Old Jargon, Slang, and Cant

last update: 17 May 2020

This is a special section devoted to old
Jargon, Slang, and Cant.

Jargon is about terminology associated with a special field or area of activity, and as someone once wrote "Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a true profession".

Slang is a vocabulary that in many ways is part of the identity of a group, and as the American poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) once wrote "Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work".

Cant is a kind of jargon that is used as a kind of 'secret language' designed to exclude or mislead people who are outside the group.

Argot is originally a French word that would be translated as slang, but in many ways it's similar to cant, since it's designed to exclude 'outsiders' from a conversation.

Slang can range from the rhyming slang of the East End of London, to Lunfardo, the argot of Buenos Aires, to Cantonese internet slang, and to the Lavender linguistics of LGBT community.

The core text I've used is the 21st edition of the "Universal Etymological English Dictionary" of N. Bailey, published in London in 1675.

The focus on this webpage is more on the collection of old
jargon. None of the below sections are designed to be complete or exhaustive, but they collect words that attracted my attention.

I have explicitly avoided some topics such as legal, medical and religious words, as well as specialist terms linked to astronomy and geometry, etc. But I have tried to collect words linked to physics, chemistry, measurements, architecture, …, as well as military, monetary and trade terminology. Also my focus is on words that either no longer exist, or have evolved in their spelling and/of definition. So I have not listed words that existed in 1675 and have remained unchanged until today.

In addition I've tried to both describe the original words in their modern context and provide some examples, etc.


Abacus - a "Four-square Table at the Top of a Pillar, the Crowning"


It's a flat slab that sits on top of the capital of a column, above the bell, and provides a larger support area.

- "the Spaces between the Stones to put the Mortar in as they are laying"
Abreuvoir is a public drinking fountain (and originally a watering hole for animals), but also an obsolete term for the joint or interstice between stones, to be filled with mortar.

or Apsis - "the bowing of arched Roof of an Oven, Room, House,…"

Apse 1 Apse 2

Apsis is an alternative spelling for an apse, a semi-dome typically found in church architecture.

or Acroteres - "sharp Pinnacles and spiry Battements, which stand in Ranges about flat Buildings, with Rails and Balustets, also Pedistals on the Corner and Middle of Pediments, to support Statues"

acroterion 1 acroterion 3
acroterion 2

Acroterion is an architectural ornament placed on a flat plinth at the apex and corner of the pediment of a building (i.e. the triangular shaped gable).

Alcoranes - "high slender Turrets, generally built by Mahometans near their Mosques and Churches"

Alcove - "a particular Place in a Chamber, separated by the Partition made with Pillars, Rails, etc., within which is set a Bed of State, and sometimes Seats, frequent in Noblemens Houses in Spain"

Ancones - "are the Corners or Coins of Walls, Cross-beams or Rafters"

- "square Pilasters which the Ancients placed at the Corners of their Temples"

- "the garnishing of Posts and Pillars"

- "a Master-builder, a Surveyor of the Building"

- "the Art or Science of Building, Carpentry, Masonry"

- "a Mathematical Science, giving Rules for designing and raising all Sorts of Structures, according to Geometry and Proportion"

- "is the Mounding next above the Capital of a Column, also the principle Beam in a Building"

- "Images of Men bearing Pillars, or supporting the Pile of a Building"

Bacule (or Bascule) - "is a kind of Port-cullis or Gate, made like a Pit-fall"

Balcony - "a frame before the Window of an House"

Baldachin - "is a Building in form of a Canopy or Crown, supported by Pillars for the Covering of an Altar"

Ballister (Balluster) - "the lateral Part of side Part of a Scroll in the Capital of the Ionick Column, a little Pillar or Rail, such as are on the Outside of Cloisters or Galleries"

Ballon - "a round Globe or Top of a Pillar"

Ballustrade - "a Row of Ballusters"

Band - "one the Divisions of the Architrave"

Bandelet - "an Ornament encompassing a Pillar quite round about like a Ring"

Banquette - "a small Foot-place in Form of a Step, at the Bottom of a Parapet"

Barbacan - a Watch-Tower

Barge Couples - "a Beam or Piece of Wood mortised into another, to strengthen the Building"

Barge Course - "Part fo the Tiling of a house that projects over the principal Rafters, where there is either a Gable or a Gerkin Head"

Chemistry (including some medical words)

