A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
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(1) A member of the Sabian race, who in ancient Italy occupied the central region of the Appenines; near the valley-folk, the Hernici, beyond whom on the next range of hills were the Volscians. Used in English especially in reference to the proverb Sabini quod volunt somniant, the Sabines dream what they will. (This by anticipation winks at Freud.) Holland used the idea figuratively, when in 1610 he spoke of the town Grimsby, which our Sabins, following their own fancies, will have to be so called of one Grime a merchant. (2) As an adjective, especially in the phrase Sabine farm, a gentleman's (recreational) farm, a pleasant retreat in the country. Cp. pentice. This is from the praises sung to his Sabine farm by the poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.), who received from the wealthy Maecenas the gift of a villa in the Sabine Hills. And there were, still earlier, the ravished Sabine women who gave sons to the founders of Rome.


(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.


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


The early uses of this word were quite different from its present sense of sorrowful, which first appeared in the late 14th century. The earliest meaning of sad, from the 10th century, was sated, full, weary (of): sad of his company. It is a common Teutonic word, Old Irish satlech, satiated, akin to Latin satis, enough; satisfied. By the early 14th century, other senses had developed: (1) Firm, strong; valiant; steadfast. Thus when Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590; III, 11) speaks of sad lovers he means constant ones. John Milton in PARADISE LOST (1667) says: Settl'd in his face I see Sad resolution and secure. Fabyan in his CRONYCLE (1516) told the story of Prince Hal (which Shakespeare presents in HENRY IV); but when the Prince became Henry V, Fabyan continued, sodainly he became a new man and tourned all that rage and wyldnes into sob ernes and sadnes and the vyce into constant vertue. Of things, sad meant firmly fixed; heavy (applied also to a blow, a sad stroke; to bread that hasn't risen properly; to a heavy rain and a fierce fire); dark in color; compact; solid (also as opposed to liquid; Wyclif in a Sermon of 1380 said: Ther mete was ther bileve that thei hadden of sadde thingis, and ther drynke was ther bileve that thei hadden of moist thingis) . (2) Orderly; grave; trustworthy. Chaucer in THE MAN OF LAW'S TALE (1386) said: In Surrey whilom dwelte a compaignye Of chapmen riche and therto sadde and trewe. Sad and wise, discreet, or true made a frequent coupling; this may have helped form the line in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's THE ANCIENT MARINER (1798): A sadder and a wiser man He rose the morrow morn. (3) Dignified, grave in appearance. Chaucer in THE DETHE OF BLAUNCHE (1369) speaks of the eyen my lady had; Debonayre, good, glad, and sad. (4) Mature, serious; in sad earnest meant most seriously, as when one takes one's solemn oath. (5) Solidly learned; profound. The DESTRUCTION OF TROY (1400) spoke of a philosoffer . . .In the syense full sad of the sevyn artes. In the 17th century, from its sense of firm, solid, sad came to be used (6) as a term of emphasis, especially in a bad sense: wretched, abominably bad. Gay in THE BEGGAR'S OPERA (1727) says: Our Polly is a sad slut. As late as 1892 the London DAILY NEWS (January 25) called unpolished granite a sad harbourer of soot and dust. In this sense, application to a man in the phrase a sad dog was so frequent that the expression lost its force, especially if it was said with a smile. A sadiron was a solid iron, as opposed to a box-iron. In the 14th and 15th centuries, to sad meant to make solid or firm; to compress; to make steadfast; this was also the first application of to sadden. An agricultural work of 1600 stated that corn will grow better if the ground be saddned a little in the bottom of every hole ... As they advised in the 14th century, Be sad to resist vice!


One who makes, repairs or sells saddles or other furnishings for horses.


A lizard-like animal, supposedly immune to fire. (Benvenuto Cellini, 1500-1571, recorded that when he was a boy, his father boxed his ears, so that he would remember having seen one on his hearth.) Hence, a spirit living in the element fire; as the sylph, the air; the nymph, the water; the gnome, the earth -- the four elements of medieval science. By extension, a firefighter, a soldier who braves fire in battle; a fire-eating performer; and in the 18th century, a woman that (so far as the world knows) resists temptations. Joseph Addison in THE SPECTATOR (1711; No. 198) observed: A salamander is a kind of heroine in chastity, that treads upon fire . . . Thomas Deloney in JACKE OF NEWBERIE (1597) uses the figure otherly: Ile lay my life that as the salamander cannot live without the fire, so Jack cannot live without the smel of his dame's smock.


