This is a collection of the unusual, archaic, arcane, misunderstood, and/or special-purpose words I delight in using in my stories. There is a lot of natural history—plants and animals—since many of my fellow North Americans do not know what was/is found in European landscapes. The geology, of course, is to satisfy the Dwarves. I have left out the names of people, places, or things created by Tolkien (his works have their own glossaries and indices); and also individuals or places I have created for my own stories. Please feel free to use any words that strike your fancy!
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Acre: originally, a day's plowing; now 220 yards (a furlong) by 22 yards (0.4 hectares). On average, 5 acres of grain are the minimum needed to support a family of five, though it varies widely based on soil and climate.
Adamant: impenetrably hard stone, usually considered to be diamond.
Adder (Viperus berus): a mildly venomous snake found in Britain.
Adze:a woodworking tool similar to an axe, except that the cutting edge is horizontal instead of vertical.
Agnate: a patrilineal kinsman; one whose relationship can be traced exclusively through the male line.
Alaunt: a "gazehound," which pursued and brought down prey it could see, larger and burlier than a greyhound. Though slower, they were stronger and more reckless, suitable for quarry such as bear. They were smooth-coated dogs, with prick ears and a short, broad head; the favored color was white with black patches.
Alder (Alder glutinosa): a small tree, commonly found along water; its leaves and bark produce dye; the wood is water-resistant and attractive enough for furniture-making ("Scotch mahogany"); and it produces excellent charcoal.
Ale: an alcoholic brew flavored with something other than hops. See Brewing for details.
All-heal (also self-heal; Prunella vulgaris): medicinal herb.
Amber: fossilized pine resin, yellow-orange to brown in color; easily carved, with electrostatic properties.
Amethyst: violet to purple-red quartz; the gem-quality stone is usually found in geodes.
Arable: land where crops are grown.
Arms: armor, as well as weapons.
Ash (Fraxinus excelsior): a stately tree that grows well on both rich and stony soils, noted for its height, hardiness, speed of growth, and deep (often bedrock-penetrating) root system. The strong yet pliant wood was particularly valued for spear shafts, oars, tool handles, and wheels. It responds well to coppicing: a stump can produce a fine crop of spear shafts in as little as a decade.
Aspen (or trembling popular, Populus tremula): in the Highlands, the sound of the wind in its leaves was thought to inspire foresight, or resemble the nagging chatter of women, but the tree was regarded with superstition and fear.
Assart: a clearing in a forest, specifically one cleared for new farmland.
Assay: the analysis of an ore, to determine its worth.
Aumbry: a recess in a wall; a cupboard. This is a term Tolkien used when describing the fittings of a dwarven hall.
Backed: taught to accept a saddle and rider.
Bailiff: not an officer of the law, but one who manages a farm or estate. In Gaelic, a farming village or township was called a baile, and the factor for an estate a bàilidh.
Bait: to feed and water an animal, during a break in a journey; akin to "a bite."
Baluster: a pillar supporting a handrail.
Bannock: Scots, unleavened bread or cake baked on a flat stone or griddle. Here is a beremeal bannock, like those Saelon and her folk make.
Bark: a small, open (undecked) ship; this is not one of the great ships that sail West. The word and its cognates in several European language groups appear to derive from a Celtic root, *barca.
Basalt: an igneous rock, dark in color, originating as volcanic lava flows; it also forms shallow intrusion features such as dykes and sills. Basalts are mineral-rich; copper and silver are usually found in basalts. The basalt of Gunduzahar is amygdaloidal (full of small cavities that were once gas bubbles near the top of a lava flow, now infilled with other minerals), and is loosely based on the 70–60 million-year-old plateau lavas of Skye.
Bathe: noun, British English; a swim for the purpose of bathing.
Bating: the impatient or wild beating of the wings by a restrained bird of prey.
Baulk: a roughly squared timber beam.
Bay: the section of a building between a set of columns or supports.
Beck: a mountain stream; the term is common in northern England.
Beechwood: the brown-flecked, bright buff wood of the beech (Fagus sylvatica) was favored for making cups and bowls, because the sap did not taint the contents. The tree also produces small, triangular nuts, an important food for wildlife—and also enjoyed by people.
Beer: an alcholic brew flavored with hops. See Brewing for details.
Beeve: a head of cattle. Usually used in the plural, beeves, "beefs." Modern English usage is to refer to a single bovine as a "cow," but this is correctly used only for a mature female. Herders use very specific terms for their animals in regard to sex and age, since these are critical for understanding a beast's uses and value. See Cattle for a wider range of terms.
Ben: Scots, the inner chamber of a two-roomed house, the bedchamber.
Bere (hulled six-row barley, Hordeum distichon): the dominant grain in the Highlands until the medieval period.
Beryl: the gemstone producing emeralds and aquamarines; there are other colors as well.
Billet: a short document or note; like the more familiar "bill," it is derived from Latin bulla, seal.
Biscuit: in the British sense; what Americans call a cookie.
Bit: the cutting edge of a tool (akin to bite).
Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum): the fruit of this shrub is very high in vitamin C, and was traditionally associated with longevity. In Britain, this is the standard "purple" flavor, as grape is in North America.
Blackthorn: see Sloe.
Blaeberry (also bilberry, Vaccinium myrtilis): one of many closely related small shrubs producing edible berries. This is not the same species as North American blueberries.
Bloodwort (also St. John's wort; Hypericum perforatum or pulchrum): one of the most prized Highland simples for controlling bleeding and treating wounds. When crushed, its flowers ooze a bright red fluid that can be used as a dye.
Bodkin: a slender, pointed weapon such as a stiletto, or a similarly shaped tool for making holes in cloth.
Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata): an aquatic plant of shallow water and highly prized medicinal herb; one of its uses was as a spring tonic.
Boiling stones: a quick low-tech way to heat liquids is to put a fire-heated stone into the container. This is how people boiled food before they had ceramic or metal pots.
Boll: a unit of measure equal to six bushels.
Boon: fragments of flax stem, left in with the fibers due to careless or hasty hackling. See Flax for details.
Booth: a temporary shelter or tent; from Old Norse b?th, see Scots buith, bothy.
Bond: in masonry, the bond is the pattern blocks or bricks are laid in.
Bondsman: someone dependent on a bond or contract with their lord for their support; i.e., one without enough land to support a family. In medieval England, there were gradations among these "bound' or unfree peasants. Villiens had the highest status and might hold 30–100 acres; bordars were the middling bondsmen; and cottars came lowest, holding 4 acres or less.
Borage (Borago officinalis): an herb whose bright blue flowers are steeped in wine or made into a cordial, which gave courage and gladdened the heart.
Box bed: a bed enclosed with panels, i.e., in a box. These were more common in the Highlands than beds with curtains, since they were better at keeping out drafts.
Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum): a tall (often 6.5 feet or 2m high) fern, which grows on moor and hillsides as well as woodland. Poisonous to livestock, it is an unwelcome invader of hill pasture, but in the past was widely used for bedding for humans and animals, roof thatch, and as a medicinal plant.
Brae: Scots, hillside.
Brambleberries (also blackberries, Rubus fruticosus): a prickly-caned relative of the rose, bearing berries in August and September.
Breeks: North English and Scots, breeches; from Old English br?c. These are knee-length pants, worn with puttees (long strips of cloth wrapped around the lower leg), gaiters, heavy stockings or hose, or (by riders) boots.
