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How did such and such a country, city, town, street, river, natural curiosity, or world-renowned edifice obtain its name? Whence arose a particular sobriquet, nickname, byword, epithet, or slang term? What was the origin of the thousand-and-one phrases and expressions engrafted upon our vocabulary which would appear to have no meaning whatever? These things are worthy of investigation.



Few words are necessary to introduce this work to the reader. It partakes of the nature of an encyclopædia, with the saving clause that the information it sets forth is confined to a plain statement of facts. Verbal embellishments have been studiously avoided. Those who seek for additional intelligence may easily obtain it from ordinarily available sources. To account for the origin of popular phrases and names has been the author’s sole design. To the best of his knowledge, no other work of the kind exists. From the stores of his own knowledge, acquired through many years of omnivorous reading, patient inquiry, and investigation, he has been enabled to bring together an Olla podrida which should go far towards supplying a want.

The origin of place-names is interesting in that it opens up the history of peoples and the civilising influences, if so one might term it, of conquest. London street-names, in particular, convey in one word to a person of antiquarian tastes as much meaning as “a volume of forgotten lore.” As to phrases and expressions, the author has made a special study of the subject. A great many Americanisms have been included, but as the number is daily increasing it would require a monthly publication of such home-made phrases to keep fully abreast with the times. That nothing should be wanting in the way of exhaustiveness, it has been thought advisable to incorporate in the vitext a number of slang terms and expressions which daily assail one’s ears. To the author the compilation of this volume has been a pleasant recreation in the intervals of more exacting literary labours. If it be found to contain a plethora of good things, the reader will, of course, take them out in small doses.

T. H. J.

London, 1906.

1Phrases and Names


A1. An expression meaning “first-rate.” Derived from Lloyd’s “Registry of Shipping,” in which letters denote the quality of a ship’s hull, and figures that of its equipment. A vessel registered A1 is of the first class in all respects.

Abbey Laird. An insolvent debtor who in former times sought the sanctuary of the precincts of Holyrood Abbey against arrest.

Abbey Road. From the ancient abbey of the Holy Virgins of St John the Baptist in St John’s Wood.

Abbotsford. The name given by Sir Walter Scott to his residence on the banks of the Tweed, from the poetical assumption that the abbots of Melrose must have forded the stream hereabouts in olden times.

A.B.C. Girls. Waitresses at the depots of the Aerated Bread Company Limited.

Aberdeen. From the Celtic aber, estuary, confluence; the town at the mouth of the Dee.

Abernethy Biscuits. From the name of the baker who introduced them. Their connection with Dr Abernethy was repudiated by the great physician himself.

Aberystwith. The town at the mouth of the Ystwith.

Abigail. The generic name for a waiting-maid, in allusion to the handmaid who introduced herself to David (1 Sam. xxv. 23). Its popularity during the second half of the seventeenth century may be accounted for 2by the fact that the maiden name of Mrs Masham, the waiting-woman of Queen Anne, was Abigail Hill.

Abingdon. A corruption of Abbendon, the town of abbeys, being a place famed for religious houses far back in Anglo-Saxon days.

Abingdon Street. From the ancient town residence of the Earls of Abingdon.

Abney Park. From Abney House, now a Conservative Club, the residence of Sir Thomas Abney, Lord Mayor of London. Dr Isaac Watts passed away at Abney House in 1748.

Abode of Love. See “Agapemonites.”

Abolitionists. The party sworn to the total and immediate abolition of slavery in the United States.

Above Board. Open, not playing an underhanded game. The owners of the gaming-tables on a race-course unsuspectedly regulated the issue of the spinning hand on the board by means of a treadle.

Abraham Newlands. Bank of England notes, so called from the signature they bore early in the last century.

Absinthe. From the Greek apsnithion, wormwood.

Absquatulate. A Far-West Americanism. A squatter who suddenly left his claim was said to have absquatulated.

Abyssinia. The country of the Abassins, or “mixed races.”

Academy. From the garden of Academus, where Plato taught his disciples; called on this account the Academics, or Academic School of Philosophy.

According to Cocker. Strictly correct. After Edward Cocker of Paul’s Chain, who published a most popular arithmetic.

According to Gunter. An expression much used in America for anything done properly and systematically. The allusion is to Edmund Gunter, the celebrated mathematician, who invented a chain and scale for measuring.

3Achilles Tendon. The tendon reaching from the calf of the leg to the heel. See “Heel of Achilles.”

Acknowledge the Corn. An Americanism of extremely popular application. Its origin is thus given by The Pittsburg Commercial Advertiser: “Some years ago a raw customer from the upper country determined to try his fortune at New Orleans. Accordingly he provided himself with two flat boats--one laden with corn and the other with potatoes--and down the river he went. The night after his arrival he went up town to a gambling-house. Of course, he commenced betting, and, his luck proving unfortunate, he lost. When his money was gone he bet his ‘truck’; and the corn and potatoes followed the money. At last, when evidently cleaned out, he returned to his boats at the wharf, where the evidences of a new misfortune presented themselves. Through some accident or other the flat boat containing the corn was sunk, and a total loss. Consoling himself as well as he could he went to sleep, dreaming of gamblers, potatoes, and corn. It was scarcely sunrise, however, when he was disturbed by the ‘child of chance,’ who had arrived to take possession of the two boats as his winnings. Slowly awakening from his sleep, our hero, rubbing his eyes and looking the man in the face, replied: ‘Stranger, I acknowledge the corn--take ’em; but the potatoes you can’t have, by thunder!’ Since that time it has become customary for a man who frankly admits having been hoaxed or beaten to say: ‘I acknowledge the corn.’”

Acropolis. From the Greek akros, highest, and polis, city. A citadel or fortress overlooking a city, as at Athens.

Acton. Anglo-Saxon for “Oak Town,” built in the neighbourhood of a great oak forest.

Actors’ Day. A day--the third Thursday in October--set apart for a performance in all the theatres of the United Kingdom in aid of the various theatrical charities--actors being pledged to give their services, dramatic authors to forego their fees, and managers to devote the entire receipts to the good cause.

4Adam Street. After the Brothers Adam, who built the streets collectively styled the “Adelphi.”

Adam’s Needle. A plant so called from its long, pointed leaves. Whether he and his spouse strung their aprons together by its means is doubtful.

Adam’s Wine. Drinking water, because Adam knew not the fermented juice of the grape.

Ada Rehan. This American actress is of Irish extraction, her name being “Regan,” but on entering the dramatic profession she changed it to “Rehan.”

Addison of the North. The literary sobriquet of Henry Fielding, author of “The Man of Feeling,” on account of the purity and elegance of his style.

Addison Road. After the great English essayist, who, having married the Dowager Countess of Warwick, lived and died at Holland House, Kensington.

Addled Parliament. A memorable session during the reign of James I., which, though it lasted from 5th April 1614 to 7th June 1615, passed no new measure whatever.

Adelaide. The capital of South Australia, an island, and also a noted hostelry on Haverstock Hill, named in honour of the consort of William IV.

Adelphi. The collective name for several streets and a noble terrace on the south side of the Strand, built by the Brothers Adam. Adelphi is Greek for “brothers.”

Adieu. Originally a popular commendation to the care of God--A Dieu!

Adonis. The name given to a beautiful youth, and also to the anemone, after Adonis, who was beloved by Venus. The flower is said to have sprung from his blood when he was gored to death by a wild boar in the chase.

Admirable Crichton. The designation of one accomplished in all the arts. “Admirable” Crichton was a noted Scottish prodigy of the sixteenth century.

Admiral. From the Arabic emir-el-bahr, Lord of the Sea.

Adrianople. The city founded by the Emperor Hadrian.

5Adriatic Sea. After the Emperor Hadrian.

Adullamites. Those who in 1866 seceded from the Reform Party. John Bright said they had retired to the Cave of Adullam, there to gather around them all the discontented. The allusion was to David’s flight from Saul (1. Sam. xxii. 1, 2).

Ad valorem. A Customs term for duties levied according to the stated value of goods imported. The duty on various qualities of the same goods may therefore differ.

Ædiles. Civil officers of Rome who had the care of the streets and ædes, or public buildings.

Æolian Harp. A lute placed in the trees for the zephyrs to play upon, so called after Æolus, the god of the winds.

Æsculapius. The generic term for a physician, after the one of this name mentioned by Homer, who was afterwards deified in the Greek mythology.

Afghanistan. Pursuant to the Persian stan, the country of the Afghans.

Africa. From the Phœnician afer, a black man, and the Sanskrit ac, earth, land, country. This great continent is the natural home of the blacks--the negroes of North America and the West Indian Islands being descended from the slaves carried thither from the west coast of Africa since the time of the original slave trader, Sir John Hawkins, in 1562.

Agapæ. Love feasts of the Romans, from the Greek agape, love.

Agapemonites. An old term which has newly come into vogue in our day. Agapemone is Greek for “abode of love.” There was such a retreat early in the nineteenth century at Charlynch, Somerset, the seat of the Agapemonists or Agapemonites, followers of Henry James Prince, an ex-Churchman.

Agar Street. After William Agar, a wealthy lawyer, who resided in it. See “Agar Town.”

6Agar Town. A now vanished district covered by St Pancras Railway Station, the lease of which was acquired by William Agar in 1840 for building purposes.

Agate. From Achates, the Greek name of a Sicilian river, in the bed of which this gem was found in abundance.

Agnostic. From the Greek a, without, and gnomi, to know. One who professes a belief only in what he knows or can discover for himself. Literally a “know-nothing.”

Agony Column. At first this newspaper column was confined to distressful inquiries for missing relatives and friends. Latterly it has become a tacit means of communication between persons who, for various reasons, cannot exchange letters sent through the post.

Ahoy. From Aoi, the battle cry of the Norsemen as they ran their galleys upon the enemy.

Aigrette. A French word, denoting the tall white plume of a heron. From a feather head-dress the term has now come to be applied to an ornament of gems worn by a lady on the crown of her head when in full evening dress.

Air of a Gentleman. In this sense the word “air” is synonymous with “manner” and “deportment.”

Air Street. When laid out and built upon in 1659 this was the most westerly street in London. The allusion to fresh air is obvious.

Aix-la-Chapelle. The Aquis Granum of the Romans, famous for its baths. Hence the German name Aachen, expressive of many springs. The place is also noted for its many churches; the cathedral, which grew out of the original chapel, contains the shrine of Charlemagne.

Alabama. Indian for “here we rest.”

A la Guillotine. The name given in France after the Revolution to the fashion of wearing the hair very short, in memory of friends and relatives who had fallen victims to the “Guillotine.”

7A la Watteau. The name given to a stage ballet in which the pretty rustic costumes are after the style of those ever present in the pastoral paintings of Antoine Watteau, the famous French artist. Reproductions of his pictures frequently also figure on expensive furniture--screens in particular.

Albania. From the Latin albus, white, “the country of snowy mountain ranges.”

Albany. A commodious range of bachelor chambers in Piccadilly, at one time the residence of Frederick, son of George III., created Duke of York and Albany.

Albany Street. After the Duke of York and Albany, temp. George III.

Albemarle Street. In the West End street of this name resided Christopher Monk, second Duke of Albemarle. The other, in Clerkenwell, was built upon when General Monk, the first Duke of Albemarle, was at the zenith of his popularity.

Albert. After the Prince Consort, to whom the jewellers of Birmingham presented a short gold watch-chain on the occasion of his visit to that city in 1849.

Albert Gate. After Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. The Albert Bridge, Albert Memorial, and Royal Albert Hall likewise perpetuate his name.

Albigensis. Christian heretics of the twelfth century, drawn from the Albigeois, whose capital was Albi, in Languedoc.

Albion. The name given to Britain by the Romans on account of its (albus) white cliffs, as approached from the sea.

Alcantara. From the Arabic Al-kantarah, “the bridge,” referring to the fine stone bridge built by Trajan.

