A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
LetterFind:   Selected:  



A blow, a drubbing. In the 16th century. So O.E.D. Bace was also a variant of base, as the name of an old game, later called prisoners' bars, prisoners' base. By act of Parliament during the reign of Edward III, playing bace was prohibited in the avenues of Westminster palace while Parliament was in session. Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) says: So ran they all as they had been at bace, They being chased that did the others chase.


Friendly greeting. Also belaccoyle. Cp. bel-. Edmund Spenser, in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) her salewed with seemly belaccoil, Joyous to see her safe after long toil.


A kind look, a loving look. Italian bel guardo. Edmund Spenser uses the word in THE FAERIE QUEENE and in his HYMNE IN HONOUR OF BEAUTIE (1596): Sometimes within her eyelids they unfold Ten thousand sweet belgards, which to their sight Doe seem like twinckling starres in frostie night.


A poetic-- and to some extent still a popular -- form of daffodil, which itself is a variant of affodill, which is a corruption of asphodel, which is directly from Greek asphodelos. Strew me the ground with daffadowndillies, cried Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579); the inevitable rhyme appears in Henry Constable's poem DAIPHENIA (1592) : Diaphenia like the daffadowndilly, White as the sun, fair as the lily, Heigh ho, how I do love thee! Fair flower of spring.


The Bellis perennis, "a familiar and favorite flower," says the O.E.D. Old English daeyes eage, day's eye; its white petals fold in at night, hiding its central sun until the dawning. In olden times, it was an emblem of fidelity; knights and ladies wore them at tourneys, and Ophelia gathered them, to be strewn on her grave. There is indeed beauty, as Edmund Spenser sees it in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) in the grassye ground with daintye daysies dight.


Behavior; treatment (of others). Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) has: All the vile demeane and usage bad, With which he had those two so ill bestad. Cp. bestad. The early form of demeanor. Also a verb, to behave; manage; employ; deal with. The sense of demean, to lower, developed about the 18th century, probably by analogy with debase; the earlier and natural English form for this sense is bemean, which was superseded by demean.


A table; early variant of dais. Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1596) pictures Shamefastnesse, who ne ever once did look up from her desse. Hence the verb desse, to pile in layers, used by farmers (17th-19th centuries) of stacking straw or hay. Hence dessably, well arranged.


A pecuniary payment, as compensation for murder or other violent crime, accepted in Ireland into the 17th century. Also eriach, earike, erycke, earik; Irish eiric. Edmund Spenser noted it, in THE STATE OF IRELAND (1596) : In the case of murder . . . the malefactor shall give unto them [the friends] or to the child, or wife of him that is slain a recompence, which they call an eriach. R. Bagwell commented on it, in IRELAND UNDER THE TUDORS (1885): This blood-fine, called an eric, was an utter abomination to the English of the sixteenth century.


A person of free or loose behavior; usually applied to a man; but Edmund Spenser (THE FAERIE QUEENE, 1596) speaks of a woman as a fair franion. Lamb, in a poem of 1810, speaks of Fine merry franions, Wanton companions. Also spelled fronion, frannion, frannian. The old play KING EDWARD IV PART ONE said: He's a frank franion, a merry companion, and loves a wench well.


Strange. More commonly, a stranger, a foreigner, an enemy. Used in the 16th century. Also fren; altered from frend, correctly fremd, a common Teuton term meaning foreigner, enemy; also as an adjective, foreign, wild, hostile, strange, unusual. It is related to from. Child's collection of BALLADS has one that sings: I wish I had died on some frem isle, And never had come home! Edmund Spenser uses frenne, foe, in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL) : So now his friend is chaunged for a frenne -- with a gloss explaining that the form of the word was influenced by forenne, foreign.


An early form (in Chaucer; in Edmund Spenser's THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR, 1579) of galosh. Also golosh, galoge, galache, galoshoes, etc. The galage was a wooden shoe or sandal with leather thongs; later (17th century) , an overshoe. Spenser's gloss explains galage as 'a start-uppe or clownish shoe,' clownish meaning peasant's.


Noble; having the qualities expected of those of high birth, gentle, courteous, (of ladies) graceful. From Latin genitum, past participle of gignere, to beget. From meaning born, the Latin gentum came to mean born of Roman blood; then well-born; hence, noble in conduct. Villiers, in THE REHEARSAL (1672) speaks of a man so modest, so gent. Edmund Spenser, who uses the word 14 times in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) there says, for example, He loved, as was his lot, a lady gent. The form gent was supplanted by gentle, from French gentil, and by genteel, re-adopted from gentil in the late 16th century.


