Sixteenth century words and expressions

Glossary of sixteenth century words and terms:

A:
Almoner…Official distributor of alms (money or food) for the royal household; office requiring personal attendance on the King, and involvement, on a junior level, to the royal council.
Aqua vitae…a strong alcoholic drink such as brandy.
Astrolabe…an ancient instrument used to solve problems relating to time and the position of the sun and stars in the sky.


B:
Bat-fowling…cheating
Beef-witted…stupid, dull
Beslubbering…smeared with something thick and oily
Beetle-headed… a stupid person, a blockhead
Black Redstart…small robin-sized bird. The greyish-black male
has a red tail.
Blockhead…a stupid person
Boar-pig…Named after the Bartholomew boar-pig, sold at the
annual London fair, held on Saint Bartholomew’s Day.
Boil-brained…hot-headed
Bower…a lady’s private apartment in a medieval manor or castle
Bum-bailey…Sheriff’s officer who catches people by sneaking up
behind them.
Bustard…the world’s heaviest flying bird
By-blow…an illegitimate child

C:
Canker-blossom…a grub that destroys the blossom of love
Cameline sauce…a medieval sauce made in large quantities, usually containing bread, vinegar (or verjuice) and spices such as cinnamon.
Chevalier of Saint-Michel…a French chivalric order begun by Louis XI, ‘the Spider King’. Its aim was to confirm the loyalty of its members to the King. At first, there were only thirty-six members, but these were amongst the most powerful nobles in France.
Churlish…rude, boorish
Civet…an animal with a cat-like appearance, native to Africa or tropical Asia, from which a musky scent used in perfume was obtained.
Clack-dish…a begging bowl that could be clacked to attract attention
Clapper-clawed…thrashed, reviled
Clarsach…a Gaelic triangular harp
Clay-brained…stupid
Clotpole…blockhead, dolt
Corbie…a raven or crow
Close-stool…a covered chamber pot enclosed in a wooden stool
Coxcomb…a fool’s cap with a crest like a cock’s comb; a simpleton
Craven…a cock that shows no fighting spirit; a coward
To be in one’s cups…to be very drunk
Crookbacked…hunchbacked
Crook-pated…having a deformed head; not in one’s right mind
Crowstepped…a gable with a staircase kind of design


D:
Damask rose…thought to have been brought to Europe from Syria by the Crusaders in the thirteenth century.
Devil-monk…a mischievous monk
Dewberry…a sweet deep purplish berry, closely related to a
blackberry.
Dismal-dreaming…full of ill-boding dreams
Dissembling…deceitful, false
Dog-hearted…cruel, callous
Doxy…a beggar’s mistress; a whore
Dread-bolted…armed with frightening thunderbolts; terrifying
Droning…to talk for a long time in a boring way

E:
Earth-vexing…extremely annoying
Ell…a unit of measurement, using the distance from a man’s elbow to the tip of his midde finger, approximately eighteen inches.

F:
Fat-kidneyed…very overweight and clumsy
Fen-sucked…rising from the marshes
Flap-mouthed…having broad, hanging lips; talkative
Flirt-gill…a pert or wanton woman
Fly-bitten… attacked by flies, unattractive
Folly-fallen…acting stupidly or rashly
Footlicker…a sycophant; a toady
Fripperies…ornate or showy clothing or adornments
Froward…difficult to deal with, contrary
Full-gorged…fed until satiated
Fusty…old-fashioned in attitude

G:
Gable…a triangular shaped part of a roof, over a window or door.
Galopin…a kitchen helper
Gleeking…to make fun of; foolish
Gorbellied…having a large belly; a paunch
Gourd…vegetable such as a pumpkin or cucumber
Greybeard…an old man
Groat…an English silver coin worth four pennies.

H:
Harquebus…an early type of portable gun
Hautboy…from the French ‘haut bois’ ‘high wood’. A woodwind
instrument. An oboe.
Hedge-born…born under a hedge; of lowly birth
Hedge-pig…hedgehog
Hell-hated…hated as hell is hated
Henbane…a poisonous plant
Hennin…a headdress in the shape of a cone or steeple
Hobby-horse…a child’s toy made from a stick with a horse’s head at
one end.
Put horns on a man…cuckold him
Hornbook…a page to teach children the alphabet, for example,
covered by a transparent piece of horn and attached to a frame by a
handle.
Horn-mad…mad like a savage bull
Hugger-mugger…one who keeps secrets
Hyppocras…a wine mixed with sugar and spices

J:
Jack-a-nape…an impertinent person; ape
Jolthead…a stupid or foolish person; a large or heavy head

K:
Kingdom of Castile…a large powerful state on the Iberian
peninsula during the Middle Ages.
Kissing comfit…a perfumed sugar-plum or thin sugared lozenge to
sweeten the breath, with musk, civet, ambergris, and white orris,
set with gum dragon.
Knave… a dishonest or unscrupulous man
Knotty-pated…block-headed, dull-witted