Alcove. From the Arabic El-kauf through the Spanish alcoba, a tent.

Aldermanbury. The bury or enclosed place in which stood the first Guildhall prior to the reign of Henry IV.

Alderney. In French Aurigny, from the Latin Aurinia, Isle of Light.

8Aldersgate Street. From the ancient city gate near which grew several fine alder-trees.

Aldgate. From the Auld Gate of Saxon London, the earliest of the city gates.

Aldine Editions. Early editions of the classics produced and given to the world by Aldo Manuzio, the celebrated printer of Venice, in the sixteenth century.

Aldwych. An old name for a magnificent new thoroughfare which has taken the place of quaint, out-of-date Wych Street, anciently described as Auld Wych, leading as it did to the old village, whose parish church was that of St Giles’s in the Fields.

Ale-stake. The pole anciently set up in front of an alehouse. This was at first surmounted by a bush, in imitation of a wine bush; later it became exchanged for a sign.

Ale-wife. An old name for the wife of a tavern keeper.

Alexandra Limp. When our present Queen, as Princess of Wales, having sustained an injury to her knee, was walking lame, it became the fashion to imitate her gait.

Alexandria. The city founded by Alexander the Great, B.C. 332.

Aleutian Islands. From the Russian aleut, “bald rock.”

Alfreton. Properly Alfred’s Town, identified with Alfred the Great.

Algiers. From the Arabic Al Jezair, “the peninsula.”

Alhambra. From the Arabic Kal-at-al-hamra, “the red castle.”

Alibi. Latin for “elsewhere.”

A Little too Previous. An Americanism for being in too great a hurry; rushing at conclusions; saying or doing a thing without sufficient warranty.

All Abroad. Provincial for scattered wits; “all over the place.”

Allahabad. Arabic and Persian for “City of God.”

9All Bosh. The introduction of the term “Bosh” into our vocabulary must be accredited to James Morier, in whose Oriental romances, “The Adventures of Haiji Baba of Ispahan” and “Ayesha,” it frequently appears. Bosh is Persian and Turkish, signifying rubbish, nonsense, silly talk.

Alleghany. A corruption of Alligewi, the name of an Indian tribe.

Allemanni. Teutonic for “All Men”; expressing a confederacy.

All-fired. An Americanism for “great”--e.g. “He came in an all-fired hurry.”

All-hallowe’en. The vigil of “All-hallows’ Day.”

All-hallows’-Barking. This ancient church, dedicated to All the Saints, belonged to the Abbey at Barking, Essex.

All-hallows’ Day. The old-time designation of All Saints’ Day, from Anglo-Saxon halig, holy.

All Moonshine. As the light of the moon is reflected from the sun, so an incredible statement received at second hand is said to be “all moonshine.”

All my Eye and Betty Martin. A corruption of Ah mihi, beate Martine (Woe to me, Blessed Martin), formerly used by beggars in Italy to invoke their patron saint. The story goes that a sailor who wandered into a church in that country, hearing these words, afterwards told his companions that all he could make out from the service was: “All my eye and Betty Martin.”

All Saints’ Bay. Discovered by Amerigo Vespucci on the Feast of All Saints, 1503.

All Saints’ Day. The day set apart by the Church for the invocation of the whole body of canonised saints.

All Serena. From the Spanish serena, used by sentinels as a countersign for “All’s well.”

All Souls’ College. Founded at Oxford by Henry Chichely, Archbishop of Canterbury, for the perpetual offering up of prayers on behalf of the souls of those who fell in the wars of Henry V. in France.

10All Souls’ Day. The day of special prayers for the liberation of the suffering souls in Purgatory. The French people make it a point of duty to visit the graves of their deceased relatives on this day.

All the Go. Originally a drapers’ phrase, meaning that a certain line of goods is “going” fast and will soon be gone. A publisher, too, thinks a book should “go” with the reading public.

All There. An Americanism expressive of one who has all his wits about him.

Almack’s. Fashionable assembly-rooms in King Street, St James’s, opened 12th February 1765 by MacCall, a Scotsman, who inverted his name to remove all suspicion of his origin. The next proprietor called them Willis’s Rooms, after himself. In 1890 they were converted into a restaurant.

Almighty Dollar. For this expression we are indebted to Washington Irving, who in his sketch of “The Creole Village” (1837) spoke of it as “the great object of universal devotion throughout our land.”

Alnwick. The wick, or village, on the Alne.

Alpaca. Cloth made from the wool of the Peruvian sheep of the same name, akin to the llama.

Alps. From the Latin albus, white, the mountains eternally capped with snow.

Alsace. Teutonic for “the other seat,” being the abode of their own people west of the Rhine. With the Celtic suffix the name became “Alsatia.”

Alsatia. Anciently the district of Whitefriars, which, being a sanctuary for law-breakers, received the name of the Rhine province notorious as the common refuge of the disaffected.

Alter Ego. Expresses the Latin for “my other self” or “double.”

Amadeus. The family name of the House of Savoy, from its motto: “Love God.”

11Amain. A nautical phrase meaning suddenly, at once--e.g. “Strike amain,” “Lower amain.”

Amateur Casual. The literary sobriquet of Mr James Greenwood, who in 1866 spent a night in Lambeth Workhouse, and wrote his experiences in The Pall Mall Gazette. Within the last few months he has undertaken a similar up-to-date commission for The Tribune.

Amati. A violin of rare excellence made by Andrea Amati of Cremona.

Amazon. The Spaniards first called this river the Orellana, in honour of their countryman who navigated it, but after hearing accounts of the fighting women on its banks they gave it the name of the fabled African tribe of warlike women who cut or burnt off the right breast in order the better to steady the bow. The word Amazon is Greek, from a, without, and maza, breast.

Ambrosian Chant. Ascribed to St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in the fourth century.

Ambuscade. From the Italian imboscata, concealed in a wood.

Amen. Hebrew for “Yea,” “Truly,” “So be it.”

Amen Corner. Old Stow tells us this lane was suddenly stopped up in his time, so that people said “Amen” on finding they had to turn back again. There may be something in this; but the greater likelihood is that it was here where the monks finished the recital of the Paternoster before they took up the Ave Maria while on their way in solemn procession to St Paul’s at the great Church festivals.

America. After Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine adventurer, who chanced to be at Seville when Columbus was preparing for his second voyage to the West. With Ojeda, Vespucci embarked upon an independent expedition. Subsequently he made further voyages in Portuguese ships, and discovered the Bay of All Saints. His remaining days were spent in the service of the 12King of Spain, preparing charts and prescribed routes to the New World. Although these official publications bore his signature, Vespucci never claimed to have discovered the great Western Continent. A wonderful narrative of his voyages, however, purporting to have been written by Vespucci, found its way into the hands of Martin Waldseemuller of Freiburg, Baden. This he translated, and caused it to be published by a bookseller at St Die in Lorraine in 1507. In his preface to the work Waldseemuller suggested that the newly discovered country should be called America, after the author, who had visited it. Hence the name really originated in Germany.

American Indians. See “Indians.”

Americanism. A coined word or phrase in the United States which, freely repeated, tickles the popular ear and soon becomes engrafted upon the national vocabulary. Many Americanisms are now as common in England as in the land of their origin. The term may also be applied to such American deviations from British custom, as the substitution of “Depot” for Railway Station, “News-stand” for Bookstall, “On the street” for “In the street,” etc. etc.

Amiens. From the Latin ambiens, surrounded by water. Three branches of the River Somme run through the city.

Ammonites. The descendants of Ben-ammi, the son of Lot (Gen. xxix. 38).

Among the Gods. At the time when the expression first came into use, the ceiling of Drury Lane Theatre was embellished with classical deities disporting themselves among the clouds in an azure sky.

Among the Missing. An Americanism for an absentee. When a person wishes to be “out” to a visitor, he tells the servant that he prefers to be “among the missing.”

Amorica. The country of the Armorici, “dwellers on the sea.”

Ampthill Square. From Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire, one 13of the seats of the ground landlord, the Duke of Bedford.

Amsterdam. The town built on the dam of the Amstel.

Amwell Street. After one of the wells in Hertfordshire, whose waters were drawn upon by Sir Hugh Myddleton for the New River.

Anabaptists. Conformably to the Greek ana, twice, the designation of the original Baptists, who, having been baptised at birth, went through the ceremony a second time on reaching maturity.

Anacreon Moore. The sobriquet of Thomas Moore, who translated the Odes of Anacreon, and constructed his own verses on the same classic model.

Anatolia. The Turkish and Greek description of Asia Minor, from anatolie, east--i.e. of Constantinople.

Ancient. Iago is described as Othello’s “ancient.” Even in Shakespeare’s day this word was a corruption of ensign, or standard-bearer.

Ancient Lights. After having enjoyed the light of a window on his premises for twenty years uninterruptedly a person may, subject to displaying the notice “ancient lights,” prevent that light from being intercepted by any other building.

Ancona. From the Greek agkon, elbow, relative to its position on an angle of the coast.

Andalusia. Properly Vandalusia, the country of the Vandals.

Andes. From the Peruvian anta, copper.

Andrea Ferrara. A world-famous Italian sword blade made by Andrea of the city of Ferrara.

Angel. An inn sign, originally the “Angel and Salutation,” depicting the visit of the angel who announced to the Virgin that she was to be the mother of the Redeemer.

Angelic Doctor. One of the sobriquets of St Thomas Aquinas, universally regarded as “The Angel of the Schools.” He is said also to have written much on the nature of angels.

14Anglesea. Properly Anglesey, expressing, from the point of view of the Celtic inhabitants of Wales, the ey, or island of the Angles.

Anglesea Morris. After William Morris, who caught this species of fish off the Isle of Anglesea.

Angola. Wool brought from Angola on the West Coast of Africa.

Angostura Bitters. Prepared from the celebrated medicinal bark discovered by Capuchin monks in the Venezuelan city Angostura, which name signifies a strait.

Anguilla Island. West Indian for “Little Snake,” from its shape.

Anisette. A cordial prepared from aniseed.

Annunciator. An Americanism for bell or gong.

Antarctic Ocean. That situate anti, opposite to, the Arctic Ocean.

Antelope State. Nebraska, from the number of antelopes found there.

Anthem. A hymn sung by the entire congregation, as distinguished from Antiphone, which term expresses a series of choral responses.

Antigua. Expresses the Spanish for an ancient city.

Antwerp. In French Anvers, the Antverpia of the Romans.

Any. An Americanism for “at all”--e.g. “It didn’t trouble me any.”

Apache State. Arizona, the scene of many bloodthirsty encounters with the wild Apaches.

Apennines. The Pennine Alps, from the Celtic ben, which is the same as the Welsh pen, summit or mountain head.

Apollinaris Water. Brought from the famous mineral spring in the valley of the Ahor of the Rhine province. The ruins of a temple of Apollo gave the name to the spot.

Apothecary. The old name for a dispenser of medicines. The Greek word really implies a storehouse or depository; 15it is compounded out of apo, to put away, and theke, chest, box. Differing from modern chemists and druggists, licentiates of the Apothecaries’ Company may visit the sick and prescribe for them, as well as make up physicians’ prescriptions.

Appian Way. The construction of this famous road leading from Rome to Capua was commenced by Appius Claudius.

Apostle of Temperance. Father Mathew, the inveterate enemy of tipplers in the Emerald Isle of his time.

Apostles’ Creed. The whole summary of Christian Faith, according to the Apostles.

Apostolic Fathers. Those early doctors of the Church who, living in the first century after Christ, received their teaching from His disciples, if they did not actually enjoy personal communion with the Apostles.

Apricot. From the Latin præcoqus, early ripe.

April. The month in which the buds begin to shoot, from aperio, to open.

April Fish. The French equivalent of “April Fool,” since, like a fish, the unsuspecting victim of a practical joke is easily caught.

