Antique words, or words of changed usage

(c) 1996 by C.J. Cherryh

Consult the right hand for words to watch out for: words that are too modern, slang, or out of place in any attempt to render an old style. or antique flavor in dialogue or text Sometimes the meanings are vastly changed; Consult the left hand, for the older expression.

Sometimes it's useful to look up the other word, too: sometimes both are acceptable, but at least the left hand column will give you a sense of what to look for and what should trigger alarm bells in a writer attempting the older style. Remember that the circulation of the blood and the function of the brain were late scientific discoveries, and while explosions can happen in the ancient world, explosive agents were a little a rough example of knowledge we tend to take for granted.. At a certain point in the list (which is not scholarly, but rather composed as my own checklist) you will find I reverse the procedure and list modern things and their equivalents in the pre-1900's world.

Examples of usage are in [ ]'s.

a merry : a fine [mess]

a plague on : damn . . .

abandon : lack of concern for appearance

abide : allow

about : around [about the house]

above : [heaven, residence of deities]

abroad : running around in the world

absent a reason : without a cause

absented : gone away [absented himself]

abundant : a lot of

accomplished : skilled

account : [give an account of oneself]

accursed : cursed

acknowledge : own up to as offspring

act : [act the fool]

acute : sharp, as pain

addled : [addled wit] confused, shaken up

ado : commotion

ado : fuss

afforded : gave [afforded a view, a smile]

affrighted : scared

affrighted : frightened

again : once more

aggrieved : offended [esp. aggreived party]

ague : fever

aha : ah

air : appearance of [have the air of] feeling of; 2) heaven

alarm, take : be startled

along : beside

aloud : out loud

altogether : entirely

amends : [make amends, amend] apologize

amid : in the middle of

amiss : wrong

amongst : in the midst of [people or objects]

an : if

anguish : pain

anon : soon

another : another [person]

answer : respond to

anxious : worried

appetite : desire

appointed : authorized

apt : inclined to

arms : weapons

arrived : got there [eliminate the word `got' except as `obtained'

ashore : onto the shore

aside : away from the others

askance : [look askance at] give a sidelong, misgiving glance

ass : donkey

astir : moving around

athwart : across

atop : on top of

attained : [attained to] reached; 2) get, got

aught : anything

autumn : fall

avenge : take vengeance or revenge upon or for

awaiting : waiting for

aware : conscious

awash : flooded

aye : yes, 2) [for aye] for ever

a-with verb : in the process of a-twinkle, a-stream, later elided

babes : babies

backward : shy, awkward

bandit : different than outlaw

bar : prevent, block; lock

barb : catch, hook

barked : skinned, as knee

barren : childless 2) lacking produce, a barren land

bartered : traded

bathe : take bath, give bath

bay : at bay; back to wall

bear bearing : having offspring; giving birth to 2) carry

beckon : gesture to come

become becoming : appropriate for

bedclothes : sheets

befallen : happened to

befell : happened to

beg : ask

bent : inclination [a wicked bent]

bereft : robbed of

besetting : attacking, prevalent [a besetting sin]

beside : besides

besmirched : muddy

best : had best= had better

bestir : get moving

betters : one's superiors in rank

bid : tell, order

bidding : orders

bid, bade, bidden : tell, order

binding : tying

blast : explosions are unknown: this word applies to divine apparitions

: only the wind can blow, unless A Blow, a strike: no explosives

bog : marshy area, esp. peat

bore : carried

born : be born, ie come into the world

borne : carried, or born as in bear a child

bosom : breast

bothy : small shack, hut

boughs : branches with leaves

bound : tied; bent on; sworn to do

bowstaves : body of bow with string undone

brace : pair of

bracken : fern

brain : not clearly understood as site of thought or feeling: seen in split skull

branch : line of descent

brave : gutsy

breast : 1) chest, male or female 2) female 3) plow through, vb.

breath : life, [the breath in him]

bridge : span

bridle : 1) a bridle 2) control [bridle your temper] 3) take umbrage at

brink : edge

brink : edge

briskly : energetically

brook : creek

brow : forehead

brute : raw, as in force

budge : make move

burn : a river

canny : smart

care : concern about

cared : was worried about: not used for `love'

careful, be : watch out, look out

cast : throw, pitch

cauldron : large round pot

cause : reason for

cell : a priest's room

certain : sure, inevitable

chance : luck [by chance, perchance] 2) happen [he chanced by]

charged : instructed

charity : compassion

charm : a luck piece

chary : cautious, careful

chase : the chase chided : scolded

chill : cold

choice : the best

choler : anger

choleric : habitually angry

churlish : unmannerly, ill bred

circuit : a course around

cistern : rain-catching basin or well, as opposed to spring-fed

clap : slap [on shoulder]

clasped : shook as hands

clever : smart

cling : hang on

close : to close with, to join battle; also 2) a narrow alley between building

clothe : dress

clue : idea

companion : buddy

compel : make

confound : confuse

confusion : panic, mental disarray

constancy : faithfulness

content in : happy with

contest, vb : argue with [ do not contest him]

contrary : nay-saying

convenience : agreement, also, later, a W.C.

