable virtues of the rising generation., and finds that we shall make better man-milliners, better lacqueys, better courtiers than ever. Walter Scott in a letter of 22 August, 1819, remarked that there goes as much to the manmillinery of a young officer of hussars as to that of an heiress on her bridal day.


Humanity; courtesy; reverence; honor; an honor; an ornament. A common word from the 13th into the 16th century, from Old Norse mennska, humanity, related to English man. As a verb mensk meant to reverence; to dignify; to adorn. Hence menskful, honorable, stately, gracious; menskless, ungracious; mensking (14th century), honor, courtesy. The Scotch form of the word, still in use in the 19th century, was mense; Walter Scott in ROB ROY (1818) says: We hae mense and discretion, and are moderate of our mouths.


This is a shortening of Molly, a pet-name for Mary. Since the 17th century, it has been used to mean a prostitute, or especially, the unmarried female companion of a vagrant or thief. This sense survives in the phrase gangster's moll. It probably was first applied from Moll Cut-purse, nickname of a notorious wench of the 17th century, made a character In several plays (e.g., Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker's THE ROARING GIRL, 1611). Moll Thompson's mark was a slang phrase of the 18th century; Take away this bottle, it has Moll Thompson's mark on it: Moll Thompson's mark, her initials, MT, empty. (Thus, the seven letters one speaks on pouring the last drops from a bottle: OICURMT.) In the same years, Moll Blood meant the gallows; Walter Scott in THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN (1818) has: Three words of your mouth would give the girl the chance to nick Moll Blood.


A liquid measure, about three-quarters of an imperial pint (15th century) or one-fourth of the old Scots pint. In THANES OF CAWDOR (1591) we find: Item three muskingis aquavitye. Walter Scott in WAVERLEY (1814) has: He whistled the 'Bob of Dumblain,' under the influence of half a mutchkin of brandy.


A kettle-drum. From Persian naqara. Naker meant also (1) one that denudes; cp. nake. (2) nacre. The drum occurs only in the 14th and 15th centuries, as in Chaucer's THE KNIGHT'S TALE (1386): pypes, trompes, nakers, and clariounes -- until revived by Walter Scott in IVANHOE (1819): A flourish of the Norman trumpets . . . mingled with the deep and hollow clang of the nakers.


Fire produced by the vigorous friction of dry wood (as when the Boy Scouts imitate the Indians). In the 15th and 16th centuries (and later) such a fire was held to possess magical properties, especially for the healing of cattle. Thus an extract from the PRESBYTERY BOOK OF STRATHBOGIE (1644) informs us that It was regraited by Mr. Robert Watsone that ther was neidfire raysed within his parochin . . . for the curing of cattell. Also, to take needfire, to start to burn spontaneously; Stewart in his translation (1535) of THE BUIK OF THE CHRONICLIS OF SCOTLAND wrote: That tyme his stalf, in presens of thame all, it tuik neidfire richt thair into his hand. Walter Scott, in THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805) , used the word to mean bonfire or beacon -- The ready page with hurried hand Awaked the needfire's slumbering brand -- and to some extent that use has persisted.


A base coward, a most despicable wretch. A common Teuton word. By misreading of the th (Saxon thorn), the form niddering developed, the O.E.D. says in 1596; Bailey in 1751 gives the forms niderling and niding. Walter Scott, reviving the word in IVANHOE (1819) speaks of threatening to stigmatize those who staid at home as nidering.


A water-nymph. See eche. This form, a diminutive of nix, q.v., was first used by Walter Scott, in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) and in THE PIRATE (1821) : She who sits by haunted well Is subject to the nixie's spell.


Sloth. Via French from Latin ocium, otium, ease; whence also otiose; otious (17th century), leisurely, idle, at ease. Cp. otiation. In English, otium is occasionally used; Thackeray in PENDENNIS (1849) says: Mr. Morgan was enjoying his otium in a dignified manner, surveying the evening fog, and enjoying a cigar. Walter Scott (THE MONASTERY; 1820) and others have used the Latin phrase otium cum dignitate, dignified ease. The term otiosity usually puts more emphasis on the idleness, the state of being unemployed. This form was earlier ociositie; Caxton in POLYCRONICON (1482) spoke of alle thoos men whiche thurgh the infyrmyte of our mortal nature hath ledde the moost parte of theyr lyf in ocyosyte, rebukingly; but Thackeray in VANITY FAIR referred with but mild satire to a life of dignified otiosity such as became a person of his eminence.