Brewing: the process of making alcoholic beverages such as beer and ale. While almost any grain can be used, barley was most usual in Europe. The grain would be soaked in water and allowed to sprout, then dried (or roasted until browned, to produce dark brews such as stout) and ground to produce malt. The malt would be mixed with water to make wort, flavored with hops or other herbs, then brought to a boil. Once cooled, yeasts would be added or allowed to colonize the sugar-rich mash, which was left to ferment; bad or sour ale was often the result of undesirable strains of yeast or bacterial contamination. The length of time required for fermentation depends on the quantity of yeast and the temperature: alcohol is a metabolic waste product of yeast, and when levels reach several percent, it kills the yeasts and fermentation stops. While modern beverages are carefully finished to prevent microbial contamination and preserve the carbon dioxide also produced by the yeast, traditionally the result was drunk in short order or casked to settle and mellow. Originally, the terms ale and beer were synonymous; after the introduction of hops into Britain in the later medieval period, beer was the term used for brews that included hops.
Briars: thorny stems, particularly those of the rose.
Brine: to soak in a salt solution; one way to preserve meat. See also Salt.
Brock (also badger, Taxidea taxus): a large, thickset, burrowing member of the weasel family.
Broken Men: men whose lives are ruined; outlaws. This was the usual term in the Highlands.
Brooch: today this is usually a purely ornamental pin; in the past, it was a sturdy (and often ornamented) clothing fastener.
Broom (Cytisus scoparius): a shrub common in sandy heaths and wasteground, with green stems and small leaves, flowering yellow in early summer. Branches were often used as brooms.
Brose: a peasemeal porridge (more commonly oatmeal, today) made with milk or stock.
Brogues: from Scots Gaelic, bròg, "shoe"; the traditional footwear of the Highlands. While in the modern usage a brogue is a stout walking shoe, in the Iron Age and Medieval periods it was a light shoe of deerskin, often with decoratively cut openings on the upper.
Buck: a male deer, usually referring to the fallow deer (Cervus dama). Bucks were considered better eating than sport.
Buckies (also common whelk; Buccinum undatum): edible marine snails found on sand and mud in shallow waters.
Burin: an engraving tool with a sharp pointed tip used on metal or stone.
Burn: Scots, small stream.
Burr-stone: a millstone of coarse quartz grit.
Bushel: a unit of volume equalling four pecks or eight gallons; confusingly, it was also used as a (very variable) unit of weight. On average, there are 60 pounds (27 kg) of wheat in a bushel.
But: Scots, the outer part of a two-roomed house, the kitchen and main living space.
Butterwort (bog-violet; Pingvicula vulgaris): while its common name comes from its use in the dairy to curdle milk for cheesemaking, it was also a protection against evil and a potent love-charm.
Buzzard (Buteo buteo): not the North American vulture, but a large Old World hawk.
Byre: cow shed, building for housing stock. While many medieval and early modern Highland homes were byre-houses, where the people lived in one end and the cattle in the other, richer families often had separate byres.
Byrnie: a chainmail shirt. This is the Scandinavian-influenced Middle English term; "corslet" is Middle French.
Cabinet: while we now think of this as a piece of furniture, originally it was a small chamber used for comparatively exclusive council meetings—which is why high government officials are often referred to as the Cabinet.
Canach (common cottongrass; Eriophorum angustifolium): a sedge with fluffy white seedheads.
Cancerwort (also herb-robert, Geranium robertianum): a plant prized for its medicinal uses and ability to repel insects.
Canny: in Scots, a double-edged word—prudent and shrewd, especially thrifty; and also natural, free from supernatural powers (usually used in its negative sense, uncanny).
Carcanet: a highly ornamented necklace.
Carnelian: a reddish variety of chalcedony, a semi-precious stone well suited for fine carving.
Carrageen (Chondrus crispus): red-purple seaweed used as a thickening agent and as food for invalids.
Carran (scurvy grass; Cochlearia officinalis): a shore plant rich in vitamin C, also used medicinally.
Castings: in most parts of the world, the traditional way to make molds for metalcasting was the lost wax technique. The desired shape was modelled in wax, then encased in clay to make the mold, leaving holes to pour in the metal and vent trapped air. Before use, the mold was heated and the liquid wax poured out.
Cattle: in the broadest sense, any livestock, although usually referring to bovines. While many people picture this when they think of Highland cattle, historically Highland cattle were small and black, the weedy-looking ancestors of the modern Angus and Aberdeen breeds. Herders have specific terms to denote the age and sex of their animals, which correlates strongly with the animal's uses. An intact mature male is a bull, whose sole purpose is to sire calves; a castrated mature male is an ox, which is usually used for traction (pulling carts or ploughs); and a castrated young male is a stirk, who is probably destined to become beef. (This is the origin of the modern "steer.") A mature female is a cow, which produces calves and milk; if she does not, then she is a dry cow, and dry cows usually become beef if they remain barren. A young female that has not yet been bred is a heifer; and an unweaned juvenile of either sex is a calf.
Centaury (Centaurium erythraea): medicinal herb used as "bitters," for digestive upset and to stimulate the appetite.
Chain: a surveyor's unit of measure, originally a literal chain of 100 links, 22 yards (20.1m) long; there are ten chains in a furlong. A dwarven chain may be different from the Mannish one, since the length of a furrow is not a meaningful distance for them. Chains were used for surveying because they give a more accurate measurement: metal does not stretch under the tension used, nor with age, as rope does.
Chamois: a soft, pliable leather; originally the hide of the goat-like antelope of the same name (Rupicapra rupicapra), but it could be made from other hides as well.
Chaplet: wreath to wear on the head.
Charlock (also wild mustard; Sinapsis arvensis): a weedy plant eaten as a green when young.
Cherrywood: a fine-grained, hard, reddish wood that darkens as it ages, favored for furniture making and other decorative uses.
Cinnabar: the ore of mercury. See Dragon's blood.
Citrine: a rare, pale yellow to brownish variety of quartz.
Clabber: curdled milk.
Clinker: the fused, slag-like impurities left after coal has been burnt.
Clapper bridge: a simple bridge constructed by laying slabs of stone across a narrow watercourse; if more than one slab is required, the ends are supported by piers of piled stone. The name comes from the fact that when weight is placed on one end of the slab, the other tends to rise up, and then "claps" down as the load crosses. In some areas, they are traditionally called "dwarf-bridges," since locals believe Dwarves originally built them.
Clout: Scots, piece of cloth.
Coal: what peat becomes when it's been buried long and deep enough. There are various grades of coal, from the softest, lowest-carbon lignite; to bituminous or soft coal; and anthracite or hard coal, which burns hot and clean.
Cockle: a clam of the family Cardiidae with ribbed shells.
Cods: a cod is a purse, or the outer pod or husk of a seed; therefore, a euphemism for the scrotum.
Coinage: premodern monetary systems are often arcane, and writers of fantasy have mostly fallen into an unhelpful and bland "copper, silver, gold" mentality. For those seeking a good historical model to use or riff off of, it is hard to beat the Carolingian (early 9th century AD) reform of Roman coinage, which became the standard for many later Western European currencies. The libre (Latin), livre (French), or pound (English; note its symbol, £, and abbreviation as a unit of weight, lb.) was worth one pound of silver (491g). The pound was divided into 20 parts: the solidus (Latin), sou (French), or shilling (English; abbreviated s). Shillings were originally gold coins, but very few were minted in England before the Norman Conquest; they were also rare on the Continent at this time. (Viking coin hoards are almost entirely silver—gold just wasn't circulating as money during the "Dark Ages.") A shilling was further divided into a dozen parts: the denarius (Latin), denier (French), or penny (English; note its abbreviation, d). Pennies were originally silver and the commonest coin until late in the medieval period. A penny might buy seven and a half pounds of wheat (3.4 kg); a foal, calf, or yearling sheep; or an ell of fine linen. When "petty cash" was required, people cut pennies in halves or quarters. Copper coins of lower value were found exclusively in urban settings, where most people didn't grow their own food and it was useful to have something convenient for buying a loaf of bread. For such small-scale transactions, rural people relied on barter. (The locals in the Pony are almost certainly drinking on account: Barliman keeps a tally and they bring in some eggs, or a pig, or a bushel of barley every so often. The pennies he gave Merry for his ponies were silver, and 30 pennies for 5 ponies approximates early medieval prices.)
