A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
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A foreboding, especially of ill. Also to abode, to presage, to be ominous; an abode was also (17th century) a prediction. William Shakespeare has both noun and verb in HENRY VI, PART THREE (1590): The owle shrieked at thy birth, an evill signe, The night-crow cryde, aboding lucklesse time . . . Tush man, aboadments must not now affright us.


Dearly. Especially in the expression to love alife; William Shakespeare in THE WINTER'S TALE (1610) has: I love a ballad in print alife. Some editions print this o' life, as though it meant as one's life; but it is probably an adverbial form from lief, dear, which survives in the expression I'd just as lief.


Misused for mallycholly, a corrupt form of melancholy (Greek melan, black + choler, bile). Dame Quickly in William Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) says: She is given too much to allicholy and musing; in his THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA the Host Says to Julia (disguised as a boy): Now, my young guest, methinks you're allycholly. I pray you, why is it? Julia responds: Marry, mine host, because I cannot be merry. To cheer her, he has sung the charming song Who is Silvia?


A wretched creature. Old English earm, poor. In the play THE LONDON PRODIGAL (1605), formerly attributed to William Shakespeare, occurs the exlamation: O here God, so young an armine! The word was more frequent in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.


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.


Stand backl The origin is unknown; "Back there!"? At times spelt bacare, baccare and pronounced in three syllables, like a yokel pretending to Latin, Shakespeare, in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1596): Bacare, you are mervaylous forward. The word appeared in a proverbial saying, Backare, quoth Mortimer to his sow.


(1) To fight, to contend with blows or arguments. In the latter mood, replaced by debate. Also, to beat the wings (as a falcon or hawk) and flutter away from the perch. Hence, to be restless or impatient. William Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) bids night Hood my unmann'd blood, bayting in my cheekes. (2) To beat or flutter down; to end. In R. Brunne's CHRONICLE (1330) we read: Bated was the strife. Also, to cast down; hence, to humble, depress; to be dejected; to lower, reduce, lessen. In these senses, a shortening of abate. At bate, at odds, contending. The word is frequent in Shakespeare, in various senses. Hence bated breath, subdued breathing, bateless, that cannot be blunted; Shakespeare in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593) has: Haply that name of chaste unhappily set This bateless edge on his keen appetite. bateful, quarrelsome, batement, lessening, abatement. bate-breeding, quarrel making, inciting to strife; Shakespeare in VENUS AND ADONIS speaks of This sour informer, this bate-breeding spy.


A flat-sided stick with a handle, for beating clothes. William Shakespeare in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) has: I remember the kissing of her batler. Later editions say batlet, as though a diminutive of bat. The battledore was originally a batler or beetle, sometimes cylindrical for mangling, but usually flat. Hence, other instruments of that shape: a paddle, a wood for putting loaves into an oven; especially, a small bat for hitting the shuttlecock in the game also called battledore. Other forms of this word, common from the 15th century, were batylledore, batyndore, batteldoor, and the like. The word was also used figuratively, as by James Russell Lowell in 1879: So they two played at wordy battledore. The game, once vigorously enjoyed, has been replaced by tennis, ping-pong (table tennis) and, especially badminton. Badminton, from the country seat of the Duke of Beaufort, was also in the 19th century the name of a drink, a 'grateful compound' of claret, sugar, and soda-water. The shuttlecock (also shittlecock, shoottlecock, and more) was a piece of cork tufted with feathers, used as far back as the 15th century, and is used frequently (literally and figuratively) by poets and playwrights of the 16th and 17th centuries who, as Sears said later (1858) in ATHANASIA, were only playing at shuttlecock with words.


Brushwood; especially, a bundle of light wood (as for bakers' ovens) tied with one withe or band; a fagot is tied with two. The word was used figuratively, of slight things, as in Chapman's EASTWARD HOE (1605) : If he outlast not a hundred such crackling bavins as thou art; and William Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596): Shallow jesters, and rash bavin wits, Soon kindled and soon burnt.


Fine fellow. A jocular term of endearment, from French beau coq, fine cock, used in the same way. William Shakespeare uses the word in TWELFTH NIGHT, and twice in HENRY V (1599) e.g.: The King's a bawcock, and a heart of gold.


Inheritance, birthright. So in the O.E.D. In his notes to William Shakespeare's MACBETH (1605), however, G. B. Harrison defines the word as meaning native land. Macduff is speaking, fled to England from Scotland and Macbeth's savagery: Let us rather Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men Bestride our downfall'n birthdome.


This color word was very popular in compounds and phrases. Thus blue apron, a tradesman; hence, blue-apron statesman, a tradesman who interferes in politics, blue beans, bullets (of lead) ; blue-beat, to beat black and blue, blue blanket, the sky. blue blood, (one of) aristocratic heritage, from the Spanish idea that the veins of aristocratic families show through the skin a 'truer blue' than those of commoners, blue bonnet, also blue cap, a Scotsman. To burn blue, of a candle, to burn without red or yellow light: an omen of death, or sign of the presence of ghosts or the Devil. William Shakespeare in RICHARD III (1594) says: The lights burne blew! blue bottle, a beadle; also a policeman. Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART TWO says to a beadle: I will have you as soundly swindg'd for this, you blue-bottle rogue. Also blue coat, as in the American boy's taunt: Brass button, blue coat, Couldn't catch a nanny-goat! But blue coat likewise (Shakespeare, Dekker) , being then the garb of lower servants and charity folk, was used to mean a beggar, an almsman, blue-dahlia, a rarity or most unlikely thing. blue devil, an evil demon; in the plural, blue devils, despondency, also the blues. Byron in DON JUAN (1823) declares: Though six days smoothly run, The seventh will bring blue devils or a dun. Also, the horrid sights in delirium tremens. blue fire, a stage light for eerie effects; hence (19th century) sensational, as blue-fire melodrama. blue funk, a spell of fright, nervous dread, blue gown; in Scotland, a licensed beggar; in England (17th century) a harlot; especially one in prison (where a blue gown marked her shame). blueman, also bloman, blamon, a Negro. From the 13th to the 17th century, blo was used for blue, bluish black, lead colored, blue hen, in the expression Your mother must have been a blue hen, a reproof given to a braggart, from the saying, No cock is game unless its mother was a blue hen. To shout blue murder, to cry out more from fear than because of actual danger, blue ruin, a bad quality of gin; gin. blue story, an obscene or pornographic story, [In French, conte bleu is an old wives' tale; a lascivious or obscene story is conte gras.] Other blue compounds, like bluebeard, blue stocking, blue ribbon, remain well known. Cp. red.


A bailiff; one that makes arrests. The term is one of contempt (bum, buttocks; cp. bumrowl) , implying that the bailiff is close upon the debtor's back. The similar French word is pousse-cul. William Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) says: Scout mee for him at the corner of the orchard like a bum-baylie. The word was used by Washington Irving and William Makepeace Thackeray (1859) . A similar word of scorn was bumtrap; The noble bumtrap, observes Henry Fielding in TOM JONES (1749) into the hands of the jailer resolves to deliver his miserable prey. Abraham Tucker in THE LIGHT OF NATURE PURSUED (1768) spoke of the two necessary ministers of justice, a bumbailiff and Jack Ketch.


A contraction of By Our Ladykin, by our darling lady-- referring to the Virgin Mary, and used as a mild oath. Also the simpler byrlady -- berlady, burlady, birlady, byleddy; bylakin, belakin, berlakin, and more. William Shakespeare swears Berlady thirtie yeares in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) and Berlaken, a parlous feare in


A yarn; a worsted tape, used for garters and the like; hence, short for caddis ribbon or caddis garter. William Shakespeare uses it in THE WINTER'S TALE (1610) : He hath ribbons of all the colors i' the rainbow, points more than all the lawyers in Bohemia can learnedly handle, though they come to him by the gross -- inkles, caddises, cambrics, lawns; and in HENRY IV, PART ONE.


Falling. Latin cadentem, falling; cadere, to fall. William Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) : With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks.


In addition to its still current senses (in use since the 14th century) calendar was used to mean a guide, a model -- Chaucer (LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN; 1385); Shakespeare (HAMLET; 1602): He is the card or calendar of gentry. Also, a list, as of canonized saints (17th century) or of prisoners awaiting trial (16th century) ; a record; William Shakespeare (ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL) : The kalender of my past endevours. Also, a record in the sense of a sign; Lodge (EUPHUES GOLDEN LEGEND; 1590) : Nor are the dimples in the face the calendars of truth.


A poultice, plaster -- in the 17th century made with herbs and flour, or (1612) of bread crumbs, milk, and a little saffron. In the 19th century (1866), the well known mustard plaster or cataplasm. William Shakespeare knew it too; in HAMLET (1602), Laertes puts a poison on his sword So mortal that but dip a knife in it, Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare. Collected from all simples that have virtue Under the moon, can save the thing from death That is but scratched withal.


A close friend. In Tudor times, cousin was used by close friends, without blood relationship; in AS YOU LIKE IT William Shakespeare has Rosalind and Celia say, Sweet my coz. Ben Jonson suggests that cater-cousin meant quarter-cousin, "from the ridiculousness of calling cousin or relation to so remote a degree," but there is no ridicule intended, in the use of the word. It may be from cater, to care for, to feed, cater-cousins being those that have eaten together, as companions means those that have broken bread together. Shakespeare used the expression in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) : His maister and he (saving your worships reverence) are scarce catercosins; and writers since have followed him.


A crafty device or trick; trickery; a precaution. Cautela, in Roman law, was an exception made as a precaution, from caut~, the past stem of cavere, to take heed (cp. caveat] ; this also gives us English caution, but the two forms developed different meanings. Cautelous means wary, heedful (cautious) , but more commonly deceitful, wily, as in William Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS (1607) : Your son . . . caught With cautelous baits and practice.


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 variety of apple, somewhat tapering; especially, a variety that could be cooked while still unripe. Hence, a raw youth, as when in THE ALCHEMIST (1610) Ben Jonson hails the arrival of a fine young quodling. Also codlin, querdlyng, codlyng, quadling, and more. William Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) similifies: As a squash is before tis a pescod, or a codling when tis almost an apple. Hot codlings were roasted apples, sold in the London streets from the 17th century. A folk song of 1825 ran: A little old woman, her living she got, By selling hot codlings, hot, hot, hot. By 23 February, 1881, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH lamented: Hot codlings may now be sought for in vain. The word codling may have come from coddle, one meaning of which was to cook (we still have coddled eggs, cooked gently; but coddled pease were roasted; and hot codlings may also have meant roasted peas). Codling also may mean a small cod (fish); also, the scrotum; cp. codpiece. Josuah Sylvester, in his translation (1605) of Du Bartas, wrote of The wise beaver who, pursu'd by foes, Tears off his codlings, and among them throwes.


To join in agreement. French gré, liking. In the 16th century, gree was a common shortening of agree. Agree, ad, to give accord to; congree, com, to give accord together. William Shakespeare in HENRY V(1623 edition) speaks of government congreeing in a full and natural close. The 1600 quarto edition, however, has congrueth with a mutual consent, and Shakespeare's form may be congrue; Latin congruus, agreeing, suitable, congruere, to meet together, whence also incongruous.


A person with whom one copes; an adversary. Hence, a love partner, paramour. Hence, a partner or colleague; a partner in marriage, spouse; by extension, a confederate (cheat) at cards or other gaming; more vaguely, often with contempt, a fellow. Also copemate; cp. copeman. Lisle in his translation (1625) of Du Bartas: Fooles, idiots, jesters, anticks, and such copesmates as of naughtworth are suddenly start up. Ben Jonson, in EVERY MAN IN HIS HUMOUR (1598) : O, this is the female copesmate of my son. William Shakespeare in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593) : Mis-shapen Time, copesmate of ugly Night . . . eater of youth, false slave to false delight, Base watch of woes, sin's packhorse, virtue's snare.