Ablution - "the Preparation of a Medicine in any Liquor, to cleanse it from its Dregs and Impurities"
Abrig or Abrick - Sulphur
Achamech - "the Dross of Silver"
Acid or Fixed Spirit - "is a Spirit mixed with acid Salts to check its volatile Quality, as Spirits of Salt, Allum, Vitriol, Sulphur, …"
Acidulæ - "any medicinal Waters that are not hot"
Acrimony - "sharpness, eagerness, Tartness, a Quality in Bodies, by which they corrode, destroy, or dissolve others"
Active Principles - "are Spirit, Oil and Salt, because their Parts being briskly in Motion, do cause Action in other Bodies"
Adeptists or Adepts - "the Sons of Art, Alchymists, who have gained the Secret of Transmutation of Metals, are said to have found the Grand Elixir, commonly called the Philosophers Stone. Of which there are said to be twelve always in being, another being taken in when one dies"
Adorat - "a Chymical Weight of four Pounds"
ÆS - Brass or Copper
Æthiops Mineral - "a Medicine made by incorporating equal Parts of running Mercury with Flour of Brimstone, and deflagrating them in a Crucible"
Albification - "whitening of Liquor or Metal"
Alchymy - (from the Arab-Greek 'to melt') - "the sublimer Part of Chymistry, which teaches the Transmutation of Metals, and the making the Philosophers Stone, according to their Cant"
Alcohol or Alcoho - "the pure Substance of any Thing separated from the more gross, a very one and impalpable Powder, or a very pure well rectified Spirit"
Alcoholization - "a reducing Bodies to a fine and impalpable Powder, also a freeing of Spirits from Phlegm and waters Parts"
Algaret - "a strong emetic and cathartick Powder, made of Butter of Antimony"
Alkahest - "an universal Menstruum, which is capable to resolve or reduce all manner of Bodies into a Liquor of its own Substance, Mercury prepared"
Alkali - "a fixed Salt, extracted from the Ashes of calcinated Herbs or Minerals, by means of a boiling Lixivium, likewise and earthy Matter that ferments or works with Acids, is called Alkali"
Alkalizate Bodies - "are such as have their Pores naturally to formed, that they are fit to be pierced and put in Motion by the Points of the Acid poured on them"
Alkalizate Spirit of Wine - "is a pure and rich Spirit, which will burn all away, and even fire Gun-powder"
Alhalization - "a turning into an Alkali, as when Spirit of Wine is impregnated with some Alkali, to heighten its dissolving Quality"
Alloy or Allay - "a certain Quantity of a baser Metal mixed with a finer, to make a due Temper. Silver-Smiths have several different Sorts of Alloys, according to their different Works"
Alman or Almond Furnace - "a Furnace used by Refiners, and called a Sweep, for separating all Sorts of Metals from Cinder"
Alteratives - "are such Medicines as have no immediate sensible Operation, but gain upon the Constitution by changing the Humours from a State of Distemperature to a State of Health"
Aludel - "are Pots or Glasses without Bottoms, set on the Top one another, for the subliming any Matter in a Chymical Furnace"
Alumen Saccharinum - "a Mixture of Rock Allum, Rose-water, and the White of an Egg"
Amalgamate - "to mix Silver with Gold or some other Metal, so as to reduce it into a Kind of Paste, or very fine Powder"
Amalgamation - "the Corrosion of Metals by Mercury"
Amalgam - "any Metal amalgamated or reduced to a Powder or Paste"
Amiantus - "a kind of Stone like Allum, cozy like Wool, which being cast into the fire, will not burn or consume, called Earth-flax or Salamander's Hair"
Amouses - "counterfeit Gems or precious Stones"
Analalyze Bodies - "is to dissolve them in Fire, in order to find out the several Parts of which they are composed"
Anemius Furnus - "a Wind Furnace used to make strong Fires for melting Metals, etc."
Anima Hepatis - "Salt of Steel, esteemed as the Soul of the Liver, for its Efficacy against it Distempers"
Animated Mercury - "Quicksilver, which being impregnated with some subtle and spirituous Particles, is made capable of growing hot, when mingled with Gold"
Anonymous Spirit - "a sort of Spirit that may be separated from Tar, and several sorts of Wood"
Antiepileptick Elixir - "the Spirit of a human Head, mixed with an equal Quantity of Spirit of Wine, in which Opium has been dissolved"
Antichecticum Poterii - "a Medicine prepared of a Mixture of Tin with the Martial Regulus of Antimony, and fixed with Salt-petre"
Antimony - "a mineral Substance of a metalline Nature, consisting of a Sort of sulphureous and metallic Substance having all the seeming Characters of a real Metal, except Malleability, so that it is called Semi Metal"
Aqua Onnium Florum - "the distilled Water of Cow dung, when the Cows go to grass"
Aqua Fortis - "a Liquor made of a Mixture of equal Quantities of Salt-Peter, Vitriol, and Potters Earth, distilled in a close reverberating Furnace"
Aqua Regalis - "a Liquor made by the Dissolution of Sal Armoniac in the Spirit of Nitre"
Aqua Secunda - "a Liquor made of Water and the Precipitate of Silver"
Arbor Diana - "a particular Chrystallisation from the Solution of Mercury in Acids"
Arbor Hermetis (Tree of Hermes) - "a Process of the Revivification of Mercury"
Arcanum - "a Name given to Particular Chymical Preparations, at first let secret by their Authors"
Arcanum - "the red Precipitate of Mercury or Quicksilver, on which well rectified Spirit of Wine has been six times burnt"
Arcanum Duplum - "a Sort of Salt, made by washing the gross Matter which remains after Distillation of double Aqua Fortis, with warm Water"
Arcanum Jovis - "is an Amalgam, made of equal Quantities of Tin and Quicksilver pulverised and digested with Spirit of Nitre, etc."
Archeus - "the highest and most exalted Spirit that can be separated from mixed Bodies"
Ardent Spirits - "distilled Spirits, which will take Fire and burn, as Spirit of Wine, etc."
Athanor - "a large digesting Furnace, made with a tower, and so contrived as to keep a constant Heat for a long Time"
Athenatorium - "a thick Glass Cover, fixed to the Cucurbite on some Kind of Sublimations"
Avolation - "a flying away, an evaporating"
Auriferous - "bearing or producing Gold"
Aurum Fulminans - "thundering Gold, or Saffron of Gold, a Power made of Gold, dissolved in Aqua Regalis, and so called, because being put into a Spoon, and heated over a Fire, it makes a noise like thunder"
Aurum Potabile - "drinkable Gold, Gold made liquid, so as to be drinkable, or rather a rich Cordial Liquor with pieces of Leaf Gold in it"
Azoth - "the Mercury of any Metallick Body, an universal Medicine"
Bachilli - "Medicines, which are of a round Figure, like a Stick, etc."
Balloon - "a large Receiver or Vessel, to receive what is distilled or drawn off by the Fire"
Baneum Vaporis (Balneum Vaporoium) - "when a Vessel is set in another, half full of Water, and is heated from Vapours that arise from hot boiling Water"
Balsam of Saturn - "a Solution of Saccharum Saturni, with Spirit or Oil of Turpentine, digested till the Matter had gained a red Tincture"
Balsam of Sulphur - "the Oily Parts of Sulphur, dissolved in Oil of Turpentine"

