Exceeding hardness; impenetrability.
As a noun, an alchemist who claimed to know the secret of turning base metals into gold.
A castle built without a person’s liege lord’s approval.
1)To assess. 2) To affix the price or market value.
To admit; confess.
First of all.
Court or terrace of self–contained cottages designated for the poor at an endowed chantry; 15th–century innovation that remained the standard for English homes for the elderly well into the present century. See bedesman.
A measure of weight.
A chest or cupboard, used for keeping food.
A charm, usually worn around the neck, to ward off illness or evil.
Small, gold coin, first struck in 1465.
Literally meaning ‘from Anjou’, applied to the first English kings of the Plantagenet Dynasty, i.e., Henry II (1154-89, Richard I (1189-99), and John (1199-1216).
To admit; confess.
Territory assigned to provide for the maintenance of a king's younger brother. The custom began in 13th–century France.
A minor property, right or privilege belonging to another subordinate.
A conduit to carry water; a bridgelike structure carrying a water pipe over a river or hollow.
A measure of land roughly equal to a modern acre; often used to measure vinelands.
Accounts or payments in arrears.
A revolutionary Islamic sect formed in1094 in northern Iran, which soon spread to Syria where its leader was called ‘The Old Man of the Mountain’. They used murder as a political weapon, for their own ends or on hire to other rulers. Their name is derived from hashish, which their enemies accused them of using to make them fearless, since their assassination missions meant certain death.
Profit, financial success, in the dialect of Chaucer's London.
A laden waggon.
A red spinel; a semi–precious gem.
A rich embroidered silk with gold thread used for canopies.
Tanned hides used as protective coverings for packages, clothes, and so forth. Considered to have been of sufficient value to have been mentioned in medieval wills, on occasion.
An earthen burial mound.
Alphabet hornbook used in the medieval schoolroom. "...B from battledore," implied that someone was either illiterate or very ignorant.
Resident of an almshouse on the premises of an endowed chantry. One of the most enduring are the almshouses of Ewelme in Berkshire, endowed in the will of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk in 1450. They were modernized in the 1970s at immense cost borne entirely by the chantry foundation.
The eve of 30 April, one of two occasions when supernatural occurences are most common. Also known as May Day Eve.
Brooom made of twigs.
Gold coin of Byzantium.
Pride; pomp; boasting.
A square wooden fort used extensively in the piecemeal conquest of the eastern Baltic lands (e.g., Pomerania, Prussia, and Lithuania) and the military orders.
The extra labor required annually from a serf during peak agricultural seasons.
Rough, unlettered people.
A pilgrim's staff.
Horn, leather, cuir-bouilli, or bone guard worn to protect the inside of an archer's wrist from the bowstring of the longbow.
Memorial engraved in brass, set in a stone slab. Surviving brasses, especially the full–length engravings of people as they appeared to, or were remembered by, those commissioning the brass, have augmented our knowledge of the details of medieval life, particularly in the area of costume research and "rubbings" of the brasses have become a popular art form with history buffs, over and above the informative value.
An Anglo–Saxon fortified town, or major defended place, not necessarily urban.
Wooden barrel for the storage of wine; capacity – 126 gallons.
Small, auxilliary knife carried in the scabbard of a larger blade; commonly found with Scottish dirks and hunting swords.
Dynasty of French kings which ruled from 987-1328.
Small cart with two wheels, apparently covered with barehides, used for transporting light goods such as clothing or books.
Fast–sailing ship; 15th century equivalent of the frigate.
Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice.
A written Latin script with rounded letter forms adopted at the urging of Charlemagne that became the basis for modern print type.
Large, triple–masted ship, built in Italy, but fairly common in all European marine operations; often hired, rather then bought, from either Genoa or Venice.
Stone tablet with ornate forms, usually an elliptical shape and bearing a coat of arms or an inscription.
A measurement in land, equal to a hide (according to Danelaw).
Empty funerary monument that is not a burying place.