Collieshangie: Scots, a noisy quarrel; literally, a dog fight.
Collops: thin slices of meat.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara): a medicinal herb used for respiratory complaints, which blooms in March and April before putting up leaves. I have conjectured that its name is lhewig thind, "grey ear" (literal translation of the Gaelic name, cluas liath) in Sindarin, and lótë rácina hwesto, "flower of broken breath" (loosely based on the Latin Tussilago, "cough suppressant") in Quenya. Its prinicipal value is as a soothing mucilage, which can be extracted from leaf as as well as flower, coating the throat to ease coughs.
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale or tuberosum): a medicinal herb used to stop bleeding and knit bones.
Coppice: cutting trees that regenerate quickly in such a way that they produce large numbers of suckers or shoots, which can be harvested for wood without killing the root system.
Coracle: a small hide boat with a light wood or wickerwork frame. They are usually the size of a small rowboat, but some are big enough to carry a cow, and St. Brendan ventured far into the Atlantic with several companions in a large one. Coracle is the term common in Wales; in Gaelic-speaking Scotland and Ireland, they are called currachs.
Corbie (Corvus corone): carrion crow.
Corn: the generic term for grain; not maize (the stuff on the cob, Zea mays).
Cornice: on an interior wall, an ornamental molding immediately below the ceiling. Tapestries are usually hung from it.
Corrie: Scots, a cirque, or glacially eroded valley head; picturesquely described as an "armchair hollow."
Cott: small farmhouse; the residence of a cottar.
Cottar: an unfree peasant; someone holding a cott (cottage) and small plot of land in return for labor services. See also Bondsman.
Coulter: an iron blade set on the front of a plow; it cuts the soil vertically, while the plowshare cuts it horizontally and turns it to make the furrow.
Coursing: in masonry, a course is a row of blocks or bricks.
Cove: recess or small valley in the side of a mountain or between cliffs.
Covert: a thicket providing cover to game.
Cowslip (Primula veris): an early-blooming medicinal herb.
Crabs: crabapples; like sloes, the fruit is better after it is dried.
Creance: a long line attached to a falcon's jesses or leg-straps, giving it more freedom than a leash and used to train it to return to the falconer's hand.
Creel: a wickerwork carrying basket. While today most people associate creels with fish, they were less specialized in the past and came in a wide range of sizes.
Cress (also watercress, Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum): a highly nutritious water plant, commonly used as a salad green.
Croft: in England, an enclosed piece of open ground associated with a toft, between it and the cropland. Most were used as pasture for selected livestock, although some may have included a garden.
Crottle: Scots, lichens used for dying.
Crowd: ancient Celtic string instrument with three to six strings, played by plucking or with a short bow. An early form of fiddle.
Crucks: the curved beams that served as wall and roof supports in medieval longhouses and later cottages.
Cuckoo-flower (also ladies' smock, Cardamine pratense): a medicinal plant.
Cuddy (also saithe, Pollachius virens): fish related to pollack and cod, easily caught with a handline from rocky shores.
Curb: a bit with a chain or strap that runs under a horse's jaw (the curb), and upper and lower shanks. The upper shanks attach to the cheekpieces and the lower shanks to the reins, so when a rider pulls on the reins, pressure is applied not only to the horse's mouth but to the poll (where the headpiece rests, behind the ears, bringing the head down) and chin groove. Curb-bits are used for greater control and when rapid response is required, so these were the norm for war-horses. The longer the shanks, the greater the force that could be applied; additional features might press on other parts of the mouth, tongue, or nose. Some medieval bits were extremely severe by modern standards: once a horse's mouth grows "hard" from harsh bitting, more force has to be applied to get the desired response.
Curlew (Numenius arquata): a wading bird with a long, curving bill that nests on rough grassland and boggy moors in spring.
Dinner: traditionally the main meal, in the middle of the day.
Dip: a tallow candle.
Doe: a female deer, usually referring to the fallow deer (Cervus dama).
Dog-fox: a male fox.
Dog-rose (also brier or briar-rose, Rosa canina): a common wild rose used medicinally and for dyeing. The label "dog" signifies it has no scent.
Dog violet (Viola riviniana): a common, but scentless, Scottish violet.
Double-bitted: a tool's bit is the cutting edge; a double-bitted axe is sharp on both ends.
Dragon's blood: cinnabar, the ore of mercury.
Drawknife: a U-shaped tool, the handles on the arms and the edge on the inside of the curve, used to shave down wood.
Drill: a coarse twilled linen fabric, often used for summer clothing. The name comes from German, drilich, "three-fold thread."
Drover: a cowherd.
Droveway: a cattle track, especially one used to move herds long distances.
Dry-nurse: one who cares for infants, but does not breast-feed them.
Duck: a sturdy plainweave linen fabric, though lighter and finer than canvas. It was commonly used for trousers and outerwear.
Dulse (Palmaria palmata): edible seaweed, cooked as soup or eaten raw; also used medicinally.
Dyke: a seam of intrusive igneous rock, cross-cutting earlier strata along fault lines, often standing above the surface like a low wall.
Eel (Anguina anguina): a snake-like fish found in fresh and salt water.
Eel-grass (Zostera sp.): an aquatic grass with long, narrow blades.
Elder (Sambucus nigra): a shrub with white flowers and edible berries; it has many medicinal and practical uses, and like rowan and may was considered a defense against supernatural evil.
Ell: a traditional measure of the length of cloth. An English ell is 45 inches (1.14 m); a Scottish ell is just over 37 inches (0.94 m).
Entire: whole; that is, uncastrated.
Erne: an eagle, especially the white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla).
Eyass: an unfledged falcon (or hawk), taken from the nest for falconry. The female adult bird is a falcon, the male a tiercel. Falcons are larger than tiercels, and more desirable for hunting.
Fane: sacred place.
Fank: Scots, from Gaelic; a sheepfold or pen.
Farthing: a quarter of a penny. See also Coinage.
Faulting: fractures in stone, where changes in weight and tension cause the stone to crack and shift.
Febrifuge: an herb or drug that treats fever.
Feckless: weak, ineffectual, irresponsible.
Ferrule: ring or cap of metal, which prevents a wooden shaft from splitting or wear.
Finial: a crowning architectural ornament, such as a decorative knob.
Fire opal: not the more usual rainbow-colored precious opal, but a distinct subtype orange in color. Opals are very sensitive stones, and easily damaged by heat and dehydration.
Flagon: a pitcher, often lidded, from which beverages are poured at table; or the quantity a flagon would hold.
Flags (also yellow iris, Iris pseudacorus): a wetland plant, with medicinal uses. Probably what Tolkien calls ninglor or gladden.
Flail: the basic preindustrial threshing tool, a short length of wood attached to a longer handle, usually by a leather strap. The primary characteristic of domesticated grains is that the seeds do not naturally drop off the stalk and must be removed by beating or rubbing.
Flannel: a soft, loosely woven twilled woolen.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum): an annual plant widely grown for fiber and oil, although there are different strains for each purpose. The process of turning flax into linen is very time-consuming. The plant must be pulled before the seeds are fully ripe, then retted by soaking in water-filled pits for two to three weeks to rot the outer bark; the decayed stalks are then dragged across a heckle board studded with spikes of various sizes to separate the fiber from the remains of the stem (heckling or hackling); only then can the fiber be spun. Although retting pits are known from England since the Bronze Age, flax was only introduced into Scotland in the early medieval period, apparently by the Vikings.
Florin: a two-shilling gold coin. Florins originally took their name from Florence, which first minted them, and the lily device they bore: in Middle-Earth, they probably derive from an Elvish coin similarly marked. See Coinage.
Fluxspar: a term of my invention for fluorite, an easily carved mineral that comes in a wide range of colors and often used as a flux for smelting metallic ores.