convenient : agreed [a convenient day]

cord : rope or twine

counsel : advise; advise also used

countenance : expression on face; also 2) look on with acquiescence to

course : the hunt; give chase: pursue, chase

courted : was suitor to

cozening : tricking, tricky, lying

crofter : smallholder, Scot.

crossed : irritated

cry : shout

cuffed : boxed, hit lightly

curious : odd

curious : odd

darkling : dark and getting darker

darksome : dark

deadfall : a downed limb

deal : a deal; a lot

deal a blow : hit

dear : expensive

dearth : shortage, scarcity

deceive : lie [deceive me of=lie to myself about]

deed : action

deeds : actions

degree : rank

delve : dig

delver : digger

despite : in spite of

device : pattern or image on heraldic banner or shield

dire : serious

direly : in a serious manner

discomfit : set off balance mentally

disposed : inclined to [do]

dispossessed : put out of

dispute, to : quarrel with [he disputed his king]

disquieted : upset

disspirited : crushed

distracted : crazed, acting irrationally

doff : take off

dog, to : track

doings : actions

doom : judgement

doubtful : up for grabs [a doubtful contest]

dour : humorless; dull

douse : wet down

downcast : depressed

draw : pull

draw (bow) : aim but not fire

ducking : throwing in water

dumb : mute

duress : compulsion by force

durst : dared

earnest : a pledge, an earnest of

else : or

embers : glowing stage, often interchanged with coals

embrace : hug

enamored : in love with

enough! : cut it out!

ere : before; before is also acceptable

erstwhile : once

exceeding : very [no -ly]

except : [Except he come] if he doesn't; with Subjunctive

faint : pass out

fair : light

faithless : disloyal

false : faithless, or lying

familiar : belonging to close group of associates [one's familiar] fare : do, as in welfare

fast : firm, tight

fast : strongly [hold fast]

fellow : buddy, companion

fellow : companion [not polite as term of address]

fever : any sickness

fisher : fisherman

fishes : pl. of fish

fit : able, 2) a seizure

fling : throw

folk : a people, a certain group of people

font : fountain, source

forbear : stop

forbear : restrain oneself from

forswear : give up; forsworn: having broken an oath, a serious business

forthwith : quickly, now

fortnight : 14 days

foxes : common European pest

front : confront

fruitless : useless

furious : frenetic

gall : irritate

garments : clothes

gentle : wellborn, attribute of wellborn

gibed : teased, jeered

give over! : cut it out!

glamor : fairy illusion, making something seem better than it is

glanced : bounced

glean : pick up spare grain

gleaned : picked out

gnaw : erode

go to : buzz off

gorse : tumbleweed like brush

gory : bloody

grace : favor, good will

granddam : grandma

grateful : pleasing

greatly, often : a lot

grievously : seriously, severely

gull : trick [gullible]

hail : greet

hale : cause to come along, often by force

hallow : supernatural, either sacred or ghostly

happy : fortunate

hare : rabbit

haste : to hurry

haste : hurry

hasty : impetuous

haunts : ghosts

hazard : to risk

head : not considered seat of purposeful thought or resolution, but of reason

headlong : headfirst

heap : pile

heart : not understood to circulate blood, only to beat quickly when excited

heart : considered seat of emotions; head considered seat of reason

heaviness : depression

heavy : sad

hereabouts : near here

hindmost : last

hist : psst!

hoard : store

hold . . .tongue : shut up

hold! : stop! cut it out!