A flower with five equal parts; probably based on the wild rose in early heraldry. E.g., the white rose of York, the red of Lancaster and their successor, the Tudor rose.
A tank for collecting and holding water, especially rainwater.
Chattering; idle talk.
In the dialect of London in the late Middle Ages, called, as by one's name.
Chamber pot inside with a lid.
Heavy blow, or to strike a heavy blow.
The form of bound book found in the Middle Ages. Usually made of sheets of parchment (or animal hide) of relatively uniform size, with text handwritten on both sides, and enclosed between wooden or leather covers.
Broadly–built cargo ship. Also called a cogue.
Endowed assembly of clerics, but sometimes expert laymen, as in the College of Arms; often used interchangeably with chantry.
An individual's temperment or disposition, as determined by the proportions of the four humors in his/her constitution.
A chart drawn to establish the relationship by blood to a common ancestor, used in arranging suitable marriages.
A medieval euphemism for the act of theft.
Heart, in the psychological sense.
The act or ceremony of crowning a sovereign or the sovereign’s consort.
A peasant of the lower class, with little or no land.
An attendant at the court or a prince or sovereign.
Courtoisie, Courtly Love
A medieval form of amorous relationship, in which the love expressed is illicit and potentially adulterous; known for the lyric poetry of the medieval French languages.
To boast of brag.
An Irish dwelling residing on a natural or man-made island.
In the Middle Ages, cruel meant hard or exceedingly,respectively, rather the more modern interpretations implying wickedness or evilness.
The name for the Welsh language.
One's father; recorded in use prior to 1500, becoming mostly dialect and /or American in the 19th and 20th centuries. See also Papa.
Girl, young woman; standard English; used in reference to social equals, or members of a higher social status. See Wench.
The period during which Europe experienced an intellectual, civil, and social decline, generally from 476 to 1000, also called the Early Middle Ages.
De Arte Amandi
A work by Ovid being circulated among the courtiers of Edward IV in the 1460s, according to reference made to it in the Paston correspondence.
Dice, in the vernacular of Chaucer.
Noble's own estate as distinct from lands granted to vassals, but of which the noble remained nominal head.
Another of Ovid's works that found favor with the courtiers of the 1460s, according to the Paston correspondence.
Foreign, not native.
Silver coins or "pennies" used in England and France. Larger denominations were had by weighing deniers. A sou was 12 denier weight. A livre was one pound denier weight. Gold coins, rare in England and France, were worth about twenty–five silver denier.
To tell, relate. Chaucer uses it in that context in relation to the narrator's role in The Canterbury Tales.
Dictes and Sayings
of the Philosophers
First book printed in English; a translation made by Anthony Woodville, brother–in–law of Edward IV, and published by William Caxton in 1477.
Original form of the word, dirge.
Origin of the masquerade and very close to mumming, with all the performers appearing in costume. It was the chief entertainment at Christmas and on other important occasions.
Act of wrongfully depriving a person of the possession, seisin, of lands, rents or other rights.
A woman's marriage portion; her dowry.
The money, goods, or estate brought by a bride to her husband at marriage.
Without doubt; for certain.
A free peasant in Northumbria and sometimes in Yorkshire and Lancashire. The term usually means that land is held in return for military service.
A Scottish single family hill fort.
East March (towards Scotland)
Northeastern Northumberland; the area around Norham Castle and most of the Durham Palatinate, with the River Aln forming the south boundary. Administrative Center: Berwick.
To add to, or increase.
The theory that all material things in the universe were made of one or more of the four elements – Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.
Standard measure – 45 inches.
The Irish language.
A flat, grassy area, open to public gatherings or for walking.
Everyone; London dialect of Chaucer.
The model copy of a work which a copyist was to follow. Within medieval university circles the original writer of the work would often approve an exemplar for its reproduction by booksellers and student or their copyists.
A situation, perhaps allegorical, serving as illustration for a moral example or lesson, which was provided or repeated for the benefit of medieval listeners or readers.