Flyting: the trading of abuse, usually scathingly personal in nature and sometimes in verse, as part of a dispute. It is always meant for public consumption; the parties contend for support through the display of verbal virtuosity and razor wit.
Fool: a dessert made of sweetened fruit and whipped cream.
Foresighted: the foresight of some Dúnedain (such as Gilraen, Aragorn's mother) sounds very similar to the Second Sight, a "gift" Highlanders were noted for. It was not something you wanted to have.
Freehold: a hereditary right to land; a free man would pay some kind of rent or tribute to their lord (paying for the protection of specialist warriors), but would not have to perform labor services—their time was their own.
Freight: the cost of transporting goods, as well as the goods transported.
Frieze: a coarse, sturdy woolen fabric, napped ("frizzed") one one side.
Freshen: for wind, to become stronger.
Furlong: a unit of length of 220 English yards, or nearly 210 rangar or Númenorean yards. A furlong was originally the length of a furrow—how far you plowed before turning the team around. There are 8 furlongs in a mile, and not quite 5 in a kilometer.
Gambeson: a heavy leather or cloth tunic worn beneath armor, particularly mail. Mail of any type—chain, ring, or scale—only prevents weapons from cutting or piercing the wearer. It does not absorb the impact of the blow, so padding is desirable.
Gangrel: Scots, vagrant.
Gannet (Sula bassana): a goose-sized seabird that dives from a height to catch fish.
Garnet: a reddish gemstone. Here are some in a schist like that found around Habad-e-Mindon.
Garron: Gaelic, small sturdy packhorse.
Gean (also wild cherry, Prunus avium): a small woodland tree valued for its fruit (if it can be harvested before the birds get it) and its wood.
Gerle: a yearling roebuck.
Giddiness: while this now means no more than silly or frivolous, in Middle English gidy meant "mad, foolish," and in Old English, gydig—akin to "god"—meant "possessed, mad."
Girdle: no, not the tight-fitting undergarment, but a belt.
Glazier: one who makes glass.
Gneiss: a metamorphic rock, distinguished from granite (from which it is often formed) by visible layering or foliation. It is formed under conditions of extremely high heat and pressure (usually the collision of tectonic plates), and since its crystalline structure does not fracture readily, is commonly used for building and facings. The gneiss underlying Sulûnduban is based on the 2.6–1.6 billion-year-old Lewisian gneiss, one of the oldest known rocks in the world.
Goldenrod (Solidago virgaura): medicinal herb.
Gooseflesh: goose bumps.
Gowan (also ox-eye daisy; Leucanthemum vulgare): medicinally, this was used to treat lung complaints.
Green cheese: what the moon is made of. ; ) "Green" in the sense of new or fresh rather than color; an uncured soft cheese such as cream or cottage cheese.
Greyhound: the swiftest of the "gazehounds," which pursued and brought down prey they could see. They were put into a pack of scenthounds or stationed where they could run the final chase. The breed was more variable than today, including larger, rough-coated dogs we would now call deerhounds as well as smaller, more decorative types suited only for small game.
Grit: in British geological terminology, a rough-textured sandstone suitable for grinding is called a grit or gritstone.
Grizzle: to cry quietly and fretfully; fitful rain lighter than a shower.
Groin vaulting: a vault is the arched structure that supports a roof; a groin vault is a form of cross-barrel vaulting where the arms are of equal height, forming arched lines of intersection (the groins) that direct the weight to a point, such as the top of a column, instead of a line, like the top of a wall.
Grot: grotto, cave.
Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea): a medicinal herb used for respiratory complaints, which blooms from March to May.
Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris): an herb used to treat boils and inflammation.
Grue: Scots, a feeling of horror or revulsion; the twisted expression that accompanies such feelings.
Haggard: originally a female falcon, taken in adult plumage and not (yet) tamed to hand. Only later did the word take on the meaning of appearing worn and gaunt, as the falcon did before it adjusted to captivity.
Half a crown: two shillings and six pence; equal to an eight of a pound of silver. See Coinage.
Hare (Lepus sp.): a larger animal than a rabbit, with longer ears and legs. It does not live in burrows, and they usually breed in March, wich is why they are "mad" then.
Harvest moon: the full moon nearest the autumn equinox, so-called because its bright light allows farmers to work into the night during the busy harvest season.
Hash: a dish of finely chopped reheated meat and, often, potatoes; the word is akin to Germanic hache, "battle-axe." Like truffles, one suspects this might be a Dwarvish specialty.
Haulms: the stems or stalks of crop-plants after harvest, especially peas and beans.
Hazel (Corylus avallana): a small tree best known for its nuts (a staple of the Mesolithic diet in northwestern Europe), although its wood was also considered the best for hurdles and shepherd's crooks.
Heather (or ling; Calluna vulgaris): a low-growing shrub that favors acid soils, and so thrives on bog and moor. It has a wide range of uses, from bedding to rope to thatch, including as a flavoring for ale and herbal medicine.
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger): a member of the nightshade family with narcotic and sedative properties; a potent and dangerous medicinal plant.
Hinds: female deer, especially red deer (Cervus elaphas). Readers in North America should think wapiti elk (also Cervus elaphas), not white-tailed (Odocoileus virginianus) or mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus).
Hobbled: hobbles are rope or leather straps used to restrain horses when stabling or a corral is unavailable, usually placed on the forefeet. The horse can move around to graze, but their stride is so shortened that they can't go so far or fast.
Hobby: a small- or medium-sized horse; a soldier's horse.
Hock: the joint in the middle of an animal's hind leg, which corresponds to a human's ankle; from Old English h?h, "heel."
Homage and service: the ceremonial pledge and performance of loyalty and duty to a lord, in council and war, given in return for a grant of land.
Horse-coper: horse trader.
Horsetails (Equisetum arvense): a water plant use for scouring pots and medicinally.
Hour-candle: a candle that burns at a calibrated rate, used to keep track of time.
Humours: pre-scientific Western medicine explained a person's temperment and disease by reference to a balance or imbalance of four humours in the body. Blood, which was seen as hot and moist, made a person sanguine: cheerful, sturdy, and ruddy of complection. Phlegm, which was cold and moist, made one phlegmatic, sluggish and unexcitable. Choler, or yellow bile, was hot and dry; a choleric person was irritable and bad-tempered. Black bile, cold and dry, made a person melancholic, sad and pensive. Treatment aimed to restore a balance of humours: for instance, a person with a cold—overcome by phlegm, unusually sluggish and dull—would be given things considered to have heating and/or drying effects.
Hurdle: panel of wattle, used for a wide variety of purposes, especially to pen livestock.
Jack: a tankard made of waxed leather. See Tankard for details.
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula): a small crow with a grey body and distinctive pale grey eyes.
Jade: a vicious or worn-out horse; hence the term, "jaded."
Jasper: a species of quartz used as a semiprecious stone; it is usually red or brown, though it comes in all colors, and is often variegated.
Jet: a black, easily carved semi-precious stone commonly used for jewelry and ornaments in Bronze Age Britain, and again in Victorian times for mourning jewelry; actually a variety of soft coal.
Jobber: one who works by the job; i.e., on short-term contracts.
Joint: a finger-joint; about an inch.
Juniper (Juniperis communis): an evergreen shrub whose berries are used for flavoring and medicinal purposes.
Kail (Brassica oleracea acephala): Scots, a winter-hardy non-heading cabbage.
Kings-cup (also marsh marigold, Caltha palustris): a medicinal herb, also used for dyeing.
Kist: Scots, chest.
Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla): a small, cliff-nesting gull.
Knee: in shipbuilding, a roughly right-angle bracket used to strengthen joins (frames to the keelson, or crossbeams to the hull). They were usually shaped from natural crooks, where a branch came off a tree, for greater strength.
Kye: Scots, cattle.