Excessive self-esteem or self-confidence; arrogance; presumptuousness. Via 12th century French outrecuider from Latin ultra, beyond + cogitare, to think. Walter Scott revived the word; in IVANHOE (1819) he has: It is full time . . . that the outrecuidance of these peasants should be restrained. See also surquedry.


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.


A riding-horse, but not a warhorse; especially, a small saddle-horse for ladies. Used since the 12th century, lingering in romantic and poetic use. Also palefrai, paulfrey, and more. The word is via French from Greek para, beside, extra + Latin veredus, light horse. In Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian, forms ending -freno developed, under the influence of Latin frenum, bridle; these came into English in palfrenier, a man in charge of horses; Thackeray in his PARIS SKETCH-BOOK (1840) commented: He calls his palfrenier a groom. Other forms of this word were palfreynyer; palfreyour, palfreur, palfrer, these three untouched of the bridle (frenum) . D'Urfey, in his PILLS TO PURGE MELANCHOLY (1719) tells that A palphry proud, prick'd up with pride, Went prancing on the way. This was a word Walter Scott could not miss: A maiden on a palfrey white comes early in his telling.


An old form of pet, a darling. Also, a spoiled child; William Shakespeare in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596) has: A pretty peate! It is best put finger in the eye, and she knew why -- the remainer of the passage implying a cry-baby. Being very common from 1570 to 1640, the word developed other uses: as a term of scorn for a woman, especially, a proud peat. Ben Jonson in EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR (1599) described Deliro's wife and idoll, a proud mincing peat, and as perverse as he is officious. Also, a lawyer favored by a judge, referred to as his peat. Walter Scott revived this use (in REDGAUNTLET; 1824); he also used peat (THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN; 1818) as a term of scorn for a man. Hence peatry, peatship, the character or behavior of a peat. A peatery, however, is a place where peat (chunks of decomposed and partly carbonized vegetable matter, used for fuel -- the still current sense) is dug


(1) An apothecary. The form is a 15th to 17th century corruption (revived by Walter Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH, 1828) of pothecar, pothecary. Also potingair, pottinger. Apothecary is via Late Latin from Greek apotheke, storehouse; pithenai, to put. The form pottinger was also another word, related to pottage and porringer, meaning (2) a vessel for holding liquid food, a small basin. Used from the 15th century. Also (B) a pottage maker, a cook. This was, earlier, potager.


A cloak of knee length worn by men in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Also roccelo, rockalow, and the like. Named from the French Duke of Roquelaure (1656-1738). Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1760) speaks of wrapping myself up warm in my roquelaure, and paying a visit to this poor gentleman. After the same duke, a short cloak worn by women was called a rokelay. Walter Scott, in WAVERLEY (1814) has his heroine put on her clean toy, rokelay, and scarlet plaid.


Secure, unmolested, unchallenged; hence, innocent (of); therefore harmless. Occasionally, by extension, feeble-minded; lacking energy. Also sacklessly, without just cause, innocently. Used from the 9th century. Douglas in the AENEIS (1513) spoke of a citie sakles of batale, fre of all sic strife. Walter Scott revived the word in IVANHOE (1819); BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE queried in 1831: That you are sackless of this murder who shall testify?


An ignorant physician. Dr. Sangrado, a character in Alain-Rene Lesage's GIL BIAS (1735), had only two remedies: bleeding and drinking hot water. Spanish sangrador, bleeder; Latin sanguinem, blood, whence also sanguine and sanguinary. Also, sangrador. In a letter of 1820, Walter Scott wrote: One is sadly off in France and Italy, where the sangrados are of such low reputation, that it were a shame even to be killed by them.