April Fool. The custom of April Fooling originated in France, which country took the lead in shifting the New Year from what is now Lady Day to the 1st of January. This occurred in 1564. From the earliest periods of history people bestowed gifts upon their neighbours at the New Year, but as the 25th of March so often fell in Holy Week, even on Good Friday itself, the Church uniformly postponed the celebration of the New Year until the octave--viz. the 1st of April. When, therefore, New Year’s Day had been transferred to the 1st of January, people paid mock visits to their friends on the 1st of April with the object of fooling them into the belief that matters remained as they were. The like custom was introduced into England on the alteration of our calendar in 1762. April Fools’ Day is supposed to be over at 16twelve o’clock, since the New Year’s visitation and bestowal of gifts always took place before noon.

Apsley House. The residence of the Duke of Wellington, built by Henry Apsley, Lord Chancellor, afterwards Lord Bathurst.

Aquarians. A Christian sect of the fourth century who substituted water for wine in the Communion.

Aqua Tofana. A colourless poison invented by a Sicilian woman named Tofana towards the close of the seventeenth century. So extensive was her secret traffic with this liquid among young married women who were anxious to rid themselves of their husbands that when, at a great age, Tofana was dragged from the convent where she had taken refuge, and executed, she admitted to having caused the deaths of 600 persons.

Arabia. The country of the Arabs, or “men of the desert.”

Arbor Day. A day set apart in America for planting trees.

Arbroath. Originally Aberbrothockwick, the village at the mouth of the Brothock.

Arcadian. An ideal farmer or a rustic scene; after the Arcadians, who were essentially a pastoral race.

Arcadian Poetry. Pastoral poetry, in allusion to the Arcadians.

Archangel. A town in Russia which derived its name from a great monastery of St Michael the Archangel.

Archer-fish. A fish endowed with the power of shooting water at insects, which thus become an easy prey.

Archway Road. Leads to the modern successor of the famous Highgate Archway opened in 1813.

Arctic Ocean. From the Greek arktos, bear, having reference to the great northern constellation.

Ardennes. The great forest on the heights.

Argand Lamp. After its inventor, Aimé Argand.

Argentine Republic. The modern name of Argentina, through which runs the La Plata, or River of Silver. 17While preserving their original designation of the river, the Spaniards Latinised that of the country.

Argosy. A vessel laden with rich merchandise, from the Argo, in which Jason and his fellow-adventurers, the Argonauts, sailed to Colchis in quest of the Golden Fleece, B.C. 1263.

Argyll. From Garra Ghaidhael, the country of the West Gaels.

Argyll Street. From the old town mansion of the Dukes of Argyll. The celebrated Argyll Rooms, now the Trocadero Restaurant, were a far cry from the other extreme of Regent Street.

Argus-eyed. After the fabled Argus, who had a hundred eyes.

Arians. The followers of the first Christian heretic, Arius, a presbyter of the Church of Alexandria in the fourth century.

Arizona. Indian for “sand-hills.”

Arkansas. The same as Kansas, “smoky water,” with the French suffix arc, a bow.

Arkansas Toothpick. The Far-West designation of a “Bowie Knife,” the blade of which, as used by the people of this state, shuts up into the handle.

Arlington Street. From the town mansion of Henry Bennett, Earl of Arlington.

Arminians. The anti-Calvinists of Holland, led by James Harmensen under the Latinised name of Jacobus Arminius.

Arras. Mediæval tapestry, for the production of which the town of Arras, in the French Netherlands, was famous.

Arrowroot. So called because the Indians of tropical America regarded the root of the plant as efficacious against arrow wounds.

Artemus Ward. The pseudonym of Charles Farrar Browne, the American humorous lecturer. This was, 18however, the actual name of an eccentric showman whom he had encountered on his travels.

Artesian Well. From Artois, where such wells were first bored.

Arthur’s Seat. Said to have derived its name from King Arthur, but how his association with the city of Edinburgh arose no man can tell.

Artichoke. From the Arabic ardischauki, earth thorn.

Artillery Lane. Stands on part of the site of the practising ground of the London Artillery Company, temp. Henry VIII., and later of the Tower Gunners, when all the land towards the north hereabouts was open fields.

Arundel. The dale of the River Arun.

Arundel Street. That in the Strand from the town mansion and extensive grounds of the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel and Surrey. That in the Haymarket after the ground landlord, Lord Arundel of Wardour.

Ascension Island. Discovered by the Portuguese on the Feast of the Ascension, 1501.

As Cross as Two Sticks. Two sticks held together in the centre like the letter X form a cross.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The home among the ash-trees of the De La Zouches. By expresses the Anglo-Saxon for a dwelling.

Asia. From the Sanskrit Ushas, “land of the dawn.” By the Western nations Asiatics were anciently styled “the people of the sun.”

Asia Minor. Lesser Asia, called by the Turks and Greeks “Anatolia.”

Aspasia. A flower named after Aspasia of Miletus, the mistress of Pericles.

As Poor as a Church Mouse. A church is one of the very few buildings that contain neither kitchen nor larder. Church mice, therefore, have a hungry time of it.

19As Rich as a Jew. The Jews in England were the first usurers, bankers, and bill-brokers. They only had the command of ready money, the wealth of the nobility consisting in the possession of broad lands.

Assumptionists. A modern religious Order, founded fifty years ago, whose full title is the Augustinians of the Assumption.

Astoria. From the fur-trading station established in 1811 by John Jacob Astor of New York.

Astrakhan. Fur brought from Astrakhan, which name signifies the country or district ruled by a khan of the Tartar or Mogul Empire.

Asturia. From the Basque asta, rock, and ura, water, denoting a region of mountains and estuaries.

Atlantic Ocean. Called by the Greeks Atlantikos pelagos, from the Isle of Atlantis, imagined by Homer and Plato to be beyond the Strait of Gibraltar.

Athanasian Creed. Opinions affecting the doctrine of the Trinity, ascribed to St Athanasius of Alexandria, adopted and formally compiled by St Hilary, Bishop of Arles in the fifth century.

Athens. From the Temple of Athene, or Minerva, the tutelary goddess of the city.

Athens of America. The city of Boston, considered the chief seat of learning in the New World.

Athens of the South. Nashville, Tennessee, on account of the number of its scholastic institutions.

Athelney. The “Royal Island” or “Isle of the Nobles,” where Alfred the Great founded a Benedictine monastery.

Atlas. Since the publication of “Mercator’s Projections,” with the figure of Atlas bearing the globe on his shoulders as a frontispiece, in 1560, all books of maps have received this name.

At Loggerheads. See “Loggerhead.”

Auburn. From the Anglo-Saxon Auld Bourne, old bourn, or stream.

20Auckland. The capital of New Zealand, named in honour of Lord Auckland, a famous politician of his time, who became Governor-General of India, and after his retirement was elected President of the Asiatic Society. His ancestor, the first Lord Auckland, took his title from Auckland in Durham, which name was originally Oakland.

Audley Street (North and South). Perpetuate the memory of Hugh Audley, a barrister of the Middle Temple, whose landed estates hereabouts were computed at his death in 1662 to be worth a million of money.

Augsburg Confession. The Lutheran Confession of faith drawn up by Melancthon, and presented by Martin Luther to Charles V. during the sitting of the German Diet at Augsburg in 1530.

August. After Augustus Cæsar, who regarded this as his lucky month. Its original name was Sextilis, the sixth month of the Roman year.

Augustan Age. The best literary age of any country, because Rome in the time of Augustus Cæsar produced the finest examples of Latin literature.

Augustin Friars. The religious Order said to have been founded by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. See “Austin Friars.”

Auld Reekie. The name given to the old part of Edinburgh, from the cloud of reek or smoke which usually caps it.

Austin Friars. Part of the site of the priory of the Augustin Friars, whose church still remains.

Australasia. Southern Asia.

Australia. From the Latin Australis, southern.

Austria. From Oesterreich, or Eastern Empire, as distinguished from the Western Empire founded by Charlemagne.

Autocar. The name first given to a motor car; incorrectly, however, since so far from being automatic such a 21one, like all mechanically propelled vehicles, requires a guiding intelligence.

Autun. The Augustodunum, or Town of Augustus, of the Romans.

Auvergne. From the Auverni, who overran it in the time of the Cæsars.

Avoca. Gaelic for “the meeting of the waters.”

Ave Maria Lane. Where the monks of old chanted the “Ave Maria” on their way to St Paul’s. See “Amen Corner.”

Avon. From Arfon, the Celtic for river or stream, which enters into many place-names.

Axminster. The monastery town on the Axe.

Ayah. Hindustani for waiting-woman or nurse.

Aye-Vye. An animal found in Madagascar, so called from its cry.

Aylesbury Street. From the town house and garden of the Earls of Aylesbury.

Azores. The Portuguese named this group of islands Acores, the plural of acor, hawk, on account of the great number of hawks there.

Azov. A Russianised form of Asak, the name given to it by the Tartars.


Bacchanalia. Roman festivals in honour of Bacchus, the god of wine.

Bacchus Verses. Verses written in praise or dispraise of Bacchus, and affixed to the doors of the College at Eton on “Collop Monday.”

Bachelor Girl. One who lives in her own rooms, belongs to a woman’s club, and considers herself superior to what is called home influence--a distinctly modern creation.

Backgammon. From the Saxon Bac and gamen, “back-game,” because the pieces have at times to go back and be moved up afresh.

22Back a Man. To have full confidence in him. From backing or endorsing a bill on another’s behalf.

Badajoz. Called by the Moors Beledaix, “Land of Health.”

Bad Egg. A man who is commercially or morally unsound, and therefore fit only to be shunned.

Badger State. Wisconsin, from the name given to the early miners, who made for themselves winter habitations in the earth, like a badger.

Badminton. A drink of spiced claret, and also a game of tennis played with shuttlecocks instead of balls, introduced by the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton, his country seat.

Baffin’s Bay. After William Baffin, the pilot of an expedition sent out to explore this region in 1616.

Bagatelle. From the Italian bagetella, a conjurer’s trick.

Baggage. A term often applied to a woman, because the wives of soldiers taken on foreign service go with the stores and baggage generally. In the United States this word is an equivalent for the English “Luggage.”

Bagman. The old name for a commercial traveller, who carried his samples in a bag.

Bag o’ Nails. A popular corruption of the ancient inn sign, “The Bachannals,” referring to Pan and the Satyrs.

Bag o’ Tricks. In allusion to the large bag in which an itinerant conjurer carried his tricks.

Bakers’ Dozen. In olden times, when bread was sold in open market instead of shops, women took up the trade of selling bread from door to door. They received from the bakers thirteen loaves for the price of twelve, the odd one constituting their profit.

Baker Street. After Sir Edward Baker, a great friend of the Portmans of Dorsetshire, the ground landlords.

Bakshish. A Persian word for “gratuity.”

Balaklava. When settled by the Genoese, they gave it the name of Bella-chiava, or “Fair Haven.”

23Balearic Islands. From the Greek ballein, to throw, expresses the Island of Slingers.

Ball. A dancing party received this name primarily from the curious ancient Ball Play in Church by the Dean and choir boys of Naples during the “Feast of Fools” at Easter. While singing an antiphon the boys caught the ball thrown by the Dean as they danced around him. At private dancing parties the dancers always threw a ball at one another as, to the sound of their own voices, they whirled around in sets, the pastime consisting in loosening hands in time to catch it. Afterwards the ball was discarded, but the dance time received the name of a Ballad, from the Latin ballare, to dance.

Ballad. See “Ball.”

Ballet. Expresses the French diminutive of bal, a dance. See “Ball.”

Ball’s Pond. From an inn, the “Salutation,” kept by John Ball, whose dog and duck sports in a large pond attracted a great concourse of visitors in former days.