Lapis: lapis lazuli, semiprecious stone composed primarily of lazurite, noted for its vivid blue color; the original source of the pigment ultramarine.
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus): a crested plover noted for the female's practice of luring predators from her nest by pretending to have a broken wing. Its name in Greek is "luring on deceitfully."
Larded: wild game is very lean, which can make the meat dry; it was often laced or covered with fat or fatty meat like bacon to make it more succulent.
Lark (skylark, Alauda arvensis): a bird of grassland and moor, conspicous only by the male's singing flight.
Lea: fallow land, meadow.
Lee shore: a lee is a shelter; the lee side of a ship is the side protected from the wind; and a lee shore is the one on a ship's lee side, i.e., the one the wind blows towards.
Limpet (Patella sp.): gastropod with a cone-shaped shell that clings tightly to rocks in the intertidal zone; while some people assert that they are only good for fishbait, in Argyll they were commonly made into a broth, which was supposed to be particularly good for nursing mothers.
Linarich (sea lettuce, Ulva lactuca; or Monostroma grevillei): thin green seaweed used medicinally when dried.
Linn: Scots, a waterfall, or the pool beneath one.
Lobelias (Lobelia sp.): some species are dangerously potent medicinal plants, with high levels of bitter alkaloids.
Lobsters (Homarus gammarus): a large blue-brown salt-water crustacean, found nearly everywhere there are rocks.
Louver: in traditional longhouses, the hearth was in the center of the principal room for efficiency of heating; obviously, a chimney wasn't feasible. In all but the meanest, some kind of panel which could be opened and adjusted to suit the wind was set in the roof—this was the louver. (Here's one on a Northwest Coast house model.)
Lovage (Ligusticum scoticum): celery-like potherb and salad plant.
Lye-metal: a term of my own invention for potassium, a soft, light, silver-white metal that burns with a violent violet flame when put in water. Potassium is, therefore, not found in a pure state in nature, but must be refined from compounds such as lye (potassium carbonate, obtained from wood ash—pot-ash, which provides the name—and traditionally used to make soap) and stored in mineral oil.
Lythe (also pollack; Pollachius pollachius): like cuddies, a fish closely related to the better-known cod (Gadus morhua).
Machair: Gaelic, coastal plain.
"made and manned": the term used for a bird trained for falconry; biddable to man.
Malachite: copper carbonate; a green semiprecious stone with light and dark banding, usually found near copper deposits.
Marriage settlements: in propertied societies and classes, a child's establishment of their own family and household is a major occasion for transferring economic resources to them. Land, sums of money, and/or moveable goods (such as livestock or household furnishings) would be promised before witnesses or contractually transferred, usually to the prospective husband so he could provide for his wife and future children. Negotiating the precise amounts and parcels, and where exactly the wealth would go in the event of the death of a spouse or the failure of the marriage, was usually a lengthy process for anyone who stood to inherit significant power or wealth. Prenuptual agreements are not a modern invention.
Marten (Martes martes, also pine marten): a large, arboreal weasel with highly prized fur.
Maul: a two-handed hammer with a wooden head, used for driving posts or wedges.
May (also hawthorn or whitethorn, Crataegus monogyna): small thorny tree used for hedges with strongly scented white flowers in May and June.
Meadowsweet (also queen of the meadow; Filipendula ulmaria): medicinal herb used to treat fever and pain; this, not willow, was the original source of salicylic acid for aspirin. Also used to flavor beer and mead, and as a strewing herb. Here's one herbal medicine that doesn't taste bad!
Merlin (Falco columbarius): a small, dark-colored, very aggressive falcon, essentially a miniature peregrine. In falconry, they are used to take small birds; females can bring down partridges twice their weight.
Mica: soft silicate minerals that form thin, easily separated plates or flakes, with a characteristic pearly shine.
Midden: dungpile and/or trash heap.
Moon-calf: a simpleton, someone with a congenital mental defect; originally, a calf deformed or aborted due to the ill influence of the moon.
Moonstone: certain varieties of feldspar, especially the pale andularia species of the orthoclase group; light bouncing between microlayers in the stone produces the characteristic schiller or "moonshine" iridescence.
Moraine: the deposit of mixed sediments marking the edge of a former glacier.
Morels (Morchella sp.): an edible wild mushroom; common morels (Morchella esculenta) have a honeycombed cap.
Mort: death; also the horn-call blown at the death of the quarry.
Moss (Sphagnum cymbifolium): highly absorbant, mildly antiseptic bog plant used for wound dressings as late as World War II. It was also traditionally used for menstrual pads and nappies.
Muck: soft wet manure.
Muffin: a small, round leavened bun; Americans, think "English muffin."
Muggins (also mugwort, Artemesia vulgaris): an herb used for flavoring and as a potherb, which stimulates the appetite.
Murrain: a livestock plague.
Mussels (Mytilus edulis): a black-shelled mollusc found in brackish water; there are also freshwater species.
Must: the mixture of honey and water fermented to make mead, or grape juice for wine.
Nacre: mother of pearl.
Needle-quartz: a term of my own invention for rutilated quartz, a transparent variety of quartz containing golden to dark needle-like mineral inclusions.
Nettle (Urtica dioica): best known for its stinging leaves, this plant was also used as a potherb when young, for fiber, and medicinally.
Ogive: a pointed arch.
Ondolaurëa: Quenya, "golden stone"; a term of my own invention for chrysoberyl, a yellow to greenish stone, harder than the other beryls.
Orchid (early spotted orchid; Orchis maculata): medicinal herb, whose root was used to cleanse infected wounds.
Orris (also Florentine iris; Iris germanica var. florentina), a native of the Mediterranean whose flower inspired the fleur-de-lis. The three inner petals or standards symbolize faith, wisdom, and valor. The root, if dried for at least two years, gives a strong violet scent long and is widely used in perfumery.
Osier (Salix sp.): a type of willow, especially those used for wickerwork.
Otter (Lutra lutra): a large aquatic weasel, shy of humans but sociable and extremely playful.
Outwith: Scots; outside, beyond the confines of.
Oysters: the rounded, common European oyster (Ostrea edulis), not one of the elongated Crassostrea species.
Pace: a unit of length based on an adult male stride. The traditional English pace was 30 inches (76 cm). The Númenórean pace or ranga, used by the Dúnedain, is about 38 inches (96 cm). I have estimated that a dwarven pace is about 22 inches (56 cm). This is not quite proportional to their height, but the Men of the West are notoriously long-legged.
Pale: fence of upright posts, palisade; as in "beyond the pale."
Paps: nipples or teats.
Pasty: a smallish, free-standing meat pie.
Patridge (grey partridge, Perdix perdix): a medium-sized game bird, larger than a quail but smaller than a grouse. They live much of year in family groups or coveys. Before guns, they were usually taken with falcons.
Peat: a waterlogged and compressed deposit of Spaghnum moss. This is commonly cut and dried for fuel in the western parts of Britain and Ireland; it burns with little flame and a distinctive earthy scent.
Peat hags: moorland with a thick layer of peat.
Pegmatite: an igneous rock, usually granitic, whose crystals are very large—inches or more across.
Penny: a silver coin. See Coinage.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium): a medicinal herb, taken to aid digestion, clear phlegm, and for menstrual complaints; it also repels insects and mice, so was widely used as a strewing herb.
Perch: a unit of length, traditionally 5.5 yards (just over 5 m), though varying locally. I suspect that a Westron perch is 5 rangar long.
Perch (Perca fluviatilis): a spiny-finned freshwater fish, with delicately flavored flesh.
Peridot: golden-green gemstone, a transparent variety of the mineral olivine; commonly found in basalts.
Phlegm: abnormally thick mucous discharge from the respiratory passages; also one of the four humours. See Humours.
Pike (Esox lucius): an aggressive predatory fish of fresh and slightly brackish water; mature specimens can be as long as 6 feet (1.8 m).