The closing words or sentences of a written work which a medieval manuscript may provide the only indication of the author or title of the work.
A market held at regular intervals, usually once or twice a year. Licenced by the king, local lord, or a chartered town, fairs offered a larger range of goods than a market.
Standard measure – six feet.
Caliphs and rulers of Egypt from 969 until overthrown by Saladin in 1171. They were of a minority, Shi’I form of Islam, and therefore bitter enemies of the majority Sunni form.
Designation of a woman, married or single, who was an independent member of the business community, a not entirely unheard of position for women in the 15th–century England. E.g., members of the London Silkwomens' guild, a thriving organization with a flourishing apprenticeship program and both domestic and foreign trade contracts.
Strange; a wonder.
Penmanship, handwriting; standard English in the Middle Ages.
An Anglo-Saxon prefix for son.
Outlaw gangs which plagued Normandy during the final stages of the English occupation. Destruction, pillage and robbery were their stock and trade and they derived their name from their habit of stripping their victims, then flaying them alive.
Mock; laugh at scornfully.
A Spanish or Italian coin, usually made of gold.
Sheets did not, apparently, extend the full length of medieval beds. Hence, there were specific items called head and foot sheets.
Not always woodlands, but that land reserved for the King's or a great noble's hunting; generally under the control of a forester, rather than a sheriff and judically governed by the Verderer’s Court.
A hunting term meaning to leave behind at a great distance.
Wan, wasted, as used in the text of Chaucer.
Even so, in Chaucer. Later became forsooth.
Excessive politeness Also called French fare.
See Frankamoign, chantry, and bedesmen.
1) The art of painting on fresh plaster before it dries, using pigments dissolved in water; 2) A painting done in this manner.
In the context of 15th–century power and prestige, the great affinities of the magnates; groups of household and estate officials augmented by scores of annuitants, whose loyalty was more of a contractual obligation than one of either emotional or psychological consideration. See Livery and Maintenance.
Groove or grooves cut into a sword blade to make it lighter, while still retaining its stiffness. Sometimes called "blood gutters," but that is considered an incorrect usage.
To increase the weight and bulk of cloth by moistening, heating, and pressing.
Fire irons equipped with hooks to support a cauldron.
The Celtic inhabitants of Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man.
Large, slender ship, propelled by oars, used for navigating the Mediterranean Sea.
Fellow–feeling; generosity; fairness. A key concept of Chaucer, who twice associated it with Christian virtue, at least rhetorically repudiating the overtone of solely aristocratic genility.
Deed or tale.
1) Wencher; 2) Adulterer; 3) Strumpet.
An effigy depicted as a naked corpse. In the late Middle Ages, there was a marked fascination with the physical realities of death and the decomposition of the body, possibly as a result of the already marked preoccupation with the graphic details of eternal damnation. Whatever its inspiration, expression of what might seem to be a somewhat macabre obsession can be seen in tomb sculptures of the period. E.g., at Ewelme, the tomb of the Duchess of Suffolk, widow of William de la Pole, the 1st Duke; the effigy of Bishop Richard Fleming at Lincoln or that of Bishop Thomas Beckingham at Wells. Having come into vogue in the aftermath of the Black Death, gisants seem to disappear in the 17th century, for the most part.
To gather grain or produce left behind by reapers.
1) Flattery; 2) Falsehood.
Synonymous with Aquitaine; also, in some instances, with Gascony, all of which, in England referred to the same province in France.
Hangman's rope; 15th to around mid–19th century; humorous colloquialism verging on standard English. See tippett.
Grand Company/Great Companies
The title of a combination of mercenary bands based in central-southern France in 1350s and1360s, fighting under the name of Edward III; then on their own account.
A younger brother who becames a member of his eldest brother’s household, promising never to marry.
Meadow, in the London dialect of Chaucer.
Heptarchy (Seven Kingdoms of the)
Names given to seven pre-Viking Kingdoms of England - Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, Kent, East Anglia, Essex, and Sussex.