Originally an apple-seller -- costard, apple; monger, dealer. Thence, a pushcart salesman; also used figuratively -- Miss Mitford (1812) From all the selected fruits of all the poetical costermongers . . . could ye choose nothing more promising than this green sour apple? -- and as a term of abuse -- William Shakespeare, HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597): Virtue is of so little regard in these costermonger times, (the monger is pronounced mun' fa.) Hence also costermongering, costermongery, costermongerdom. Also, tout court, coster. Various other combinations have been used, such as costerditty, street song; costerwife, a woman with a stall for selling apples and the like. Cp. applesquire.


Originally, a small hook (French crochet, diminutive of croche, hook; women still crochet with a small hook; cp. crocheteur). By transference, many other meanings, among them: (1) an ornamental hook, a brooch; Steele in THE TATLER (1710) tells of a crochet of 122 Diamonds, set . . . in silver. (2) a hookshaped symbol for a note in music; (3) a whimsical fancy; a perverse and peculiar notion. William Shakespeare plays on both these senses in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599): Why these are very crotchets that he speaks, Note notes forsooth, and nothing. From (3) came (4) a fanciful device or construction. Less literarily and more literally (5) a bracket, in typography [crotchets]. A dealer in odd conceits and deliberately perverse opinions is a crotchet-monger.


(1) A person deficient in sense or in courage; one who is daft. So Chaucer, in THE REEVE'S TALE (1396). Hence to daff, to play the fool; to make sport of. (2) to remove, to take off. A variant of doff, to do off. Thus William Shakespeare in THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT (1597) has There my white stole of chastity I daff'd. Hence, to thrust aside, as Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) speaks of Prince Hal that daft the world aside; or to put off, as in OTHELLO (1604) : Every day thou dafts me with some device, Iago. Daffing the world aside was a frequent phrase, after Shakespeare. Johnson, misunderstanding Shakespeare's usage, erroneously taking the past form for the present, put in his DICTIONARY (1755) a non-existent verb, to daft.


A dairy woman, dairymaid. Cheese, said Trevisa in his translation (1398) of Bartholomeus' DE PROPRIETATIBUS RERUM, slydeth out bytwene the fyngres of the deyewife. Also deywoman. Walter Scott (1828, THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH) renewed the use of this form, after William Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : For this damsell I must keepe her at the parke, shee is alowd for the day-woman.


To efface the outlines of, erase, blot out; to become effaced, to vanish. William Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) says: Sometimes we see a clowd that's dragonish, A vapour sometime like a beare or lyon, A towered citadel, a pendent rock . . . That which is now a horse, even with a thoght The racke dislimes and makes it indistinct As water is in water.


A trifling sum; a very litde. Originally (perhaps via Norwegian dveit, a piece cut off, dvita, to cut) a Dutch coin worth half an English farthing. William Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) says: They will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar; Mrs. Carlyle in a letter of 1849 exclaimed: As if anybody out of the family of Friends cared a doit about W. Penn!


One that dotes, a simpleton. A variant of dotard; see doddard. William Shakespeare has, in CORIOLANUS (1607) : Such a decay'd dotant as you seem to be.


(1) Mistress; wench. From the 14th century (first as slang: the mistress of a beggar or a vagabond) , prostitute; then wench; later, sweetheart. William Shakespeare has a refrain in THE WINTER'S TALE (1611) : With hey, the doxy over the dale. (2) Opinion, especially in regard to religion. Since the 18th century. Warburton, followed by John Quincy Adams (1778) and countless others, remarked: Orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is the other man's. Greek doxa, opinion.


(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.


To bring forth lambs, to yean. Also eanian, enen, enye, eyne. Thus eaned, born (used of a lamb) ; eanling, a young lamb. William Shakespeare in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) tells of all the eanelings which were streakt and pied. Dire as a smiting haile, said Daniel in an ECLOGUE (1648) , to new-ean'd lambs.


Behold. Latin, used in phrases, especially Ecce Homo (THE BIBLE: JOHN 19) ; hence, a representation of Christ with the crown of thorns. Ecce signum, behold the sign; William Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) has Falstaff (after his rout at the misfired robbery at Gadshill, when he 'lards the lean earth as he walks along') telling of his fierce battle and his miraculous escape, declare: I am eight times thrust through the doublet, four through the hose; my buckler cut through and through; my sword hacked like a handsaw -- ecce signum! Hence also ecceity, the quality of being present (used mainly in the 16th century).


A pop-gun; a toy gun made of the hollow shoot of an elder, the young branches of which are pithy. William Shakespeare in HENRY V (1599) : That's a perilous shot out of an elder gunne. Note also, in his THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSO, heart of elder, faint heart, in humorous contrasting allusion to heart of oak, stout heart.


The act of placing under embargo (Italian imbargo; Latin in + barra, bar) . Also imbargement, embargemenL William Shakespeare in CORIOLANUS (1607) uses the word in the sense of hindrances, prohibitions: Nor sleep nor sanctuary . . , The prayers of priests nor times of sacrifice, Embarquements all of fury, shall lift up Their rotten privilege and custom 'gainst My hate to Marcius.


To plunge into the water. Also, to drive into the water, as a bird of prey would another bird. French en, in + eau, water; Provencal aigua; Latin aqua, as in aquatics. Used from the 15th into the 17th century; in William Shakespeare (MEASURE FOR MEASURE; 1603) it has been misprinted emmew and enmew, explained by some commentators as 'keep in the coop' -- the bird fears to come out. Shakespeare says: This outward-sainted deputie Whose settled visage and deliberate word Nips youth i' the head,, and follies doth enmew As falcon doth the fowle, is yet a devil. The BOOK OF ST. ALBANS (1486) made the sense clear: Yowre hawke hath ennewed the fowle in to the ryver.


To graft in; an early form of engraft. Used since the 15th century. Also ingraff. Used by Swinburne (ATALANTA IN CALYDON; 1864) meaning to beget. William Shakespeare used it in the passive voice, meaning to be closely attached: HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : You have beene so lewde, and so much ingraffed to Falstaff.


That which grows out, as hair, nails, feathers. By extension, an excessive outgrowth, as when Warner in ALBION'S ENGLAND (1606) says that wit so is wisedomes excrement. William Shakespeare uses the word in THE COMEDY OF ERRORS: Why is Time such a niggard of hair, being as it is so plentiful an excrement? and in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : It will please his grace to dallie with my excrement, with my mustachio. The word is from Latin excrementum; ex, out + crescere, to grow; it has been replaced by excrescence. The excrement that survives is from Latin ex + cernere, cretum, to sift, whence also secrete, secret, secretary, secretion; concern, discern, and the frequent indiscretion.


Action. A blunder of Mistress Quickly, in a legal matter, in William Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : I pray ye, since my exion is entered . . . let him be brought in to his answer.


Extremely wicked, infamous; grossly criminal. The word, naturally, is accented on the sin. From Latin facinorosus, full of bad deeds; facinus, a (bad) deed; facere, to do. Also facinerose (in the dictionaries) , facinerious, facinorious, as in William Shakespeare's ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601) : He's of a most facinerious spirit.


Mouldiness; mould. Also as a verb, to grow mouldy, to make mouldy. Finewy, finewed, mouldy. The last form existed (16th-18th century) in many variations: fenowed, finnowed, vynued, vinewed; vinnowed, vinnied, whinid; William Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606) has: Speake then you whinid'st leaven, speake!


A making fit, preparation; that which is fit; one's duty. Used only in Shakespeare before the 19th century; then (often in the plural, fitments, fittings) , in the sense of furniture, furnishings. In William Shakespeare's CYMBELINE (1611) : 'Twas a fitment for The purpose I then followed; in PERICLES the Bard complains of the consistently virtuous Marina: We must either get her ravished or get rid of her. When she should do for clients her fitment and do me the kindness of our profession, she has me her quirks, her reasons, her master reasons, her prayers, her knees; that she would make a puritan of the devil, if he should cheapen [bargain for] a kiss of her.


A mocking look or speech; "a deceitful grin of civility" (Johnson) . As a verb, to laugh in a coarse or impudent manner, to sneer; to smile fawningly. Common from the 17th century; William Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) has: Mark the fleeres, the gybes and notable scornes That dwell in every region of his face. Carlyle in his REMINISCENCES (1866) gives us the one use of the word in a pleasant sense, an innocent fleer of merriment.


A light or loose woman. Also flirt-gillian; gill-flirt. Gill (Remember Jack and Jill) is a pet form of Juliana. Not in print before William Shakespeare, who in ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) cries: Scurvy knave, I am none of his fturt-gils; Beaumont and Fletcher, in THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE (1613) : You heard him take me up like a flirt gill, and sing bawdy songs upon me.

Forcible feeble

A weak person who makes great show of strength (physical or moral). William Shakespeare first used the expression as a play on a name, in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) ; Shallow calls: Francis Feeble! but Falstaff rejects him as a recruit: Let that suffice, most forcible Feeble. The term came into wider use in the 19th century, as in Benjamin Disraeli's CONINGSBY (1844) : Italics, that last resort of the forcible feebles.


Cross, disagreeable; (of a horse) mettlesome, fiery. Also frampard, frampull, frampled, frompered (Bunyan, 1688) . William Shakespeare, in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) remarks: She leads a very frampold life with him.


A fat, frowzy woman (fusty, mouldy + lugs, implying heavy). Robert Burton in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1621) states that every lover admires his mistress, though she be ... a vast virago, or ... a fat fustylugs. Fusty (from fust, a wine cask, q.v.) was used to mean stale (wine too long in the cask); then mouldy bread; then anything no longer fresh; seedy, dull. William Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606) says At this fusty stuff The large Achilles . . . laughs out a lowd applause. Hence fusty-rusty, out-of-date, old-fashioned; ill-humored.


A loose upper garment of coarse material, as worn by pilgrims, hence, by beggars; after William Shakespeare in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) , applied to Jews. In THE TEMPEST Shakespeare has Trinculo, come upon Caliban in the storm, for protection creep under his gaberdine, whence the word is sometimes used to mean protection, as when Lord Bentinck in the CROKER PAPERS for 8 September, 1847, said: They have crawled into the House of Commons under the gabardine of the Whigs.


As an adjective: valiant, sturdy; full of high spirits, lively, light-hearted; spruce, light-hearted in looks. Also gaillard, galyeard, gagliard, and more. Chaucer in THE COOK'S TALE (1386) says: Gaillard he was as goldfinch in the shawe. As a noun: (1) A man of spirit; a merry fellow, a man of fashion. (2) A lively dance, in triple time. William Shakespeare asks, in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) : Why dost thou not goe to church in a galliard, and come home in a carranto? Cp. coranto; pavan. Hence galliardise, gaiety, revelry; a merry prank.


Full; closely akin. Said of children of brothers and sisters, as sister-german, first cousin; loosely used of other kinship, as in William Shakespeare's TIMON OF ATHENS (1607) : Wert thou a leopard, thou wert germane to the lion. Also germain, germeyn, germayne, germane, jarman, jermaine, and the like. Latin germanus, in the same sense; germen, germinem, sprig, sprout, bud; also used in English to mean germ; by Shakespeare first, in MACBETH, and in KING LEAR: And thou all-shaking thunder, Strike flat the thicke rotundity o' th' world, Crack natures moulds, all germaines spill at once That makes ingratefull man. Shakespeare uses german in HAMLET -- The phrase would be more germaine to the matter, If we could carry cannon by our sides -- in the sense of closely connected, pertinent, relevant; this sense has continued, usually with the spelling germane.


