A to Z – A Few Words from the Past

Ever come across a word in an old document or article you didn’t know what it meant? I’m sure you have.

Language changes. Words change. They go in and out of fashion. So I thought it would be interesting to have a look at few a few old school (aka “archiac”) words and their original meanings.

There are oodles of “old word” lists online which you’ll find helpful, but for my list I decided to head to Google Books and look through “A Dictionary of the English Language” which was compiled in 1828 by Samuel Johnson, John Walker and Robert S. Jameson.

You may be familiar with some of the words below, afterall some appear in the current Oxford Dictionary. But I believe that many will be as foreign to you as they were to me.

Abactor – One who drives away or steals cattle in herds
Adulatress – She that flattereth
Animaclue – A minute animal
Antipestilential – Efficacious against the plague
Arcanum – A secret
Arcubalist – A crossbow

Base-Born – Born out of wedlock; of low parentage; vile
Basenet – An helmet or headpiece
Becloud – To dim; to obscure
Belmetal – The metal of which bells are made; being a mixture of three parts copper and one of tin
Black-Jack – The leathern cup of elder times

Carle – A mean, rude, rough, brutal man
Carouseer – A drinker
Cataphract – A horseman in complete armour

Deep-Read – Profoundly versed
Demy – A term relating to the size of paper; as demy, royal or large; of which demy is the smallest
Dentifrice – A powder made to scour the teeth
Deuterogamist – He who enters into a second marriage
Domesman – An umpire; a judge
Dun – A colour partaking of brown and black

Edentated – Deprived of teeth
Enditer – A composer; a writer
Enjoyer – One that has fruition or possession
Enneagon – A figure of nine angles
Eyetooth – The tooth on the upper jaw next to each side to the grinders; the fang

Faulchion – A crooked sword
Fay – A fairy; an elf
Felo-de-se – He that committeth felony by murdering himself
Footpace – A pace no faster than a slow walk
Fop – A simpleton; a coxcomb; a man of small understanding and much ostentation; a pretender; a man fond of show, dress and flutter

Gasconade – to boast; to brag; to bluster
Gavelkind – A custom whereby the lands of the father are equally divided at his death amongst all his sons
Gazingstock – A person gazed at with scorn or abhorrence
Gelid – Extremely cold
Giddypaced – Moving without regularity

Hemiplegy – A palsy, or any nervous affection that seizes one side at a time
Hewer – One whose employment is to cut wood or stone
Hiccough – A convulsion of the stomach producing sobs
Hoariness – The state of being whitish; the colour of old men’s hair; mouldiness
Hobble-de-Hoy РA stripling; a young lad between fourteen and twenty-one; neither man nor boy
Horseway – A broad way by which horses may travel
Hostler – One who has the care of horses as an inn
Hummums – Sweating places or baths

Ignify – To form into fire
Imbosk – To be concealed
Immartial – Not warlike
Inamorato – One in love
Indagator – A searcher; an enquirer; an examiner

Jactancy – Boasting
Jakes – A privvy
Janitor – A door-keeper; a porter
Jet – A sort of bitumen, of a fine deep black colour, susceptible of a beautiful polish

Kennel – To lie, to dwell
Kern – Irish foot soldier; and Irish boor
Kidder – An engrosser of corn to enhance its price
Kirtle – A gown; a jacket; a petticoat; a mantle; a cloak
Knavish – Dishonest; wicked, fraudulent; waggish; mischievous

Lac– A concrete brittle substance of a dark red colour bought from the East Indies, and taken from the tree called Croton lacciferum. This substance is principally used in making sealing-wax
Lady-Day – The twenty-fifth of March; the day on which the annunciation of the blessed virgin is celebrated
Landjobber – One who buys and sells lands for other men
Leechcraft – The art of healing
Ledgerdemain – Sleight of hand; juggle; power of deceiving the eye by nimble motion; trick
Leman – A sweetheart; a gallant; a mistress

Minute-Glass – Glass of which the sand measures a minute
Mohock – The name of a cruel nation of America, given to ruffians who infested the streets of London
Moiety – Half; one of two equal parts
Mope-Eyed – Short-sighted; purblind
Mumper – A beggar
Mustermaster – One who superintends the muster to prevent frauds
Muting – The dung of birds