hour : highly imprecise: usually 1/10 of available daylight, with 6th at noon

household : includes servants

hoyden : tomboy, trollop

humor : disposition

hurtled : plummeted

husband : save back

hush : shut up

idly : to no purpose or meaning

ilk : sort, kind

ill : harm

inconstant : fickle

instant : quick to move [instant upon]; pressing upon, original meaning

intend : ain

iron : believed to harm fairies

itch : yen

jape : prank

jest : joke

joiner : carpenter

joint : roast

jug : bottles were too expensive for most purposes

just : fair

keen : sharp, eager

keep : castle center

ken : know, know also acceptable

knoll, knowe : small hill

laden : loaded

laggard : slowpoke

least : smallest

lesser : smaller

lest : so that . . . not, used with Subjunctive: [lest he come]

let : rent

let : hinder [without let or hindrance]

lightly : fecklessly

lips : mouth; : mouth generally taken to be inside

loath to : reluctant to

lodge : stay [temporarily]

lonely : isolate, as house

lost : done for

lump : oaf

mad : crazy: never means angry

maiden : first-timer, of either gender [maiden knight]

manner : behavior, Attitude

marches : borders

marked : noticed

marsh : a wide bog

master : form of address

mazed : amazed, dazed

measure : [his measure] how tough he is

meek : quiet

meet [on the field] : armed meeting

mend your . . . : behave!

merriment, mirth : laughter

mettle : guts

mid : the middle [the mid of the night, the watch, etc.]

might : energy

millrace : water headed for millwheel

mince : walk effeminately

mind : remember

mind your . . . : behave!

mirth : laughter

mischief : no good actions

mistake me : are wrong about me, my intentions

mock : make fun of

moderately : reasonably [answered him moderately]

mortal : human

mote : small speck

nape : back of neck

naught : nothing

neath : beneath

nether : bottom, under

nets, snare : trap

nice : precise

nimble : agile

nimble : agile

nock : fit arrow to bowstring

noisome : nasty

nook : small recess

nor . . . nor : [Nor one nor 't other.]: neither-nor; same with either-or=or-or

not, n't : to avoid n't, use never, neither, nor did he, etc.

not : in really old English comes after simple verbs: come not

also with pronoun intervening: come ye not: a command

oath, on my : on my word

oddments : scrap

over- : too, excessively, as prefix

over-long : too long

own to : confess, claim as one's own

pains : hurts [it pains me]

passable : ok

passage of arms : a bout, a brief clash

passing : momentary

peculiar : one's own

pine : grieve

porridge : oatmeal, grain cereal

portcullis : barred gate of castle

potent : powerful politically or religiously

pray : ask

pray : please

preferred : passed someone in front of someone else

prickled : itches and prickles announced omens

prithee : please

privates : genitals; balls

privily : privately

prone : flat on face

prove : turn out [he proved a fool]

pyre : funeral fire

quickly : fast

receive : agree to talk with in one's own establishment

reek : smell bad

reeling : staggering

regard : look [a burning regard]

remorse : regret

rime : frost

rude : roughly hacked from wood; rough; uncultured

rue : regret; also an herb

sack : loot

satisfy : formally finish a quarrel, or duel

savor : the taste

scapegrace : rascal

scarcely : only just

scatheless : unharmed; also unscathed

score : 20

seat : means more than chair: can mean important chair of lord

seek : look for, go to

seize : grab; arrest

seize : grab

sense : consciousness; five senses

shall : used only with I and we, unless as command

sheet : rope on sail

shone : shined

shrink from : flinch from

signs : portents

silly : stupid

simple : foolish [he is a simple man: : not flattering]

skein : bundle of yarn or rope

skirt : go around

skull : often used for `head'

slates : roof slates, shingles

smart : hurt [it smarts=it hurts]

snatched : grabbed

sooth : truth

sore : very, badly [sore afraid]

sorts, out of : sullen

souls : people, persons, individuals

space, a : a while [time as well as distance]

spate : brief, violent flow [a river in spate]

spite : nastiness

spoils : the loot

sported : played

sprite : spirit

spurned : kicked from underfoot

stamped : never stomped

stane : stone

stare : [in fright]

start : jump in startlement

stature : height

stay : hold [stay one's hand]

stayed for : waited for

stay! : wait!

steadfast : faithful

steady : faithful

steal : go quietly

stiff-necked : stubborn, hard-headed

straggle : come in few at a time, or disorganized

straitly : precisely, with narrow definition

stricken : having been struck

strides : long steps

stroke : blow

subtle : clever

suffer : allow

sufficed : was enough

sum : total

sure : definitely loyal

surety : guarantee

swiftly : fast

take oath : swear

taken, be : get caught

talents : abilities

teeth, in the . . .of : in the face of, as [fling in teeth of]

temper : disposition; also temper metal

tender : gentle

thatch : straw roof

thrice : three times

thrust : shove

tinker : small scale smith

to course : run

tread : step on

troubled : upset

true : faithful [a true man]

true : real

tug : pull

twain : two [in twain, the twain]

tweak : pinch lightly

upright : proper; on one's feet

use : treat [use one badly]

vain : useless, empty, shallow

vantage : high spot to look out from [seek a better vantage]

vault : arch-ceilinged room

very : complete [ a very fool]

