Glossary of Historical Terms

Every effort is made to ensure that the characters in the series speak in as historically accurate a fashion as possible, so it is often necessary to use words that are now not in common use.  I hope that this glossary proves useful to you! - Jemima


Corpus Christi  ~ Mid- June
May Day ~  1st of May
Lammas  ~ 1st of August


Michaelmas St. Michael’s Day ~ 29th September
Christmastide Christmas Day ~ 25th December
Lady Day Feast of the Annunciation ~ 25th May
Mid-Summer Day ~ 24th June


ague    any fit of shaking or shivering OED 1589

apoplexy       disabled by a stroke  OED ME
a shade    the visible, but impalpable, form of a dead person; a ghost  OED 1616

banns     public notice given in church of an intended marriage, in order that those who know of any impediment thereto may lodge objections OED 1440
bearded that den    to oppose openly and resolutely; to thwart, affront (partly from the idea of taking a man by his beard  OED 1525
black-dog    a depression of the spirit  OED 1724

broadcast     sowing seeds by throwing them widely  OED
bruited    to noise, report rumour, often in conjunction with abroad OED 1525
bully-boy    a person who makes himself a terror to the weak or defenceless  OED 1609

calumny    a slanderous report OED 1611

Chawcester Mop    a hiring fair, at which maids carried mops or brooms OED 17thC

chit     a very young child, or contemptuously, a girl or young woman OED 1624

cordwainer     a shoemaker OED ME

crowner    coroner
cuirass    a piece of armour for the body, originally leather, reaching to the waist, consisting of a breast plate and a back plate

cutpurse     one who steals a purse by cutting it from the girdle by which it was formerly suspended    OED ME
Devil’s tools and his work    typical ranting of a Puritan preacher
doublet    a close-fitting body garment (with or without sleeves) worn by men from the 14th to 18th century OED ME

dotard     one who is feeble-minded through old age OED ME

doxy     a woman of ill-repute OED 1530
dudgeon    feeling of anger and resentment; ill humour OED 1573
ell    a measure of length; An English ell is 45 inches OED

ewer     a pitcher with a wide spout used to bring water for washing the hands OED ME
flagon    A large vessel containing a supply of drink for use at the table, especially with a handle and spout. OED 1512

footpad     a highwayman who robs on foot OED 1630
ingrate    an ungrateful person.  Middle English Old French OED 1535
Good Morrow    Good Morning

green-sick     an anemic disease, which mostly affects young women about the age of puberty, which gives a pale green tinge to their complexion   OED 1585

groat     a coin worth fourpence, the groat went out of circulation in 1662 OED ME
helpmeet    a suitable helper; usually a husband or wife OED 17thC
home brewed    ale made at home
horse coper    a horse dealer
hoyden    a rude or ill-bred girl OED 1593

hurdle     portable rectangular frame woven with hazel or willow, formed fences OED OE
Johnny-come-lately    a person who starts later, but suddenly becomes successful

kennel     the surface drain of the street, the gutter  OED 1582

kirtle     a woman’s gown, a skirt or outer petticoat  OED OE

laudanum     a costly medicament in which opium was main ingredient  OED 1602
like-minded    in or after the same manner

linen draper’s     a retail dealer in linens, garments, etc.  OED 1609
love locks    particular curls worn in the hair by courtiers
malignancy    a term applied between 1641–1660 by the supporters of Parliament and the Commonwealth to their adversaries
mayhap    perhaps, perchance
minx    a pert girl, a hussy; playfully applied OED 1542
oil on troubled waters    to appease disturbance; in allusion to the effect of oil poured on water in agitation BD
parole    word of honour; (especially military) given by prisoners of war that if liberated they will refrain from taking up arms again for a stated period. OED 1616

patch     a small piece of black silk worn on the face, either to hide a fault or to show off the complexion  OED 1592
pattern card of all virtue    an example or model deserving imitation  OED ME

peached     to accuse or inform on a person  OED 1596

peccadillo     a small fault or sin  OED 1591
petty sessions    A court held by two or more Justices exercising jurisdiction in minor offences with a particular district. Late Middle English OED
Robin Goodfellow    sportive or capricious elf or goblin believed to haunt English countryside OED 1531
sack    a type of sherry wine OED 1599
screens passage    wooden screen plain or carved erected a few feet into the main hall of house to screen off from view entrances to kitchens, buttery, pantry etc. Late Medieval
sen’night    seven nights (a week)
sleeveless errand    ending in, or leading to, nothing; having no adequate result or course; OED 1546
stillroom    a room for the distillation of cordials and herbal medicines
tester    A canopy over a bed, supported on the posts of the bedstead, or suspended from the ceiling. Late Middle English OED
The Bench    The judges or magistrates collectively, sitting in the seat of justice. OED 1589
tisane    a tea brewed from herbs French
Turkey rug a carpet (or rug) made in or imported from Turkey, or of a style in imitation of it. OED 1546
Well Met    Hello

  BD      Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable
  OED   Oxford English Dictionary