An ignoramus. (Italian ignaro, ignorant.) Used in the 17th century as a common noun, probably from Edmund Spenser's use of it as a name, in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) : His name Ignaro did his nature right aread.


(1) Possession (of something good) , enjoyment (of) ; pleasure, delight. French jouissance; jouir, to enjoy; Latin gaudere, to rejoice. All our joy and rejoicing come from the same source. The English word was also spelled jouisance, joysaunce, jouysaunce, and the like, Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) is glad To see those folkes make such jouysaunce. The 17th century misread the old u -- u being often used for v --and spelled the word jovisaunce (as in jovial, which, however came from Jove, Jupiter, and meant the disposition of one born under the influence of the planet Jupiter) in editions of Spenser and elsewhere, as in GOD'S PLEA (1657) by Reeve; We cannot abdicate wonted jovisances.


To subdue, daunt. Probably a variant of quail. Used by Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590): Therewith his sturdie corage soon was quayd, And all his senses were with sudden dread dismayed.


An old variant of quaked, past tense of to quake. Chaucer used quok, quoke; Edmund Spenser in MUTABILITY (1596) tells that Jove shooke His nectar-deawed locks, with which the skyes And all the earth beneath for terror quooke, And eft his burning levin-brond in hand he tooke.


A sucking-fish, little but believed to have the power to stop a ship. Edmund Spenser in his VISION OF THE WORLD'S VANITY (1591) says: There clove unto her keele A little fish, that men call remora, Which stopt her course. The accent is evidently on the rem. The word was common in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the general sense of an obstacle, of something that held one back. That authoritie, said Edmonds in his OBSERVATIONS (1604) to Caesar's COMMENTARIES, was a remora to divers other nations of Gallia from shewing that defection by plaine and open revolt.


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.


Torch. See tede. Latin taeda, pine-torch. Edmund Spenser in his EPITHALAMION (1595) said of his bride: Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake, And long since ready forth his maske [merry procession] to move, With his bright tead that flames with many a flake [flash], And many a bachelor to wait on him.


A truce. A form, via Medieval Latin tragua, treuga, from Gothic triggwa; see treves. This bears no relation to intrigue, which is via French from Latin intricare, intricatum (whence also English intricate) to entrap; in + tricae, tricks, traps (related to Latin torquere, to twist) , whence also extricate. Edmund Spenser in THE FAERIE QUEENE (1590) has: Which to confirm, and fast to bind their league, After their weary sweat and bloody toile, She them besought, during their quiet treague, Into her lodging to repairs a while.


To receive, to accept; to come to possess; to admit to one's presence or friendship. By extension, to have understanding in; also, to take in hand, undertake. In all these senses, underfo was the common form from the 9th century until the end of the 12th century, when underfong largely replaced it, fading after the 16th. Past tense forms included underfeng, underfangen, underfonge, underfynge. Edmund Spenser used underfong to mean to take in, seduce, entrap; Thou, he says in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; JUNE) that by treacheree Didst underfong my lasse, to waxe so light. The gloss explains this, 'deceive by false suggestion.' Similarly in THE FAERIE QUEENE: With his powre he . . . makes them subject to his mighty wrong, And some by sleight he eke doth underfong.


A form of unneath, short for underneath. Used by Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; JANUARY). Also unneth, unneths.


An animal newly weaned. Also wennell, weynelle, weanneL Used since the 15th century; by Edmund Spenser in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579) . It was supplanted by weanling, which Bailey, however, (1751) defines as an animal ready to be weaned. In the 16th century, and later in dialects, weanyer (wanyer, wayner, wenyer) and in the 19th century weaner were also used for weanling.


To wilt, wither, fade; to diminish, shrink; to wane. Also, to welken. Gower, in CONFESSIO AMANTIS (1390) has: The sea now ebbeth, now it floweth, The lond now welketh, now it groweth. Also, to make fade, as in Edmund Spenser's THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579): But now sadde winter welked hath the day.


Unaccustomed. Edmund Spenser in his HYMN (1596) to Beauty, to that great goddesse, queene of beauty, Mother of love, and of all worlds delight, exclaimed: Ah whither, Love, wilt thou now carrie mee? What wontlesse fury dost thou now inspire Into my feeble breast, too full of thee?


See y-. Edmund Spenser has, in THE SHEPHERD'S CALENDAR (1579; APRIL), the charming line to "faire Elisa": yclad in scarlet, like a maiden queene.
Colonial Sense is an advocate for global consumer privacy rights, protection and security.
All material on this website © copyright 2009-21 by Colonial Sense, except where otherwise indicated.