Clothes, etc.

Accoutrement - "Attire, Dress, Garb, Furniture"
Afforciaius - "a thin Cloth used for Caps"
A-la-Mode - meant and still means "after the Fashion", but Alamode meant "a fine even and glossy Silk, mostly of black Colour, used to make Women's Hoods"
Apparel - "Cloathing, Habit, Raiment"
Ballocks - "the Cods of a Man or Beast"

Crime and Violence

Abactors are those who "steal or drive away Cattle in great Numbers, or whole Herds", and Abacted is to be "drawn away by Stealth or Violence", and there is also Abigevus "a Thief who has stolen Cattle"
Abere-Murder - "Plain downright Murder"
Abetment - "the Act of abetting, encouraging, or setting on to commit any Crime", naturally an Abetter or Abettor was "one that advises, eggs on, or assists…, except Murder, Treason, in which Case the Law deems every Person as Principal", also Abettors were people who "without Cause procure others to sue out false Appeals of Murder or Felony against Persons, in order to render them infamous", these words come from To Abet, which was originally Saxon for "to kindle or blow us, as Fire"
Affray - "Terror caused in the Subject, by making only an unlawful Shew of Violence"
Affright - "to put into a Fright, or Fear"

Hunting and Food

Abatures - "Foiling the Sprigs or Grass that a Stag throws down in passing by"
Advancer - "is one of the Starts or Branches of a Buck's Attire, between the Back-antler and Palm"
Allay a Pheasant - "to cut or carve it at Table"
Attiring - "the branching Horns of a Buck"
Avauncers - "the second Branch of a Hart's Horn"
Bacciferous - "plants such Herbs, Shrubs, etc. as bear Berries"
Baccivorous - "animals, living creatures which feed upon Berries"
Bacon - "Hog's Flesh salted and dried" (possible from 'bake' because it was dried by smoke, or from 'Becan' the Saxon name for the Beech tree because hogs were fattened with the Mast of Beech)
Baco - "a fat Hog, or Bacon Hog"
Bara-Picklet - "Cakes made of fine Flower kneaded with Yest"
Barbecue - "a Hog dressed whole"


(a few interesting words)
Abater - "one that abateth, or intrudeth into Houses or Lands void by the Death of the former Possessor, and not yet taken up by his Heir"
Abisherising - "a Forfeit, Amerciament, or being free from Amerciaments, Forfeitures, or Fines, for any Transgression"
Abjure - "to quit an Opinion, to forswear the Realm for ever, rather than come to a legal Trial"
Absolute Estate - "is one free of all manner of Incumbrances and Conditions"
Achat - generally "a Bargain or Purchase", but in the Law "a Bargain or Contract"
Back-bear - "bearing upon the Back, it is used as a Circumstance of manifest Theft, and is one of the four Cases, wherein a Forester may arrest an Offender against Vert or Venison, when he is found bearing it on his Back"
Bailiff - "an Officer that belongs to a Manour to order Husbandry, hath authority to gather the Profits for the Lord's Use, pay Quit-Rents issuing out of the Manour, sell Trees, dispose of the Under Servants, etc."
Bailiff Errant - "is an Officer appointed by the Sheriffs to go about the Country to serve Writs, to summon County Sessions, Assize, etc."
Bailiwick - "was the whole district within which the Trust of a Bailiwick was to be executed. And thence a whole County was formerly so called, in respect of the Sheriff, a whole Barony, in respect of the Lord Baron, a Hundred, in respect of the Chief Constable, a Manour, in respect of the Steward, etc."
Bairman - "a poor insolvent Debtor, left bare and naked, who was obliged to swear in Court that he was not worth more than five Shillings and five Pence"
Ballotation (Balloting) - "a Manner of choosing Officers by Balls of different Colours"
Bancus - "a Bench, Table, or Stall, on which Good are exposed for Sale, also a Place of Judicature, a Tribunal"
Bank - "the Bench or Seat of Judgement"
Bankrupt - "one who by the Laws of the Land us obliged by his Creditors to yield up his Goods, Chattles, Estate and Debts, etc. for their Use, till they are discharged of their respective Debts as far as the said Estate, etc. will allow, also a trader that breaks and steps aside with Design to defraud his Creditors"
Bann - "a publik Proclamation, by which any thing is commanded or forbidden"
Banns (Banes) - "the Publication of Marriage-Contracts in the Church"
Bar - "
a Place where Lawyers stand to plead Causes in Courts of Judicature, or a Place where Criminals stand to be tried"
Bar-Fee - "
a Fee of twenty Pence, which Prisoners acquitted of Felony paid to the Gaoler"