A wanton woman; rarely, also, a dissolute man. William Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART ONE says: Young Talbot was not born To be the pillage of a giglot wench. The influence of the word giggle developed the forms giglet, gigglet, and softened the meaning (18th and 19th centuries) to a laughing, romping girl. Cp. fizgig. Thus Shakespeare cries, in MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1603) : Away with those giglets, whereas in Chambers' JOURNAL OF POPULAR LITERATURE for 1885 we find the query: Why should female clerks in the postal service consist of pert giglets hardly out of their teens? Hence giggly means prone to giggle, but gigly (15th through 17th century) meant lascivious.


Jesus. A euphemism; also jysse, jis, gisse, gys. Used in mild exclamations, as in mad Ophelia's song in William Shakespeare's HAMLET (1602) : By gis and by Saint Charity, Alack, and fie for shame! Young men will do't, if they come to't; By cock, they are to blame. Note that By cock here is another euphemism, replacing By God -- with one of the bard's bawdy puns.


A fetter, a shackle for the leg. Usually in the plural: gives, guives, guyves; the word was probably once pronounced with the g hard, as in give; now the g is soft, as in gem. A common word (and instrument) since the 13th century. The word was often used figuratively. William Shakespeare in THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT (1597) speaks of Playing patient sports in unconstrained gives; Benjamin Disraeli, in CONINGSBY (1844), of the gyves and trammels of office. Gyve was also used as a verb, to fetter; as by Shakespeare in OTHELLO: I will give thee in thine own courtship. CIRCUMCISION (15th century) declared: My wittis be so dull with rudenes, And in the cheynes of ignoraunce gyved.

Hab Nab

Hit or miss; at a venture; at random; anyhow. Probably from Old English habbe, to have; nabbe, not to have. Also hab or nab; later, hob a nob, hob or nob, hob and nob; William Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (I60I) says hob, nob is his word; give't or take't. Used from the 16th century; in the 18th century it was used when glasses were lifted to drink: Hob or nob, come what may. Hence, to drink hob or nob, to drink together in companionship -- whence the current use of hobnob today.


In various combinations, half-bull, a pontifical letter of a new pope before his coronation -- the bulla being stamped with only one side of the seal, the side representing the apostles. half-cap, a slight and almost discourteous salute;William Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607): With certaine halfe-caps, and cold moving nods, They froze me into silence. half-dike, a sunken fence, a haha. half-labor, a way of paying rent: half the crops or other product of the tenant's toil, that went to the landlord. halfheaded, stupid. halflang, halfling, a stripling, one not fully grown. halfman, a eunuch. halfkirtle, a short-skirted, loose bodied gown, commonly worn by courtesans; hence, a courtesan; Shakespeare in HENRY IV, PART TWO: You filthy famish'd correctioner! if you be not swinged, I'll forswear half-kirtles. halfner, one that shares 50-50 (16th century). half-seas-over, midway toward a goal; John Dryden in 1700: I am half-seas over to death; the sense of half-drunk came in the 18th century. half-tongue, of a jury half of whom were foreigners, as used to be allowed In England, in criminal prosecution of a foreigner. half-word, an insinuation; so used by Chaucer.


Holiness; a holy place, a chapel; a holy relic -- by which one might take an oath; hence, since the 16th century, By my halidom, often used as a mere exclamation, e.g., In William Shakespeare's TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (1591) : By my hallidome, I was fast asleep. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the word was often spelled halidam, holidam, holydame, as though referring to 'Our Lady.' It is from Old English halig (German heilig), holy + dom, state.


The obvious meaning, a saw used with one hand, occurs in William Shakespeare's HENRY VI, PART ONE (1596): My buckler cut through and through, my sword hackt like a handsaw. There is less immediate point to the noted remark in Hamlet: I am but mad north north-west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw. It is plausibly suggested that handsaw here is changed from dialectal harnsa, for hernsew. This is itself a variant of hernshew, hernshaw, heronsaw, heronshew, heronshaw, and more, from Old French heronceau, a little heron. Thus the expression would mean: I know the bird of prey from the bird it preys on, I know my nose from my eyebrow. Early lexicographers (Cotgrave, 1611, followed by Johnson, 1755) took the ending shaw (q.v.) to mean wood, and explained hernshaw, heronshaw, as a wood where herons breed. A menu of 1440 called for pygge rosted . . . and hernesewes. The young heronshowes (1620) are by some accounted a very dainty dish.


A game played since the 14th century, in which an object is shaken in the two hands held together; the hands are suddenly closed, and one must guess which holds the object. Usually the question was asked in a verse e.g., Handy-pandy, Sugar-candy, which hand will you have? Hence, used of two things when it doesn't matter which is chosen; also, a shifting, as from hand to hand; an object held in the closed hand, a covertly proffered bribe. To play handy-dandy, to juggle or toy with as though of no value; Carlyle, in FREDERICK THE GREAT (1862) : You cannot play handydandy with a king's crown. Also handidandy; handy-bandy; handy-spandy. William Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) says, Change places, and handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the theefe?


An escutcheon; especially, a square or diamond-shaped background on which are the armorial bearings of a dead person, often placed on his former home. The word is a shortened variant form of achievement, which also once had this special sense. William Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) has No trophee, sword, or hatchment o're his bones. It was also used figuratively, as in John Fletcher's VALENTINIAN (1614): My naked sword Stands but a hatchment by me, only held To shew I was a soldier.


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.


Something or someone worthless; applied to a beast (as a horse) , a man or (less commonly) a woman. Perhaps hilding is from hield (q.v.), to bend down, to turn waywardly. William Shakespeare uses the word In ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601), in CYMBELINE: A base slave, a hilding for a livery, a squire's cloth; in ROMEO AND JULIET: Out on her, hilding; and as an adjective in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) : Some hielding fellow, that had stolne The horse he rode on.


A pudding made with many ingredients. William Shakespeare uses the word figuratively, of the big-bellied Falstaff, in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) : Ford: What, a hodgepudding? a bag of flax? Mistress Page: A puft man?


Secrecy, concealment; hence intrigue; hence muddle, confusion, trouble. Also, one who keeps things secret; hence, a hoarder, a miser. This is one of a group of terms with the same meaning, from the 15th century: hudder-mudder, hucker-moker, hokermoker; the form that has survived is hugger-mugger, sometimes shortened to hugger-mug. In hugger-mugger, secretly. Speaking of Polonius, in William Shakespeare's HAMLET (1602) , the King says We have done but greenly In huggermugger to inter him. Hugger-mugger and hugger are also verbs, meaning to keep secret, to act or meet in a clandestine manner, to act in a muddled way. (Hugger also, in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in Scotland, meant a stocking without a foot.) Mary Charlton in THE WIFE AND THE MISTRESS (1803) spoke of someone who had saved a mort of money . . . and behold, it was all hugger-muggered away.


One that owes homage to a king or overlord; hence, an humble servant. Used figuratively, as by William Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): Thou blushest Anthony, and that blood of thine Is Caesar's homager.


A form in William Shakespeare's CYMBELINE (1611) for imperceiverant, not perceiving, imperceptive, undiscerning. The positive form perceciverant was used (once?) in the 16th century. Shakespeare says: The lines of my body are as well drawne as his . . . yet this imperseverant thing loves him in my despight.


To place or set upon, to impose; to impose upon; to 'lay' upon, to wager. Latin im, in, on + ponere, positus, to place; whence imposition. William Shakespeare is the only writer that has used the word in the sense of to wager (HAMLET, 1623 edition; the Quartos have impound, impawn'd) : The King sir has wag'd with him six Barbary horses, against the which he impon'd as I take it sixe French rapiers and poniards -- and as the effeminate Osric is speaking, the spelling may be intended to indicate an affected pronunciation of impawn, to pledge; to put in hazard.


Originally this was an adjective (16th century), meaning flesh-colored. There was a slightly earlier verb, to incarn, to cover with flesh, make flesh grow, embody in flesh -- as in THE MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES (1563) : The duke of Glocestre that incarned devyll. Cp. incarnate. Since William Shakespeare's use in MACBETH (1605), however, incarnadine has meant colored blood-red or, as a verb, to redden. After the murder of the King, Macbeth exclaims: Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous incarnadine, Making the green, one red. Lady Macbeth responds: A little water clears us of this deed, not knowing that she will later lament: What, will these hands ne'er be clean? . . . Here's the smell of the blood stil. All the perfumes of Arabia will notsweeten this little hand.


This not wholly unremembered word was used by William Shakespeare HENRY V, 1599; TITUS ANDRONICUS) only in reference to the devil in human shape. He also used, in the same sense, the forms incardinate, incarnal, incarnation.


To enclose; embrace. Used first by William Shakespeare, in ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA (1608) : What ere the ocean pales, or skie inclippes, Is thine, if thou wilt ha't.


Of native origin; an early form of indigenous; also, indigenary, indigcnal, indigenital. An indigene, indigena, a native. Latin indu, an early form of in + gen-, gignere, gentium (whence genital) , to bear, to be born. Indigenity, the state of being native. Note that indigent, lacking, deficient; poor -- indigency, indigence -- are from Latin indu + egere, to want. And that indigerablc, that cannot be digested, is from dis, apart + gerere, gestus; digerere, to set in order, to digest. Indigest, undigested, crude, shapeless, confused, was in use from the Hth century; William Shakespeare used it as a noun, a shapeless mass, in KING JOHN (1595) : You are born To set a forme upon that indigst, Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.


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.


Used by William Shakespeare (SONNET 86; 1598) to mean entomb: Was it the proud full sail of his great verse, Bound for the prize of all too precious you, That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse, Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?


(1) A kind of linen tape; a piece of this. Unwrought inkle, the yarn from which this tape is made. Autolycus, we are told in William Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE (1611), hath ribbons of all the colours i' the rainbow, points . . , inkles, caddysses [see caddis], cambrickes, lawnes. In combinations: inkle-beggar, one that pretends to sell tape, as today pencils; inkle-eloquence, cheap, tawdry flow of words -- THE WESTMINSTER MAGAZINE of 1774 remarked: I have seen a powdered coxcomb of this gawzy make . . . flatter himself with the power of his inkle-eloquence. Thick (great) as inkle-weavers, intimate -- "the inkle-looms being so narrow and close together." Cp. nonesopretty. (2) As a verb, inkle, to hint, to let something be known. Hence, to guess at, surmise, get an inkling of; Blackmore has, in LORNA DOONE (1869) : She inkled what it was. In the 16th century, inklcth meant a hint or surmise; this has survived in the form inkling. Inkless, of course, means without ink; inknot, to tie in, to ensnare (the k is silent, as in knot) -- Long's translation (1879) of the AENEID speaks of a smitten snake: The rest, Retarded by the wound, delays it there Inknotting knots and twisting round itself.


To carve, engrave, sculpture on something. Used in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Also to inscuip; to insculpture (18th century) Insculpture, a figure, design, or inscription carved upon something, was used in the 17th century, first by William Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607): On his gravestone this insculpture which With wax I brought away.