(1) An early form of salad. Also selad, sallade, sallat, salette, and more; Late Latin salare, salatum, to salt; sal, salt. Used figuratively to mean something mixed, usually with pleasant implications. Shakespeare in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL (1601) says: She was the sweete margerom of the sallet, or rather the hearbe of grace; and in HAMLET: There was no sallets in the lines, to make the matter savoury. By extension, to pick a salad, to do something trivial, salad days, days of green and inexperienced youth (Shakespeare, ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA). (2) A light globular helmet. Probably from Latin caelata (galea) , ornamented (headpiece); caelare, caelatum, to engrave; caelum, a chisel. Shakespeare, in HENRY VI, PART TWO, says: Many a time but for a sallet, my brainpan had bene cleft with a brown bill. Thomas Heywood in EDWARD IV, PART ONE, uses it jestingly of a container: sack sold by the sallet. Also, by metonymy, the head; C. B. Stapylton in HERODIAN HIS IMPERIAL HISTORY (1652): When wine was got into his drunken sallat. The Spanish proverb has it, according to Abraham Hayward's THE ART OF DINING (1852) that it takes four persons to make a proper salad: a spendthrift for oil, a miser for vinegar, a counsellor for salt, and a madman to mix it.

Sally Lunn

A tea-cake or hot roll. Sold first at Bath about 1797 by Sally Lunn, who cried them through the town; then a baker named Dalmer bought her out; he made a song for them that helped preserve the name. Sally Lunns, said the ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF COOKERY (1892), should be cut open, well buttered, and served very hot. Charles Dickens smacks his lips over the Sally Lunn; William Makepeace Thackeray in PENDENNIS (1849) delights in a meal of green tea, scandal, hot Sally-Lunn cakes, and a little novel-reading.


Together. From the 14th century; earlier samen, samed, both from the 9th century. Common Teuton forms, whence also same. Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MAY) asks: What concord han light and darke sam? There was also an early verb sam, to bring together, to join (in friendship, in marriage) ; to fasten together; to heap together, to collect. Also to coagulate, to curdle. Since the 15th century sam has been used only in dialect. Cp. samded.


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


Hoeing. A sarcle was a hoe (18th century, translating Latin sarculum; sarire, to weed) . Hence sarcler, a weeder. Sarculation is a rare 18th century word; 17th century dictionaries list sarculate, to hoe.




One who saws; carpenter.


Also Omoplatoscopy. Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by the cracks in a shoulder-blade when the bone is placed on a fire.


See ciclatoun. Originally scarlet meant a rich cloth, usually bright red, but sometimes of other colors (blue, green, brown) . Other old meanings of scarlet include: a person that wears scarlet, a judge, a hunter (also, early 19th century, a scarletite); in the 18th century, a Mohock, an aristocrat street ruffian, as in J. Shebbeare's LYDIA (1755): I expected to have seen her . . . encouraging the young bloods, bucks, and scarlets at a riot in Drury-lane.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using feces or dung.




Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using shadows, or the shades of the dead.


Mocking. Also scoptical. Greek skoptikos; skoptein, to jeer. Thus scoptics, satirical or mocking writings. George Chapman commented (1611) on the ILIAD: In this first and next verse. Homer (speaking scoptically) breakes open the fountaine of his ridiculous humor.


A minor or worthless author


A professional or public penman; scribe, clerk, secretary, copyist or writer. Eventually, also a notary public. Earlier (13th to 15th century) scrivein, scriveyn; French escrivain. Hence to scrive, to scriven. Also scrivenliche (Chaucer), like a scriver or scrivener. Latin scribere, scriptum, to scratch, to write; cp. scripturient. From the Italian came 16th century English scrivan, scrivano, a clerk. Chaucer (1574) addressed a copyist: Adam scryveyne if ever it thee byfalle Boece or Troylus for to wryten nuwe. Scrivener was also used, with measure of contempt, to mean an author; Robert Southey in SIR THOMAS MORE (1829) wrote: A very little suffices for the stock in trade, upon which the scribes and scriveners of literature, who take upon themselves to direct the public, set up.