vex : annoy

villain : peasant

virtue : powers [healing virtue]

visage : face, expression

vitals : gut

waft : float on air

wager : bet

wake : wake up

wane : grow smaller

ware, be : watch out, look out

wary : on guard

war, to : make war [against]

waste : desert, 2) to lay waste : to make desolate

watch : the night is divided into 4 watches of so many hours each

wax : grow larger

weary : tired

weathercock : [late] weathervane, coward

weep : cry

weird : a prophecy of one's fate

wend : go in a winding course

whence : from what place [whence he comes, not from whence]

whereafter : after which; and after this

which : can = and that, or And this---[Which he knew]

whiles : while

whilst : while

whim : spur of moment decision, lightly taken

whither : to what point [whither goest thou?]

wholly : entirely

whom : acts like him: if you'd say him if the clause were reversed, it's whom

who/whom : who acts like a noun and does not agree with its antecedent

wiles : cleverness

will : intend

will : used with pronouns except I & we, unless as command

will : intent, consent

willful : stubborn, hard-headed

willfully : obstinately

will, with a : gladly

wink at : ignore

winter : year of life, he has 12 winters.

wit : brain, sense of humor

within : inside

witling : fool

wits : brains, mind

wonder, a : a strange thing

worth : value

wrench : sprain

yard : understood as court- or stable-

yield : give up

youth : young man

-bred : mannered; of social class

-st, or -t : verb ending with you singular

-th : verb ending with he, she, it

-witted : half, lack, slack, scatter

Scottish dialect

ach :(disgust, contempt)

agley : amiss

ain : own

alane : alone

auld : old

awa' : left, was awa'; gone; away

ay : always

aye : . yes

aye : one; a

a' : all

back of : at the back of, just after.

bairn : child

bannock : cake of oatmeal

beast : animal

besom : harridan; a broom of sticks

bide : wait

blether : blather

bogle, straw bogle : scarecrow; bogie man

bonny : lovely

bothy : a rough hut of shepherds, etc.

brae : steep slope; river bank; hillside

braid : broad

braw : handsome, fine

bree : juice, barley bree

breeks : trousers

broch : ancient round stone fort

burn : stream, small river

byre : cowshed

cairn : heap of stones

canny : careful, gentle: ant. no canny

carl : peasant

carline : old woman

cauld : cold

causey : cobbled roadway

ca' : call, drive, (like ago)

close : covered passageway between two bulidings, alley

corbie : raven

couthie : pleasant

croft : smallholding

dae : do

daft : nuts

daith : death

deer forest : forest for hunting: hunting preserve

defender : scots law : defendant

deid : dead

deil : devil

dinnae : don't

dirk : belt dagger (sgian dubh, worn at calf)

dochter : daughter

doon : down

douce : quiet

dour : grim, dull

dram : drink

drouth : thirst

drove road : a drovers' track

drystane wall : rubble wall without mortar

dyke : stone wall

faither : father

fank : sheepfold

fash : annoy

fause : false

faut : fault

fa' : fall

fire-raising : arson

forby : as well, in addition

forenoon : morning

forest : a large wooded tract, hunting reserve

foust : mould


gang : go



gey : very

gillie : servant, attendant

gin : if only

gi', gie : give

glen : narrow valley

gloaming : evening twilight

green : lawn

greet : weep, cry

guid : good

hae : have

hame : home

haugh : river meadow

heid : head

heidbanger : stupid, crazy person

heugh : steep cliff; deep gorge or ravine

hoodie (craw) : hooded crow, carrion crow

ilk a : each, every

ilk : that ilk, the same place

ilk : sort

joiner : carpenter

ken : know

kist : chest

know : knowl, little hill

Lammastide : August 1

laird : landlord

lang : long

leal : loyal

line : a credit account with a shop, or prescription

loch : lake or fjord, fresh or salt

Merry Dancers : northern lights

mair : more

maist : omst

man, mon, : man; also address in surprise or exasperation

march : boundary

maun : must

messages : go the messages, do the shopping

midden : rubbish heap

mill lade : channel of water to a mill

mill race : (I think) water leaving a millwheel

mind : remember

mither : mother

moss : a stretch of moorland or boggy ground

muckle : big

Nick : the devil

nae weel : ill

nane : none

na, nae : not

neep : turnip

neuk : a corner, a point of land

next : Tuesday next, eg., next Tuesday but one; Tuesday first is the real next.

nicht : night

no bad : very good

noo : now

nor : than

o : of

och : exclamation of sorrow, pain, annoyance

ocht : any

or : before

outwith : beyond, outside

pan bread, pan loaf : bread baked in a pan;

pan loaf, to talk : to sound like an Englishman.