Nacker – A collar-maker; a harness-maker
Nappy – An old epithet applied to ale; hairy; full of down
Neatherd – A cowkeeper; one who has the care of black cattle
Nenia – A funeral song; an elegy
Nobless – Nobility; dignity; greatness; noblemen collectively
Nuthook – A stick with a hook at the end to pull down boughs that the nuts may be gathered
Nyctalops – One who sees best in the night

Obnubliation -The act od making obscure
Octateuch – A name for the eight first books of the Old Testament
Oglio – A dish made by mingling different kinds o meat; a medley; a hotchpotch
Oleous РOily
Oppugn – To oppose; to attack; to resist
Ostler – The man who takes care of horses at the inn
Overween – To think too highly; to think with arrogance

Palfrey – A small horse fit for ladies
Panoply – Complete armour
Peeper – One that peeps; a young chicken just breaking the shell
Priestcraft – Religious frauds; management of wicked priests to gain power
Prig – A thief; a pert, conceited, saucy, pragmatical, little fellow
Primero – A game of cards
Prog – To go a begging; to wander about like a beggar; to procure a by a beggarly trick; to rob; to steal; to shift meanly for provisions
Propinquity – Nearness; proximity; neighbourhood; nearness of time; kindred; nearness of blood
Pulsifick – Moving or exciting the pulse

Quadrireme – A galley with four banks or oars
Quarterday – One of the four days in the year on which rent or interest is paid
Quassia – A medicinal bitter
Quid – Something chewed; a, in vulgar language, a quid of tobacco

Rack-Renter – One who pays the uttermost rest
Racker – One who torments; a wrester, as a racker of laws
Rakehell -A wild, worthless, dissolute, debauched, sorry fellow
Rainbeat – Injured by the rain
Rapper – One who strikes; the knocker of a door; an oath or a lie

Schimachy – Battle with a shadow
Scrag – Anything thin or lean, as a scrag of mutton (i.e.) the small end of the neck); the man is a scrag (i.e. he is rawboned)
Searoom – Open sea; spacious main
Seatost – Tossed by the sea
Sedan – A kind of portable coach; a chair, first made in Sedan
Setting-Dog – A dog taughter to find game, and point it our to the sportsman
Sevennight – A week; the time from one day of the week to the next day of the same denomination predecing or following
Siccity – Dryness; aridity; want of moisture
Sigil – Seal; signature
Stomachick – A medicine for the stomach
Strappado – A kind of military torture, formerly practiced by drawing up an offender to the top of a beam, and letting him fall; in consequence of which, dislocation of a limb usually happened

Tarpawling – Hempen cloth smeared with tar
Taverning – Act of feasting at taverns
Testificator – One who witnesses
Tete – False hair; a wig worn by ladies
Tisick – Corrupted from phthisick; Consumption; morbid waste
Toothsome – Palatable; pleasing to the taste
Traducer – A false censurer; a calumniator
Trapanner – A deceiver
Tunicle – Natual cover; integument; formerly a kind of cape worn by the officiating clergy
Twinter – A beast of two winders old

Ultramontane – A foreigner
Ululate – To howl; to scream
Umbrageousness – Shadiness
Unmellowed – No fully ripened
Unquiet – Moved with perpetual agititation; not calm; not still
Unshod – Having no shoes
Ursuline – Denoting an order of nuns
Ustion – The act of burning; the state of being burned

– The upper learer of a show; a sock
Van – The front of an army; the first line
Vaultage – Arched cellar
Viaticum – Provisions for a journey; the last rites used to prepare the passing soul for its departure
Viduity – Widowhood
Vominca – An encysted tumour in the lungs

– The inner wooden covering of a wall
Walleyed – Having white eyes
Wallop – To boil
Wesand – The windpipe; the larynx
Wheedle – To entice by soft words; to flatter
Wimple – A hood; a veil

– A sea term, a small three-masted vessel, navigated in the Mediterranean
Xerophagy – Dry food; subsistence on dry victuals; the eating of dry meats
Xyster – A surgeon’s instrument to scrape and shave bones with

Yardwand – A measure of a yard
– Ready; dextrous; nimble; eager
– Long since; of time; long ago
– A young person in contempt
– the hiccough

Zechin – A gold coin worth about nine shillings sterling
Zone – A girdle
Zoophorus – A part between the architraves and cornice, so called on account of the ornaments carved on it, among which were the figures of animals
Zootomist – A dissector of the bodies of brute beasts

So the above words are just a small fraction of what you’ll find in the 831 page book. So when you’re looking for the meanings of old words, remember to check out old dictionaries.