Old Words


last update: 17 May 2020


Old words - some of which could easily come back into common use


"The facility of speech, which makes so confiderable a difference between a man and a brute, is of excellent use, as it renders mankind conversable one with another, and as the various natural endowments, observations, experiences, and attainments of every individual man, are hereby, with a wonderful facility, mutually communicated"


By the 17th C the English language was made up of words taken, and often modified, from Arabic, Dutch, Welsh, Danish, French, Latin, Greek, Italian, Chaldee, Saxon, Scotch, Spanish, German, both old and new. Many word and phrases originated from one region of the British Isles, or from one specialist domain, e.g. physics and chemistry, law, hunting, religion and the Bible, poetry, or military terms, etc.

Abacista - someone who calculates using an
abacus

Abaisance - a low bowing as a respect paid to a person (now: obeisance from the French
obéissance)

Abdominous - paunch-bellied, fat

Abecedarian - one who teaches A, B, C,… or the alphabet

Abisherising - being free from
Amerciaments, or financial penalties (from the French a-merce-ment meaning 'being at the mercy of', synonymous with a fine)

Abnormous - misshapen, vast, huge

Aborigines - just means a person, animal, or plant that has been in a region from earliest times, but an early dictionary defined the word as "the Italians, or such other Nations, who pretend to be without Original from any other People"

Above-board - in open sight

Abrig/Abrick - Sulphur

Abtraction - "
a Power peculiar to the Mind of Man, in Contradiction to the Souls of Beasts, by which he can make his Conceptions, arising from particular Things, become general"

Advertisement - advice, intelligence, information, and also 'putting in mind'

Adusted - burnt, overheated, dried by fire, and Adustible meant burnable

Æstuary - "receiving the Steam of boiled Drugs into the Body through a Hole made in a Seat or Chair"

Æther - a "very subtle and transparent Fluid, which not only fills up the space between our Atmosphere and the Stellar Region, but penetrates through all known Bodies and replenishes the Interstices of their Particles"

Aggegate - along with Aggest meant simply to "
to heap up", and Aggested meant "heaped up"

Aggrandise - enlarge, to raise, to make great, and Aggrandisement meant "
making great"

Aggravate - means to make worse or more serious, but once meant simply "
to make heavy", to enlarge

Agnomen - "a Name added to the Surname of a Person upon account of some particular Action", e.g. Africanus because of exploits in Africa, and Agnomination meant nick-name

Agresta - Wiktionary offers 'a Calabrian branch of the
'Ndrangheta', but it once meant the juice or oil from unripe grapes

Al or Ald - when "
put to a Name of a Place signifies Antiquity", e.g. Aldgate (which along with Algate also meant the East gate of London, Al and Ald meant old in Saxon)

A-la-mode - meant and still means fashionable, but Alamode meant "
a fine even and glossy Silk, mostly of black Colour, used to make Women's Hoods"

Albion - the ancient name of Great Britain, so called from its white rocks

Algebra - "
the Name of its supposed Inventor" and "a perculiar Science, which takes the Quantity sought, whether it be Number or Line, as if it were known or granted, and then, by the Help of one or more Quantities given, proceeds by undeniable Consequences, till at length the Quantity, at first only supposed to be known, is found to be equal to someone Quantity or Quantities which are certainly known, and therefore is likewise known"

Algorithm - "
the Sum of the principle Rules of numerical Computations, viz. Numeration, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division"

Allaborate - to labour vehemently

Allectation - an alluring, enticement

Allophylus - one of another tribe, nation, or kindred, a strainer or alien

Ambrosia - "
the delicious food and Jellies, which, as the Poets feign, the Heathen Gods eat, also a Medicine prepared to be as pleasing to the Palate as possible"

Amenable - easily to be led or ruled

Amortize - to kill

Amphibiology - an obscure speech that has a double meaning, or an ambiguous way of writing or speaking, so that the meaning may be taken into different and contrary senses ("
the English Tongue is not so liable to this Abuse as the French, nor the French so much as the Latin")

Anacephal
æosis - summing up "the Heads of Things", a brief summary, and of course to repeat the "Heads of a Matter" was to anacephalize

Anachronism - todays means something that is inappropriate to a said period, so something often considered conspicuously old-fashioned, but it once meant an error in chronology or in the computation of time, so a fact or event placed earlier or later that it really was

To Angle - we all know anglers who go angling, but 'angle' was Saxon for hook, and they once just said 'to angle' was to fish with a hook

Anni Nubilis - "
the Age in which a Maid becomes fit for Marriage, which is at 12 Years"

Anthroposophy - has a 20th C definition, but once simply meant the "
knowledge of the Nature of Man"

Antanagoge - had almost the same definition in the past, but it meant "not being able to answer an Accusation of the Adversary, we return the Charge, by loading him with the same Crimes"

Anticursor - a scout or fore-runner

Antipast - a fore-taste

Antipredicaments - "
Things necessary to be known before hand, for the better understanding the Predicaments"

Antimony - once known as "a mineral Substance of a metalline Nature, consisting of a Sort of sulphurous and metallic Substance having all the seeming Characters of a real Metal, except Malleability, so that it is called Semi Metal"

Antip
ædobaptists - those against baptising children

Antipodes - was once "such Inhabitants of the Earth as live Feet to Feet, or diametrically opposite one to the other. Pope Gregory excommunicated all such as believed the Antipodes"

Antistrumatick - "
good against the King's Evil" (see Royal Touch)

Apparatus - "
the Fitness of the Instruments to perform certain Things with"