Heathen places of lands, in the context of Chaucer.
Hold Up Oil
Wood; wooded area.
To move with a sudden twist or jerk.
A dwarf. Perhaps the origin of Tom Thumb's stage name?
An hour was assigned to each planet (and the diety for which it was named) starting with the planet for which a given day was named. The hours were considered "unequal" since the period from sunrise to sunset, or sunset to sunset to sunrise was astrogically divided into 12 hours, no matter how long or short that period was at various times of the year. In the Middle Ages, the influence of these astrological hours was an important determining factor in the state of one's health, fortune and general well–being, not so much because of a belief that anything about them could be changed as the notion that the movement of the planets across the Heavens exerted an unseen and unalterable force that contributed to every aspect of life on Earth.
Nevertheless; standard English until nearly modern times.
Bohemians who followed the ideas of the Czech reformer Jan Hus, who was burned for heresy at Constance in 1415, and were allied with Czech national fervor. Five crusades between 1420 and 1431 failed to crush the Hussites.
Chest; a cabin on a boat or ship.
Idea. Apparently the modern pronunciation and spelling did not become standard English until sometime in the 18th century.
The decoration of a medieval written work by means of gold and silver and colorful inks.
The beginning words or sentence of a written work which in a medieval manuscript may provide the only indication of the author or title of the work.
Sealed contract specifying the terms of an agreement between a magnate and a knight or an esquire. The latter may be retained for one campaign in return for wages, or for life, receiving an annual fee for service for war and in peace.
Book in which Richard of Gloucester's elusive "tant Le deser(e)" was found; a tale of the glorious deed of a young knight which would have been especially appealing to an adolescent male of the Middle Ages, who might easily have chosen the hero as a role model.
A grant of land or revenues by an Islamic ruler or individual. From the 11th century, the most important iqta’s were those held by emirs, who were required to bring military contingents with them when summoned.
1) A common fellow; 2)As a euphemism, in a sentence, it meant "the least bit".
Jack of Dover
An allusion to the prosperous fishing industry of that city, specifically, sole, which was even then famous for its quality and taste. Though Chaucer used the phrase, he is not credited with having coined it, so it may have even earlier roots.
1) Drudgery; 2) Garbage collecting.
Soldiers raised by the Ottomans in the 14th century to provide their cavalry forces with reliable infantry.
An arrangement by which a man sets aside property to be used for the support of his wife after his death, and the property so designated.
To know; to understand completely.
Gutters along a street.
Language of southern France.
Language of northern France.
Generosity in giving money or gifts, a much–prized element of chivalry.
Defer judgement, especially too long.
To attempt to strike.
To teach; that usage was standard English from the Middle Ages into the 18th century.
Land tenancy limited to a specific number of years.
Also letuse; a species of fur of a pale grey or greyish–white color; some sources identify it as pelts from the polecat of ferret
Arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric, logic, and grammar – required subjects of students.
Moisture, as from a rain shower, in the Chaucerian London dialect.
Family inheritance; estates from which income was derived.
Curing, as of barehides.
Fenced–off arena in which a joust or tournament was held; also called "the barriers". See tilt.
Often. Oft and lome; time and again.
Contemptible, mean, filthy, standard English in that context until the 20th century, when became a perjorative colloquialism.
Bow ( in salute or greeting).
A reward; recompense, derived from the Old French "Louier," meaning reward.
The Celtic celebration of the start of the harvest.
Euphemism bordering on standard usage, meaning to hang first and try later, or any arbitrary procedure in judgement.
Natural "magic," as opposed to the black arts; based on astronomy and widely used in the practice of medicine.
Presumptuous or impudent person.
Frontier or border territory, often entrusted to a vice–regent with quasi–royal powers and special military responsibilities, and where laws appropriate to a mixed population and unsettled conditions prevailed See Border Law.
Monetary unit equaling two–thirds of a pound sterling.
