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Colonial Dictionary


This section is an ongoing project dedicated to the words of the Colonial Era. Granted, many of these words would not be used at the local tavern, but may well have been employed in more learned circles. In addition to words used then that are not used now, we also include words that may still be around whose meanings have changed since early America.

Whenever possible, we try to provide a full etymological background of each entry, as well as examples of usage from then-current literature.

Though we use a wide variety of resources for this project, we'd be remiss not to mention Dictionary of Early English by Joseph T. Shipley (Introduction by Mark Van Doren), which you can find in its entirety HERE, readable online, or as a downloadable .pdf file...

Please Contact Us if you have any additions (that we haven't added yet -- this is a work-in-progress) or corrections to these entries...we hope you find this Colonial Dictionary interesting and useful.

-- The Colonial Sense Team

Search Text:    Search Where:  Words Only   Words & Definitions


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XeniaGifts, says Bailey (1751) "bestowed upon friends, guests, and strangers, for the renewing of friendship." The singular is xenium, such a gift. Also, one made by subjects to their prince when he passes through their estates (usually traditional, often compulsory). Greek xenos, guest, stranger. Also xenagogue, one who conducts strangers, a guide; xenagogy, a guide-book; xenelasy, the expulsion of foreigners; historically, a law that could be invoked at Sparta to achieve that end. Hence xenial, of the relation of host and guest; used of such a friendly relation between two persons of different countries. The xenian Zeus, the god Zeus as protector of the rights of hospitality. A xenophile is one friendly to foreigners or foreign things; the opposite, a xenophobe. Thus xenodochy means the entertainment of strangers; xenodochium (xenodochy), a house of reception for strangers (pilgrims) , a guest-house; in the Dark Ages, often attached to a monastery.
XenomancyDivination -- foretelling events, predicting the future --by the first stranger that appears.

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