Balsover Street. From Balsover, Derbyshire, the seat of the Fitzroys, Dukes of Grafton, the ground landlords.

Baltic Sea. A sea of belts or straits. Bält is Norse for strait.

Baltimore. After Lord Baltimore, the founder of the neighbouring state of Maryland.

Baltimore Bird. Though found almost everywhere in the United States, it is said to have received its name from the correspondence of its colours with those distinguished in the arms of Lord Baltimore, the Governor of Maryland.

Bancroft Road. After Francis Bancroft, the founder of the Drapers’ Almshouses, in this road.

Bandana. The Hindu term for silk goods generally, but now applied to cotton pocket-handkerchiefs with white or yellow spots on a blue ground.

Bandy Words with You. From the old game of Bandy, in 24which the ball was struck or bandied to opposite sides.

Bangor. From Ban-choir, “The White Choir” of the Abbey, founded by St Cungall in the sixth century.

Banjo. Properly Bandore, from the Greek Pandoura, a stringed instrument named after Pan. The word was introduced into North America from Europe.

Banker Poet. Samuel Rogers, author of “The Pleasures of Memory,” who was a banker all his life.

Banshee. From the Gaelic bean sidhe, woman fairy.

Bantam. A species of fowl said to have been introduced to Europe from Bantam in Java.

Banting. After William Banting, a London cabinetmaker, who in 1863 reduced his superfluous fat by a dietic system peculiarly his own.

Bar. In old days, when a counter did not obtain, and drinking vessels had to be set down on the benches or barrel ends, a bar separated the frequenters of a tavern from the drawers or tapsters. Similarly, at the Courts of Law the Bar was a rail behind which a barrister or counsel had to plead his client’s cause.

Barbadoes. From the streamers of moss, resembling a beard, suspended from the tree branches.

Barbarians. The name universally applied by the Romans to wandering or warlike tribes who were unkempt and unshaven.

Barbarossa. The sobriquet of Frederick the First of Germany, on account of his red beard.

Barbary. The land of the Berbers, the Arabic description of the people of this region prior to the Saracen Conquest.

Barber. From the Latin barba, a beard.

Barber-surgeons. Hairdressers who, down to the sixteenth century, also practised “cupping” or blood-letting, a relic of which is the modern Barber’s Pole. The red and white stripes around the pole denoted the bandages, 25while in place of the gilt knob at the end there originally hung the basin affixed under the chin of the patient operated upon.

Barbican. That portion of the Roman wall round the city of London where there must have been a watch-tower looking towards the north. Barbacana is a Persian word for a watch-tower in connection with a fortified place.

Barcelona. Anciently Barcino, after Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal, who refounded the city.

Baring Island. Named by Captain Penny after Sir Francis Baring, first Lord of the Admiralty.

Barley Mow. An old sign for a tavern in connection with the Mow or house where the barley was stored for brewing. Mowe is Saxon for “heap.”

Barmecide’s Feast. An illusory banquet. From the story of the Barber’s Sixth Brother, in “The Arabian Nights.” Barmecide invited a starving wretch to a feast, but gave him nothing to eat.

Barnsbury. Anciently Berners’ Bury, the manor of which was held by Lady Berners, abbess of St Albans.

Barnstormer. A strolling actor. In the old days, away from the regular circuits, there were no provincial theatres or halls licensed for stage plays whatever. The consequence was a company of strolling players obtained permission to perform in a barn. Edmund Kean admitted, when in the zenith of his fame, that he had gained his experience “by barnstorming.”

Barrister. See “Bar.”

Barrow Road. This, with Barrow Hill Place, marks the site of a barrow or sepulchral mound of the Britons and Romans slain in battle.

Barry Cornwall. The anagrammatic pseudonym of Bryan Waller Procter, the poet.

Bar Tender. An Americanism for barman or barkeeper.

Bartholomew Close. The site of the ancient cloisters of St Bartholomew’s Priory, connected with the neighbouring church, which is the oldest in London.

26Bartholomew Fair. The famous fair which for centuries survived the mediæval mart that had given rise to it in the neighbouring street, still known as Cloth Fair. It was held on the Feast of St Bartholomew.

Barton Street. A street in Westminster built by Barton Booth, the eminent actor of Drury Lane Theatre.

Bashaw. Properly “Pashaw.” See “Pasha.”

Basinghall Street. From the mansion and grounds of the Basings, whose ancestor, Solomon Basing, was Lord Mayor of London in 1216.

Bassano. The better known, indeed to most people the only proper, name of the famous Italian artist, Jacopa da Ponte, who signed all his pictures “Il Bassano,” having been born at Bassano in the state of Venice.

Bass’s Straits. Discovered by Matthew Flinders. These straits were named by him after a young ship’s surgeon, who, with a crew of only six men, in a small vessel, accompanied him on the expedition.

Bath Chair. First introduced at Bath, the great health resort of a bygone day.

Bath Street. From a Bagnio, or Turkish Bath, established here in the seventeenth century.

Battersea. Anciently Patricesy, or St Peter’s-ey, the manor belonging to the abbey of St Peter’s, Westminster. The suffix ey implied not only an island, but also a creek.

Battle-born State. Nevada, because admitted into the American Union during the Civil War.

Battle Bridge Road. In this neighbourhood the Iceni, under Boadicea, sustained their total defeat at the hands of the Romans, A.D. 61.

Battle of all the Nations. The battle of Leipsic, 16th to 18th October 1813, so called because it effected the deliverance of Europe from the domination of Napoleon Buonaparte.

27Battle of the Giants. That of Marignano, in which 1200 Swiss Guards, allies of the Milanese, were defeated, 13th September 1515.

Battle of the Herrings. From the sortie of the Orleaners to cut off a convoy of salted herrings on its way to the English, besieging their city, 12th February 1429.

Battle of the Standard. From the high crucifix borne as a standard on a waggon by the English at Northallerton, 29th August 1138.

Battle of the Spurs. That of Guinnegate, 16th August 1513, when the French were utterly routed in consequence of a panic; they used their spurs instead of their weapons of defence.

Battle of the Spurs of Gold. From the enormous number of gold spurs picked up on the field after the defeat of the French knights at Courtray, 11th July 1302.

Bavaria. The country of the Boii, anciently styled Boiaria.

Baynard’s Castle. See “Bayswater.”

Bayonet. Not from the town of Bayonne, but because a Basque regiment in the district of Bayonnetta in 1647, surprised by the Spaniards, stuck their knives into the muzzles of their muskets, and, charging, drove off the enemy with great slaughter.

Bay State. Massachusetts, from the original denomination of this colony in the New England Commonwealth--viz. Massachusetts Bay.

Bayon State. Mississippi, from the French bayon, watercourse, touching its great river.

Bayswater. Originally described as “Baynard’s Watering,” being a manor built by Ralph Baynard, one of the favourites of William the Conqueror, the owner of Baynard’s Castle, in what is now Thames Street, destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

B. D. V. A tobacco advertisement which stands for “Best Dark Virginia.”

28Beak. The slang term for a magistrate, on account of the beag or gold collar that he wears.

Beak Street. This name has a sportive reference to the magistrate at the neighbouring police court in Great Marlborough Street.

Beanfeast. From the Bean-goose (so called from the similarity of the nail of its bill to a bean) which was formerly the invariable dinner dish.

Bear. Wherever this enters into the name of a tavern sign (with the single exception of that of “The Bear and Ragged Staff”) it denotes a house that had originally a bear garden attached to it.

Bear and Ragged Staff. A common inn sign in Warwickshire, from the heraldic device of Warwick the King Maker.

Bear Garden. This name at the corner of Sumner Street, Southwark, recalls the old Paris Garden, a famous bear-baiting establishment founded by Robert de Paris as far back in English history as the reign of Richard I. A “Bear Garden” is in our time synonymous with a place of resort for roughs or rowdies.

Bear State. Arkansas, from the Western description of the character of its people. “Does Arkansas abound with bears that it should be called the Bear State?” a Western man was once asked. “Yes, it does,” was the reply; “for I never knew a man from that state but he was a bar, and, in fact, the people are all barish to a degree.”

Bearward. The custodian of the bear at public and private bear-baiting gardens. Most English towns anciently retained a bearward. See “Congleton Bears.”

Beats a Philadelphia Lawyer. An American expression implying that the lawyers of Philadelphia are noted for shrewdness and learning.

Beauchamp Tower. After Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, whom Richard II. caused to be imprisoned here for inciting the barons to remove the King’s favourite, Sir Simon de Burley.

29Beauclerc. The surname of Henry I., on account of his accomplishments in an age when learning was rare.

Beckenham. The home in the vicinity of becks or brooks. The Saxon terminal en expresses the plural.

Bedad. An Irishman’s exclamation, derived from the English “Begad” or “By Gad.”

Bedford. From the Anglo-Saxon Bedican-ford, the protected ford over the Ouse.

Bedfordbury. The bury or enclosed land of the Duke of Bedford. Bedford Street and Bedford Square likewise point to the great ground landlord.

Bedlam. Short for Bethlehem Hospital, a “Lazar House” in South London which in 1815 was converted into an asylum for lunatics. See “Bethlehem.”

Bedouins. From the Arabic badawiy, “dwellers in the desert.”

Beech Street. Said to have been the property of Nicholas de la Beech, Lieutenant of the Tower, temp. Edward III.

Beefeaters. Although it has been proved that the word Buffetier cannot be met with in any old book, the Yeomen of the Guard instituted by Henry VII. certainly waited at the royal table, and since this monarch was largely imbued with French manners, his personal attendants must after all have received their nickname from the Buffet, or sideboard.

Beer Bible. From the words “the beer” in place of “strong drink” (Isaiah xxiv. 9).

Before the Mast. The for’ard part of a ship, where, in the forecastle, the sailors have their quarters. Hence a common seaman is said to “Serve before the Mast.”

Begad. See “By Gad.”

Begorra. An Irish form of the English corrupted oath Begad or “By Gad.”

Beguines. An order of nuns in France, from the French beguin, a linen cap. These nuns are distinguished by their peculiar head covering.

30Begum. A lady of high rank in the East, a princess in India, or the wife of a Turkish beg (generally corrupted into bey) or Governor.

Beldame. From the French Belle-dame, “fine lady.” The meaning has now been corrupted from a lady entitled to the utmost respect on account of age or position to an ugly old woman.

Belgium. From the Belgæ, the name given by Cæsar to the warlike people who overran this portion of Gaul.

Belgravia. The fashionable district of which Belgrave Square is the centre, after one of the titles of the Duke of Westminster, the ground landlord.

Bell. A tavern sign, originally denoting a haunt for the lovers of sport, where a silver bell constituted the prize.

Bell, Book, and Candle. The instruments used by the Church in carrying out a sentence of excommunication. The bell apprised all good Christians of what was about to take place, the dread sentence was read out of the book, while the blowing out of the candle symbolised the spiritual darkness in which the excommunicated person would in future abide.

Belleisle. French for “beautiful isle.”

Beloochistan. Pursuant to the Persian stan, the country of the Belooches.

Below Par. Not up to the mark in point of health. The allusion is to Government stock not worth its nominal £100 value.

Belvedere. A public-house sign, derived from the Italian word for a pavilion built on a house-top commanding a fine prospect.

Ben. Theatrical slang for “benefit.”

Bench. The primitive seat of judges and magistrates before the modern throne-like chair was introduced. Barristers of the Inns of Court are styled “Benchers” from the wooden seats formerly provided for them.

Benedict. A confirmed bachelor, after St Benedict, who 31unceasingly preached the virtues of celibacy. Also a newly-married man who, like Benedick in Much ado about Nothing, after having long forsworn marriage, at length succumbed to the grand passion.

Benedictine. A liqueur made at the Benedictine monastery at Fécamp.

Benedictines. The monastic Order founded by St Benedict in the sixth century.