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


Also Scrutiner. Election judge


To make lucky; to improve. Latin secundare, secundatum, to direct favorably; secundus, favorable. Secundus is the gerundive of sequor, secutum, to follow, meaning that which should follow. Hence secundation, the act of helping or favoring; prosperity. Found mainly in 17th and 18th century dictionaries.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using the moon.


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.


Whimsical; given to spurts of playfulness or nonsensicality, as in the novel TRISTRAM SHANDY (1759) . The author, Laurence Sterne, described TRISTRAM SHANDY as a civil, nonsensical, goodhumoured Shandean book, which will do all your hearts good. Sterne also said, in a letter of 9 July, 1762: I had hired a chaise and horse . . . but, Shandeanlike, did not take notice that the horse was almost dead when I took him. Jefferson, in his NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA (1782) remarked: His style is easy and familiar, except when he affects a Shandean fabrication of words.


Wild, boisterous; visionary, empty-headed. Also shandy-pated. Used mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries, possibly related to TRISTRAM SHANDY; see Shandean. shandy (19th century) might also be a shortening of shandygaff, q.v.


Heavy trousers, buttoned on the outside of each leg, usually worn over other trousers, for rough journeys on horseback and the like. The word was used in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries; it is ultimately from Arabic sharawil, Syriac sharbala, Persian shalwar, meaning that sort of garment. The form sherwal is still used for the loose trousers worn in parts of Asia.


A greenwood, a pleasant forest. This came to be used as a general name, from the popularity of the story of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. Thus Thomas Phaer in his translation (1562) of the AENEID speaks of the shirwood great where self defence and free resort Duke Romulus uptooke.


Obsolete form of sheriff. Also appears capitalised, particularly when used as a title. Also an obsolete form of shrive, meaning "to write." Also used to ask or question someone or something.


A variant form of shivered, shattered. John Skelton, when a gentlewoman sent him a skull (WORKES; 1529; cp. brynnyng) pictured the corpse With sinnews wyderyd, With bonys shyderyd, With his worme etyn maw, And his gastly jaw Gasping asyde, Nakyd of hyde.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using hot metal.


An excellent wine (especially sillery sec), from the village of Sillery, department of Marne, province of Champagne, France. The word has been extended to wine from the neighboring vineyards of Verzenay and Mailly. Also spelled celery. The Duke of Buckingham complained, in 1688: As for French kickshaws, cellery and champain, in troth we 'ave none. The wine was eagerly sought and gladly drunk in England from the 17th to the mid-19th century, especially for toasting royalty or celebrating great occasions.


See seel. Silly is used by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (THE ANCIENT MARINER, 1798) to mean idle: The silly buckets on the deck were long without rainwater.


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 dingle or dell; a woodland glade; in some parts of England, a strip of greensward or of boggy land. Gower in CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) has: He clymbeth up the banckes and falleth into slades depe. Michael Drayton uses it often in POLYOLBION (1622), e.g., of satyrs, that in slades and gloomy dimbles dwell. The Gum Slade, a beautiful clearing in a park at Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire, is said to be the original of Shakespeare's woodland scenes in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


This word appeared around 250 years ago meaning the language of "low, illiterate, or disreputable persons." Henry Fielding used slang in a 1743 novel.




A maker of reeds, or slays, for looms


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.


Seller of ready-made clothes in a slop shop


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

Small beer

Inferior beer. Thomas Nashe, in FOUR LETTERS CONFUTED (1592) speaks of poetry more spiritless than small beer. Hence, persons or matters of no importance, trivialities. To think no small beer of oneself, to be bloated with self-importance; Is it consistent, asked PUNCH on 18 January, 1873, for a teetotaller to think no small beer of himself? Shakespeare has the line in OTHELLO (1604): To suckle fooles, and chronicle small beer; Thackeray (1844) and others have echoed the phrase. Joseph Addisonin THE WHIG EXAMINER (1710; No. 4) declared: As rational writings have been represented by wine, I shall represent those kinds of writings we are now speaking of, by small beer. Cp. Highgate.


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


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.