A pet form of John, used in many senses and combinations. Especially, Jack, a name for a representative of the common people. Every man Jack, every single one. Hence, a low-bred or ill-mannered fellow; William Shakespeare uses it several times in this sense (MERCHANT OF VENICE, 1597, bragging Jacks; RICHARD III; ROMEO AND JULIET: ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA). To play the jack, to play mean tricks; THE TEMPEST: Your fairy , . . has done little better than plaid the Jacke with us. Also, the figure of a man that strikes the bell on a clock; Jack o' the clock (RICHARD II) . In musical instruments (virginal, spinet, harpsichord) , an upright piece of wood on the back of the key-lever: press the key, the jack rises and an attached quill plucks the string. Shakespeare uses it as though it were the key: How oft, he says in SONNET 128, Do I envie those jackes that nimble leape To kisse the tender inward of thy hand. A measure of drink, half a pint (1787, Yorkshire); a quarter of a pint (1877, Lincolnshire), apparently as thirsts shrank. In this sense, half the northern Gill (associated in many references to Jack and Jill, in various senses) . Shakespeare in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1593) puns on jacks and jills, boys and girls, and measures for drinks (jugs) in Grumio's ordering tike household preparations: Be the jacks fair within, the jills fair without, the carpets laid, and everything in order? In the old game of bowls (somewhat like the Scotch curling), a jack was a smaller bowl for the players to hit; Shakespeare says in CYMBELINE: Was there ever man had such lucke? When I kist the jacke upon an upcast, to be hit away? This was also called the jack-bowl. Other uses, in combination, include: Jack among the maids, a gallant, a ladies' man. Jack at a pinch, one always ready, a handy person. Jack in office, a pompous, self-important petty office-holder. Jack in the low cellar, an unborn babe. Jacks o' both sides, "clawbacks and pickthanks," fellows that smile on both of two rivals or rival parties. Jack-o'-the-green, a figure of the May-pole gaiety, decked with ribands and flowers, carrying a garlanded staff. Jack's alive, a 19th century game: a burning piece of paper or match is passed around; whoever is offered it must accept it; the one in whose hand it burns up or goes out must pay a forfeit. Until then, each one receiving it cries "Jack's alive!" There was also a jack, short for jacket, used from the 14th century for a sleeveless, padded leather jacket worn by soldiers and in fencing. It is probably from this that the waxed leather jug was called a jack. To the buttery-hatch, said MUCEDORUS (1598), to Thomas the butler for a jack of beer. jack-a~dandy, a conceited, affected fellow, a fop; jack-a-dandyism.


A figure shaped like a man, set up to be thrown at, originally during Lent; later, at amusement parks. Also jack-a-lent; ]ack~o'-Lent. Hence, a butt; also, a puppet; a contemptible person. William Shakespeare in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598) has: See now how wit may be made a jacke-a-Lent when 'tis upon ill imployment . . . You little jack-a-Lent, have you bin true to us?


A privy. See ajax. In William Shakespeare's KING LEAR (1605) we find both forms: I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes with him . , . . None of these rogues and cowards but Ajax is their fool. The word is short for Jacques' house (Jack's house; Jack being a common term for man. Today we make similar reference to the John) A jakes-farmer, cleaner of the jakes.


This was originally an echoic word, meaning to make a harsh sound. Similar are charre, gorre, churr, chirr, chirk, chark. Jar was also used of a clock's ticking;William Shakespeare in RICHARD II (1593) has: My thoughts are minutes and with sighs they jarre Their watches on unto mine eyes. By extension, to jar, to wrangle, to dispute;Christopher Marlowe in HERO AND LEANDER (finished by George Chapman; 1598) says that Hero's lookes yeelded, but her words made warre; Women are won when they begin to jarre. Thus having swallow'd Cupid's golden hooke, The more she striv'd the deeper was she strooke.


Listed in the Sussex dialect GLOSSARY of 1875 as meaning a weary journey. That was the original meaning of jaunt (which now means a light and easy pleasure trip) . However, the verb jaunce (16th century) meant to make a horse prance up and down, to cavort; and jaunce in the second Quarto of William Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) may be an error for jaunte; the first Folio has jaunt: Lord how my bones ake; fie what a jaunce have I had! Carlyle in REMINISCENCES (1866) said of a honeymooner, He was on his marriage jaunt.


A short strap, fastened one to each leg of a hunting hawk; on its free end was a ring to which the leash was attached. Also ges (plural gesses), chess, gest. Also used figuratively as in William Shakespeare's OTHELLO (III iii; 1604) and Richard Brathwait's THE ENGLISH GENTLEMAN (1631): Intangled with the light chesses of vanity.


A pot or bottle used by alchemists and medieval doctors. Often used to hold urine for analysis; hence, a chamber-pot. So used by Chaucer (1886) and William Shakespeare (HENRY IV, PART ONE; 1596; II i). By extension, as a term of abuse, a dolt, a foolish fellow.


A lump of fat, the fat of a slaughtered animal rolled into a lump. In William Shakespeare: HENRY IV, PART TWO: Did not goodwife Keech the butchers wife come in then? In HENRY VIII (referring to Cardinal Wolsey, son of a butcher) : I wonder That such a keech can with his very bulke Take up the rayes o' th' beneficiall sun And keepe it from the earth. Some commentators on HENRY IV, PART ONE explain tallow catch as tallow keech.


As a verb, to cool. From the 9th century; Old English coelan; a common Teutonic form, koljan, whence also cool. Hence, to cool a hot liquid by stirring; by extension, to cool the passions, make less violent or ardent, to mitigate, lessen; to cool down, to lessen, grow less; HOW A MERCHANDE DYD HYS WYFE BETRAY (1460) said: The marchandys care began to kele. William Shakespeare's song in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) runs While greasie Joane doth keele the pot. The HALI MEIDENHAD (1230) urges the man to kele thi lust, and a PENITENTIAL PSALM of 1508 sought to kele the hete of unlawful desyre. Thus in MERLIN (1450), The kynge yet was not keled of the love of the stiwardes wif.


A chapped chilblain, especially on the heel. Hence, to tread upon one's kibe, to annoy. William Shakespeare in HAMLET (1602) says: The toe of the pesant comes so neere the heeles of our courtier, hee galls his kibe. And the CONTEMPORARY REVIEW of June 1883 said of suicide: How closely this spectre follows on the kibes of pleasure and extravagance.


A whim or erratic fancy. Also kickie-wickie; kicksey-winsey, kicksy wincy, kickshiwinches; probably humorous variants of kickshaw, q.v. William Shakespeare uses the first two forms (according to the edition) in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601) , as a jocular term for a wife: He weares his honor in a boxe unseene That hugs his kicky-wicky heare at home, Spending his manly marrow in her arms, Which should sustain the bound and high curvet Of Mars's fiery steed.


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.


To catch in a net or snare; to variegate, streak with color (originally, from gold and silver lace) ; hence, to lash, whip (leaving streaks of the lash); to cut lines along the breast of a bird, for cooking -- laced fowl. Lace is via Old French from Late Latin laciare, Latin laqueare, to ensnare. Cp. laqueat. To lace coffee, from about 1675 to 1725, was to add sugar; Joseph Addison, in his satiric notes for A CITIZEN'S DIARY (SPECTATOR; 1711) wrote: Mr. Nisby of opinion that laced coffee is bad for the head. In most instances, a laced beverage is one to which a dash of brandy has been added. Laced mutton (sometimes just mutton), a strumpet, prostitute -- perhaps from wearing a bodice; or, with the waist drawn tight In William Shakespeare's THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (1591), Speed says of Julia: Aye, sir. I, a lost mutton, gave your letter to her, a, laced mutton, and she, a laced mutton, gave me, a lost mutton, nothing for my labour. Lost mutton, of course, suggests the more serious lost sheep, which would also include the laced mutton.


To make a hell on earth for. William Shakespeare thus uses it (unless the text be corrupt) in THE WINTER'S TALE (1611): You are abus'd, and by some putter on, That will be damn'd for't; would I knew the villaine, I would land-damne him.


As a noun. Physical strength; force, power. William Shakespeare in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (1606) : with all our main of power; frequent in the phrase used in the nursery rhyme of the man who had "scratched out both his eyes": "With all his might and main, he jumped into another bush And scratched them in again." Also, the chief part, main body (MERCHANT OF VENICE V. i. 97; HAMLET: against the main of Poland) . The main point, chief concern (HAMLET II. ii. 56) . The main-land (KING LEAR III. i. 6) . The ocean (KING JOHN II. i. 26; RICHARD III. iv. 20; OTHELLO II. i. 3, 39) . A broad expanse (SONNET 60: Nativity once in the maine of light Crawles to maturity) . The object aimed at, goal; John Webster in THE DUCHESS OF MALFI (1623) : Bosola: You say you would fain be taken for an eminent courtier? Castruccio: "Tis the very main of my ambition. In the 19th century, to turn on the main, to begin to weep copiously; from the main, the chief pipe, drain, or other duct for water. Thus Charles Dickens in THE PICKWICK PAPERS (1837) : Blessed if I don't think he's got a main in his head as is always turned on. Also main, short form of domain; mains (from the 16th century), a farm attached to a mansion house. In dice (the game of hazard) , main, maine, mayne: a number (from 5 to 9) called by the caster before he throws; if he 'throws in' or 'nicks' that number, he wins; if he 'throws out' aces, or deuce and ace ('crabs') he loses. If any other number, he keeps throwing until that number (his 'chance') comes again, when he wins, or his main comes, when he loses. This was a very common use of main, 15th to 19th century; it was extended to apply to a match at bowling, boxing, shooting, and to a main at cocks, cock-fight. A Welsh main (1770) starts with say, 16 pair of cocks; the 16 winners are matched, then the 8 winners, and so till one triumphs as in a tournament at tennis. Shakespeare uses main in the gaming sense, in HENRY VI, PART TWO and in HENRY IV, PART ONE: Were it good To set the exact wealth of all our states All at one castf To set so rich a main On the nice hazard of one doubtful hour?


(1) Without a husband. William Shakespeare in SONNET 9 (1598) says The world will waile thee, like a makelesse wife. From the year 1000, make as a noun meant match, mate, equal; the make, the like. Chaucer in THE COMPLAYNT OF MARS (1374) says: God gif every wyghte joy of his make! Hence (2) makeless, matchless, without equal. So used from the 13th into the 17th century, later in dialects. THE MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES (Buckingham; 1563) wrote of a makeles prynce in ryches and in myght.


A small quantity added to make up a certain weight; especially, in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, a small candle added to whatever is being sold, to make a pound. Hence, an insignificant person or thing, used to fill a gap or the like. Thus Paine in his COMMON SENSE (1776) said of America: By her dependence on Britain she is the make-weight in the scale of British politics. Anna Seward in a letter of 1793 said: It is no custom of William Shakespeare's to give us merely makeweight epithets. Hallam in his INTRODUCTION TO THE LITERATURE OF EUROPE (1839) derided an incestuous passion brought forward as the makeweight of a plot, to eke out a fifth act. In the 19th century, an extra slice of bread sometimes used to make up the legal weight of a loaf. It was a moment of deep pathos in LITTLE GERTY, THE LAMPLIGHTER'S DAUGHTER (1876) , when the hungry child confesses she has eaten the makeweight.


(1) A fool, a dupe. So used in the 16th and 17th centuries, perhaps from the bird (the bird martin, of the swallow family, and the animal, martin, marten, marton, survive) ; Fletcher in THE ISLAND PRINCESS (1621) remarked: We are all meere martins. (2) A monkey. From the name given the monkey in the story of REYNARD THE FOX. Also, martin-drunk; Nash in PIERCE PENNILESSE (1592) lists various kinds of drunkard, including lion-drunk; the sixt is martin drunke, when a man is drunke and drinkes himselfe sober ere he stirre. (3) From St. Martin; Martinmas, 11 November, martin chain, a chain of imitation gold, martin dry, a pear that ripens about Martinmas. St. Martin's evil, inebriety. St. Martin's rings, -stuff, -ware, imitation, counterfeit. St. Martin's summer, what in the United States is called Indian summer (as occurring about Martinmas); William Shakespeare uses this figuratively in HENRY VI, PART ONE: This night the siege assuredly Ile rayse: Expect St. Martins summer, halcyons dayes.


A bowl, a drinking cup; originally, one made of hard wood. Also, mazzard; mazer. Old High German masar, an excrescence of hardwood; a large knob (or knot) on a tree; later, a maple tree, a drinking cup of such wood. Both forms were used, by extension (from the shape) to mean the head; by William Shakespeare in OTHELLO (II iii) and in HAMLET (1602), of the skull: Chapless, and knockt about the mazard with a sextons spade. Ben Jonson in one of his court masques (1620) said, If I had not been a spirit, I had been mazarded.


