Tudor Words GlossaryThis is a featured page



Glossary of Tudor Words & Terms


Methinks something on The Tudors is amiss!

Surely when they speak of "codpiece,"
They speaketh not of fish!
I'm sorely troubled by the words they speak,
And have trouble figuring it out each week!

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Chapuys
Welcome to the Tudors Word Glossary
where those pesky 16th century words are defined!
A-C
Term Definition
Act of Attainder In English legality, a person condemned for a serious crime such as treason could be declared "attainted", i.e. 'stained' by the court, thus depriving him/her of all civil rights such as owning property or willing it to his/her family. The property of the condemned was thus forfeit to the King as well as any titles and privileges, i.e. wardships, incomes, etc. Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Margaret Plantagenet Pole (Lady Salisbury), and Katherine Howard were attainted in addition to being sentenced to death.
Addendum: It goes even further in that it allows the accused to be "legally" declared guilty without trial or the need to present evidence.
Act of Succession (1534) Passed in 1534, the Act validated the marriage of Henry and Anne, declared their offspring heirs to the throne, and effectively excluded Mary from the succession. The Act was required to be sworn to by the taking of an Oath supporting the provisions of the Act including Henry's supremacy over the Church in England. It was the refusal to take this Oath that resulted in Thomas More, John Fisher, Priors John Houghton, Augustine Webster, and Robert Lawrence along with many monks of the Carthusian order to be accused of treason, convicted, and executed.
Almoner a church official whose duty it was to distribute charity (alms) Thomas Wolsey had once been Henry VIII's almoner, that is, he oversaw the distribution of alms on his behalf.
Amiss wrong, strange, incorrect
Anon at once, immediately, straight away
Apothecary An Apothecary dispensed medicines derived from herbs, plants and roots. The apothecary was a less expensive alternative to a physician in Tudor times and was often the only source of medical care for the poor; he was usually a priest or friar.
Arras A tapestry wall hanging


Bard a poet or singer. A term of contempt among the Scots, who considered them to be itinerant troublemakers, but a term of great respect among the Welsh.
Bawdes pimps
Betroth to promise to wed. A phonetic variation of "by truth". See also "troth" and "plight"
Bible God's Holy Word
Bodkin a dagger; also a long pin or needle-shaped instrument for fastening clothing or pinning up hair.
Boggard, latrine, garderobe a privy
Bonaire cheerful and pleasant; it was a part of a wife's vows to promise to be "bonaire and buxom in bed and at board"
Bord dinner table
Boss a fat woman
Botcher a mender of old clothes
Buxom obedient, lively, yielding


Cake loaf of bread
Carl a fellow
Carpet-Knight a contemptuous term for a knight whose achievements belong to the carpet of a lady's boudoir rather than the field of battle
Changeling a half-witted person. Also, in European folklore, a faery or troll child that is left in the place of a human child taken. At first, the changeling looks just like the taken child, but gradually, its true (nonhuman) nature becomes apparent.
Chapman a merchant
Clenchpoop a contemptuous term for a lout or clown
Close Stool a cabinet with a seat and cover that held a chamber pot. A gentleman of the privy chamber attended the king when he answered the call of nature on his close stool.
Closet As in The King's Closet, or The Queen's Closet - a small room used as a private chapel or prayer-room. Henry VIII married Jane Seymour in The Queen's Closet at Whitehall Palace.
Cloth of estate a canopy made of cloth that hung above and behind a person of importance or nobility and royalty.
Cockshut time twilight
Cod a bag
Cod's-head a stupid fellow, a block head
Codpiece an inverted triangular piece of material sewn into the hose around a man's groin and held closed by string ties. Later it would become padded and boned and over sized and used to carry a small weapon or jewels. (hence the term "family jewels").
Consubstantiation Consubstantiation is the (usually Protestant) belief that the bread and wine of Communion are spiritually the body and blood of Christ, yet are still literally only bread and wine. Contrast this with Transubstantiation.
Cornet long piece of black material which hung down the back from a headdress/hood.
Court holy-water a proverbial phrase for flattery in fine words without deeds
Coxcomb a fool's cap








D-G

Term Definition
Daffysh foolish
Dagonet a foolish young knight
Dalliance a flirtation
Dame mother
Derrick a hangman
Diego common name for a Spaniard
Dispensation An exemption granted from a rule or obligation. In the case of Katharine of Aragon and Henry the exemption from the Biblical prohibition on marriage between a brother-in-law and a sister- in-law was granted by Pope Julius II.
Doublet a tight-fitting jacket
Doxy a vagabond's mistress
Duckies breasts; Henry in one of his letters to Anne Boleyn refers to her "pretty duckies"
Dutch Widow a prostitute




Farthingale a hoop worn beneath the skirt. Also referred to as Verdingales.
Favors Ladies of court sometimes gave knights "favors," usually a scarf or a ribbon, during jousting. It demonstrated that the lady's luck, or favor, was with him.
Fealty fidelity, loyalty, and faithfulness
Fingle-fangle a trifle
Flat cap a London citizen
Foolscap a type of paper, originally watermarked by a jester's cap
Fopdoodle a simpleton
Forepart: that piece of the underskirt that is revealed through the inverted V opening in the front of the Kirtle.