Mathematics (excluding Geometry)

Absolute Number - "is that which pssesseth one entire Part or Side of the Equation, and is always a known Quantity"
Abstract Number - "are such as are considered as pure Numbers, without being applied to any Subject"
Abundant Numbers - "are those whose Parts added together make more than the whole Number"
Accommodate - "to fit a Line or Figure into a Circle"
Algebra - "the Name of its supposed Inventor" and "a peculiar 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, such as Numeration, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division"
Aliquant Parts - "are such Parts as are not contained in the Number so many Times, but that some remainder will be left"
Amiable Numbers - "such as are mutually equal to the whole Sum of one another's aliquot Parts, as these two Numbers 283 and 220"
Analogy - "the Comparison of several Ratios of Quantities or numbers one to another"
Analyticks - "Algerbra, so called, as being nothing else but a general Analysis of pure Mathematicks"
Antecedent of a Reason - "is that Term or Quantity which the Mind considers first in comparing it with another, or the first Term of Comparison in a Proportion"
Apotome - "is an irrational Remainder or Residual, when from a Rational Line a Part is cut off, which is only commensurable in Power to the whole Line"
Arithmetick - "a Science which teaches the Art of Acompting, and all the Powers and Properties of Numbers"


Acre - means "a Measure of Land containing forty Perches in Length, and four in Width". In Wikipedia acre was a field or quality of land which a yoke of (two) oxen could plow (plough) in a day
Ad Pondus Ominim - "signifies that the last prescribed Medicine ought to weigh as much as all the Medicines mentioned before"
Amphora - "an ancient Measure of liquid Things, containing 8 Gallons of Oil, 72 Pounds of Wine, 80 Pounds of honey, or 180 Pounds"
Apomecometry - "the measuring of Things at a Distance"
Auln of Rhenish Wine - "a Vessel that contains forty Gallons"
Auncel Weight - "a kind of ancient Instrument with Hooks fastened to each End of a Beam, which being raised upon the Fore-finger, shewed the difference between the Weight and the Thing weighed"
Avoir-du-Pois - "a Weight of 16 Ounces in the Pound, by which all Things which have a Resuse or Waste, are weighed"
Awn of Wine - "360 Pounds"
Awnsel-Weight - "a poising of a Joint of Meat, etc. in the Hand only, without putting it into the Scales"
Azimuth-Compass - "an Instrument used to take the Sun's Amplitude or Azimuth. To find the Variation of the Compass"
Baculometry - "the Art of measuring accessible or inaccessible Distances or Lines, by one or more Staves"
Bag - "a Sack or Pouch, and sometimes signifies a Quantity"
Bahar - "at Mocha in the East Indies 386 lb. Averdupois, at Molucca the lesser Bahar is 625 lb, and the greater 6250 lb Weight Avoirdupois, by which Spice is sold"
Ball and Socket - "a Device made of Brass, to hold any Mathematical Instrument on a Staff as Quadrant, Telescope, etc."
Bancal - "an East Indian Weight, containing 16-9/10ths Drams Avoirdupois"