A place where goods may be bought or sold, established in a town or village with the authority of the king or lord.
Marrowbones, in the dialect of Chaucer's London.
Puppet; idol. The word most likely originated during the Crusades, when there was widespread belief that the Moslems worshipped idols of Mohammed, which were given a corrupted form of the Prophet's name by the Europeans. The English, on coming home, applied the word to dolls and, sometimes, to scarecrows.
Meadow, in the dialect of Chaucer.
Parcel of four acres of land.
Madness; lunacy; probably derived from an ancient folk proverb: "when the moon is in the full, wit is on the wane".
Very greatly; standard English in that context until around the middle of the 18th century.
Money; standard English as early as the 8th century, not becoming a colloquialism until around the middle of the 16th. Sometimes spelled mynt.
A portion, up to half of an inheritance or estate.
The curved metal plate of a plow that lifts, turns, and pulverizes the soil.
A clay model, worked to scale.
Translation of a Christine de Pisan work done by Anthony Woodville; printed and published by William Caxton in 1478.
A husband's gift to his wife the morning after their wedding.
Excessive; excessively; usage standard English until about the Middle of the 18th century.
Sullenly angry; depressed in spirit.
Mouth; more or less slang. Also spelled mun or munn.
Reddish–purple color; one of the colors of the House of York.
No more, the the vernacular of Chaucer and the London of his day.
A few lines of Latin or Bible verses quoted by criminals to establish themselves as members of the clergy, thereby entitling them to trial in the more lenient church courts.
Night–time; found in Chaucer.
The head; standard English from the 9th throughout the 18th centuries. Also spelled noll, nol, and nole.
Region around Dublin heavily settled by the English after the late 12th century, and by the 15th century the only region under the English king’s rule. Origin of the phrase ‘beyond the Pale’, referring to the native Irish whom the English considered uncivilized and barbaric.
Originally, the skin of a sheep or goat, prepared as a material on which to write; later, paper made in imitation of this material.
One who hunts or fishes on the property of another.
Small tapestries, cut into panels, used to cover vacant doorways and keep out drafts.
Relating to the Romance language of Provence, especially the literary language of the troubadors.
Arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music; the scientific subjects of the seven Liberal Arts.
Queen of Love and Beauty
A symbolic title for the Lady who was elected to preside over tournament festivities.
A writing instrument made from a feather shaft.
A type of large, skeleton-built sailing cargo vessel used by western powers in the Mediterranean from the mid-12th century, with a rounded hull.
Cheap candle made by dipping dried rush stem in tallow.
A Celtic feast, held 1 November, on the day believed to divide the seasons, seen by the Celts as a doorway between the spirit world and the real world, when strange creatures and ghosts might roam the land.
A primitive plow.
A pouch or purse.
A measure of weight.
The seven subjects considered of primary importance in medieval higher education, divided into two main categories: the trivium and the quadrivium.
A measure used for accounting purposes only. Equal to 12 pennies.
Either of two times a year, in June and December, when the sun is farthest from the celestial equator.
See also garderobe.
A wooden writing instrument with a wax tablet.
Merchants’ quarters which grew up outside the walls of fortified settlements.
A measurement of land in Kent. Equals two hides.
A thistle–like plant used in woolmaking.
A covering for a roof made of straw, rushes, reeds, or leaves.
A wooden fence or barrier separating the combatants in a joust; also, to fight with lances; to joust.
Mock combat for knights.
Grammar, rhetoric, and logic; the literary components of the seven Liberal Arts.
Interest charged on a loan. Although forbidden by Church law, it was used by the Knight Hospitalars and Knight Templars in the later Middle Ages.
Any of the seafaring Scandinavian peoples who plundered the coasts of northern and western Europe from the eighth through the 10th centuries.
The western Goths who invaded and sacked Rome in the fifth century.
A tablet with a reusable wax writing surface.
The amount of work owed by a serf to his landlord on a regular basis.
A measurement of land in Kent equal to one quarter of a sulung.
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