Speaking sweetly. Latin mel, honey. More common were mellifluent, mellifluous, sweet as honey (mainly of the voice or speech) ; but also literally sweetened with or as with honey. William Shakespeare has, in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) A mellifluous voice, as I am true knight; Francis Meres in PALLADIS TAMIA (1598) hailed mellifluous and hony-tongued Shakespeare.


The Roman god (Greek Hermes) of traders and thieves, of eloquence and feats of skill; presider over roads; guide of the dead to their new abode; messenger of the gods, and mischiefmaker. Pictured as a young man with winged sandals and hat, holding the caduceus. Hence mercury, a signpost; also, a newspaper; a messenger, a bearer of news (William Shakespeare, RICHARD III, II i; 1594); a go-between, especially, in amatory instances (Shakespeare, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, II ii). Also a nimble live-by-his-wits; a dexterous thief (Ben Jonson, EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR, I ii; 1599). The planet nearest the sun. Cp. Diana. And used as an emblem of liveliness, wittiness, or inconstancy; wit. William Congreve in THE OLD BACHELOR (1693) said he was as able as yourself and as nimble too, though I mayn't have so much mercury in my limbs (probably with reference also to the element mercury, quicksilver, named after the volatile god). Horace Walpole in GEORGE II (1797) said: He had too much mercury and too little ill-nature to continue a periodical war.


This is a variant of malkin, a diminutive of Maud. Malkin became a general term of contempt, meaning a slattern; then it was applied to a mop or (in the navy) to a sponge on a stick, for cleaning cannon; also to a scarecrow or grotesque effigy. It was also used as a name for a witch (in William Shakespeare's MACBETH, 1605, Grimalkin, gray malkin), hence, for a cat. In the form merkin, a pussy, it was used for the female "pudendum" and also (15th to 18th century) for a wig or counterfeit hair for a woman's privy parts. Just as the small-pox (so common that, in the 18th century, servants were sought that had already recovered from the disease, hence could not contract it and infect their masters) disfigured the face, so the great pox often left traces farther down, which a merkin might mercifully mask.


A beloved, darling, favorite; a favorite child, servant or animal; a royal favorite. William Shakespeare, in HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) : A sonne . . . Who is sweet Fortune's minion, and her pride. In each of these senses the tone deteriorated, so that minion came to mean a mistress; a spoiled pet; one raised beyond desert by favor. The word was also used figuratively, as when John Day in PEREGRINATIO SCHOLASTICA (1640) smiled upon Violets, roses, and lillies, and like mineons and darlings of the spring. The word may be related to Old High German minnja, minna, love (as in the Minnesinger) or to Celtic min, small. Among its orthographic forms are minyon, mynion, mignyon, minnion. Minion was also an adjective, dainty, elegant; and a verb, to treat as a minion, to caress. Also minionize (1) to play the wanton, (2) to raise to the position of a favorite, to minionship. It is no wonder, exclaimed Bryce in THE AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH (1888), if he helps himself from the city treasury and allows his minions to do so. [Note that minion is also the Hebrew word for a quorum for prayer: ten males over 13 years old. Thus you can guess what happened when Principal Edward Kelly, in an elementary school in a Jewish neighborhood, rang his bell and with pedantic humor said to the responding monitor, Abraham Cohen: "Boy, fetch me a minion!"]


A simpleton. In Ben Jonson's THE DEVIL IS AN ASS (1616) : I have a husband . . . But such a moonling, as no wit of man Or roses can redeeme from being an asse. In spite of this scorn, moonling is a soft word for a witless one. Note that a moon-man (William Shakespeare, HENRY IV, PART ONE, 1597) is one that works by night; especially, a nightpad, robber.


A loose woman; see lace. William Shakespeare in MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1604) uses it in this and the literal sense, as Lucio abuses the Duke, accusing him in one phrase of lechery and impiety (eating meat of a Friday): The Duke, I say to thee again, would eat mutton on Fridays. He's not past it yet,, and 1 say to thee he would mouth with a beggar though she smelt brown bread and garlic. The word was frequent in 16th and 17th century pamphlets and plays; also muttanmonger; and in the 17th century there were muttontuggers at Oxford.


In addition to the old horse -- being driven into oblivion by the "tin Lizzie"' but once used as a term of abuse for a person, as when William Shakespeare in ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606 ) cries upon Yon ribaudred nagge of Egypt -- whom leprosy overtake! -- nag has the still current meaning, as a verb, to constantly scold, to keep up a dull gnawing pain. The original sense of this word was to gnaw, to strip off bark or covering; Its past participle was nakt, whence probably naked. See nake. John Taylor, The Water Poet, (WORKS; 1630) extended the equine nag to naggon: My verses are made To ride every jade, But they are forbidden Of jades to be ridden, They shall not be snaffled Nor braved nor baffled; Wert thou George with thy naggon That fought'st with the draggon, Or were you great Pompey My verse should bethump ye, If you, like a javel, Against me dare cavil.


(1) Refusal, saying nay. A late use, as in BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE of April 1898: There be no nayword from me. (2) A watchword, a password. Used into the 19th century; apparently first by (twice) in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598); see mumbudget. William Shakespeare also seems to use the word in the sense of a laughing-stock, a byword, as when Maria in TWELFTH NIGHT (1601) says of Malvolio: If I do not gull him into a nayword, and make him a common recreation, do not think I have wit enough to lie straight in my bed. Some editions print this as an ayword; wherefore THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE (1777) says that nayword meaning a byword is probably a crasis [combination] of an ayeword.


See eche. As a verb, nickname also is used to mean to misname (16th through 19th century; Samuel Taylor Coleridge in BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA, 1817; George Gordon Byron, in DON JUAN, 1824; William Shakespeare in HAMLET, 1602: You lisp, and nickname God's creatures; Percy Bysshe Shelley in QUEEN MAB, 1813: The fool whom courtiers nickname monarch) or to mention by mistake or to assert wrongly, as when in Shakespeare's LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) the King says: The virtue of your eye must break my oath and the Queen retorts: You nickname virtue: vice you should have spoke.


A standstill. Perhaps a humorous shortening of non compos mentis, not master of one's mind; perhaps a substitute for nonplus, the state of being nonplussed, at a loss. Used by William Shakespeare in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599): We will spare for no witte I warrant you: heere's that shall drive some of them to a noncome. The speaker is Constable Dogberry, whose command of words is distinctively dogberrial.


A game of dice in which the principal throws were nine and five. William Shakespeare mentions it in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) : Abate throw at novum, and the whole world againe Cannot pricke out five such.


A variant of uncle. Used since the 16th century; by William Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605). Also nunky.


(1) A wizard. Hebrew obh, a necromancer. (2) Short for obolus, a Roman coin; used in English of a halfpenny. Thus in William Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART ONE (1596) Pointz reads a list: Item, sack, two gallons . . . 5 s. 8d.; Item, anchovies and sack after supper ...2s. 6d.; Item, bread . . . ob. and Prince Hal cries: O monstrous! but one half-pennyworth of bread to this intolerable deal of sack! (3) In the phrase ob and sol, abbreviated in old books of divinity: objection and solution; therefore, subtle disputation. Robert Burton in THE ANATOMY OF MELANCHOLY (1621) Speaks of a thousand idle questions, nice distinctions, subtleties, obs and sols. An ob-and-soller is a subtle disputant, as in Samuel Butler's HUDIBRAS (1678): To pass for deep and learned scholars Although but paltry ob-and- sollers. (4) ob. Abbreviation of obiit, died; used in lists to indicate the date of a person's death. (5) ob-. The Latin preposition, used in many words as a prefix; also in many English (17th and 18th century, some earlier) words, as an intensive, or with the meaning, in the opposite direction. Thus (Chaucer) obombrid, clouded over. Among words thus formed in English are obacerate, to stop one's mouth, 'shut one up'; obambulate, to walk about; obcaecation, blindness (mental or moral) ; obdulcorate, to sweeten thoroughly; obnubilate, to hide or cover as with a cloud, used also of mental obfuscation; obreptitious, containing a falsehood for the sake of obtaining something, obreption, seeking something by deceit, from ob + repere, to creep. The converse of this is subreption, seeking something by suppressing the truth. [Obscene is from ob + scaena, stage, scene: not to be put on the stage, indecent.] Also obserate, to lock up; obstipate, to block or stop up, to stuff, to produce constipation (mental, moral, or physical) ; obstreperate, to make a loud noise -- Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1765) has: Thump -- thump -- obstreperated the abbess . . . with the end of her goldheaded cane against the bottom of the calash. Other forms of this word survive, e.g., obstreperous. Obstupefaction is an emphatic form of stupefaction. Obtemper, obtemperate (since the 15th century), to obey, comply. Obumber, to overshadow, obscure (Chaucer's obombrid) ; but obumbilate is probably a scribe's error for obnubilate; obumbrate, to overshadow; obvelate, to veil over, to conceal, also obvele. Obvolve, to wrap around, muffle up, disguise. (6) In the German phrase als ob, as if: the philosophic and aesthetic doctrine of Hans Vaihinger, formulated in 1878, the idea that things should be accepted 'as if' they were so.


Among the meanings at one time acquired by this common old word, from the notion of long practice and experience it came to mean experienced, skilled, as when Daniel Defoe said in COLONEL JACK (1722): The Germans were too old for us there. And from the notion of long continuance old came to mean abundant, plentiful, as in the quotation under Blowen, and when William Shakespeare has, in MACBETH (1606) : If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key. This sense also appears in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, and-- News! old news! -- THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. In KING LEAR, in Edgar's song on the heath, old is used for wold, forest, wooded downs; open country.


Ready to weep: readily weeping; with the eyes full of tears (as though watery from peeling onions). William Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) says: Looke they weepe, And I an asse, am onyon-ey'd.


Usually in the plural, orts, scraps left over from a meal, or fodder left by cattle; refuse leavings; hence as a term of contempt, to make orts of, to treat shabbily. William Shakespeare uses the word in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593), in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA; and in TIMON OF ATHENS: some slender ort of his remainder; George Eliot, in SILAS MARNER (1861): Their feasting caused a multiplication of orts, which were the heirloom of the poor. Used figuratively in the 17th century, as when would-be wags followed the nimble-tongued for the orts of wit that fell from their mouths.


Originally a name of the blackbird or the thrush; applied to a person of dark hair or complexion. Also ouzel, woosel. "And how doth . . . your fairest daughter and mine, my god-daughter Ellen?" asks Shallow in William Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597) and Silence replies: Alas, a black ouzel!


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 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.]


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


Property pilfered or stolen, booty; property; money, wealth. Thus William Shakespeare in the prologue to PERICLES (1608): All perishen, of man, of pelfe, Ne ought escapende but himselfe. This progression of meanings toward social acceptance altered, and the word came to mean money, disparagingly, "filthy lucre"; then trumpery, trash -- Gosson in PLEASANT QUIPS FOR UPSTART NEWFANGLED GENTLEWOMEN (1595) decries all this new pelfe now sold in shops, in value true not worth a louse.


An outer garment of skin dressed with the hair. Chaucer gives as a proverb (1390): After heet comethe colde, No man caste his pilchche away. Old English pylece, pelisse; see pell. Also pylche. The verb pilch meant to pick, pluck; hence, to pilfer, rob. Hence pilcher was widely used in the 17th century, as a term of abuse, as in Ben Jonson's THE POETASTER (1601): you mungrels, you curres . . . you inhumane pilchers! Pilcher was also used as a variant of pilch, and as meaning a scabbard -- this in William Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1592): Will you pluck your sword out of his pilcher by the ears?