A scoundrel, wretch. A common word among 16th and 17th century dramatists; revived by Walter Scott in KENILWORTH (1821). Shakespeare exclaims in KING JOHN (1595): By heaven! these scroyles of Angiers flout you, kings!


A sleuth-hound; a sleuth. In addition to its current uses, slot meant the hoof-marks, hence the track, of a deer or other animal -- sometimes used also of the scent. Hence, to slot, to track down. It was also used figuratively, by John Milton (1645), Scott (1820) and in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH of 10 October, 1864: The Emperor, who rarely quits the slot of an idea. After the 16th century, Walter Scott revived slot-hound in IVANHOE (1819), speaking of the misfortunes which track my footsteps like slot-hounds.


This word, used by Chaucer in THE REEVE'S TALE, to mean of dusky complexion, is related, in William Toone ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY (1834) to smother and smoke. It is also spelled smoterlich, and is more probably related to smut, which is, however, a later word, from the Dutch smodderen, to smut or be besmut. There is no verb to besmotre, but besmotered occurs in Chaucer's Prologue (1386) to THE CANTERBURY TALES, which tells us that the Knight's gypon was all bismotered with his habergeon. Douglas in the AENEIS (1513) speaks of a besmotterit face. Gypon or gipon, from the Old French jupon, skirt, was a word for the tunic usually worn under the hauberk, or coat of mail. After Chaucer, gipon was frequent (also as gepoun, gippon, etc.) until the 17th century. It was revived by Sir Walter Scott in THE BRIDAL OF TRIERMAIN (1813): With nought to fence his dauntless brest But the close gipon's under-vest. Hauberk, related to the Norse hals, neck + bergan, to cover (whence also the sleeveless jacket of mail, the habergeon, haberjoun; cp. acton; and the heavy cloth haberjet or hauberget, which is named in MAGNA CARTA, 1215) , was originally a piece of armor to protect the neck and shoulders; later the word was used of a long coat of armor, usually of chain mail.


A prediction; an omen. Also to spae, to prophesy. Used from the 13th century; frequent in Walter Scott (GUY MANNERING; 1815). Also in various combinations: spaedom, spaecraft, spaework, prophecy, prophesying, spaeman, spaewoman, spaewife, fortune-teller; then witch; spaewright, spaer. The spaewoman often was, or pretended to be, dumb, as deprivation of this sense reputedly endowed one with second sight. The words, if not the beliefs, have persisted in Scotland.


Things that should not be mentioned. Directly from the gerundive of Latin tacere, to be silent, whence also English tacent, silent. The imperative tace (pronounced tay see) is sometimes used as an admonition to silence; since the 17th century (Henry Fielding in AMELIA, 1752; Walter Scott in a letter of 1821), the sentence Tace is Latin for a candle has been used to let a person know he's to keep silent on a matter. BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of February 1883 referred to topics regarded as tacenda by society.


The male of a hawk; especially, of the peregrine falcon and the goshawk. Also tiercel, tarcel, tyercelle, and many others. Cp. tassel; gerfalcon. Also tercelet, tiercelet; tercellene. Ultimately from popular Latin tertiolus, a little third; tertius, third. Some say it is thus named because it is a third smaller than the female; Sir Thomas Browne (TRACTS; 1682) suggests another reason: When they lay three eggs . . . the first produceth a female and large hawk, the second of a midler sort, and the third a smaller bird, terecellene or tassel of the male sex. In hunting days, falcon always meant the female. In the 16th and 17th centuries, tercel was sometimes applied figuratively to a person, as by Chapman in MAY DAY (1611): Whose foole are you? Are not you the tassell of a gander? Walter Scott in THE ABBOT (1820) revived this application: Marry, out upon thee, foul kite, that would fain be a tercel gentle!