Pillion: the position of a second rider, sitting behind the saddle; before sidesaddles, women often rode pillion.
Pine (Scots Pine; Pinus sylvestris): a hardy evergreen tree, which produces softwood timber and pitch.
Pintle: an upright pin on which another part turns, as in a hinge.
Plainweave: the most basic weaving pattern, where the weft (crosswise) threads go alternately over and under the warp (lengthwise) threads.
Plate: precious metals, particularly silver; these are often plated—deposited in a thin layer—over less valuable metals to make objects appear more valuable than they really are.
Plover (golden plover, Pluvialis apricaria): these birds breed on moorland and bog, then move to coastal mudflats or farmland in late summer.
Pocked: spotted; originally, as if with smallpox scars.
Poleaxe: an axe with a hammer head opposite the blade, commonly used to kill animals before butchery. This is not the same thing as a military poleaxe, which is either a short-handled axe with a spike or hook opposite the blade, or an axe on a long handle.
Posset: a hot, rich drink for those who have been chilled or invalids, made of sweetened milk or cream curdled with ale or wine.
Pot-chain: during the Iron Age and Medieval periods, large pots were usually hung over fires by hooking them to chains fixed to the roof beams or in the masonry of chimneys.
Pottage: thick porridge.
Pound: an enclosure for animals; or the part of a fish or lobster trap where the catch awaits collection.
Prawns (also the Norway lobster, Nephrops norvegicus): a large shrimp that lives on sands or muds in deeper water.
Progress: a journey through a particular region, particularly a lord's tour of his dominion.
Pudding: not the American dish, a blancmange of starch and milk, but the much more substantial and variable British dish, which began as something akin to a sausage (black pudding, haggis) and became more cereal-based (pease-pudding, plum-pudding, Yorkshire pudding) over time. Puddings may be sweet or savoury; steamed, boiled, or baked. To confuse matters even more, "pudding" has come to mean the dessert course in general.
Purging flax (also fairy flax, Linum cathareticum): a medicinal herb used for purging and gynecological complaints.
Pyrite: iron pyrite or "fool's gold," a yellowish metallic mineral frequently mistaken for gold (and sometimes associated with it). Iron pyrite crystals were often used as strike-a-lights with flint, particularly before the Iron Age.
Quartered on: before the modern period, it was common for the military to assign troops to live in civilian households. Not only did this save the government the expense of housing and feeding them—it was another way to tax one's subjects—but it had the added advantage of discouraging civil unrest. "On" clearly shows this was considered an imposition.
Quartz: one of the most common minerals in the earth's crust, whose many hues and forms provide a range of semi-precious stones: rock crystal, amethyst, cairngorm (found in the Highland mountains of the same name), citrine, tiger's eye, and others. These stones are not as dense as more durable and hence valuable gems like diamond, ruby, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, and garnet. The "heaviness" of the latter stones is what makes panning an effective method for finding them
Quay: a dock or wharf; the word is pronounced "key."
Quean: Scots, a young woman; a hussy.
Quenching: iron and steel become brittle when forged, as the crystals fracture; to toughen the metal, you have to anneal or temper it—reheat it at a lower temperature to partially melt the crystals and then cool it (quenching) so they reform. This is where the art of ironsmithing comes in: the temperature (judged by the color of the hot metal) and how quickly the metal cools (varied by using different liquids, usually water- or oil-based) determines which forms of iron crystals you get, and therefore the quality of the metal.
Quern: grinding stones for hand-milling grain; in this case, a rotary quern.
Rache: a scenthound, able to track an unseen quarry; also known as running-hounds, these were the dogs used in packs. (The other classic scenthound, the lymer, was used singly; it looked like its modern descendant, the bloodhound.) Although there were different varieties, most looked much like their descendants, the modern fox-hound. Nobles hunted par force de chiens, by strength of hounds, since a pack was expensive to keep and train; its effective use called for practiced strategy and tactics, and was considered the best practice for warfare.
Rain-stone: a blue-grey variety of topaz. A term of my invention.
Ramps (also rampsons or wild garlic, Allium ursinum): potherb, also used medicinally.
Rarebit: a savoury dish, consisting of melted cheese, mixed with seasonings such as mustard and ale, served on toast.
Rascal: for the true huntsman, the noblest quarry was the stag (male red deer, Cervas elaphus: North American readers, picture wapiti elk, which are the same species). To be fit quarry for a hunt in the classic manner, a stag had to be at least a "hart of ten"—have ten points on his rack of antlers. Any other deer, whether a younger stag or hind, was "rascal," annoying beasts that distracted the hounds from their proper prey.
Rashers: slices of bacon or ham.
Reedmace (also cattail or bulrush; Typha latifolia): a waterside plant used for basketry; its roots are also edible.
Reiver: Scots, raider, chiefly of cattle; a cattle rustler.
Removal: in the British sense; moving to a new home.
Retting: part of the process of making linen, where flax is rotted in water to loosen the fiber. See Flax.
Ridgebeam: also roof-tree; the beam at the peak of a roof.
Rill: a small stream, rivulet.
Roof-tree: see Ridgebeam.
Rook (Corvus frugilegus): a relative of the crow, with a grey beak and lower face; it frequents farmland, eating grain and insects.
Róma: Quenya, "trumpet-sound"; also "shoulder." I am using this in place of curée, the Middle French term used by English nobility for the ritual rewarding of the hounds at the end of the hunt—often the only time, unless they were sick, that they got meat. The term seemed appropriate, since horns were blown throughout the curée, and with smaller game, some of the flesh was given to the dogs along with the entrails. I chose Quenya rather than Sindarin because the elaborate ritual of such hunts seems more in the Noldorin line.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia): small tree with white flowers in May and June, and bright red berries from late summer; although the berries are often eaten, damaging a rowan is taboo, since they are considered a potent protection against evil.
Rushlight: an oil lamp whose wick is a dried rush; also rush-wicked candles.
Saddle: a cut of meat from the back of an animal, including both loins—the tenderest part. The haunch would be tougher but have more flavor.
Sallow (Salix sp.): the shrubbier types of willow, for instance, the pussy-willow; these were traditionally used for basketry.
Salt: the importance of this commodity can hardly be overstated, although we take it for granted today. A small quantity is absolutely necessary for survival, for animals as well as humans. Before the invention of canning and mechanical refrigeration in the nineteenth century, the most reliable way to preserve foods was to salt them: the hydrophilic salt absorbs the water microbes need to survive and has other antimicrobial effects. It is also an important raw material in many industries. Since demand was high, salt was a valuable commodity: Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt (a "salary"); peasants sat "below the salt"; and incompetent or lazy people were "not worth their salt." The cheapest way to obtain salt is to mine it (rock salt), but suitable deposits are rare, and transport added to the cost. (In Europe, only a patch of the Alps split between Bavaria and Austria, and Cardona in Catalonia had historically known rock salt.) In some areas, there are brine springs, where ground water that has traveled through deeply buried salt strata reaches the surface (these are well known, since their animal-attracting salt licks have long been favored by hunters); and along the coast, seawater is plentiful. But to get salt from liquid sources, the water has to be evaporated. In sunny, dry climates, solar radiation can provide much of the required energy, but elsewhere, you have to boil the brine—and fuel becomes the limiting factor. Wherever possible, people allowed natural evaporation to concentrate the brine, and finished it by boiling.
Sandstone: a sedimentary rock made of cemented sand grains; its hardness varies depend on which minerals form the cement. Those that are red or brown in color are usually cemented by iron-rich minerals like limonite and hematite; these durable "brownstones" are widely used for building. The "brownstone" of Sulûnduban is based on the 800 million-year-old Torridonean sandstone.
Say: a fabric like serge, only finer-textured; some say was woolen, some mixed wool and linen.