(1) The penis. Pill and cock were used separately in this sense; pill also was figurative for testicle. The word cock took this meaning not directly from the barnyard animal, but from the watercock, supposedly representing a cock's head and comb the top of which suggested the penis. When Lear on the heath (William Shakespeare, KING LEAR, 1605) says: 'Twas this flesh begot Those pelican daughters, Edgar, disguised as a madman, sings the old song: Pillicock sat on Pillicock Hill, Halloo, halloo, loo, loo! [pelican, ungrateful, turning upon one's parents. The pelican mother supposedly fed her young on her own blood; the young thus gained strength, with which they tore her. Thus his daughters, with Lear.] (2) A term of endearment or compliment to a boy, like 'my pretty knave'; thus Thomas Urquhart in his translation (1653) of Rabelais cries: By my faith, I cannot tell, my pillicock, but thou art more worth than gold.


(1) A plan or map (16th century). (2) A piece of armour worn over the cuirass, or a leather jacket with steel strips. In this sense, also placcate, placard, plaquet. (3) A woman's petticoat; hence, a woman. Also, a pocket in a woman's skirt; but especially, the opening in a petticoat (to make it easy to take off) , hence used with sexual implications, as in William Shakespeare's KING LEAR (1605) : Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lender's books, and defy the foul fiend!


A tinker, a traveling mender of pots and pans; hence, a thief. A prigman (prygman, pridgeman) is one of the varieties of vagabond listed in the Elizabethan pamphlets; cp. pedlers French. Also a verb, to prig, to steal, to cheat. William Shakespeare in THE WINTER'S TALE (1611) tells us a man married a tinkers wife . . . and (having flowne over many knavish professions) he settled onely in rogue: some call him Autolycus. Clowne: Out upon him: prig, for my life, prig: he haunts wakes, faires, and beare-baitings.


A hand-mill; usually two circular stones, the upper one turned by hand. For grinding corn; also, pepper-quern, mustard-quern. From the 10th century; used by Chaucer (1374) and William Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1596) when a fairy queries Puck: Are you not he That frights the maidens of the villagery, Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern And bootless make the breathless housewife churn? Sylvester uses the mill as an image for the teeth, in his translation (1591) of Du Bartas: Two equail ranks of orient pearls . . . quernlike grinding small th' imperfect food. There was also a quern-chant, quern-song, song of the miller.


(1) A body of persons appointed to make an inquiry or inquest, a jury. William Shakespeare uses this figuratively, in SONNET 46 (1600): To side this title is impanelled A quest of thoughts, all tennant to the heart. Hence, from the number in such a quest, twelve. AN ALMOND FOR A PARRAT(1589): Ile have a spare fellowe shall make mee a whole quest of faces for three farthings. A questman, a member of a quest; questmonger (disreputable), one that made a business of serving on a quest or of conducting inquests. Quest was frequently used as a short form for inquest. (2) The side of an oven. A pie was quested when its side was crushed against the oven or another pie, or so pressed as to be less well baked.


One that is seeking, goes in quest of. William Shakespeare in KING LEAR (1605) tells that thirty of his knights, Hot questrists after him, met him at gate.


(1) The essence of a thing. Formed with the ending -ity from quid (Latin, what), used also in English, meaning that which a thing is. (2) A thingiIntangible or nameless. (3) A subtlety in argument; subtlety in wit. The third meaning sprang from the frequency of scholastic arguments on the quiddity (essence) of things. Also quiddit and, by alteration, quillity and quillet. William Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) speaks of some tricks, some quillets, how to cheat the divell. Also Thomas Urquhart has, in his translation (1653) of Rabelais: One of them would call it . . . her staffe of love, her quillety. Still another variant appeared in Guilpin's SKIALETHEIA (1598): Then whats a wench but a quirke, quidlit case, Which makes a painters pallat of her face? A line in W. S. Gilbert's PATIENCE (1881) runs: To stuff his conversation full of quibble and of quiddity. Also quiddative, quidditative, pertaining to the essence of a thing; full of equivocations; quirky.


(1) A tilting post. Common in medieval knightly training, in 17th and 18th century country sports at weddings. Described in William Toone's GLOSSARY (1834): "An upright post was fixed to the ground, having at the top a movable figure of a man, holding a shield . . . and at the other end a heavy sand bag; the player rode or run at full speed and attempted to strike the figure, which, if not done dexterously, he was struck and overthrown by a blow from the sandbag." Toone suggests that the word is from British gwyntyn, a vane. The O.E.D. traces it to Latin quintus, fifth, the grounds of the fifth division of the Roman legion being used for military exercises. Also quintayne, qwaintan, quyntyne, quinten, quintan, and the like. Also quintal, quintel, quintil. William Shakespeare, in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) says: That which here stands up Is but a quintine, a meere liveless blocke. (2) A variant of quentin or quintin (St. Quentin in Picardy; Quintin, in Brittany, France) a kind of linen or lawn. (3) A stanza of five lines, usually called a cinquain.


Former; that used to be. Directly from the Latin; in the 16th century, also condam. Often used in the 16th century, as by Hugh Latimer in his FOURTH SERMON BEFORE KING EDWARD VI (1549): Make them quondammes, out with them, cast them out of ther office! Hence quondamship, the condition of being out of office (also in Latimer's FOURTH SERMON). William Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) says: I did converse this quondam day with a companion of the kings. Ruskin in FORS CLAVIGERA (1874) sighed over the loquacious and speculative disposition . . . of all my quondam friends.


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.


To seize, to snatch; to carry off. An early (16th and 17th century) form of rape, q.v.; frequent in the phrase rap and rend. Also, to transport with joy, to rouse to rapture; apparently given this sense by back-formation from rapt. William Shakespeare in CYMBELINE (1609) inquires: What . . . thus raps you?


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).


Smoky; dirty, squalid. Related to reek. Used from the 15th century; surviving in dialect. William Shakespeare uses it in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599): Like Pharaoes souldiours in the rechie painting and in CORIOLANUS: The kitchin malkin pinnes Her richest lockram 'bout her reechie necke. Note that, in the early uses of reek there were often no disagreeable implications; it means rising like mist in Shakespeare's HENRY V, in reference to the valiant English that may die in France: For there the sun shall greet them, And draw their honours reeking up to heaven; SONNET 130, which claims the poet's love as rare As any she belied with false compare, speaks of the breath that from my mistress reeks.


To kindle again. Also relumine; short for reillumine. Hence, relumination. Lumination has been superseded by illumination. Latin luminare, luminatum; lumen, luminem, light. William Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) declares: I know not where is that Promethean heate That can thy light relume. Often used figuratively, as in Campbell's THE PLEASURES OF HOPE (1799): Lo, nature, life, and liberty relume The dim-eyed tenant of the dungeon gloom.


Originally, an epic poem; especially, a book of the ILIAD or the ODYSSEY, which could be presented aloud at one time. In the 16th century, rhapsody came also to mean a miscellaneous collection, a confused gathering of things, or of poems, stories, etc.; a literary work of disconnected pieces; hence, any gathering, as when Sanderson in a sermon of 1647 spoke of a cento and a rhapsody of uncircumcised nations. William Shakespeare in HAMLET (1601) speaks of a rapsidie of words. Joseph Addison in THE SPECTATOR (No. 46; 1711) remarked: Thot would look like a rhapsody of nonsense to any body but myself. The still current sense, of an exalted or exaggeratedly enthusiastic expression of feeling, came into wide use in the 18th century.


Wanton, licentious. One meaning of rig (from the late 16th century) is a wanton woman; also rigmutton; cp. lace. Nay fy on thee thou rampe, thou ryg, we read in GAMMER GURTON'S NEEDLE (1575). William Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) has the Egyptian queen praised: For vildest things Become themselves [are seemly] in her, that the holy priests Bless her, when she is riggish. Also riggite, a mocker, one that makes game of others. Benjamin Franklin in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1788) says: My being esteemed a pretty good riggite, that is a Jocular verbal satirist, supported my consequence in the society.


A ring or circle. French rigole, water-course; hence gutter, groove. Also riggal, regal. William Shakespeare in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593) says: About the mourning and congealed face Of that blacke bloud, a watrie rigoll goes, Which seems to weep upon the tainted place.


A membrane. (This is a different word from rim, edge, border.) Thus rim-side, the flesh-side of a skin. Also, short for rim of the belly, the peritoneum. In the 16th century, rim-burst, rymbirst, rumbursin, a rupture. William Shakespeare in HENRY V (1599) says: I will fetch thy rymme out at thy throat, in droppes of crimson blood.


An earlier form of rummage, q.v. William Shakespeare has, in HAMLET (1601): This, I take it, is . . . the chief head Of this post-hast and romage in the land.


Trickery, knavery. In William Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1592) the Nurse inquires: I pray you sir, what sawcie merchant was this that was so full of his roperie? In Fletcher's play THE CHANCES (1620) ropery in the first edition is replaced in the second folio by roguery.


(1) A musical instrument: a bass trumpet with a slide (like that of a trombone); used 15th to 18th century. Elyot in THE CASTEL OF HELTH (1533) recommends that the entrayles . . . be exercised by blowyng, eyther by constraint, or playeng on shaulmes, or sackbottes. The Geneva BIBLE (1560; DANIEL) translates Aramaic sabbka as sackbut; so also the King James (1611) and the Revised (1885) versions; the correct translation is sambuca (q.v.) as in the Septuagint and the Vulgate (Greek sambuke) versions. Also sagbut, sagbout, shagbush, sackbutt. With the same variety of forms, in the 17th century: (2) a butt of sack. A butt was a large cask (Late Latin butta, wineskin) , of varying size; in the 15th century, 36 gallons; later, 108 to 140 gallons. Usually 108 gallons of ale, 126 of wine, William Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) has: I escaped upon a but of sacke, which the saylors heaved o'reboord. Sack is a white wine, dry (French vin sec, dry wine) . The two meanings were punned upon by playwrights, as in Fletcher's RULE A WIFE AND HAVE A WIFE (1624): I' th' celler . . . he will make dainty music among the sackbutts.


An early form of signet, sign, token, signal. Also, a set of notes on trumpet or cornet, as a signal, in Elizabethan stage-directions, Christopher Marlowe (FAUST; 1590): sonnet; William Shakespeare (HENRY VI, PART THREE; 1590) ; senet, (HENRY VIII): sennet, Dekker, sennate; John Marston, synnet, signate.


A pretender. Thus William Shakespeare has in KING LEAR (1606) a simular of virtue. He also uses it, in CYMBELINE, as an adjective, meaning having the appearance of: with simular proof enough.


A filament of silk, obtained by separating the strands of a thicker thread. Hence, floss-silk. Also sleeve. Also to sleave, to divide silk; to separate, split, tear apart. Akin to slive, to split, divide; cut apart -- whence, sliver. This verb was also used in the variants (past tense, sleaved) sleided, sleded; by William Shakespeare in THE LOVER'S COMPLAINT (1597) and in PERICLES: When they weavde the sleded silke With fingers long, small, white as milke. Also to slive, to put on; to slide, slip, slip away; to loiter or to slip away. Shakespeare in MACBETH (1605) utters a heart-felt cry for sleepe that knits up the ravel'd sleeve of Care.


A light and little smile. Also smylet. Fraunce in COUNTESS PEMBROKE'S IVYCHURCH (1592) wrote that he knew her face to be framing Now with a smylet's allure, and now to repell with a frowning. William Shakespeare, in KING LEAR (1605) speaks of those happy smilets That play'd on her ripe lip.


Truth. Common from the 8th to the 17th century; used later in poetry and in phrases in sooth, my sooth, by my sooth, good sooth, sooth to say. William Shakespeare in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1590) exclaims: Good troth you do me wrong -- good sooth you do. Also, the certainty of a matter; soothsaying, prognostication. By extension, flattery; smooth or plausible talk. Thus Shakespeare in RICHARD II (1593): That ere this tongue of mine, that layd the sentence of dread banishment On yon proud man, should take it off again With words of sooth. This use comes by association with soothe; cp. soother. Sooth also formed many compounds: cp. forsooth; soothhead, truth; soothtell, prophecy; soothfast, truthful, faithful, loyal; soothness, soothfastness; soothful, truthful; soothless, untruthful, false.