Acinaces - "a kind of Curtelass, or Scimetar, used among the Persians"
Acme - "the point of a Weapon"
Actilia - Military Utensils
Advance Guard or Vanguard - "the first Division or Line of an Army, ranged or marching in Battle Array. Sometimes a small Party of Horse, as fifteen or twenty, commanded by a Leiutenant, beyond and in fight of the main Guard"
Afforciament - "a Fort, Fortress, or Strong Hold"
Affray - "a Fray, Flight, or Skirmish"
Agnail - "belonging to a Troop"
Agonism - "a Combat or Trial of Skill"
Alæ - "the Wings of an Army"
Alarm or Alarum - "a Signal given to take Arms upon the sudden Arrival of an Enemy"
Alarum - "the Ground appointed to each Regiment by the Quartermaster-General for them to march to in case of an alarm from the Enemy"
Allocution - "a Speech of a General to his Soldiers, animating them to flight, or to avoid Sedition"
Almain Rivets - "a certain light Kind of Armour, with Plates of Iron, for the Defence of the Arms, used by Germans"
Ammunition Bread - "Bread provided for, and given to the Soldiers"
Angel Shot - "a Cannon bullet cut in two, and having the Halves linked together with a Chain"
Anlace - "a Falchion or Sword, shap'd like a Seythe"
Antecursor - "a Fore-runner, a Scout"
Antestature - "a Travese, a small Intrenchment made of Pallisadoes, or of Sacks fill with Earth"
Arblaster - "a Cross-bow"
Archistrategus - "a Chief and leader of the Army"
Arcitenent - "Bow-bearing, carrying a Bow"
Aerotectonicks - "that Part which teaches to attack an Enemy safely, and fight advantageously"
Arma Molata - "sharp Weapons that cut, not such as bruise"
Armature - "Armour, also Skill in Arms"
Arminger - "a Tittle of Dignity, one that bears Arms to a Knight, an Esquire, a Squire of the Body"
Armiferous - "bearing Arms or Weapons"
Armipotent - "powerful in Arms"
Armorer - "a Maker and Seller of Armour"
Arquebuse or Arquebuss - "a large Hand Gun, somewhat bigger than a Musket"
Arquebusier - "a Soldier that bears an Arquebuse"
Arraiatio Peditum - "the arraying of Foot Soldiers"
Array - "to draw up and dispose an Army in Order of Battle"
Arrayers - "Commissioners of Array, certain Officers, whose Business was to take Care of the Soldiers Around, and to see them duly accoutred"
Attack of a Siege - "the Works which are carried on by the Besiegers, in order to their becoming Masters of the Place by storming on of its Sides"
Attack - "is an Effort to the same End, but managed with less Resolution, being intended only to give a Diversion to the Besieged, and so to divided the Garrison"
Avant-Foss - "a Moat or Ditch, encompassing the Countersearp on the Outside"
Avant-Mure - "an Outward Wall"
Avant-Ward - "the Avant-guard, or Front of the Army"
Baggage - "Furniture and Necessaries of Soldiers, Provisions for a Army, also a Camp Whore, a Soldier's Trull, a Punk"
Ban - "a Proclamation made at the Head of a Body of Troops, by the Sound of Trumpet or Beat of Drum, for the observing of Martial Discipline" (from the French 'ban' when the Crown of France summoned all land owners to serve the King in war)
Band - "a Company of Foot Soldiers"
Trained Bands - "Regiments made up of the Inhabitants of a City, and trained up to Arms"
Bandoleers - "little wooden Cases covered with Leather, each of them containing a Charge of Powder for a Musket, of which every Musketeer usually wore twelve, hanging on a Shoulder-belt or Collar"
Band-Rol - "a little Flag or Streamer, also the fringed Silk-Flag that hangs on a Trumpet"
A Banner - "a Standard or Ensign"
Banneret - "anciently a Knight made in the Field, with a Ceremony of cutting off the Point of his Standard, and making it as it were a Banner"
Barbe - "whence to discharge a Cannon over a Brest-work, instead of putting it thro' the Loop-holes, is to fire en Barbe"
Barbs - "a Sort of Armour for Horse, formerly in use"


Acatery - "a sort of Cheque between the Clerks of the King's Kitchen and the Purveyor"
Acknowledgement Money - "Money paid by some Tenants at the Death of their Landlord, as their Acknowledgement of and to their new one"
Acquietare - "to pay the Debts of a Person deceased, as the Heir those of his Father, …"
Acquittance - "a Release or Discharge in Writing of a Debt, or any other Duty formerly due"
Adarcon - "a Jewish Gold Coin, worth fifteen Shillings Sterling"
Alligation - "is a Rule by which such Questions are resolved as relate to the mixing diverse Merchandizes, Metals, Simples, Drugs, etc., of unequal Prices, so as to find how much of each must be taken, according to the Question"
Alloy - "is eighteen Penny-Weights of Copper to eleven Ounces two Penny-Weights of pure Silver, which makes twelve Ounces, or one Pound Troy of current Coin"
Amient - "a Roman Gold Coin, in Value 17s. 1d. 1qr. "
Ana - "an East Indian Coin, worth 1s. 11/15th of 1d. Sterling"
Anatocism - "the annual Increase or Interest of Money, simple or compound"
Angel - "a Gold Coin worth about 10s."
Antichresis - "a Mortgage or Pawn left for the Use of the Creditor till the Debt is paid"
Argent - "Silver or Coin"
Argentum Visum - "Quicksilver or Mercury"
Arsura - "the Trial of Money by Fire, after the Coining of it"
AS - "the Roman Pound Weight, containing 12 Ounces, also one of their square Measures, containing two English Rods of nineteen Poles, also on of their Coins, worth three Farthings of our Money"
Asar - "a Gold Coin at Ormus in the Persian Gulph, worth 6s. 8d. Sterling"
Asper - "a Turkish Coin, in Value about three Farthings"
Assay (Gold or Silver) - "is to melt a small Part of an Ingot or Bullion in a very strong Fire, having first weighed it with great Exactness before it was put into the Coppel, and also after it is poured out, and is accordingly said to be more or less fine as it loses more of less in Weight in the Assaying"
Available - "that may avail, be profitable, or turn to a good Account"
Aver - "Wealth, also Bribery"
Bargain and Sale - "a Contract made of Manors, Lands, Tenements, etc., transferring the Property thereof from the Bargainer to the Bargainee"