Bengal Tigers. The Leicester Regiment, which as the old 17th Foot rendered good service in India at the commencement of the last century, and received a royal tiger as a badge.

Bennett Street. From the town mansion of Henry Bennett, Earl of Arlington.

Bentinck Street. After William Bentinck, second Duke of Portland, the ground landlord.

Bergen. From the Danish bierg, mountain, the port nestling at the foot of high hills.

Berkeley Square. The whole district hereabouts comprised the land of Lord Berkeley of Stratton, one of the officers of Charles I.

Berkeley Street (Upper and Lower). After Edward Berkeley Portman, the ground landlord. There is a Berkeley Street too in Clerkenwell, on the site of which stood the residence of Sir Maurice Berkeley, the standard-bearer of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth.

Berkshire. The Beoric, or “forest shire,” of the Saxons.

Berlin. From the Slavonic Berle, denoting its situation in the midst of a sandy plain.

Bermondsey. The ey, or creek land, belonging to the Saxon lord Beomund.

Bermuda Islands. After Juan Bermudas, who discovered them in 1522.

Bernardine Hospice. This noble institution on the Alpine heights was not founded by St Bernard, nor has it ever 32been served by the monks of his Order. It takes its name from Bernard de Menthon, a wealthy Savoyard, who in 962 established this house of refuge for the pilgrims crossing the Alps on their way to the Holy Land. The monks who serve the Hospice are Augustinians.

Bernardines. The monastic Order founded by St Bernard in 1115.

Berne. From the German Bären, which expresses the plural for bear. The figure of a bear is conspicuous on the public buildings, fountains, etc.

Berners Street. After Lady Berners, the original owner of the land hereabouts.

Best Man at a Wedding. A survival of feudal times, when the particular friends of the “Bridegroom” undertook to frustrate the designs of a rival sworn to carry off the bride before the nuptials could take place. In Sweden weddings formerly took place under cover of night. Behind the high altar of the ancient church at Husaby, in Gothland, a collection of long lances, with sockets for torches, may yet be seen. These were served out to the groomsmen on such occasions, both for defence and illumination. These groomsmen were the bravest and best who could be found to volunteer their services.

Bethlehem. Hebrew for “house of bread.” Hence Bethlehem Hospital, the original name for a lazar or poor house.

Bethnal Green. Anciently Bednal Green, but corrupted from the family name of the Bathons, who resided here, temp. Edward I.

Bevis Marks. Properly Bury’s Marks, from the posts to define the limits of the ground belonging to the town house of the Abbots of Bury.

Bideford Postman. The sobriquet of Edward Capern, the poet, who was a letter-carrier at Bideford in Devon.

Big Ben. After Sir Benjamin Hall, Bart., M.P., one of the designers of the New Houses of Parliament, and Chief Commissioner of Works.

33Big Bend State. Tennessee, which name expresses the Indian for “river of the great bend.”

Bilbo. The old name for a Spanish sword blade made at Bilboa.

Bilboes. The irons with which mutinous sailors are manacled together. From Bilboa, Spain, their place of origin.

Bilker. A corruption of Balker, one who balks or outwits another. In our day one hears mostly of the “Cab bilker”; formerly the “Tavern bilker” was an equally reprehensible character.

Billingsgate. After Belin, a Saxon lord, who had a residence beside the old Roman water-gate on the north bank of the Thames.

Billiter Street. A corruption of Belzettar, the name of the first builder on the land hereabouts.

Billycock. The slang term for a “bowler” hat always worn by William Coke at the Holkham shooting parties.

Bingham’s Dandies. One of the nicknames of the 17th Lancers, after their Colonel and their smart uniforms.

Bioscope. Moving or living pictures thrown on a screen, so called from the Greek bios, life, and skopein, to view.

Birchin Lane. Properly Birchover Lane, after the name of the builder.

Birdcage Walk. From the Royal Aviary of the Restoration, located along the south wall of St James’s Park.

Bird of Passage. A hotel phrase applied to a guest who arrives at stated seasons.

Bird’s Eye Tobacco. So called from the oval shape of the stalks when cut up with the leaf.

Birkbeck Institute. The premier Mechanics’ Institute, established by Dr Birkbeck in 1824.

Birmingham. Called Bremenium by the Romans and Birmingeham in Domesday Book. This being so, it cannot be corrupted from “Broom-place town,” as some authors say.

34Birrell. To write, speak, or do anything after the manner of Mr Augustine Birrell, M.P., President of the Board of Education.

Birrelligion. A word coined by Dr Casterelli, Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, who, speaking on Mr Birrell’s New Education Bill, said it was not one exactly of irreligion, but of Birrelligion, acceptable to no party or denomination.

Bishopsgate Street. From the ancient city gate rebuilt by Bishop Irkenwald, the son of King Offa, and repaired by Bishop William in the time of the Conqueror.

Biz. Theatrical slang for “business” or stage by-play.

Black Brunswickers. A celebrated regiment of seven hundred volunteers raised in Bohemia in 1809 by Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick, who took up arms against Napoleon because the latter had obstructed his succession to his father’s dukedom. Their uniform was black, in token of mourning for the deceased Duke. Finding they could not bear against the power of France, they enlisted in the English service. Thus it came to pass that the Black Brunswickers fought at the Battle of Waterloo, where their gallant leader met his death. Afterwards they were heard of no more.

Black Bull. An inn sign derived from the heraldic device of the House of Clare.

Black Country. The name given to the great coalfield in the Midlands. It extends from Birmingham to Wolverhampton on one side and from Lyle Waste to West Bromwich on the other.

Black Friars. The Order of the Dominicans, so called from their habits. In the district of Blackfriars stood the great monastery.

Blackguards. A derisive nickname given originally to the scullions of the Royal Household, touching their grimy appearance, as contrasted with the spruceness of the Guards of Honour.

35Blackheath. A corruption of Bleak Heath.

Blackleg. After sporting men of a low type, who invariably wore black gaiters or top-boots.

Blackmail. Originally a tax or tribute paid to robbers or freebooters as a compromise for protection. “Black” implied the Gaelic for security, while mal was Anglo-Saxon for tribute.

Black Maria. Slang for a prison van. Many years ago a negress of powerful build and strength, named Maria Lee, kept a sailor’s lodging-house at Boston. Everyone dreaded her, and she so frequently assisted the police of that day to pin down a refractory prisoner before he could be manacled that “Send for Black Maria!” became quite a common exclamation among them. Hence the earliest vehicles for the conveyance of offenders against law and order, especially since they were painted black, were named after her.

Black Museum. The collection of criminal relics preserved at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard.

Black Prince. The sobriquet of Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Edward III., not because he wore black armour, as is generally supposed, but, according to Froissart, “by terror of his arms,” and again, Strutt, “for his martial deeds.”

Black Sea. From its many black rocks, which render navigation dangerous.

Blackwall. A corruption of Bleak Wall.

Black Watch. Soldiers first appointed to watch the Highlands of Scotland. They received the name from their black tartans.

Blandford Square. From Blandford, Dorsetshire, near Bryanstone, the seat of the great ground landlord, Viscount Portman.

Blankets. First made by the Brothers Blanket, of Bristol, in 1337.

36Blarney. Suave speeches intended only to gain time. When Cormack Macarthy was besieged by the English in Blarney Castle in 1662 he concluded an armistice, with the object of surrendering after a few days; but instead of doing so he sent out soft, evasive speeches, until Lord Carew and his soldiers were forced to admit that they had been duped. Hence the expression: “None of your Blarney.”

Blenheim Oranges. First cultivated at Blenheim, the seat of the Duke of Marlborough.

Blenheim Street. In compliment to the Duke of Marlborough after the battle of Blenheim.

Blind Man’s Buff. So called because if any one of those taking part in the game allowed the blind man to buff up against him he had to be blindfolded in his place.

Blood. See “Penny Blood.”

Bloody. The addiction of the vulgar to the use of this adjective on all occasions has made it low and reprehensible. Anciently, however, it was employed in a most reverential sense, relative to the Blood of Christ--e.g. the “Bloody Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Bloody Assizes. Those held by Judge Jeffreys in 1685 for the punishment of all who had taken part in the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion. Three hundred persons were executed, and more than a thousand transported to the plantations.

Bloody Butcher. The sobriquet of the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II., owing to his wholesale slaughter of the adherents of Prince Charles Stuart, the Young Pretender, after the battle of Culloden.

Bloody Eleventh. The 11th Foot, in memory of the terrible slaughter inflicted on this regiment at Salamanca.

Bloody Tower. Where the infant Princes were murdered at the order of their uncle, Richard, Duke of Glo’ster.

Bloomers. After Mrs Ann Bloomer of New York, who introduced the original nondescript style of “New Woman” in 1849.

37Bloomsbury. A corruption of “Lomesbury,” the name of a manor house and grounds which stood on the site of the present square. “Lomesbury village” sprang up around the ancient church of St Giles’s in-the-Fields.

Bluchers. After Field-Marshal von Blucher, who affected this style of military half-boot.

Blue. An indecent story is said to be “blue” because harlots in the ancient Bridewell, and in more modern houses of correction or penitentiaries, were habited in blue gowns.

Blue Boar. An inn sign derived from the heraldic device of Richard III.

Blue Grass State. Kentucky, from the character of the orchard grass in this fertile limestone region.

Blue Hen’s Chickens. A nickname for the people of Delaware. The Delaware State Journal thus accounts for its origin: “At the beginning of the Revolutionary War there lived in Sussex county of that colony a gentleman of fortune named Caldwell, who was a sportsman, and breeder of fine horses and game-cocks. His favourite axiom was that the character of the progeny depends more on the mother than on the father, and that the finest game-cocks depended on the hen rather than on the cock. His observation led him to select a blue hen, and he never failed to hatch a good game-cock from a blue hen’s egg. Caldwell distinguished himself as an officer in the First Delaware Regiment for his daring spirit. The high state of its discipline was conceded to its exertions, so that when officers were sent on recruiting service it was said that they had gone home for more of Caldwell’s game-cocks; but as Caldwell insisted that no cock could be truly game unless its mother was a blue hen, the expression Blue Hen’s Chickens was substituted for game-cocks.”

Blue Law State. An old name for Connecticut, whose original settlers shared with the Puritans in the mother country a disgust of the licentiousness of the Court 38of the Restoration, and on this account were said to advocate “Blue” Laws.

Blue Noses. A nickname bestowed upon the Nova Scotians, from the species of potato which they produce and claim to be the best in the world.

Blue Peter. The flag hoisted at the mast head to give notice that a vessel is about to sail. Its name is a corruption of the French “Bleu Partir,” or blue departure signal.

Blue Pig. An inn sign, corrupted from the “Blue Boar.”

Blue Stocking. From the famous club of literary ladies formed by Mrs Montague in 1840, at which Benjamin Stillingfleet, who habitually wore blue stockings, was a regular visitor. Blue stockings, therefore, became the recognised badge of membership. There was, however, such a club of ladies and gentlemen at Venice as far back as 1400, called Della Calza, from the colour of stockings worn.

Blunderbuss. A corruption of the Dutch donderbus, “thunder tube.”

Board of Green Cloth. The steward of the Royal Household presides over this so called court, which has a green cover on its table.

Boar’s Head. The sign of the ancient tavern in Eastcheap immortalised by Shakespeare. This, like all others of the same name, was derived from the heraldic device of the Gordons, the earliest of whom slew a boar that had long been a terror of the forest.

Bob Apple. A very old boyish pastime. Standing on tiptoe, with their hands behind them, they tried to catch in their mouths an apple as it swung to and fro at the end of a piece of string suspended from the ceiling. A variant of the same game consisted in lying across a form and plunging their heads into a large tub of water, at the bottom of which was the apple.

Bobby. The nickname of a policeman, after Sir Robert 39Peel, to whom the introduction of the modern police system was due.

Bobs. The popular nickname of Lord Roberts during the South African War. He is also called “Lord Bobs.”