Schist: a metamorphic rock, characterized by contorted foliation and a high proportion of platy minerals like mica. Much of the rock about Habad-e-Mindon is schist, based on the early Paleozoic Dalradian schists.
Scion: a shoot or twig; hence an heir or descendant.
Scone: originally, a flour-and-milk bannock cooked on a griddle.
Scot: a payment, or local tax; what you don't pay if you get away "scot-free."
Scree: loose stone on a slope or at the base of one.
Scrip: a small bag or satchel.
Scruple: a very small unit of weight, equal to 1.2 grams.
Scullion: the lowest ranked domestic servant, who usually did the dirty work in the kitchen.
Sea-beryl: an aquamarine (blue-green beryl). This is a term of my own invention.
Sea-kale (Crambe maritima): a distant wild relative of the more common garden kale, native to pebble beaches in western Europe.
Sea-steel: an alloy that resists the corrosive effects of salt spray. A term of my invention.
Sea-ware: seaweed, especially the coarser kinds used as a fertilizer.
Selkies: the Seal-Folk; skin-changers, like Beorn.
Sendal: fine linen; later the term was applied to similarly fine silk fabrics.
Sennight: seven nights; i.e., a week.
Sept: a branch of a clan.
Serge: a sturdy twilled woolen fabric. It was frequently used for hangings and bed-covers.
Settle: a high-backed wooden bench with arms, whose base serves as a chest.
Shambles: originally, a slaughterhouse or meat market.
Shawm: early double-reed woodwind instrument. I prefer this term to "oboe," which Tolkien used for a dwarven musical instrument in The Hobbit.
Sheep's eyes: longing amorous glances.
Sheer strake: the uppermost timber on the hull, equivalent to the gunwale—the more familiar term would not be appropriate in Middle-earth, since it derives from the use of this part of a ship to secure cannon.
Shieling: summer pasture for cattle and other livestock, usually on hills well away from settlements with their fields of grain; also the hut where the herders lived. You don't need to build so many fences if you take most of the stock up to the shielings, and can cut the grass near the settlement for hay.
Shilling: a coin, originally gold and possibly marked with a shield, worth twelve pence. See Coinage.
Shingle: a deposit of large rounded stones (many fist-sized and larger) found on ocean shores.
Shoat: a weaned pig, less than a year old.
Shuttle: the object used to carry weft threads, which runs across the width of a piece of fabric, through the warp (lengthwise) threads in weaving.
Silverweed (Potentilla anserina): a plant of dune grasslands with silver-green leaves, whose sweet roots were often chewed by children.
Simples: medicinal plants.
Sire: a male parent, applied to animals.
Skep: a bee-hive made of coiled straw.
Skewbald: a horse with patches of white and a color other than black. While Americans tend to call all parti-colored horses "pintos," the British distinguish black-and-white piebalds from skewbalds.
Skiff: a small boat that can be rowed and sailed.
Slack water: the time around the turn of the tide when there is little or no current.
Slake (also sloke or laver, Porphyra spp.): edible seaweed, eated boiled and buttered, fried, or made into cakes. (This is what nori, the seaweed wrapper for sushi, is make from.) It was believed that a person could live on this alone, even while doing heavy labor.
Slate: a fine-grained metamorphic rock that splits naturally into flat sheets. A tablet of slate can be drawn or written on with a slate pencil (or chalk), and erased by rubbing; the predecessor of chalkboards. It is also commonly used for roof shingles.
Sledge: not a sledgehammer, but a wheelless cart like a toboggan, used to haul loads short distances (for instance, hauling manure out to the fields). Because of the roughness of the terrain, wheeled vehicles were not used in the Highlands until roads were first built in the 18th century AD.
Sloe (also blackthorn, Prunus spinosa): small thorny tree used for hedges with white flowers March through May; the sour fruit is used for flavoring and preserves, though the flavor is improved by drying. Its tough wood is valued for making clubs and walking sticks (most notably the Irish shillelagh). As whitethorn (or may) is considered a benignant tree, blackthorn is considered malignant.
Slot: track of an animal.
Slough: deep mud or mire; a bog.
Small beer: weak (or inferior) beer or ale; a common breakfast beverage well into the nineteenth century.
Sokeman: a free peasant farmer, holding land in return for rent or service. Socage required attendance at the lord's court.
Sourock (also sorrel, Rumex acetosa): potherb and salad plant with a sharp, acid taste, also used medicinally and for dyeing.
Spade shoe: a rim of iron put on a wooden spade; this was the usual type of spade well into the 18th century AD.
Span: the distance between the end of the thumb and the end of the little finger on a spread hand, about 9 inches (23 cm). I have supposed that a dwarven span is not much less than that of Men.
Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula): an herb used to treat toothache and for blistering.
Spoil: the rock or soil removed from an excavation.
Spoot-fish (also razorshell clams): molluscs of the family Solenidae, which burrow into sand in shallow water. The scientific name comes from the Greek sól?n, "pipe," in the sense of a musical instrument—from which I have posited Sindarin sichalf, "flute-shell."
Springs: spring tides occur at the full and new moon, when the tidal range is greater than average; the high tide or flood is higher, and the low tide or ebb is lower.
Squills (Scilla verna): a blue, wild-hyacinth-like flower, found along the coasts.
Stalking horse: a hunting technique, where the hunter approaches game under the cover provided by a tame herbivore (usually horse, cattle, or deer), which reassures or distracts the prey.
Star-brooch: the "brooch of silver shaped like a rayed star" (LotR, "The Passing of the Grey Company") worn by Rangers.
Steel-bitted: a tool's cutting edge is its bit; tools and weapons, including swords, were usually low-carbon iron (malleable, so it would bend rather than break) with high-carbon steel (brittle, giving a hard, sharp edge) on the business end.
Steerboard: a steering oar, fixed to the right side of the rear of a vessel. This is the origin of the term "starboard" for the right side of a boat; the left side was put against the quay or "port" to avoid damaging the steerboard. Stern-rudders are not known before the thirteenth century AD.
Stenlock (also saithe, Pollachius virens): cuddies are the young fish; they are called stenlock when full-grown.
Strake: a single plank or line of planking that runs the length of a boat.
Stirks: young cattle, one to two years old. These were probably bullocks or steers: castrated males. See Cattle for details.
Stirrup cup: "one for the road"; a farewell drink, taken on horseback.
Stoat (Mustela erminea): a small weasel, reputed to be one of the most bloodthirsty animals; I was told a horror story in Scotland where the young couple making out in the car were devoured alive by a swarm of stoats. Stoats are brown in summer, but their coats turn white in winter, except for the black tip of their tails; their pelts are the ermine of royalty.
Stone: a unit of weight, varying by commodity but usually 14 pounds. A stone is one-eighth (half of a quarter) of a hundredweight (which is 112, not 100, pounds). For meat, a stone is 8 pounds.
Stonechat (Saxicola torquata): a red-breasted, (British) robin-like bird, favoring rough grassland.
Stonecrop (biting stonecrop, also wall pepper; Sedum acre): medicinal herb. Or perhaps seregon, "blood of the stone," a stonecrop with deep red flowers found in Beleriand in the First Age.
Stook: a collection of sheaves set butt end down to dry.
Stoup: Scots, narrow-mouthed pail or bucket.
Stout: a dark, high-alcohol beer.
Stravaig: Scots, to roam or wander aimlessly.
Stringer: a narrow board running the length of the interior of a boat, used to support structural timbers such as beams and knees.
Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio): an odd-looking fish covered with bony plates; it lives primarily in brackish water, but spawns in freshwater rivers. Mature specimens reach nearly 20 feet (6 m) in length. Caviar is their roe (eggs).
Sumpter: Middle English, one who drives a packhorse; in later English, it refers to the beast.
Sweetbreads: the pancreas and/or thymus of a young animal, usually a calf or lamb; these were (and still are) considered a great delicacy. Organ meats, while not popular today, are more nutritious than muscle-meat.