Galliard quick and lively, also the name of a dance done in triple time
Gay bright
Gentil, or gentle Noble, refined. Now often "genteel"
Girdle belt
Good fellow a thief
Goodly gladly
Gorebelly fat paunch



H-L

Term Definition
Hap chance or fortune. By chance (mayhap), by good fortune (hap'ly, now 'happily')
Harlot rascal, buffoon, jester; servant. Related to the word varlet.
Another term for a woman who was unfaithful or had slept with men other than her husband.
Hench boy a page
Hochepot a mixture, referring originally to a soup or stew. This is where we get the modern term "hodgepodge"
Hose clothing for the legs and loins
Humours It was believed that the body was governed by 4 bodily fluids, or humours: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Blood-letting was an attempt to cure a patient by balancing the humours. The word "melancholy" is actually from the Greek for "black bile". Anger-causing bile was believed to be produced in the spleen, thus yelling at someone is referred to as "venting your spleen".


Impertinent Irrelevant. The sense of irreverent, or rudely bold, isn't seen until 1681.
Incubus An incubus is a male evil spirit that copulates with women in their sleep. See also succubus. Modern theories for the origins of this belief often cite a medieval "preoccupation" with sin (and sex) and the need the "explain" sexual dreams or nocturnal emissions.
Indulgences a remittance of time in purgatory for imperfect contrition of venial ( less serious) sins in Roman Catholic doctrine. This could be accomplished by prayers to God for the soul of a deceased person, or Masses or good works offered on behalf of the soul of a deceased person, one of the reasons that people left bequests to abbeys or churches for prayers or masses for their souls.
Some clergy sold indulgences abusing the spirit of the doctrine by promising to remit punishment in purgatory for a fee; they were arrogating to themselves the power to remit punishment that was only God's. It was these abuses among others that Luther was protesting in his Ninety - Five Theses.
Infanta(fem.)
Infante (masc.)
Spanish word for for the child of a monarch. Princess/prince; Katharine of Aragon was an Infanta of Aragon and Castile
Ire anger, irritability, the deadly sin of wrath


Jangler chatterer, loud talker, teller of dirty stories
Jangles gossip
Jape to jest or joke
Jerkin a jacket worn over the doublet
Jigmaker a ballad writer
Jobbernowl a jocular term for the head, usually connoting stupidity
Jointure an arrangement usually concluded during marriage negotiations whereby a man set aside property to be used for the support of his wife after his death. Many women had to fight for their jointures after the deaths of their husbands. Mary Howard was said to hold a grudge against her father, the Duke of Norfolk, for failing to defend her jointure with the King after the death of her husband, Henry's natural son, Henry Fitzroy.




Joust one to one combat
Jousting A Medieval/Renaissance amusement where two men on horseback charge at each other with lances. For each hit, a point is awarded, and if a player was unseated, his opponent won the game.


Kill-cow a butcher, a murderous fellow, a great fighter
Kim-kam crooked, perverse
Kirtle consisted of a bodice and skirt sewn together and fell in ample folds which trailed on the ground.
Knacker a harness maker


Leche, or leech physician, healer
List to please, wish, or desire; to want (see Thomas Wyatt Poetry page -" who list to hunt") from the sense of list = tilting or leaning toward
Luxury lechery




M-Q

Term Definition
Maidenhead virginity
Mayhap maybe, perhaps
Mead An alcoholic drink made from fermented honey
Methinks Another way to say "I think."
Mummery a performance of Mummers (masked or costumed merrymakers/actors)


New Learning, the Humanism; the study of the ancient writers on every aspect of life spread throughout Europe by the invention of the printing press making such studies available to more of the population. Both Queen Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn were patrons of the New Learning.


Oratory a chapel


Papal Bull a decree from the Pope
Paramour mistress, concubine
Partlet a high necked chemise
Privy Chamber Private apartment
Physick/phisik a medicine, especially a purgative
Plight pledge or promise. This meaning is now used only in the archaic "I plight thee my troth." ('I pledge you my vow' or 'I give you my promise')
Poke bag, sack ( "pig in a poke")
Poppet a little doll; this is also where we get the word "puppet"
Potage soup
Praemunire In England a charge of appealing to a foreign power, e.g. the Pope for matters in England that were under the King's jurisdiction. Henry used the charge and the threat of this charge to abrogate the English clergy's loyalty to the Pope after he asserted his supremacy over the Church of England.
Precontract a previous contract, esp. one which bars the making of another, as, formerly, a betrothal, which in the Tudor era was as binding as marriage.
to bind by a previous contract. Henry tried to raise this issue to rid himself of Anne Boleyn, (Henry Percy), Anne of Cleves (the Duke of Lorraine), and Katherine Howard (Francis Dereham). It was never a successful strategy for him.
Private Not open to the public. Both Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were granted "private" executions inside the walls of the Tower of London complex. There were still, from various estimates, between several hundred to several thousand witnesses to their deaths, but common people and foreigners (like ambassadors) were kept out.
Privy/privee in private, discreet, secretive
Purgatory In Roman Catholic doctrine, a place of temporary punishment (as distinct from hell) where less serious (venial) unconfessed sins or imperfect contrition (being sorry not for the offense, but for fear of punishment) are expiated and the soul purified before entering heaven