Boer. Expresses the Dutch for a farmer. Synonymous with the English “boor,” an uncultivated fellow, a tiller of the soil.

Bogtrotter. An Irishman, from the ease with which he makes his way across the native bogs, in a manner astonishing to a stranger.

Bogus. In reporting a trial at law The Boston Courier in 1857 gave the following authoritative origin:--“The word Bogus is a corruption of the name of one Borghese, a very corrupt individual, who twenty years ago or more did a tremendous business in the way of supplying the great west, and portions of the south-west, with counterfeit bills and bills on fictitious banks. The western people fell into the habit of shortening the name of Borghese to that of Bogus, and his bills, as well as all others of like character, were universally styled by them ‘bogus currency.’” So that the word is really American.

Bohea. Tea of the poorest quality, grown in the hilly district of Wu-i; pronounced by the Chinese Vooy.

Bohemia. From the Bohii, the ancient inhabitants of the country.

Bohemian. One who leads a hand-to-mouth existence by literary or other precarious pursuits, who shuns the ordinary conventions of society, and aspires to that only of his fellows. The term originally meant a “Gipsy,” because the earliest nomadic people who overran Western Europe did so by way of Bohemia.

Boiled Shirt. An Americanism, originally from the western states, for a starched white shirt.

Bolivia. After General Simon Bolivar, surnamed “The Liberator of Peru.”

40Bologna. A settlement of the Boii, after whom the Romans called it Bononia.

Bomba. The sobriquet of Ferdinand, King of Naples, on account of his bombardment of Messina in 1848.

Bonanza State. Nevada, on account of its rich mines, styled Bonanza mines. Bonanza is Spanish for “prosperity.”

Bond Street (Old and New). Built on the land owned by Sir Thomas Bond, Comptroller of the Household of Charles I.

Bone of Contention. In allusion to two dogs fighting over a bone.

Bone-shaker. The original type of bicycle, with wooden wheels, of which the rims consisted of small curved pieces glued together. Compared with a modern machine it was anything but easy riding.

Boniface. The popular name for an innkeeper--not that St Boniface was the patron saint of drawers and tapsters, but because one of the Popes of this name instituted what was called “St Boniface’s Cup,” by granting an indulgence to all who toasted his health, or that of his successors, immediately after saying grace at meals.

Booking Office. In the old coaching days passengers had to book their seats for a stage journey several days in advance at an office in the innyard whence the coaches set out. When railways came in the name was retained, though no “booking” was ever in evidence. Nearly all the old coaching innyards have been converted into railway goods and parcels receiving depots.

Bookmaker. From the way in which he adjusts his clients’ bets, so that, ordinarily, he cannot lose on the issue of a day’s racing.

Boot-jack. A wooden contrivance by which the wearer could help himself to take off his high-legged boots without the aid of a servant. Hence it was called a jack, which is the generic term for a man-servant or boy.

41Border Eagle State. Mississippi, on account of the Border Eagle in the arms of the state.

Bore. This name was first applied by the “Macaronies” to any person who disapproved of foppishness or dandyism. Nowadays it implies one whose conversation is uninteresting, and whose society becomes repugnant.

Borneo. A European application of the Sanskrit boorni, land.

Born in the Purple. Since purple was the Imperial colour of the Cæsars and the Emperors of the East, the sons of the reigning monarch were said to be born in it. This expression had a literal truth, for the bed furniture was draped with purple.

Born with a Silver Spoon in his Mouth. In allusion to the silver apostle spoon formerly presented to an infant by its godfather at baptism. In the case of a child born lucky or rich such a gift of worldly goods was anticipated at the moment of entering life.

Borough. The Burgh or town which arose on the south side of Old London Bridge, long before the City of London became closely packed with streets and houses.

Borough English. A Saxon custom, whereby the youngest son of a burgher inherited everything from his father, instead of the eldest, as among the Normans.

Bosh. See “All Bosh.”

Bosphorus. From the Greek bos-porus, cow strait, agreeably to the fable that Io, transformed into a white cow, swam across it.

Boss. A term derived from the Dutch settlers of New York, in whose language baas (pronounced like the a in all), expressed an overseer or master.

Boston. Short for St Botolph’s Town. “The stump” of the church is seen from afar across the Boston Deeps.

Botany Bay. So called by Captain Cook on account of the variety of, to him, new plants found on its shores. This portion of New South Wales was the first British 42Convict Settlement; hence Botany Bay became a term synonymous with penal servitude.

Botolph Lane. From the church of St Botolph, situated in it.

Bottle of Hay. A corruption of “bundle of hay,” from the French botte, a bundle, of which the word bottle expresses the diminutive.

Bottom Dollar. An Americanism for one’s last coin.

Bovril. An adaptation of bovis, ox, and vril, strength--the latter being a word coined by Lord Lytton in “The Coming Race.”

Bow. From the ancient stone bridge over the Lea, which was the first ever built in this country on a bow or arch.

Bow Church. Properly the church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, the first in this country to be built on bows or arches.

Bowdlerise. In the year 1818 Thomas Bowdler brought out an expurgated edition of Shakespeare’s Plays; hence a “Bowdlerised Edition” of any work is one of which the original text has been unwarrantably tampered with.

Bowie Knife. After Colonel Jim Bowie, a famous fighter of the western states, who first armed himself with this weapon.

Bow Street. From its arc shape when first laid out.

Bow Street Runners. Primitive detectives sent out from their headquarters in Bow Street in highwayman days.

Bowyer Tower. Anciently the residence of the Tower bowyer or bowmaker. Here, according to tradition, the Duke of Clarence was drowned in a butt of “Malmsey.”

Boxing Day. See “Christmas-box.”

Box Office. At one time only the private boxes at a theatre could be booked in advance; hence the term.

43Box the Compass. To be able to repeat all the thirty-two degrees or points of the mariner’s compass; a mental exercise all round the compass-box.

Boycott. To ostracise a man. This word came into use in 1881, after Captain Boycott of Lough Mark Farm, co. Mayo, was cut off from all social and commercial intercourse with his neighbours for the crime of being an Irish landlord.

Boy King. Edward VI., who ascended the throne of England in his tenth, and died in his sixteenth, year.

Boz. Under this nom de plume Charles Dickens published his earliest “Sketches” of London life and character in The Morning Chronicle. He has told us himself that this was the pet name of a younger brother, after Moses Primrose in “The Vicar of Wakefield.” The infantile members of the family pronounced the name “Bozes,” and at last shortened it into “Boz.”

Bradford. From the Anglo-Saxon Bradenford, “broad ford.”

Braggadocio. After Braggadochio, a boasting character in Spenser’s “Faery Queene.”

Brahma Fowl. Originally from the district of the Brahmapootra River in India. Pootra is Sanskrit for Son; hence the river name means “The Son of Brahma.”

Brandy. From the German Brantwein, burnt wine. A spirituous distillation from wine.

Brazenose College. The brazen nose on the college gate notwithstanding, this name was derived from the fact that here stood an ancient brasenhuis, or “brew-house.” Oxford has always been famous for the excellent quality of its beer.

Bravo. In Italy one who is always boasting of his courage and prowess; generally a hired assassin.

Brazil. From braza, the name given by the Portuguese to the red dye-wood of the country.

44Bread Street. Where the bakers had their stalls in connection with the Old Chepe, or market.

Break Bread. To accept hospitality. In the East bread is baked in the form of large cakes, which are broken, never cut with a knife. To break bread with a stranger ensures the latter personal protection as long as he remains under the roof of his host.

Breakfast. The morning meal, when the fast since the previous night’s supper is broken.

Break the Bank. Specifically at the gaming-tables of Monte Carlo. With extraordinary luck this may be done on occasion; but the winner’s triumph is short-lived since, the capital of the bank being unlimited, if he continues to play after fresh stores of gold have been produced, he must lose in the end.

Brecon. See “Brecknock.”

Brecknock. The capital (also called Brecon) of one of the shires of Wales, originally Breckineauc, after Brychan, a famous Welsh prince. Brecknock Road takes its name from Lord Camden, Earl of Brecknock, the ground landlord.

Breeches Bible. From the word “breeches” for “aprons” (Genesis iii. 7).

Brentford. The ford over the Brent.

Breviary. The name given to an abridgment of the daily prayers, for the use of priests, during the Seven Canonical Hours, made by Pope Gregory VII. in the eleventh century.

Brevier. The style of type originally employed in the composition of the Catholic “Breviary.”

Bridegroom. The word groom comes from the Gothic and Anglo-Saxon guma, man, allied to the Latin homo, man. It still expresses a man-servant who grooms or attends to his master’s horse.

Bride Lane. From the church of St Bride or Bridget.

45Bride of the Sea. Venice, in allusion to the ancient ceremony of “The Marriage of the Adriatic.”

Bridewell. The name anciently given to a female penitentiary, from the original establishment near the well of St Bride or Bridget in the parish of Blackfriars. The name is preserved in Bridewell Police Station.

Brigadier. The commanding officer of a brigade.

Bridge. Twenty years ago two families at Great Dalby, Leicestershire, paid each other a visit on alternate nights, for a game of what they called Russian whist. Their way lay across a broken bridge, very dangerous after nightfall. “Thank goodness, it’s your bridge to-morrow night!” they were wont to exclaim on parting. This gave the name to the game itself.

Bridge of Sighs. The bridge forming a covered gallery over the Canal at Venice between the State prisons on the one hand and the palace of the Doges on the other. Prisoners were led to the latter to hear the death sentence pronounced, and thence to execution. No State prisoner was ever known to recross this bridge; hence its name.

Bridgewater Square. From the town house of the Earls of Bridgewater.

Brief. A brief summary of all the facts of a client’s case prepared by a solicitor for the instruction of counsel.

Bristol. Called by the Anglo-Saxons “Brightstow,” or pleasant, stockaded place.

Britain. This country was known to the Phœnicians as Barat-Anac, “the land of time.” The Romans called it Britannia.

British Columbia. The only portion of North America which honours the memory, as a place name, of Christopher Columbus.

Brittany. The land anciently possessed by the kings of Britain.

Brixton. Anciently Brigestan, the bridge of stone.

46Broadside. A large sheet printed straight across instead of in columns.

Broker. From the Anglo-Saxon brucan, through the Old English brocour, to use for profit.

Brompton. Anciently Broom Town, or place of the broom plant.

Brook Street. From a stream meandering through the fields from Tyburn.

Brooke Street. From the town house of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke. In this street the boy poet Chatterton poisoned himself.

Brother Jonathan. After Jonathan Turnbull, the adviser of General Washington in all cases of military emergency. “We must ask Brother Jonathan” was the latter’s invariable reply to a suggestion made to him.

Brougham. First made to the order of Lord Brougham.

Brought under the Hammer. Put up for sale by public auction. The allusion is, of course, to the auctioneer’s hammer.

Bruce Castle. The residence of Robert Bruce after his defeat by John Baliol in the contest for the Scottish crown.

Bruges. From its many bridges.

Brummagem. The slang term for cheap jewellery made at Birmingham. In local parlance this city is “Brummagem,” and its inhabitants are “Brums.”

Brunswick Square. Laid out and built upon at the accession of the House of Brunswick.

Bruton Street. From the seat of the Berkeleys at Bruton, Somersetshire.

Bryanstone Square. From the seat, near Blandford, Dorset, of Viscount Portman, the ground landlord.

Bucephalus. A horse, after the famous charger of Alexander the Great.

47Buckeye State. Ohio, from the buckeye-trees with which this state abounds. Its people are called “Buckeyes.”

Buckingham. The Anglo-Saxon Boccenham, or “beech-tree village.”

Buckingham Palace. After the residence, on this site, of John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham.

Buckingham Street. From the older mansion of John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. The water-gate is still in evidence.