From its use as the garment next a woman's skin, smock came to be used, especially among 16th and 17th century playwrights and often with double meaning, to refer to a woman herself. Shadwell in THE VOLUNTEERS (1692) said: Thou wert a pretty fellow, to rebel all thy lifetime against princes, and trail a pike under a smock-rampant at last! Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1595) has the jesting Benvolio cry, when Peter and the Nurse come in: Two, two -- a shirt and a smock. Hence, to smock, to dress in a smock; to make effeminate -- Josuah Sylvester in BETHULIA'S RESCUE (1614): no pomp . . . had ever power his manly mind to smock; to make free with women: Thomas d'Urfey in PILLS TO PURGE MELANCHOLY (1719): Then we all agree To ... smock and knock it, Under the greenwood tree, Jonathan Swift in POLITE CONVERSATIONS (1738): You don't smoke, I warrant you, but you smock. Cp, smoke. In the 16th and 17th centuries, too, many compounds continued this double play: a smock-agent, smock-officer, a pander. smock-fair, happy hunting grounds for whores, smock-employment. The smocktoy Paris. Fletcher, in THE ELDER BROTHER (1625): These smock-vermin, how eagerly they leap at old mens kisses. Hickeringill, in PRIESTCRAFT (1705): Great kindred, smock-simony, and whores, have advanced many a sot to the Holy Chair, Smock-secrets are such as women discuss among themselves, smockage, intercourse. A smocker, a woman's man; a lecher; THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE in 1756 said of a man whose nature fit its pages, that he had formerly been a cocker, smocker, and foxhunter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a smock-race was a contest for females for which the prize was a smock; the Thomas Hughes that wrote TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS in his book THE SCOURING OF THE WHITE HORSE (1859) said: I see, Sir, that 'smocks to be run for by ladies' is left out. Smock-face; pale and smooth or effeminate face; a male having such a face. Hence, smock-faced, effeminate. John Vanbrugh in the Prologue to THE RELAPSE (1696) says: Perhaps there's not a smock-face here today But's bold as Caesar to attack -- a play. A smockster was a go-between; Thomas Middleton in YOUR FIVE GALLANTS (1608) says: You're a hired smockster; here's her letter, in which we are certified that you're a bawd.


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


To nip or pinch (with fingers or frost) ; to reprove, chide. Also as a noun, a snub, a rebuke; so used in Shakespeare's HENRY IV, PART TWO (1597). Bishop Joseph Hall (WORKS, 1623) doubts that we do hate our corruptions; when, at our sharpest, we but gently sneap them. Shakespeare uses the verb in THE RAPE OF LUCRECE, and in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST: George Gordon Byron is like an envious sneaping frost That bites the first borne infants of the spring.


The latch of a door or gate. From the 14th century; in later use, dialectal or Scotch. Also snek, snack, snake, snick. The word sometimes referred only to the lever that raises the bar of the latch. On the sneck, latched; off the sneck, unlatched. To draw a sneck (16th century, also in Robert Burns), to act stealthily. A sneck posset, a greeting that stops at the door, a cold reception. A sneck-band, a string fastened to the latch and passed through a hole to the outside of the door, so that the door can be opened from without. Walter Scott in THE ANTIQUARY (1816) says: The sneck was drawn and the Countess . . . entered my dwelling. Hence, to sneck, to latch, to shut up. Sneck-drawer, a sneak thief, a sly or crafty fellow. Burns in his ADDRESS TO THE DEVIL (1785) calls him Ye auld, snickdrawing dog! There was also a sneck (18th and 19th centuries), a sharp cut, a sharp clicking sound; a snick -- and (as early as the 16th century) to sneck, to cut; to snatch. From the use of sneck, sneck-band, came the transferred use of sneck, a noose, a halter; also snecket. The imperative Sneck up! (snick up, sneik up) thus meant, Go hang! Cp. sneak-. Shakespeare in TWELFTH NIGHT (1600) has Sir Toby tell Malvolio Sneck up! . . Dost think because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?


