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.


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.


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.


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 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 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.


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. William Shakespeare (1828, THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH) renewed the use of this form, after CenErr6839'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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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?


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?


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


(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.


(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.


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.


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 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.


(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.


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.


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!


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.


(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.


(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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


(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.


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.


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 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.


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.

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.


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!


(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.


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.


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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