Buckle to. An expression descended from the days of chivalry, when a knight buckled on his armour for the tournament.

Bucklersbury. Anciently the bury or enclosed ground of a wealthy grocer named Buckle or Bukerel.

Budge Row. From the vendors of “Budge” or lambskin fur who congregated here.

Bug Bible. From the word “bugges”--i.e. bogies--in place of “the terror” (Psalm xci. 5).

Buggy. From bâghi, the Hindustani for a one-horse vehicle.

Bull. A papal edict, so called on account of the bulla, or seal.

Bull and Gate. An inn sign, corrupted from “Boulogne Gate,” touching the siege of Boulogne and its harbour by Henry VIII. in 1544.

Bulgaria. A corruption of Volgaria, the country of the Volsci.

Bull-dog. A dog originally employed in the brutal sport of bull-baiting. The name is also given to one of the two attendants of the proctor at a university while going his rounds by night.

Bullion State. Missouri, after Thomas Hart Benton, who, when representing this state in Congress, merited the nickname of “Old Bullion,” from his spirited advocacy of a gold and silver currency instead of “Greenbacks” or paper.

48Bullyrag. See “Ragging.”

Bullyruffian. A corruption of the Bellerophon, the vessel on which Napoleon surrendered after the battle of Waterloo.

Bungalow. From the Bengalese bangla, a wooden house of one storey surrounded by a verandah.

Bunhill Fields. Not from the Great Plague pit in Finsbury, but from the cart-loads of human bones shot here when the charnel-house of St Paul’s Churchyard was pulled down in 1549.

Bunkum. Originally a Congressman’s speech, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” An oratorial flight not intended to carry a proposal, but to catch popular applause. The representative for Buncombe, in North Carolina, occupied the time of the house at Washington so long with a meaningless speech that many members left the hall. Asked his reason for such a display of empty words, he replied: “I was not speaking to the House, but to Buncombe.”

Bureau. French for a writing-desk, from buro, a drugget, with which it was invariably covered.

Burgess Roll. See “Roll Call.”

Burgundy. A wine produced in the French province of the same name.

Burke. To stop or gag--e.g. to burke a question. After an Irishman of this name, who silently and secretly took the lives of many peaceable citizens by holding a pitch plaster over their mouths, in order to sell their bodies to the doctors for dissection. He was hanged in 1849. His crimes were described as “Burking.”

Burleigh Street. From the residence of Lord Burleigh in Exeter Street, hard by.

Burlington Street (Old and New). After Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington and Cork, from whom Burlington House, refronted by him, also received its name.

49Burmah. From the natives, who claim to be descendants of Brahma, the supreme deity of the Hindoos.

Burton Crescent. After the name of its builder.

Bury St Edmunds. A corruption of the Borough of St Edmund, where the Saxon king and martyr was crowned on Christmas Day, 856. Taken prisoner and killed by the Danes, he was laid to rest here. Over the site of his tomb Canute built a Benedictine monastery.

Bury Street. Properly Berry Street, after its builder.

Bury the Hatchet. At a deliberation of war the hatchet is always in evidence among the Indians of North America, but when the calumet, or pipe of peace, is being passed round, the symbol of warfare is carefully hidden.

Busking. Theatrical slang for an al fresco performance to earn a few coppers. To “go busking on the sands” is the least refined aspect of a Pierrot Entertainment. See “Sock and Buskin.”

Buy a Pig in a Poke. A man naturally wants to see what he is bargaining for. “Poke” is an old word for a sack or large bag, of which pocket expresses the diminutive.

By Gad. A corruption of the old oath “By God.”

By George. Originally this oath had reference to the patron saint of England. In more modern times it was corrupted into “By Jove,” so that it might have applied to Jupiter; then at the Hanoverian Succession the ancient form came in again.

By Hook or by Crook. The final word here is a corruption of Croke. More than a century ago two eminent K.C.’s named Hook and Croke were most generally retained by litigants in action at law. This gave rise to the saying: “If I can’t win my case by Hook I will by Croke.”

By Jingo. An exclamation traceable to the Basque mountaineers brought over to England by Edward I. to aid him in the subjection of Wales at the time when 50the Plantagenets held possession of the Basque provinces. “Jainko” expressed the supreme deity of these hillmen.

By Jove. See “By George.”

By the Holy Rood. The most solemn oath of the crusaders. “Rood,” from the Anglo-Saxon rod, was the Old English name for Cross.

By the Mass. A common oath in the days of our Catholic ancestors, when quarrels were generally made up by the parties attending Mass together.

By the Peacock. See “Peacock.”

By the Skin of my Teeth. An expression derived from Job xix. 20: “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.”

Byward Tower. A corruption of Bearward Tower, the residence of the Tower “Bearward.” The bear-house at our national fortress in the time of James I. is mentioned in Nichol’s “Progresses and Processions.”


Cab. Short for “Cabriolet,” or little caperer, from cabriole, a goat’s leap. See “Capri.”

Cabal. A political term formed out of the initials of the intriguing ministry of 1670--thus: Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale.

Cabinet. The designation of Ministers of State, who first conducted their deliberations in a cabinet, from the Italian gabinetto, a small room. A picture or photograph of this size received its name from the apartment for which it was best suited.

Cabin Girls. Waitresses at the “Cabin” Restaurants Limited.

Cablegram. An Americanism for telegram.

Cadiz. Called Gades by the Romans, from the Phœnician Gadir, enclosed, shut in.

51Cadogan Square. From the Earl of Cadogan, the lord of the manor of Chelsea.

Cahoot. An Americanism for partnership or company, derived from the French capute, hut, cabin. Men who share a cabin or shanty are said to be “in cahoot.”

Caitiff. An old term of contempt for a despicable person, derived from the Latin captivis, a captive, slave.

Caius College. The name given to Gonville College, Cambridge, after its refoundation by Dr Caius by royal charter in 1558.

Cake Walk. A musical walking competition round a cake, very popular among the negroes of the southern states. The couple adjudged to walk most gracefully receive the cake as a prize.

Calcutta. From Kalikutta, “the village of Kali,” the goddess of time.

Caledonia. The country of the Caels or Gaels; Gadhel in the native tongue signified a “hidden cover.”

Caledonian Road. From the Royal Caledonian Asylum for Scottish orphans, now removed.

Calico. First brought from Calicut in the East Indies.

California. Called by Cortez Caliente Fornalla, or “hot furnace,” on account of its climate.

Caliph. From the Arabic Khalifah, a successor.

Called over the Coals. A corruption of “Hauled over the Coals.”

Camberwell. From the ancient holy well in the vicinity of the church of St Giles, the patron saint of cripples. Cam is Celtic for “crooked.”

Cambria. The country of the Cimbri or Cymri, who finally settled in Wales.

Cambric. First made at Cambray in Flanders.

Cambridge. From the bridge over the Cam, or “crooked” river. See “Cantab.”

52Camden Town. After the Earl of Camden, the ground landlord.

Camellia. Introduced into Europe by G. J. Camelli, the German missionary botanist.

Camera Obscura. Literally a dark chamber.

Cameron Highlanders. The Scottish regiment of infantry raised by Allan Cameron in 1793.

Camisard. A military term for a night attack, after the Camisards, Protestant insurgents of the seventeenth century, who, wearing a camise, or peasant’s smock, conducted their depredations under cover of night.

Camomile Street. From the herbs that grew on the waste north of the city.

Campania. An extensive plain outside Rome, across which the “Appian Way” was constructed. The word comes from the Latin campus, a field.

Campden Square. From the residence of Sir Baptist Hicks, created Viscount Campden.

Canada. From the Indian kannatha, a village or collection of huts.

Canary. Wine and a species of singing bird brought from the Canary Islands, so called, agreeably to the Latin canis, on account of the large dogs found there.

Candia. Anciently Crete, called by the Arabs Khandæ, “island of trenches.”

Candy. An Americanism for sweetmeats. The Arabic quand, sugar, gave the French word candi.

Canned Meat. An Americanism for tinned meat.

Cannibal. See “Caribbean Sea.”

Cannon Row. The ancient residence of the Canons of St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

Cannon Street. A corruption of Candlewick Street, where the candle-makers congregated.

Cannucks. See “K’nucks.”

53Canonbury. From the manorial residence of the priors of St Bartholomew Church, Clerkenwell, of which the ancient tower remains.

Cant. After Alexander and Andrew Cant, a couple of bigoted Covenanters, who persecuted their religious opponents with relentless zeal, and at the same time prayed for those who suffered on account of their religious opinions.

Cantab. Of Cambridge University. The River Cam was anciently called the Granta; hence the Saxon name of the city Grantabrycge, or the bridge over the Granta, softened later into Cantbrigge.

Canterbury. The fortified place or chief town of “Kent.”

Canterbury Music Hall. This, the first of the London music halls, opened in 1848, grew out of the old-time popular “free-and-easy,” or “sing-song,” held in an upper room of what was until then a tavern displaying the arms of the city of Canterbury, and styled the “Canterbury Arms.”

Cantlowes Road. See “Kentish Town.”

Canvas Back. A species of sea-duck, regarded as a luxury on account of the delicacy of its flesh. So called from the colour of the plumage on its back.

Cape Finisterre. Adapted by the French from the Latin finis terra, “land’s end.”

Capel Court. The Stock Exchange, so called from the residence of Sir William Capel, Lord Mayor in 1504.

Cape of Good Hope. So called by John II., King of Portugal, after Diaz had touched this point of Africa, as a favourable augury for the circumnavigation of the globe.

Cape Horn. Named Hoorn, after his birthplace, by Schouten, the Dutch navigator, who first rounded it.

Capri. From the Latin caper, a he-goat, expresses the island of wild goats.

54Capuchin Friars. From the pointed cowl or capuce worn by them.

Carat Gold. So called because gold and precious stones were formerly weighted against carat seeds or seeds of the Abyssinian coral flower.

Carbonari. Italian for charcoal-burners, in whose huts this secret society held its meetings.

Carburton Street. From the Northamptonshire village on the ducal estate of the ground landlord.

Cardiff. From Caer Taff, the fort on the Taff.

Cardigan. After Ceredog, a famous chieftain.

Caribbean Sea. From the Caribbs, which West Indian designation signifies “cruel men.” Corrupted through the Spanish Caribal, we have derived the word “Cannibal,” for one who eats human flesh.

Carlton House Terrace. From Carlton House, built by Lord Carlton, later the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales, the father of George III.

Carmagnole. A wild song and dance which came into prominence during the French Revolution. It received its name from Carmagnolas, a town in Piedmont, whence the Savoyard boys carried the tune into the south of France.

Carmarthen. A corruption of Caer-merlin, or the fortress built by Merlin, in the neighbourhood of which he was born.

Carmelites. White Friars of the order of Mount Carmel.

Carnarvon. The fortress on the Arfon, or water.

Carolina. After Carollus, the Latinised name of Charles II., who granted a charter of colonisation to eight of his favourites.

Caroline Islands. In honour of Charles I. of Spain.

Carpenter. Originally one who made only the body or wooden portion of a vehicle. So called from the Latin 55carpentum, waggon. An ordinary worker in wood was, and still is in the English provinces, a joiner.

Carpet Knight. A civilian honoured with a knighthood by the sovereign. One who has not won his spurs on the field, like the knights of old.

Carry Coals to Newcastle. To do that which is altogether superfluous. It would be ridiculous to take coals to a place where they are found in abundance.

Cartaret Street. After John Cartaret, Earl of Granville, Secretary of State, and one of the most popular ministers of the reign of George II.

Carte de Visite. Photographs received this name because the Duc de Parma in 1857 had his likeness printed on the back of his large visiting-cards.

Carthage. From the Phœnician Karth-hadtha, New Town.

Carthagena. From Carthago Novo, or New Carthage.

Carthusians. Monks of La Chartreuse, near Grenoble. This name is also given to former scholars of the “Charter House.”

