Archaic words

These words are no longer in everyday use or have lost a particular meaning in current usage but are sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavour to historical novels, for example, or in standard conversation or writing just for a humorous effect. Some, such as hotchpotch, reveal the origin of their current meaning, while others reveal the origin of a different modern word, as with gentle, the sense of which is preserved in gentleman. Some, such as learn and let, now mean the opposite of their former use.

abroad out of doors
advertisement a notice to readers in a book
ague malaria or a similar illness
aliment food; nourishment
animalcule a microscopic animal
apothecary a person who prepared and sold medicine
asunder apart
audition the power of hearing
aught anything at all
avaunt go away
bane poison
bedlam an asylum
behold see or observe
behoof benefit or advantage
beldam an old woman
betimes in good time; early
bibliopole a dealer in books
billow a large sea wave
blow produce flowers or be in flower
bodkin a dagger
bootless (of a task) ineffectual; useless
breech a person's buttocks
bridewell a prison or reform school for petty offenders
brimstone sulphur
bruit a report or rumour
buck a fashionable and daring young man
bumper a generous glass of an alcoholic drink
burgess a full citizen of a town or borough
buss a kiss
caboose a kitchen on a ship's deck
cadet a younger son or daughter
caducity the infirmity of old age; senility
camelopard a giraffe
carl a man of low birth
ceil line or plaster the roof of (a building)
champaign open level countryside
chapman a pedlar
circumjacent surrounding
cicisbeo a married woman's male companion or lover
cispontine on the north side of the Thames in London
clerk a literate or scholarly person
clew a ball of thread
clout a piece of cloth or clothing
commend entrust someone or something to
commons provisions shared in common; rations
communicant a person who imparts information
compass encircle or surround
con study attentively or learn by heart (a piece of writing)
condition social position
conjure implore (someone)to do something
contemn treat or regard with contempt
contumely insolent or insulting language or treatment
cordwainer a shoemaker (still used in the names of guilds)
corrupt rotten or putrid
cottier a rural labourer living in a cottage
coxcomb a vain and conceited man; a dandy
coz cousin
crinkum- elaborate
crankum decoration or detail
crookback a person with a hunchback
crumpet a person's head
cruse an earthenware pot or jar
cully a friendly form of address for a man
cutpurse a pickpocket
dame an elderly or mature woman
damsel a young unmarried woman
dandiprat a young or insignificant person
darbies handcuffs
dark ignorant
degrade reduce to a lower rank, especially as a punishment
degree social or official rank
delate report (an offence)
demoralize corrupt the morals of
dight clothed or equipped
discover divulge (a secret)
dispraise censure or criticize
divers of varying types; several
doit a very small amount of money
dot a dowry from which only the interest or annual income was available to the husband
doxy a lover or mistress
drab a slovenly woman
drought thirst
egad exclamation of surprise, anger, or affirmation
embarrass hamper or impede
embouchure the mouth of a river
ere before (in time)
espousal a marriage or engagement
estate a particular state, period, or condition in life
expectations one's prospects of inheritance
expiry death
fain pleased or willing under the circumstances
fainéant an idle or ineffective person
fair beautiful
fandangle a useless or purely ornamental thing
fare travel
fervent hot or glowing
fie exclamation used to express disgust or outrage
filibeg a kilt
fishwife a woman who sells fish
fizgig a silly or flirtatious young woman
flux diarrhoea or dysentery
forfend avert or prevent (something evil or unpleasant)
forsooth indeed
fourscore eighty
freak a whim
frore frozen or frosty
froward (of a person) difficult to deal with; contrary
fruit offspring
fudge nonsense
furbish polish (a weapon)
gadzooks an expression of surprise or annoyance
gage a valued object deposited as a guarantee
gallant a dashing gentleman
gammer an old woman
garland a literary anthology
garth a yard or garden
gentle noble or courteous
go-cart a baby walker
God's acre a churchyard
goodly attractive, excellent, or virtuous
goody (with a name) an elderly woman of humble position
grateful received with gratitude
grimalkin a cat
gudgeon a credulous person
gyve a fetter or shackle
habiliment clothing
halt lame
handmaid a female servant
hearken listen
hence from here
herbary a herb garden
hereat as a result of this
hereunto to this document
hereupon after or as a result of this
hie go quickly
hight named
hither to or towards this place
horse-coper a person who deals in horses
horseless carriage a car
host an army
hotchpotch a mutton stew with mixed vegetables
howbeit nevertheless
husbandman a farmer
imminent overhanging
indite write; compose
inscribe enter the name of (someone) on a list
intelligence news
intelligencer a person who gathers intelligence
invest surround (a place) in order to besiege or blockade it
iron horse a steam railway locomotive
izzard the letter Z
jade a bad-tempered or disreputable woman
jakes an outdoor toilet
job turn a public office or a position of trust to private advantage
kickshaw a fancy but insubstantial cooked dish
kine cows collectively
king's shilling, take the enlist in the army
knave a dishonest or unscrupulous man
larcener thief
latchet a narrow thong or lace for fastening a shoe or sandal
laud praise
laver a basin or similar container used for washing oneself
learn teach
leech a doctor or healer
leman a lover or sweetheart
let hinder
levant abscond leaving unpaid debts
Levant the eastern part of the Mediterranean
levy a body of enlisted troops
lief as happily; as gladly
lordling a minor lord
love apple a tomato
Lucifer a match
lurdan an idle or incompetent person
lying-in seclusion before and after childbirth
magdalen a reformed prostitute
mage a magician or learned person
maid a girl or young woman
malapert presumptuous and impudent
malison a curse
man-at-arms a soldier