This was originally the phrase stick or snee, snick or snee, to thrust or cut. It was from Dutch steken, to thrust + snijen (German schneiden), to cut. Hence snick or snee, snick and snee, to thrust and cut, to fight with knives -- as was common among Dutch sailors, 16th to 18th centuries. Hence snickasnee, a combat with cut-and-thrust knives; a knife for such a combat. Snick or snee was altered in the 18th century into snickersnee, a knife-combat, or the knife; Washington Irving used the word in FATHER KNICKERBOCKER'S HISTORY OF NEW YORK (1809); in THE MIKADO (1885) Gilbert has: As I gnashed my teeth When from its sheath I drew my snickersnee. The word snick, in addition to meaning to cut and to hit, a cut, a slight blow, also meant a sudden noise, a click, and was a variant form of sneck, q.v. A snickle was a noose, as was a snick-up. A snick-snarl was a knot, a tangle (17th century) in a thread or the thread of an argument.


Also Snob. One who repaired shoes.


Wandering alone. (Accent on the second syllable) . Used from the 17th century; 'Monkshood' and Gamble in RUDYARD KIPLING (1902) have: Dick walks out . . . and plays the solivagant -for about ten years.


An attic; an upper room or apartment; a garret used as a storeroom, Latin solarium, sun room; sol, sun. Also a chamber in a steeple or belfry. Payne in his translation (1886) of Boccaccio's DECAMERON pictured a little uninhabited tower . . . that the shepherds climb . . . to a sollar at the top. At opposite ends of a building are the sollar and the cellar.


To collect, assemble (from the 9th century). To summon (12th to 15th century); superseded by summon. Also sumne, sompne. Hence somner (somenour, somenere), sompner, sompnour, an official summoner. Also used figuratively, as in OF REPENTANCE (HOMILIES; 1563): When the hyghest somner of all, whiche is death, shall come. A summoner (14th to 18th century) was a petty officer who notified persons to appear in court; we still issue a summons.


See Oneiric. Latin somnus, sleep, is responsible for many English words, including somniloquacious, somniloquous, somniloquent, talking, or given to talking, in one's sleep; hence somniloquence, somniloquism, somniloquy; somniloquize. For others, see somniate. Samuel Taylor Coleridge transferred the notion (LITERARY REMAINS; 1833): How often the pen becomes the tongue of a systematic dream -- a somniloquist!


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.

Sortes Virgilianae

Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by opening at random to a page of Virgil's works.


Also Sortilege.Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by casting lots.


Also Sorter. Tailor.


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


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using bodily twitchings.


To befoul. To spat, to spot, to defile; used from the 16th century. In the LIFE OF DR. FAUSTUS (1697) , the innkeeper cried: What! Have the rogues left my pots, and run away, without paying their reck'ning? I'll after them, cheating villains, rogues, cutpurses; rob a poor woman, cheat the spittle, and rob the King of his excise; a parcel of rustick, clownish, pedantical, high-shoo'd, low-minded, plow-jobbing, cart-driving, pinchback'd, paralytic, fumbling, grumbling, bellowing, yellowing, peas-picking, hog-sticking, stinking, mangy, runagate, illbegotten, illcontrived, wry-mouth'd, spatrifying, dunghill-raking, costive, snorting, sweaty, farting whaw-drover dogs.


A buttery, a pantry; a room where foods and drinks are kept; an eating- room; an inner room of a house, a parlor. Short for dispense. Also spence, a steward; short for spencer, short for dispenser. Used from the 13th century. In ST. CUTHBERT (1450) we read: He bare the bordeclath to the spence. The form spencer has also been used for (1) a kind of wig; in the 18th century, after Charles Spencer, third Earl of Sunderland (1674- 1722); (2) a short double-breasted overcoat for men; late 18th and 19th century, after the second Earl Spencer (1758-1834); (3) a life belt, a life preserver; hence (slang), a glass of gin; after Knight Spencer, early 19th century.


A shortened form of disperse, perhaps influenced by Italian sperso; spergere, to scatter. Used in the 16th and 17th centuries; by Edmund Spenser in his translation (1591) of Joachim du Bellay's VISIONS and in THE FA√čRIE QUEENE; by Thomas Dekker in THE WHORE OF BABYLON (1603): Are those clowds sperst that strove to dimme our light?


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- using a crystal sphere.


A woman who spins or an unmarried woman.


Thick, dense, compact, close. Latin spissus. Used 16th into the 18th century. In his foreword To the Reader, Brerewood (1614) speaks of this spisse and dense, yet polished, this copious, yet concise . . . treatise of the variety of languages. Hence also spiscious, spissous, of thick consistency; spissated, spissed, thickened; spissative, tending or serving to thicken; spissid, spissy, thick, dense. Also spissness, spissation, spissitude. A spissament is a thickening substance, as flour in gravy.


