A Researcher's Guide to Local History Terminology/Abecedary

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An Abecedary of Local history terminology[edit]

A Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z expoliate


  • A pied - a French term neaning 'on foot'.
  • Abatis, 'Abattis', or 'Abbattis - a French word meaning a heap of material thrown; a term in field fortification for an obstacle formed of the branches of trees laid in a row, with the sharpened tops directed outwards, towards the enemy.
  • Abbacy - the office, term, or jurisdiction of an abbot. The post was also held in post-reformation times by secular individuals; the Earl of Eglinton held the abbacy of Kilwinning Abbey in Scotland.
  • Abditory - a place for hiding or preserving articles of value.
  • Abecedary - the full alphabet carved in stone in churches, on paper, etc. Generally considered to be teaching aids, particularly to the illiterate. The alphabet may have been thought at that time to posses supernatural powers along the lines of the runic futhork. Each letter would have had a symbolic meaning to the devout. An example from the Church of St Mary of the Grey Friars was found in Dumfries, Scotland, in 1967.
  • Abele - a white poplar (Populus alba).
  • Abjure - to renounce under oath; to recant solemnly; repudiate: abjure one's beliefs; to give up an action or practice.
  • Abstersion - the act of wiping clean; a cleansing; a purging.
  • Abstracted multure - the title of the offense when tenants failed to bring their corn to the mill of the thirl. They could be sued for this offence.
  • Abthane - a Thanedom or proprietorship of land held of the crown, and in the possession of an abbot; the title of a Saxon proprietor, that is, a proprietor under the Saxon laws, holding direct of the crown, equivalent to that of a Norman baron. Abthainries existed at Dull, Kilmichael, Airlie and Madderty.
  • Abuilyement - also 'Abuilement'. Garments or clothing.
  • Accolade - a ceremonial embrace, as of greeting or salutation; the ceremonial bestowal of knighthood.
  • Accouchement - a confinement during child birth; a lying in.
  • Accoutre - also accouter. To outfit and equip, as for military duty.
  • Acolyte - One who assists the celebrant in the performance of liturgical rites; a devoted follower or attendant.
  • Acre - the English 'statute acre' is 4840 square yards, the 'Scots acre' was somewhat larger at about 1.3 English Acres. In medieval times shape mattered more than size. An acre was an oblong shaped portion of land, either straight sided or sinuous, with a length of 220 yards and a width of 22 yards, giving a ratio of 10 : 1. It was variable in size, but was regarded as the area of land that one man could plough in one day.
  • Acroterion - also 'Acroterium' is an architectural ornament placed on a flat base called the acroter or plinth, and mounted at the apex of the pediment of a building in the Classical style.
  • Ad perpetuam remanentiam - the merger of leasehold interests, e.g. a renunciation by a tenant in favour of the landlord. Where the higher fee is already registered in the Land Register and the proprietor acquires by disposition ad rem the subjacent fee, title to which is recorded in the Register of Sasines, the absorption must be given effect to in the Land Register.
  • Additament - an addition, or a thing added.
  • Adjure - to command or enjoin solemnly, as under oath; to appeal to or entreat earnestly.
  • Adventiti - in medieval times these were travelers visiting villages and towns for various economic purposes.
  • Advocate - a person who pleads, intercedes, or speaks for another. It also means a person whose profession is to plead causes in courts of law. This is especially the use in Scotland. In the USA it means any lawyer. To advocate, means to speak in favour of an idea (Legal).
  • Advowson - the right of a patron to present a person to a church living or benefice.
  • Aedicule - the framing of a window or opening by columns topped with a pediment so that it resembles a temple facade in miniature.
  • Aedile - an office of the Roman Republic. Aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings, regulation of public festivals, and they had powers to enforce public order.
  • Aestival - of or relating to summer; Coming forth in the summer.
  • Affusion - a pouring on of liquid, as in baptism.
  • Agalmata - statues of the gods which had open eyes and moveable limbs as invented by Daedalus.
  • Agger - an earthwork; a mound; a raised work.
  • Agister - formerly an officer of the king's forest, who had the care of cattle agisted, and collected the money for the same; - hence called gisttaker, which in England is corrupted into guest-taker.
  • Agistment - letting-out of land (including woodland) as grazing for farm animals.
  • Agnate - Related on or descended from the father's or male side.
  • Agnate Seniority - a patrilineal principle of inheritance where the order of succession to the throne prefers the monarch's younger brother over the monarch's own sons. A monarch's children succeed only after the males of the elder generation have all been exhausted. Females of the dynasty and their descendants are excluded from the succession by this system.
  • Ague - an acute fever. In late Middle English a malarial fever with cold, hot, and sweating stages (at first especially the hot stage, later especially the cold). From the late 16th century could also mean any shivering fit.
  • Aids - the right of a superior under feudalism to require aid during times of emergency or events such as a marriage.
  • Air Vent - any of a wide variety of holes in farm buildings which allow ventilation and prevent crops inside getting damp and mouldy. This can result in quite complex brickwork patterns; very visible and distinctive.
  • Airey - variant of "area".
  • Aisle - a side extension to the nave of a church. Churches could be enlarged by having arches pierced through the existing side walls.
  • Alb - a long white garment worn by priests, etc. under the chasuble.
  • Alba - the Scottish Gaelic, Welsh language (Yr Alban) and Irish language name for the constituent country of Scotland.
  • Albion - a Celtic word referring to the whole island of Great Britain.
  • Alembic - an apparatus consisting of two vessels connected by a tube, formerly used for distilling liquids; a device that purifies or alters by a process comparable to distillation.
  • Alienate - in the context of feudal superiors, this means where the baron alienates or ceases to be the feudal superior of the barony and the jurisdiction passes to a sheriff.
  • Aliment - required by court order to aliment (to supply with sustenance, such as food) the abandoned family.
  • Allenarly - only, solely or exclusively.
  • All & Haill - 'all and whole'. Found in legal documents.
  • Allocution - a formal and authoritative speech; an address.
  • Allodial title - a concept in some systems of property law. It describes a situation where real property (land, buildings and fixtures) is owned free and clear of any encumbrances, including liens, mortgages and tax obligations. Allodial title is inalienable, in that it cannot be taken by any operation of law for any reason whatsoever.
  • Allure - the parapet walk on a castle wall, town wall, etc.
  • Amerce - to punish by a fine imposed arbitrarily at the discretion of the court; to punish by imposing an arbitrary penalty.
  • Almoner - Christian religious functionaries whose duty was to distribute alms to the poor.
  • Alms - the charitable donation of money or food to the poor.
  • Almshouse - a charitable home for those in need. Usually set up or endowed by a wealthy benefactor.
  • Alquife - an enchanter in the medieval romances of knight-errantry.
  • Alter ego - another side of oneself; a second self. An intimate friend or a constant companion.
  • Alterage - a salary paid to a priest for saying a certain number of masses, at regulated periods, for the souls of the some person or persons departed.
  • Ambuscade - an ambush.
  • Amerciate - subject to or punished by a fine.
  • Ampulla - a vessel for consecrated wine or holy oil.
  • Anagoge - a mystical interpretation of a word, passage, or text, especially scriptural exegesis that detects allusions to heaven or the afterlife.
  • Analemma - the figure-8 path that the sun makes in its passage across the sky.
  • Anathematise - curse or declare to be evil or anathema or threaten with divine punishment.
  • Andiron - one of a pair of metal supports used for holding up logs in a fireplace. Also called 'dog'.
  • Anent - regarding; concerning.
  • Animadvert - to remark or comment critically, usually with strong disapproval or censure.
  • Anima loci - the 'soul' of a place, its essentially personality. A Wicca concept linked to the supernatural spirits of nature as residing in stones, springs, mountains, islands, trees, etc.
  • Anno Lucis - Freemasons, in their ceremonial or commemorative proceedings, add 4,000 years to the current Anno Domini calendar year and append Anno Lucis (“Year of Light”) to the Gregorian calendar year, eg. 1887 AD is 5887 AL.
  • Annuitant - a person entitled to an annuity.
  • Anthropodermic bibliopegy - the practice of binding books in human skin. Though fortunately uncommon in modern times, the technique dates back to at least the 17th century. The Nazi's do not appear to have performed this, the suggestion being most likely an urban legend.
  • Antiburgher - a member of a section of the Secession Church which in 1747 separated from the other party in that Church (the Burghers) on the question of taking the Burgess oath. The two sections were reunited in 1820.
  • Antinomianism - the doctrine that faith in Christ frees the Christian from obligation to observe the moral law as set forth in the Old Testament.
  • Antinuptial - before wedlock. Often used in church session minutes in reference to intercourse before marriage.
  • Antediluvian - extremely old and antiquated; occurring or belonging to the era before the Biblical Flood.
  • Aphorism - a tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; a brief statement of a principle.
  • Apocrypha - the biblical apocrypha includes texts written in the Jewish and Christian religious traditions that either were accepted into the biblical canon by some, but not all, Christian faiths, or are frequently printed in Bibles despite their non-canonical status.
  • Apocryphal - a piece of work where the authenticity or authorship is in doubt.
  • Apotropaic - protective against evil.
  • Apogee - the farthest or highest point; the apex.
  • Apophthegm - a brief wise saying.
  • Apoplexy - used to describe any sudden death that began with a sudden loss of consciousness, especially one where the victim died within a matter of seconds after losing consciousness. Those reading historical documents should take into consideration the possibility that the word "apoplexy" may be used to describe the symptom of sudden loss of consciousness immediately preceding death and not an actual verified disease process. Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, certain ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks may have been misdiagnosed as apoplexy in the distant past.
  • Apothecary - a chemist licensed to dispense medicines and drugs.
  • Appanage - the grant of an estate, titles, offices, or other things of value to the younger male children of a sovereign, who under the system of primogeniture would otherwise have no inheritance.
  • Appellate - having the power to hear court appeals and to review court decisions (Legal).
  • Appendix - additional or supplementary material generally located at the end of a book or piece of work; article, etc.
  • Apprising - the sentence of a court affecting a debtor's heritable property, as a consequence of which that property would be sold to pay the debt.
  • Appurtenance - a thing that belongs to another, a 'belonging'; a minor property, right, or privilege, belonging to another more important, and passing in possession with it; an appendage.
  • Apse - a usually semicircular or polygonal, often vaulted recess, especially the termination of the sanctuary end of a church.
  • Arable - land which is ploughed or suitable for ploughing for growing crops.
  • Archive - a place in which historical documents and other records are preserved. Usually operated by large organizations, they may or may not be open to the public.
  • Area - in architecture a basement level light well in front of Georgian period houses.
  • Aret - officially establish; to reckon; to ascribe; to impute.
  • Aries - earnest-money, a gift.
  • Armiger - a person entitled to use a heraldic coat of arms. Such a person is said to be 'armigerous'.
  • Armorial - relating to heraldry or coats of arms.
  • Arrhae - contracts, in the civil law. Money or other valuable things given by the buyer to the seller, for the purpose of evidencing the contract earnest. Earnest money is an example, paid to clinch the bargain when a wife was purchased in olden times.
  • Artificer - a craftsman.
  • Ascapart - a fictional giant, in legend conquered by Bevis of Hampton, though so huge as to carry Bevis, his wife, and horse under his arm. Ascapart was defeated after his club (made from a whole tree) was swung at Sir Bevis and became stuck in soft ground. Sir Bevis decided to make him his Squire rather than kill him.
  • Ashlar - dressed stone work of any type of stone. Ashlar blocks are large rectangular blocks of masonry sculpted to have square edges and even faces.
  • Asperity - roughness or harshness, as of surface, sound, manner or climate; severity or rigor. A slight projection from a surface; a point or bump.
  • Aspersion - a sprinkling, especially with holy water.
  • Assart - private farmland formed out of part of a wood, common or forest. The act or offense of grubbing up trees and bushes, and thus destroying the thickets or coverts of a forest.
  • Assignation - to legally make over property, etc.
  • Assythement - a compensation paid to the relatives or friends of someone who had been killed, by the killer(s).
  • Asylum - Latin from Greek for refuge. It entered English with the special meaning of a place of safety where criminals or political dissidents could escape the law. By the early 18th century it had its general meaning of a place of refuge, being applied to institutions by the mid 18th century. Through into the mid 19th century or later, however, there were other asylums than lunatic asylums, "orphan asylums" for example.
  • Astricted - thirled or bonded to a particular mill.
  • Atavism - a science word, coined from Latin for "beyond one's grandfather", meaning a reversion of animals (including humans) or plants to an ancestral type. Word coined by Antoine Nicolas Duchesne (1747-1827) in relation to strawberries (about 1766) as in degeneration theory.
  • Athame - a ceremonial black-handled knife, one of several magical tools used in Wicca; other forms of modern witchcraft have since adopted the term for various ritual knives.
  • Atlantes - plural of atlas and used in architecture.
  • Atlas - pl. atlantes. In architecture a standing or kneeling figure of a man used as a supporting column, as for an entablature or balcony.
  • Atour - besides, in addition, moreover.
  • Atteint - also 'Attaint'. A blow or strike, especially in jousting. Also a wound on the leg of a horse caused by a blow. In law the giving of a false verdict by a jury; the conviction of such a jury, and the reversal of the verdict.
  • Attainder - a criminal condemned for a serious crime, whether treason or felony, could be declared "attainted", his civil rights being nullified. Such a person could no longer own property or pass property to his family by will or testament. His property could consequently revert to the Crown or to the mesne lord. Any peerage titles would also revert to the Crown. For a person who committed a capital crime and was put to death for it, the property left behind was escheated to the Crown or lord rather than being inherited by family.
  • Attavi - an ancestor or specifically a great, great, great, grandfather.
  • Auchan - also 'Auchen' - a variety of Pear (Scots). Old Auchans near Dundonald is famous for its own variety of pear.
  • Auchen - a field made from cleared woodland. A Scots term frequently found as a place name component.
  • Aught - also 'Ought' - anything at all.
  • Augur - one of a group of ancient Roman religious officials who foretold events by observing and interpreting signs and omens; a seer or prophet; a soothsayer.
  • Aumbrey - also 'Aumbry'. A wall recess; sometimes as a cupboard for food. Often found in churches, chapels, etc. for keeping the sacramental vessels, etc.
  • Aureole - a halo or circle of light or enclosed area, especially around the head or body of a portrayed religious figure.
  • Autographed - any document carrying the signature of the person who wrote it.
  • Autographed letter - a letter which is handwritten.
  • Avocation - an activity that one engages in as a hobby outside one's main occupation
  • Aw - a flat-board of an undershot water-wheel.
  • Ayre - medieval Justiciars originally travelled around Scotland hearing cases on circuit or 'ayre'.
  • Azotic - an obsolete term in chemistry, referring to azote, or nitrogen; formed or consisting of azote; as, azotic gas; azotic acid. Also an obsolete term meaning fatal to animal life.

B Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Bailey - the courtyard or courtyards that existed around a motte.
  • Bailliary - the office or authority of a baillie.
  • Baillie - a local official. Equivalent to an Alderman. A Baron's deputy in the context of a Barony. Also became a personal name, such as William Baillie who was a prisoner after the Battle of Durham in the 14th-century. He was the Baillie of Lambroughton in North Ayrshire.
  • Bal - noise; uproar; merriment (Scots).
  • Baldachino - also 'Baldachin or Baldaquin'. A rich fabric of silk and gold brocade; a canopy of fabric carried in church processions or placed over an altar, throne, or dais; in architecture a stone or marble structure built in the form of a canopy, especially over the altar of a church. Such a structure may be also be called a 'Ciborium' when it is sufficiently architectural in form.
  • Ballista - a siege engine which fired smaller stones, heavy arrows and iron bolts. Tensile power was supplied by twisting ropes with windlasses.
  • Baluster - one of the upright, usually rounded or vase-shaped supports of a balustrade; an upright support, such as a furniture leg, having a similar shape; one of the supporting posts of a handrail.
  • Balustrade - a rail and the row of balusters or posts that support it, as along the front of a gallery
  • Bannock - in the context of Mills, a payment to a servant amounting to a handful of meal, in addition to that given as knaveship. Also a type of Scottish or Manx bread.
  • Bane - an archaic term for animals and objects causing serious damage or even death; the term 'Deodand' replaced it.
  • Banshee - from the Irish Gaelic bean sí ("woman of the sídhe" or "woman of the fairy mounds") is a female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. Her Scottish counterpart is the Bean Nighe ("washer-woman").
  • Barbican - a forward defensible structure jutting out or set in front of the main part of a castle's defenses or walls. In many cases the barbican formed part of the castle gatehouse complex.
  • Bark House - a building used to store bark, mainly from oak trees, gathered for use in tanning.
  • Barker - a person whose occupation was the sripping of bark fron trees for the purpose of the tanning of leather.
  • Barmikan - also Barmkin. Originally a livestock enclosure, later a legal term for the walls of the inner or outer court or close of a castle, place, etc.a term used in Scotland to cover the various walled courtyards, service yards, walled gardens and orchards that spread in every direction from a house.[1]
  • Barn - a building designed for threshing and storing corn.
  • Baron baillie - a Baillie of a barony court (Scots).
  • Barony - lands held directly from the crown. The baron’s historic heritable jurisdiction varied according to the wording of the grant at the time the lands were erected into a barony; there was no standard set of rights or obligations. The baronial courts in their truncated form were used largely to enforce payment of rents on the laird's estate. Heritable jurisdiction ceased in 1747.
  • Barr - mountain grazing attached to a specific lowland area (Gaelic) or a large hill or the ridge of a hill (Scots).
  • Bartizan also 'Bartisan' - a small, overhanging turret on a wall or tower, especially of a castle.
  • Bascinet - also 'Basnet.' A light helmet, at first open, but later made with a visor.
  • Bastard - an illegitimate child. Indicated by the 'bend' sinister on armorial bearings.
  • Bastardy, Gift of - in Scots Law, a gift from the crown of the heritable or movable effects of a bastard who has died without lawful issue, and without having first disposed of the lands.
  • Bastle house - found along the Anglo-Scottish border, in the areas formerly plagued by border reivers. They are farmhouses, characterised by elaborate security measures against border raids.
  • Baulk - An unplowed strip of land; a ridge between furrows.
  • Bavardage - much talking; prattle; chatter.
  • Baxter - a baker.
  • Bearherd - a man who tends a bear.
  • Bearward - a keeper of bears.
  • Beck - a name for a small stream, especially in Cumbria.
  • Bedesman - also 'Beadsman'. Originally a man endowed to pray for others; later a licensed beggar or a name for a servant in England. In Scotland there were public almsmen supported by the king and expected in return to pray for his welfare and that of the state. These men wore long blue gowns with a pewter badge on the right arm, and were nicknamed Blue Gowns. Their number corresponded to the king's years, an extra one being added each royal birthday. They were privileged to ask alms throughout Scotland.
  • Bedizen - to ornament or dress in a showy or gaudy manner.
  • Bedlam - Bethlehem was shortened to Bedleem and Bedlem in Middle English. The hospital was nicknamed Bedlam' from early on. From the early 16th century, bedlam also came to mean `mad'.
  • Bed-stone - the lower of a pair of grindstones, with the rind passing though it. It is the one that remains stationary.
  • Bee Bole - an alcove or space in which a 'Skep' for bees is kept to provide shelter.
  • Beehive - an artificial home for bees. The 'Stewarton Hive' was the first that did not require the killing of the bees in order to extract the honey.
  • Beeves - also 'Beefs', meaning cattle or a herd of cows. Common usage in 19th century writings.
  • Beget - to father or sire; to cause to exist or occur.
  • Behoof - in common parlance it signifies need, coming from the saxon term behoove, to need or have need of. In the legal sense of the word, it signifies use, service, profit, advantage.
  • Belfry - a mobile siege tower which could be wheeled up to the walls of a castle etc. Wet hides could be hung on it to prevent fire and they had small drawbridges to allow besiegers to access the top of the walls.
  • Belletrist - a person involved in writing 'belles-lettres', literary works valued more for their aesthetic qualities than for any informative or educational content.
  • Beltane - an ancient Gaelic holiday celebrated around May 1. Historically celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals were held at the same time in the other Celtic countries of Wales, Brittany and Cornwall.
  • Belvedere - also 'Belvidere', a small round copse on a hill or knoll as part of the scenic layout of formal gardens on an estate.
  • Benighted - overtaken by darkness, as used in Sir Walter Scott's Guy Mannering. Also intellectually or morally ignorant.
  • Benitier - a stoup for holy water in a chapel, church, etc.[2]
  • Bequeath - a term appearing in a will meaning to leave or give property as specified therein to another person or organization (Legal).
  • Bercary - a medieval sheep farm, particularly a monastic one.
  • Bere - also 'Bear' - in Scots this was the primitive indigenous form of one-sided barley. It gave a good yield on poor soils and its straw, used for thatching, was long and strong.
  • Bere or Beer - from the Old English this was a wood, usually one confined to a grove-like form.
  • Bers - a mortar of the 16th century.
  • Beshrew - to curse; invoke evil upon.
  • Bespeak - to indicate; to engage, hire, or order in advance; to request: bespeak a favor; to speak to; address.
  • Bestow - to present as a gift or an honor; confer; too apply or use; to place or stow or to store or house.
  • Bevor - a piece of plate armour designed to protect the neck.
  • Bibliophile - a lover of books.
  • Bicket - a pocket, as in place names, e.g. Bickethall (Scots).
  • Biggin - a building. A general term used in Scotland, Cumbria and elsewhere in England.
  • Billet - a piece of wood cut for use as fuel and often of a standard size.[3]
  • Binding - in books terms, the cover of the book.
  • Birlayman - a man appointed by a court, such as a Barony Court, to assess damages.
  • Birlinn - a type of small galley with 12 to 18 oars, used especially in the Hebrides and West Highlands of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Variants in English and Lowland Scots include 'berlin' and 'birling'. They appear in Scottish heraldry as the 'lymphad.'
  • Bittern - in sea salt manufacture, the fluid portion containing the other salts which have to be removed to prevent a bitter and unpalitable taste to the final product.
  • Black letter script - also known Gothic or Gothic minuscule, was a script used throughout Western Europe from the mid twelfth to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century.
  • Blackhouse - a traditional house which used to be common in Highland Scotland, the Hebrides & Ireland. Generally built with double wall dry-stone walls packed with earth and wooden rafters covered with turf or reed thatch. The floor was generally flagstones or packed earth and there was a central hearth for the fire. There was no chimney (Gaelic).
  • Blair - a plain (Gaelic).
  • Blazon - a formal description of a coat of arms or flag, which enables a person to construct or reconstruct the appropriate image. A coat of arms or flag is therefore not primarily defined by a picture, but rather by the wording of its blazon. Blazon also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description.
  • Bleachfield - a bleaching works with its adjacent drying-ground. Now generally as a survival in place-names (Scots).
  • Blench duty or 'Blanch' - a 'Blench Holding' is by a nominal payment by the feu holder , as of a penny Scots, or a red rose, often only to be rendered upon demand to the superior.
  • Bletting - a process that some fleshy fruits undergo, beyond ripening. Such fruits are either sweeter after some bletting, such as sea buckthorn, or for which most varieties can be eaten raw only after bletting, such as medlars, persimmons, quince, Service Tree fruit, and Wild Service Tree fruit.
  • Block Book - a book printed from wooden blocks in which each page, both words and pictures, is carved from a single piece of wood and cannot be rearranged for subsequent use; a technique mainly employed in the mid-fifteenth century.[4]
  • Blood-wit - a fine imposed for causing a significant effusion of blood from a victim (Scots).[5]
  • Bloody - it may be derived from the phrase "by Our Lady", a sacrilegious invocation of the Virgin Mary. The abbreviated form "By'r Lady" is common in Shakespeare's plays around the turn of the 17th century, and interestingly Jonathan Swift about 100 years later writes both "it grows by'r Lady cold" and "it was bloody hot walking to-day" suggesting that a transition from one to the other could have been under way.
  • Blout - also 'Bloak' - an upwelling of water, a spring or a wet, damp place (Scots).
  • Bodger - itinerant chair leg makers, who in places like Chinnor in England, would camp in the woods in the summer months in days gone by.
  • Body politic - the physical person of the sovereign, the emperor, dictator, or the electorate.
  • Bogle - the Scots name for a scarecrow, which is a device (traditionally a mannequin) that is used to discourage birds such as crows from disturbing crops and feeding on recently cast seed.
  • Boll - also 'Bow', 'bol', 'boill', 'boall', or 'bowl' - a measure of capacity for grain, malt, salt, etc., or sometimes of weight, varying for different commodities and in different localities (Scots).
  • Boline - also 'Bolline'. A white-handled ritual knife, one of several magical tools used in 'Wicca'. Unlike the 'Athame', which in most traditions is never used for actual physical cutting, the boline is used for cutting cords and herbs, carving candles, etc.
  • Bolling - the main trunk of a pollarded tree.
  • Bolster - “That part of a mill in which the axletree moves" (Scots).
  • Bolt - a measure of fabric, stored rolled up in fixed lengths.
  • Bolter - a device in a mill used for separating the flour or meal from impurities (Scots).
  • Bond of surety - a written, binding agreement to perform as specified. Many types of bonds have existed for centuries and appear in marriage, land and court records of used by genealogists. Historically, laws required administrators and executors of estates, grooms alone or with others, and guardians of minors to post bonds. It is not unusual to discover that a bondsman was related to someone involved in the action before the court. If a bondsman failed to perform, the court may have demanded payment of a specified sum as a penalty (Legal).
  • Bonds of Manrent - a form of mutually beneficial bond of allegiance.
  • Boniface - the proprietor of a hotel or restaurant; an innkeeper.
  • Bookplate - a pasted-in sign of ownership of a book. Many of the older bookplates were highly elaborate with engraved coats of arms, family mottoes etc. They are sometimes dated and give useful information of titles, full names, the interests of the owner, etc.
  • Boon-work - work done on the lord's land by dependent peasants for a fixed number of days per week.
  • Bordland - also 'Borlum' or 'Bowland'. The terra mensalis or table land that specifically furnished food for the castle table.[6]
  • Boor - a serf to which Norman lords often apportioned lands near to their castles, hence 'Boorland'.
  • Bordar - a smallholding cottager of less standing than a villein but better off than cottars.
  • Borough - also 'Burgh.' Originally a town (built area larger than a village), or one that was fortified, or one that had its own internal government. Later came to mean a town that had its own self-government given to it by charter from the king or queen (a municipal borough) or which sent representative/s to parliament (a parliamentary borough). In 1845 a borough is defined as A borough, town or city corporate having a quarter sessions, recorder and clerk of the peace.
  • Boss - an 'Umbo' or raised central area on a shield or 'buckler'. Also a carved keystone at rib intersections on a stone or wooden roof. Often highly carved and brightly painted.
  • Bote - 'Housebote', 'Hedgebote', 'Gatebote', 'Harrowbote', etc., are the rights of particular tenants or commoners to cut timber or wood from hedges, commons or woods when needed for maintaining buildings and equipment.[7]
  • Bothy - a single room for a bachelor farm worker (Scots).
  • Boulevard - a rampart. Bulwark has its origins in this term.
  • Boulingrin - a grass lawn with differential mowing that leaves a pattern in the longer grass.
  • Bountith - an addition to wages for good conduct (Scots).[5]
  • Bour Tree - a Common Elder (Scots); often used as part of a place name, such as Bourtreehill in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland.
  • Bovate - a Carucate was sub-divided into bovates (measure of land) (also called Oxgates) and these were based on the area a single oxen could till in a year, they were therefore one eighth of a carucate. Around 15 acres; land ploughed by two oxen.
  • Bowshot - a measure of distance, around 200 yards; derived from the flight achieved by an arrow from a fully drawn bow.
  • Bowbutt - a measure of distance of around 30 yards; derived from the distance apart of butts used in archery practice.
  • Box Bed - a bed which is boxed in; as found in cot-houses.
  • Brae - a steep or sloping bank of a river, lake or shore; a steep slope rising from a water (Scots).
  • Brace - a triangulating piece, usually in a timber frame.
  • Brachet - a type of hound that hunts by scent; bitch-hound; a spoilt child.
  • Brachygraphy - an abbreviated writing; shorthand.
  • Braggart - one given to loud, empty boasting; a bragger.
  • Braided - streams flowing in an interconnected network of channels that divide and reunite.
  • Brandanes - also 'Brandini'. A collective term for the natives of Arran and Bute, now archaic. Its origin may be in the name of Saint Brendan or in the bold water or spray men.[8]
  • Brank - a scold's bridle, consisting of a locking metal mask or head cage that contains a tab that fits in the mouth to inhibit talking. Some have claimed that convicted common scolds had to wear such a device as a preventive or punitive measure.
  • Brasses - memorials to the dead on tombs. Usually made of latten hammered into sheets and highly ornamented, with the name of the dead person, a portrait, etc.[9]
  • Breastshot - a water wheel turned by water hitting it midway up.
  • Brehon - an Anglicisation of 'breitheamh' (earlier 'brithem', the Irish word for a judge). The Brehon laws were written in the Old Irish period (ca. 600–900 AD) and are assumed to reflect the traditional laws of pre-Christian Ireland and parts of Scotland. They are associated with the Justice or Moot Hills.
  • Breike - trousers (Scots).
  • Breive - a written legal request to a local official requiring him to inquire into a case.
  • Bretwalda - also 'Brytenwalda', or 'Bretenanwealda'. An Anglo-Saxon term, the first record of which comes from the late ninth century. It is applied to some of the rulers of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms from the fifth century onwards who had achieved overlordship over some or all the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
  • Brevi manu - summarily or in an offhand fashion.
  • Breviary - a book, also called a 'portitorium', containing the hymns, offices, and prayers for the canonical hours.
  • Brigid or 'Bridget' - the midwife of Mary, mother of Jesus. Also a Celtic Goddess as daughter of Dagda, an Irish god. On February 1, Brigid is celebrated at the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, when she brings the first stirrings of spring to the land.
  • Brisure - a system of marks added to coats of arms in heraldry to distinguish between members of the same family.
  • Brithem - an early judge in Scotland; from the Gaelic 'Breitheamhan' (See Brehon). These judges were appointed by the King and attended courts convened by the mormaers.
  • Broach spire - a half-pyramid of stone set at each corner of a square tower to shape the spire.
  • Broadside - a single sheet printed on one side and issued by itself, used for advertisements, ballads, propaganda, etc.[4]
  • Broch - an Iron Age circular stone tower, found in the Shetlands and Western coastline of Scotland.[9]
  • Brocard - an elementary principle or maximum; a short, proverbial rule, in law, ethics, or metaphysics.
  • Brock - a badger. Often used in the country. The Old-English name.
  • Brook - a small stream, also 'Brooklet'.
  • Brother German - a brother by both the father's and mother's side, in contradistinction to a uterine brother, one by the mother only. From the Old French germain, meaning "closely related."
  • Brownie or 'Urisk' (Lowland Scots) or brùnaidh, ùruisg, or 'gruagach' (Scottish Gaelic) is a legendary kind of creature popular in folklore around Scotland and England (especially the north).
  • Brythonic - Indo-European languages, such as Welsh belong to the Brythonic branch of Celtic Languages, which includes Breton and Cornish. This branch is also named "P-Celtic". See Goidelic.
  • Buckler - a small rounded shield held by a handle. The 'Buckler fern' is so named from the resemblance of the 'spore covers' (indusia) to these shields.
  • Buckram - a heavy linen cloth used in book binding. Buckram is often starched or coated with some form of protective material.
  • Bull - an official document issued by the pope and sealed with a bulla.
  • Bulla (plural, 'Bullae'), a lump of clay molded around a cord and stamped with a seal. When dry, the container cannot be violated without visible damage to the bulla, thereby ensuring the contents remain tamper-proof until they reach their destination. Bullae from antiquity appear as a lump surrounding a dangling cord (as with much later wax bullae and Papal bulls made of lead rather than clay) or a flat, disc-shaped lump pressed against a cord surrounding a folded document (such as papyrus or vellum).
  • Bullaun - the depression in which a free standing rounded boulder sits within a water filled natural cavity. Bullauns are often associated with cursing stones and healing stones.
  • Bullionism - an economic theory that defines wealth by the amount of precious metals owned. Bullionism is an early or primitive form of mercantilism. It was derived, in the 16th century, from the observation that the English state possessed large amounts of gold and silver, in spite of the fact that there was no mining of precious metals on English soil, because of its large trade surplus.
  • Burgage - a town 'rental property' owned by a king or lord. The property 'burgage tenement' consisting of a house on a long and narrow plot of land, with the narrow end facing the street. Tenure was usually in the form of money, but each "burgage tenure" arrangement was unique, and could include services.
  • Burgher - a member of the Secession Church who upheld the lawfulness of the burgess oath (Scots).
  • Burgess - a freeman or citizen of an English borough or a Scottish burgh; later an elected representative; a member of the English Parliament who once represented a town, borough, or university.
  • Burgess plot - a strip of land in a medieval town owned by a merchant or burgess. The plot included the site of a house as well as room for a market stall and a small amount of enclosed land for grazing a cow or growing vegetables.
  • Burin - the tool used by engravers for gouging lines on copper or steel printing plates.
  • Burlaw Court - a special court held by the birlaymen of a barony, men chosen by tenants and tried minor cases at cuthills (Scots).
  • Burn - a small stream (Scots).
  • Burr stone - a hard-waring stone, usually from France, used in the construction of millstones. Often made into sections and bound together with iron hoops.
  • Burthen - a burden.
  • Bushel - a unit of dry measure / dry volume, usually subdivided into eight local gallons in the systems of Imperial units. Used for volumes of dry commodities, not liquids, most often in agriculture.
  • Butt - a small piece of land as used in ploughing.
  • Butt & Ben - Literally 'backwards and forwards'. A dwelling entered by a single shared fore-door with a double partition and doors to the living quarters on one side and the byre on the other. A person sitting in the living area, called the in-seat, would look 'butt to the byre' and someone in the byre would look 'ben' to the living area' (Scots).
  • Buttery - a bottle store - a service room for liquid foodstuffs.
  • Buttress - supports for walls, usually made of stone and sometimes crowned with a pinnacle. Flying buttresses are a variant which allowed a more delicate appearance whilst maintaining the strength of the supports.
  • Butts - targets for archery. Often made from straw and placed on a wooden or basket 'woven' frame; sometimes set against an earthen mound.
  • Buzone - an archaic term for the elite within the ruling class.
  • By - a term meaning a 'settlement', derived from the Scandinavian settlers.
  • Byre - a cowshed or barn (Scots).

C Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Cablish - windfallen wood.
  • Cabriole - a form of furniture leg that curves outward and then narrows downward into an ornamental foot, characteristic of Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture.
  • Cadency - any systematic way of distinguishing similar coats of arms belonging to members of the same family. Cadency is necessary in heraldic systems in which a given design may be owned by only one person at once. As heraldic designs may be inherited, the arms of members of a family will usually be similar to the arms used by its oldest surviving member (called the "plain coat"). They are formed by adding marks called brisures, similar to charges but smaller. Brisures are generally exempt from the law of tincture.
  • Cadet - in genealogy, a junior branch of a aristocratic family.
  • Cadger - used in Scots as in standard English to mean a traveling hawker (chiefly of fish or Cheese in East Ayrshire ), beggar or carter.
  • Caitiff - a base or despicable person, a coward.
  • Calefactory - the one room in a monastery in which a fire was permitted. This was over the winter months only.
  • Callant - a stripling, a lad, a term of affection. Rarely - a girl (Scots).
  • Calm - Limestone (Scots).
  • Caltrop - a metal device with four projecting spikes so arranged that when three of the spikes are on the ground, the fourth points upward, used as a hazard to the hooves of horses. The first settlers in the USA even used them against the Native Americans.
  • Calumny - a false statement maliciously made to injure another's reputation; maliciously false statements; slander (Legal).
  • Cambric - a finely woven white linen or cotton fabric. The etymology is obsolete Flemish kameryk, from Kameryk, Cambrai, a city of northern France. Reference is made to this material in Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth.
  • Camelaucum - the headdress both the mitre and the Papal tiara stem from, originally a cap used by officials of the Imperial Byzantine court.
  • Camerarius regis - chamberlain to the King.
  • Camerarius Scotiae - the great chamberlain of Scotland.
  • Camlet - a durable, waterproof cloth, esp. for outerwear or apparel made of this material. Also to decorate (fabric, book edges, etc.) with a colorful, marbled design.
  • Canon law - the ecclesiastical law of the Roman Catholic Church, is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation.
  • Cant - a compartment in a coppiced wood.
  • Canticle - a song or chant, especially a non-metrical hymn with words taken from a biblical text other than from the Book of Psalms.
  • Cantrip - a magical spell or mischievous trick (Scots); a deception; a sham.
  • Caparisoned - an ornamental covering for a horse or for its saddle or harness; trappings; richly ornamented clothing or finery.
  • Capital - the top, often ornately carved, of a column.
  • Capital Messuage - the main messuage of an estate, the house in which the owner of the estate normally lived.
  • Caponier - a covered passage across a ditch, used militarily as a protected musketeer emplacement. A fine example is to be found at Craignethan castle in Lanarkshire, Scotland.
  • Carbonarum - a medieval coal mine, particularly monastic sites.
  • Carding - the processing of brushing raw or washed fibers to prepare them as textiles.
  • Carl - also see 'Churl' - large stalks of hemp which bear the seed; - called also carl hemp; kind of food - Caring or carl are seeds steeped in water and fried the next day in butter or fat. They are eaten on the second Sunday before Easter, formerly called Carl Sunday.
  • Carlin Stone - a witch stone. The name Carlin was used as a derogatory term for a woman meaning an 'old hag'. It is also said in the context of mythology to be a corruption of the Gaelic word “Cailleach”, meaning the 'old Hag', the Goddess of Winter. Several stones and places in Scotland are known by this name (Scots).
  • Carr - an alder wood.
  • Cart - a strong vehicle with two or four wheels designed for carrying loads and drawn by a horse or horses.
  • Cartouche or 'Cartouch' - a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription; an oval or oblong figure in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics that encloses characters expressing the names or epithets of royal or divine personages; a heavy paper cartridge case.
  • Cartshed - a building for housing carts, waggons, ploughs, harrows and other farm machinery.
  • Carucage - the tax levied on each 'carucate' of land.
  • Carucate - a unit of assessment for tax found in most of the Danelaw counties of England. The word derives from caruca, Latin for a plough. It is analogous to the 'hide', the measurement of land for tax assessment used outside the Danelaw counties. It was used in Scotland where it was equal to 100 Scots acres.
  • Carved Stone Balls - tennis ball sized balls with a variable number of protruding knobs. Mostly thought to date from the Late Neolithic and almost always found in Scotland. Their function is unknown.
  • Casque - a helmet or helmet-like process.
  • Castellan - the governor or caretaker of a castle or keep. The word stems from the Latin Castellanus, derived from castellum 'castle'. Usually, a castellan combined the duties of both a majordomo (responsible for a castle's domestic staff) and a military administrator (responsible for maintaining defenses and protecting the castle's lands). This was particularly the case if there was no lord resident at the castle, or if the resident lord was frequently absent.
  • Catechism - a book giving a brief summary of the basic principles of Christianity in question-and-answer form; a manual giving basic instruction in a subject, usually by rote or repetition; a body of fundamental principles or beliefs, especially when accepted uncritically.
  • Catechumen- one who is being taught the principles of Christianity; one who is being instructed in a subject at an elementary level.
  • Cateran - the common people of the Highlands in a band; brigands, freebooters, or marauders collectively.
  • Cathedral Close - an enclosure pertaining to a cathedral in which such as staff housing and maintenance facilities are sited.
  • Caudal - of, at, or near the tail or hind parts; posterior; situated beneath or on the underside; inferior.
  • Caudel - also 'caudle', a warm drink consisting of wine or ale mixed with sugar, eggs, bread, and various spices, sometimes given to ill persons. The etymology is from the Middle English caudel, from Medieval Latin caldellus, from Latin caldum, hot drink, from caldus.
  • Causeymaker - a street or lane maker; a layer of cobblestones.
  • Cautioner - in Scotland, one who acts as surety for another, thereby undertaking to be liable for the default of another, or for his appearance in court, payment of a fine, etc.
  • Celerity - swiftness of action or motion; speed
  • Cellarium - a storehouse, such as in an abbey.
  • Centuriation - the Roman practice of dividing land up into squares of 775 modern yards, orientated exactly north and south. Centuriation usually followed the setting up of a new colony on vacant land. Very rare in Britain.
  • Cereal - any plant which produces grain.
  • Certiorari - a writ or a form of judicial review whereby a court is asked to consider a legal decision of an administrative tribunal, judicial office or organization (eg. government) and to decide if the decision has been regular and complete, if there has been an error of law, if the tribunal had the power to make the decision complained of or whether the tribunal exceeded its powers in issuing the decision complained of.
  • Cess - An assessment tax or levy, superseded by rates. In Scotland it originally meant land-tax and it is still frequently used to denote a local tax of any kind.
  • Cessio bonorum - surrender of a debtor's goods in favor of his creditors.
  • Chaff - also 'Bran', the husk of a cereal seed, removed during from the flailed grain by winnowing.
  • Chaeatabeastie - the mill-dust, mixed with husks and sold as an animal feed. The story of a pig's death from being over fed with milldust is in Dr. Duguid's book (Service 1887).
  • Chagrin - a keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event.
  • Chained library - old libraries in which the books and manuscripts were attached to the bookcases by short chains so as to allow actual reading but deterring theft. Hereford Cathedral and the Bodlean still have such libraries.
  • Chain Lines - the vertical lines seen in a sheet of handmade paper, usually about 2cm apart, which hold the wires in place in paper moulds.
  • Chalder - an ancient Scottish dry measure, applied to grains, varying with the grain being measured.
  • Chamberlain - an officer who manages the household of a sovereign or noble; a chief steward; an official who receives the rents and fees of a municipality; an often honorary papal attendant.
  • Champaign - open countryside, or an area of open countryside.
  • Chancel - also 'Sacrarium', 'pit' or prison cell. The part of a Christian church near the altar, reserved for the clergy, the choir, etc. They are usually enclosed by a screen or separated from the nave by steps.
  • Chancery - an office of archives for public or ecclesiastic records; a court of public records.
  • Chantry chapel - endowed by rich parishioners, these would have a separate altar where priests would have said prayers for the souls of the benefactor and his family. These were often located in the transepts.
  • Chaplet - a wreath or garland for the head; a rosary having beads for five decades of Hail Marys; a string of beads; in architecture A small molding carved to resemble a string of beads.
  • Chapman - chiefly British A peddler. A dealer or merchant.
  • Chapter-house - the building in an abbey, minster, etc. where the business aspects of the religious community were conducted.
  • Charge - any object or figure placed on a heraldic shield or on any other object of an armorial composition. Any object found in nature or technology may appear as a heraldic charge in armory. Charges can be animals, objects, or geometric shapes. Apart from the ordinaries, the most frequent charges are the cross—with its hundreds of variations—and the lion and eagle. Other common animals are stags, boars, martlets, and fish. Dragons, unicorns, griffins, and more exotic monsters appear as charges and as supporters.
  • Char cloth - also called Charpaper, is a swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature. It is capable of being ignited by a single spark that can in turn be used to ignite a tinder bundle to start a fire.
  • Charnel - a repository for the bones or bodies of the dead; a charnel house; anything resembling, suggesting, or suitable for receiving the dead.
  • Chartulary - a collection of charters; a place where charters are stored.
  • Chase - Chiefly British. a private game preserve; a tract of privately owned land reserved for, and sometimes stocked with, animals and birds to be hunted. Used as an element in English place names.
  • Chasuble - a highly decorative cloak worn by a priest over the white undergarment, the alb.
  • Chateau - a French castle; a French manor house; a large country house.
  • Chateau reve - a 'castle of dreams'.
  • Chatelaine - the mistress of a large house; a set of short chains attached to a womans belt.
  • Chatelet - a gatehouse or other feature built in the form of a miniature chateau.
  • Chaudemelle - a murder of passion; not premeditated.
  • Cheese-brizer - a cheese press (Scots).
  • Cheese-stane - a large, heavy stone, worked with a screw, for pressing cheese (Scots).
  • Chesset - originally the oak wood container banded with iron hoops into which slated curd was placed to press it and shape it (Scots). An example at Dalgarven Mill, North Ayrshire in Scotland has a thick wooden sides and is perforated at the bottom. It is strengthened with metal hoops.
  • Chevalier - a member of certain male orders of knighthood or merit, such as the Legion of Honor in France. A French nobleman of the lowest rank. Used as a title for such a nobleman.A chivalrous man.
  • Chevaux de Frise - a defensive measure at the entrance to a fort constructed from stone pillars or stakes designed to break up a mass attack.
  • Chi-Rho - an early Christian symbol or monogram made from the first two Greek letters of Christ's name, X and P.
  • Chiromancy - palmistry. Read the palm to determine the future; as practiced by Gypsies, etc.
  • Chorography - in the 16th and 17th centuries chorography was used to refer to antiquarian studies of topography, place, community, history, memory. chorography is therefore the study of its smaller parts; provinces, regions, cities, or ports. With the consolidation of disciplines of space and place, chorography was subsumed under geography and topography.
  • Chrism - a consecrated mixture of oil and balsam, used for anointing in church sacraments such as baptism and confirmation. Also called 'holy oil'.
  • Christmasing - the surreptitious collection of holly by moonlight for the purpose of selling.
  • Chrismatory - a special, usually lockable container, for holding the chrism.
  • Chromolithography - a method of printing in colours by the process of 'lithography'.
  • Churl - (etymologically the same name as Charles), in its earliest Anglo-Saxon meaning, was simply "a man", but the word soon came to mean "a non-servile peasant", still spelt ceorle, and denoting the lowest rank of freemen. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it later came to mean the opposite of the nobility and royalty, "a common person". Says Chadwick, "from the time of Aethelstan the distinction between thegn and ceorl was the broad line of demarcation between the classes of society." This meaning held through the 15th century, but by then the word had taken on negative overtone, meaning "a country person" and then "a low fellow". By the 19th century, a new and pejorative meaning arose, "one inclined to uncivil or loutish behaviour".
  • Ciborium - a vaulted canopy permanently placed over an altar or font; a covered receptacle for holding the consecrated wafers of the Eucharist.
  • Cicerone - an old term for a guide, one who conducts visitors and sightseers to museums, galleries, etc.,
  • Ci-devant - the French nobility of the ancien régime (the Bourbon monarchy) after it had lost its titles and privileges in the French Revolution. Even prior to the revolution, the term ci-devant was already a common expression to refer to "people or things dispossessed of their estate or quality
  • Cincture - something that encircles or surrounds; a belt or sash, especially one worn with an ecclesiastical vestment or the habit of a monk or nun.
  • Cist - also 'Kist' a small stone slab-built coffin-like box or 'ossuary' used to hold the bodies of the dead, especially during the Bronze Age in the British Isles and occasionally in Native American burials.
  • Citadel - a term for a 'Fortress' or 'Keep'.
  • Clachan - a small settlement of clustered houses with no church, and the land around held under a system of land tenure often referred to as the Rundale System - whereby farmers within the clachan had scattered plots of good, medium and poorer quality land. The better land was usually found close to the cluster of houses and was known as the infield - poorer quality land was found in what was often referred to as the outfield, since it was further away from the cluster. Parts of the land were held ‘in common’ e.g. the land around the houses and the mountain land. The mountain land was allocated in soums - e.g. one soum entitled a farmer to graze a cow or so many sheep. The number of soums that a farmer held was related to how much land he held in the infield/outfield area (Scots).
  • Clan Crest - the badge worn by a clan member, usually on the arm as a sign of allegiance. The crest of the clan chief is actually his crest and not that of the clan in terms of rightful use.
  • Clap - the form or lair of a hare or rabbit (Scots).
  • Clap - clap or clapper, the instrument which by striking the hopper causes corn to be shaken into the mill-stones (Scots}.
  • Clap & Happer - an expression used in Scottish legal documents, meaning the whole mill (Scots).
  • Clare constat - name of a precept (an order), in which a superior acknowledges that it 'clearly appears' that someone is heir to landed property held of the superior, and which orders the giving of sasine (Legal). This phrase means it does clearly appear.
  • Clathri - a grating or lattice of bars, as of cages for animals or gratings for windows.
  • Claustral - of or related to a cloister; secluded, isolated, or retired from the World.
  • Claviger - also a 'Macer'. A servant at a law court, responsible for maintaining order.
  • Clepe - (archaic) to call; name.
  • Clerestory - the windowed top of a nave in a church. Certain early Victorian railway coaches had a similar top structure and were named clerestory coaches.
  • Cloister - covered walkways in a cathedral or abbey, set out as a square and used by the monks as a study.
  • Close-stools - pierced wooden seats with a removable container beneath, used in many country houses before modern plumbing was developed.
  • Coat of Arms - the heraldic bearings or shield of a person, family or corporation. The presence of a coat of arms on an item usually signified ownership, hence the appearance of coats of arms on buildings, furniture, silverware, coins, etc.
  • Cobbled - surfaces such as roads and floors covered with small rounded stones or cobbles.
  • Cocidius - a Brythonic Celtic deity worshipped in northern Britain. The Romans equated him with Mars, god of war and hunting and with Sylvanus, god of forests, groves and wild fields. Like Belatu-Cadros, he was probably worshipped by lower-ranked Roman soldiers as well as Britons.
  • Cockade - an ornament, such as a rosette or knot of ribbon, usually worn on the hat as a badge. A White Cockade was the badge of the 'Jacobites'.
  • Cocket, also 'Cocquet' - a seal used by a customs house, applied to a certificate (a "letter of cocket") certifying that duty has been paid on goods to be exported.
  • Codex, Codices - the standard book format, with folded flat sheets stitched along one edge to bind the sheets together, also an ancient volume of manuscript, such as those surving from the Aztec civilisation.
  • Codger - an old or strange person. May be derived from 'Cadger'.
  • Codicil - a supplement or addition to a will; not intended to replace an entire will (Legal).
  • Codicology - the study of books as physical objects, especially manuscripts written on parchment in codex form. It is often referred to as 'the archaeology of the book', concerning itself with the materials (parchment, sometimes referred to as membrane or vellum, paper, pigments, inks and so on), and techniques used to make books, including their binding.
  • Coeval - originating or existing during the same period; lasting through the same era; One of the same era or period; a contemporary.
  • Cofferer - a principal officer in the English royal court, next under the controller. In the counting-house, and elsewhere at other times, he had a special charge and oversight of other officers of the house, for their good demeanor and carriage in their offices—to all whom he paid the wages.
  • Cofferer of the Household - formerly an office in the British Royal Household. The holder had special charge over other officers of the household and was an officer of state and a member of the Privy Council and the Board of Green Cloth.
  • Cognizance - in Heraldry, a crest or badge worn to distinguish the bearer.
  • Cogswounds - an expression meaning God's Wounds, now archaic. A character in Sir Walter Scott's 'Kenilworth' uses this expression. It is an example of a word which has had a consonant altered to help mask its literal meaning.
  • Collateral line - a line of descent connecting persons who share a common ancestor, but are related through an aunt, uncle, cousin, nephew, etc.
  • Collateral Succession - succession in which the throne passed not linearly from father to son, but laterally from brother to brother and then to the eldest son of the eldest brother who had held the throne.
  • Collegiate church - a church served and administered by a college of canons or prebendaries, presided over by a dean or provost. In its governing a collegiate church is similar to a cathedral, although a collegiate church is not the seat of a bishop. Collegiate churches were often supported by (sometimes extensive) lands held by the church. Lincluden at Dumfries in Scotland is an example.
  • Collop - a small portion of food or a slice, especially of meat; roll of fat flesh. 'Collop Monday' was the day when the last of the collops were eaten prior to Lent.
  • Colloquy - in law, a routine and highly formalized conversation, such as between the judge and lawyers. A religious colloquy or colloquium is a meeting to settle differences of doctrine or dogma.
  • Colonus - (plural Coloni) - a tenant farmer of the late Roman Empire and the European Middle Ages. Coloni were drawn from impoverished small free farmers, partially emancipated slaves, and barbarians sent to work as agricultural labourers among landed proprietors. For the lands that they rented, they paid in money, produce, or service. Some may have become coloni in order to gain protection from the proprietor against the state tax collector or against invaders and aggressive neighbours. Although technically freemen, the coloni were bound to the soil by debts that were heritable and by laws limiting their freedom of movement. By ad 332 landlords were permitted to chain coloni suspected of planning to leave. Coloni were forbidden to transfer their property without consent of the landlord and to sue the landlord except for increasing their rent. The colonus could not lose his land as long as he paid the rent, but he was forbidden to leave or change his occupation. If the land was sold, he went with it; his children held it after him on the same terms.
  • Colophon - an identifying inscription or emblem from a printer or publisher appearing at the end of a book. Also the emblem at the bottom of the spine on both a book and its dust-wrapper as well as the logo on the title or copyright page.
  • Columbarium - a dove-cote or doocot.
  • Columbarius - a full time keeper of a flock of pigeons.[10]
  • Combine harvester - a mobile machine that reaps, threshes and bales.
  • Commandry - the smallest division of the European landed estate or manor under the control of a commendator, or commander, of an order of knights.
  • Commendam - also 'Commendator'. The origins of the practice can be found in the Early Middle Ages when temporarily unoccupied church property (ecclesiastical benefice) would be temporarily entrusted to the protection of a member of the church, to safeguard it until order was restored and a new permanent holder of the position was granted in titulus. The safeguarder would receive any revenues generated from the property in the meantime. An example would be that of Kilwinning Abbey, Ayrshire, Scotland which was placed in the hands of a Commendator after the reformation.
  • Commonty - a common; a piece of ground used by or belonging to more than one person.
  • Compearance - in Scotland, defenders don't "appear" in a legal action; they "compear" (Legal).
  • Compline - the last of the seven canonical hours recited or sung just before retiring; the time of day appointed for this church service.
  • Composition - a payment made by an heir succeeding to land, to the superior of the land.
  • Compurgators - 'oath-helpers' whom a person on trial was allowed to call in to swear that, to their belief, as neighbours of the accused and acquainted with his character, he was speaking truth in making oath.
  • Commissariots - areas based on pre-Reformation dioceses in Scotland in which the Commissary Courts dealt with issues such as executries, slander, aliment and small debt.[11]
  • Commission of justiciary - strong powers granted to local lords to hold justice courts for particular events or periods of time (Scots).
  • Commission of lieutenandry - strong powers granted by the government to named feudal lords which virtually gave the individual the powers of the monarch for a fixed period (Scots).
  • Common Law - the traditional code of law in England, dating from the Middle Ages and supplemented by legal decisions over the centuries. Not written down in any one place. Often contrasted with statute laws passed by Parliament.
  • Commonweal - the public good or welfare.
  • Commutation - exchange or substitution.
  • Compear - to appear. To appear in court personally or by attorney (Legal).
  • Comptroller - a variant of 'controller.'
  • Coney - an adult rabbit. The term has almost died out due to its ribald or vulgar links.
  • Confidencen - a table already laid and set with food that could be raised up by pulleys into a room so that aristocracy could eat and converse confidentially in the absence of servants. From the French for 'In confidence'.
  • Conge - formal permission to depart or an abrupt and unceremonious dismissal.
  • Congé d'élire - permission to elect.
  • Connexus - a connecting structure.
  • Consignation money - money paid to the church prior to marriage to prevent ante-nuptial fornication. The money was returned if no evidence of fornication was apparent.
  • Constable - the title comes from the Latin comes stabuli (count of the stables) and originated from the Eastern Roman Empire; originally, the constable was the officer responsible for keeping the horses of a lord or monarch. In many countries the title developed into a high military rank and great officer of State.
  • Consuetude - custom; usage.
  • Cope - a large ceremonial cloak worn by some Christian priests [Late Latin cappa hooded cloak] a large ceremonial cloak worn by some Christian priests [Late Latin cappa hooded cloak].
  • Consanguinity - the degree of relationship between persons who descend from a common ancestor. A father and son are related by lineal consanguinity, uncle and nephew by collateral sanguinity.
  • Consistory - a consistory court is a type of ecclesiastical court, especially within the Church of England, established by a charter of King William I. These courts still exist today, although since about the mid 19th century they have lost much of their subject-matter jurisdiction.
  • Consuetude - a custom or usage that has acquired the force of law.
  • Consuetudinary - a manual describing the customs of a particular group (especially the ceremonial practices of a monastic order).
  • Conterminous - also 'Coterminous' - having a boundary in common; contiguous: The northern border of the United States is conterminous with the southern border of Canada.
  • Contumacious - obstinately disobedient or rebellious; insubordinate.
  • Contumely - insolently abusive and arrogantly humiliating. An insolent or arrogant remark or act.
  • Conventicle - an illegal meeting of Presbyterian covenanters (Scots).
  • Conventual - a member of a branch of the Franciscan religious order that permits the accumulation and possession of common property.
  • Conveyance - a legal document by which the title to property is transferred; warrant; patent; deed (Legal).
  • Coppard - a tree which has been firstly coppiced and then a few poles allowed to grow from the stool. These poles were pollarded and the tree cropped cyclically to provide faggots.
  • Coppice - a traditional method of woodland management in which young tree stems are cut down to a low level. In subsequent growth years, many new shoots will emerge and after a number of years the cycle begins again and the coppiced tree, or stool, is ready to be harvested again.
  • Coracle - small boats made of flexible twigs, such as willow, and then covered with animal hides and sewn together with leather thongs. They were used before the Romans arrived and continue to be used in parts of Wales for fishing, such as in the rivers Teifi and Tywi.[12]
  • Corbel - a projection from a wall-plane intended to support a structure above.
  • Cordon sanitaire - a guarded line between two areas, such as the border between Scotland and England prior to the Act on Union.
  • Corn - any cereal before or after harvesting.
  • Cornage - an ancient tenure of land, which obliged the tenant to give notice of an 'invasion' by blowing a horn.[13]
  • Cornice - a horizontal ornamental moulded projection around the top of a building. Keeps the rain of the walls.
  • Coronach - (also written coranich, corrinoch, coranach, cronach, etc.) is the lamentation or dirge for the dead which accompanied funerals in the Highlands of Scotland and in Ireland. It can be a choral lament or a funereal song sung or shrieked by Celtic women.
  • Corpus delicti - the actual subject of inquiry in a criminal trial - such as the body of the person murdered; without which a trial could not take place.
  • Cossnent - wages without food (Scots).[5]
  • Coterie - a small, often select group of persons who associate with one another frequently.
  • Coterminous - also 'Conterminous' - having a boundary in common; contiguous: The northern border of the United States is coterminous with the southern border of Canada.
  • Cothouse - also a 'Cot,' A dwelling with or without land attached. A tied cottage to a farm labourer and his family (Scots).
  • Cottage Ornee - a type of 'Summer House' or 'Cottage orne' from the early development of country estates, early 18th century.
  • Cottar - a tenant or villein. Lowest of the main levels of peasant cultivators at Domesday; cottagers with 4 acres or less.
  • Cotte - woman’s or child’s petticoat; a skirt.
  • Cottown - Also 'Cottoun' - a group of cottages, often set apart from a township, occupied by cottars who were landless people allowed to settle on the common land and cultivate a small area of land in return for their labour (Scots).
  • Couchant - in heraldry the term means 'Lying down with the head raised'.
  • Couillon - see 'Cowan'.
  • County or shire - an English administrative district, uniting several smaller districts called hundreds, ruled jointly by an ealdorman and sheriff, who presided in the shire-moot. Moot Hall or Mote House became the name for what we now call a Town Hall (See 1890 romanticisation by William Morris). The Normans (from 1066) continued to rule England in shires, using Anglo-French counté, Anglo-Latin comitatus to describe them. These words were absorbed into English as county.
  • Court hill - see 'Moot','Mote' hill and 'Cuthill'.
  • Cousin German - a child of one's aunt or uncle; a first cousin; from O.Fr. germain "closely related."
  • Covenanter - a person who had signed or was an adherent to the 'National Covenant of the Solemn League and Covenant' in 17th. century Scotland, in support of Presbyterianism (Scots).
  • Covin - a number of persons banded together; a combination or union.
  • Cowan - also 'Cullion' or 'Couillon'. Anyone who works as a mason without having served a regular apprenticeship; among Freemasons, a term for pretender, interloper.
  • Coxcomb - a conceited dandy who is overly impressed by his own accomplishments; a cap worn by court jesters; adorned with a strip of red [syn: cockscomb].
  • Crenellate, Licence to - Royal permission was necessary for the fortification of dwellings. Later thios became more a matter of the craetion of impressive apparent, rather than real fortifications.
  • Cresset - a metal cup, often suspended on a pole, containing burning oil or pitch and used as a torch.
  • Crest - The correct use of the heraldic term 'crest' refers to just one component of a complete achievement in heraldry. The crest rests on top of a helmet which itself rests on the most important part of the achievement — the shield. The crest is usually found on a wreath of twisted cloth and sometimes within a coronet. The modern crest has evolved from the three-dimensional figure placed on the top of the mounted knights' helms as a further means of identification. In most heraldic traditions a woman does not display a crest.
  • Crinoline - originally a stiff fabric with a weft of horse-hair and a warp of cotton or linen thread. The fabric first appeared around 1830.
  • Cro - also 'Weregeld'. The assythement due to be paid to the friends or family of someone who had been killed, by the killer.
  • Crock - an earthenware jar which was historically used for the storage of butter or other food items. Dalgarven Mill, North Ayrshire in Scotland has a good collection. The expression 'Crock of gold' in relation to the supposed treasure at the end of a rainbow refers to this type of pot.
  • Crocket - in architecture a projecting ornament, usually in the form of a cusp or curling leaf, placed along outer angles of pinnacles and gables.
  • Croft - a fenced or enclosed area of land, usually small and arable with a crofter's dwelling thereon (Scots).
  • Cromlech - also known as 'Dolmen' or 'quoits', are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones (megaliths) supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. Mostly dating from the early Neolithic period in Britain (4000 BC to 3000 BC). They were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in most cases that covering has weathered away or removed for drystone dyking, etc.
  • Crop - the produce of cultivated plants, especially cereals.
  • Cross Moline - a design element used as a mark of cadency in heraldry, particularly English heraldry; named because its shape resembles a millrind, the iron clamp of the upper millstone.
  • Crop rotation - growing different crops on the same field each year to prevent the build up of pest species, etc.
  • Cross pattée - also 'cross patty' or 'Cross formy' is a type of cross that has arms which are narrow at the center, and broader at the perimeter. The name comes from the fact that the shape of each arm of the cross was thought to resemble a paw (French patte). There are several variants of the cross pattée.
  • Crowstep - Also 'Corbie-step'. rectangular stones forming the gable of a building, each one stepped back from the one below.
  • Crozier - also 'crosier.' The stylized staff of office carried by high-ranking Roman Catholic , Eastern Orthodox , Anglican and some Lutheran prelates
  • Cruck - curved timber, used in pairs to form a bowed A-frame which supports the roof of a building independently of the walls.
  • Cruive - a built enclosure used in salmon-fishing.
  • Crupper - a leather strap fastened to the saddle of a harness and looping under the tail of a horse to prevent the harness from slipping forward; the rump or buttocks of a horse or armour for the rump of a horse.
  • Crusado - an old Portuguese coin of gold or silver having a cross pictured on the reverse.
  • Cuckold - a man married to an unfaithful wife. The female of some Old World cuckoos lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, leaving them to be cared for by the resident nesters. This parasitic tendency has given the female bird a figurative reputation for unfaithfulness as well. Middle English cokewold, the ancestor of Modern English cuckold, is first recorded in a work written around 1250.
  • Cudrun - a Scottish unit of measurement for cheese. It is not known what the measure was.
  • Cuirass - a piece of armour for protecting the breast and back; the breastplate alone.
  • Cuisse - plate armour worn to protect the front of the thigh.
  • Culdee - the Celi De or 'Clients of God'. The Priests of the early celtic church, originally from Ireland. In Scotland they had communities at Iona and St.Andrews, with monasteries at Brechin, Abernethy, Loch Leven, Monymusk and Muthil.
  • Cullion - see 'Cowan'.
  • Culver - the Anglo-Saxon word for a pigeon.
  • Culverine - long barrelled artillery of the 16th century.
  • Cumerlache - a fugitive serf (Scots).
  • Cummer - also 'Cummar'; 'cwmar'; 'cummere', 'comer', etc. A godmother (in relation to the parents and other godparents); a female intimate; a woman gossip.
  • Cunningary - a rabbit-warren. From the old word 'Coney,' an adult rabbit, especially the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The word rabbit was originally used exclusively for the young only.
  • Cup and ring mark Stone - these are a form of prehistoric art found predominantly in the upland parts of the British Isles but also in some parts of continental Europe. They consist of a concave depression, no more than a few centimetres across, pecked into a rock surface and often surrounded by concentric circles also etched into the stone. Sometimes a linear channel called a gutter leads out from the middle.
  • Cupola - also a 'Lantern' or 'Glover' - a cover which provides an entrance / exit, but keeps out the rain from a building or structure.
  • Cupping - drawing blood by applying a heated cup to the scarified (scratched) skin. Also called wet cupping. The practice as a treatment for disease is old and found in different cultures.
  • Cur - a dog considered to be inferior or undesirable; a mongrel. A base or cowardly person.
  • Curate - a cleric, especially one who has charge of a parish; a cleric who assists a rector or vicar.
  • Cure - ecclesiastical Spiritual charge or care, as of a priest for a congregation.
  • Curia - in the Roman Catholic Church, the central administration governing the Church.
  • Curial - a medieval assembly or council; a medieval royal court of justice.
  • curlicue - also 'curlycue'. In the visual arts, is a fancy twist, or curl, composed usually from a series of concentric circles. It is a recurring motif in architecture, in calligraphy and in general scrollwork; sometimes found on gravestones.
  • Curling - a precision team sport similar to 'bowls' or 'bocce', played on a rectangular sheet of prepared ice by two teams of four players each, using heavy polished granite curling stones which players slide down the ice towards a target area called the house. Points are scored for the number of stones that a team has closer to the center of the target than the closest of the other team's stones.
  • Curmudgeon - a crusty irascible cantankerous person, usually old, full of stubborn ideas. Deriving from the 16th-century, origins unclear.
  • Curse - the effective action of some power, distinguished solely by the quality of adversity that it brings. A curse may also be said to result from a spell or prayer, imprecation or execration, or other imposition by magic or witchcraft, asking that a god, natural force, or spirit bring misfortune to someone.
  • Cursing - a denounciation issued in the name of a bishop which led to excommunication. The 'curse' was read out at a divine service or in a public place.
  • Cursus - a name given by early British archaeologists such as William Stukeley to the large parallel lengths of banks with external ditches which they thought were early Roman athletics tracks, hence the Latin name 'Cursus', meaning 'Circus'. Cursus monuments are now understood to be Neolithic structures and may have been of ceremonial function. They range in length from 50 metres to almost 10 kilometres and the distance between the parallel earthworks can be up to 100 metres. Banks at the terminal ends enclosed the cursus. More than a hundred examples are known, such as the one near Drybridge in North Ayrshire, Scotland.
  • Curtilage - the land and structures on property which immediately surround the residence.
  • Curvilinear - formed, bounded, or characterized by curved lines.
  • Cuthill - a placename element meaning an assembly or rysting place, such as for non-seignural courts, mostly in the Scottish Highlands; from the Gaelic 'comhdhail'.

D Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Dairy - where milk was made into butter and cheese. In earlier times demand for milk as a drink was quite low as it went off quickly in the absence of refrigerators.
  • Dalmatic - a highly decorative cloak worn by a Deacon over his white alb.
  • Damask - to decorate or weave with rich patterns.
  • Dandiprat - a little fellow; - in sport or contempt. Also a small coin. King Henry VII issued a small coin denomination nicknamed a dandiprat.
  • Danewort - another name for the Dwarf Elder (Sambucus ebulus).
  • Davach - also 'Davoch'. A unit of land-area, used in parts of the Pictlands in place of the ploughgate. A davoch represents either the area sown with a certain quantity of seed or the area yielding a certain quantity of grain; sometimes equated with four ploughgates. In the 18th century the davoch equalled 96 Scots acres.
  • Davidian Revolution - a term given by many scholars to the changes which took place in the Kingdom of Scotland during the reign of David I of Scotland. These included his foundation of burghs, implementation of the ideals of Gregorian Reform, foundation of monasteries, Normanization of the Scottish government, and the introduction of feudalism through immigrant French and Anglo-French knights.
  • Davy Dust - a name for powdered limestone used to 'dampen down' coal dust in mines.
  • Damask - a fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, with a pattern formed by weaving. Today, it generally denotes a linen texture richly figured in the weaving with flowers, fruit, forms of animal life, and other types of ornament.
  • Dapifer - a bearer of meat to table; a steward. This term was later used in the context of the High Stewards of Scotland, later the Stewarts & King Robert II; first Stewart king of Scotland.
  • De eodem - 'of that place.' Such as with the name Fergushill of Fergushill q.v. Fergushill de Eodem.
  • Darg - a day's work or its equivalent (Scots).
  • Dean - a wooded hollow or valley (Anglo-Saxon).
  • Deasil - clockwise, righthandwards or sunwise, form the Gaelic deiseil.
  • Debatable land - specifically an area of the Scotland and England Border which was not properly delineated until the construction of the Scots Dyke following arbitration by the French.
  • Deckle edges - a term for uncut or untrimmed edges on a book.
  • Declarator - in Scots law an action seeking to have some right, status, etc., judicially ascertained.
  • Decolate - to behead.
  • Decree Arbitral - in Scot's Law, a decree made by arbitrators chosen by the parties; an award.
  • Deed - a document transferring ownership and title of property (Legal).
  • Deemster - also 'dempster' - an officer whose duty it was to announce the doom or sentence pronounced by the court (Scots law).
  • Deer Leap - an opening in a deer park enclosure which was designed to allow the entry, but not the exit of deer.
  • Defalcate - to misuse funds; embezzle.
  • Definitor - an officer of the chapter in certain monastic orders, charged with the 'definition' or decision of points of discipline.
  • Defixione - from the ancient Roman term 'tabulae defixiones' which translated means curse tablets. Ancient defixiones were used to convey messages to influential gods and spirits, usually asking them for victory over an enemy by ‘binding them up’ in some kind of horrific trouble. The root idea is to bind or tie up.
  • de jure - in principle as opposed to de facto, in fact.
  • Delectus Personae - the right of choice by a particular person. Important in a legal sense preventing assignation or delegation of a duty by the person chosen.
  • Delirium- a mental state with incoherent speech, hallucinations, restlessness and excitement which resulted from either illness or alcohol. 'Febrile delirium' is delirium caused by fever.
  • Delved land - land that had been worked by a spade.
  • Demesne - all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the castle, that was retained by the lord for his own use as distinguished from that "alienated" or granted to others as tenants. Initially the demesne lands were worked on the lord's behalf by villeins or by serfs, in fulfillment of their feudal obligations.
  • Demurrage - an allowance due to a shipmaster or shipowner for the time a ship is held up longer than usual to be loaded or unloaded.
  • Dempster - also 'deemster' - an officer whose duty it was to announce the doom or sentence pronounced by the court (Scots law).
  • Dentelle - the decorated edge of the leather which a book binder brings over the boards from the outside of the binding. Also called the Turn In.
  • de Eodem - 'of that place.' Such as with the name Fergushill of Fergushill q.v. Fergushill de Eodem.
  • Deodand - a thing forfeited or given to God, specifically, in law, an object or instrument which becomes forfeit because it has caused a person's death.
  • Descry - to catch sight of (something difficult to discern) or to discover by careful observation or scrutiny.
  • Desuetude - a condition of disuse or inactivity.
  • Devexity - a bending downward; a sloping; incurvation downward; declivity.
  • Devil's door - a door left open during church services in a church for the Devil to escape through. Pope Innocent III banned the practice in the 13th century as superstituous, and many such doorways were subsequently walled up.
  • Desideratum - something that is considered necessary or highly desirable.
  • Desuetude - a doctrine that causes statutes, similar legislation or legal principles to lapse and become unenforceable by a long habit of non-enforcement or lapse of time. It is what happens to laws that are not repealed when they become obsolete. It is the Legal doctrine that long and continued non-use of a law renders it invalid, at least in the sense that courts will no longer tolerate punishing its transgressors.
  • Devoir - an act or expression of respect or courtesy; civility as in 'one pays one's devoirs'. A duty or responsibility.
  • Dewar - A relic keeper.
  • Diablerie - sorcery; witchcraft; representation of devils or demons, as in paintings or fiction; devilish conduct; deviltry.
  • Diablotin - an 'imp'; a small devil or wicked spirit.
  • Diaper - a diamond-shaped pattern.
  • Diarchy or 'dyarchy' - a form of government in which two diarchs are the heads of state. In most diarchies, they hold their position for life and pass the responsibilities and power of the position to their children or family when they die.
  • Dilligence - in Scots Law a process or execution, as in a writ.
  • Diffidatio - an archaic term for the act of renunciation of faith or allegiance; formal severing of peaceful relations.
  • Dilligrout - a watery porridge made with plums in it. Much favoured by William the Conqueror and once served as part of the Coronation ceremonies.
  • Dimity - a sheer, crisp cotton fabric with raised woven stripes or checks, used chiefly for curtains and dresses.
  • Dirk - a long dagger as formerly worn by Scottish Highlanders. A fine example is the Campbell Dirk which belonged to Sir John Campbell, the adviser to William III over the Massacre of Glencoe.
  • Disavow - to disclaim knowledge of, responsibility for, or association with.
  • Discalced - a term applied to those religious congregations of men and women, the members of which go entirely barefoot or wear sandals, with or without other covering for the feet.
  • Dispensation - an exemption from a church law, a vow, or another similar obligation granted in a particular case by an ecclesiastical authority.
  • Dispone - to make over or convey legally (Legal)(Scots).
  • Disruption, The - a period of conflict in the Church of Scotland over patronage, or the appointment of ministers by landowners.
  • Dissenter - name given a person who refused to belong to the established Church of England.
  • Distraint - the seizure and holding of property as security for payment of a debt or satisfaction of a claim (Legal); Originally distress was a landlord's remedy against a tenant for unpaid rents or property damage, but now the landlord is given a landlord's lien.
  • Dittay - the substance of the charge against a person accused of a crime (Scots) (Legal).
  • Diurnal - a diurnal was the term for a newspaper.
  • Divination - the attempt of ascertaining information by interpretation of omens or an alleged supernatural agencies.
  • Divot - a piece of turf torn up by a golf club in striking a ball, or by a horse's hoof. A thin square of turf or sod used for roofing (Scots).
  • Dobble - a type of manakin used to display a suit of armour.
  • Dobby stone - Milk was poured as an offering to 'Gruagach' the Gaelic guardian-goddess of cattle, into hollows in stones called 'Dobby stones' or 'Leach na Gruagach'.
  • Doctrine - a principle of political or religious belief.
  • Dog tooth - a type of ornamentation in the moulding of an arch; typically found in churches and some castles.
  • Doggis - pistols of the 16th century.
  • Dolmen - also known as 'Cromlechs' or 'quoits', are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones (megaliths) supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. Mostly dating from the early Neolithic period in Britain (4000 BC to 3000 BC). They were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in most cases that covering has weathered away or removed for drystone dyking, etc.
  • Dominium directum - "the direct lordship"; the interest which a feudal superior had in property, like the right to feu duties, casualties and other rights.
  • Dominum utile - the right to use something, often used in connection with feudal law in which the Crown held dominum directum over the land and granted this right to the lords or vassals.
  • Donjoun - a fortified building or castle. Specifically the originally wooden tower on top of the motte. Originally however the earthen hillock.
  • Doocot - Scots for a 'dovecote'. A shelter with nesting holes for domesticated pigeons, originally kept as a source of food (especially in winter) and later for appearances sake.
  • Dool Tree or 'Dule Tree' - in Scotland a tree used for executions and as a gibbet in connection with the feudal rights of 'pit and gallows' held by local barons and other such representatives of the crown. In England known as a Gallows-Tree
  • Doric order - One of the three orders or organisational systems of Ancient Greek or classical architecture which stood on the flat pavement of a temple without a base, their vertical shafts fluted with pararell concave grooves topped by a smooth capital that flared from the column to meet a square abacus at the intersection with the horizontal beam that they carried.
  • Dortour - a dormitory, especially in a monastery.
  • Dowager - a widow holding property or a title received from her deceased husband; title given in England to widows of princes, dukes, earls, and other noblemen.
  • Dower - a legal provision of real estate and support made to the widow for her lifetime from a husband's estate, as in 'Dower House' (Legal).
  • Dowry - also 'dowery' - land, money, goods, or personal property brought by a bride to her husband in marriage.
  • Drawcansir - a blustering, bullying fellow; a pot-valiant braggart; a bully.
  • Dressing stones - preparing the surface of the millstone for grinding.
  • Dripstone - in architecture a projection or moulding which prevents water from dripping onto stone or other vertical surfaces.
  • Drove Road - a route used by cattle drovers driving cattle from the Highlands and Islands to the markets or trysts of southern Scotland and England.
  • Druid - the priestly class in ancient Celtic societies, which existed through much of Western Europe north of the Alps and in Britain and Ireland until they were supplanted by Roman government and, later, Christianity. A common element in place names.
  • Druids' Cord - a device used for measuring, laying out a right angle and making the seventh part of a circle using geometry. It is a rope with thirteen equal sections, each marked by a knot, making a total of twelve knots.
  • Drum - a long narrow ridge or knoll, “applied to little hills, which rise as backs or ridges above the level of the adjacent ground”
  • Dry-goose - a ball of extra finely ground meal, wetted until it could be patted and rolled into a round shape, then roasted in the hot ashes from a mill kiln (Scots).
  • Dry multure - the multure that a tenant had to pay, whether it was ground or not (Scots).
  • Dryster - someone who attends to a kiln at a mill.
  • Duellium - also 'Duellum' or 'Duel'. An archaic term for a prearranged, formal combat between two persons, often fought to settle a point of honour.
  • Duff - decaying leaves and branches covering a forest floor.
  • Du - also 'Dubh' - black or dark in Gaelic.
  • Dulcify - to make agreeable or gentle; to sweeten.
  • Dule Tree or 'Dool Tree' - a tree used for executions and as a gibbet in connection with the feudal rights of 'pit and gallows' held by local barons and other such representatives of the crown (Scots).
  • Dun - also 'Doon' or 'Dum' - a stronghold or hill-fort (Gaelic).
  • Dunlop Cheese - a mild cheese or 'sweet-milk cheese' which resembles a soft Cheddar cheese in texture. It originates in Dunlop, Ayrshire, Scotland and was first made in south western Scotland in the 18th century (Scots).
  • Dunter - also known as a 'Powrie' or 'Red cap', is a type of malevolent murderous goblin, elf or fairy found in British folklore. They inhabit ruined castles found along the border between England and Scotland. Redcaps are said to murder travelers who stray into their homes and dye their hats with their victims' blood (from which they get their name (Scots).
  • Dur - also 'Der' - water (Gaelic).
  • Dutch Barn - a farm building which is completely open on one or more sides and supported by brick or stone pillars or cast-iron or steel piers.
  • Duvate - roofing made from turfs. The same origin as the word 'Divot', used in golf and polo.
  • Dyke - in geology an intrusion or band of hard stone, usually igneous, often running for miles and eroded very slowly in relation to softer rocks (Scots).
  • Dyke - a stone wall. In England it can mean a ditch. prior to this enclosure of land the cattle were free to mix without much control from the farmer and establishing or maintaining a 'pure breed' was therefore practically impossible. The development of superior breeds of cattle therefore depended upon the enclosure of pastures.
  • Dysentery - formerly this disease was very prevalent in the UK, but in the present day it is practically confined to hot climates. Soil contaminated with excremental matters is one of the most important contributing conditions essential to the occurrence of dysentery. The infectivity of bacillary dysentery lies in the stools.
  • Dyvour - a bankrupt.

E Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Ea - also 'Ey' - an island (Anglo-Saxon).
  • Earth House - also 'fogou', 'Pict's house' or 'souterrain'.
  • Easter - the more easterly of two places, buildings or other things (Scots).
  • Ebrious - Inclined to drink to excess; intoxicated; tipsy. As found in Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novel.
  • Ecclesiastical - pertaining to the church or the clergy.
  • Ecclesiastical benefice - a church property.
  • Eclaircissement - the clearing up of anything which is obscure or not easily understood; an explanation.
  • Effluvium - (plural effluvia or effluviums) - a gaseous or vaporous emission, in particular a foul-smelling one
  • Effulgent - Shining brilliantly; resplendent.
  • Egad - a softened oath, the second element God, first uncertain; it may represent the exclamation 'ah'.
  • Egregious - extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant: an egregious mistake; an egregious liar. An archaic meaning is that of something distinguished or eminent.
  • Eggler - a chapman who dealt in eggs.
  • Eik - an addition or supplement to a deed (Legal).
  • Eirenic - also 'irenic', aiming or aimed at peace. A part of Christian theology concerned with reconciling different denominations and sects.
  • Eld - a late time of life or a time of life (usually defined in years) at which some particular qualification or power arises; "she was now of school age"; "tall for his eld", etc.
  • Electric fluid - archaic tem for the supposed matter of electricity; lightning.
  • Eleemosynary - of or pertaining to alms, charity, or charitable donations; charitable. Derived from or provided by charity. Dependent on or supported by charity: an eleemosynary educational institution.
  • Elephant folio - the watermark on paper used in a book which is about 23 inches tall; therefore named after the watermark.
  • Ellwand - a staff or measuring one ell in length. In the Baronial court this was one of the 'badges' of the Baron-sergeant.
  • Embroidery - an ancient variety of decorative needlework in which designs and pictures are created by stitching strands of some material on to a layer of another material. See also: Machine embroidery.
  • Emeralder - archaic slang for an Irish person.
  • Emolument - payment for an office or employment; compensation.
  • Emparkation - the creation of a park with its associated 'pale.'
  • Emphyteusis - a term for holding land in return for a yearly payment of rent.
  • En talus - a military term for the sloping face of a bulwark.
  • Enceinte - the main enclosing or curtain-wall of a fortification.
  • Enclosure - see 'Inclosure.'
  • Encomium - a formal or high-flown expression of praise. An example is that of the praise often heaped upon a person at their death.
  • Enfeoff - to invest with an estate in land (in England always a heritable estate), held on condition of homage and service to a superior lord, by whom it is granted and in whom the ownership remains
  • Enfilade - where all the rooms in a dwelling open one into the next so that you can see from one end through to the other.
  • Enormity - the quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness; a monstrous offense or evil; an outrage.
  • En - nui - listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom.
  • Entail - to entail is to restrict the inheritance of land to a specific group of heirs, such as an individual's sons. The Scottish form 'tailyie' became obsolescent in the mid. 18th c.; the law books favour the spelling 'tailzie'. (Legal).
  • Enumeration - a list of people, as in a census.
  • (de) Eodem - 'of that place.' Such as with the name Fergushill of Fergushill q.v. Fergushill de Eodem.
  • Eodem anno - in the same year.
  • Eodem die - on the same day.
  • Eodem mense - in the same month.
  • Ephemera - something which disappears quickly. A word from the Greek ephemeron, covering items which are easily lost to the historical record, such as manifestos, programs, tickets, posters, broadsides, etc.
  • Epicene - the loss of gender distinction, often specific loss of masculinity.
  • Equiponderate - to weigh; to be equal in weight; to weigh as much as another thing.
  • Erastian - a person who would see the church placed entirely under the control of the State.
  • Erection - royal favourites to whom the benefices which had belonged to Scottish monasteries were granted after the Reformation.
  • Eremite - a recluse or hermit, especially a religious recluse.
  • Erenagh - person responsible for upkeep of church property. {Gaelic].
  • Ergastula - a Roman building used to hold in chains dangerous slaves, or to punish other slaves. The ergastula was usually subsurface, built as a deep, roofed pit - large enough to allow the slaves to work within it and containing narrow spaces in which they slept.
  • Eroticical - about sexual love.
  • Errata - mistakes or errors ina publication; generally recorded as an 'errata slip' laid into a book by a publisher who has discovered errors just prior to publication.
  • Error, summons of - a legal action to get someone's designation as heir to a property annulled, on the grounds that an inquest had identified the wrong person as heir because a nearer heir existed.
  • Escalier d'honneur - a principal staircase in a castle or mansion house.
  • Eschatology - a part of theology and philosophy concerned with the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the 'end of the world.'
  • Escheat - the reversion of land held under feudal tenure to the manor in the absence of legal heirs or claimants.
  • Escheator - an officer whose duty it is to observe what escheats have taken place, and to take charge of them.
  • Eschew - to avoid or shun.
  • Escuage - or Scutage the law of England under the feudal system, allowed a knight to "buy out" of the military service due to the Crown from the holder of a knight's fee. Its name derived from the knightly shield (in Latin: scutum).
  • Escutcheon - the term used in heraldry for the shield displayed in a coat of arms. An Inescutcheon is a smaller escutcheon borne within a larger escutcheon. The term crest is often used incorrectly to designate this part of the coat of arms. The term "escutcheon" also refers to the shield-like shape on which arms are often borne. The escutcheon shape is based on the Medieval shields that were used by knights in combat. Since this shape has been regarded as a war-like device appropriate to men only, ladies customarily bear their arms upon a lozenge, or diamond-shape, while clergymen bear theirs on a cartouche, or oval. Other shapes are possible, such as the roundel commonly used for arms granted to Aboriginal Canadians by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.
  • Esow - resolve; avoid.
  • Esquire - (abbreviated Esq.) is a title of honour and dignity ranked below a knight and above a gentleman, allowed, for example, to the sons of nobles and to the gentry who do not possess any other title. It ultimately derived from the medieval term squire. On this basis, a gentleman was traditionally designated Mr ('Mister' before his name), whereas an Esquire was designated 'Esq.'
  • Essoin - an excuse for not appearing in court at the return of process; the allegation of an excuse to the court; exemption.
  • Ether - a long flexible wood stake used in temporary hedging and woven in horizontally between vertical stakes.
  • Estate - this comprises the houses, outbuildings, supporting farmland and woodland policies that surround the gardens and grounds of a very large property, such as a 'country house' or 'mansion'. It is an 'estate' because the profits from its produce and rents are sufficient to support the household in the house at its center. Thus 'the estate' may refer to all other cottages and villages in the same ownership as the mansion itself.
  • Estate - the Social Class of an individual, as in the 'Three Estates.'
  • Estover - the right ot collect firewood in medieval times.
  • et ux - "and wife."
  • Evidents - a Scottish name for any deeds or other written evidence (Legal).
  • Excambied - a Scots term for the exchange of property, especially land.
  • Exculpate - to clear of guilt or blame.
  • Execration - hate coupled with disgust or abhorrence; an appeal to some supernatural power to inflict evil on someone or some group; the object of cursing or detestation.
  • Executor - a male appointed by a testator to carry out the directions and requests in his or her will, and to dispose of the property according to his testamentary provisions after his or her death (Legal).
  • Executrix - a female appointed by a testator to carry out the directions and requests in his or her will, and to dispose of the property according to the testamentary provisions after his or her death (Legal).
  • Exegesis - a critical explanation or analysis, especially of a text.
  • Exhorter - churchmen licensed to give sermons and to read from the Book of the Common Order. Also one who encourages, beseeches, prompts, supports with words and attitude someone else to do something that person should do or has a desire to do.
  • Exigent - requiring much; exacting; urgent or pressing.
  • Ex-Libris - a bookplate printed with the owner's name or initials. It is Latin for "From the library of ...".
  • Exordium - a beginning or introductory part, especially of a speech or treatise.
  • Expunge - the sealing or destroying of legal records. Generally, expungement can be viewed as the process to "remove from general review" the records pertaining to a case. But the records may not completely "disappear" and may still be available to law enforcement (Legal).
  • Extents - documenting in a thorough but not exhaustive fashion the details of the lands held by aristocrats, the church, etc. Not common in Scotland, but a frequent practice in England. They are often entitled the 'Black Book of ....' and have echoes of the Doomsday Book.
  • Extranean - a person coming from a distance or living beyonds the bounds of a place.[5]

F Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Facsimile - an exact reproduction, by photography or by typographic or manuscript imitation, of an original leaf or book. The 'Doomsday Book' and the 'Book of Kells' would be examples of items reproduced as facsimiles.
  • Faggot - a bundle of twigs, sticks, or branches from the underwood bound together; a bundle of pieces of iron or steel to be welded or hammered into bars. Often of a specific size and used as a unit of measurement.
  • Fairy dust - the spores or 'seeds' of ferns were widely believed to make the user invisible.
  • Fairy ring - also known as fairy circle, Elf circle or pixie ring, is a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms which lead to the temporary enrichment of the ground giving a dark green ring which progressively expands outwards.
  • Fall - a traditional unit of distance equal to 6 ells. The fall was used in land measurement somewhat like the rod. Measurements in rods were often made with an actual wood pole, while measurements in falls were often made with a rope 6 ells long. The distance falling under the rope was called a fall. The fall was used mostly in Scotland, where its traditional length was 6 Scots ells or about 18.6 English feet (5.67 meters). The Scots mile was equal to 320 falls (5952 English feet, 1.127 English mile or 1814.2 metres). After the unification of Scotland and England the fall was reinterpreted to equal 6 English ells (22.5 feet or 6.858 metres).
  • Fall - a traditional unit of area equal to one square fall. In the traditional Scots system of measurement, a fall of land equals about 346 square feet or 32.15 square metres. A traditional Scots acre was equal to 160 falls or about 6150 square English yards (1.27 English acres or 0.514 hectare). In the English system a fall of land is 506.25 square feet, 56.25 square yards, or about 47.03 square metres.
  • Fallow - ploughed and harrowed land left uncultivated for a year.
  • Fama clamosa - a current scandal. Often found in old church session books!
  • Farina - the flour or meal of cereals, nuts, or starchy roots such as potatoes.
  • Farm - In the Latin of medieval Europe, 'firma' was a fixed payment. Our farm (agricultural) derives from paying rent for land. Farm (and especially "farm out") also had the meaning (from the mid-17th century) of subcontracting a job for a fee. In particular, the care of people, or the maintenance of an institution (workhouse for example) in which they were kept, for a fixed fee.
  • Farm Town - a common medieval sub-division of land was by the ploughgate (104 acres), the extent of land which one plough tesm of oxen could till in a year. This area was again subdivided into four husbandlands, each of 26 acres, each husbandland could provide two oxen and eight oxen were need for a plough-team. This arrangement led to small farm towns being established with accommodation for at least four men of six to eight houses, taking practical considerations into account.
  • Fasces - from the Latin word fascis, meaning "bundle". Symbolising summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity.
  • Fata morgana - a mirage; named after the Italian translation of Morgan le Fay, the fairy shapeshifting half-sister of King Arthur. It is a naturally occuring optical phenomenon which results from temperature inversion.
  • Fauld - a field which is manured by keeping sheep or cattle on it.[14] Rarely manure from other livestock, such as pigeons droppings from a dovecot at Kilmaurs in Ayrshire. Pigeons produce considerable amounts of manure as any city dweller will know! (Scots).
  • Faun - place-spirits (genii) of untamed woodland. Romans connected their fauns with the Greek satyrs, wild and orgiastic drunken followers of Bacchus (Greek Dionysus). Fauns and satyrs were originally quite different creatures. Both have horns and both resemble goats below the waist, humans above; but originally satyrs had human feet, fauns goat-like hooves.
  • Fauxine - a person in Medieval times branded with an 'F' on their forehead for being guilty of a falsehood. A female outlaw; abandoned without the protection of the law.
  • Feal and divot - the right to take turfs for roofing or other purposes, which in England goes by the name of "common of turbary".
  • Fealty - the fidelity owed by a vassal to his feudal lord; the oath of such fidelity.
  • Feckless - feeble; ineffective.
  • Feeble-minded - such people were neither idiots nor imbeciles, but if adults, their condition was so pronounced that they require care, supervision, and control for their own protection or the protection of others. If children of school age, their condition wasso pronounced that they by reason of such defectiveness appear to be personally incapable of receiving proper benefit from instruction in ordinary schools.
  • Fee - an inherited or heritable estate in land (Legal).
  • Fee simple - an inheritance having no limitations or conditions in its use (legal).
  • Feeing Market - the market at which the hiring of farm workers took place.
  • Fell - a mountain (Scandinavian).
  • Feme sole - an unmarried woman or a married woman with property independent of her husband (Legal).
  • Fenced - as in 'fencing' a court, keeping order in the court and summoning the parties (Legal).
  • Fencible - capable of being defended, or of making or affording defense; A soldier enlisted for home service only.
  • Feretory - a receptacle to hold the relics of saints; a reliquary; An area of a church in which reliquaries are kept.
  • Fermee Ornee - a country estate laid out partly according to aesthetic principles and partly for farming. Ferme ornee were an expression in landscape gardening of the Romantic Movement of 18th. century Europe, i.e. a working farm, domestic animals, natural landscape joined with follies and grottoes, statuary and classical texts combined with avenued walks, flowing water, lakes, areas of light and shade, special plantings and inspirational views.
  • Fermtoun - a collection of rural buildings including a farm (Scots).
  • Fess - in heraldry a wide horizontal band forming the middle section of an escutcheon.
  • Fertilizer - any chemical added to the soil which makes it more fertile or productive.
  • Ferule - an instrument, such as a cane, stick, or flat piece of wood, as once used in punishing children.
  • Festy-cock - a ball of extra finely ground meal, wetted until it could be patted and rolled into a round shape, then roasted in the hot ashes from a mill kiln. Eaten as a substitute for the cockerel and eaten at Shrovetide (Scots).
  • Feu - this is an annual payment in money or in kind in return for the use of land. The crown is the first overlord or superior; the land is held by crown vassals (Lords, etc.), but they in turn may feu their land, as it is called, to others who become their vassals (Legal).
  • Feu charter - a charter granted in the context of a barony by which the baron remains the superior and the grantee becomes his vassal.
  • Feu-duty - an annual fixed money-rent on perpetually heritable land.
  • Feu-ferme tenure - the feuing of land in perpetuity.
  • Feudalism - this refers to a general set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility of Europe during the Middle Ages, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs.
  • Fiars - prices of grain which were fixed for each county by its sheriff and a jury of locals every February.
  • Fiar - someone who held lands in which someone else possessed a liferent.
  • Fiat - an arbitrary order or decree; an authorization or sanction.
  • Fictile - made of earth or clay by a potter or relating to pottery or its manufacture.
  • Fidus Achates - a true friend.
  • Fief - also 'fiefdom', 'fief', 'feud', 'feoff,' or 'fee', often consisted in medieval feudalism of inheritable lands or revenue-producing property granted by a liege lord in return for a form of allegiance, originally to give him the means to fulfill his military duties when called upon. However anything of value could be held in fief, such as an office, a right of exploitation (e.g., hunting, fishing) or a revenue rather than the land it comes from.
  • Fin de siècle - French for 'end of the century, a term sometimes encompasses both the closing and onset of an era.
  • Finial - an ornamentation above the apex of a gable which can also function as a lightning rod, and was once believed to act as a deterrent to witches on broomsticks attempting to land on one's roof. On making her final landing approach to a roof, the witch, spotting the obstructing finial, was forced to sheer off and land elsewhere.
  • Firelock - a flintlock; an obsolete gunlock that has flint embedded in the hammer; the flint makes a spark that ignites the charge
  • Fire marks - fire insurance companies of the 17th-century and later had their own fire brigades and firemen would only attempt to save a house if it was insured by their company; fire marks of lead or iron were attached to the outside of buildings in prominent positions to indicate the insurance company concerned.[15]
  • Firlot - a firlot was equal to 4 pecks and the peck was equal to 4 lippies or forpets or 3 grudgies: a quarter of a bole (Scots).
  • Firma - an archaic render of one night's supplies to the Anglo-Saxon royal court by a royal vill.
  • Firmarius - a tenant.
  • First Edition - strictly speaking the first appearance of a work in book or pamphlet form; its first printing. Such books as Charles Darwin's Origin of Species command extremely high prices as first editions.
  • First Estate - in feudal times this was the Church, i.e. the clergy or those who prayed.
  • Fisc - the treasury of a kingdom or state.
  • Flagstone - a type of flat stone, usually used for paving slabs, but also for making fences or roofing.
  • Flail - a wood pole with a smaller pole linked at the end via a chain or leather thong, used for threshing.
  • Flamen - a priest, especially of an ancient Roman deity
  • Flaunches - also 'flanches' or 'flanks' are heraldic devices consisting of two arcs of circles protruding into the field of a coat of arms from the sides of the shield.
  • Flax - the fiber is soft, lustrous and flexible. It is stronger than cotton fiber but less elastic. The best grades are used for linen fabrics such as damasks, lace and sheeting. Coarser grades are used for the manufacturing of twine and rope.
  • Fleam - also flem, flew, flue, fleame, or phleam, was a handheld instrument once used for bloodletting from animals and humans.
  • Flibbertigibbet - a "chattering gossip, flighty woman," probably a nonsense word meant to sound like fast talking; as the name of a devil or fiend it dates from 1603.
  • Flummery - meaningless or deceptive language; any of several soft, sweet, bland foods, such as custard; sweet gelatinous pudding made by straining boiled oatmeal or flour; soft dessert of stewed, thickened fruit, often mixed with a grain such as rice.
  • Flush - a wet place with moving water.
  • Flux or flix - from French or Latin for flow. A flowing. As well as the flowing of tides (flux and reflux) it was used for an abnormal flow from the body of blood or excrement (for example). Thus for diarrhoea and dysentery.
  • Flying buttress - a buttress variant which allows a more delicate appearance whilst maintaining the strength of the supports to a wall.
  • Fogou - an underground structure which is found in many Iron Age defended settlements in Cornwall. The purpose of a fogou is no longer known, and there is little evidence to suggest what it might have been. It has been conjectured that they were used as refuges, for religious purposes, or for food storage.
  • Fold - an enclosure in which animals were kept, often sheep.
  • Folio - a single leaf, especially the leaf of a book printed with two leaves to each quire.[16]
  • Folly - a name given to any extravagant structure whose use is not apparent. Romantic ruins, Roman and Greek style temples and other such structures come under this term.
  • Font - a structure in achurch for holding water for baptisms. Often with highly carved panels and made from wood, stone and rarely lead.
  • Foot - a unit of land measurement which was 25.1 cm for the Welsh, 29.6 cm for the Romans, 31.7 cm for the Greeks and 33.5 cm for the Saxons. It was based on the Barleycorn in Wales, with 27 making a Welsh foot. Three barleycorns were a 'thumb' and three thumbs made a palm; three palms making a foot.
  • Ford - a crossing for pedestrians and vehicles across a river where it is sufficiently shallow to permit passage across.
  • Fore-edge painting - a painting executed on the fore-edges of a book held open obliquely. The edges of the closed book are then gilded so that the painting only becomes visible when the book is fanned open again.
  • Forefather - a male ancestor.
  • Foremother - a female ancestor.
  • Forera - in ploughing a special selion a furlong in length provided to allow the horses and plough to turn at the end of a furrow.
  • Forest - a tract of land subject to special laws, usually concerned with the preservation of game.
  • Forestalling - also 'Regrating' - the crime of buying goods on the way to a market with the intention of selling them at an inflated price.
  • Foreyard - the outer court.
  • Forpet - a quarter of a peck; a dry goods measure containing this amount. Derived from a 'fourth part' (Scots).
  • Forswear - also 'Foreswear' is to renounce or repudiate under oath; to renounce seriously; to disavow under oath; deny.
  • Fortalice - a small fortified dwelling or castle, such as the example that existed near Corsehill Castle in Stewarton, North Ayrshire. Built for the protection of the people rather than for a lord or landowner.
  • Fosse - the moat or ditch around a castle, etc.
  • Fox covert - these were small areas of woodland put aside for encouraging the breeding of foxes to ensure sufficient numbers for hunting. Badgers and other wildlife benefit from them.
  • Foxfire - the term for the bioluminescence created in the right conditions by a few species of fungi that decay wood. The luminescence is often attributed to members of the genus Armillaria, the Honey mushroom, though others are reported.
  • Foxing - irregular brown spots or stains in paper caused by chemical or metallic impurities in the original stock of paper, often aggravated by poor storage, such as moist conditions.[16]
  • Frankalmoin - one of the feudal duties and hence land tenure forms in feudal England by which an ecclesiastical body held land, in return for saying prayers and masses for the soul of the granter. Not only was secular service frequently not due but in the twelfth and thirteenth century jurisdiction over land so held belonged to the ecclesiastical courts. It fell into disuse because on any alienation of the land the tenure was converted into socage, and no fresh grants in frankalmoin.
  • Franklin - in medieval times a person who was a landowner, but not a nobleman or aristocrat.
  • Frankpledge - an Anglo-Saxon legal system in which units or tithings composed of ten households were formed, in each of which members were held responsible for one another's conduct. A member of a unit in frankpledge.
  • Freedom - the 'share' or area of land held by a 'Freeman' of a burgh.
  • Freeman - a male of legal age with the right to vote, own land and practice a trade.
  • Freestone - stone used in architecture for molding, tracery and other work required to be worked with the chisel. The stone is fine-grained, uniform and soft enough to be cut easily without shattering or splitting.
  • Frist - Scots for 'to trust for a time'.
  • Frith stool - 'the Chair of Peace'. Frith, though now obsolete, was common enough in Anglo-Saxon English and Old German, meaning peace, security and freedom from molestation. Different forms of the word are found in the name 'Frederick' (peace-ruler) and the modem German words for peace, Friede, and churchyard, Friedhof. Many of the greater churches had such frith stools placed, as was one at Hexham Abbey, close by the high altar. Refugees in time of trouble and civil war, or wrongdoers in flight from authority and justice could claim the protection of the Church until they were assured of a full and fair trial. Anyone breaking the right to sanctuary by taking or killing a refugee within the church was liable to a fine of £96; but, if the victim reached 'the stone cathedra next to the altar, which the English call the fridstol', that breach of sanctuary was beyond pardon, and the culprit faced excommunication or death
  • Frontis - also 'Frontispiece.' An illustration at the beginning of a book, usually facing the title page. In some books this may be the only full print within the work. An illustration that faces or immediately precedes the title page of a book, book section, or magazine. In archaic terms a title page. In architecture a façade, especially an ornamental façade or a small ornamental pediment, as on top of a door or window.
  • Fugacious - transitory or fleeting in nature.
  • Fuller's earth - a stiff and highly absorbent clay used in the removal of grease from wool fibre; a process known as fulling.
  • Fulling Mill - mills, often water powered, used for a finishing process on cloth.
  • Furlong - 220 yards length (x22 yards (1 chain) = 1 acre, 4840 square yards). In medieval times the average length of a ploughed field.
  • Fuscous - a brownish-gray or dusky color.
  • Fusee - a friction match with a large head capable of burning in a wind. A coloured flare used as a warning signal for trucks and trains. A cone-shaped pulley with a spiral groove, used in a cord- or chain-winding clock to maintain even travel in the timekeeping mechanism as the force of the mainspring lessens in unwinding.
  • Fustian - also called Fustanum and bombast, a term for a variety of heavy woven cloth, cotton fabrics, that are chiefly prepared for menswear; pompous, inflated or pretentious writing or speech, from at least the time of Shakespeare.
  • Futhorc - the Anglo-Saxon version of the runic alphabet.
  • Fylfot - also 'Fylfot', a synonym for a swastika.
  • Fylit' - in Scots, a convicted person.

G Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Gabardine - a tough, tightly woven fabric often used to make suits, overcoats and trousers. The fibre used to make the fabric is traditionally worsted (a woolen yarn), but may also be cotton, synthetic or mixed. The fabric is smooth on one side and has a diagonally ribbed surface on the other.
  • Gable stone - carved and often colourfully painted stone tablets, which are set into the walls of buildings, usually at about 4 metres from the ground. They serve both to identify and embellish the building. They may also tell us something about its owner.
  • Gadzooks - a mild or ironic oath: "Gadzooks"! Perhaps from an aliteration of God's hooks, the nails of the crucifixion of Christ.
  • Gage D’Amour - a pledge of love.
  • Gainsay - to declare false or deny; to oppose, especially by contradiction.
  • Gaiete de coeur - an expression meaning light-heartedness.
  • Galilee - a church porch of larger extent than normal; sometimes used as a distinct chapel. Found at the west end of some churches where penitents waited before admission to the body of the church and where clergy received women who had business with them.
  • Galuuet - a thief.
  • Galletting - insertion of chips of stone into mortar between larger stones for decorative effect.
  • Gallovidian - a native of Galloway in Scotland.
  • Gallowglass - also 'Galloglass.' An armed retainer or mercenary in the service of an Irish chieftain. Also a mercenary warrior élite among Gaelic-Norse clans residing in the Western Isles of Scotland (or Hebrides) and Scottish Highlands from the mid 13th century to the end of the 16th century.
  • Gallows - usually a wooden structure, sometimes a 'Dule Tree', from which a person was hung following conviction.
  • Gambade - a spring or leap by a horse; a caper or antic.
  • Gantelope - a gauntlet; a type of cane; a race which a criminal was sentenced to run in the navy or army. The ship's crew or soldiers, stood in two rows face-to-face, each with a knotted cord, with which they severely struck the guilty party as he ran between them, stripped to the waist. Commonly pronounced gantlet.
  • Garderobes - medieval toilets in large public buildings and castles.
  • Gargoyle - carved rainwater spouts on churches, medieval houses, etc. They were often grotesquely carved animals or humans and were in addition believed to protect the church from the Devil.
  • Garitour - a day watchman, especially in a castle. A 'Vigiles' was a night watchman.
  • Garret - a top floor or attic room.
  • Garth - in a cathedral or abbey this is the area of ground surrounded by the cloisters. Also a plot of enclosed land by a house or cottage; an old Norse word and found in placenames such as Hogarth and Aysgarth.
  • Gauffered - an engraved design on the edges of a book's covers.
  • Gauger - a person who performs the duties of an exciseman (Scots).
  • Gavelkind - a type of tribal succession, by which the land was divided at the death of the holder amongst his sons. Illegitimate sons, but not daughters, were included in the division. The Normans gave this Irish inheritance law the name Gavelkind due to its apparent similarity to Saxon inheritance in Kent.
  • Gaw - the 'cut' left by a plough[14] (Scots).
  • Gazebo - a freestanding, roofed, usually open-sided structure providing a shady resting place; a 'belvedere'.
  • Gean - a wild cherry (Prunus avium).[7]
  • Geasan - in Gaelic a magic spell.[17]
  • Gebur - the Anglo Saxon England workforce, who were totally dependant on their lord. They were tied to the land and not free to go where they pleased unhindered. The gebur's life was dominated by the labour services owed to his lord. It is probable that the gebur class started out by giving their land to a ðegn in return for protection from raiding parties. The gebur's duty varied; on some estates geburs performed such work as directed for two week days each week for every week throughout the year, and three week days at harvest-time, and three from Candlemas to Easter.
  • Geis - plural 'Geassa' - A controlling spell or enchantment in which a certain action or behaviour will cause another certain action or effect. Usually it takes the form of a taboo or a destiny, as when CuChullain overheard Cathbad say that any boy who accepts weapons on that day would be destined to be a great hero, and he asked his king for arms.
  • Geld - tribute as in 'Danegeld.' Derived from Old English geld, gield, a payment.
  • Genealogy - a term referring to the study of the history of past and present members of a particular family, which usually includes the preparation of a "family tree" or pedigree chart, showing the past and present members of the family joined together by a series of lines that help in ascertaining their relationship to each other, and the location, documentation and recording of a family history, including stories about the personal lives of individual members of the family, sometimes even including pictures of these individuals or family groups.
  • Genethliac - Pertaining to nativities; calculated by astrologers; showing position of stars at one's birth. It is used in Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novel, 'Kenilworth'.
  • Gens vertueux - a rich and accomplished fullness of personality.
  • Gentile - a term sometimes used by early Irish chroniclers for the Dane and Norse invaders.
  • Gentleman - a man who did not need to work, and the term was particularly used of those who could not claim nobility or even the rank of esquire.
  • Gentleman of the bedchamber - an office in a European royal household beginning from about the early in the 11th century. The office duties involved such activities as waiting on the royal person when he would eat in private, helping him dressing, guarding the bedchamber and closet, and providing companionship.
  • Gentrification - the restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people. In a historical context it can lead to local changes, such as place names, farming practices, etc.
  • Geognost - one who studies the geological of the Earth's structure and composition.
  • Geomancy - a method of 'divination' that interprets markings on the ground, or how handfuls of dirt land when someone tosses them.
  • Georgian - of or characteristic of the times of kings George I - IV (1714 - 1830).
  • German - having the same parents or the same grandparents on either the mother's or the father's side. Often used in combination: a cousin-German; a brother-German. From the Old French germain, meaning "closely related."
  • Gesith - an archain term for a companion to a king in medieval England; a thegn.
  • Gewgaw - something gaudy and useless; trinket; bauble.
  • Gibbet - a type of 'gallows' from which a body remained hanging as a warning to others over a considerable period of time.
  • Gig - a lightweight two-wheeled carriage designed to be drawn by one horse.
  • Gilt Edges - page edges which have been smoothed and trimmed prior to gilt or gold being applied. Often on the top edge only, the purpose being to prevent dirt from staining the most frequently handled surface; additionally to help prevent dirt getting into the book.
  • Gingham - a fabric made from dyed cotton yarn.
  • Girdle - a form of 'Griddle', a circular iron plate with hooped handle, suspended or placed over the fire and used for baking scones, oat-cakes, etc.
  • Girnal - a chest used for storing oats or other grains or a granary.
  • Girth - the right of providing sanctuary, as held by orders such at the Knights Templar.
  • Glacial Erratics - pebbles, stones and boulders that are transported by glaciers, and deposited up to several hundred kilometres from where they originated.
  • Glacis - a defensive earthwork designed to deflect cannonballs.
  • Glebe - land apportioned to a minister in addition to his stipend. A plot of land belonging or yielding profit to an English parish church or an ecclesiastical office. In archaic speech, the soil or earth; land.
  • Gleeman- a medieval itinerant singer; a minstrel.
  • Glen - a valley (Scots).
  • Gloaming - evening 'twilight' or 'dusk'[14] (Scots).
  • Glover - also a 'Lantern' or 'Cupola.' A cover which provides an entrance / exit, but keeps out the rain from a building or structure.
  • Goblin - an evil or merely mischievous creature of folklore, often described in as a grotesquely disfigured or gnome-like phantom, that may range in height from that of a dwarf to that of a human. They are attributed with various (sometimes conflicting) abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin.
  • Goesomer - a period of summer-like weather occurring in late autumn (Scots).
  • Gogsnouns - possibly derived from the expletive 'Gods wounds' with the more or less deliberate loss of certain letters.
  • Goidelic - languages (also called Gaelic) have historically been part of a dialect continuum stretching from the south of Ireland, the Isle of Man, to the north of Scotland.
  • Gonfalon - a flag hanging from a crosspiece instead of an upright staff, usually ending in streamers; esp., such a standard of any of the medieval republics of Italy.
  • Good brother - a brother-in-law.
  • Good husband - used formerly as a courtesy title before the surname of a married man not of noble birth.
  • Good wife - used formerly as a courtesy title before the surname of a married woman not of noble birth.
  • Good sister - a sister-in-law.
  • Good son - a son-in-law.
  • Gore - a small triangular piece of land.
  • Gorget - a piece of armor protecting the throat; an ornamental collar.
  • Gossamer - a very light, sheer, gauze-like fabric, popular for white wedding dresses and decorations.
  • Gowpen - a double handful (Scots).
  • Grandam - a grandmother.
  • Grangerise - to cut plates and title pages out of many books to form one volume on a particular theme.
  • Gowan - also 'Gown.' A general name given to various wild‐flowers, such as Daisies, either yellow or white with yellow centres, e.g. various species of the Ranunculus family, such as the buttercup & meadow crowfoot (Scots).
  • Gowk - In northern Europe, words like gowk, gouch, qaukr and gough were used in imitation of the cuckoo. In southern Europe words like kokkux (Greek) cucu (Latin). Cuckoo succeeded gowk in Middle English. How far back the association with foolishness and/or staring goes is not clear. Dictionaries tend to place the association in the late 16th century.
  • Graddan - a kind of coarse oat-meal made from parched grain roughly ground by hand (Scots).
  • Grail - the object of any prolonged endeavor.
  • Grain - a seed of a cereal, such as wheat, maize, rye, oats, and barley. Pigeon's dung used in tanning.
  • Granary - a building for the storage of grain. Sometimes lifted up on staddles or bricks to improve aeration and prevent rats and mice from gaining access.
  • Grange - a small mansion or country house with associated farm buildings. Also on monastic estates a unit complete with barns, tools, and implemenrs for the lands attached to it.
  • Granitar - the master of a monastic Grange.
  • Grantee - a person purchasing, buying or receiving property (Legal).
  • Grape - in Scots a word for an iron fork with three or four prongs, fitted to a handle like that of a spade, used for lifting dung, etc., or for digging.
  • Grassum - the payment, amounting to a year's rent, for entering into the miller's rights under thirlage (Scots).
  • Grave [reeve] - in parts of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, each of a number of administrative officials formerly elected by the inhabitants of a township.
  • Grazing - grassland suitable for pasture.
  • Greave - leg armour worn below the knee.
  • Gregorian Reform - a series of reforms initiated by Pope Gregory VII, circa 1050–1080, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy. These reforms are considered to honour Gregory the Great.
  • Grice - an extinct breed of pig; a name for a young pig in Scotloand and Northern England.
  • Grieve - in Scotland an overseer or farm-bailiff. It occurs not infrequently as a surname.
  • Griffin, griffon or gryphon - a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.
  • Grim - from the Old English 'Grima,' mask, or the Norse 'Grimr', hood. The term is often used as a name for Woden, Odin, goblin, nightmare or spectre. It is used in many placenames, such as Grimspound on Dartmoor, Grimes Graves in Norfolk, Grim's Ditch or Grim's Dyke, of which there are many, particularly an alternative name for the Antonine Wall in Scotland.
  • Grimoire - a manual of black magic (for invoking spirits and demons).
  • Grist - also 'Groat' - In Scots this is Corn to be ground; also, a batch of such corn.
  • Grizell - also 'Grisel.' The Scottish form of the first name Griselda. Very commonly used in the 19th century.
  • Groats - also 'Grist' - oats after shelling of their husk in the milling process (Scots).
  • Groined vault - early medieval vaults were round-arched tunnels; when two of these intersect at right-angles the meeting lines, formed by the curved planes are called groins.
  • Gruagach - the Gaelic guardian-goddess of cattle. Milk was poured as an offering to her into hollows in stones called 'Dobby stones' or 'Leach na Gruagach'.
  • Grudgie - in Scots, a measure of dry goods. One third of a peck.
  • Guardant - positioned so that the head is turned toward the viewer. Usually used of an animal depicted so that its body is viewed from the side.
  • Guardian - a person lawfully appointed to care for the person of a minor, invalid, incompetent and their interests, such as education, property management and investments (Legal).
  • Guidman - in Scotland a laird held land from the King, however a proprietor who held lands from the laird by purchase or otherwise was the Guidman of that Ilk.
  • Guidon - a small flag or pennant carried as a standard by a military unit: a soldier bearing such a flag or pennant.
  • Guild - a society of a particular trade, membership of which was gained through examination. The 'Bonnet Makers Guild' in Stewarton, Ayrshire is an ancient example. The trade in question could not be carried out without membership of the guild. Usually with a dedicated 'Guild Hall'.
  • Gyron - in heraldry a subordinary of triangular form having one of its angles at the fess point and the opposite side at the edge of the escutcheon. When there is only one gyron on the shield it is bounded by two lines drawn from the fess point, one horizontally to the dexter side, and one to the dexter chief corner.

H Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Ha - also 'Haa.' In Scotland a farm-house, the main dwelling of a farm, a house, especially on a farm, occupied by the farmer himself as opposed to the cottar houses (Scots).
  • Ha-ha - a sunken fence as a type of boundary to a garden, pleasure-ground, or park, designed not to interrupt the view and to be invisible until closely approached, consisting of a trench, the inner side of which is perpendicular and faced with stone, with the outer slope face sloped and turfed.
  • Habeas Corpus - the legal right to a trial in a court before a judge and jury.
  • Habergeon - a neck-covering of chain-mail extending across the chest.
  • Hackneyed - Overfamiliar through overuse; trite.
  • Haddish - also 'Huddish' - a measure of grain equal to one quarter or one third of a peck; hence, a vessel holding this amount (Scots).
  • Haf - a freshwater lagoon separated from the sea by a sandbar.
  • Haff - the sea. As in the 'Great Haff'.
  • Hagiography - the study of saints; refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically the biographies of ecclesiastical and secular leaders. See also 'Legendarium'.
  • Hagioscope - also called a 'Squint.' In architectural terms a piercing in walls which give a certain line of vision otherwise unobtainable. Sometimes found lined up in pairs; these allowed the high altar to be seen by church clerks, those with leprosy, etc.
  • Haill - Whole (Scots).
  • Halberd - (also called halbert or Swiss voulge) is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • Halidome - an archaic term for something held sacred; a church; a sanctuary; a holy relic.
  • Hallier - a kind of net for catching birds.
  • Ham - old English for a village or homestead.
  • Hamesucken - the crime of violently assaulting a man in his own home (Scots).
  • Hamlet - a small village.
  • Hammer-beam - this is a braced strut which projects from a wall, supported by a brace post that sits on a corbel. An upright hammer-post atpports the rafter above. Such roofs are found in churches, cathedrals and medieval great halls, etc.
  • Hand - the handwriting of a person. References are made to the characteristics of the individuals penmanship.[18]
  • Hank - a traditional measure of length for yarn. The length of yarn in a hank varies with the market and the material; for example, a hank of cotton yarn traditionally included 840 yards (768 meters) of yarn, while a hank of wool yarn was 560 yards (512 meters). For both cotton and wool, these traditional hanks are equal to 7 leas or to 12 cuts. In retail trade, a hank is often equal to 6 or 7 skeins of varying size.
  • Happer - a basket in which the sower carries his seed (Scots).
  • Harl - an external rough-cast coating on buildings made from lime, sand & gravel.
  • Harl - a filamentous substance; especially, the filaments of flax or hemp.
  • Harp - one of the ten sections on a millstone with four furrows each, the flat surfaces, or lands lying in between (Scots).
  • Harrow - a heavy metal frame with iron teeth dragged over ploughed land to break up clods, remove weeds, etc.
  • Hatchment - a funeral 'escutcheon' or armorial shield enclosed in a black lozenge-shaped frame which used to be suspended against the wall of a deceased person's house. It was usually placed over the entrance at the level of the second floor, and remained for from six to twelve months, after which it was removed to the parish church. Sometimes two were produced, one for the home and one for the church. Hatchments have now fallen into disuse, but many hatchments from former times remain in parish churches throughout Britain. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother had a hatchment produced for use at her funeral.
  • Hauberk - a shirt of chain mail armour. The term is usually used to describe a shirt reaching at least to mid-thigh and including sleeves. Haubergeon ("little hauberk") generally refers to a shorter variant with partial sleeves, but the terms are often used interchangeably. Slits to accommodate horseback-riding were often incorporated below the waist. Most are put on over the head. Hauberk can also refer to a similar garment of scale armour.
  • Haugh - also 'Hauch' - a piece of level ground, generally alluvial, on the banks of a river, river-meadow land.
  • Hawker - a person who travels about selling goods.
  • Hay - grass mown and dried for fodder / feed.
  • Haybote - also 'Hedgebot'. The right to collect wood for fencing in medieval times.
  • Hayward - an official supervising spinneys, etc. for hedging
  • Head Dyke - a turf or stone wall separating the infield and outfield of a township or farm from the grazings on the open hill.
  • Headrace - a watercourse directing water to a waterwheel or turbine.[19]
  • Hebdomadal - of or occurring every seven days.
  • Heck - a rack for keeping fodder, often coupled with manger. 'Food and board' in modern terms (Scots).
  • Hedgebote - see also 'Haybote.' The right to collect wood for fencing in medieval times.
  • Heir - a person who succeeds, by the rules of law, to an estate upon the death of an ancestor; one with rights to inherit an estate (Legal).
  • Heir apparent - by law a person whose right of inheritance is established, provided he or she outlives the ancestor, see also primogeniture (Legal).
  • Heirship - the condition of being an heir; right to inheritance; heirdom.
  • Helm wind - a strong wind which blows in special airflow conditions down the slopes of mountains. The winds can be destructive to crops and buildings and are named after the cloud caps which form over the mountains.
  • Helve - a handle of a tool, such as an ax, chisel, or hammer. Middle English, from Old English hielfe.
  • Hemp - The main uses of hemp fibre are rope, sacking, carpet, nets and webbing. Hemp is also being used in increasing quantities in paper manufacturing. The cellulose content is about 70%.
  • Henge - late Neolithic British earth enclosures of bank and ditch (usually internal). Class I has single entrance; Class II has two or more entrances; probably used for ceremonial purposes
  • Herald - an assistant to the Lord Lyon King of Arms in Scotland. They are known as Marchmont, Rothesay, and Albany.
  • Heraldry - pertaining to the study or use of armorial bearings.
  • Herepad - an 'army road' from the Anglo-Saxon.
  • Heretic - a person holding an unorthodox opinion or belief contrary to accepted doctrine.
  • Herezeld - see 'Heriot'. From OE heregeat ("war-gear"), was at first a death-duty in Anglo-Saxon England, which demanded that at death, a nobleman provided to his king a given set of military equipment, often including horses, swords, shields, spears and helmets which had been loaned to him during his lifetime. In Scotland also a gift or present made or left by a tenant to his lord as a token of reverence.
  • Hereditament - any kind of property that can be inherited. 'Corporeal hereditaments' are such things as land held in freehold and 'Incorporeal hereditaments' are hereditary titles of honor or dignity, heritable titles of office, Prescriptive Barony, rights of way, tithes, advowsons, pensions, annuities, rents, franchises, etc.
  • Heriot - also 'Herezeld.' The best beast on the land given to the landlord on the death of a tenant (Scots).
  • Heritour - The proprietor of a heritable property; an inheritor. Alteration of Middle English heriter, from Anglo-Norman. Until 1925 the responsibility for building and maintaining church, manse and school lay with the heritours of a parish.
  • Hership - the crime of making away with cattle by force.
  • Heugh - a crag; a cliff; a glen with overhanging sides. Also a shaft in a coal pit; a hollow in a quarry (Scots).
  • Hex - a curse or magical spell or a female caster of such.
  • Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia - an irrational fear of the Satanically associated number 666.
  • Hide - a very old English unit of land area, dating from perhaps the 7th-century. The hide was the amount of land that could be cultivated by a single ploughman and thus the amount of land necessary to support a family. Depending on local conditions, this could be as little as 60 acres or as much as 180 acres (24-72 hectares). The hide was more or less standardized as 120 acres (48.6 hectares) after the Norman conquest. The hide continued in use throughout medieval times, but it is now obsolete. The unit was known as a carucate in the Danelaw.
  • Hidage - a document containing an assessment of land, shires or towns, drawn up in hides.
  • Hinkypunk - in the West Country (probably derived from the Welsh Pwca (Puck) the name for a Will o'the Wisp.
  • Hippocras - a cordial made from wine and flavored with spices, formerly used as a medicine.
  • Hippogriff also 'Hippogryph' - a monster having the wings, claws, and head of a griffin and the body and hindquarters of a horse.
  • Hirsel - a Scottish and Northern English word meaning the entire stock of sheep on a farm or under the charge of a shepherd.
  • Histriography - the writing of history or the study of the writing of history.
  • Hoar - ice crystals forming a white deposit (especially on objects outside); Hoarfrost.
  • Hobby lantern - used in Hertfordshire, East Anglia, and in Warwickshire & Gloucestershire as Hobbedy's Lantern, otherwise the Will o' the wisp.
  • Hobbledehoy - a gawky adolescent boy.
  • Hocktide - an ancient general holiday in England, celebrated on the second Monday and Tuesday after Easter Sunday. Hock-Tuesday was an important term day, rents being then payable, for with Michaelmas it divided the rural year into its winter and summer halves. The derivation of the word is disputed: any analogy with Ger. koch, high, being generally denied. No trace of the word is found in Old English, and hock-day, its earliest use in composition, appears first in the 12th century. The characteristic pastime of hock-tide was called binding. On Monday the women, on Tuesday the men, stopped all passers of the opposite sex and bound them with ropes till they bought their release with a small payment, or a rope was stretched across the highroads, and the passers were obliged to pay toll. The money thus collected seems to have gone towards parish expenses. Many entries are found in parish registers under Hocktyde money. The hock-tide celebration became obsolete in the beginning of the 18th century.[20]
  • Hodge - a corruption of the personal name 'Roger', used in England by townsfolk to imply that someone was a rustic.[21]
  • Hogshead - a traditional unit of volume for liquids. Originally the hogshead varied with the contents, often being equal to 48 gallons of ale; 54 of beer; 60 of cider; 63 of oil, honey, or wine; or 100 of molasses. In the United States, a hogshead is defined to hold 2 barrels, or 63 gallons; this was the traditional British wine hogshead. It is equal to exactly 14 553 cubic inches, or about 8.422 cubic feet (238.48 litres). In the British Imperial system, the hogshead equals 1/2 butt, or 52.5 imperial gallons (8.429 cubic feet, or 238.67 litres). Thus the British Imperial and American hogsheads are almost exactly the same size. No one seems to know for sure how this unit got its unusual name.
  • Hollin - a woodland area where holly was cut for fodder.[22]
  • Holm - low lying grassland ground neaxt to a river (Scots). Equivalent to a 'Water Meadow' in England.
  • Holofernes - an Assyrian general of Nebuchadnezzar, who figures in the Book of Judith. The general laid siege to Bethulia, and the city almost surrendered. It was saved by Judith, a beautiful Hebrew widow who entered Holofernes's camp, seduced and then beheaded Holofernes while he was drunk. She returned to Bethulia with Holofernes head, and the Hebrews subsequently defeated the enemy.
  • Holographic will - also 'olographic' - handwritten and signed by the individual that the will belongs to (Legal).
  • Homeopathy - an alternative medical practice founded on resemblances. The underlying theory is that disease are cured by remedies which produce, on a healthy person, similar effects to the symptoms of the patient's complaint. "For example, someone suffering from insomnia may be given a homeopathic dose of coffee. Administered in diluted form, homeopathic remedies are derived from many natural sources, including plants, metals, and minerals.
  • Homologation - the act by which someone approves of a written deed and binds themselves to fulfil its terms (Legal).
  • Hood-mould - a carved protruding ridge above a window designed to throw off the rain.
  • Hopper - a temporary storage container that feeds grain to the grindstones in a mill.
  • Horning - outlawed; also 'Put to the horn'.
  • Horologe - a device, such as a clock or sundial, used in telling time.
  • Horologium nocturnum - the night-time equivalent of the sundial. The time was found from entering the position of the stars onto the mechanisms dials and scales; the time was then read off.
  • Horse gin or engine - a mechanical device, usually made of cast-iron, with gearing that uses horse power to drive a device such as a thresher, milk-churn, etc., in a Horse mill. Donkeys or oxen were sometimes used.
  • Hospice - the guest house of an abbey, monastery, etc.[23]
  • Hostelry - an inn; a hotel.
  • Hostler - or 'Ostler' - one who is employed to tend horses, especially at an inn.
  • Hot Trod - the hot pursuit of reivers and was allowed under the Border laws. It allowed for the ones who had been 'spoyled' to mount a pursuit within six days of the raid and to cross the border, if necessary, to follow the raiders with hound and horn for the recovery of their goods. It was the duty of all neighbors between the ages of 16 and 60 to join the Trod. A piece of burning turf was held aloft on a spear point to let others know what was happening. The posse in pursuit had the right to recruit help from the first town it came to and the first person encountered was to bear witness that a lawful hot trod was being carried out. When told to join the hot trod, if a person refused, he would be considered to be a traitor and to be in cahoots with the enemy. That person who refused would also be forced to become a fugitive.
  • Hovel - an animal house, usually a shelter shed.
  • Howlet - an owl (Scots).
  • Huit - a stack in a field (Scots).
  • Hulver - a holly (Ilex aquifolium).[7]
  • Hundred - a geographic division formerly used in England, Wales, Denmark, South Australia and some parts of the USA, Germany (Southern Schleswig), Sweden (and today's Finland) and Norway, which historically was used to divide a larger region into smaller administrative divisions. The name is derived from the number one hundred, and in some areas it may once have referred to a hundred men under arms. See 'Wapentake.'
  • Humplock - also 'Himplock', a small heap or mound in the south-west, south and north (Scots).
  • Hurst - a hillock, sandbank in a river or the sea or a wooded eminence which is embanked & used for coppicing.[24]
  • Hursting - a table-like structure on which millstones are mounted.[19]
  • Husbandland - a 26 acre sub-division of a 'Ploughgate' in Scotland.
  • Husbandman - someone whose occupation is husbandry; a farmer.
  • Hushes - gullies in which erosion has been artificially encouraged to expose ores for mining.
  • Husk - the dry outer covering of some fruits and seeds.
  • Husbote - the right to gather wood for house building in medieval times.
  • Hydronym - a proper name of a body of water; the study of hydronyms and of how bodies of water receive their names and how they are transmitted through history. The term applies to rivers, lakes, and oceanic elements.
  • Hypergamy - denotes the custom which forbids the marriage of a woman into a group of lower standing than her own.
  • Hypocorism - a shorter form of a word or given name, when used in more intimate situations as a nickname or term of endearment.
  • Hypothec - an understood security, right or claim which a creditor might have over something belonging to his actual or potential debtor, i.e. A landlord could be said to have a hypothec over the crops grown by his tenants in any particular year, for the rents due for that year. The law of agricultural hypothec long caused much discontent in Scotland.
  • Hysteria - a state of uncontrolled excitement, anger, or panic believed to have been brought on by a disturbance in the womb (Greek hustera)

I Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Ibid - in the same book or passage etc., so 'Ibid' serves a similar purpose to 'ditto marks'.
  • Ides - in the Roman calendar: the 15th of March or May or July or October or the 13th of any other month.
  • Idiots - people so deeply defective in mind as to be unable to guard against common physical dangers.
  • ignis fatuus or 'Will-o'-the-wisp' - the ghostly lights sometimes seen at night or twilight that hover over damp ground in still air — often over bogs. It looks like a flickering lamp, and is sometimes said to recede if approached. Much folklore surrounds the legend, but science has offered several potential explanations
  • IHS - 'Iesus Hominem Salvator' or 'Jesus the Saviour of mankind' as carved on church lecterns, etc.[25]
  • Ilk - a family. As in 'of that Ilk'. This is a uniquely Scottish term which denotes the that the holder is chief of all the clan of his own surname. The loss of ancestral lands does not negate the title and the holder has the right to supporters in his armorial arms. The title cannot be revoked. The Clan Chief would be referred by the clan name alone, whilst other members of the family would be named after their lands, such as in the case of Hessilhead, whilst Montgomerie of that Ilk would be straight Montgomerie, rather than Eglinton.[26]
  • Imbeciles - not idiots, but people who were incapable of managing themselves or their affairs, or, in the case of children, of being taught to do so.
  • Imbolc - one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid, in the Christian period it was adopted as Saint Brigid's Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Là Fhèill Brìghde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.
  • Impanele - to enter in a list, or on a piece of parchment, called a panel; to form or enroll, as a list of jurors in a court of justice.
  • Imperium - absolute rule or supreme power; a sphere of power or dominion, an empire; in law the right or power of a state to enforce the law.
  • Impignorate - also 'pignorate' means to put up as security or to pawn.
  • Implead - to sue (a person, etc.) in a court of justice, raise an action against.
  • Impransus - a Latin term neaning to go without breakfast; to fast.
  • Imprecation - the act of cursing; a curse or malediction.
  • Imprimus - an archaic term, meaning 'in the first place'.
  • Improbation - the act by which falsehood and forgery are proved; an action brought for the purpose of having some instrument declared false or forged.
  • Improper-feu - a holding that did not involve the provision of military service. Holding a bason and towel to the KIng would be such an example.
  • In-by - in northern England and Scotland the name for the fields in the immediate vicinity of the farmhouse. Such fields received the majority of the manure. Out-by were the more distant fields.
  • In feodo et heriditate - a heritable fief for life or for a term of years.
  • In gremio legis - a legal expression meaning 'In the bosom of the law'. This is a figurative expression, by which is meant, that the subject is under the protection of the law; as, where land is in abeyance.
  • In rem - a Latin term in law for "against a thing". In a lawsuit, an action in rem is directed towards some specific piece of property,
  • Inclosure - the term used in legal documents in England and Wales for the process by which arable farming in open field systems was ended. It is also applied to the process by which some commons (a piece of land owned by one person, but over which other people could exercise certain traditional rights, such as allowing their livestock to graze upon it), were fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more private owners, who would then enjoy the possession and fruits of the land to the exclusion of all others.
  • Incorporeal - not attached to the 'body' as is now the case for baronial titles.
  • Incountry - in the context of Scotland, those areas under full Crown control in feudal times.
  • Incunabula - books, pamphlets, calendars & indulgences printed before 1501. American Incunabula refers to books printed prior to 1701.[4] The Latin means 'things from the cradle'. The singular should be incunabulum, but most people say incunable.[18]
  • Indenture - a contract binding one party into the service of another for a specified term. Often used in the plural; a document in duplicate having indented edges; a deed or legal contract executed between two or more parties; an official or authenticated inventory, list, or voucher.
  • Indentured servant - a person who is bound into the service of another person for a specified period, usually seven years in the 18th and 19th centuries to pay for passage to another country.
  • Indicted - a person accused by a bill of indictment preferred by a grand jury.
  • Indictment - a formal accusation charging someone of a crime. Takes the form of a written document containing brief details of the accusation.
  • Indigence - Poverty; neediness.
  • Indolent - disinclined to exert oneself; conducive to inactivity or laziness; lethargic: humid, indolent weather. Causing little or no pain: an indolent tumour. Slow to heal, grow, or develop.
  • Ineffable - incapable of being expressed; indescribable or unutterable; taboo.
  • Infangthief - the right of a lord to punish a thief caught within the bounds of his property.
  • Infirmarian - a person dwelling in, or having charge of, an infirmary, especially in a monastic institution.
  • Infirmary - a place where sick or eldery people are taken in abbeys, monasteries. etc.
  • Ings - a common name in the north of England, and in some other parts, for a meadow; esp. by the side of a river and more or less swampy or subject to inundation.
  • Ingeniator - literally an engineer, but usually used in the sense of a person who is an expert in the skill of fortifying a place.
  • Inglenook - the space within the opening on either side of a large fireplace.
  • Inhumation - burial of dead body (as opposed to exposure or cremation). Position may be extended, flexed or crouched, and prone, supine or on side.
  • Inspissate - to undergo thickening or cause to thicken, as by boiling or evaporation; condense.
  • Insufflation - in ecclesiastical terms this is the ritual act of breathing on baptismal water or on the one being baptized.
  • Intaglio - is a family of printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface, known as the matrix or plate. Normally, copper or zinc plates are used as a surface, and the incisions are created by etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint or mezzotint. To print an intaglio plate the surface is covered in thick ink and then rubbed with tarlatan cloth to remove most of the excess. The final smooth wipe is usually done by hand, sometimes with the aid of newspaper, leaving ink only in the incisions. A damp piece of paper is placed on top and the plate and paper are run through a printing press that, through pressure, transfers the ink from the recesses of the plate to the paper.
  • Inter alia - among other things.
  • Intercommune - to have mutual communication or intercourse by conversation.
  • Interlocutor - a formal decree in Scots law as made by a judge.
  • Interpellated - a Parliamentary procedure in European legislatures to question a member of the government on a point of government policy, often interrupting the business of the day.
  • Interregnum - the interval of time between the end of a sovereign's reign and the accession of a successor; a period of temporary suspension of the usual functions of government or control. In Scotland a significant interregnum was that between the reign of Alexander III and the crowning of John Baliol as John II.
  • Intervisibility - a term used to show the mutual visibility between sites, usually with the corresponding style of monument. May indicate a social and political relationship between neighbouring monuments and their people.
  • Intestate - a person who dies without a will (Legal).
  • Intoxicate - medical Latin from to poison. Originally meant to poison. Not until the late 16th century that it meant stupefy, madden or deprive of the ordinary use of the senses or reason with a drug or alcoholic liquor; inebriate, make drunk.
  • Intramural - literally 'within the walls' as in burial within a church.
  • Invenire - a word meaning the process of 'finding' or 'inventing' happy discoveries, developments and duplications of the relics of the past. An example would be the discovery of the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere at Glastonbury Abbey in 1191.[27]
  • Inventory - a list of the property held by a person at the time of his death; usually compiled by several court-appointed people, who submit the list to the court for approval (Legal).
  • Investment - the act of investing with the fee of an estate or the legal deed by which a person was so invested.
  • Ionic column - a Roman style column with an ornate head, but less embellished than a Corinthian column.
  • Irenic - also 'Eirenic', aiming or aimed at peace. A part of Christian theology concerned with reconciling different denominations and sects.
  • Iuga - a Roman fiscal unit of land upon which tax was paid. Its actual measurements differed in time and place.

J Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Jackanape - an insolent person or poorly behaved child. It is supposed to refer to the Duke of Suffolk, whose badge was an ape's clog and chain.
  • Jack-o'-the-clock - a painted wooden figure with a hinged arm holding a hammer. A cord would be pulled to make the arm strike a bell to signify the start of divine service. An example at Blythburgh in Suffolk, England is 'dressed' in armour.[9]
  • Jacobean - pertaining to the reign of James I of England, otherwise also known as James VI of Scotland.
  • Jacobite - a supporter of the claim to the English throne of the exiled Stuart family after 1688; support for this cause.
  • Jade - an old or over-worked horse.
  • Jamm also Jamb - the projecting wing of a house.
  • Jeu de Mot - a pun; a play on some word or phrase. (French.) See 'Rebus'.
  • Jointure - a provision for a widow, usually made in her marriage contract and consisting of an annual payment to be made to her in her lifetime; if such a jointure was appointed for a wife, it would unless otherwise provided for deprive her of her widow's terce, but she was better off with the jointure, since if her husband died in debt or bankrupt, she would be reckoned as one of his creditors and be able to make her claim first rather than waiting till the debts were settled and having to make do with a share of what was left.
  • Jointure-house - an arrangement by which a husband grants real property to his wife for her use after his death the property thus settled; widow's portion.
  • Jonathan - the mill-dust, mixed with husks and sold as an animal feed.
  • Jougs - also 'Jugs' - in Scots a metal hoop attached to a wall by means of a chain. Used to punish various misdemeanours in the 17th. and early 18th centuries.
  • Judex - a dempster; a judge; judicial power, or the court; a juror.
  • Julian Calendar - the calendar named for Julius Caesar and used from 45 B.C. to 1582, called the "Old Style" calendar; replaced by the Gregorian calendar with a ten day difference.
  • Juniores Alumni - the students who 'served' at the lowest level of the Celtic church.
  • Jure uxoris - a Latin term that means "by right of his wife" or "in right of a wife", commonly used to refer to a title held by a man whose wife holds it in her own right, i.e. he acquired the title simply by being her husband.
  • Jus primae noctis - in the European late medieval context, a widespread popular belief in an ancient privilege of the lord of the manor or laird to share the wedding bed with his peasants' brides.
  • Justice ayre - the medieval court circuit that travelled around Scotland.
  • Justice Hill - See also 'Moot and Mote'. A law, knowe or knoll where proclamations of the local Barony Court's judgements and sentence was carried out. For serious crimes the men were hung here and women were drowned. This situation, known as the feudal Barony right of 'pit and gallows'.
  • Justiciar - a medieval royal judge.
  • Jute - Jute is a long, soft, shiny plant fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is one of the cheapest natural fibres, and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses. Jute fibres are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin.
  • Juvenis - a juvenile, minor, under legal age (Legal).

K Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Kain - also 'Cain'. Poultry or other animals paid by a vassal to a superior as part of a feu-duty; poultry, eggs, butter and such things such as goose-feathers paid by a tenant to a landlord as rent.
  • Kebbuck - a cheese; also a portion or slice of cheese (Scots).
  • Keening - a form of vocal lament associated with mourning that is traditional in Scotland and Ireland. Extinct as a practise following opposition from the established church.
  • Keep - the main tower within the walls of a medieval castle or fortress. Originally the enclosing wall around a tower.[28]
  • Keld - a spring, fountain, head-spring.
  • Kell - a spring, fountain, head-spring. Also a kiln-house in the western dialect.
  • Kerb - in archaeology, a kerb or peristalith is the name for a stone ring built to enclose and sometimes revet the cairn or barrow built over a chamber tomb.
  • Kern - a medieval Gaelic, Scottish or Irish foot soldier; a loutish person.
  • Keystone - centre stone or 'voussoir' at the head of an arch.
  • Kiln - a building or structure used to dry grain before milling.
  • Kindly tenancy - a heritable tenure arising from the continued tenancy by forefathers and themselves (Scots).
  • King's Highway - also 'Via regia' - the concept of the King's protection given to those who lawfully travel within a kingdom.
  • King's Host - feudal levies which formed an army in the days before a standing army was set up during the reign of King Charles II.
  • King of Arms - the senior rank of an officer of arms. In many heraldic traditions, only a king of arms has the authority to grant armorial bearings.
  • Kirk - a church in Scotland, usually a 'Church of Scotland' presbyterian denomination.
  • Kirktoun - a small village or hamlet around a kirk (Scots).
  • Kist - see 'Cist'.
  • Knave - a servant boy or menial (Scots).
  • Knaveship - a servant to the miller, paid with a handful of cereal from each load milled (Scots).
  • Knight's fee - a feudal term used in medieval England and Anglo-Norman Ireland to describe the value of land. It is also sometimes called 'scutage'. Feudalism was the exchange of land for military service, thus everything was based on what was called the knight's fee, which was the amount of money and/or military service a fief was required to pay to support one knight.
  • Knock - A small hill (Gaelic). Often found in placenames, such as Knockentiber in Scotland.
  • Knockit - cereal which has rubbed and beaten free of its husks and left whole rather than ground (Scots).
  • Knoll - a knowe or low rounded hill or hillock (Scots).
  • Knowe - a knoll or low rounded hill or hillock[14]. Often incorporated into placename, such as 'Huttknowe', 'Broomyknowe', etc. in Ayrshire, Scotland (Scots).
  • Knucker - a water monster, as in the Knucker Hole legend of Lyminster in West Sussex. The Old English 'Nicor' may be the origin of the term, as used in this context in the epic poem Beowulf.

L Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Labarum - a term used for the Chi Rho monogram, one of the forms of christogram as used by the early Christians. It is formed from the first two letters in the Greek spelling of the word Christ, chi = ch and rho = r, in such a way to produce the monogram ☧. The Chi Rho invokes the crucifixion of Jesus as well as symbolizing his status as the Christ. This symbol was also used by pagan Greek scribes to mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage; the combined letters Chi and Rho standing for chrēston, meaning "good."
  • Labyrinth - a structure with an unambiguous through-route to the centre and back and not designed to be difficult to navigate.
  • Lace - making - an ancient craft. A lace fabric is lightweight openwork fabric, patterned, either by machine or by hand, with open holes in the work. The holes can be formed via removal of threads or cloth from a previously woven fabric, but more often lace is built up from a single thread and the open spaces are created as part of the lace fabric.
  • Lade - an open watercourse conducting water from a dam, weir or river to a mill wheel (Scots).
  • Ladester - someone who helped with the unloading of carts and moved the sacks around a mill (Scots).
  • Laid paper - previously always handmade with 'chains' and 'lines' visible, now often machine made or just pressed on.[18]
  • Laigh - 'low'; or by implication, lesser or less important.
  • Laird - the owner of an estate. A title of the gentry, rather than the nobility, a Laird is associated with the land that he (or she) owns rather than being part of the established hierarchy (or Peerage). The title is peculiar to Scotland. In the past a Laird may have had feudal rights over those who lived on his land, and held court from their castle or mansion. A female Laird may be informally titled 'Lady'. The title transfers, or is inherited, with the land (Scots).
  • Laithe - a combined barn and cattle-house.
  • Lancet - windows which are tall and narrow and sometimes grouped under a single arch.
  • Lands - the flat surfaces between the harps on a millstone (Scots).
  • Lantern - also a 'Cupola' or 'Glover' - a cover which provides an entrance / exit, but keeps out the rain from a building or structure.
  • Lantern pinion - the vertical drive shaft taking power off the mill wheel via cogs.
  • Lardiner - a Lardiner was the steward of the King's larder, providing venison as well as 'tame beasts' for the royal table.
  • Late - denoting someone who is deceased, i.e., the late John Thomas.
  • Latten - the alloy of copper and zinc often used to produce monumental brasses and other church articles, also some matrices for seals.
  • Laud - praise; glorification.
  • Laund - a compartment within a park having few or no trees, as present within deer parks..[7]
  • Lavatorium - a long trough in the cloisters of an abbey where the monks washed their hands before and after meals.
  • Lave - to wash oneself; bathe.
  • Laver - an archaic term for a vessel, stone basin, or trough used for washing.
  • Law - a small but prominent hill or burial mound. A frequently part of place anmes, such as Stacklawhill, Knockinlaw, Law mount, etc. (Scots).
  • Lawburrows, letters of - letters in the monarch's name under the signet seal to the effect that a particular person had shown cause to dread harm from another, and that therefore this other complained of was commanded to find "sufficient caution and surety" that the complainer would be free from any violence on his part (Legal).
  • Laying of the lintels - the ancient equivalent of a topping-out ceremony for a new building at which meat and drink were provided for the various craftsmen and labourers.
  • Lea - also 'Leigh' - see 'Lye'.
  • Leach na Gruagach - Milk was poured as an offering to 'Gruagach', the Gaelic guardian-goddess of cattle, into hollows in stones called Dobby stones or Leach na Gruagach.[29]
  • Leadenhaller - someone who buys imported foxes from London's Leadenhall market to sell to fox hunters.
  • Leaf - two pages.
  • Leat - an open watercourse conducting water from a dam, weir or river to a mill wheel.
  • Leatwright - an expert in the construction of leats or lades.
  • Leaven - an element, influence, or agent that works subtly to lighten, enliven, or modify a whole.
  • Leech - a physician or healer, because doctors used leeches to draw blood from patients.
  • Legacy - property or money bequeathed to someone in a will (Legal).
  • Legate - an official emissary, especially an official representative of the Pope.
  • Legatee - someone who inherits money or property from a person who left a will (Legal).
  • Legendarium - refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, usually saints. See also 'Hagiography'.
  • Leman - archaic for "sweetheart, paramour," from M.E. leofman (c.1205), from OE leof "dear" + man "human being, person." Originally of either gender, though archaic usage tends to limit it to women. Used by Sir Walter Scott in the Waverley Novel 'Kenilworth'.
  • Lengthman - the person responsible for the maintenance of the verges , etc. of a given length of a canal, railway or road.
  • Lenition - a kind of consonant mutation that appears in many languages. Along with assimilation, it is one of the primary sources of historical change of languages.
  • Leper stone - a bowl shaped stone filled with sour wine or vinegar into which lepers could either leave offerings of money for the church or more likely take offerings left for them. A very rare example is to be found near the church at Greystoke village, Penrith, Cumbria.
  • Lessee - person leasing property from an owner (Legal).
  • Lessor - owner leasing property to a tenant (Legal).
  • Letters of fire and sword - commissions to named lords which instructed them to destroy by any means the subjects of the commission. The commission which led to the 'Massacre of Glencoe' is a late example (Legal).
  • Letters Testamentary - a court document allowing the executor named in a will to carry out his or her duties (Legal).
  • Leveret - a young 'Hare', especially in its first year of life.
  • Levet - a trumpet call for rousing soldiers; a reveille.
  • Ley line - Alfred Watkins announced his discovery of a network of ancient alignments criss-crossing the British countryside, these ley lines or old straight tracks are highly controversial, however they may reflect certain genuinely ancient practices.
  • Ley tunnel - myth involving improbably long subterranean passages and obstacles, prominent buildings and often monks or aristocrats.
  • Librate - to determine the weight of an object.
  • licentia redeundi - the act of conferring the whole power of Parliament upon a commission {Legal}.
  • Lick of goodwill - also 'lock'. The miller's payment for grinding the cereal, etc. (Scots).
  • Liege poustie - that state of health which would give someone full and undoubted power to arrange for the disposal of his heritable property in the event of his death.
  • Lien - a claim placed on property by a person who is owed money (Legal).
  • Lierne vaulting - these are 'tie' ribs between any ribs springing from a supporting rib and are purely decorative.
  • Ligature - in writing and typography, a ligature occurs where two or more graphemes are joined as a single glyph; often used by masons to reduce the extent of carving needed on gravestones.
  • Limekiln - a kiln for burning lime to produce quicklime, a fertilizer.
  • Liminal - a threshold, such as in Celtic pagan and holy places, e.g. between land and sea, salt water and fresh, etc.
  • Liminality - that temporary state during a rite of passage when the participant lacks social status or rank, is required to follow specified forms of conduct, and is expected to show obedience and humility.
  • Limmer - a low, base fellow; also, a prostitute.
  • Limner - a painter or drawer of portraits.
  • Linden - a small-leaved lime tree (Tilia cordata}.
  • Lineatore - the equivalent of town planners first encountered in the 12th century. Lineatores marked out burgage plots or tofts, defined the boundaries of towns, laid out roads, etc.
  • Linen - thread made from fibres of the flax plant or cloth woven from this thread.
  • Linhay - a West Country shelter shed with an open hayloft above.
  • Linn - a waterfall (Scots).
  • Lint - The flax plant as just pulled or in the early stages of manufacture into yarn (Scots).
  • Lippie - a dry measure, normally the quarter of a 'peck' or 'forpet'.
  • Litiscontestation - where both parties in a case have stated their respective pleas in a court, it being then understood that, by doing so, they have consented to abide by the decision of the judge in the case (Legal).
  • Lithograph - literally 'drawing on stone' , but used for any print taken from a flat surface.
  • Litster - a person who works in the dyer's trade..[30]
  • Livery Company - Similar to a 'Guild'.
  • Livestock - the animals on a farm.
  • Loan - before the enclosing of fields, a strip of grass of varying breadth would run through the arable parts of a farm and frequently it would link with the common grazing ground of the community, serving as a pasture, a driving road and a milking place for the cattle of the farm or village and as a common green (Scots).
  • Local History - Local history is the study of the history of a relatively small geographic area; typically a specific settlement, parish or county.
  • Locality, decree of - the allocation of a stipend due to a minister in proportions among the various heritors liable to pay it.
  • Lock or sequals - a payment to a miller's servant of an amount of grain that could be heaped into a pair of clasped hands (Scots).
  • Loco tutoris - in the place of (i.e. acting as) tutor.
  • Locum tenens - a person, especially a physician or cleric, who substitutes temporarily for another.
  • Locus amoenus - an earthy paradise. Such as the cave, spring and holy tree, refuge of Tristran and Iseult.[31]
  • Locus terribilis - a sacred place into which only a divine or sacred person could enter. Petrosomatoglyph foot prints for the ordination of kings would be an example.[32]
  • Lodge - a building, often ornate, at the entrance to the driveway of a country house or mansion in which the gatekeeper lived.
  • Logan stone - also 'Rocking stone' - a large boulder, often a glacial erratic, which rocks when pushed. Such boulders often have associated folk legends.
  • Lollard - a member of a sect of religious reformers in England who were followers of John Wycliffe in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • Lombardic script - the national hand of Italy; a development of the uncial and was first used in northern Italy. The Lombardic character has many & wide variations of it as developed by the scribes in different countries. It was the favorite form selected for initials & versals in manuscripts, which were usually painted in, in colors and gold, the solidity of the body strokes making it especially adaptable for this purpose. At its best this Lombardic letter preserves much of the feeling of the uncials of the sixth and seventh centuries.
  • Lone - a 'lane' in Scots.
  • Longhouse - a steading with the byre adjoining the farmhouse in a straight line.
  • Loosebox - an enclosure in a stable where the horse is not tide up and is therefore free to move around.
  • Lord Lyon King of Arms - the head of Lyon Court, the most junior of the Great Officers of State in Scotland and the Scottish official with responsibility for regulating heraldry in Scotland, issuing new grants of arms, and serving as the judge of the oldest heraldic court in the world that is still in daily operation. The post was formerly held by an important nobleman, whose functions were in practice carried out by his assistant, the Lyon-Depute. The practice of appointing Lyon-Deputes, however, ceased in 1866. The Lord Lyon is responsible for the granting of new arms to persons or organisations, and for confirming given pedigrees and claims to existing arms.
  • Lore - a body of tradition and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group.
  • Lorimer - A family name derived from the Middle English for the maker of bits, spurs, stirrup-irons, locks and other 'horse' furniture. The Lorimers appear in Scotland during the 12th century as land owners in the Perth area. The name is found in Midlothian in the 15th century, Stirlingshire in the 16th century and later in Dumfriesshire.
  • Lovite - a favourite of the King or a lawyer respected and trusted, usually by the aristocracy; term used in charters, dispositions, proclamations etc., expressive of the royal regard to the person or persons mentioned or addressed.
  • Lucam - an extension running outward from the wall of a building to allow materials to be lowered by a hoist into or taken out of boats, carts, etc. Watermills typically had these structures, such as the mill at Houghton on the River Great Ouse in England; now restored by the National Trust.[33]
  • Lucubration - laborious study or meditation; writing produced by laborious effort or study, especially pedantic or pretentious writing.
  • Lughnasadh - one of the four main festivals of the medieval Irish calendar: Imbolc at the beginning of February, Beltane on the first of May, Lughnasadh in August and Samhain in November. The early Celtic calendar was based on the lunar, solar, and vegetative cycles, so the actual calendar date in ancient times may have varied. Lughnasadh marked the beginning of the harvest season, the ripening of first fruits, and was traditionally a time of community gatherings, market festivals, horse races and reunions with distant family and friends.
  • Luck or 'lux' - a discount on a purchase in return for a cash payment.
  • Lukesmas - the feast day of Saint Luke, 18th October.[5]
  • Lunatic - in its original Latin it was a type of periodic insanity believed to be affected by the phases of the moon (luna), but it entered English law as the term for such an unsoundness of mind as justified interfering with a person's civil rights, or considering their transactions invalid.
  • Lund - also 'Lound'. A small wood, from the Old Norse Lundr.
  • Lustral - Of, relating to, or used in a rite of purification.
  • Lustration - a purification by ablution in water. But the lustrations, of which we possess direct historical knowledge, are always connected with sacrifices and other religious rites, and consisted in the sprinkling of water by means of a branch of laurel or olive, and in the burning of certain materials, the smoke of which was thought to have a purifying effect.
  • Lusus naturae- a person or animal that is markedly unusual or deformed.
  • Lux or 'Luck' - a discount on a purchase in return for a cash payment.
  • Lych or 'Lyke' - Anglo-Saxon for a corpse. Used in the context of Lych Gate or Lych Path. A corpse on its way to burial was previously carried along a Corpse of Lych Path and placed at the Lych Gate just prior to the burial.
  • Lye - also 'lea' or 'leigh' - pasture land, often the first area cleared from a woodland is called the 'Leigh field', as at Woodway House in Teignmouth, Devon. The term may also refer to woodland pasture land.
  • Lye - a preparation used together with animal fats in the pruduction of soap. Lye can be produced from certain seaweeds, saltworts, hardwood tree ashes or mined as the mineral form. Sodium carbonate and Sodium hydroxiude are two examples of 'lye' chemicals.
  • Lymmares - villains or malefactors.
  • Lymphad - A 'Birlinn' comprised a class of small galleys with 12 to 18 oars, they appear in Scottish heraldry as the 'lymphad'.
  • Lynchet - change in ground-level produced by the earth-moving action of ploughs.

M Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Macaroni - also 'Maccaroni'. A fashionable person who dressed and spoke in an outlandishly affected manner; a man who exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion in terms of clothes, fastidious eating and gambling.
  • Mace - a symbol of power and authority which developed from the war mace.
  • Macer - also a 'Claviger'. A servant at a law court, responsible for maintaining order.
  • Machiolation - opening between projecting parapet corbels through which objects were dropped on invading soldiers.
  • Mad - wag - a crazy person in a jocular sense, from 'Wag-halter'.
  • Magnanimous - courageously noble in mind and heart. Generous in forgiving; eschewing resentment or revenge; unselfish.
  • Magnate - an influential or wealthy person, esp. in industry.
  • Maid - a female domestic servant.
  • Maiden - a young unmarried woman.
  • Maiden - a planted or self-sown tree which has not been coppiced or pollarded.
  • Maiden name - a woman's last name prior to marriage.
  • Maill - tax, rent, tribute or payment as in 'Black Mail'.
  • Mains - the home farm of an estate, cultivate by or for the owner.
  • Major - a person who has reached legal age (Legal).
  • Majordomo - the head (major) person of a domestic (domo) staff, one who acts on behalf of the (often absent) owner of a typically large residence. Similar terms include 'castellan, chamberlain,' 'seneschal', 'maître d', butler' and 'steward'. Usually ranking above the butler, the majordomo is responsible for all managerial and financial affairs concerning his employer's households.
  • Majores - ancestors.
  • Majority - legal age.
  • Majuscule - the larger of two type faces in a script. In the Roman alphabet they are A, B, C, D, etc. They are also called capitals (caps) or upper case (uppercase).
  • Malmsey - a sweet fortified wine originally made in Greece and now produced mainly in Madeira. Also called malvasia, malvoisie.
  • Mana - a supernatural force believed to dwell in a person or sacred object.
  • Manducation - the act of chewing.
  • Manège - the art of training and riding horses; the movements and paces of a trained horse or a school at which equestrianship is taught and horses are trained.
  • Mangonel - a siege engine for catapulting stones weighing up to 50 or 60 lb. each. The device had a wooden arm, pivoted in the middle of a frame, with a rope-torsioned mechanism at one end as the source of power.
  • Manilla - a horse-shoe shaped bracelet, made of copper or brass, used as a form of money in West Africa until around 1949.
  • Maniple - an ornamental silk band hung as an ecclesiastical vestment on the left arm near the wrist; a subdivision of an ancient Roman legion, containing 60 or 120 men.
  • Manor - an estate with land and juridiction over tenants.
  • Manse - the dwelling of the minister, equivalent to an English 'vicarage' (Scots).
  • Mansion - a large and stately dwelling house.
  • Manumission - the act of freeing a slave, done at the will of the owner.
  • Manure - animal dung used for fertilising soil.
  • March - an estate or property boundary, from the old English Mearc a mark.
  • March Tree - a tree which clearly marks a boundary or march; usually coppiced and then pollarded, thereby substantially increasing its longevity.
  • Marginalia - handwritten notes in the margins of a page around the text. These would usually reduce the value of a book, but not in the case of the famous or the author. The term is also used to describe drawings and flourishes in medieval illuminated manuscripts. True marginalia is not to be confused with reader's signs, marks (e.g. stars, crosses, fists) or doodles in books. The formal way of adding descriptive notes to a document is called 'annotation'.
  • Marian Period - pertaining to the reign or time of Mary Queen of Scots and her mother, Mary of Guise, second wife of James V of Scotland. Roughly 1542 to 1568.
  • Marita - a married woman, wife.
  • Marque, letters of - royal letters authorising those who had been injured by foreigners and been unable to obtain satisfaction, to take reprisals.
  • Maritus - a bridegroom, married man.
  • Marriage bond - a marriage bond is document obtained by an engaged couple prior to their marriage. It affirmed that there was no moral or legal reason why the couple could not be married. In addition, the man affirmed that he would be able to support himself and his new bride (legal).
  • Marriage stone - a stone lintel carved with the initials, coat of arms, etc. of a newly married couple with the date of the marriage.
  • Marshalling - this is the art of correctly arranging armorial bearings in heraldry. Two or more coats of arms are often combined in one shield to express inheritance, claims to property, or the occupation of an office.
  • Mart - a trading center; a market; a place where goods are sold; a store or in the archaic sense, a fair.
  • Martingale - the strap of a horse's harness that connects the girth to the noseband and is designed to prevent the horse from throwing back its head. Any of several parts of standing rigging strengthening the bowsprit and jib boom against the force of the head stays. A method of gambling in which one doubles the stakes after each loss. A loose half-belt or strap placed on the back of a garment, such as a coat or jacket.
  • Mash - a mixture of grains, peas, etc. given to horses.
  • Mashlum - mixed grains, generally peas or oats, and the bread made from it.
  • Masonic Lodge - a meeting place for, or formerly for Freemasons. Lodge '0' at Kilwinning in Ayrshire is regarded as the 'Mother Lodge'.
  • Mast - the fruit of beech, oak, chestnut and other forest-trees, especially as food for pigs. The word derives from the Old English for 'meat'.
  • Mast Year - a season in which so many seeds have been produced that they were able to overwhelm the destructive feeding of animals, etc. Sufficient seedlings are therefore produced the following year that a generation of trees are produced, noticeable in the age structure of the wood itself.
  • Maternal line - the line of descent traced through the mother's ancestry.
  • Matrilinear succession - a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant (of either sex) in which the individuals in all intervening generations are female. In a matrilineal descent system (uterine descent), an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as his or her mother. This is in contrast to the more currently common pattern of patrilineal descent. Patrilineal descent systems have not always been so common. In this system a son would not inherit, instead a brother or nephew was more likely to. A Pictish princess is said to have commented to a Roman aristocrat that her system was best, for one would always know who the mother of a child was!
  • Matrix - the small, usually copper, block stamped with a single letter which fits into the typefounder's mould in preparation for printing.[18] Also the latten, gold, ivory, lead or silver stamp from which a 'seal' was produced.
  • Matron - an older married woman with children.
  • Matronym - a component of a name based on the name of one's mother. It is a means of conveying lineage.
  • Maudlin - is Mary Magdalen.
  • Mavis - the Song-thrush, (Turdus philomelos).
  • Maze - a puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage through which the solver must find a route.
  • Mazzard - another term for Cherry or Gean, archaic.
  • Meadow - grassland grown to be cut for hay.
  • Meal - the edible part of any grain or pulse ground to a powder.
  • Mear - also 'Mere' - wooden frame on which wrongdoers had to 'ride' as a public punishment in Scotland.
  • Medieval - also 'Mediaeval' - of, or in the syle of the Middle Ages.
  • Meditatione fugae - 'in meditatione fugae' is a legal term in Scots Law that refers toa writ issued to prevent a debtor leaving the country. Robert Burns was issued with one in relation to an affair he had with Margaret 'May' Cameron.
  • Megalith - a large, single upright standing stone (monolith or menhir), of prehistoric European origin.
  • Megalithic yard - a unit of measurement used in the construction of megalithic structures. Discovered by Professor Thom.
  • Meith - in Scots, a boundary mark or line.
  • Meithed - Scots for the marking out of a boundary of land, as in stobbed, meithed and marched.
  • Melancholy - now called depression. A word from the Greek formed from joining the words for black and bile. Bile is a bitter fluid that the body uses in digestion. It was known as choler (sometimes cholera) and was one of the four body fluids (humours) thought to determine a person's physical and mental qualities. Choler made you angry. Black bile, known as choler adust is a thick black fluid thought to make one sad. The other two fluids are blood and phlegm. Phlegm made you lazy or apathetic. Blood made you brave, hopeful and amorous.
  • Melder - one milling of corn, oats, etc. (Scots).
  • Menage - a social group living together; a household. A form of friendly saving society.
  • Mendicant - a beggar; living solely on alms. Also a member of any of several orders of friars that originally forbade ownership of property, subsisting mostly on alms.
  • Menhir - a large, single upright standing stone (monolith or megalith), of prehistoric European origin.
  • Mensal - pertaining to or used at the table; in Irish and early Scottish history mensal land was set apart for the supply of food for the table of the king, prince or such-like. In Scotland and Ireland before the Reformation, applied to a church, benefice, etc., appropriated to the service of the bishop for the maintenance of his table.
  • Mensis - month.
  • Menstruum - a solvent, especially one used in extracting compounds from plant and animal tissues and preparing drugs.
  • Mercantilism - the economic doctrine that says government control of foreign trade is of paramount importance for ensuring the prosperity and security of a state. It demands a positive balance of trade. In thought and practice it dominated Western Europe from the 16th to the late-18th century. Mercantilism was often a cause of frequent European wars and it was a motive for colonial expansion.
  • Mercat - a market (Scots).
  • Mercer - a dealer in textiles, especially silks. The etymology is Middle English, from Old French mercier, trader, from merz, merchandise, from Latin merx, merc-, merchandise.
  • Merchetum or Mercheta - the buying of freedom by a villain or bondsmen from his feudal lord. Also the fine paid by a sokeman or villain to his feudal lord if his daughter married without the lord's permission; payment for the loss of a worker due to marriage of a daughter.
  • Mere - a small lake, pond, or marsh.
  • Merekin - a daughter or young woman.
  • Meridies - pertaining to or of the 'south'.
  • Mering - also 'meryne','mearing','mearing','meering' - the fixing of boundaries. In north Scotland: a strip of land marking a boundary, a ‘balk’ or ridge of uncultivated land serving as a boundary(Scots).
  • Merino - the Spanish name for a breed of sheep, and hence applied to a woolen fabric.
  • Merk - in Scotland a land value of 2/3 of a Scot's pound or 13 1/2 d. Also a measure of land.
  • Merlon - a solid portion between two crenels in a battlement or crenelated wall.
  • Mesne lord - a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord. A mesne lord did not hold land directly of the king.
  • Messuage - a dwelling-house, including outbuildings, orchard, curtilage or court-yard and garden. At one time messuage supposedly had a more extensive meaning than that comprised in the word house or site, but such distinction, if it ever existed, no longer survives (Legal). The 'Capital Messuage' was the main messuage of an estate, the house in which the owner of the estate normally lived.
  • Metes - a measurement of distance in feet, rods, poles, chains, etc.; pertains to measuring direction and distance.
  • Meum - mine; that which is mine.
  • Mezzotint - a technique of copperplate engraving in which the whole surface of the plate is roughened to print solid black and the design is made by smoothing down again to produce graded tones.
  • Miasma - from 1665: a noxious vapour that was thought to carry diseases. The diseases might be called (18th century on) malarias.
  • Michaelmas - the Feast of Saint Michael, is a day in the Christian calendar, taking place on 29 September. Because it falls near the equinox, it is associated with the beginning of Autumn and the shortening of days. St. Michael, one of the principal angelic warriors, was seen as a protector against the dark of night. Michaelmas has also delineated time and seasons for secular purposes as well, particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
  • Midden - a dung heap or refuse heap near to a dwelling.
  • Mien - dignified manner or conduct. An air or bearing especially as expressive of attitude or personality.
  • Milestone - a stone or cast-iron distance marker on a turnpike, used in the calculated of the toll charge.
  • Mill-bitch - a bag hung near the millstones into which a dishonest miller would slip a handful of meal now & then (Scots).
  • Mill-ring - the space between the millstones and the wooden frame. This space inevitably collected meal and was enlarged by unscrupulous millers to increase the amount (Scots).
  • Mill-steep - the name for the lever which was used to bring millstones closer together or further apart (Scots).
  • Millstone - stones for grinding corn, etc. The upper stone is the 'Runner' and the stationary lower stone is the Bedstone.
  • Mill-wand - the rounded piece of wood acting as an axle with which several people would role a millstone form the quarry to the mill. The width of some roads were set at a 'mill-wand breadth'.]
  • Miln - the archaic form of 'Mill', still in use in the 18th century and found in some place names, i.e. Newmilns. Still found in use in surnames.
  • Milner - archaic form of 'Miller'.
  • Minikin - a person or object that is delicate, dainty, or diminutive. Used by Sir Walter Scott in his Waverley novel 'Kenilworth'.
  • Minster - the Old English, mynster or monastery, derived from Latin ministerium, the “office" or “service”, the canonical hours, which were sung at set hours in the minster. Thus minster originally applied to the church of a monastery or a chapter: it was an abbot who presided in the minster, rather than a bishop, as at a cathedral.
  • Misericord - a tip-up wooden seat with a ledge underneath to give a priest some support whilst standing for long periods of time. Often carved with interesting designs and an area of study in their own right.
  • Misk - a damp, bogey, low-lying stretch of grassland (Scots).
  • Misprision - neglect or wrong performance of official duty; concealment of treason or felony by one who is not a participant in the treason or felony; seditious conduct against the government or the courts (Legal).
  • Mistal - northern dialect for a cattle stall, synonymous with byre.
  • Moat - see Mote (Scots).
  • Moiety - half, one of two equal parts.
  • Moldwarp - a mole.
  • Mommet - the Somerset name for a scarecrow, which is a device (traditionally a mannequin) that is used to discourage birds such as crows from disturbing crops and feeding on recently cast seed.
  • Monger - a dealer or trader, i.e. Fishmonger.
  • Monition - a formal order from a bishop or an ecclesiastical court to refrain from a specified offense.
  • Monolith - a large, single upright standing stone (also Menhir or megalith), of prehistoric European origin.
  • Monomachia - A duel; single combat.
  • Moot Hill - a 'law', 'knoll' or 'knowe' used as a meeting place for judgements, etc.
  • Morally defective - were people who, from an early age, displayed some permanent mental defect coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities on which punishment had little or no effect.
  • Morganantic - a marriage between a man of exalted rank and a woman of lower rank in which the wife and her children do not share the rank or inherit the possessions of the husband.
  • Morion - a crested metal helmet with a curved peak in front and back, worn by soldiers in the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • Mormaer - designates a regional or provincial ruler in the medieval Kingdom of the Scots. In theory, although not always in practice, a Mormaer was second only to the King of Scots, and the senior of a toisech. The Gaelic term means 'Great Steward.'
  • Morocco - tanned goatskin used for binding books, originally produced in North Africa.[18]
  • Mortmain - the status of lands or tenements held inalienably by an ecclesiastical or other corporation (Legal).
  • Mortsafe - a structure placed on a grave to prevent the body being exhumed and stolen.
  • Moscow, Ayrshire - this is a village in Scotland. The name is thought to be a corruption of 'Moss-hall' or 'Moss-haw' but its spelling was formalised in 1812 to mark Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.
  • Moss - equivalent to morass or bog in England, contains black or dark-coloured substance formed by stagnant water from rotting vegetation, sometimes in a fluid state (Scots).
  • Mote hill - see Moot Hill (Scots).
  • Motte - an earth mound on which a palisade or stone castle tower was built. Usually Norman.
  • Mouler - a 'rubber' used to grind grain on a saddle or trough quern.
  • Mounts or 'Roundels' - mostly circular plantations planted to emphasise rising ground.
  • Mulct - a fine imposed for an offence.
  • Multivallate Hillfort - a hillfort defences formed by a series of banks and ditches.
  • Murmet - the Devonian name for a scarecrow, which is a device (traditionally a mannequin) that is used to discourage birds such as crows from disturbing crops and feeding on recently cast seed.
  • Muir - wet or poorly drained pasture, open moorland or heath (Scots).
  • Mullion - vertical framing member of an opening such as a window.
  • Multure - pronounced 'Mooter'. The payment, a fixed proportion of the tenants grain, paid to the miller by the suckener to grind the corn.
  • Mump - an archaic term meaning to be silent or to beg.
  • Mundungus - a stinking tobacco.
  • Muniments - documentary evidence by which one can defend a title to property or a claim to rights (Legal).
  • Muniment chest - a strongbox used to safely store deeds, wedding certificates and other written items of value.
  • Murderer - a large artillery piece, such as Mons Meg. (Scots).
  • Mure - also 'Muir.' a wet or poorly drained pasture, open moorland or heath (Scots).
  • Murrain - a highly infectious disease of cattle and sheep. The term literally means 'death' and was used in medieval times to represent just that. The farmers of that era had no way of identifying specific diseases in their livestock so they put all illnesses under one heading.
  • Muskeg - a swamp or bog formed by an accumulation of sphagnum moss, leaves, and decayed matter resembling peat.
  • Muslin - any of various sturdy cotton fabrics of plain weave, used especially for sheets.
  • Mutchkin- also 'Muchkine' - a unit of liquid measure equal to 0.9 U.S. pints (0.42 liters) (Scots).
  • Myrmidon - the Myrmidons were legendary people of Greek history, brave and skilled warriors commanded by Achilles, known for their skill in battle and loyalty to their leaders. In pre-industrial Europe the word "myrmidon" carried many of the same connotations that "minion" does today. Myrmidon later came to mean 'hired ruffia', a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity - unquestioning followers.'

N Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Naif - an innocent or inexperienced person; marked by or showing unaffected simplicity and lack of guile or worldly experience. Also a variation of 'neyf', a slave or serf.
  • Narthex - A portico or lobby of an early Christian or Byzantine church or basilica, originally separated from the nave by a railing or screen; an entrance hall leading to the nave of a church. The narthex was the whole width of the church and held the principal entrance.
  • Nativi - serfs who were 'native' to the land on which they were born; they went with the land; and the land could be given or sold with the 'men, meadows and pastures.'
  • Natus - born.
  • Nave - the central part of a church from the west door to the chancel, excluding the side aisles.
  • Neat - a cow or other domestic bovine animal.
  • Necessarium also a 'Rere-dorter' - built above the main drain in an abbey; one or more rows of pierced seats with partitions for defecation and urination.
  • Necromancy - the prediction of the future by the supposed communication with the dead. A form of witchcraft or black magic.
  • Nee - born, used to denote a woman's maiden name, i.e., Anne Gibson née West.
  • Nemeton - a sacred grove used on occasion for performing ritual animal sacrifices, and other such rituals in Celtic countries. The grove itself might be personified as Nemetona, attested in votive and founding inscriptions. The word may be traced in the Irish Nemed husband of Macha and in naomh ("holy"). Druids, according to Roman writers Pliny or Lucan did not meet in stone temples or other constructions, but in sacred groves of trees. The name is found as an element in several place-names, e.g. Roman Vernemeton, now Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire.
  • Nether - lower or under.
  • Neuk - a corner or nook. Such as the 'Cheepy Neuk' in Perceton, North Ayrshire. This was a trysting place for courting couples.
  • Newe - a stair which winds round a central newel-post; a vertical support at the center of a circular staircase; a post that supports a handrail at the bottom or at the landing of a staircase.
  • Neyf - a slave, serf; unfree peasants under feudalism.
  • Niffer - to exchange or barter; haggling whilst bargaining (Scots).
  • Night-soil - faeces and urine from human sources added to the midden before the development of mechanical toilets.
  • Nimbus - a cloudy radiance said to surround a classical deity when on earth; a radiant light that appears usually in the form of a circle or halo about or over the head in the representation of a god, demigod, saint, or sacred person such as a king or an emperor; a splendid atmosphere or aura, as of glamour, that surrounds a person or thing.
  • Nip - an interruption or break, specifically in mining, marking the point at which a seam of coal tails off as if squeezed between the strata above and below it.
  • Nix - nothing.
  • No Canny - not free from risk, unsafe (Scots).
  • Nocturnal - the night-time equivalent of the sundial. The time was found from entering the position of the stars onto the mechanisms dials and scales; the time was then read off. Sometimes called a "horologium nocturnum" (time instrument for night) or nocturlabe.
  • Nolt - neat cattle.
  • Nonage - the period during which one is legally underage.
  • Nonentres - in Scots feudal law, the failure of an heir to land to make an entry thereon and to obtain investiture of the feu from the superior; also the feudal casualty arising from such failure.
  • Nones - c.1420, in reference to the Roman calendar, "ninth day before the ides of each month" (7th of March, May, July, October, 5th of other months), from the Latin nonæ (acc. nonas), feminine plural of nonus "ninth." Also in an Ecclesiastical sense of "daily office said originally at the ninth hour of the day" is from 1709; originally fixed at ninth hour from sunrise, hence about 3 p.m. (now usually somewhat earlier), from L. nona (hora) "ninth (hour)," from fem. pl. of nonus "ninth," contracted from novenos, from novem "nine" (see nine). Also used in a sense of "midday".
  • Notaries - lawyers officially authorised to draw up certain legal documents, icluding instruments of sasine (Legal).
  • Novodamus - a charter in Scots law containing a clause in which the superior of a property grants it "of new" because of a defect in the original title to the property or because either the vassal or superior wanted to get the conditions of the original grant altered.
  • Nugatory - of little or no importance; trifling. Having no force; invalid.
  • Numinous - a Latin term coined by German theologian Rudolf Otto to describe that which is wholly other. The numinous is the mysterium tremendum et fascinans that leads in different cases to belief in deities, the supernatural, the sacred, the holy, and the transcendent.
  • Nuncupative will - an oral will declared or dictated by the testator in his last sickness before a sufficient number of witnesses and afterwards put in writing (Legal).
  • Nuptial - of or relating to marriage or the wedding ceremony; of, relating to, or occurring during the mating season.
  • Nuttery - a hazel (Corylus avellana).

O Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • O - used as shorthand for 'Son'.
  • Obeisance - gesture or movement of the body, such as a curtsy, that expresses deference or homage.
  • Obit - an obituary.
  • Oblation - the act of offering something, such as worship or thanks, to a deity; the act of offering the bread and wine of the Eucharist; a charitable offering or gift.
  • Obol - also 'Obolus'. A silver coin or unit of weight equal to one sixth of a drachma, formerly used in ancient Greece.
  • Obolary - possessing only small coins; impoverished.
  • Obsidian - very hard volcanic glass used for tools. It can be dated by measurement of thickness of its hydration layer on surface.
  • Obtemperate - to obey.
  • Obturate - to block or obstruct. Obturation often refers to the process of a bullet or pellet, such as Minie Ball, made of soft material and often with a concave base, flaring under the pressure of firing to seal the bore and engage the barrel's rifling.
  • Obverse - in a book this is the right-hand page, also called the 'recto'.
  • Occidens - pertaining to or of the west.
  • Octavians - the group appointed to control the finances of King James VI of Scotland.
  • Oculi - decorative carved or painted patterns that appear to represent 'eyes'. The Folkton Drums and Carved Stone Balls show 'oculi'.
  • Odds bodkins - an oath mmeaning God's body. A bodkin is a small tool for piecing holes in leather etc. This term borrows the word, not for its meaning, but because of the alliteration with body, to make a euphemistic version of the oath, otherwise it would have been unacceptable to a pious audience.
  • Oeuvre - a work of art or the sum of the lifework of an artist, writer, or composer.
  • Ogee - a feature showing in section a double continuous S-shaped curve. An S-shaped line or moulding.
  • Ogham - also Old Irish 'Ogam' - an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to represent Gaelic languages. Ogham is sometimes referred to as the "Celtic Tree Alphabet." The word is pronounced [ˈɔɣam] in Old Irish and [oːm] or [oːəm] in Modern Irish.
  • Old Melancholy - a nickname for the 'Old Pretender', James III of England or James VIII of Scotland. The Jacobite Stuart father of Charles or 'Bonnie Prince Charles'. The flower 'Melancholy Gentleman' may be named after him as it has flowers which resemble a white 'brockade'.
  • Omnigenous - Consisting of all kinds.
  • Omphalos - the navel of the world. The spiritual or actual centre of a country, often marked by a boulder or stone column.
  • Oneiromancy - the art of interpreting dreams; a form of divination.
  • Onomatology - the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names.
  • Operarii - lay brothers in the Celtic church who carried out manual work.
  • Oral history - an oral history is a collection of family stories told by a member of the family or by a close family friend. Normally, an oral history is transcribed onto paper, or is video or tape recorded. Oral histories can yield some of the best information about a family -- the kinds of things that you won't find written in records.
  • Ordinance - an authoritative command or order; a custom or practice established by long usage; a Christian rite, especially the Eucharist; a statute or regulation, especially one enacted by a city government.
  • Oriens - pertaining to or of the 'east'.
  • Oriflamme - an inspiring standard or symbol.
  • Orison - reverent petition to a deity; prayer.
  • Orthostat - a large stone set upright. 'Menhirs' and other standing stones are technically orthostats although the term is only used by archaeologists to describe individual prehistoric stones that constitute part of larger structures. Common examples include the walls of chamber tombs and other megalithic monuments and the vertical elements of the trilithons at Stonehenge. Many orthostats were a focus for megalithic art.
  • Osaris - osiers, a species of willow.
  • Oscillant - a periodically filling and emptying pool at the base of a wind-rocked tree
  • Ostensible - represented or appearing as such; ostensive: His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity.
  • Ostler - or 'Hostler' - one who is employed to tend horses, especially at an inn.
  • Oubliette - a dungeon with a trapdoor in the ceiling as its only means of entrance or exit.
  • Ourlop - the trespass of cattle om the pasture of a neighbour.
  • Outcountry - in the context of Scotland, those areas, such as the Highlands and the Borders, where the Crown's control was not absolute.
  • Outfangthief - the right of a lord to pursue a thief outside the lord's own jurisdiction and bring him back within his jurisdiction to be punished.
  • Outrecuidance - excessive presumption.
  • Out-by - in northern England and Scotland the fields distant from the farmhouse which were rarely manured.
  • Out sucken - a mill which grinds corn from outside its thirl or sucken (Scots).
  • Overmantel - usually a highly decoratively carved ornamentation surmounting a fireplace in old buildings. Stokesay Castle in Salop, England has a fine oak example dating from at least 1648.[34]
  • Oversman - an overseer; a superintent; an umpire; a third arbiter, appointed when two arbiters, previously selected, disagree (Scots).
  • Overshot - a water wheel which is turned by the weight of water falling on it. It is at least two and a half times as efficient as an undershot. It turns clockwise.
  • Owl-hole - an entrance, square or round, high up on a wall designed to allow owls to enter and catch rats and mice.
  • Oxgate - a measure of land also known as a 'bovate'. It was 1/8 of a 'ploughgate'(or as much land as one ox could plough in a year). An oxgate varied in acreage from 8 to 18 acres, depending on how arable the land was.
  • Oxter - armpit.

P Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • p-Celtic - the Brythonic (from Brython 'Briton') branch of the celtic languages, which replaced the q sound with a p sound. These are represented by Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic retained the Goidelic q sound.
  • Pabulum - food or fodder, particularly that taken in by plants or animals.
  • Packhorse - an animal used for carrying heavy roads, usually over rough terrain or on poorly surfaced roads.
  • Paction - an agreement; a compact; a bargain.
  • Pad - dialect term for a path, lane or road.
  • Paddles - the boards attached to a water wheel.
  • Paddy - stool - a toad-stool (Scots).
  • Pad-stone - flat stone acting as a plinth, usually for a single timber post.
  • Painted pebbles - a class of Pictish artifact unique to northern Scotland in the first millennium AD. The function of these pebbles is unknown, however they are most likely to be linked to a function in pagan magic, such as healing sick animals, etc.
  • Palace - also 'Place' - a large dwelling with a central courtyard. Such as Kilmaurs Place, East Ayrshire, Scotland.[35]
  • Pale - thin planks of wood from which a fence is made, usually surrounding a hunting preserve.
  • Paleography - the study of handwriting.
  • Palfrey - a saddle horse, especially one for a woman to ride.
  • Palimpset - a piece of writing material or manuscript on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for other writing. It also refers to other situation where this principle holds, such as 'Rig & furrow' still being visible despite later ploughing, afforestation, etc.
  • Palinode - a poem in which the author retracts something said in a previous poem; a formal statement of retraction.
  • Palladium - a safeguard, especially one viewed as a guarantee of the integrity of social institutions: the Bill of Rights, palladium of American civil liberties. A sacred object that was believed to have the power to preserve a city or state possessing it. The Stone of Scone is regarded as a palladium by the Scots.
  • Palmer - a medieval European pilgrim who carried a palm branch as a token of having visited the Holy Land.
  • Palsy - used in 1611 Bible. A complete or partial muscle paralysis, often accompanied by loss of sensation and uncontrollable body movements or tremors.
  • Panache - originally a bunch of feathers or a plume, especially on a helmet.
  • Pancarta - a book containing charters or the official in charge of such a book. See also chartulary or cartulary.
  • Panegyric - a formal eulogistic composition intended as a public compliment or elaborate praise or laudation; an encomium.
  • Pannage - the payment made in return for allowing pigs to forage in woodland for acorns or beech mast.
  • Pannel - a kind of rustic saddle; in falconry, the stomach of a hawk; militarily the carriage for transporting a mortar and its bed, on a march; in Scots law a person who has been indicted for a crime.
  • Pannier - a large wicker basket, especially one of a pair of such baskets carried on the shoulders of a person or on either side of a pack animal.
  • Panwood - poorer quality coal, often found near the surface and used in early salt panning, etc. (Scots)
  • Papingo - in common with most European countries one type of target practice was to tie a live bird to a pole and allow the contestants to shoot at it. The name given to this target was the 'popinjay' or 'papingo'. At a later date the live bird was replaced with a wooden bird with detachable wings. This sport continues in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland. The Annual Papingo Shoot is held in the grounds of the old Abbey on the afternoon of the first Saturday in June when the wooden bird is mounted on a pole suspended from the Abbey Tower. The personal name 'Pobjoy' derives from the sport.
  • Paraclete - the Holy Spirit, considered as comforter, intercessor, or advocate.
  • Paranomasia or 'Pun' - a figure of speech which consists of a deliberate confusion of similar words or phrases for rhetorical effect, whether humorous or serious.
  • Parchment - a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin. Its most common use is as the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is not tanned, but stretched, scraped, and dried under tension, creating a stiff white, yellowish or translucent animal skin. The finer qualities of parchment are called vellum. It is very reactive with changes in relative humidity and is not waterproof.
  • Parclose screen - in Christian centres of worship these enclose a side chapel.
  • Pardoner- also a 'Questor'. A friar or monk in Medieval days, 'licensed' by the Pope to sell indulgences which would free the purchaser of sins committed. This system was greatly abused.
  • Parge - the plaster applied to cottage walls, etc.
  • Pargeting - a decorative plastering applied to building walls.
  • Parish - the ecclesiastical division or jurisdiction; the site of a church. The Civil parishes category also existed in England and Wales.
  • Park - an area of land, often pasture with specimen trees, surrounding a mansion or country house with a wall or fence boundary.
  • Parvenu - a person who has suddenly risen to a higher social and economic class and has not yet gained social acceptance by others in that class.
  • Parlance - a particular manner of speaking; idiom: legal parlance.
  • Parliamentary Enclosure or 'inclosure' (the latter is used in legal documents and place names) is the term used in England and Wales for the process by which arable farming in open field systems was ended. It is also applied to the process by which some commons (a piece of land owned by one person, but over which other people could exercise certain traditional rights, such as allowing their livestock to graze upon it), were fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more private owners, who would then enjoy the possession and fruits of the land to the exclusion of all others.
  • Parlour - also 'Parlor' - a room in a private home set apart for the entertainment of visitors; a small lounge or sitting room affording limited privacy, as at an inn or tavern.
  • Paroxysm - medical Latin from Greek roots. Originally, in late Middle English, a severe episode of a disease. By the 17th century also used for a fit, a convulsion or an energetic outburst of emotion or activity.
  • Parricide - the murdering of one's father, mother, or other near relative. Someone who commits such a murder.
  • Parterre - a level space in a garden occupied by flower-beds arranged formally. An example would be that to found at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Partigeniture - the opposite from 'Primogeniture'. All property and wealth were equally divided in this system amongst the legitimate offspring.
  • Parure - a set of matched jewelry or other ornaments.
  • Parvis - an enclosed courtyard or space at the entrance to a building, especially a cathedral, that is sometimes surrounded by porticoes or colonnades; one of the porticoes or colonnades surrounding such a space.
  • Paschal - of or relating to Easter.
  • Pasquinade - a satire or lampoon, especially one that ridicules a specific person, traditionally written and posted in a public place.
  • Pastoral - relating or associated with shepherds and their flocks or herds.
  • Pasture - grassland grown for grazing by stock.
  • Patchwork - a form of needlework or craft that involves sewing together small pieces of fabric and stitching them together into a larger design, which is then usually quilted, or else tied together with pieces of yarn at regular intervals, a practice known as tying. Patchwork is traditionally 'pieced' by hand, but modern quiltmakers often use a sewing machine instead.
  • Patera - plural paterae. A saucerlike vessel of earthenware or metal, used in libations and sacrifices; in arcatecture, a circular ornament, resembling a dish, often worked in relief on friezes, and the like.
  • Paternal line - the line of descent traced through the father's ancestry.
  • Patlander - slang for an Irish person.
  • Patmos - an island in the Dodecanese Islands of the Aegean Sea. Saint John was exiled to the island c. a.d. 95 and according to tradition wrote the Book of Revelation here. The term is enerally used in the sense of a place of safe exile.
  • Patrician - someone who is noble or aristocratic.
  • Patrilinear succession - (a.k.a. agnatic kinship) is a system in which one belongs to one's father's lineage; it generally involves the inheritance of property, names or titles through the male line as well. A patriline is a line of descent from a male ancestor to a descendant (of either sex) in which the individuals in all intervening generations are male. In a patrilineal descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as his or her father. This is in contrast to the less common pattern of matrilineal descent as practised by the Picts.
  • Patrimony - an inheritance from a father or other ancestor; an endowment or estate belonging to an institution, especially a church
  • Patriot - one who loves, supports, and defends one's country. The Patriot - Andrew Fletcher, a great defender of Scotland's independence.
  • Patronage - the system by which appointments to important public posts were made by patrons who were un-elected and therefore did not represent the democratic wishes of the population. The appointment of kirk ministers by aristrocratic patrons in Scotland is an example in point. Appointments to the Scottish Mint were mainly through patronage in the 19th-century.[36]
  • Patronymics - the practice of creating last names from the name of one's father. For example, Robert, John's son, would become Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson's son Neil would become Neil Robertson.
  • Pauldron - sometimes spelled pouldron or powldron, is a component of plate armour covering the armpit, and sometimes parts of the back and chest.
  • Pauper - (from Latin for poor) in the sense of a poor person or someone dependent on charity. Later, narrower meaning of someone receiving poor law relief.
  • Pax intrantibus - Peace to those who enter.
  • Pease - peas.
  • Peck - the measure of capacity for dry goods. In Scotland, a fourth part of a 'Firlot' and amounting to four 'Lippies' or 'Forpits', and three 'Grudgies' (Scots).
  • Peculate- to embezzle funds or take part in embezzlement.
  • Peculium - in Roman Law, the saving of a son or a slave with the father's or master's consent; a little property or stock of one's own; any exclusive personal or separate property. A special fund for private and personal uses. A slight peculium only subtracted to supply his snuff box and tobacco pouch. - Sir W. Scott.
  • Pecuniary - of or relating to money: a pecuniary loss; pecuniary motives. Requiring payment of money.
  • Pedigree - a person's ancestry, lineage, family tree.
  • Pediment - a wide, low-pitched gable surmounting the façade of a building in the Grecian style; a triangular element, similar to or derivative of a Grecian pediment, used widely in architecture and decoration.
  • Peels - these were the houses of the lesser gentry, worth less than £100.
  • Pelehouse - see 'Bastle'.
  • Pend - a vaulted roof without groining.
  • Pendicle - something dependent on another, such as loans taken out against property (Legal).
  • Pennon - these are flags that were originally borne at the end of a lance.
  • Pentise - single-pitched roof attached to the side of a wall.
  • Peppercorn rent - a very low or nominal rent.
  • Per infortunium - a killing, per infortunium, or by misadventure, occurs when a person in doing a lawful act, without any intent to harm, unfortunately kills another.
  • Perambulation - a legal document defining a piece of land by describing its boundaries.
  • Periegesis - a description of an area, territory.
  • Peristalth - in archaeology, a 'kerb' or peristalith is the name for a stone ring built to enclose and sometimes revet the cairn or barrow built over a chamber tomb.
  • Perron- an out-of-door flight of steps, as in a garden, leading to a terrace or to an upper story; usually applied to mediævel or later structures of some architectural pretensions.
  • Petard - a small bell-shaped bomb used to breach a gate or wall.
  • Petroglyph - image created by removing part of a rock surfaces by incising, pecking, carving, and abrading.
  • Petrosomatoglyph - a 'petroglyph' representing part of a human or an animal's body, such as eyes, feet, hands, etc.
  • Petrosphere - any of the classes of circular stone balls of wholly or partly man-made origin, such as 'Carved Stone Balls', 'Painted Pebbles', etc.
  • Pettifogger - a petty, quibbling, unscrupulous lawyer; someone who quibbles over trivia.
  • Pew - a bench in a church etc. for the congregation who were originally segregated by gender. These were often rented out to wealthy parishioners.
  • Photogravure - a method of reproducing artwork or photographs from a photographically produced intaglio plate.
  • Piano nobile - the principal or 'noble floor' of an aristocratic proprietor in a castle, country house chateau, etc. The floor where the best rooms would be and where guests would be entertained.
  • Pickthank - one who strives to put another under obligation; an officious person; a flatterer.
  • Pict's House - also 'fogou' in Kernow / Cornwall, 'Earth house' or 'Souterrain', mainly in the east of Scotland.
  • Pig - originally a baby 'pig', the adult being called a 'Swine'.
  • Pight - pitched; fixed; determined.
  • Pignorat - Given or taken in pledge; pawned (Scots).
  • Pikeman - a miller's assistant (Scots).
  • Pillory - a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal; related to the stocks.
  • Pinery - another name for a pineapple growing pit.
  • Pinnacle - an ornamental pointed cap to a buttress, etc. Found in churches.
  • Pinsel - a triangular heraldic flag, 4ft 6in X 2ft, on which is embroidered or painted the crest-badge in its belt and buckle, with motto of a clan, etc.
  • Pipe rolls - a series of financial records from England, beginning in 1130 and lasting, mostly complete, until 1833. They were used by the Exchequer (treasury) and recorded such things as audits of kings' incomes and expenses. They are named after the "pipe" shape formed by a rolled up piece of parchment on which records were originally kept. The Exchequer and Pipe Rolls were a great innovation in government; nothing else like it existed in Europe. Pipe Rolls provide invaluable records for historians for everything from the composition of a hunting party, the contents of a king's kitchen to the tracking of historical figures.
  • Pique - arouse anger or resentment in or to excite or arouse especially by a provocation, challenge, or rebuff.
  • Piquet - a card game for two people, played with a deck from which all cards below the seven, aces being high, are omitted. Much played in Sir Walter Scott's 'St. Ronan's well' novel.
  • Pis aller - the final recourse or expedient; the last resort.
  • Piscina - a stone drain in monasteries, abbeys, etc., used to clean the chalice after mass or for disposal of baptismal water.
  • Pit - a prison cell.
  • Pit & Gallows - the feudal right of a baron or vassal of the monarch to carry out executions following judgment. The 'pit' element refers to the right of the baron or laird to arrest and detain an individual in a 'pit' or prison cell.[37]
  • Pitch-hole - a window-like opening in barns, covered by wooden shutters, used for pitching in corn or hay from a cart standing outside. They could also give ventilation and light if the barn was not full. After 1825 circular pitch-holes became common.
  • Pixie or 'Pisky' as they are often known in Cornwall, are mythical creatures of folklore, considered to be particularly concentrated in the areas around Devon and Cornwall, suggesting some Celtic origin for the belief and name. They are usually depicted as wingless, with pointed ears, and often wearing a green outfit and pointed hat. Sometimes their eyes are described as being pointed upwards at the temple ends.
  • Place - see 'Palace'.
  • Plain an Gwarry - Cornish for a playing place. These sites were open air performance areas used for historically for entertainment and instruction.
  • Plain coat - in heraldry the coat of arms used by the oldest surviving member of a armigerous family, therefore ineffected by brisures.
  • Plaistow - an open space used for entertainment, akin to the village green. Anglo-Saxon in origin, it has given rise to place names.
  • Plantiecrui - also 'Planticrub', 'Plantiecote', or 'Plantiecruive.' In Shetland, a small drystone enclosure within which young plants such as cabbage are planted in an environment protected from the winter and the wind.
  • Plashing - hedge laying.
  • Pleach - to train trees into a raised hedge or to form a quincunx.
  • Pleas of the Crown - these formerly signified offences of a greater magnitude than mere misdemeanors. The latter were left to be tried in the courts of the barons, whereas the greater offences, or royal causes, were to be tried in the king's courts.
  • Pleasance - a secluded garden or landscaped area.
  • Plenipotentiary - from the Latin, plenus + potens, full + power; it refers to a person who has "full powers". In particular, the term commonly refers to a diplomat who is fully authorised to represent their government as a prerogative (e.g. ambassador).
  • Plenish - to furnish & fit out.
  • Ploughbote - the right to collect wood for plough making in medieval times.
  • Ploughgate - as much land as one ox could plough in a year.
  • Poetaster - a writer of insignificant, meretricious, or shoddy poetry.
  • Poind - seize, impound or distrain.
  • Poke - a bag or sack.
  • Poleyn - a piece of armour for protecting the knee.
  • Policies - the estate lands of a country house, usually implying the improved or cultivated lands in the immediate neighbourhood. From the Latin word ‘politus’ meaning embellished. Planting deliberately put in for its visual effect.
  • Polity - a state or one of its subordinate civil authorities, such as a province, prefecture, county, municipality, city, or district.
  • Pollard - a woodland management method of encouraging lateral branches by cutting off a tree stem or minor branches two metres or so above ground level.
  • Pont, Timothy - a cartographer who surveyed and mapped much of Scotland in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
  • Pontage - the right of charging a toll on a bridge; the grantee, or person to whom the tax was granted, bound themselves to in retirn to make all the necessary repairs.
  • Popinjay - in common with most European countries one type of target practice was to tie a live bird to a pole and allow the contestants to shoot at it. The name given to this target was the 'popinjay' or 'papingo'. At a later date the live bird was replaced with a wooden bird with detachable wings. This sport continues in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, Scotland. The Annual Papingo Shoot is held in the grounds of the old Abbey on the afternoon of the first Saturday in June when the wooden bird is mounted on a pole suspended from the Abbey Tower. The personal name 'Pobjoy' derives from the sport.
  • Portal stones - a pair of Megalithic orthostats, usually flanking the entrance to a chamber tomb. They are commonly found in 'dolmens'.
  • Portico - a porch supported by columns. Found in many public buildings and typified by the acroplolis in Greece.
  • Portitorium - see 'Breviary.'
  • Portcullis - a grille or gate made of wood, metal or a combination of the two. Portcullises fortified the entrances to many medieval castles, acting as a last line of defence during time of attack or siege. Each portcullis was mounted in vertical grooves in castle walls and could be raised or lowered quickly by means of chains or ropes attached to an internal winch.
  • Portress - a woman doorkeeper or porter, especially in a convent.
  • Posse comitatus - regarding authority to conscript for law enforcement.
  • Posset - a spiced drink of hot sweetened milk curdled with wine or ale.
  • Post-chaise - a fast-traveling carriage of the 18th and early 19th centuries. It was enclosed and four-wheeled for two or four horses and with the driver riding postillion.
  • Post mill - a type of windmill where the whole box body is mounted about a central pivot post.
  • Posthumous - a child born after the death of the father.
  • Postillion - the rider on the near (left-hand side) horse drawing a coach etc. when there is no coachman.
  • Postnati - used in the context of Scotsmen born after the accession of James VI / I having dual nationality as part of the integration of England and Scotland.[38]
  • Postprandial - after lunch or dinner.
  • Postulant - a candidate, especially for admission into holy orders.
  • Potence - device which allows a ladder to pivot around the inside of a Dovecot so that all the nest holes can be reached.
  • Poudrette - a manure made from night soil, dried and mixed with charcoal, gypsum, etc.
  • Pounce - a fine powder formerly used to smooth and finish writing paper and soak up ink.
  • Pound - an enclosure for impounding stray or trespassing animals. Often built by the local parish, a fine was required of the owner to recover the animals.
  • Power of attorney - a written instrument where on persons, as principal, appoints someone as his or her agent, thereby authorizing that person to perform certain acts on behalf of the principal, such as buying or selling property, settling an estate, representing them in court, etc. (Legal).
  • Powrie - also known as a 'Redcap' or 'Dunter', is a type of malevolent murderous goblin, elf or fairy found in British folklore. They inhabit ruined castles found along the border between England and Scotland. Redcaps are said to murder travelers who stray into their homes and dye their hats with their victims' blood (from which they get their name (Scots).
  • Pox - also 'pock / pocks' which became pox: eruptions on the skin full of pus and also certain diseases that produce these, particularly smallpox. The pox (16th century on) is syphilis, often distinguished as the great pox, or French pox. Later, chickenpox and cowpox. Smallpox is caused by a virus: syphilis by a bacterium.
  • Prebend - a stipend drawn from the endowment or revenues of an Anglican cathedral or church by a presiding member of the clergy; a cathedral or church benefice; the property or tithe providing the endowment for such a stipend.
  • Prebendary - a member of the Anglican clergy who receives a prebend; an Anglican cleric holding the honorary title of prebend without a stipend.
  • Precentor - a person who helps facilitate worship. The details vary depending on the religion, denomination, and era. The Latin derivation is from cantor, meaning "the one who sings before" or first.
  • Precept - a form of mandate, thus named because the text always commenced with the Latin words, Praeceipimus tibi, meaning We direct you; a rule or principle prescribing a particular course of action or conduct; an authorized direction or order; a writ.
  • Preclair - shining, lustrous, renowned, magnificent, splendid in the landscape.
  • Precognition - a written report of the evidence of witnesses to an alleged crime, upon which a decision to prosecute is made and used in the preparation of the case if it goes to trial.
  • Prelate - a member of the clergy who either has ordinary jurisdiction over a group of people or ranks in precedence with ordinaries. A high-ranking member of the clergy, especially a bishop.
  • Prepositi / Prepositus - agents of the Crown, such as sheriffs or bailies, responsible for collecting revenues due to the Crown.
  • Presbyterianism - a church governed by elders who are all of the same rank, therefore without Bishops, Deans and other such posts (Scots).
  • Presentment - the act of presenting or laying before a court or person in authority a formal statement of some matter to be legally dealt with. A statement on oath by a jury of a fact within their own knowledge.
  • Press-gang - a body of men employed to press men into service in either the army or the navy.
  • Prima facie - a Latin term meaning 'at first sight'. In modern legal English it means that on first examination, a matter appears to be self-evident from the facts. In common law jurisdictions, prima facie denotes evidence which – unless rebutted – would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.
  • Primary source - records that were created at the time of an event. For example, a primary source for a birth date would be a birth certificate. While you can find birth dates on other documents, such as marriage certificates, they would not be primary sources for the birth date, because they were not created at the time of the birth.
  • Primogeniture - insures the right of the eldest son to inherit the entire estate of his parents, to the exclusion of younger sons (Legal).
  • Printer's devil - a person employed in a printing works to carry out menial tasks.
  • Prithee - from the phrase (I) pray thee.
  • Privy Council - a council of the British sovereign that until the 17th century was the supreme legislative body, that now consists of cabinet ministers ex officio and others appointed for life, and that has no important function except through its Judicial Committee, which in certain cases acts as a supreme appellate court in the Commonwealth.
  • Pro indivisio - legal expresssion meaning 'For an undivided part'. The possession or occupation of lands or tenements belonging to two or more persons, and consequently neither knows his several portion till divided.
  • Proavus - a great-grandfather.
  • Probate - the legal process by which the property of a deceased intestate individual is dispersed.
  • Proceres - prelates, chiefs, or magnates.
  • Proctor - an English variant of the word procurator, is a person who takes charge or acts for another. The word proctor is frequently used to describe someone who oversees an exam or dormitory. In the church a proctor represents the clergy in Church of England dioceses. In education a Proctor is the name of important university officials in certain universities, for example at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Progeniture - a direct ancestor.
  • Proletariat - a term used to identify a lower social class; a member of such a class is proletarian; from Latin proles, "offspring." Originally it was identified as those people who had no wealth other than their sons.
  • Prolocutor - one who speaks for another; spokesman; presiding officer ; chairman.
  • Propinquity - Proximity; nearness; Kinship or similarity in nature.
  • Propitiate - to conciliate an offended power, such as a god.
  • Propone - to propose; to bring forward.
  • Prorogation - the period between two sessions of a legislative body. When a legislature or parliament is prorogued, it is still constituted (that is, all members remain as members and a general election is not necessary), but all orders of the body (bills, motions, etc.) are expunged.
  • Proselyte - a new convert to a doctrine or religion.
  • Protocol - a book of blank paper given to a newly qualified notary public into which an exact copy of every instrument was made.
  • Psychosis - a severe mental... disorder involving a loss of contact with reality, frequently with hallucinations, delusions, or altered thought processes, with or without a known organic origin.
  • Puck - a mischievous pre-Christian nature spirit and trickster, reborn in Old English puca (Christianized as "devil") as a kind of half-tamed woodland sprite, leading folk astray with echoes and lights ('Jack o'lanterns' or 'Fox fires') in night-time woodlands, or coming into the farmstead and souring milk in the churn.
  • Pudding - The rule of kitchen economy is not to waste. (The word comes originally from a word for bowel). When you kill an animal you will use all of it. The stomach and intestine make handy skins to contain the suet (fat), blood, etc. for boiling. This makes pudding. Black pudding is a sausage-shaped pudding made with blood and suet. Suet pudding does not need a skin: You mix the suet with flour. By the nineteenth century a pudding is probably usually something made by mixing with flour and cooking: suet pudding and plum pudding being well known.
  • Puddling - a process of making iron using coke as fuel. Henry Cort of Fareham in Hampshire first devised the method.
  • Puddock - in Scots, a toad.
  • Puerperal - relating to, connected with, or occurring during childbirth or the period immediately following childbirth.
  • Puissance - power; might.
  • Puisne - a chiefly British term meaning lower in rank or junior, especially an associate judge.
  • Puissant - archaic. Poetically powerful, mighty.
  • Pulse - the edible seeds of the various leguminous seeds, such as peas, beans, lentils, etc.
  • Punctilio - a fine point of etiquette. Precise observance of formalities.
  • Purblind - lacking in insight or discernment; totally blind.
  • Purlieu - a piece of land on the edge of a forest; an outlying or neighboring area; the environs; a place that one frequents.
  • Purpresture - the wrongful enclosure of or intrusion upon lands, waters, or other property rightfully belonging to the public at large.
  • Pursuivant - an assistant 'herald' to the 'Lord Lyon King of Arms' in Scotland. They are known as Dingwall, Kintyre, and Unicorn. More correctly a pursuivant of arms, most pursuivants are attached to official heraldic authorities, such as the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. In the mediaeval era, many great nobles employed their own officers of arms. In Scotland several pursuivants of arms have been appointed by Clan Chiefs. These pursuivants of arms look after matters of heraldic and genealogical importance for clan members.
  • Purveyor - a person who purveys, provides, or supplies: a purveyor of foods; an officer who provided or acquired provisions for the sovereign under the prerogative of purveyance.
  • Putlog - small holes to receive the ends of logs or squared wooden beams in the walls of buildings, such as castles and churches, especially in the Middle Ages.

Q Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • q-Celtic or 'Goidelic' (from Goidel 'Gael') - Celtic languages which retained the original Indo-European q sound, represented by Scottish Gaelic, Manx and Irish. See 'p-celtic'.

Indo-european to irish flow-chart.png

  • Qu- - often found in place of a 'w' or absent from the modern spelling. For example 'Umquihile' was pronounced 'Umwhile.' Quha is 'who', and quilk is 'which', and quhill (while) is 'until'.
  • Quadrate - in heraldry, a device within a coat of arms is described as quadrate when it has a square central boss.
  • Quaker - meaning one who quakes (shakes or trembles) was applied to people (quakers) who shook (had fits) under the influence of the spirit of God in and around them. George Fox says it was first used (October 1650) because he told a Justice to tremble. The term arose at a time when many anticipated great quakes in the political and physical universe as God re-established his kingdom on Earth. The Quakers became the informal name for the religious organisation that developed out of the movement.
  • Quarrel - a stone-quarry. 'Coral' as in 'Coral Glen' in Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland is an example (Scots).
  • Quarter - a district of a town; usually where a particular minority live or a particular trade is carried out.
  • Quarter days - the four dates in each year on which servants were hired, and rents and rates were due in English, Welsh and Irish tradition. The Quarter Days fell on four religious festivals roughly three months apart and close to the two solstices and two equinoxes. See 'Term days' for the Scottish tradition.
  • Quartermaster - a term usually referring to a military individual, or unit, who specializes in supplying and provisioning troops, but It can also refer to a helmsman at sea.
  • Quarter seal - the top half of the Great Seal, as used to authenticate royal charters. The quarter seal was used for more routine royal administrative documents.
  • Quarto - a bibliographical term for a book with four leaves in each quire; eight pages.
  • Quatrefoil - in architecture and traditional Christian symbolism this is a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially - overlapping circles of the same diameter.
  • Queen regnant - (plural "queens regnant") a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a "queen consort", who is the wife of a reigning king.
  • Quern - a hand-powered device like two small millstones used to grind cereals for consumption by humans or stock animals. Often found broken as a result of thirlage laws prohibiting their use.
  • Questor - also 'Pardoner'. A friar or monk in Medieval days, 'licensed' by the Pope to sell indulgences which would free the purchaser of sins committed.
  • Quey - the Scots term for a heifer until she had birthed a calf (Scots).
  • Quicken - a rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia).
  • Quicquid - the term has many meanings, mainly: whoever, whatever, whatsoever, anything at all.
  • Quidam - somebody; unknown person.
  • Quidity - quintessence; equivocation; triviality.
  • Quidnunc - gossiper; inquisitive person.
  • Quillon - on a sword or some knives, the crossguard is also known as the quillon; it is a bar of metal at right angles to the blade, placed between the blade and the hilt. The quillon stops the wielder from punching shields while swinging the weapon, thereby protecting the user's hand. It also prevents other blades from sliding down onto the hand of the weapon wielder during combat.
  • Quincunx - a geometric pattern consisting of five points, four of them forming a square or rectangle and a fifth at its centre.
  • Quintain - a tun filled with water, which, if the blow from a mounted horseman was a poor one, was emptied over the striker, whilst a later form was a post with a cross-piece, from which was suspended a ring, which the horseman endeavoured to pierce with his lance while at full speed.
  • Quinzaine - the fifteenth day after a feast day, including both in the reckoning, such as the Quinzaine of Michaelmas.
  • Quire - the group of leaves which are folded together before a book is bound. Also called the 'section', 'gathering' or 'signature'.
  • Quitclaim - a legal process by which a feudal superior renounces certain rights or services previously due from his vassal.
  • Quisquis - the term has many meanings, mainly: whoever, whatever, whatsoever, anything at all.
  • Quit rent - a form of tax or land tax imposed on freehold or leased land by a higher landowning authority. Under feudal law, the payment of quit rent freed the tenant of a holding from the obligation to perform such other services as were obligatory under feudal tenure.
  • Quodlibet - a theological or philosophical issue presented for formal argument or disputation; a formal disputation of such an issue.
  • Quod vide - or 'QV' - directs the reader to look in another part of the book for further information.
  • Quoit - also known as 'Cromlechs' or 'Dolmen', are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones (megaliths) supporting a large flat horizontal capstone. Mostly dating from the early Neolithic period in Britain (4000 BC to 3000 BC). They were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in most cases that covering has weathered away or removed for drystone dyking, etc.
  • Quondam - that once was; former. Robert Burns refers to the Quondam Mrs. Oswald of Auchencruive.
  • Quot - the twentieth part of the moveable estate of a deceased person, which was originally the due of the bishop in whose diocese he had resided; it continued to be paid after the Reformation, but to the commissaries.

R Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Rabbit - originally the name for a baby rabbit. A Coney was the name for an adult.
  • Rack rent - an extortionate rent.
  • Ragman Rolls - the name given to the collection of instruments by which the nobility and gentry of Scotland were compelled to subscribe allegiance to King Edward I of England between the Conference of Norham in May 1291 and the final award in favor of Baliol in November 1292 and again in 1296.
  • Rag paper - paper made from a pulp of mashed rags.
  • Rannsaich - the power of an official to search for and arrest accused malefactors (Scots).
  • Raised Band - the raised areas on the spine of a book containing the cord which is attached to the covers.
  • Rapture (from rapt) - seizure and carrying out of (physically) or rape (late 16th century). Early 17th century: a state of excitement, a fit, exaltation as a result of religious experience, enthusiasm. Mid 17th century:the transporting of believers to heaven at the second coming of Christ.
  • Rath - a hill or mound; a kind of ancient fortification found in Ireland.
  • Ratiocinate - to reason methodically and logically.
  • Real property - land and anything attached to it, such as houses, building, barns, growing timber, growing crops, etc. (Legal).
  • Real tennis - also Royal tennis a popular leisure activity of the aristocracy of Scotland in the 16th-century. An example of the court used survives at Falkland Palace in Scotland and a modern one is in use at Troon in North Ayrshire.
  • Reaper - a person or machine that cuts or gathers in the harvest.
  • Reaves - stone banks as associated with Neolithic field systems.
  • Rebec - a pear-shaped, two-stringed or three-stringed medieval instrument, played with a bow.
  • Rebus - The use of a pictoral rhyming pun, very common on coats of arms. Therefore it refers to the use of a pictogram to represent a syllabic sound. One example is that of a seal with a barrel (or tun) engraved on it, the barrel transfixed with an arrow. This becomes 'A Tun Pierced' or Piercetun, Piercetoun, Pearston or Perceton. This is a hamlet in North Ayrshire, Scotland.
  • Receiver - a person appointed by court to hold property until a suit is settled (Legal).
  • Reconveyance - property sold to another person is transferred back to the original owner (Legal).
  • Recreant - unfaithful or disloyal to a belief, duty, or cause; Craven or cowardly.
  • Recusancy - resistance to authority or refusal to conform, especially in religious matters, used of English Catholics who refuse to attend the services of the Church of England.
  • Red Tape - originally the red ribbon used to bind together legal documents.
  • Reddendo - the duty or service to be paid by the vassal to the superior. The reddendo clause in a feu deed provides the details of the duty or service, e.g. monetary payment (feu duty), a pair of silver spurs, etc.
  • Reeve - a churchwarden; early name for sheriff in England.
  • Refectorian - one who had charge of the frater, or refectory and its furniture, including such things as crockery, cloths, dishes, spoons, forks, etc.
  • Refectory- the room where monks, etc. take their meals.
  • Regality - a territorial jurisdiction of a royal nature conferred by the sovereign.
  • Regiam Majestatem - an ancient law book ascribed to David I of Scotland.
  • Regnal year - a year of the reign of a sovereign. From Latin regnum meaning kingdom, rule. The date was an ordinal, not a cardinal number as monarch could have a first year of rule, a second year of rule, and so on, but a zero year of rule would be nonsense.
  • Regrating - the crime of buying goods on the way to a market with the intention of selling them at an inflated price.
  • Reid Frier - the Red Friars or Knights Templar (Scots).
  • Reif - robbery; spoil.
  • Relict - a widow (legal).
  • Relicta - a widow.
  • Relictus - a widower.
  • Reliquary - also referred to as a shrine, chasse or monstrance, is a container for holy relics. These may be the physical remains of saints, such as bones or shreds of clothing, or some object. A famous examples in Scotland is the 8th-century Monymusk reliquary.
  • Remembrancer - an officer of the British judiciary responsible for collecting debts owed to the Crown.
  • Renaissance - the period of revival of art and literature under the influence of classical models in the 14th to 16th-centuries.
  • Repone - to replace.
  • Rere-dorter also called a Necessarium - built above the main drain in an abbey; one or more rows of pierced seats with partitions for defecation and urination.
  • Reredos - a carved screen backing the altar in some churches.
  • Respond - the 'column' portion of a door jamb.
  • Resurrectionist - a body snatcher. Auchenharvie castle outside of Irvine, North Ayrshire, in Scotland was used to store resurrected bodies prior to their removal to the university in Glasgow.
  • Retable - a framed altarpiece, raised slightly above the back of the altar or communion table, on which are placed the cross, ceremonial candlesticks and other ornaments.
  • Retinencia - a sum paid to an individual in respect of the service he would perform. Sir John de Eglinton was paid such for service he would carry out for the King and his heirs if called upon.
  • Retour - to make a return in writing as to the service of an heir, or the value of lands. As a result of a successful search an heir was legally recognised as rightful inheritor to lands owned by his deceased ancestor. The legal return made to a brief issued from Chancery, or as to the value of land (Scots)(legal).
  • Retour Brieve - a requirement for a local official to send to chancery the result of a local inquiry under a seal and later under the seal of a jury (Scots) (Legal).
  • Revenant - corpses that come back from the dead. Medieval stories of revenants have common features. Those who return from the dead are wrong-doers in their lifetime, often described as wicked or vain or unbelievers. Often revenants are associated with the spreading of disease among the living and response is usually exhumation, followed by some form of decapitation, and burning or removal of the heart. The word "revenant" is derived from the Latin and French, revenir, "to return."
  • Reversion - an agreement such that one party (grantee) takes ownership of a piece of property from another (grantor) under the understanding that the ownership will "revert" back to the grantor at the expiration of the grantee's interest. The most common form of reversion agreement is for one person to allow another to own a house until their death, upon which time it reverts to reversion holder.
  • Revestry - also 'Revestiary' - the apartment, in a church or temple, where the vestments, etc., are kept; - now contracted into vestry.
  • Reynard - a fox. Sometimes used as a proper name in stories. A very early publication by Caxton was 'Reynard the Fox'.
  • Rheged - a Dark Ages kingdom ruled by Urien. Various references are made in the Mabinogion and in the poems of Taliesin. It probably lay in Dumfries and Galloway. Dunrigit in this area means the 'castle of Rheged'. The 'Rheged centre' is a modern development located in an old quarry just outside Penrith, Cumbria, England.
  • Rheum - a watery or thin mucous discharge from the eyes or nose.
  • Ribbed vault - by bridging the diagonal corners with narrow arches, ribs, a lighter vault can be built. The spaces between the 'ribs' are filled with thin stonework.[39]
  • Rick - a stack of hay, corn, etc., built into a regular shape and usually thatched or covered in some way.
  • Riddle - a course sieve.
  • Rig and Furrow - a method of agriculture where land was worked in long thin strips with drainage channels in between.
  • Rig or Ridge - a type of cultivation practiced in upland areas generally and in Scotland in particular, which differs slightly from the more common ridge / rig and furrow in that it was created through excavation by spade rather than plough. The technique improved drainage by creating raised areas of cultivation and furrows to carry away water. The centre could be a metre high and the width was that to which seed could be sown by hand.
  • Rill - a stream.
  • Rind - the symbol of a miller, such as that seen on gravestones, the iron 'part' that supports the upper millstone in a mill.
  • Ring the mill - to cheat. See 'Mill-ring'.
  • Rivulet - a small river, such as the Tour rivulet in Kilmaurs, Ayrshire.
  • Rochet - a white ceremonial vestment made of linen or lawn, worn by bishops and other church dignitaries.
  • Rocking stone - also 'Logan stone' - a large boulder, often a glacial erratic, which rocks when pushed. Such boulders often have associated folk legends.
  • Rodden - in Scots a rough track, sheep path or right of way.
  • Rogation - in ecclesiastical terms a solemn prayer or supplication, especially as chanted during the rites of a Rogation Day; the formal proposal of a law in ancient Rome by a tribune or consul to the people for acceptance or rejection.
  • Rogation Day - in western Christendom, prescribed days of prayer and fasting traditionally for the harvest, usually the three days before Ascension Day.
  • Rogue-money - in Scotland this was a tax for the apprehension and punishment of offenders.
  • Rokelay - a type of short cloak.
  • Rond-points - usually plantations located on rising ground with several vistas radiating from a central point.
  • Rondellis - small round shields or bucklers.
  • Rood - refers to the True Cross, the specific wooden cross used in Christ's crucifixion.
  • Rood screen - in Christian centres of worship these are wooden or stone screens which run across the chancel and divide the priests from the congregation, thereby setting them apart. Many were destroyed at the Reformation.
  • Roundels or mounts - mostly circular plantations planted to emphasise rising ground.
  • Roup - A sale of farm goods by auction.
  • Rowme - an estate or farm (also a Room).
  • Royal tennis - also Real tennis a popular leisure activity of the aristocracy of Scotland in the 16th-century. An example of the court used survives at Falkland Palace in Scotland and a modern one is in use at Troon in North Ayrshire.
  • Rubber - a 'Mouler' used to grind grain in a saddle or trough quern.
  • Rubric - a part of a manuscript or book, such as a title, heading, or initial letter, that appears in decorative red lettering or is otherwise distinguished from the rest of the text; a title or heading of a statute or chapter in a code of law; in ecclesiastical terms a direction in a missal, hymnal, or other liturgical book; an authoritative rule or direction.
  • Rundale - a system of land tenure, often within clachans, whereby farmers within the clachan had scattered plots of good, medium and poorer quality land.
  • Runes - a set of related alphabets using letters (known as runes), formerly used to write Germanic languages before and shortly after the Christianization of Scandinavia and the British Isles. The Scandinavian variants are also known as Futhark (or fuþark, derived from their first six letters: F, U, Þ, A, R, and K); the Anglo-Saxon variant as Futhorc (due to sound changes undergone in Old English by the same six letters).
  • Runner - a runner stone is the upper-most of a pair of working millstones.
  • Rustica - a country girl
  • Rusticus - a country boy.

S Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Sabaton - armour plate that protects the foot; consists of mail with a solid toe and heel.
  • Sabbat - the Wheel of the Year is a Wiccan and Druid metaphor and calendar for the cycle of the seasons. It consists of eight festivals, spaced at approximately even intervals throughout the year and these festivals are referred to as Sabbats.
  • Sacerdote - a priest.
  • Sacrarium - also 'Chancel.' The part of a Christian church near the altar, reserved for the clergy, the choir, etc. They are usually enclosed by a screen or separated from the nave by steps.
  • Sacrist - also 'Sacristan' - an official or cleric appointed curator of the vestments, sacred vessels, and relics of a religious body, church, or cathedral.
  • Sacryn bell - a bell rung at the elevation of the host in the mass.
  • Sagittary - a centaur; a fabulous being, half man, half horse, armed with a bow and quiver; pertaining to, or resembling, an arrow.
  • Sailzie - anything that projects out from a building. i.e. Sally.
  • Saint Anne - the supposed mother of the Virgin Mary. Used in placenames such as the Burn Anne in Ayrshire, Scotland.
  • Saint Anthony's cross - a cross in the form of a 'T'. Also called a 'Tau cross'.
  • Sake - a lawsuit; the right to hold a court. Used in the expression 'sake and soak.'
  • Saker - a short barrelled artillery piece of the 16th century.
  • Salic law - a law, thought to derive from the code of laws of the Salian Franks, prohibiting a woman from succeeding to a throne. Queen Victoria was unable to succeed to the throne of Hanover for this reason.
  • Salina - medieval salt works, especially of monastic origins.
  • sallet - also called salade and schaller, was a close fitting war helmet, extended at the back, forming a pointed tail.
  • Samhain - the Irish Gaelic word for November. The Scottish Gaelic spelling is Samhainn or Samhuinn (for the feast), or an t-Samhain (for the month). The Festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is generally regarded as 'The Celtic New Year', usually celebrated on the 31st October - 1st November.
  • Sampler - a complex exercise in needlework, including the letters of the alphabet, numbers, patterns, identification and dating of the piece, etc. Girls produced such ornamental items during the 17th., 18th and early 19th-centuries.
  • Sanctuary - a right to be safe from arrest in the sanctuary of a church or temple, recognized by English law from the fourth to the seventeenth century.
  • Sand-glass - a timing device formed from two flasks sealed together with a waxed cord. A pin hole allowed sand top flow from one to the other. The timing was usually 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes.
  • Sapor - a quality perceptible to the sense of taste; flavour.
  • Sarsen - a sandstone boulder carried by ice during a glacial period.
  • Sasine - the register of land ownership (Legal), pronounced sayseen. This act was originally effected by the handing over of a bowl full of soil from the land or a stone of the house by the proprietor or seller to his heir or the buyer, who was then said to be seized of the land or house. All land was held by the Crown under the feudal system and heritable land holdings were recorded in the 'Register of Sasines' from 1617 and its successors (Scottish).
  • Sate - to satisfy an appetite fully; to satisfy to excess.
  • Satyr - wild and orgiastic drunken Greek followers of Dionysus. Satyrs have horns and resemble goats below the waist, humans above. Certain genetic conditions cause mutations which may have led to the myth of Satyrs.
  • Sauchen - also 'Sauch-tree'. Scots for a willow.
  • Saugh - Scots for a willow.
  • Sawney - the English word for 'Alexander'. Used commonly of Scots in general, as with 'Jock'.
  • Scale-and-platt stair - stairs that rise in straight flights (scales) with platforms (platts).
  • Scandalam Magnatum - a law by which any person who made a scandalous claim against a peer was fined or jailed.
  • Scappler - one who works material roughly, or shaping without finishing, such as stone before leaving the quarry.
  • Scappling - the hewing of a round log into a square beam.
  • Scarcement - a ledge formed by the setting back of a wall, buttress or bank.
  • Scarecrows - life-size models of a men or women made to be placed in fields to scare away birds which would otherwise eat the crops.
  • Schiltron - the large formations of foot-soldiers, drawn from the ordinary folk & armed with long (14ft/4M.) pikes and fighting in closely packed ranks to provide an unwielding wall of spear points against any enemy. Only archers were really effective against them.
  • Scholium (plural 'scholia') - a grammatical, critical, or explanatory comment, either original or extracted from pre-existing commentaries, which is inserted on the margin of the manuscript of an ancient author as a gloss.
  • Scion - a descendent; a younger member , often of a noble family.
  • Scir - the derivation of the word 'shire'.
  • Scir-gerefa - the officer known as a shire reeve or sheriff.
  • Scold - a woman whose speech was 'riotous' or 'troublesome'.
  • Scold's Bridle - known in Scotland as a 'brank', consists of a locking metal mask or head cage that contains a tab that fits in the mouth to inhibit talking.
  • Scoopwheel - a type of water-lifting waterwheel, used mainly for land drainage.
  • Scots' Dike or 'Dyke' is a three and a half mile / 5.25 km long linear earthwork, constructed by the English and the Scots in the year 1552 to mark the division of the Debatable lands and thereby settle the exact boundary between the kingdoms of Scotland and England.
  • Scrag - a variant of the commoner Scot's word 'Scrog' or 'Scroag', meaning a gnarled or stunted tree or tree-stump, specifically a crab-apple tree or its fruit, previously called scrag-apples.
  • Scry - ro see or predict the future by means of a crystal ball.
  • Scutifer - a shield-bearer; one who holds the shield for his Lord.
  • Sea - trow - human-like creature from the Shetland Isles, wearing seal skin, which if lost by them, then they cannot return to the sea.
  • Sealing wax - most often used for seals. Made from Venice turpentine, beeswax and colouring, usually vermillion. More recently shellac has replaced the wax component.
  • Seals - in sealing wax, lead, gold, lacquer or embossed on paper, to authenticate documents; a practice as old as writing itself. Seals were applied directly to the face of document and manuscripts or attached to the by cords by the owner's, or to a narrow strip of the document sliced and folded down as a tail but not detached from the document. Authenticity was thus maintained by not allowing the reuse of the seal. If a forger tried to remove the seal in the first case, it would break. In the other cases, although the forger could remove the seal intact by ripping the cords from the paper, he'd still have to separate the cords to attach it to another document, which would destroy the seal as well because the cords had knots tied in them inside the wax seal. Some seals even had an edge inscription.
  • Seck - barren or unprofitable. As in 'Rent seck'.
  • Second Estate - in feudal times this 'class' was the Nobility, i.e. those who fought; the knights). It was common for aristocrats to enter the Church and thus shift from the second to the First Estate.
  • Secondary evidence - evidence that is inferior to primary evidence or the best evidence.
  • Secondary source - a record that was created a significant amount of time after an event occurred. For example, a marriage certificate would be a secondary source for a birth date, because the birth took place several years before the time of the marriage. However, that same marriage certificate would be a primary source for a marriage date, because it was created at the time of the marriage.
  • Secundum artem - a Latin phrase meaning "according to the art," frequently used to doing something in the accepted manner of a skill or trade.
  • Secundum naturam - according to nature, natural.
  • Sedile - pl. sedilia. One of a set of seats, usually three, provided in some Roman Catholic and Anglican churches for the use of the presiding clergy, traditionally placed on the epistle side of the choir near the altar, and in Gothic-style churches often built into the wall.
  • Sedulously - persevering and constant in effort or application; assiduous.
  • Selion - a short piece of land in arable ridges and furrows, of half an acre in extent and measuring one furlong by two perches (220 yards by 11 yards); also, a ridge of land lying between two furrows.
  • Sempster - a seamster or tailor.
  • Senchus Fer nAlban - the 'History of the Men of Scotland'. The record of the genealogies of the ruling families of Dal Riata with a census of military and economic reserves of the kingdom in AD 500.
  • Seneschal - an officer in the household of important nobles in the Middle Ages. The most basic function of a seneschal was to supervise feasts and domestic ceremonies; in this respect, they were equivalent to stewards and majordomos. Sometimes, seneschals were given additional responsibilities, including the dispensing of justice and high military command.
  • Seniores - elders in the Celtic church who were dedicated to prayer and teaching.
  • Sensu lato - meaning 'in the broad sense'.
  • Septentrio - pertaining to or of the 'north'.
  • Sequestration - the act of removing, separating or seizing anything from the possession of its owner, of the taking possession of property under process of law for the benefit of creditors or the state.
  • Sequals or lock - a payment to a miller's servant of an amount of grain that could be heaped into a pair of clasped hands (Scots).
  • Serf - a labourer not allowed to leave the land on which he worked, a villein; an unfree peasants under feudalism.
  • Serge - a durable twilled worsted etc. fabric.
  • Serjeanty - the farmer or vasal paid no rent but had to perform some personal/official service on behalf of his lord, including in times of war. This was stopped in 1746 following the Jacobite rising of 1745.
  • Seotinal - pertaining to or occurring in late summer.
  • Serplait - a measure of weight equivalent to eighty stones (Scots).
  • Servi - a slave.
  • Servitrice - also 'Servitrix'. A female servant or personal attendant (Scots).
  • Set - Also 'Sett' - a cut stone block, often of granite.
  • Sewer - a medieval servant who supervised the serving of meals.
  • Shak - to shake as in the threshing of grain (Scots).
  • Shambles - an Abattoir/slaughterhouse. A road containing such a building.
  • Shaw - a small natural wood (Scots).
  • Sheela na Gig - (or Sheela-na-Gigs) are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain,
  • Shelling lint bows - extracting the oil from lint seeds (Scots).
  • Shepherd - a person employed to tend sheep, especially at pasture.
  • Sheriff - 'shire reeve', a Royal official in charge of a shire.
  • Shieling - a roughly constructed building used by shepherds in summer pastures.
  • Shieling Hill - a windy hill upon which the 'shelling' of the husk from cereals was carried out. Many such hills were part of the property of mills.
  • Shippon - western dialect for a cattle shed, synonymous with a byre.
  • Shire or 'County' - an English administrative district, uniting several smaller districts called hundreds, ruled jointly by an ealdorman and sheriff, who presided in the shire-moot. Moot Hall or Mote House became the name for what we now call a Town Hall (See 1890 romanticisation by William Morris). The Normans (from 1066) continued to rule England in shires, using Anglo-French counté, Anglo-Latin comitatus to describe them. These words were absorbed into English as county.
  • Shredding - a kind of 'pollarding' in which all the side branche are removed and only a tuft at the top left. Such trees provided fodder and cast less shade when in hedgerows.
  • Shrievalty - the office, or sphere of jurisdiction, of a sheriff.
  • Shrine - before the reformation in England these were highly carved and ornate structures which held the body or parts/relicts of a saint. They were a great source of income as pilgrims would visit them in the hope of a cure, etc.
  • Shrove - is a past tense of the English verb 'shrive' which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by confessing and doing penance. Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving (confession) that Anglo-Saxon Christians were expected to receive immediately before Lent.
  • Shrub - a drink made from rum and fruit juice. It is mentioned as having been consumed by Alexander MacDonald of Glenalladale, the builder of the famous Glenfinnan Monument tot he Jacobite rising of 1745.
  • Shyster - generally a slang word. An unethical, unscrupulous practitioner, especially of law.
  • Sibling - a brother or sister, persons who share the same parents in common.
  • Sic - a Latin term signifying a copy reads exactly as the original; indicates a possible mistake in the original.
  • Sicca - a seal; a coining die.
  • Sidhe or Siodhe - refers first to earthen mounds that were thought to be home to a supernatural race related to the fey and elves of other traditions, and later to these inhabitants themselves. The Daoine Sídhe or Daoine Sìth are variously believed to be the ancestors, the spirits of nature, or the goddesses and gods themselves (Sidhe).
  • Sids - the inner husks of oats after grinding, frequently containing particles of the meal which have not been sifted and from which Sowans are made (Scots).
  • Sigilliography - the study of seals, e.g. the Ragman Roll' of Edward I of England.
  • Signet - the royal seal formerly used for special purposes in England and Scotland, and in Scotland later as the seal of the Court of Session; also any seal used as authentication.
  • Signet ring - such a seal set in a ring.
  • Sike - also syke. A small rill; a marshy bottom or hollow with one or more small streams. Used in Scotland and Northern England; Cumbria.
  • Simony - the ecclesiastical crime of paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus, who appears in the Acts of the Apostles. Simon Magus offered the disciples of Jesus, Peter and John, payment so that anyone he would place his hands on would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the origin of the term.
  • Simulacrum (plural: -cra), from the Latin simulacrum which means "likeness, similarity"; used to describe a representation of another thing, such as a statue or a painting, especially of a god; it has a secondary association of inferiority: an image without the substance or qualities of the original.
  • Sin-eating - a person who, through ritual means, would take on by means of food and drink the sins of a deceased person, thus absolving his or her soul and allowing that person to rest in peace. Sin-eating is a form of religious magic, part of the study of folklore.
  • Singular successor - someone who has acquired title to a property by some other means than being the heir to it, for example, through purchase.
  • Siodhe or 'Sidhe' - refers first to earthen mounds that were thought to be home to a supernatural race related to the fey and elves of other traditions, and later to these inhabitants themselves. The Daoine Sídhe or Daoine Sìth are variously believed to be the ancestors, the spirits of nature, or the goddesses and gods themselves (Gaelic).
  • Skein - a coil of yarn or cord. In retail trade, a skein is a highly variable unit, varying from one type of yarn to another and often from one manufacturer to another.
  • Skep - a type of primitive beehive made from coiled up straw and tied with wire. Kept in Bee boles.
  • Slack - an opening between hills; a pass; a hollow; a dip in the ground (Scots).
  • Slap - a narrow pass between two hills; a gap or temporary opening in a hedge, fence, etc. (Scots).
  • Sledge - a 'cart' without wheels. Used before good roads were built or during snowy weather conditions.
  • Sleeching - a method of obtaing salt for consumption from tidal sand by filtering it.
  • Slipcase - a cardboard case often covered with paper, cloth or leather which holds a book with only the spine exposed.
  • Slipe - also 'Slype' - a wooden platform or drag of tow poles without wheels, used for moving heavy or cumbersome loads of stones, hay, peat, etc., over rough ground; a kind of sledge.
  • Slype - a covered passage, especially one between the transept and chapter house of a cathedral or abbey.
  • Small beer - a drink for children made from a second brewing after the strong beer had been drawn off.
  • Smallholding - an agricultural holding smaller than a farm.
  • Smiddy - a Blacksmith's workshop.
  • Smock mill - a type of tower windmill having a tower that is mainly constructed of wood.
  • Snap-maker - a maker of firelocks / flintlocks or pistols.
  • Snod - cut, smooth or trim (Scots). Found in the surname and placename 'Snodgrass.' A Snodgrass holm used to exist near Irvine and the name is linked with the onetime owners of Cunninghamhead house in North Ayrshire.
  • Snood - a small netlike cap worn by women to keep the hair in place or a headband or fillet.
  • Socage - one of the feudal duties and hence land tenure forms in the feudal system. A farmer, for example, held the land in exchange for a clearly-defined, fixed payment to be made at specified intervals to his feudal lord, who in turn had his own feudal obligations to the Crown. In theory this might involve supplying the lord with produce but most usually it meant a straightforward payment of cash, i.e., rent.
  • Socman - Also 'Sokeman' - One who holds lands or tenements by socage; a socager.
  • Sod - a turf or a piece of turf.
  • Soffit - the underneath of an arch.
  • Soke - land attached to a central manor or barony for payment of dues and for judicial purposes. Often quite large areas. Also the right to hold a court. Often found in the phrase 'sake and soke.'
  • Sokeman - Also 'Socman' - One who holds lands or tenements by socage; a socager; a 'freeman' able to leave his land; often owing services or rents and having to attend his lord's court.
  • Solander - a closed box for a book made in two parts which fit into one another.
  • Solar - a private room for the owners of medieval houses and castles.
  • Solatium - (plural solatia) is a form of compensation for emotional rather than physical or financial harm.
  • Solecism - a non-standard usage or grammatical construction; a violation of etiquette or an impropriety, mistake, or incongruity.
  • Soliton - a self-reinforcing solitary wave that maintains its shape while it travels at constant speed. The soliton phenomenon was first described by John Scott Russell (1808–1882) who observed a solitary wave in the Union Canal in Scotland, reproduced the phenomenon in a wave tank, and named it the "Wave of Translation".
  • Sowming and rowming - a legal action to determine the number of cattle allowed to be pastured on a common by each of the people having a right to do so (Legal).
  • Sophism - a plausible but fallacious argument.
  • Sopite - to lay asleep; to put to sleep; to quiet.
  • Sorner - one who obtrudes himself on another for bed and board.
  • Sorning - taking meat and drink by force or menaces, and without paying.
  • Soubrette - a saucy, coquettish, intriguing maidservant in comedies or comic opera; a young woman regarded as flirtatious or frivolous.
  • Soum - an area of land able to sustain the annual grazing of either one cow or four sheep (Scots).
  • Souming - the number or proportion of cattle which each tenant was entitled to keep on the common grazing.
  • Source - the document, record, publication, manuscript, etc. used to prove a fact.
  • Souter - in Scotland and Northern England the term for a maker of shoes, a cobbler.
  • Souterrain - a name given by archaeologists to a type of underground structure associated with the Atlantic Iron Age. Regional names include earth house, fogou and Picts house.
  • Southron - Of persons: belonging to or living in England, English (Scots).
  • Sow - a siege engine consisting of a tower which could be moved up to a wall and allowed besieging troops to gain entry. For example, as used at a siege of Berwick by the English in the 14th-century.
  • Sowans - the food made from the husks left over from the milling process of oats (Scots).
  • Sowchis - haystacks (Scots).
  • Spalt - brittle timber that is liable to break or split.
  • Span - chips of wood, as in 'Spick & span.'
  • Spandrel - also 'Spandril' - the roughly triangular space between the left or right exterior curve of an arch and the rectangular framework surrounding it; the space between two arches and a horizontal molding or cornice above them.
  • Spavined - afflicted with spavin; marked by damage, deterioration, or ruin, e.g. a junkyard full of spavined vehicles.
  • Specie - in coin; in a similar manner; in kind or in legal terms - In the same kind or shape; as specified.
  • Spelt cereal - cereal seeds, often wheat, which do not detach easily from the husk.
  • Spick and span - this alliteration basically means 'in perfect condition' 'as new.' One of the two words alludes to cleanliness and freshness and the other just followed along. Which one is most associated with the qualities of spick and span? Spick is a variant of spike or nail and in the 16th-century nails were made of iron and soon tarnished. It is plausible that new nails would have become synonymous with cleanliness; the phrase as neat as a new pin, has just that meaning. The old Dutch word spikspeldernieuw refers to newly made ships. The OED suggests that this is the origin of spick, although they offer no reason for that belief and none of the early citations of the phrase refer to shipping. As for Span, meaning chips of wood, these also display the same fresh, sharp-edged qualities and seem to be a source for the use of the word here.
  • Spinney - a wood which consists, or has formerly consisted, of thorns (Latin spinae, whence spinetum).
  • Spiritualities - the teinds or tithes due to the Church.
  • Sponsor - a sponsor is an individual other than the parents of a child that takes responsibility for the child's religious education. Sponsors are usually present at a child's baptism. Sponsors are often referred to as godparents.
  • Spouse - a husband or wife.
  • Sprechery - movables of an inferior description; especially, such as have been collected by depredation.
  • Spring - in a woodland this is an area recently coppiced and well fenced due to the vulnerability of young shoots.
  • Sprite - a broad term referring to a number of preternatural legendary creatures. The term is generally used in reference to elf-like creatures, including fairies, dwarves, and the likes of it; but can also signify various spiritual beings, including ghosts. The term is chiefly used in regard to elves and fairies in European folklore, and in modern English is rarely used in reference to spirits or other mythical creatures. The word "sprite" is derived from the Latin "spiritus" (spirit). Variations on the term include "spright" (the origin of the adjective "sprightly", meaning "spirited" or "lively") and the Celtic "spriggan".
  • Spulyie - see 'Spulzie'.
  • Spulzie - also 'Spulyie'. Spoliation/Expoliation. To rob, despoil, plunder, a person or place (Scots).
  • Spurtle - a short, round stick used for stirring porridge, soup, etc., a pot-stick, but was originally a flat, wooden, spatula-like utensil, used for flipping oatcakes in a hot oven. (Scots).
  • Squadrone - anti-government Scottish Whigs, striving for a Protestant succession in Scotland with a union of parliaments with England.
  • Squadrone Volante - pro-government Scottish 'Torys' Jacobites, striving for a Catholic succession in Scotland without a union of parliaments with England.
  • Squinch - a structure, such as a section of vaulting or corbeling, set diagonally across the interior angle between two walls to provide a transition from a square to a polygonal or more nearly circular base on which to construct a dome.
  • Squint - also called a 'Hagioscope' - in architectural terms a piercing in walls which give a certain line of vision otherwise unobtainable. Sometimes found lined up in pairs; these allowed the high altar to be seen by church clerks, those with leprosy, etc.
  • Stable - a building set aside and adapted for housing horses.
  • Stack-yard - an enclosure for stacks of hay, straw, oats, etc.
  • Staddle stones - structures, shaped like a mushroom, used to support a framework upon which a granary, rick or other food stuffs could be stored.
  • Staff and baton - (fustum et baculum). The symbols used to represent a vassal's resignation of his lands into the lands of his superior.
  • Staging - the structure for facilitating access to windmill sails and sometimes caps.
  • Stall - a partitioned off space for an animal in a stable, etc. where its is tied up.
  • Stanchion - an upright pole, post, or support; a framework consisting of two or more vertical bars, used to secure cattle in a stall or at a feed trough.
  • Standalane — a name used for a property set in a lonely or solitary place or a dwelling just outside a village or town.
  • Stathel - a cast-iron structure used to support and elevate a granary, rick or other stored food materials. Old English stathol base, support, tree trunk.
  • Statute - a law (Legal).
  • Steading - farm buildings, with or without the farmhouse.
  • Steelbow goods - corn, cattle, ploughs and similar implements which might be given by a landlord to his tenant farmer to enable him to stock and maintaining the lands leased by him; for this, the tenant was bound to return goods of equal quality and quantity at the expiry of his lease.
  • Stent - the 'poor tax' in Scotland at the time of Robert Burns.
  • Stentor - the mythical Greek warrior with an unusually loud voice who died after losing a shouting contest with Hermes.
  • Stere - a unit of volume in the original metric system equal to one cubic metre, most commonly used to measure quantities of wood.
  • Sterte - a rump or tail as in 'Redstart'; from the Old English 'Steort'.
  • Stewarton hive - a hectagonal hive, the first to allow for separation of the honey combs and brood combs, allowing for the removal of honey without the need to kill the bees.
  • Stewartry - in Scotland, the jurisdiction of a steward; also, the lands under such jurisdiction.
  • Stig - a footpath from the Anglo-Saxon.
  • Stigma - developed from a Greek word for "to prick", a stigma was a brand or cut inflicted on the skin as a mark of disgrace. From the 17th century, the plural, stigmata, also described miraculous marks appearing on a person's body suggesting the wounds of the crucified Jesus. By the mid 19th century, stigma was used generally for any visible or apparent sign that there is something disgraceful about a person.
  • Stile - an arrangement which permits people through an entrance but which blocks the passage of animals.
  • Stocking - Felled land with stumps grubbed up. From the Old English Stoccing.
  • Stockman - a person in charge of livestock.
  • Storth - a place with brushwood, perhaps with trees planted. From the Old Norse.
  • Stound - from the Middle English stond, stound(e) an archaic term for hour, time, season, moment.
  • Stoup - an ecclesiastical A basin or font for holy water at the entrance of a church; a drinking vessel, such as a cup or tankard.
  • Stouthrief - a form of theft committed by force.
  • Streamlet - a small stream.
  • Street - from the Old English 'stræt' a ‘paved road, Roman road’, from West Germanic, from late Latin strata, used as a short form of via strata ‘paved road’. The West Germanic form also gave Dutch straat, German Straße (Scandinavian forms are borrowed from Old English); cognates from Latin include Portuguese estrada, Italian strada.
  • Stubbing - Land with tree stumps. From the Old English Stubb.
  • Sty - a pen or enclosure for pigs.
  • Stylobate - in architecture the immediate foundation of a row of classical columns. Also called stereobate.
  • Subinfeudation - the practice by which tenants in England, holding land under the superior, carved out by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands new and distinct tenures.
  • Suborned - to induce (a person) to commit an unlawful or evil act; to induce (a person) to commit perjury.
  • Succour- assistance in time of difficulty; "the contributions provided some succour for the victims."
  • Succursal - serving to aid or help; serving as a chapel of ease; tributary.
  • Sucken - the area over which a mill held thirlage over tenants (Scots).
  • Suckener - a tenant thirled to a mill (Scots).
  • Suddenty - suddenness. Another one of the obscure words used by Sir Walter Scott.
  • Suit of Court - one of the feudal burdens upon land in which the tenant could be called upon to give his lord aid and counsel in administrative and judicial matters (Scots legal).
  • Sulung - an archaic measure of land area, consisting of four 'yokes', which was larger than the 'Hide' and on occasion treated as equivalent to two hides. It was mainly used in Kent.
  • Sumpter - a driver of a packhorse or any pack animal.
  • Sumptuary law - a law imposing restraint on luxury, esp by limiting personal expenditure or by regulating personal conduct in religious and moral spheres.
  • Sundial - an ancient clock that measures time by the position of the sun. The most commonly seen designs, such as the 'ordinary' or standard garden sundial, cast a shadow on a flat surface marked with the hours of the day. As the position of the sun changes, the time indicated by the shadow changes.
  • Sunk - a straw pad or cushion, used as a substitute for a saddle, frequently in a pair slung on either side of the horse; turf seat.
  • Superfoetation - the successive fertilization of two or more ova of different ovulations resulting in the presence of embryos of unlike ages in the same uterus. Also used as a literary device.
  • Supporters - are human or animal figures placed on either side of a heraldic coat of arms as though supporting it. In many traditions, these have acquired strict guidelines for use by certain social classes.
  • 'Susurrate - to make a soft rustling sound; whisper; murmur.
  • sutler - an army camp follower who peddled provisions to the soldiers.
  • Suzerain - a feudal overlord.
  • Suzerainty - a situation where a sovereign or state has some control over another state that is otherwise internally autonomous. An example would be the control that Edward I of England had over Scotland prior to William Wallace and ultimately Robert the Bruce's establishment as king of Scotland.
  • Swainmote - in ancient English forest law a court held before the verders of the forest as judges, by the steward of the court, thrice every year, the swains, or freeholders, within the forest comprising the jury.
  • Swee - a hinged bracket for suspending a pot or kettle over an open fire.
  • Swine - originally the name given to the adult 'pig'.
  • Switzer - a Swiss; Swiss Guard.
  • Syke - also 'sike'. A small rill ; a marshy bottom or hollow with one or more small streams (Scots).
  • Symbols - the giving of sasines was a ceremony deriving from a time when it was necessary to have symbols that allowed anyone to recognise what was going on. The baillies of both parties would meet on the ground of the lands being granted, with several witnesses and a notary. The granter's baillie would give sasine by presenting the grantee's baillie with a symbol appropriate to what was being granted. Earth and stone were most commonly used for the giving of sasine in lands' if what was granted was an annual rent from lands, these would be passed over together with "a penny money". If sasine was given in fishings the symbols were a net and coble; if in the patronage of a church, a psalm book and the church keys, if in a mill, the clap and happer of the mill, if in teinds, a sheaf of corn, if a jurisdiction, the court book, if property in a burgh, a hasp and staple, and combinations of these might be used. Finally, if lands were resigned to a superior, the symbol passed over were the staff and baton (Legal).
  • Symposion - a drinking together.
  • Syth - a strainer or filter for milk.

T Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Tablet sundial - a pocket-sized sundial with a top that opened with a piece of stretched twine across. The top's angle corresponded with the angle of the Earth's axis and the built in compass dial was orientated so that the time could be read off from the shadow cast by the twine onto a dial.
  • Tabroner - a drummer.
  • Tacit - not spoken: indicated tacit approval by smiling and winking. Implied by or inferred from actions or statement.
  • Tack - a lease[14]. Usually paid yearly.
  • Tacksmen - someone who leases land, a tenant farmer, or one who leases land to sublet, also a lessee of property, mills, fishings, the collection of customs, teinds, dues, etc. (Scots).
  • Tailrace - the watercourse taking water away from a waterwheel or turbine.[19]
  • Tailzie - also 'Tailyie' or 'Taillie' - an entail, the settlement of heritable property inalienably on a specified line of heirs, not heirs at law, a practice modified by various statutes since 1685 and finally made incompetent after 1914. The law books favour the spelling tailzie (Legal).[11]
  • Tallage - an occasional tax levied by the Anglo - Norman kings on crown lands and royal towns.
  • Tambour - a drum or drummer; a small wooden embroidery frame consisting of two concentric hoops between which fabric is stretched; embroidery made on such a frame.
  • Tannistry - also 'Tanistry' - the ancient Celtic method of choosing a King. The new King would generally be a Kinsman of the previous monarch however the nobility would decide which candidate was best suited to the task. This system was replaced by the system of 'primogeniture' in Scotland in the Middle Ages.Primogeniture meant that the succession went to the eldest male heir of the previous monarch. Tannistry had the advantage of generally ensuring that no one dynasty could dominate the monarchy and also tended to ensure that the candidate with the greatest ability ascended the throne however it was incompatible with a feudal system and thus was replaced.
  • Tasset' - armour protecting the lower trunk and thigh, one of a series of jointed overlapping metal splints hanging from a corselet.
  • Tau - a cross in the form of a 'T'. Also called Saint Anthony's cross.
  • Tegular - relating to or resembling a tile.
  • Tegument - a natural outer covering.
  • Teins - a tenth of the income of a property, payable to the church.
  • Teltown marriage - a marriage of a year and a day in which either party could return to the spot a year later, renounce the marriage and walk away from the stone and their partner.[40]
  • Temple - lands belonging to the Knight's Templar.
  • Temporal - Of, relating to, or limited by time; of or relating to the material world; worldly: the temporal possessions of the Church; secular or lay; civil: lords temporal and spiritual.
  • Temporalities - the land and other propertys belonging to the Church, except glebes, manses and teinds, these being spiritualities.
  • Tenandry - land and other property, etc. which was let for rent, rather than retained in the owners or superior’s own hands.
  • Tenant - also Tenand, a person who rents land or property from a landlord.
  • Tenement - land built on and held in tenure.
  • Tentering - the adjusting of the gap between millstones according to the water flow, the type of grain being milled, and the grade of flour required.
  • Terce - a widow's legal entitlement to a liferent of one-third of her husband's heritable property, (her entitlement in respect of his moveable property being the jus relictae). If a special, alternative provision had been made for her in her marriage contract (the jointure), she would, after 1681, have lost her right to a terce, unless it had been specified in the contract that she should have that as well.
  • Tergiversation - evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement; desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith.
  • Term days - holy days for the people of the Kingdom of Scotland in the Middle Ages. Like the Kingdom of England's quarter days, they were the four days dividing the legal year, when rent and interest on loans, and ministers' stipends were due, and when servants were hired and paid. The Term Days were Whitsun and Martinmas. Together with Candlemas and Lammas they constituted the Quarter Days. Also on these days contracts and leases would begin or end. 1886 saw the term dates for removals and the hiring of servants in towns changed to 28 February, 28 May, 28 August and 28 November. The original dates are now referred to as Old Scottish Term Days. The dates were regularised by the Term and Quarter Days (Scotland) Act 1990.
  • Termagant - a quarrelsome, scolding woman; a shrew.
  • Terminus ad quem - the finishing point of a period, argument, policy, etc.
  • Terminus post quem - the starting point of a period, etc.
  • Testate - died leaving a valid will (Legal).
  • Testis - a witness (Legal).
  • Testator - a man who writes a valid will (Legal).
  • Testatrix - a woman who writes a valid will (Legal).
  • Tetragrammaton - the four Hebrew letters which make up the holy name of God; written on paper and carried as a charm to prevent a wound bleeding.y a thane. The term may have replaced the Gaelic term 'toiseach'.
  • Thanage - the land held b
  • Thane - also 'Thegn'. In Early Medieval Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon culture, a thane was an attendant, servant, retainer, or official.
  • Thane - an early feudal Lord or Baron (Scots).
  • Thegn - pre-conquest nobles in England who were below the level of earls. Thegns held at least 5 hides of land and held a residence; they were the backbone of the army. also see 'Thane.'
  • Thing - an assembly, (also transliterated as ting or þing), historical governing assemblies in early Scandinavian society. The Tynwald in the Isle of Man is probably the oldest surviving example.
  • Third Estate - this was the social class known in feudal times as the 'Peasantry' (those who produced the food which supported those who prayed and those who fought, the members of the First and Second Estates).
  • Third part - also 'Thirdings' and later 'Ridings'. Large territories in the Danelaw were too big for a single council and they were broken up into Third Parts for administrative purposes. The term occurs in Scotland as a farm name, also 'Fourth Part' on occasions.
  • Thirds - also 'Thirds of benefices'. The property of the medieval Church was available to laymen after the Reformation, the king took over one-third of the revenues of all church benefices to make sure that something would still be left for the ministers of the reformed church; appropriate parts of these revenues were assigned to the ministers, and any surplus was retained by the Crown. This was not sufficient and the Teind Court came into being to control the system.
  • Thirlage was the feudal law by which the laird {lord) could force all those vassals living on his lands to bring their grain to his mill to be ground. Additionally they had to carry out repairs on the mill, maintain the lade and weir as well as conveying new millstones to the site.
  • Thold - endured.
  • Thrall - one, such as a slave or serf, who is held in bondage; one who is intellectually or morally enslaved.
  • Three estates - the social classes. The "First Estate" was the Church (clergy = those who prayed). The "Second Estate" was the Nobility (those who fought = knights). It was common for aristocrats to enter the Church and thus shift from the second to the first estate. The "Third Estate" was the Peasantry (everyone else, at least under feudalism: those who produced the food which supported those who prayed and those who fought, the members of the First and Second Estates).
  • Threnody - a song or hymn of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person. The term originates from the Greek word threnoidia, from threnos (a "lament") + oide ("song")
  • Thresher - a person or machine which separates the grain from the straw or husk.
  • Thurible - a censer used in certain ecclesiastical ceremonies or liturgies.
  • Thurifer - an acolyte who carries a thurible.
  • Thuthark - the Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet.
  • Tiber - a spring or well, as used in the placenames 'Auchentiber' and 'Knockentiber' (Scots).
  • Tide - an obsolete term for time, period or season.
  • Tiend - in Scots, one tenth of something. Equivalent to 'Tithe'.
  • Tierce - also 'Terce' or 'Terce.' The third of the seven canonical hours, but no longer in liturgical use. The time of day appointed for this service, usually the third hour after sunrise.
  • Tiercon vaulting - these are intermediate ribs used in ceiling vaulting to give extra support and to make the panels smaller.
  • Tilery - a place where tiles are made or burned; a tile kiln.
  • Tillage - the cultivation of land; land that has been tilled.
  • Tinchel - a circle of sportsmen, who, by surrounding an extensive space and gradually closing in, bring a number of deer and game within a narrow compass. Used by Sir Walter Scott in his novel 'Waverley'.
  • Tincture - in heraldry, tinctures are the colours used to blazon a coat of arms.
  • Tineman - in old Eng. Forest Law a 'Tineman' was an officer of the forest who had the care of vert and venison by night.
  • Tinsel of the feu - the name for forfeiture of landed property caused not just by failure to pay feu-duty or render service to the superior, but by the commission of penal offence.
  • Tipped-in - the plates, autograph, letter, photo, etc., glued into a book. Such items are glued in along one edge only.
  • Tippet - a covering for the shoulders, as of fur, with long ends that hang in front; a long stole worn by members of the Anglican clergy; a long hanging part, as of a sleeve, hood, or cape.
  • Tir nan Og - the 'Land of Youth' where people and non-human beings live immune to the passage of time. It is said to exist at the bottom of certain lakes.[41]
  • Tithe - in English law, the tenth part of one's annual increase paid to support noblemen and clergy; amount of annual poll tax.
  • Tocsin - a signal sounded by a bell or bells, especially an alarm
  • Tod - a fox (Scots).
  • Toft - a homestead, the site of a house and its out-buildings; a house site. Often in the expression toft and croft, denoting the whole holding, consisting of the homestead and attached piece of arable land.
  • Toiseach - a Gaelic word for an early holder of lands under the tenure of the King; replaced by the term 'Thane'.
  • Toll - in England, similar to thirlage.
  • Tolmen - a holed stone, possibly a 'bullaun', such as the example on the North Teign river on Dartmoor.
  • Tomfoolery - Tom, an abbreviation of Thomas, was used from late Middle English as a term for a common (of the people) man. Tomfool developed at the same period as a term for idiot or madman. So the term may have the inference that the tomfool is the common people's jester. Fool acquired the meaning of mad or idiotic person in the same period. Tom of Bedlam. was current from the mid-16th to late 17th centuries. The female equivalent in the folk song is Mad Maudlin. This term is heavy with meaning. Maudlin is Mary Magdalen. The Mary may link to the original name of "Bedlam" St Mary of Bethlehem (That Mary, presumably, being the mother of Jesus).
  • Tontine - named after Lorenzo Tonti, a Neapolitan banker who started such a scheme in France in 1653. Each subscriber paid a sum into the fund, and in return received dividends from the capital invested; as each person died his share was divided among all the others until only one was left, reaping all the benefits. The idea was taken up enthusiastically in France and later in Britain and the USA; it was used to fund buildings and other public works. There are still several hotels and other buildings in Britain and the USA with the word in their names. Later there were private schemes in which the last survivor got the capital as well. Tontines were eventually banned in Britain and the USA, because there was too much incentive for subscribers to bump each other off to increase their share of the fund, or to become the last survivor and so claim the capital.
  • Toper - a drunk.
  • Toponoymy - the scientific study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology.
  • Tor - masses of rock or boulders crowning a hill. Tors are common in Devon and Cornwall on upland moorlands.
  • Torc - a body ornament worn on the arms or neck in the shape of a curved rod with identical free ends that face one another, almost touching. generally of Celtic origins.
  • Tory - a member of a British political party, founded in 1689, that was the opposition party to the Whigs and has been known as the Conservative Party since about 1832; member of a Conservative Party; an American who, during the period of the American Revolution, favoured the British side. Also called Loyalist. Often a supporter of traditional political and social institutions against the forces of democratization or reform; a political conservative.
  • Tosspot - a drunkard.
  • Touch Piece - coins and medalets that have attracted superstitious beliefs, such as those with 'holes' in them or those with particular designs. Such 'pieces' were believed to cure disease, bring good luck, influence peoples behaviour, carry out a specific practical action, et
  • Toun - also 'Ton' or 'Town' - a farm and its outbuildings, originally an area fenced or walled off with a dwelling within. A common medieval sub-division of land was by the ploughgate (104 acres), the extent of land which one plough tesm of oxen could till in a year. This area was again subdivided into four husbandlands, each of 26 acres, each husbandland could provide two oxen and eight oxen were need for a plough-team. This arrangement led to small farm towns being established with accommodation for at least four men of six to eight houses, taking practical considerations into account. A very common placename.
  • Tourn - a court leet; from the tour, turn, or circuit made by the sheriff of a county twice in the year, in which he presided at the hundred-court in each hundred of the county, or the great court leet of the county, held by him on these occasions.
  • Tout - to solicit customers, votes, or patronage, especially in a brazen way.
  • Tout ensemble - everything considered; all in all; the total impression or effect.
  • Tower mill - a type of windmill in which the tower was entirely made of brick or stone and sometimes tarred to help keep out the rain.
  • Transept - a transverse arm off the nave of a church, abbey, etc.
  • Transhumance - the vertical seasonal livestock movement, typically to higher pastures in summer and to lower valleys in winter. Herders have a permanent home, typically in valleys. Only herds and a subset of people necessary to tend them travel.
  • Transom - a horizontal bar set across an opening such as a window.
  • Transumpt - a copy or exemplification of a record; a transcript.
  • Trebuchet - a siege engine invented by the French in the 12th-century. A counterweight at one end was released and the other end was flung up, allowing missiles of up to half a ton to be hurled at the enemy.
  • Tree Calf - a binding of a book in which the calf leather has been treated with dilute acid over its surface to produce a grained effect, sometimes like the grain of fine wood.
  • Tregetour - a juggler who produces illusions by the use of elaborate machinery.
  • Triforium - an arcaded wall area above the nave and below the clerestory. A passage usually runs behind the arcading and was often used to house the library.
  • Trilithon - also 'Trilith'. A structure consisting of two large vertical stones supporting a third stone set horizontally across the top. Commonly used in the context of megalithic monuments the most famous trilithons are those at Stonehenge and those found in the prehistoric temples in Malta. The word is derived from the Greek 'having three stones' (Tri - three, lithos - stone) and was first used by William Stukeley.
  • Trist - see 'Tryst.'
  • Triune - the Trinity, the Godhead in Christianity, or another of the triple deities.
  • Troc - the medieval practice of exchange for goods in kind without the use of money.
  • Trod - in the West of England this is a straight line or Fairy Path in the grass of a field with a different shade of green to the rest. People with rheumatism sought relief by walking along these tracks, though animals are thought to avoid them. Great danger was associated with using these paths when a supernatural procession was using them. Fairy rings have certain elements in common with this phenomenon.[42]
  • Tron - a Scottish measure for the sale of goods used until 1618. It's nature is no longer known. Names such as 'Trongate' in Glasgow are derived from it.[43]
  • Troner - the officer in charge of the official weighing machine (the tron) in a burgh.
  • Troth - a betrothal; one's pledged fidelity; Good faith; fidelity.
  • Trouse - cut thorns grown for filling gaps in hedges, sometimes in a thorn woods or spinneys.
  • Trow - in Orkney a 'Trow' is the name for a 'Troll'.[44]
  • Trowse - also 'Trouse' - a grating of wood or iron which could be raised or lowered to allow water out of a dam into a mill lade (Scots).
  • Truck - the old system by which employees were paid mostly with tokens that could only be exchanged at the employers shops where goods were adulterated and underweight measures were used.
  • Tryst or 'Trist' - a time and a place for a meeting, especially of lovers. In Old French the word meant an appointed station in hunting. A place where hounds were posted in a deer drive.
  • Trysting day - an arranged day of meeting or assembling, as of soldiers, friends, lovers and the like.
  • Trysting Tree - many trees have through their isolation, appearance or position been chosen as a popular meeting place for young courting couples, soldiers called to gather at a distinctive venue prior to battle, etc.
  • Tulchan - a calf's skin stretched on a wooden frame and laid beneath a cow to increase the milk yield (Scots).
  • Tulchan Bishop - between 1572 - 9 a bishop who obtained his rank through purchase; a term of derision (Scots).
  • Tulyie - a street fight or quarrel, scuffle, broil, skirmish, struggle, turmoil (Scots).
  • Tumulus (plural tumuli or tumuluses, from the Latin word for mound or small hill) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as 'Barrows', 'Burial mounds', or 'Kurgans'.
  • Turbary - land, or a piece of land, where turf or peat may be dug or cut; the right to cut turf or peat on a common land or on another person's land. 'Feal and divot' was the right to take turf in Scotland.
  • Turf - a layer of grass etc. with earth & matted roots as the surface of grassland.
  • Turnpike - a road on which a toll or fee was charged at a toll-gate.
  • Turnpike - a spiral stone stairway in a castle tower, church wall, etc.[45]
  • Turnegreis - also 'Turnpike' - a spiral stone stairway in a castle tower, church wall, etc.[45]
  • Tutelar - a tutelary spirit is a god, usually a minor god, who serves as the guardian or watcher over a particular site, person, or nation. Belief in tutelary gods or spirits often reflects a tradition of animism.
  • Tutory dative - in medieval Scottish law a child under the age of maturity who had lost his father could be placed under the guardianship of the next male agnate in the family over the age of 21, regardless of the mother's wishes.
  • Tuum - thine; that which is thine.
  • Twill - a fabric so woven as to have a surface of diagonal parallel ridges.
  • Tympanum - The basically semicircular area enclosed by the arch above the lintel of an arched entranceway, often filled with carvings or other ornamentation.
  • Tynwald - the Isle of Man 'Parliament', usually said to be the oldest parliament in continuous existence in the world, having been established by 979 (though its roots may go back to the late 800s as the thing of Norse raiders not yet permanently resident on the Isle of Man) and having continued to be held since that time without interruption. The veracity of Tynwald's claim to continuous existence as a legislative body is disputed. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, Tynwald was arguably a judicial court and did not fulfill functions of creating legislation. During the 15th and 16th centuries the process of creating legislation varied between occasions and, as noted below, Tynwald does not appear to have functioned as a single legislative body during that period either.
  • Typography - printing from movable type; also the aesthetics of arranging the words and other ornamentation on the printed page.[46]

U Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Udal law - a near-redundant Norse derived legal system, which is found in Shetland and Orkney, Scotland and in Manx law at the Isle of Man. It is closely related to Odelsrett. Udal law was codified by the kings Magnus I of Norway "the good" and Magnus VI of Norway the "lawmender". The Treaty of Perth transferred the Outer Hebrides and Isle of Man to Scots law while Norse law and rule still applied for Shetland and Orkney.
  • Ullage - the amount of liquid within a container that is lost, as by leakage, during shipment or storage; the amount by which a container, such as a bottle, cask, or tank, falls short of being full.
  • Ultimo - the preceding month (Legal).
  • Ultimogeniture - also known as 'Postremogeniture' or 'Junior right' - the tradition of inheritance by the last-born of the entirety of, or a privileged position in, a parent's wealth, estate or office. The tradition recognises that the elder children have had time to succeed and provide for themselves - or having received some of their share earlier.
  • Ultimus haeres - literally the "last heir"; the right of the Crown to succeed to all heritable property where no other heir, successor or assignee to the property can be identified (Legal).
  • Umbo - the boss, a raised central area on a shield or buckler.
  • Umwhile - see 'Umquhile.'
  • Umquhile - see also 'Umwhile.' Some time ago; formerly; previously;(Scots).
  • Uncial script - written entirely in capital letters and commonly used from the 3rd to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes.
  • Unction - the act of anointing as part of a religious, ceremonial, or healing ritual; an ointment or oil - a salve; affected or exaggerated earnestness, especially in choice and use of language.
  • Uncut - a book in which the edges of the leaves have not been cut by a plough.
  • Under dog - the individual in a saw pit who was in the pit itself. The 'Top Dog' was the more fortunate individual on top of the log.
  • Undershot - where a water wheel is turned by water running beneath it. The turning is brought about by the force of the water rather than the volume.
  • Unforisfamiliat - also 'Unforisfamiliate'. Not separated from the father's family, still living at home.
  • Unopened - the leaves of a book which have never been cut at the folds.
  • Unprobated will - a will never submitted for probate (Legal).
  • Unsolemn will - a will in which an executor is not named (Legal).
  • Ursine - of or characteristic of bears or a bear.
  • Uruisg - a goblin or brownie in Gaelic.
  • Usucapio - also 'Usucaption.' Terms for long, uninterrupted and unchallenged possession of a thing or a right, which conferred an entitlement to that property or right (Legal).
  • Use and want - established custom.
  • Ustrinum - was the site of a historical funeral pyre; a crematorium.
  • Usufruct - the right to use and derive profit from a piece of property belonging to another, provided the property itself remains undiminished and uninjured in any way.
  • Usary - the practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate; an excessive or illegally high rate of interest charged on borrowed money; an archaic for interest charged or paid on a loan.
  • Utencilis & domiceillis - household goods.
  • Uterine - ancestry of an individual is a person's pure female ancestry, i.e. 'matrilineal' leading from a female ancestor to that individual.
  • Uxor. - a wife, spouse, consort (Legal).
  • Uxorius - excessively submissive or devoted to one's wife.

V Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Vaccary - a medieval cattle farm, particularly a monastic one.
  • Vade mecum - a referential book such as a handbook or manual; a useful object, constantly carried on one’s person.
  • Vade retro satana - Go back, Satan or Step back, Satan - a Medieval Catholic formula for exorcism, recorded in a 1415 manuscript found in the Benedictine Metten Abbey in Bavaria.
  • Vails - a tip or drink money (Scots).
  • Valid - that which is legal and binding.
  • Vambrace - tubular or gutter shaped armour defences for the forearm.
  • Vanguard or Van - the leading units moving at the head of an army.
  • Varlet - a knight's attendant, later a menial or rascal.
  • Vassal - a holder of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance.
  • Vaticination - the act of prophesying; a prediction; a prophecy.
  • Vaunt - an ostentatious display.
  • Vellum - a thin sheet of specially prepared skin of calf, lamb, or kid used for writing or printing, or for the cover of a book or legal document.
  • Venal - open to bribery; mercenary; capable of betraying honor, duty, or scruples for a price; marked by corrupt dealings, especially bribery.
  • Venery - indulgence in or pursuit of sexual activity (archaic) or the act or sport of hunting; the chase.
  • Vennel - an alley or narrow lane.
  • Verderer - a man serving as an official in charge of the royal forests of medieval England. Verderers were originally part of the ancient judicial and administrative hierarchy of the vast areas of English forests set aside by William the Conqueror for hunting. The title Verderer comes from the Norman word ‘vert’ meaning green and referring to woodland. These forests were divided into provinces each having a Chief Justice who travelled around on circuit dealing with the more serious offences. Verderers investigated and recorded minor offences and dealt with the day to day forest administration.
  • Vermiculate - decorated with wormlike tracery or markings, e.g. vermicular stonework.
  • Vernacular - a local building style using local materials and traditional methods of construction and ornamentation, especially as distinguished from historical architectural styles. One definition states that a building is vernacular if all the materials were obtained from within 400 yards of the site - unless a river were nearby.
  • Vert - Green vegetation that can serve as cover for deer. Used in English forest law; the right to cut such vegetation.
  • Vesica - a pointed oval shape used for some ecclesiastical seals or an aureole in medieval sculpture or painting.
  • Vestment - the ritual robes worn by the clergy and/or assistants at religious ceremonies. Especially one worn at the celebration of the Eucharist.
  • Vestry - a room for keeping clothes or vestments, also an administrative group within a parish; the ruling body of a church. Previously 'Revestry' or 'Revestiary'.
  • Vexillology - the scholarly study of flags. The term was coined in 1957 by the American scholar Whitney Smith, the author of many books and articles on the subject. It was originally considered a sub-discipline of heraldry, and is still occasionally seen as such.
  • Viaduct - a viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans. The term viaduct is derived from the Latin via for road and ductus to conduct something.
  • Via regia - see 'King's Highway'.
  • Vicar - the priest of a parish in the Church of England who receives a stipend or salary but does not receive the tithes of a parish.
  • Vicinage - a limited region around a particular area; a number of places situated near each other and considered as a group. A limited region around a particular area; the residents of a particular neighborhood; the state of living in a neighborhood; proximity.
  • Victual - food or provisions.
  • Vide - in a UK legal context this term means "see".
  • Vidette or Vedette - a mounted sentinel stationed in advance of an outpost or a small scouting boat used to observe and report on an opposing naval force.
  • Vidua - a widow.
  • Viduus - a widower.
  • Vigesimal - a numeral counting system based on twenty (in the same way in which the ordinary decimal numeral system is based on ten). Twenty is the sum of all fingers and toes on a human being's hands and feet, and is the product of five and four.
  • Vigiles - a night watchman, especially in a castle. A 'Garitour' was a day watchman.
  • Vignette - a decorative design placed at the beginning or end of a book or chapter of a book or along the border of a page; an unbordered picture, often a portrait, that shades off into the surrounding color at the edges; a short, usually descriptive literary sketch.
  • Vill - a term used in English history to describe a land unit which might otherwise be described as a parish, manor or tithing.
  • Villein - a feudal tenant entirely subject to a lord or attached to a manor; often holding between 30 and 100 acres of land. Above villeins in the social order were 'Freemen' and 'Sokemen'.
  • Vintner - a wine merchant.
  • Violent profits - dues payable by anyone possessing lands illegally; as with a tenant who did not leave his holding at the end of a lease; he would be liable for the profits the landlord could have made if he had resumed control of the lands himself or leased them to another tenant (Legal).
  • Virgate - a quarter hide of land; often 20 or 30 acres.
  • Virgo - used to describe an unmarried woman in English and European marriage records.
  • Visnomy - face; countenance.
  • Vitiation - the alteration of a document without the consent of all the parties to the document; to reduce the value or impair the quality of; to corrupt morally; to make ineffective.
  • Volant - flying or capable of flying; moving quickly or nimbly; in Heraldry Depicted with the wings extended as in flying.
  • Volte-face - a complete reversal of position in argument or position.
  • Voussoir - wedge-shaped elements in an arch, including the Keystone.
  • Vulgate - an early 5th century version of the Bible in Latin which is largely the result of the labours of Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations. The Vulgate was a substantial improvement over these earlier translations. Its Old Testament is the first Latin version translated directly from the Hebrew Tanakh rather than from the Greek Septuagint. It became the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible of the Roman Catholic Church and ultimately took the name versio vulgata, which means simply "the published translation".

W Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Wadset - a mortgage; a deed from a debtor to a creditor giving over the rents of land until a debt is paid; a pledge.
  • Wadsetters - also 'Wedsetter'. Not put in pledge. A consolidation of the property which was wadset with the superiority, which remained unwadset and undisponed.
  • Waggon - a four-wheeled horse drawn vehicle for heavy loads, often with a cover.
  • Wag-halter - One who moves or wears a halter; one likely to be hanged.
  • Wain - a type of horse-drawn, load-carrying vehicle, used for agricultural purposes rather than transporting people, for example a haywain. It normally has four wheels but the term has now acquired slightly poetical connotations so is not always used with technical correctness. However, a two-wheeled 'haywain' would be a hay cart. Constable's famous painting is the main reason for the word's survival in everyday usage into the 21st century.
  • Wair - to give or expend. As in to "wair upon land"
  • Wanton - immoral or unchaste; lewd. Gratuitously cruel; merciless. Marked by unprovoked, gratuitous maliciousness; capricious and unjust: wanton destruction.
  • Wapenshaw - literally a "show of weapons"; referring to the periodic muster of the able-bodied men of a barony or other area (in theory, twice a year), to prove the possession of suitable weapons and were (reasonably) competent in their use.
  • Wapentake - a term derived from the Old Norse vápnatak, the rough equivalent of an Anglo-Saxon hundred. The word denotes an administrative meeting place, typically a crossroads or a ford in a river. The Danelaw counties of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Lincolnshire were divided into wapentakes, just as most of the remainder of England was divided into hundreds.
  • Wapper - to cause to shake; to tremble; to move tremulously, as from weakness; to totter.
  • Ward - also 'waird' - feudal land tenure rights conferred through military service obligations of tenants. Land held during the minority of a vassal and returned at the coming of age, together with a fine imposed.
  • Ward-holding - tenure of lands through ward rights.
  • Warding - imprisonment.
  • Ward land - lands held in ward.
  • Warping - a method of reclamation of marshland by restricting sea water flow to cause deposition of silt and concomitant raising of ground level, producing very fertile farmland.
  • Warrandice - an undertaking, usually in the form of a "clause of warrandice " in a grant, whereby the person making the grant promised to maintain and support the grantee in the property or right granted him, against all challenges made to his right or impediments concerning it which might arise after the grant was made (Legal).
  • Warranty deed - guarantees a clear property title from the seller to the buyer (legal).
  • Washer-woman - or 'Bean Nighe'. The "woman of the fairy mounds" is a female spirit in Scottish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. Her Irish counterpart is the 'Banshee'.
  • Wassail - a hot, spiced punch often associated with winter celebrations of northern Europe, usually those connected with holidays such as Christmas, New Year's and Twelfth Night. Particularly popular in Germanic countries, the term itself is a contraction of the Old English toast wæs þu hæl, or "be thou hale!" (i.e., "be in good health").
  • watch and ward - the written report or 'return' made to a superior by those who held property in burghs.
  • Watermark - the trademark of a papermaker, made by wire design fixed to a mould; seen when the paper is held up to the light.[46]
  • Water Wall - the substantial wall built of dressed stones, carefully mortared with lime, which withstood the constant rushing of water and the vibrations of the turning water wheel.
  • Wattshode - a type of blue cloth popular around the 16th Century. Also used as a place name.
  • Waulk – mill. From 'walk' - a finishing process fulling on cloth (Scots).
  • Wealdh - the Saxon word for the native inhabitants of Britain. The word came to mean 'slave' or 'bondman'. Such names as Wales and Cornwall are derived from this word.
  • Webster - a person involved in the weaving trade.
  • Weg - a minor road from the Anglo-Saxon.
  • Weir - an overflow-type dam commonly used to raise the level of a river or stream. Traditionally been used to create mill ponds. Water flows over the top of a weir, although some weirs have sluice gates which release water at a level below the top of the weir.
  • Welkin - An archaic term for the vault of heaven; the sky, deriving from the Middle English 'welken', a cloud. The term can also mean the apparent surface of the imaginary sphere on which celestial bodies appear to be projected.
  • Weltering - to wallow, roll, or toss about, as in mud or high seas; to lie soaked in a liquid, such as blood; To roll and surge, as the sea.
  • Wench - a young woman; a female servant; a lewd woman. Etymology: Middle English wenche, short for wenchel child, from Old English wencel; akin to Old High German wankon to totter, waver and probably to Old High German winchan to stagger.
  • Weregild - also 'Cro'. The assythement due to be paid to the friends or family of someone who had been killed, by the killer.
  • Wester - western, lying more to the west; applied to the more westerly of two places (Scots).
  • Weyve - a female outlaw; abandoned without the protection of the law.
  • Wheelwright - someone who makes or repairs, especially wooden wheels.
  • Whig - a member of an 18th- and 19th-century British political party that was opposed to the Tories; a supporter of the war against England during the American Revolution.
  • Whiggamore - Whig; - a cant term applied in contempt to Scotch Presbyterians.
  • White rent - blackmail; rent to be paid in silver.
  • Whitsunday - the Sunday of the feast of Whitsun or Pentecost in the Christian liturgical year, observed 7 weeks after Easter. Also one of the Scottish 'Term Days' or British 'Quarter Days.'
  • Wicca - a variety of pagan practices founded on religious and magical concepts, and most of its adherents identify as witches. As such it is distinguished not only by its religious beliefs, but by its initiatory system, organisational structure, secrecy, and practice of magic. British Traditional Wiccans generally will not proselytise, and may even deny membership to some individuals, since once initiated a person is considered to be a priest or priestess and is expected to develop the skills and responsibility that that entails.
  • Wilding - a Crab apple (Malus sylvestris).[47]
  • Will - a document stating how a person wants real and personal property divided after death.
  • Will-o'-the-wisp or 'ignis fatuus' - refers to the ghostly lights sometimes seen at night or twilight that hover over damp ground in still air — often over bogs. It looks like a flickering lamp, and is sometimes said to recede if approached. Much folklore surrounds the legend, but science has offered several potential explanations
  • Winnowing - using wind to separate the chaff from the grain. A rare example of a 'winnowing byre' survives largely intact at The Hill in Dunlop. Ayrshire. This was the home of Barbara Gilmour of Dunlop cheese fame, circa 1990.
  • Wire lines - the closely spaced horizontal lines in 'laid' paper.
  • Wish Tree - an individual tree, usually distinctive due to species, position or appearance, and identified as being of special religious value or spiritual identity. By tradition, people making wishes and offerings to the tree in some way thought the ritual votive offering increases the chances of the wish being granted. This behaviour, using living trees, is one of making an offering to the nature spirit or goddess of the tree with the hope of gaining benefit.
  • Wisp - a bundle of hay or straw sometimes used as a torch.
  • Wit - blame or fault, from the Anglo-Saxon wit.[5]
  • Witness - a witness is an individual present at an event such as a marriage or the signing of a document who can vouch that the event took place (legal).
  • Wodehouse - also 'Woodwose' or 'Woodhouse' - the aboriginal Wild man or woman of medieval lore. Covered in shaggy hair, living in primitive communities in the forests and deeply stupid.
  • Wodwo - See 'Wodehouse.'
  • Wold - a wood, usually of some considerable size. Used as a place name component in Southwold, Stow in the Wold, etc.
  • Woodland Policies - woodlands, usually broadleaved and actively managed as part of an estate.
  • Woodward - a "ward of the wood" or "guardian of the wood". See Verderer'.
  • Workhouse - once just meaning somewhere work was done. From the mid- 17th century, a place set up to provide work for the unemployed poor. Later, a place where the destitute could live and be fed, usually in return for work.
  • Workhouse Asylum / Lunatic Wards- some workhouses contained wards exclusively used for lunatics and in some places a separate building (belonging to and administered by the local Poor Law authority) was used exclusively for the lunatics, or as a general hospital with lunatic wards.
  • Worsted - a fine smooth yarn spun from combed long staple wool.
  • Wove paper - paper which has no chain lines or wire lines, usually made on a woven wire mesh.[46]
  • Wraith - an apparition of a living person that appears as a portent just before that person's death, also the ghost of a dead person.
  • Writ of attachment - a court order authorizing the seizure of property sufficient to cover debts and court costs for not appearing in court (Legal).
  • Writ of summons - a document ordering a person to appear in court (legal).
  • Writer to the signet - originally clerks who prepared letters under the king's signet seal. When the signet came into widespread use as the means of sealing all summonses to the king's court and all diligences issued by it, they increased in number and, as writers to the signet, not only prepared all summonses and diligences, but acted as agents or attorneys in presenting cases in the Court of Session.
  • Wrythen - ornately twisted.
  • Wych - as in Wych Elm. The Hwicce (also spelt Hwicca or Wiccia) were one of the peoples of Anglo-Saxon England.
  • Wynd - an alley (Scots).

X Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Xenia - gifts to a guest or guests.
  • Xoanon - a primitive, usually wooden image of a deity supposed to have fallen from heaven.
  • Xylography - the process of printing from wood blocks, etc.[46]
  • Xystus - an ancient Greek portico.

Y Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Yapp edges - the turn-in on the fore edge of some vellum bindings.
  • Yard - a term used in Scotland to cover the various walled courtyards, service yards, walled gardens and orchards that spread in every direction from a house.
  • Yare - nimble, brisk; ready.
  • Yclept - (archaic) to call by the name of.
  • Yealm - a bundle of tightly bound 'straw' as used in thatching.
  • Yeoman - a self-sufficient farmer; freeholder who works a small estate of about 30 acres; they were ranked below gentleman. They were compelled by law to own a bow and arrow and had to fight for the lord when required.
  • Yet - also 'Yat'. A gate in Scotland, Cumbria and elsewhere, e.g. Yetts O'Muckart'.
  • Yogh - a letter (Ȝ ȝ; Middle English: yoȝ), used in Middle English and Middle Scots, where it represented y. In Middle Scots the character yogh came to be confused with a cursive z and the early Scots printers often used z; as a result a few Lowland Scots words have a z in place of a yogh, such as Culzean, Dalziel, and Drumelzier.
  • Younker - a young man; child.
  • Yoke - an archaic measure of land area; consisting of four yokes to the 'Sulung', which was larger than the 'Hide' and on occasion treated as equivalent to two hides. It was mainly used in Kent.

Z Words[edit]

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


  • Zealot - an uncompromising or extreme partisan; a fanatic.
  • Zeitgeist - the spirit of the times or the trend of thought and feeling in a period.
  • Zenith - the highest point in one's fortune; a time of great prosperity, etc.
  • Zeppelin - a large German dirigible airship of the early 20th century.
  • Zetetic - proceeding by inquiry.
  • Zodiac - derived from the Greek word for animals. The Zodiac is an astronomical arrangement of the planets described in terms of twelve equal areas with the figure of an animal assigned to each, the 'Signs of the Zodiac'.
  • Zounds - an exclamation derived from God's wounds.

References[edit]

  1. McKean, Charles (2001). The Scottish Chateau. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2323-7. P. 53.
  2. Mackenzie, W. Mackay (1927). The Mediaeval Castle in Scotland. Pub. Methuen & Co. Ltd., London. P. 120
  3. Rackham, Oliver (1976). Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape. Pub. J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd. ISBN 0-460-04183-5. P. 194.
  4. a b c Rees-Mogg, William (1988). How to Buy Rare Books. Pub. Phaidon. Christie's. ISBN 0-7148-8019-1. P.144.
  5. a b c d e f Corsehill Baron-Court Book. Archaeological & Historical Collections relating to the counties of Ayr and Wigton. Pub. Ayr & Wigton Arch Assoc. 1884.
  6. Mackenzie, W. Mackay (1927). The Mediaeval Castle in Scotland. Pub. Methuen & Co. Ltd. P. 29.
  7. a b c d Rackham, Oliver (1976). Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape. Pub. J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd. ISBN 0-460-04183-5.
  8. MacBride, MacKenzie (1910). Arran of the Bens, the Glens and the Brave. Pub. Foulis. P. 76 - 80.
  9. a b c The Past all around us. (1979) Pub. Reader's Digest.
  10. Hansell, Peter and Jean (1988). Dovecotes. ISBN 0-85263-920-1 P. 5.
  11. a b Sinclair, Cecil (1996), Tracing Scottish Local History. Scottish Record Office. HMSO, Edinburgh.
  12. The Past all around us.(1979) Pub. Reader's Digest. P.146
  13. Hole, Christina (1950). English Custom & Usage. Pub. Batsford.
  14. a b c d e Warrack, Alexander (1982)."Chambers Scots Dictionary". Chambers. ISBN 0-550-11801-2.
  15. The Past all around us.(1979) Pub. Reader's Digest. P. 138.
  16. a b Rees-Mogg, William (1988). How to Buy Rare Books. Pub. Phaidon. Christie's. ISBN 0-7148-8019-1. P.145.
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