Qualm Meant "plague", from the original sense of death and destruction. Meaning had softened to "feeling of faintness" by 1530, and "unease or doubt" by 1553. "Scruple of conscience" doesn't show up until 1649.
Quit free
Quoth said











R-Z

Term Definition
Reformation An attempt begun by Martin Luther in 1517 to reform the abuses that were rife within the Roman Catholic Church and ending in separation of several reform groups from the Catholic Church; the basis of Protestantism.
Revelry delight, pleasure
Ribaldry coarse jesting
Rood crucifix; often people would take an oath 'by the rood'.


Sad Serious or sober
Salic Law a law originating with the Salian Franks that excluded females from ruling a kingdom in their own right, among other rules affecting female inheritance. Oddly enough, England did not have that law, but the English people were distrustful of queens regnant, thus Henry's desperate quest for a male heir. In Spain, Salic law applied in Ferdinand's Aragon, but in Isabella's Castile, women could, as she did, rule in their own right.
Sanguine in health: too much blood, in personality: ardent or hopeful
Secret Henry VIII was said to have married several of his wives "secretly". This simply meant it wasn't announced to the public ahead of time, not that they were being sneaky or deceptive.
Silly weak or deserving of pity
Simony the sale of Church positions
Sire father
Sobre, or sober serious, grave
Sojourn remain
Sooth/ soothly truth, truly
Sorely very
Strange Back in Tudor times, it meant "not the usual" rather than "odd". When Queen Jane first became ill after Edward's birth, she had chills from her fever and severe gastrointestinal distress. Her ladies were accused of "letting her take cold and letting her eat strange foods", by which they meant letting Jane eat rich foods that were not her usual fare.
Succubus A succubus is a female evil spirit that copulates with men in their sleep. See also incubus. Modern theories for the origins of this belief often cite a medieval "preoccupation" with sin (and sex) and a need to "explain" sexual dreams or nocturnal emissions.
Sumptuary Laws Laws which governed what each class could or could not wear and only persons of a certain rank could wear velvet or silk. Sumptuary laws are defined as "Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc." These laws dictated what color and type of clothing, furs, fabrics, and trims were allowed to persons of various ranks or incomes. In the case of clothing this was intended, amongst other reasons, to reduce spending on foreign textiles and to ensure that people did not dress "above their station".
Sweating sickness a virulent disease characterized by alternating bouts of cold chills and fever accompanied by excessive sweating and often resulting in death. The Sweat occurred in several epidemics between 1485 and 1551. Henry's older brother Arthur may have died of The Sweat. Henry lived in terror of it and fled the city whenever The Sweat emerged. Anne and George Boleyn became ill with it but survived. Anne's sister Mary's husband, William Carey did not
Swive A Tudor-era slang term meaning to have sexual intercourse, and is related to the word "swivel", unsurprisingly.


Te Deum To you O God (Latin) - sung in church
Tempest storm
Thou You
Tilting see "jousting"
Tiltyard Area where jousting took place.
Transubstantiation Transubstantiation is the (usually Catholic) belief that the bread and wine of Communion become literally as well as spiritually the body and blood of Christ. Contrast this with Consubstantiation.
Trencher a plate or bowl made of hard, stale bread
Troth A phonetic variant of "truth", it's a promise, pledge, or vow.


Usury Money lending with exorbitant, often illegally high rates of interest tacked on.


Varlet Servant or attendant to a knight (related to the word 'vassal'). Meant rascal or rogue by 1550.
Vassal a young man-servant, or squire, from 1300s sense of "a tenant who swears fealty to a lord."


Wardship care and protection of a ward ; the right to the custody of an infant heir of a feudal tenant and of the heir's property. Wardships were valuable prizes bestowed by the king, upon deserving courtiers, e.g. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, the boon companion of Henry VIII was granted the wardship of Catherine Willoughby, the daughter of Katharine of Aragon's Spanish lady in waiting, Maria de Salinas. Suffolk married Catherine Willoughby after the death of his wife, Mary, sister of Henry VIII. Margaret Giggs Clement was the ward of Thomas More who raised her with his children.
Wench girl or maid, female servant
Whelp dog or a pup


Yeoman free born servant



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princess212
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