A house for the indigent or diseased; a short form of hospital. Also spittell, spyttell, spittaill, and more. In the 16th century, spittle was used of a place meaner than a hospital; hence, a foul or loathsome place. In the 17th century, because of the other meaning of spittle, spit, the form was (except in compounds) largely replaced by spital, spitall, spittal. To rob the spittle (spital) , to make profit in an especially mean fashion. In the other sense, there were the phrases spittle of the sun (16th and 17th centuries) gossamer; spittle of the stars, honey-dew. There was also an even earlier (12th to 17th century) spittle, also spitter, a small spade, related to the pointed spit for cooking. Thus, even in the 19th century, a spitful meant a spadeful; spitish, however, meant spiteful; spitling, refuse, rubbish (17th century) . And (18th century) spitpoison was an appropriate name for a malicious or venomous person.


Bawdy in speech. Latin spurcus, foul + dicere, to speak. Hence spurcitious, foul, obscene; spurcity, foulness, obscenity. Thus Owen Feltham in RESOLVES (1628): Loose and unrinsed expressions are the purulent and spurcitious exhalations of a corrupted mind.


Maker of spurs.


Country gentleman; farm owner; justice of peace.


As a noun: A pond; a ditch of slow-moving water, a moat. Also, a dam to hold back water, a floodgate. Also used figuratively. CURSOR MUNDI in the 14th century said that Satan shall be cast into a stinck and stanck of fire. Fletcher in his version (1656) of Martial's EPIGRAMS spoke of An inundation that orebears the banks And bounds of all religion; If some stancks Show their emergent heads? Like Seth's famed stone, Th'are monuments of thy devotion gone! As a verb: hence, to dam, to strengthen the banks of a stream; to surround with a moat. Again Fletcher leans on Martial for a figurative use, saying I'll stanck up the salt conducts of mine eyes To watch thy shame, and weep mine obsequies. Both as a noun and verb this word appears also as stanch, staunch; also stinch, stainch, staynche. It is ultimately from Latin stagnum, pond, pool, whench also stagnant, stagnate. Italian stancare, to weary; from this sense, as an adjective, stank (stanck, stanke), weary, faint, exhausted. Spencer in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) says: I am so stiffe and so stanck. By dropping the first letter we attained the word tank.


To support, establish. Also statumination. Latin statuminem, a sup port; statuere, statutum, to set up, establish; stare, statum, to stand; whence also status, state, statue, stature, statute; institute, the constitution, and the status quo. Ben Jonson in THE NEW INN (1631) says: I will statuminate and underprop thee; If they scorn us, let us scorn them.


The writing in the stars. Coined by Robert Southey in THE DOCTOR (1835).


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using seeds in dung.


Of or appropriate to the dunghill. Also sterquilinious. Latin stercus, dung; cp. stercoraceous. Used in the 17th and 18th centuries; Howell in a letter of 1645 complained that any sterquilinious rascal is licensed to throw dirt in the faces of Soveraign Princes in open printed language.


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future -- by using a verse or a passage in a book


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.


Drop by drop. From Latin stilla, drop. Suggesting the medieval torture, as when John Evelyn in a letter of 1668 says: cause abundance of cold fountainwater to be poured upon me stillatim, for a good half-hour together. Stalactites are stillatitious, that is, produced by falling drops. This word may also mean issuing or falling in drops, as the painful and stillatitious emission of urine. See Stillicide.