Absolute gravity - "is the Property in bodies by which they are said to weigh so much, without and regard to an Circumstances of Modification, and is always as the Quantity of Matter therein contained"
Absolute Space - "is that which, considered in its own Nature, without regard to any outward Thing, always continues the same, and is immovable"
Actinobolism - "Diffusion or Diradiation of Light and Sound, by which it is carried or flows every way from it Center"
Adventitious Matter - "such as does not properly belong to any natural or mixed Body, but comes it from some other Place"
Aerology - "the Doctrine of the Air"
Aeroscopy - "the Observation of the Air"
Æther - "the Firmament, the Sky, the Part of the Heavens that is above the three Regions of Air. Or it is 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"
Æther - "is taken by some for that Medium of Fluid in which all other Bodies float. By others, for the whole Atmosphere, and what forever is suspended in it"
Æthereal Matter - "a very thin, fine, transparent Fluid, the some will have to surround the Earth up as far as the fixed Stars, which easily lets all Things run through it"
Ætiology - "the Reason or Account that is given of natural or preternatural Accidents in human Bodies"
Æiologica - "that Part of Physik which explains the Causes and Reasons of Diseases, and their various Symptoms, in order to their Cure"
Affection - "is often used in the same Sense as Properties, as the Affections of Matter are those Properties with which it is naturally endued"
Agent - "that which acts upon bodies, and causes all Generation and Corruption"
Agglutination - "the Addition of new Substance, or the giving a great Consistence to the Animal fluids, whereby they are fitter for Nourishment"
Aggregate - "the whole Sum or Mass that arises from the gathering together or compounding several Things"
Agitation - "the brisk Motion of the Corpuseles of natural Bodies"
Agyrate - "formerly was applied to Strollers, who pretended to super-natural Assistances, but now to all Quacks and illiterate Pretenders to Physick"
Air - "signifies the Fluid in which we breathe, that is compressible, dilatable, and covering the Earth to a great Height, and differs from Æther in refracting the Rays of the celestial Luminaries"
Almacantars, Almacanters or Almancanteras - "on the Globe, are Parallels of Altitude, whose common Zenith is the Pole or Vertical Point"
Almacanter Staff - "an Instrument to take Observation of the Sun to find its Amplitude, and the Variation of the Compass"
Anacampticks or Catoptricks - "a Branch of the Science of Opticks, which, by the Rays of some bright Object reflected on a plain Surface, discovers its Form, Dimension, and Distance"
Anachronism - "an Error in Chronology, or in the Computation of Time, an undue Connexion of it, the placing a Fact or Event much earlier or later than it really was"
Anemoscope - "a Machine to shew the Change of the Air, or Shifting of the Wind"
Animated Needle - "a Needle touched with a Loadstone"
Apparatus - "the fitness of the Instrument to perform certain Things with"
Aquapoise - "an Instrument to examine the Gravity of Liquors"
Arbor - "is the Spindle or Axis in which the Instrument or Machine turns"
Aerometer - "an Instrument to measure the Gravity of Density of any Liquor or Fluid"
Armed (Loadstone) - "is when it is capped or cased, set in Iron, in order to made it up the greater Weight, and also to distinguish readily the Poles"
Astrography - "the Science of the Stars"
Astronomy - "a Science which teaches the Knowledge of the heavenly Bodies, shewing their Magnitudes, Distances, Order, and Motion"
Atmosphere - "is the lower Part of the region of the Air or Æther, with which our Earth is encompassed all around, 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"
Attenuation - "is a lessening the Power of Quality of the morbisick Matter"
Aurora Borcalis - "is a white pyramidal Clade of Light, appearing like the Tail of a Comet in the northern Hemisphere of the fixed Stars"
Automaton - "a self-moving Instrument, as a Clock, Watch, etc."
Automatous or Automatical - "self-moving, or that which seems to have a Motion within itself"
Autoptically - "with one's own Eyes"
Axis - "an Axle-tree of a Cart, Coach, etc."
Axis in Peritrochio - "is a Machine for the raising of Weights, consisting of a cylindrical Beam, which is the Axis lying horizontally, and a Wheel called the Peritrochium"
Axis - "the Rays which of all that are sent to the Eye, falls perpendicularly on it, and which, by consequence, passes through the Centre of the Eye"
Axis of Incidence - "is the right Line drawn thro' the Point of Incidence and perpendicular to the Refracting Surface"
Axis of Refraction - "is that which is made by the Ray of Incidence, directly prolonged on the Inside of the second Medium by the Ray of Refraction"
Barometer/Baroscope - "
an Instrument for finding the Variations of the Air, a Weather-Glass"