Originally, to rebuke, scold, blame. Common from the 9th to the 16th century, thereafter persisting in country speech; revived in the 19th century (Walter Scott, Charlotte Bronte, Edward Bulwer-Lytton). Also threpe, threep, threppe, threip, thraip, and the like. Various meanings developed. To dispute, to inveigh (against) , to haggle, to contend. Hence, as a noun, threap, quarreling, contention, contest. To threap with kindness was rarely used in the sense of to treat with kindness; more often, to attribute kindness to, to urge to the exercise of kindness. To threap upon, to impose upon, to try to press one's beliefs upon; to press (something) upon one, to urge one's acceptance or acquiescence. Failing that, to threap down, to beat down resistance, to silence by vehement or persistent assertion, as R. W. Hamilton observed in NUGAE LITERARIAE (1841): A man will say of a clamorous talker, he did not convince me, but he threaped me down. The form threapen, in addition to these uses, borrowed the sense of threaten as well; threapening, threatening. Thence, threapland, land of disputed ownership. In the sense of strongly affirming, persisting in a (challenged) point of view, Chaucer uses the word in the Prologue to THE CANON YEOMAN'S TALE (1386): Sol gold is and Luna silver we threpe. Thus also Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816): He threeps the castle and lands are his ain as his mother's eldest son. Beaumont in PSYCHE (1648) has the fair nymph cry: Behold how gross a ly of ugliness They on my face have threaped!


Unsteady, shaky, tottery; dizzy; fuddled. Formed after totter, tottle. Chaucer in THE REEVE'S TALE (1386) has: Myn hed is toty of my swynk tonyght. For another quotation, see noll. Used into the 17th century, the word was revived by Walter Scott in the 19th, in IVANHOE (1819): I was somewhat totty when I received the good knight's blow, or I had kept my ground.


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).


A fur, very popular in the 13th and 14th centuries, used for trimming or lining garments, also for slippers. It was then the fur of a squirrel with gray back and white belly. Old French vair; Latin varius, parti-colored. The fur was later replaced by miniver and ermine; the word vair (though retained in heraldry, and revived in the 19th century by Walter Scott, Swinburne, and more) dropped from the common speech. The same lapse occurred in French; hence, in the Cinderella story, the fairy slippers of Cinderella, made of vair, made sense to the people listening as verre, and became, in English translation, not fur but glass slippers.


(1) To regard as of little value, to despise; hence, to treat slightingly. Latin vilis, worthless, vile + pendere, to weigh, estimate, consider. This sense was very common in the 16th and 17th centuries, revived by Walter Scott in WAVERLEY (1814): a youth devoid of that petulant volatility which is impatient of, or vilipends, the conversation and advice of his seniors. (2) Confused with this, especially in the 19th century, to vilipend, to vilify, to speak of with contempt, to represent as bad or worthless. Thackeray in VANITY FAIR (1848) says: Menacing the youth with maledictions . . . and vilipending the poor innocent girl as the basest and most artful of vixens. Also vilipender; vilipenditory, abusive; vilipendious, contemptible; vilipendency, the expression of contempt; vilipension, the act of despising.


A variant of visnomy (vysenamy, visenomy), early forms of physiognomy. The form (from the 16th and early 17th centuries) was revived by Walter Scott in THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR (1818): The loon has woodie written on his very visnomy, and in KENILWORTH; Lamb and others continued its use.


Used in the phrase in the (wild) waniand -- short for in the waniand [waning] moon, supposed to be an unlucky period: an exclamatory term or imprecation, like "with a plague." Used in the 14th and 15th centuries; about 1550, replaced by wanion (wannion, wenyon, wenian); later, with a (wild) wanion. Shakespeare in PERICLES (1607) has: Come away, or Ile fetch'th with a wanion. A (wild) wanion on, with a wanion to, May a curse light upon --. Walter Scott revived the phrases, as in WOODSTOCK (1826): He would have battered the presbyterian spirit out of him with a wanion.


(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.


Yesterday evening. Corrupted into such forms as the strene, the straine, ystrewine, yhistrewyn, yistrevyn. The ballad FAIR ELLEN (in Child's collection, 1800) has: I dreamed a dream san the straine. Walter Scott revived yestreen, which had never been wholly abandoned by nostalgic poets.


Went. The old past tense of go. Also yead, yede. Cp. sigalder. The word was mistakenly used as a present -- yode, yede, to go, in the 16th century. Walter Scott revived the form, in MARMION (1808): In other pace than forth he yode, Returned Lord Marmion.
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