The dripping of water. From Latin stilla, drop + cidere, to fall. Used in Scottish law for the dripping of rainwater from the eaves of a man's house upon another's land. Stevenson in AN APOLOGY FOR IDLERS (1888) says of school: I am sure that it will not be the full, vivid, instructive hours of truancy that you regret . . . I have attended a good many lectures in my time. I still remember that the spinning of a top is a case of kinetic stability. I still remember that emphyteusis is not a disease, nor stillicide a crime.
     Cide, as a suffix from Latin caedere, to make fall, to slay, usually means the killing of, or the killer, destroyer. Thus apricide, of a boar. avicide, a bird. bovicide, an ox; humorously, a butcher. brahminicide, a brahmin. cervicide, a deer. czaricide, deicide, a god, femicide, a woman. feticide, foeticide, a foetus: an abortion. fratricide, a brother. felicide, a cat. fungicide, spores. genocide, a people (coined after World War II). germicide. giganticide, a giant. hericide, a lord or master. herpecide, a reptile. hiricide, a goat. homicide, a man. infanticide. insecticide. larvicide. liberticide: destroyer of liberty; used by Robert Southey, Shelley, Carlyle. lupicide, a wolf. macropicide, a kangaroo. matricide, a mother. microbicide. mundicide, the world. muricide, a mouse. nematodde, worms. nepoticide, a favorite. parasiticide. parenticide, parricide, a parent. patricide, a father. poultrycide. regicide, a king. serpenticide. sororicide, a sister. suicide, oneself. talpicide, a mole. tauricide, a bull. tomecide, books. vaticide, a prophet. verbicide, the word: a liar, or a book-burner. vermicide, a worm. vulpicide, a fox.
     A lapicide is a stone-cutter. A Barmecide is a person that offers imaginary benefits. In THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (1450), Barmecide was a prince of Baghdad, who put a succession of empty dishes before a beggar, pretending they held a sumptuous feast. Hence Charles Dickens in AMERICAN NOTES (1842) speaks of a Barmecide feast. And barmecidal means illusory, like hopes of relief of the world's woe by international homicide.


This common early form is a gathering of several roots and many meanings. It appears also as stund, stond, stownd, stowned, stowunde, and the like. As a noun: (1) A state of amazement; see stoun. (2) A wooden container for small beer. In this sense, a form of stand; used in the 17th and 18th centuries. (3) A moment, a short time. From the 10th century. This and its developments represent the most frequent use. In one of his ENTERTAINMENTS (1603), Ben Jonson wrote: Now they print it on the ground With their feete in figures round, Markes that will be ever found To remember this glad stound. Hence in a stound; in many stounds. By stounds, from time to time; by turns. Oft-stounds, oftentimes. That stounds, at that moment. Hence, the propitious moment, an opportunity. THE LEGEND OF ST. KATHERiNE (1225) exclaimed: Nu is ower stunde! [Now is our chancel] But also, a bad time, a time of trial or suffering; Chaucer in ANELIDA AND ARCITE (1374) cries Alas! the harde stounde. Hence, a pang, a shock, a sudden attack or sharp pain. May Jesus, says Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; MAY) keepe your corpse from the carefull stounds That in my carrion carcas abounds. Variant developments of meaning include (4) station, place, position (at a given time); Thomas Drant in his translation (1566) of Horace's SATIRES wrote: Stande still in stounde, kepe whishte (I say) whilst I do prove you mad. (5) A fierce noise, roar. (From the 17th century; Michael Drayton, Robert Burton.) Carlyle in THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1837) says: One can fancy with what dolorous stound the noontide cannon . . . went off there. As a verb, the action of the various noun meanings: (1) To stun as with a blow, astound, stupefy. (2) To remain, stay in one place or position (13th to 15th century). (3) To cause great pain to; to give a stound or shock; to be very painful, to smart. Also, as a verbal noun, stounding; a benumbing; a delay, lingering. Stoundmeal, at intervals, from time to time; gradually; Chaucer in TROYLUS AND CRISEYDE (1374) notices this wynde that moore and moore thus stoundemele encresseth in my face.


A variant of stroll. It occurs in a burlesque Prologue to Shakespeare's KING JOHN, supposedly to be spoken before Colley Cibber's "amended" version of the play, and published in the WHITEHALL EVENING POST of 10 February, 1737: And all our modern Muses,, alias Misses, Still strole about the Temple, fond of kisses. Cibber's version of Shakespeare's play was so savagely attacked -- before it was read or seen -- that Gibber went to a rehearsal, took his version from the prompter's desk, and walked out of the theatre. It was published in 1745 and deserved the attacks. Jonathan Swift in 1720 said So rotting [rutting?] Celia stroles the street, When sober folks are all abed.


A large but coarse blanket, manufactured (in Stroud, Gloucestershire?) to trade or sell to the American Indians. It was made from woollen rags. THE JOURNAL OF CAPTAIN TREAT (1752) contains the entry: Be pleased to give to the son of the Piankasha king these two strowds to clothe him.