past : to put past = put away for later use

pibroch : bagpipe music

piece : piece of bread with butter; a jeelie piece

pig : earthenware jug, or hotwater bottle

pinkie : little finger

pit : put

pled : past tense of plead

plowter : mess about in water, potter

poke : a bag

policies : ground around a large house

press : cupboard, esp. a wall cupboard

provost : an English mayor; Lord Provost of Glasgow

public room : a room in a house for entertaining

pudding : a sausage of entrails, blood, oatmeal

puir : poor

pursuer : scots law--- a plaintiff in civil case

quaich : sort of a patera with two handles

ragnail : hangnail

reek : smoke

reid : red

retiral : retirement

richt : right

rone : roof-gutter; rone-pipe, downspout

roon : round

Sassenach : Englishman

sae : so

saft : soft

sair : sore; a sair fecht: a hard fight

sark : shirt

sett : pattern of squares and stripes in a tartan

sgian dubh : black knife worn in stocking

sherrif : chief judge in an area

sheuch : ditch, drain, street gutter

shieling : a summer pasture; also a rough hut with it

shot : a brief use of

siller : silver, money

skellie-eyed : squinty

skite : slide, slither, to knock and cause to go off at an angle

sleekit : smooth, cunning, false

sma' : small; sma' hours = early

souch : rushing sound

sporran : purse in front of kilt

stane : stone

stank : gutter/grating

stave : sprain a joint

stook : a number of sheaves drying in a field

stookie : plaster

supper, fish supper : fish and chips

sweetie-wife : effeminate man

tae : to; too

tak : take

tattie : potato


thraw : throw

till : to

trews : trousers, closefitting

tryst : agreed meeting

twa, twae : two

tyne : lose

venom : poison

wee : small

weel : well

weet the bairn's head : drink a toast in honor of newborn: Christian

weet : wet

wha' : who

wheesht : hush!

wi' : with

wrath : anger, see choler, which is habit

yon : that

Words and concepts to watch

Certain words and concepts don't exist in the ancient world

Modern Try instead:

a lot many, much

analyze scope, ken, scry

animal beast

babysit wet-nurse

babysitter, governess nurse

baby, to cajole

bastard is one

blow up dissolve

book codex

book-roll scroll

boring tedious

bright only means light: see smart

calculate, do math cipher

communicate say, tell, convey message, send

constant only in meaning of faithful: try very

counterclockwise widdershins

crazy mad

dumb means mute: try lack-witted, dull.

energetic vigorous

energy no such word or cognates

fast quickly, swiftly; quick, swift

steady -fast, constant

fink traitor

grab grasp, seize, take up, take, snatch

head as seat of emotion heart

head as seat of thought mind, wit, wits

head, top of pate

heartbeat beat of heart

heart: as circulatory blood ran cold, hot

highway does exist, but are the few main (king's) roads

inhabitants folk

involve it regardeth him: it involves him

is about concern

is busy at is about [his business]

lousy calamitous

nag scold

notary public scribe

people folk

person man, woman

planets stars, mostly, except brightest

pretty comely

psych front, confront

psychotic driven, possessed

rat bastard blackguard

real true

real bad grievous

reality verity

revolve around concern

shoot more often: loose, let fly

sky air, heaven

smart clever, canny, sly

logding for sheep: fold

cows: byre

pigs: sty

dogs: kennel

horses: stable

goats: pen (or wherever else they'll stay)

doves: cote

fish trap weir

willow wands withies

stamp seal

street try also: lanes, closes, mews, courts.

sun the Sun

think believe, have credence, as often as not

toxicity venom

track pursuing animals or people

traveling salesman peddlar

tricky cunning

worker in smith (iron)





(cookware) repairman tinker

writer scrivener

fumes vapors

folk medicines simples

magic, practice of grammarie

bedroom chamber

women's quarters bower

man in charge of hunt: master huntsman, huntmaster

weapons: armsmaster, weapons master

students: tutor

cavalry: master of horse

infantry foot

cavalry horse

grimace pull a face, frown

dining room great hall

throne room great hall

small gate by big one sally port

chain mail more often, chain

mace not a chemical

discourage dishearten

depress make distraught

con artist cozener

trick gull, cheat

atmosphere air

horizon as a concept, not very clear

curve bent

inclination bent

head to head corps a corps (fencing)

bomb surprise

delete expunge, eradicate

origin root

dictator tyrant

body count tally

body bag shroud

get the idea comprehend, wot

two-faced duplicitous

hot and heavy amain

hearsay gossip

give hostage foster out

out of control career, careen

control dominance, domination, under one's hand, authority

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