Areotectonicks - "
that Part of it which teaches to attack an Enemy safely, and fight advantageously"

Argentum - Quicksilver or Mercury

Arles …penny - "
Earnest Money given to Servants when they are first hired", was an 'earnest payment' which once paid would be a pledge to not strike a bargain with another

Arsy-Versy - "
Heels over Head", topsy turvy, without order

Art and Part - when someone both contrived and committed a crime

Atmosphere - "
is the lower Part of the Region of the Air or Æther, with which our Earth is encompassed all round, and up into which the Vapours are carried, either by Reflection from the Sun's Heat, or by being forced up by the subterraneous Fire"

Atom - "
is such a small Particle of Matter that cannot be physically cut or divided into any lesser Parts"

Averruncation - "
a lopping off the superfluous Branches of Trees"

Augmentum - "
a Computation from what Time the Heat of a continual Fever has seized upon the whole Mass of Blood, till it hath arrived at the Height"

Aurum - also called 'thundering gold' is "
a Powder of Gold, dissolved in Aqua Regalis, and is so called, because being put into a Spoon, and heated over a Fire, it makes a Noise like Thunder"

Authentical - "
that is of just or good Authority", or also original, and you also have Authenticalness meaning genuineness

Autoptically - with one's own eyes

Awhaped - amazed, astonished

Axinomancy - "Divination by Hatchets"

Bachileria - "
the Commonalty, as distinguished from Nobility"

Baculometry - "
the Art of measuring accessible or inaccessible Distances or Lines, by one or more Staves"

To Bake - "
As she has brew'd e'en so let her bake" is what a father would say to a daughter that has married to her misfortune and with out his consent

Balderdash - "
any thing mixed with Discretion", or a 'mingle-mangle'

Barbecue - "
a Hog dressed whole"

Barbigerous - "
having a Beard"

Bargain - to make a contract, and/or "
transferring the Property from Bargainer [seller] to Bargainee [buyer]"

Battology - "
a vain foolish Repetition of the same Words over and over again in the same Discourse, a vain babbling"

Beam - "
a Sea Monster like a Pike, a dreadful Enemy to Mankind, seizing like a Blood-hound , and never letting go, if he gets past hold. The Teeth of this Fish are so venomous, that unless and Antidote be presently applied, the least Touch of them is mortal"

Biovac/Bihovac - "
a Night-guard performed by the whole Army when there is any Apprehension of Danger", and "to raise the Biovac" was to return the Army to their Tents

Blandiloquence - "
fair and flattering Speech"

Blesiloquent - "
stammering in Speech"

Bombycinous - made of Silk

Bombilation - humming of Bees

Bona-roba - a whore

Bongrace - "
a Shelter which is worn on the Head to keep the Face from tanning"

Breviloquence - "
a short Way of speaking"

Cackle - "
to cry out as a Hen does when she has laid"

Cacophony - "
a bad Tone or Voice, proceeding from an ill Constitution of its Organs"

Carbunculation - "
the blasting of new sprouted Buds of Plants and Trees, either by excessive Heat, or excessive Cold"

Carcanet - "
a Chain for the Neck"

Carcasses - "
Iron-Cases about the Bigness of Bombs, filled with Granadoes, charged with Barrels of Pistolets wrapt in Tow dipped in Oil, and the other Materials for firing Houses, are shot out of Mortar-pieces into besieged Places"

Carcellage - "
Prison-Fees"

To Cark - to be anxiously careful

Carking - districting, perplexing

Carnalist - "
one given to Fleshliness" or "fleshly Lusts"

To Carouse - to quaff, "
to drink Hand to Fist"

To Carp - to blame, to censure, to find fault with

Cartesian - "
belonging to Cartesius, or one who follows the Opinions of Cartesius or Des Cartes"

Castrametation -"
the Art of encamping an Army"

Catacousticks - "
a Science treating the reflected Sounds, or which explains the Nature and Properties of Echoes"

Catagraph - "
the first Draught of a Picture"

Catastasis - "
is the third Part of a Comedy, and is the full Height and Vigour of the Plot"

Catastrophe - "
the last Part of a Comedy, and the unravelling of the Plot" or "the fatal Conclusion of any Action, or of a Man's Life"

Catoptricks - "
Part of the Science of Opticks, which teaches how Objects may be seen by Reflection, and explain the Reason of it"

Causidicks - "
Lawyers, or Pleaders of Causes"

Chum - "
a Chamber-fellow to a Student at the University"

Chump - "
a thick short Block or Log"

Chemistry - "
is the Anatomy of natural Bodies by Fire, or reducing them to their component Parts or Elements, by the Help of Fire"

Chymus - "
any Kind of Juice, that especially of Meat after the second Digestion, this mixing itself with the Blood, runs through the Veins, repairing the Waste of every Part"

Ciderist - "
one who has the Management of, or deals in Cider"

Circumaggeration - "
a heaping round about"

Circumlocution - "
an uttering in many Words that which might be said in few"

Circumplication - "
a folding, winding, or rolling"

Circumresistency - "
a round Resisting, or Resistance about"

Civilian - "
a Doctor, Professor, or Student in the Civil Law"

Collabefaction - "
a destroying, wasting, or decaying"

Collapsion - "
a falling together"

Collation - "
a handsome Treat or Entertainment"

Collectaneous - "
gathering out of several Things or Places"

Collectitious - "
gathering up and down"

Comediographer - "
a Writer of Comedies"



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still a lot to come…