Aphetic for destroy, but also used as a noun: in the 15th century, one who destroys; a waster, a stroy-all, stroy-good; in the 17th century, destruction. John Bunyan has, in THE HOLY WAR (1682): Nor did they partake or make stroy of any of the necessaries of Mansoul.


Also Stuff Gown or Stuff Gownsman. Junior barrister. He wore an open-fronted black gown with open sleeves, gathered and decorated with buttons and ribbons, and a gathered yoke, over a black or dark suit, hence the term stuffgownsman for juniors.


Unfermented or partly fermented grape-juice, must. Also stoom. From Dutch stom, dumb. The Germans call wine that has become flat stummer Wein; the French use the phrase vin muet for stum. Stum was often used, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, for renewing vapid wines; hence, stum was applied to wine thus freshened, as by Samuel Butler in HUDIBRAS (1664): I'll carve your name on barks of trees . . . Drink every letter on't in stum, And make it brisk champagne become. Shadwell in THE SQUIRE OF ALSATIA (1688) asked: Is not rich generous wine better than hedgewine stummed? And in THE TRUE WIDOW (1679) Shadwell used the word figuratively: 'Tis the stum of love that makes it fret and fume.


A shoe. Also suppedital, suppeditary; Latin sub, under + pedem, foot. A HUNDRED MERRY TALES (1526) shows that pedantic humor did not begin in the 19th century; instead of asking the cobbler to patch one's shoes, one asked: Set me ii tryangyls and ii semy cercles uppon my subpedytals. Lodge repeated this in 1596.


'A monster-like beas'/ reported in the 16th and 17th century as inhabiting the new world. Also sucaratha. When hunted, it was reputed to take its young on its back.


A perfume or incense; especially, in the 17th century, one burned for medicinal purposes. Also, suffite, noun, and verb: to fumigate. Latin suffire, suffitum, fumigate.


Officer on merchant ship who is in charge of cargo and the commercial concerns of the ship. From Spanish sobrecargo, from sobre- over (from Latin super-) + cargo cargo. In use since 1697. In 1818, Jean Lafitte appointed Jao de la Porta supercargo for the Karankawa Indian trade.


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


To rouse, to excite (as to a dispute or a rebellion); to stir to action; to quicken, vivify. Latin sub + citare, to excite; more familiar in the resuscitation of the drowning. Used from the 15th century. John Donne in a sermon of 1631 said: Such a joy a man must suscitate and awaken in himselfe. Percy Bysshe Shelley (PROSE WORKS; 1811) wrote: wildered by the suscitated energies of his soul almost to madness.


One who provides an army with supplies


A variant form of swayed, past tense of to sway, meaning to wield. Bishop Joseph Hall, in his first SATIRE of Book 3 (1597), wrote: Time was, and that was term'd the time of gold, When world and time were yong, that now are old. When quiet Saturne swaid the mace of lead, and pride was yet unborne, and yet unbred.


Strongly, forcefully; very much; very fast; excessively. Also as an interjection, Quick! Get thee gone! A common Teutonic word, used in English into the 16th century, lingering in dialect. Also swithly. swithness, speed; Bullenden in the CHRONICLES OF SCOTLAND (1536) mentions a herald namit for his gret swithnes, harefut. Robert Burns, in his poem TO A LOUSE, ON SEEING ONE ON A LADY'S BONNET AT CHURCH (1790) , which contains the lines O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! also contains these words to the adventuresome pediculine pest: Swith! in some beggar's haffet squattle; There ye may creep and sprawl and sprattle, Wi' ither kindred jumping cattle, In shoals and nations . . . [Haffet (Old English healfheafod, halfhead, the forepart of the head) , the side of the head over and in front of the ears; by extension, the cheek. Walter Scott in THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH (1828) says: With the hair hanging down your haffets in that guise.]


Divination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --using figs.


Satisfaction; recompense. Short for assyth. Also syith, site, syte. Also as a verb, to give satisfaction to. Sythment, satisfaction; indemnification. Mainly Scotch; Gavin Douglas' AENEIS (1513): I have gotten my heart's syte on him (explained in the glossary: 'all the evil I wish'd him').
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