marry an expression of surprise, indignation, or emphatic assertion
mayhap perhaps; possibly
measure a dance
meat food of any kind
mechanical a manual worker
meet suitable or proper
methinks it seems to me
mooncalf a foolish person
morrow, the the following day
mummer an actor in the theatre
natural a person born with impaired intelligence
naught nothing
nay no
neat a bovine animal or animals
nice fastidious
nigh near
nithing a contemptible or despicable person talk about or make
noise (something) about known publicly
nubbing-cheat a gallows
numbles a deer's entrails as food
orison a prayer
orts scraps; remains
otherwhere elsewhere
overleap jump over or across
pale an area within determined bounds or subject to a particular jurisdiction
palfrey a docile riding horse
pate a person's head
peeler a police officer
pelf money, especially when gained dishonestly
peradventure perhaps
perchance by some chance
peregrinate travel or wander from place to place
pest bubonic plague
pestilence a fatal epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague
peterman a thief or safe-breaker
physic medicinal drugs or medical treatment
piepowder a traveller or an itinerant merchant or trader
pismire an ant
pistoleer a soldier armed with a pistol
plight solemnly pledge or promise (faith or loyalty)
pollard an animal that has lost its horns or cast its antlers
poltroon an utter coward
popinjay a parrot
portage the action of carrying or transporting
portion a dowry
portion a person's destiny or lot
posy a short motto or line of verse inscribed inside a ring
pouncet-box a small box with a perforated lid used for holding a substance impregnated with perfume
prithee please
profess teach (a subject) as a professor
progress a state journey or official tour
purfle an ornamental or embroidered edge of a garment
pythoness a woman believed to be possessed by a spirit and to be able to foresee the future
quality high social standing
quean an impudent girl or woman
quick, the the living
quidnunc an inquisitive, gossipy person
quiz look intently at (someone)
quoth said (in I / he / she quoth)
rack (of a cloud) be driven by the wind
raiment clothing
rapscallion a mischievous person
rathe-ripe (of fruit) ripening early in the year; (of a person) precocious
receipt a recipe
recipe a medical prescription
recompense punish or reward appropriately
recreant cowardly
rede advice or counsel
reduce besiege and capture (a town or fortress)
relieve make (something) stand out
repair an abode or haunt
repulsive lacking friendliness or sympathy
riband a ribbon
rover a pirate
rude ignorant and uneducated
ruth a feeling of pity, distress, or grief
sacring the consecration of a bishop, a sovereign, or the Eucharistic elements
saddle-bow the pommel of a saddle
salamander a red-hot iron or poker
sanative healing
sanguinary involving or causing much bloodshed
sap make (a building etc.) insecure by removing its foundations
saturnism lead poisoning
scantling a specimen, sample, or small amount
scapegrace a mischievous person; a rascal
scaramouch a boastful but cowardly person
science knowledge
sciolist a person who pretends to be knowledgeable
scold a woman who nags or grumbles constantly
scot a tax-like payment
scurvy worthless or contemptible
sea coal mineral coal
seizing a length of cord or rope on board a ship
sennight a week
shambles a slaughterhouse
shrive (of a priest) absolve (a person making a confession)
silly helpless; defenceless
sippet a small piece of bread or toast for dipping into soup or sauce
skirt an edge, border, or extreme part
slay kill in a violent way
slipshod (of shoes) worn down at the heel
slugabed a lazy person who stays in bed late
small beer weak beer
smite defeat or conquer
soak drink heavily
soft tack bread, especially as rations for sailors or soldiers
soil a stain
sooth truth
sore extremely; severely
speed success; prosperity
spence a larder
statuary a sculptor
steed a horse
stripe a blow with a lash
strumpet a female prostitute or a promiscuous woman
success a good or bad outcome
sugarplum a small round boiled sweet
surety, of / for a for certain
swain a country youth
swash flamboyantly swagger about or wield a sword
sweeting darling
sweetmeat an item of confectionery or sweet food
tantivy a rapid gallop or ride
tapster a person who serves at a bar
tenter a person in charge of something, especially factory machinery
thenceforth from that time, place, or point onward
thereunto to that
therewith with or in the thing mentioned
thither to or towards that place
thrice three times
tilt with engage in a contest with
timbrel a tambourine or similar instrument
’tis it is
tithe a tenth
tocsin an alarm bell or signal
tope drink to excess
top-sawyer a distinguished person
trespass a sin or offence
trig neat and smart
trigon a triangle
troth faith or loyalty when pledged in a solemn undertaking
turnkey a jailer
'tween between
tweeny a maid who assisted both the cook and the housemaid
uncle a pawnbroker
uncommon remarkably
unhand release from one's grasp
up to snuff up to the required standard
usher an assistant teacher
varlet an unprincipled rogue
venery hunting
verily truly; certainly
verse a line of poetry
very real; genuine
visionary existing only in the imagination
wain a wagon or cart
wait on/upon pay a respectful visit to
waits street singers of Christmas carols
wast second person singular past of be
watch remain awake as religious observance
watchful wakeful
watchword a military password
weasand the oesophagus or gullet
wench a girl or young woman
whence from what place or source
whereat at which
wherefore for what reason
wherewith with or by which
whilom formerly
white goods domestic linen
whither to what place or state
wife a woman, especially an old or uneducated one
wight a person of a specified kind
wise manner, way, or extent
withal in addition
without outside
wondrous wonderfully
wont accustomed
wonted usual
wool-stapler a dealer in wool
wright a maker or builder
yclept by the name of
ye you
yea yes
yoke the amount of land that one pair of oxen could plough in a day
yonder over there
zounds an expression of surprise or indignation

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