You are here
Home > Words and Phrases of the Seventeenth Century

Here are some old words and phrases to amaze your friends and the audience when talking about the seventeenth century in Living History and elsewhere.

Word/Phrase Meaning (using C21 terms)
Affect Pretend falsely
Affront Insult
Affray Attack, disturbance, riot
Ague Fever – particularly malaria in C17
All of a dudder Shivering and shaking
Anon At once
Apothecary Druggist, Chemist, Pharmacist
Ay Yes
Baffle Foils the plans of
Bedlam Madhouse
Betimes Early, soon
Blackguard A body of criminals or vagrants ( became Blagard – criminal)
Board Daily provision (food and drink)
Boards Table (made of boards)
Bolts Shackles, fetters
Bravery Fine clothes
Buss Kiss
Buttery Store room for wine, beer, casks, bottles, pewter etc
Butler The servant in charge of the buttery, person who serves wine, beer etc
Buxom Plump and good looking
Betwixt Between
Caitiff Wretch, villain
Calf Lolly Idle simpleton
Calling Name, station in life, profession
Carrion Decaying flesh
Censured Pass sentence on
Certain Constant, reliable
Character Handwriting
Clay brained Speaks for itself
Coif Linen cap for women
Cousin (or Coz) Term used of all close kindred
Crave Want, seek, beg
Crotchets Whims, fancies
Cry you mercy Beg your pardon
Cunning Skill, knowledge, smart, devious
Cur(s) Dog(s)
Dalliance Flirting
Dandy Pratt Insignificant Person
Deflaterhose A type of men’s breeches (early C17)
Dislike Express an aversion to
Divers Many
Divines Clergymen
Dizzy Foolish
Dog Apes Baboons
Dog- bolt A wretch
Doom Sentence, judgement
Falling band Separate collar
Foppish Lout Overdressed, ostentatious person
Forms Reflections, ceremonies
Forsooth In truth, indeed
Forswear Deny, repudiate
Forsworn Perjured
Foul Ugly
Frieze A thick material for coats
Fry To a child ‘young fry’
Furnish’d Dressed, equipped
Gentle Well born, honourable, courteous
Gentleman Owner of land or property earning £50 or more per year
Gentlewoman Most usually the wife or widow of a Gentleman
Gillyflower Fragrant flower – usually carnation, stock or wallflower,
Go your ways Go away
God buy you God be with you – (now Goodbye)
Good faith In truth
Gown A long coat worn over all clothing – often open at the front
Gruel A cheap food made by boiling oats with water or milk
Handkercher Handkerchief
Holds Cells
Hose Breeches (from Tudor – doublet and hose) – becoming stockings
House of Profession Brothel
Hoyden A rude or ill-bred woman or girl
Husband Housekeeper (hence also as a verb – to look after)
Husbandry Cultivation of the soil
Hussy Immoral, wanton (usually preceded by little – or light – )
Huswife Housewife
Idle Useless and foolish (e.g. ‘in idle price’)
Imposthume A swelling containing pus or an abcess
Jerkin Waistcoat
League About 3 miles
Lisp After a foreign accent
Lunch A meal of a hunk of bread and cheese (North English – Tudor)
Luncheon A drink or snack in mid-morning
Lusty Vigorous
Manchett A loaf of best quality bread
Mardle Gossip
Mark The sum of 13s 4d
Mark Pay serious attention to, take note of
Marry To be sure of, indeed
Mauther Girl (still used in Norfolk)
Mawkish Derived from ‘Mawk’ an old word for maggot – nauseating, sick making, having no appetite
Mercer Textile merchant
Mercy Beg forgiveness
Name Reputation
Napkin Handkerchief
Naughty Wicked
Neckerchief A separate cloth around the neck and shoulders
Nice (affectedly) fastidious, refined
Nuncheon A drink or snack in the afternoon
Paint Apply cosmetics
Palsie Shaking fit, tremor, paralysis
Pantler The servant in charge of the pantry and bread
Physic Medicine, cure
Pick purse Pickpocket
Place Office, station, position of authority, safe home
Ply To urge, work upon, persuade
Posset Hot drink of milk curdled with wine, beer or brandy
Pox To curse you (literally to cause you to get the pox (syphilis))
Practices Plots, deceit, conspiracy
Prithee I beg you
Puny Inferior, petty, underdeveloped
Raw Inexperienced, uncooked, uncultivated, sore or sick
Receipt Recipe
Russet A type of woollen cloth (also the colour)
Sack Fortified wine
Searsed Sifted
Shifter Con man
Sirrah Form of address used to inferiors or expressing contempt
Stuff Dress material
Tapster Person serving drink
Tarry Wait
Tawdry Cheap and pretentious finery
Thankee Thank you
Troth In truth, indeed (by my troth – truly)
Yeoman Owner/tenant of a small property/land earning >£6 per year
Villain Low born rustic, wicked scoundrel, lower servant
Wainscot Wooden panelling
Whiles While
Winsom Attractive, handsome
Worm’s nest Decayed fresh, a corpse
Worsted A type of wool cloth
Wrangling Arguing
Zounds An oath

Some Suitable Expletives and Insults

Abate your noise you rebel dogs!

Bid you go preach in a crab tree!

Come and fetch the colours which they lost!

Hell and devil confound you sir!

Rogues to your King and Country!

The devil take you sir!
The sons of Puritan bitches!


Where are the Scots, you rogues, whom you hired to fight against your King?