Abbacy or Abbathy - "an Abby, or the same to an Abbot as a Bishoprick to a Bishop"
Abdictorium - "a Chest in which Reliques were kept, a Place to hide and keep Goods, Plate, and Money"
Abrenunciation - "a renouncing or forsaking a Thing entirely"
Beata Virgo - the Blessed Virgin
Baal-zebub (Bel-zebub) - Lord of Flies, or Devils, a certain Idol
Bagnolenses - "Hereticks who followed the Errors of the Manichees, rejected the Old Testament, and Part of the New, maintaining that God foresaw nothing of himself, and that the World had no Beginning"


Abaft or Aft - "Part of a Ship which is between the Main-Mast and the Stern"
Abase - "a Flag, to strike, lower, or take it in, as a Token of Submission"
Abeam - from Wikipedia, meaning "in the direction of the keel", with "on the beam" being at right angles to the centreline of the keel, later 'abreast' meant alongside the centre of the ship
Aboard - within a Ship, from Wikipedia aboard meant within a ship and also to come alongside
Adrift - "floating at random", from Wikipedia, meaning "absent from his watch"
Affretamentum or Affrettamentum - the Freight of a Ship
Abaft - "any Action or Motion from the Stern of the Ship to the Stern"
After Sails - "the Sails which belong to the Main and Missen-Masts, and keep the Ship to the Wind"
Aground - "uncapable of moving, shipwreck'd, as run-aground, stranded"
Allotting of Goods - "is when the Cargo of a Ship is divided into several Parcels to be bought by divers Persons, whose Names being written on as many Pieces of Paper, are applied by any indifferent Person to the respective Parcels or Lots"
Amain - "a Sea-term, when a Ship of War bids Defiance to another, and commands to yield" found in the expression "Strike a-main" meaning to lower your Top-sails
Ancient or Anchent - "a Flag or Streamer set in the Stern of a Ship"
Apparel - "the Tackle, Sails and Rigging of a Ship"
Armada - "a great Navy, a Navy well armed or manned"
Armed - "a Ship is said to be, when it is fitted out and provided in all respects for a Man of War"
Awning - "a Sail of Tarpawling, hung over any Part of a Ship, or a Canopy over a Wherry"
Baard - "
a sort of sea vessel, or transport ship"
Back Board - "to leave the Land behind the Ship"
Back Staff (or Back-Quadrant) - "a Sea Instrument to take the Sun's Altitude with one's Back towards it"
Back-Stays - "Ropes belonging to the Main and Foremast, which serve to keep the Mast from pitching forward or over-board"
Bails - "Hoops set over a Boat to bear up the Tilt"
To Bale - "to lade Water by Hand out of a Boat"
To Bail - "to lade Water out of a Boat or Ship's Hold with Buckets"
Ballast - "Sand, Gravel, or Stones, laid in the Ship's hold, to make her sail upright"
Ballast-Shot - "when the Ballast has run from one Side to the other"
To trench the Ballast - "to divide or separate it"
Bar of the Port - "a Billet thrust through the Rings that serve to shut up the Port-holes in a Ship"
Baratry - "is when a Master of a Ship cheats the Owners or Insurers, wither by embezzling their Goods, or running away with the Ship"
Barco - "
a small, low, long sharp built Vessel, without a Deck, like a West Country Barge, going with Oars and Sails"
Bark - "
a small Ship with but one Deck"


Addice or Adez - "an Instrument generally made use of by Coopers"
Afile - "to file, polish, to smooth, or give a Gloss"
Aker-Staff - "an Instrument to cleanse the Plough-Coulter"
Augar or Auger - "a Wimble, or Carpenter's Tool for boring"
Awl - "a sharp pointed Tool"
Ax or Axe - "Carpentier's Tool, also the same with Axis"

The Trades

Abb - "the Yarn of a Weaver's Warp"
Abbrochment - "the buying up or engrossing any Wares before they are brought to a Fair or Market, in order to sell them by Retail"
Agricolation - "the Art of Husbandry and Improvement of Land"
Alluminor - "one whose Trade is to paint and gild upon Paper, Parchment, etc."
Alutation - Tanning of Leather
Amaasa - "such Pieces of Glass as are used in enameling"
Ammailare - "to enamel"
Anaglyphice or Anaglyphick - "the Art of carving, chasing, engraving, or imbossing Plate"
Annealing - "a staining and baking of Glass, so that the Colour may go quite through it, also a Method of baking Tiles"
Antiquary - "one that is well skilled in, or applies himself to the Study of Antiquity or ancient Medals and Coins, in order to the Explanation of the mottos upon medals, the Inscriptions up on Statues, etc., to attain a Knowledge of Customs, Laws, and Religion of Ancient Times"
Aquavitæ - (Water of Life) - "a sort of Cordial Water, made of Beer strongly hopp'd and well fermented"
Attilatus Equus - "a Horse dressed in his Geers or Harness, for the Work of the Plough or Cart"
Average - "the breaking of Corn Fields, Eddish, Roughings"
Averia - "Cattle, Oxen, or Horses used for the Plough"
Auriga - "a Carter, Waggoner, or Charioteer"
Aurigation - "driving or guiding of any Carriage"
Axel Tree - "a Piece of Wood under a Cart, Wagon, Coach, etc. on which the Wheels turn"
Axel Tree Pins - "two long Irons with round Heads, that hold the Axel-tree to the Cart's Body"
Backster - "a Baker"
Badger - "a Carrier of Luggage"
Badger - "one who buys Corn or other Provisions in one Place, in order to sell them at another, a Huckster"
Bajardour - "a Carrier of Bearer of Burdens"
Balkers - "Persons who from a high Place on the Shore shew the Passage of Shoals of Herrings to Fishermen"
Bank - "a Carpenter's Term for a Piece of Fir-wood unslit from four to ten Inches square, and of any length"
Banker - "a Trader in Money, or one that keeps a Bank, or gives Bills to receive Money from Place to Place"