Sweet gale (also bog myrtle; Myrica gale): an aromatic shrub used for flavoring, dyeing, and medicinal purposes.
Sweet oil: a plant oil with a pleasant odor or taste, especially olive oil.
Sweir: Scots, reluctant, unwilling; also lazy.
Tableland: a small plateau. This one is based on Healabhal Mhor, also known as Macleod's Table North, on Skye.
Tack: since sailing craft cannot go directly into the wind, when desire or necessity requires movement in that direction, it is accomplished through the process of tacking, making a zig-zag series of movements on angles to the wind that do allow progress. Each individual leg of such a course is known as a tack.
Tafl: a game of strategy where one side attacks, the other defends a king that tries to escape the board.
Talus: rock debris, especially at the base of a cliff. See Scree.
Tanner: six pence; half a shilling. See Coinage.
Tarn: a small mountain pool or lake, usually without tributaries.
Tern (Sterna hirundo): a slim, black-capped seabird.
Thrawn: Scots, perverse, obstinate, and intractable; also cross, sullen, or dour.
Thrippence: three pence. See Coinage.
Thrift (also sea pink; Armeria maritima): a distinctive coastal plant, with pink blooms from April to October.
Throwboard: a Welsh tafl game.
Thrush (song thrush, Turdus philomelos): the more mundane cousin of the long-lived and magical thrushes of Dale, who have a taste for berries as well as snails.
Thyme (wild thyme, Thymus polytrichus): a very versatile herb of dry grasslands and dunes, this was commonly used as a tea and to scent linen. It was also considered one of the strongest tonics, particularly for nerves and chest complaints.
Tick: the fabric case or cover of a mattress.
Tiercel: a male falcon. Tiercels are smaller and less powerful than females.
Tig: the game also known as tag.
Till: the unsorted sediments left behind when glaciers melt; also, very descriptively, called boulder clay.
Tisane: a cuppa brewed of something other than the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis (tea), usually for medicinal purposes. The word comes from the Greek for crushed barley.
Tit (blue tit, Parus caeruleus): a colorful and rather tame woodland bird with a blue head.
Toft: the collection of buildings that made up an English medieval farmstead.
Topaz: traditionally, any yellow or golden-brown gemstone.
Topstrake: see Sheer strake.
Tormentil (Potentilla erecta): a medicinal herb also used for dying (red shades) and tanning.
Touched: in the head, mentally unbalanced.
Touchstone: a black stone used to test the purity of gold and silver, by the color of the mark the metal leaves on it.
Trammel: a net used to catch birds or fish; particularly one with layers of coarser mesh around a finer one—the bird carries some of the fine net through the coarser one, and is doubly entangled.
Trenail: wooden peg used to join timbers.
Trestles: a horizontal bar supported by two pairs of legs; modern sawhorses are essentially trestles. Trestle tables were common in the medieval period, particularly in hall; many smaller homes had no tables at all. Trestle tables were much like modern folding tables: easily set up for special occasions, and put out of the way again afterwards.
Trews: Scots, trousers; from Scots Gaelic truibhas. These are ankle-length, close-fitting pants.
Trifle: not only something of little account, but a dessert of jam-filled sponge cake soaked in wine and topped with custard and whipped cream.
Trubs: see Truffles.
Truffles (also trubs; Tuber sp.): the underground fruiting body of fungi, considered a great delicacy. Some sell for more than their weight in gold.
Trug: a shallow, oblong basket of wooden splints, used to carry fruit, vegetables, or flowers.
Trull: whore. As an interesting aside, the word is derived from "troll," the monster not the verb.
Tunny: the tuna, particularly the bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus); a very large predatory fish found in the open ocean.
Tuppence: two pence, or pennies. See Coinage.
Turves: the plural of turf; pieces of sod. Turf was a common construction material: think of the sod houses of the early settlers on the North American Great Plains.
Vair: the fur of the a grey variant of the European red squirrel, usually found around the Baltic; the contrast between grey back and white belly made it highly prized.
Varlet: generally, a page or servant; in hunting, the next-to-lowest position in a hunting establishment, usually held by a teenaged boy learning the art.
Vellum: the skin of a calf, lamb, or kid, prepared as a surface for writing; vellum is finer than parchment, which could be made of the split hides of adult animals. It was also used for the book covers.
Venery: hunting, or sex.
Verdigris: a greenish compound formed on copper due to weathering or the application of acetic acid (vinegar).
Vixen: a female fox.
Wassail: a spiced punch of wine or ale and baked apples, served on festive occasions, most especially at Yule; or the unhibited revelry a bowl of this inspires.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinalis): while most people think of this as something that goes on a sandwich or in a salad, it was commonly used to reduce fever and strengthen the blood. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron.
Water meadows: pasture along a river, lusher than most grazing due to periodic flooding.
Watermint (Mentha aquatica): a less-cultivated relative of spearmint and peppermint, used for many of the same medicinal and other purposes.
Water-seam: an aquifer; a porous layer of rock saturated with water. This is a term of my own invention.
Wattle: interwoven branches and poles used for a wide variety of constructions, such as walls and fences.
Wattle and daub: in many areas of northwestern Europe, Iron Age and later house walls were commonly wattle panels covered with clay. While this may sound primitive, the plaster or wallboard in modern houses is merely a highly refined version of clay cladding.
Wean: Scots, "wee one," a young child.
Weir: a fish trap, usually an enclosure of posts or stones in a watercourse or tidal bay.
Wether: a castrated male sheep. They produce more and better wool than ewes.
Whin (also gorse or furze, Ulex europaeus): spiny evergreen shrub with bright yellow flowers in May and June.
White foods: dairy products.
White wood-lilies (lily-of-the-valley; Convallaria majalis): a fragrant, spring-blooming flower found in lime-rich dry woodland.
Wine-stones: garnets. A term of my invention.
Winkles (periwinkles; Littorina littorea); marine snails prized for food, traditionally cooked in soup or stewed in porridge.
Winter slaughter: traditionally, there was a substantial cull of livestock in the late autumn, to reduce the number of animals that would need feeding with hay over the winter when grazing was poor.
Withies: willow branches.
Wolf's-heads: outlaws, to be hunted down like wolves. A bounty was paid for bringing in the head of a slain wolf.
Wood: mad; infected with rabies.
Woodbine (also honeysuckle; Lonicera periclymenum): a woody vine with fragrant flowers.
Wood pease: a vetch (Lathyrus montanus or Orobus tuberosus) whose sweet roots were chewed to deaden hunger.
Woodruff (Galium odoratum): a shade-loving woodland herb, commonly used as a strewing herb and to scent linens; it is also had medicinal uses, particularly as a tranquilizer.
Woolfell: a sheepskin with the wool left on.
Worm (shipworm, Teredo navalis): a marine clam that burrows into submerged wood; over time, they can severely weaken a ship's hull. They can only be deterred by reguarly removing the ship from the water for a prolonged period (which is difficult and impractical for large ships), or by sheathing or studding the hull below the waterline with copper, which is toxic to the creatures.
Wort: the mixture of malt (ground germinated barley) and water fermented to make ale. See Brewing.
Wound-fever: bacterial infection of his wounds. In pre-modern medical systems, which had no conception of bacteria or viruses, illnesses were usually classified (and treated) by symptom rather than cause. In this age of antibiotics, we have generally forgotten how serious bacterial infections can be.
Wrack: dried seaweed, or a particular variety of brown seaweed (Fucus sp.).
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes): a small brown bird, so pert and bold that it was sometimes called the king of the birds.
Wyrd: magic, enchantment.
Yard: a rod or pole; therefore, a euphemism for the penis.
Zargun: Arabic, "zircon." Since there are interesting correspondences between Khuzdul and Semitic languages such as Arabic, I have shamelessly borrowed the word into Khuzdul.