Suitability, correspondence. Also sortable, accordant, suitable. Apparently sortance has been used only by William Shakespeare, in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597): Here doth hee wish his person, with such powers As might hold sortance with his qualitie.


I. As a verb -- beyond the current senses of to lull, calm, stop -- was a short form of distil (from which the noun, a still, widely survives) . This first meant (14th century) to trickle down, fall in drops; thence, to extract the juice or essence of. Its most famous use is in that great sentence of Christopher Marlowe's TAMBURLAINE (1587): If all the pens that ever poets held Had fed the feeling of their maisters thoughts, And every sweetnes that inspir'd their harts,, Their minds, and muses on admyred theames; If all the heavenly quintessence they still From their immortall flowers of poesy, Wherein as in a myrrour we perceive The highest reaches of a humaine wit: If these had made one poems period And all combin'd in beauties worthiness, Yet should ther hover in their restless heads, One thought, one grace, one wonder at the least, Which into words no vertue can digest. II. As an adverb: always, invariably. So used from the 13th century. Thus still still, on every occasion, still as, whenever, still and anon, still an end, every so often; William Shakespeare in THE TWO GENTLEMEN FROM VERONA (1591) speaks of A slave that still an end turnes me to shame. Sir John Harington in his MOST ELEGANT AND WITTIE EPIGRAMS (1618) advised: Lay down your stake at play, lay down your passion: A greedy gamester still hath some mishap. To chafe at luck proceeds of foolish fashion. No man throws still the dice in fortunes lap. For another instance, see stith.


Over-ridden; worn out (of a horse) . Used by William Shakespeare in HENRY V (1599): A drench for sur-reyn'd jades.


A drum. Related to Persian tabirah and taburak, both meaning drum; possibly to Arabic tanbur, a kind of lyre. Also tabour, taborn, tabron, tabberone, tawberne, talburn, tawbron, and more. When the word drum was introduced, in the 16th century, tabor was used of a small drum. A taborin was one less wide but longer than the tabor, played with one drumstick, while the other hand manipulated a flute or fife. A tabret (taberett, tabberet, tabarde, tabouret) was also a small tabor, a timbrel (q.v.). Some of the Romance languages have the same word with an m; whence also, English tambour, drum, especially the large bass drum (also, a kind of embroidery or needlework made with the material stretched as on a drum-head). A tamboura was an oriental instrument of the lute family. A tamborin, tambourin, was a long narrow drum, especially of a type used in Provence. The French tambour de basque, on the other hand, is English tambourine, made familiar by the Salvation Army. From its drum-shape the low stool called tabouret drew its name; privilege (honour) of the tabouret, permission for a lady to sit in the Queen's presence. The tabor might also be the drummer, usually the taborer. William Shakespeare in THE TEMPEST (1610) tells: Then I beat my tabor, At which like unbackt colts they prickt their eares.


An old form of tercel, q.v. The tercel-gentle was the male of the peregrine falcon -- used figuratively of a noble gentleman. In William Shakespeare's ROMEO AND JULIET (1595), Romeo has just left the orchard beneath Juliet's window -- He jests at scars that never felt a wound. But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun! -- after their first wooing, when Juliet calls: Hist, Romeo, hist! -- Oh, for a falconer's voice, To lure this tassel-gentle back again!


Pertaining to monsters or prodigies. Cp. teratoscopy. Greek terata, marvels, which is also used in English of monstrous births. Hence also teratism, love of the marvellous or the prodigious. teramorphous, monstrous in appearance or form. Wollaston, in THE RELIGION OF NATURE DELINEATED (1722) pictures Herodotus, possibly delighting in teratical stories. Many playwrights picture a teratical aspect of nature on the brink of dire human events (as William Shakespeare, before Julius Caesar's assassination).


A variant of thrid, thread. The original form of third, the numeral, was also thrid; Gothic thridja; Latin tertius but Greek tritos; Sanskrit trtiyas.William Shakespeare may have meant thread, a constituent fibre, in THE TEMPEST (1611) when Prospero, accepting Ferdinand as betrothed to his daughter Miranda, says: I have given you here a third of my own life, Or that for which I live. In OTHELLO, Desdemona is called the half of her father Brabantio's soul; Prospero would hardly be setting much price on Miranda if we interpret third as the numeral.


A town constable. Also thridborrow, tharborough, thredbearer. Probably a corruption of Middle English fridborgh, frithborh, peace-pledge, peacesurety. The English, having lost the sense, formed various corruptions; the earliest printing of William Shakespeare's TAMING OF THE SHREW (the Induction; 1586) says headborough. The tavern hostess speaks: I know my remedy. I must go fetch the thirdborough. Drunken Sly responds: Third, fourth, or fift borough, lie answere him by law -- and falls asleep. In LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST: I myselfe reprehend his owne person, for I am his graces tharborough.


Used in the 17th century (again in the 19th); opposed to thatness, which is the quality of being something other than this. This had various forms: thissen, thisne (used by Bottom in William Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM; 1596), in this manner. Also thiskin, on thiskin wise, this gate, thishow (after somehow) this wise, on this wise, in this manner, thus. this half, a-this-half, on this side, thislike, like this, in this way. this while, this whiles, during this time, meanwhile.


One who is held in bondage; a slave, a captive. Also used to mean the condition of a thrall, thraldom, thralship; and as an adjective: We now are captives that made others thrall; and as a verb, to thrall, to enslave, cp. thirl. By the 17th century, the verb was largely replaced by enthrall, mainly with figurative application. Thrall was used both literally (often, thrall of Satan) and figuratively. Chaucer in THE ROMAUNT OF THE ROSE (1366) says The God of Love . . . can wel these lordis thrallen. William Shakespeare refers to the King's guards, in MACBETH (1605) , as slaves of drink, and thralles of sleepe.


Bragging; vainglorious. Also thrasonic. A thraso, a thrasonist, a swaggerer, a boaster. In Terence's play THE EUNUCH (161 B.C.) the miles gloriosus, the braggart soldier, is named Thraso (Greek thrasys, spirited). The popularity of the play in Tudor England brought the name into common use; cp. gnathonical. Hence also thrasonism, braggart behavior; to thrasonize, to play the daredevil, to brag. William Shakespeare in AS YOU LIKE IT (1600) mentions that Caesars thrasonical bragge of I came, saw, and overcame.


With the loops of the pile-warp (that forms the nap -- of carpetry, or velvet) formed of three threads, hence producing a trebly thick pile, of the finest quality. Hence, three-piled, of the highest quality; exquisite; by deterioration, overfine, extreme. Elizabeth Barrett Browning in NATURE'S REMORSES (1861) has: On three-piled carpet of compliments. William Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) speaks of the courtier's Taffata phrases, silken tearmes precise, Three-pil'd hyperboles, spruce affectation.


A song of lamentation. Also threnode, threnody (Greek ode, song); threnos. Greek threnos, lament William Shakespeare uses the form threnos as a heading, in THE PHOENIX AND THE TURTLE (1601); in the body of the poem he uses threne. Stedman, in his VICTORIAN POETS (1876) calls Arnold's THYRSIS the best threnode since Shelley's ADONAIS; later he calls Tennyson's IN MEMORIAM the great threnody of our language. Other great ones are John Milton's LYCIDAS and Swinburne's AVE ATQUE VALE, in memory of Baudelaire.


Originally, though rarely in English, short for Epiphany, the Twelfth Day (January 6) -- as in William Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT. Tiffany is really short (there were some forty variant forms in Old French) for Theophany, the manifestation of God. From the meaning of manifestation, revealing, the word was given English use as tiffany, short for tiffany silk, which cloths, said Holland in his translation (1601) of Pliny, 'instead of apparell to cover and hide, shew women naked through them.' Thus also Evelyn in his DIARY for June 1645: shewing their naked arms through false sleeves of tiffany. Hence, an article made of tiffany, such as a head-dress. Also used figuratively, as in Richard Franck's NORTHERN MEMOIRS (1658): It's a tiffany plot; any man with half an eye may easily see through it.


A knife or other cutting instrument (14th to 16th century). A flat piece of wood (later, also metal or earthenware) usually square or circular, on which meat was cut and served. The word is via Old French and popular Latin from Latin truncare, truncatum, to cut, lop off; truncus, the trunk of a tree. The word trench (from the 15th century) meant to cut; to cut into (William Shakespeare, THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, 1591: This weake impress of love is as a figure Trench'd in ice) ; to make (a cut) in (Shakespeare, VENUS AND ADONIS, 1592: The wide wound, that the boar had trencht In his soft flank) . To lick the trencher (of someone) , to toady. A trencher-beard is large and flat; trencher-art, that of the gourmet -- or the glutton. trencher-critic, one who speaks fulsome praise (in return for which, he is made full at the table), trencher-hero, one valiant at the festive board; Peter Pindar, in THE CHURCHWARDEN (1792): The trencher-heroes hate All obstacles that keep them from the plate; also trencher-knight (Shakespeare, LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST); and, in more democratic wise, trencher-labourer, and ultimately, trencher-slave. A trencher-cap (18th and early 19th century) was later called a mortar-board: the flat, square academic cap. trencher-fly, a parasite; also, trencher-friend. A trencher-man, in Philip Sidney's ARCADIA (1586) was a cook; in Thackeray's PENDENNIS (1849), a dependent, hanger-on; usually it meant (with measure of admiration) a hearty eater, as in Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: He's a very valiant trencher-man,, he hath an excellent stomach.


(1) Faith, belief; pledged faith, covenant; fancy, supposition. (2) A boat or barge, a variant of trough. (3) Toll, trewage, q.v. (4) A variant of troll, a malevolent spirit; especially, the sea-trow. To trow is to trust, believe; the noun is troth, q.v. Hence trowable, credible. For trowandise, see truandise. The expression I trow, I believe, grew weak, and was often used to mean I suppose (I hope) , or just to emphasize a question, as in William Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1598): Who's there, I troa?


One that goes everywhere. The ANNUAL REGISTER of 1767 remarked: The English being by their nature ubiquartans. Latin ubi, place; ubique, everywhere. As an adjective, ubiquarian, that goes everywhere or is experienced or encountered everywhere: the ubiquarian house sparrow. Also, ubication, the fact of being in a place; ubiation, being in a (new) place. From 1600 to 1750 ubi was frequently used in English, meaning place, location; Sir Kenelm Digby in his treatise on THE NATURE OF BODIES (1644) stated: It is but, assigning an ubi to such a spirit and he is presently [immediately] riveted to what place you please; and by multiplying the ubies . . . Hence, ubiety, condition with respect to place; thus Bailey in THE MYSTIC (1855) spoke of magic haschisch, which endows thought with ubiety. William Shakespeare used other powers to give to airy nothings ubiety a local habitation and a name.


Also unnaneld, unanneald, unanealed. See Anele. Sterne in TRISTRAM SHANDY (1759) tells: Obadiah had him led in as he was, unwiped, unappointed, unannealed. For William Shakespeare's use in HAMLET, which Sterne and most later users echo, see housel. [Unaneled, not anointed, is not to be confused with unannealed, the negative from anneal, to enamel or to burn colors into glass, earthenware, or metal. This is also spelled aneal; the forms but not the senses of the two words overlap.]


To remove the stigma of cuckoldry, to unhorn. J, Moore in ZELUCO (1789) remarked, with perspicacity and probably regret: I never yet heard of any method by which a man can be uncuckolded. Also, uncuckolded, not yet horned. William Shakespeare laments, in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): It is a deadly sorrow, to beholde a foule knave uncuckolded.


Unploughed. From ear, to plough, of the same root as Greek aroein, Latin arare, to plough, till, whence English arable. William Shakespeare's 2d SONNET asks: For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? The poem is urging young Southampton to marry; there is a pun in husbandry.