Next B starting with page 95

Afternoon farmer - old expression for someone who wastes their best opportunity

All there - old expression for someone who is 'up to the mark' or perfectly dressed

Big-wig - a person of authority or office

Bird-cage - old expression for a cab, but could be used for cheap or second-hand cars

Block - head

Bob - a shilling

Bog-oranges - I love this old expression for potatoes

Brass - money

Chalk up - to credit

Cheesy - now means cheap and of low quality, but it once meant fine or showy

Chinwag - now means to chat, but once it meant officious impertinence

Conk - nose

Copper - policeman

Fad - a short-lived enthusiasm for something, but it once meant a hobby or favourite pursuit

File - we all know several definitions of this word, but it once meant a cunning person and earlier still a pickpocket

Flash - still has the same meaning, showy but without taste

Fluff it - now means to fail to perform, but it once meant something that you did not want

Gone to grass - means to retire, but once it meant to be dead

Innings - can mean a good long life, but once meant a good run of luck with plenty of money coming in

Ivories - would mean today a piano, but once meant a set of teeth 'cage of ivories' or to drink 'wash your ivories'

Kiddy - means a child, but once meant a low thief

Mate - colloquialism meaning 'friend', but once was reserved for a "costermonger or low person"

Mild - once meant second-rate feeble, or inefficient

Mob - once was short for Mobility, which was the populace or 'great unwashed'

Muck - just means dirt or rubbish, but once meant to beat or excel

Mug - informal expression for a person's face (e.g.
mug shot), but once meant mouth or face but often in the context of drink, e.g. to mug oneself was to get drunk

Mug-up - I remember using it to mean preparing for exams

Mugging - once meant simply a thrashing in the boxing ring

Nob - short for nobleman, or a person of high position, a 'swell' (check out snob as well, you will be surprised)

Nut - head

Palm oil - once meant money or a bribe

Pensioner - once meant someone of 'degraded morals' who lived off the earnings of a prostitute

Pot - as in 'go to pot', means today to deteriorate through neglect, but once meant to die

Potato-trap - love this, it once meant the mouth

Rag - once meant bank note, so naturally a 'rag-shop' meant a bank

Rig - still means to 'pull a trick', but in the past 'well rigged' meant well dressed

Screw loose - once meant when friends became cold and distant, or when a persons reputation or credit sank

Shoddy - today means badly made, but originally it meant when yarn from old soldier's and policemen's coats was unravelled and prepared into a fine cloth fabric used for ladies mantles, etc.

Sky-Blue - this is a tricky one because it once referred to London milk, either much diluted with water, or where the cream had been skimmed three times. I remember when milk was delivered daily to our doorstep, that the milk with less cream (not totally skimmed) had a blue colour foil sealer (red for full cream). I wonder if the colour came from the original "
three times-skimm'd - sky-blue".

Snob - once meant a low, vulgar person. Nob was often appended to names of people of 'gentle birth', and was short for nobiles. This was also used by sons of Lords, who would add fil nob., and hence nob. Those who were not of 'gentle birth' had appended to their name sin nobilitate, shortened to s.nob. Those who imitated nobs were often called quasi-nobs, shortened to si-nob, and later snob. One satirist noted that there were three great estates of the realm, nob, snob, and mob.

Swell - once meant a man of importance, showy

Toad-in-the-hole - I love this expression for someone carrying a sandwich board

Togs - once meant clothes, and natural Sunday togs were your best clothes

Tom and Jerry - we all know what that means today, but once it meant a 'low drinking shop'

Translator - once meant someone who dealt in old shoes or clothes, and refit them for cheap wear. Translators were second-hand boots, repaired and sold at a low price.

Trolling - has acquired a completely
new definition with the Internet, but it also means the "careful and systematic search for something", e.g. trolling the seabed for fish or trolling a flea market for bargains. But it once meant sauntering or idling, and a troll was an idle prostitute.

Trotters - once meant feet, and 'trotters cases' were shoes

Trump - this might appear odd given todays political climate in the US, but trump once meant a jolly or good-natured person

Tub-thumping - once meant someone preaching or speech-making from a tub or beer barrel, showing their contempt for decorated pulpits

If you have got this far, here is a little test. What is a 'seven-sided animal'? It's a one eyed man. He has an inside, outside, left side, right side, frontside, backside, and …. a blindside.