L:
Lamprey…an eel-like vertebrate with a round sucking mouth to
feed off the blood of other animals.
Lichen…a combination of algae and fungus

M:
Maggot-pie…a magpie; a pie made out of maggots
Malmsey wine… a sweet wine, imported from Greece
Malt-worm…drinker of malt liquor; a drunkard
Mammering…hesitating, stammering
Manchet loaf…small flat, circular loaf of very high quality
Marchpane…marzipan
Master Falconer…a position in the King’s household in France
from the Middle Ages onwards. He was responsible for organizing
the royal falcon hunt and looking after the monarch’s hunting birds.
Master of the Hunt…was the most important office dealing with
the royal hunt and carried great prestige.
Mattois area of Paris…an area of Paris famous for thieves
Megrim…a headache, a migraine
Milk-livered…cowardly, timorous
Milksop…a man or boy who is indecisive and lacks courage
Minnow…a small European freshwater fish; an insignificant person
Miscreant…one who behaves badly, often breaking the rules
Moldwarp…a mole; an old man
Motley-minded…Having the mind of a jester, foolish
Muddy-mettled…dull-spirited

O:
Occitan…a Romance language spoken mainly in southern France, but also in Italy and Spain.
Onion-eyed…eyes filled with tears


P:
Pignut…nuts used to feed hogs
Pinch-spotted…spotty complexion
Popinjay…conceited, foolish person
Posy ring…a gold ring, engraved with a secret message between lovers.
Pottage…a thick soup or stew made by boiling vegetables and grains, and if available, meat or fish.
Pribbling…argumentative
Pumpion…or pumpkin, hence a fat person
Purgatory…in Catholic theology, an intermediate stage after death,
a place to atone for sins before being considered pure enough to
enter heaven.
Puttock…any of several birds of prey


Q:
Qualling…insufferable
Quintain…a practice target such as a board on a pole or a shield,
used by knights to hone their skills or train new knights.
Quinny…female genitalia


R:
Rebeck…a pear-shaped, two or three-stringed medieval instrument
Reeling-ripe…so drunk that ripe for reeling or staggering
Ring-dove…ringed turtle dove
Rood…a crucifix, especially one placed above the rood screen of a
church.
Roynish…base, vulgar
Rump-fed…fattened in the rump, pampered

S:
Sampler…a piece of embroidery to keep stitches and patterns as a
reference
Scullion…a servant employed to work in a kitchen
Scurvy-valiant…supremely worthless
Sheep-biting…giving to snapping at defenceless people
Shrill-gorged…displeasing to the ear
Small beer…the third use of the malt in brewing to produce a bitter, very weak beer, given to servants, invalids, the elderly and small children. Or to anyone to quench a thirst as water was considered too unhealthy to drink.
Snipper-snapper…a small insignificant fellow
Sot…a drunkard; an idiot
Spur-galled…to be wounded by a spur; galled.
Stew…a brothel
Stock(e)…the trunk or main stem of a plant or tree
Stomacher…a triangular panel, often decorated with jewels, on the front of a woman’s gown.
Swag-bellied…having a prominent, overhanging belly
Swain…a male lover or admirer

T:
Tallow candle…a wick of flax, cotton or hemp, placed in animal
fat such as cow or sheep.
Termagant…a harsh-tempered or overbearing woman
Tiziano Vecelli…an Italian painter known as ‘Titian’ (1490-1576).
Tragacanth…gum from a small shrub, imported from Turkey or
Syria, used as an emulsifier.
Tetons…breasts
Tickle-brained…dim-witted, under the influence of strong drink
Toad-spotted…foully blemished, most evil

U:
Usquebaugh…from Scottish Gaelic, ‘uisge beatha’, ‘water of life’; whisky.


V:
Varlet…a base unprincipled man
Verjuice…a pungent acidic liquid, made from juice of unripe grapes or crab apples.
Void…The dessert course of a meal, consisting of spiced wine, wafers and spices, eaten in a separate chamber, by invitation only.

W:
Wastrel…wasteful or good-for-nothing person
Waterfly…a dragonfly; a flighty or troublesome person
Wayward…wilful, erratic
Weevils: type of beetle, often found in nuts, seeds, cereal and grain
Wherryman…a man in charge of light rowing boat/barge, mainly
used for carrying passengers.
Whey-face…a very pale face; milk-face.
Whoreson…a bastard, a coarse fellow
Will-o’-the-wisp…a flame-like ghostly light (caused by gases from
decaying plants), seen at night over bogs, fens and marshes;
something that is impossible to obtain or achieve.






 

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

         

     

 

         

         

     

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