Undressed; in deshabille. Also, to unready, to undress. Developed in the 16th century as the converse of to ready, to dress. In William Shakespeare's HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591), when the French leape ore the walles in their shirts, they are hailed: How now, my lords! What, all unreadie so? Puttenham in THE ARTE OF ENGLISH POESIE (1589) tells of a young gentlewoman who was in her chamber, making herself unready.


Deprived of virility; without seminal power. Used by William Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606): Tis well for thee, That being unseminar'd, thy freer thoughts May not flye forth of Egypt. Cleopatra is talking to her eunuch, while she is aquiver for Antony in Rome.


(1) A variant of ford (wade?) , a shallow place in a river. (2) An early form of fade, quite frequent from 1500 to 1650. William Shakespeare, in RICHARD II (1593) declares: One flourishing branch of his most royall roote . . . Is hackt downe, and his summer leafes all vaded. Latin vadere, to go, whence also invade, evade, and also (3) vade, to go away, depart. Richard Brathwait in BARNABEES JOURNAL (1638) warns: Beauty feedeth, beauty fadeth; Beauty lost, her lover vadeth. Hence also, vading, transitory, fleeting, passing away. Vadosity, the state of being fordable (17th century).


Used by William Shakespeare in TIMON OF ATHENS (1607): This it is That makes the wappen'd widdow wed againe. The meaning can only be guessed; some have suggested the word is a corruption of wappered, worn-out, but that hardly fits the sense. Among the meanings of the word wap are to throw, to envelop; these may afford suggestions.


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.


A girl, young woman; a maid-servant; used as a familiar term to a sweetheart, wife, daughter, trusted maid-servant; a disreputable or wanton woman, a mistress, a prostitute. Also weynche, winch. From the 9th to the 14th century, wenchel (wencel, wince] , a child (of either sex); a slave, a servant; a common woman. To wench, to wench out (time), to frequent prostitutes. William Shakespeare uses the forms often: the wenching rogues (TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, 1606); beeing too wenchlesse (PERICLES); and (CYMBELINE) Do not play in wench-like words with that Which is so serious.


(1) A smoker of tobacco; usually contemptuous. Used from the 17th to the 19th century; so also (2) a trifler; an insignificant -- or a shifty and evasive -- person. In LADY ALIMONY (1659) we read: Such whifflers are below my scorn, and beneath my spite. (3) One of a body of advance guards, armed with javelin, battle-ax, sword, or staff, and wearing a chain, whose duty it is to keep the way clear for a procession or public spectacle. Since the 16th century; continued well into the 19th, when they were replaced by regular soldiers, constabulary, or police. By extension, a swaggerer, a bully. The earlier spelling was wiffler, wifler, from wifle, a javelin; Sanskrit vip, shaft of an arrow, rod; Indo-European wip, to wave, shake. Joseph Addisonin THE SPECTATOR (No. 536; 1712) said: Our fine young ladies . . . retain in their service . . . as great a number as they can of supernumerary fellows, which they use like whifflers. William Shakespeare uses the word figuratively, in HENRY V (1599): The deep-mouth'd sea, Which like a mighty whiffler 'fore the king. Seems to prepare his way.


A boy educated along with a young noble, and flogged whenever the princeling did something adjudged to merit flogging, or roused his tutor's ire. Bishop Gilbert Burnet in his HISTORY OF HIS OWN TIME (1715) mentioned William Murray of the bed-chamber, that had been whipping-boy to King Charles the First. William Shakespeare uses whipping- cheer to mean 'a banquet of lashes' in HENRY IV, PART TWO (1598); the Beadle that has arrested Doll Tearsheet says: The constables have delivered her over to me, and she shall have whipping cheer enough, I warrant her. Convicted whores were then publicly whipped, often on a whipping-bench or in the whipping-stocks, or tied to the whipping-pole (-post). It is no wonder that Doll and Hostess Quickly vehemently protest.


A term of reproach, with various shades of meaning: a lively, violent fellow (such as might swing a mean whip); a lascivious or licentious one. William Shakespeare used the term of an insignificant, contemptible fellow, and others (as Charles Dickens, Thackeray, Stevenson) have followed him -- OTHELLO (1604): I am not valiant neither: But every punie whipster gets my sword. Also whipstart; largely replaced, in the last sense, by whippersnapper.


Company of whores. Also whorism, whoredom. Hardy, in TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES (1891) has: If I had known you was of that sort, I wouldn't have so let myself down as to come with such a whorage as this is! From the root of whore, Indo-European qar-, came also Latin carus, dear; Old Irish cara, friend, caraim, I love. Until the 16th century, it was spelled without the w: hore, hoor, howre, heore, and more. William Shakespeare uses whoremasterly to mean lecherous, in TROILUS AND CRESSiDA (1606): That Greekish whoremaisterly villaine. The defiance in JULIUS CAESAR -- The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings -- becomes ironic observation in KING LEAR: An admirable evasion of whoremaster-man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star.


I. As a noun. A living being; then, a preternatural or unearthly being; then, a human being, gradually with pity or contempt implied. Also used of inanimate things personified, as by Chaucer in his poem (1399) To yow, my purse, and to noon other wight Complayn I, for ye be my lady dere. Aught and naught are derived from awiht, e'er a wight and nawiht, ne'er a wight. The form was common from the 8th century. William Shakespeare in OTHELLO (1604) has: She was a wight (if ever such wights were) . . . To suckle fooles, and chronicle small beer. II. As an adjective. Strong, valiant; powerful, mighty; violent, of powerful effect; powerful to resist force, strongly built; agile, nimble, swift. Used until the 16th century, by Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST; revived by Scott, as in THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL (1805): Mount thee on the wightest steed. Also wightlayke, whitling, a brave man, a warrior.


A variant form of will The faculty of conscious and intentional action; the power or exercise of deliberate choice in action. Often in the expression free will, but without freedom will is, in this sense, an empty word. Freud and modern mechanism have done much to discredit the power, and indeed the very notion, of the will; free-wilier (a believer in the will) is a term of contempt. Sir Philip Sidney in THE DEFENCE OF POESIE (1595) made a shrewd distinction between man's erected wit, which enables him to envision the perfect way, and his infected wil, which cannot attain it: our reason suffices, but our combersome servant passion too often proves not servant but master of our will. So true is this, that will came even to mean lust, carnal desire, as in William Shakespeare's THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (1593): 'My will is strong, past reason's weak removing . . . Thus graceless holds he disputation 'Tweene frozen conscience and hot-burning will. Will might be viewed as life's helmsman; reason sets the course; but emotion turns askew the eyes bent on the chart, jiggles the magnetic needle, and sweeps up a storm that leaves the helmsman helpless at the wheel. Rare is the man who is master of helmsmanship . . . Only the minister and the lawyer now have great concern for the will.

Winchester goose

A venereal swelling. The public brothels of the late 16th and early 17th century, at Bankside in Southwark, were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester. William Shakespeare uses the term in HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591) and alludes to it in TROILUS AND CRESSIDA: It should be now, but that my fear is this, Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss. Hence, also, a prostitute; THE ENGLISH GAZETTEER of 1778 records in its discussion of Southwark: In the times of popery here were no less than 18 houses on the Bankside, licensed by the Bishops of Winchester to keep whores, who were, therefore, commonly called Winchester geese. Sometimes, in both senses, the term was shortened to goose.


In addition to the contrivance familiar for weighing anchor on a ship, windlass (16th and 17th centuries) was a variant of wanlace, q.v. Also winless, windlace, windelase, windlatch; and used as a verb: to windlass, to act craftily; to decoy, ensnare. My young mind, said Philip Sidney in ASTROPHEL AND STELLA (1586), whom love doth windlas so. To fetch a windlass, to circle round. Hence windlass, a roundabout course of action, a crafty device. Hamlet, in William Shakespeare's play (1602) declares: And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, With windlasses and with assays of bias, By indirections find directions out.


One that makes witty or caustic remarks, as though snapping a whip of words. Also, witcracker; more mildly, witwright. William Shakespeare in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1599) says: A colledge of witte-crackers cannot flout mee out of my humour; dost thou think I care for a satyre or an epigram? -- and in the MERCHANT OF VENICE exclaims: What a witte-snapper are you!


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.


(1) Old present tense of wit, q.v. (2) Short for Wilt thou? Used by William Shakespeare in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and HAMLET (1602), where Hamlet cries to Laertes, in Ophelia's grave: Woot weep? Woot fight? Woot fast? Woot tear thyself? Woot drink up eisel? Eat a crocodile? I'll do't . . . Be buried quick with her, and so will I.


A plant (artemisia absinthium) , proverbial for its bitter taste. The name is altered from the earlier wermod; the French form gives us vermouth, the liquor made by steeping wormwood in white wine. (So, for that matter, was absinthe.) The word is used as a symbol of bitter and grievous things, as when William Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) wants To weed this wormwood from your fruitfull braine. Wormwood also was used for its medicinal and magical virtues. Wormwood roots under your pillow brought your lover to you in your dreams -- true dreams, issuing from the unpretentious gate of horn, not the illusory dreams from the falsely alluring gate of ivory. A Dian's bud (cp. Diana), wormwood cured one of the madness of love; indeed, wood, q.v., was an early word for mad; wormwood: it cleared your body of worms and your mind of maggots.


Wrinkled. As though from a frequentative form of writhe. William Shakespeare in HENRY VI, PART ONE (1591) has the French Countess exclaim in scorn, when first she sees Lord Talbot: It cannot be this weak and writhled shrimp Should strike such terror to his enemies. She soon discovers her mistake.


Distress; disaster. A variant of ruth, q.v. Also wroth (not to be confused with wroth, great anger, earlier wrethe, and in the 17th century replaced by wrath. Wroth as an adjective, very angry, wrathful, has lasted longer. These words are from the same source as writhe). William Shakespeare in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (1596) has Aragon, after choosing the wrong casket, say: Sweet, adieu. lie keepe my oath, Patiently to bear my wroath.


The still current yard meaning enclosure is Old Saxon gard (whence also garden) , as in vineyard and orchard; Latin hortus, garden; related to court. There was another yard, probably related to Latin hasta, spear, meaning a stick, a slender shoot of a tree. This survives in sailyard, and the reduplicating yardstick. Other senses this yard had include: a twig; hence, a trifle, a thing of no value. A means of punishment; hence, punishment, the rod. From the use of a rod in measuring land, a yard, an area of a quarter of an acre; a measure of length: (9th to 15th century) 16 1/2 feet; (14th century and now standard) 3 feet. By optimistic transfer, the phallus (as also Latin virga, rod); William Shakespeare in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST (1588) has one of his frequent puns: Armado: I do adore thy sweet Grace's slipper. Boyet (aside to Dumain): Loves her by the foot. Dumain (aside to Boyet): He may not by the yard.


Ready, prepared. Also as an adverb, quickly, nimbly. The adverb was sometimes used as an exclamation, as in William Shakespeare's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA (1606) and THE TEMPEST, or (full yare) as a rhyming tag -- thus in the ballad of GUY WARWICK (1400): And wyth hys fyst he smote me sore: Sythen he flew awey full yore. The adjective was common from BEOWULF into the 19th century, especially as a sea term, meaning responding readily to the helm, easily manageable; thus Shakespeare (also in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA): Their shippes are yare, yours heavy.


(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.


A variant of yeasty, in the sense of frothy, insubstantial; or foamy, like troubled waters. William Shakespeare uses it in HAMLET (V ii 199) and in MACBETH 1605): Though the yesty waves Confound and swallow navigation up.


A euphemistic shortening of By God's wounds, as a mild oath. Also zwounds; zoones, zauns, zownds, zons, dzowns. William Shakespeare exclaimed in KING JOHN (1623) -- and the present reader well may echo him: Zounds, I was never so bethumpt with words!
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