Carthusian Street. Although some distance to the west of it, this street leads to the “Charter House.”

Caspian Sea. From the Caspii, who peopled its shores.

Castile. In Spanish Castilla, from the castles or forts set up for defence against the Moors.

Castle. An inn sign denoting a wine-house, from the castle in the arms of Spain.

Catacombs. Italian Catacomba, from the Greek kata, downward, and kumbe, a hollow, a cavity.

Cat and Fiddle. A corruption of “Caton le Fidele,” the faithful Caton, Governor of Calais, whose name was honoured by many an inn sign.

Cat and Wheel. A corruption of the old inn sign the “Catherine Wheel,” the instrument of the martyrdom of St Catherine.

56Cat Call. A corruption of Cat Wail. When a theatre or music-hall audience is dissatisfied with the performance, and impatient for it to be brought to an end, the “Gods” indulging in “Mewing” like a chorus of cats on the roof by night.

Catch a Weasel asleep. No one ever caught a weasel napping, for the simple reason that he hides himself in a hole away from the sight of man.

Catchpenny. Short for “Catnach Penny,” from the penny dying speeches and yard of songs printed by James Catnach in Seven Dials, and hawked about the streets. The “Catnach Press” was as great a power in that day as the trashy “Bits” literature is in our own.

Cathedral. From the Greek kathedra, a seat--i.e. the chair of a bishop. See “City.”

Caucus. From the Caulkers of Boston, U.S., who shortly before the Revolution came into open conflict with the British soldiery. Meetings were held in the calk houses, and a Caulkers’ Club was formed. Since that time a political meeting of American citizens has been styled a Caucus.

Cavalier. From the French chevalier, a horseman.

Cavendish. Tobacco pressed into plugs for chewing, from the name of the first maker.

Cavendish Square. After Henrietta Cavendish, second wife of Lord Harley, the ground landlord.

Centennial State. Colorado, admitted into the American Union one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence.

Ceylon. Called by the Portuguese Selen, an abbreviation of the Sanskrit Sinhaladwipa, “Island of Lyons.”

Chadwell Street. After the name of the source of the New River in Hertfordshire. The well was anciently dedicated to St Chad.

Chaff. A corruption of chafe, to make hot with anger, as heat may be produced by friction.

57Chalk Farm. Originally “Chalcot Farm,” a noted resort for duellists of a past day.

Chalk it up. In allusion to the drink score chalked on a slate against a customer at a country ale-house.

Champagne. A light wine, from the French province of the same name, which expresses a plain, from the Latin campus, field.

Champs de Mars. Expresses the large open space or “Plain of Mars,” in Paris, set apart for military reviews.

Chancery Lane. A corruption of “Chancellor’s Lane,” from the town house of the Bishops of Chichester, afterwards the residence of the Lord High Chancellor of England.

Chandos Street. From the residence of James Bridges, Duke of Chandos.

Chap. Originally short for “Chapman,” one who sold his wares at a chepe, or market.

Chap Book. A small book or tract sold by chapmen. See “Chap.”

Chapel. A printers’ meeting held in the composing-room, so called because Caxton set up the first English press in a disused chapel of Westminster Abbey. The presiding workman is styled “The Father of the Chapel.”

Chapel of Ease. An auxiliary place of worship, for the convenience of those who resided at a great distance from the parish church.

Charing Cross. The idea that this spot received its name from the “good Queen” Eleanor, whose bier was set down here for the last time on its way to Westminster Abbey has been exploded. It was even then called the village of Charing, in honour of La Chère Reine, the Blessed Virgin, this being the usual halting-place between London and the venerable Abbey.

Charlatan. From the Italian ciarlatano, a quack, a babbler, a loquacious itinerant who sold medicines in a public square.

58Charles Martel. See “Martel.”

Charles Street. Built upon in the reign of Charles II.

Charlies. The old night watchmen reorganised by Charles I. These were the only civic protectors down to the introduction of the modern police system by Sir Robert Peel.

Charlotte Street. After the queen of George III.

Charter House. A corruption of La Chartreuse, one of the English houses of the Order of monks of the place of the same name in France.

Chartreuse. The liqueurs prepared at the monastery of La Chartreuse, near Grenoble.

Chauffeur. The French term for a motor-car driver; it has no English equivalent.

Cheap Jack. A modern equivalent for “Chap-man.” Jack is a generic name for man-servant or an inferior person.

Cheapside. The High Street of the city of London, consequently abutting on the chepe, or market-place.

Cheese it. A corruption of “Choose it better,” or, in other words, “Tell me something I can believe.”

Chef. French for head or master. Employed alone, the word expresses a head man cook.

Chelmsford. The ford over the Chelmer.

Chelsea. Anciently “Chevelsey,” or “Shingle Island.” See “Chiswick.”

Chequers. An inn sign derived from the arms of the Fitzwarrens, one of whom had the granting of vintners’ licences.

Cherry Bob. An old summer pastime for boys. A bunch of cherries suspended from a beam or tree-branch was kept swinging to and fro, while the boys, with their hands behind them, tried to catch the fruit with their mouths.

Cherry Gardens Pier. A name reminiscent of a popular resort of bygone days in connection with the 59“Jamaica” in front of which rum, newly arrived from the West Indies, was landed.

Cherry Pickers. The 11th Hussars, because, when captured by the French during the Peninsular War, some men of the regiment were robbing an orchard.

Chesapeake. Indian for “great waters.”

Chester. The city built on the Roman castra, or camp.

Chestnut. Edwin Abbey, the painter of the Coronation picture, is said to have been responsible for the term “Chestnut” as applied to a stale joke. While a member of a club at Philadelphia he always told a story about a man who had a chestnut farm, but made nothing out of it because he gave his chestnuts away. Abbey invariably began this story differently, so that his follow clubmen would not recognise it, but they soon interrupted him by exclaiming “Chestnuts!”

Chestnut Sunday. The first Sunday in June, when the chestnut-trees in Bushey Park at Hampton Court are in bloom.

Cheyne Walk. After Lord Cheyne, lord of the manor of Chelsea in the seventeenth century.

Chicago. Indian for “wild onion.”

Chichester. The Roman camp town taken by Cissa, King of the South Saxons, thenceforth called Cissanceaster.

Chichester Rents. The site of the town mansion of the Bishops of Chichester.

Chili. Peruvian for “land of snow.”

China. After Tsin, the founder of a great dynasty. Earthenware of a superior quality was first made in China; hence the name.

Chin Music. An Americanism for derisive laughter.

Chip off the Old Block. A saying in allusion to the “Family Tree.”

Chippendale. Furniture of elegant design, named after its famous maker.

60Chiswick. Anciently “Cheoselwick,” or village of shingles, from the Anglo-Saxon ceosal, sand, gravel.

Chocolat-Menier. The perfection of chocolate, introduced by M. Menier of Paris, who died in 1881.

Choke Him off. The allusion is to grip a dog by the throat in order to make him relax his hold.

Christiania. Rebuilt by Christian IV. of Denmark.

Christian Scientists. A modern offshoot of the Peculiar People, or Faith Healers, who believe that sickness and pain can be cured by faith and prayer without medicine.

Christmas-box. A relic of Catholic days, when a box was placed in all the churches to receive Christmas alms for the poor. These were distributed on the day following.

Christmas Island. Captain Cook landed here on Christmas Day, 1777.

Christ’s College. Founded at Cambridge by Lady Margaret, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII., for a master and twelve fellows, corresponding to Christ and His apostles, to whom it was dedicated.

Christy Minstrels. After Charles Christy, who introduced the Negro Minstrel Entertainment to England.

Church Ale. Specifically the ale brewed by the church-wardens for merrymakers on the village green at Whitsuntide and other high holidays. Later the assemblage itself came to be styled a “Church Ale.”

Chute. The French for “a fall,” applied by the Americans to a declivity of water. The exciting diversion of boating on such a waterfall is styled “Shooting the Chutes.”

Cicerone. After Cicero, the prince of speakers. The comparison between the celebrated orator and the “Roman Guide” befooled by Mark Twain is rather painful.

61Cigar. From the Spanish Cigarro, the original name of a particular kind of Cuban tobacco.

Cinderella Dance. Because it is brought to an end at twelve o’clock, in allusion to the heroine in the fairy story.

Circumlocution Office. A term first applied to the shuttle-cock methods in vogue at our public offices by Charles Dickens in “Little Dorrit.”

Cistercians. An Order of monks established at Cistercium, or Citeau, near Dijon.

City. The proper and historic distinction between a city and a town lies in the fact that the former is the seat of a bishop, and accordingly contains a cathedral. In modern times many burghs or towns have been advanced to the dignity of a city on account of their commercial importance. These are, however, cities only in name.

City Fathers. Aldermen of the city of London.

City Golgotha. Old Temple Bar, from the heads of rebels spiked on its top. Golgotha is Hebrew for “the place of skulls.”

Claim. A squatter’s term for a piece of land which he has marked off and settled upon pending its legal acquisition from the Government. During the gold fever the name also came to be applied to the land parcelled out to each digger.

Clare Market. The site of Clare House, the residence of the Earl of Clare.

Clarence. A carriage named after the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV.

Clarges Street. From the mansion of Sir Walter Clarges, afterwards taken over by the Venetian ambassador.

Clarendon. The black type first used at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, which owed its foundation to the profits of Lord Clarendon’s “History of the Rebellion,” presented to the University.

62Claude Lorraine. The assumed name of the celebrated landscape painter Claude Galée, who was a native of Lorraine.

Cleaned Out. Pockets emptied of cash. The allusion is to a saucepan or other domestic cooking utensil which is cleansed after use.

Clerkenwell. The holy well beside which the parish clerks performed their miracle plays on festival days.

Clifford Street. After Elizabeth Clifford, wife of the Earl of Burlington.

Closure. A modern parliamentary term signifying the right of the Speaker to order the closing of a useless debate. The Closure was first applied 24th February 1884.

Cloth Fair. The great annual mart for the sale of cloth brought over by Flemish merchants.

Club. From the German kleben, to adhere, cleave to, associate.

Clyde. The strong river, from the Gaelic clyth, strong.

Coast is Clear. Originally a smugglers’ phrase relative to coastguards.

Coat of Arms. During the days of chivalry, when a knight was completely encased in armour and the vizor of his helmet was drawn over his face, his sole mode of distinction was by the embroidered design of his armorial bearings on a sleeveless coat that he wore in the lists at tournaments. In warfare the coat was dispensed with, but he was known to his comrades by another device on the crest of his helmet.

Cobbler. An American drink of spirits, beer, sugar, and spice, said to have been first concocted by a Western shoemaker.

Coblentz. From the Latin name, Confluentia, being situated at the confluence of the Rivers Rhine and Moselle.

63Cockade. From the party badge originally displayed on a cocked hat. See “Knocked into a Cocked Hat.”

Cockade State. Maryland, from the brilliant cockades worn by the brave Old Maryland Regiment during the War of Independence.

Cockney. From “Cockayne,” a Fools’ Paradise, where there is nothing but eating and drinking, described in a satiric poem of the thirteenth century. The word was clearly derived from coquere, to cook, and had reference to London, where the conduits on occasion ran with wine, and good living fell to the lot of men generally.

Cock-penny. A penny levied by the master on each of the boys for allowing the brutal sport of cock-throwing in school on Shrove Tuesday formerly. The master himself found the bird.

Cocktail. Tradition has it that one of Montezuma’s nobles sent a draught of a new beverage concocted by him from the cactus plant to the Emperor by his daughter Xochitl. The Aztec monarch smiled, tasted it, gulped it down with a relish, and, it is said, afterwards married the girl; thenceforward this drink became the native tipple, and for centuries it bore the softened name of Octel. The corruption of Octel into Cocktail by the soldiers of the American Army when, under General Scott, they invaded Mexico, about sixty years ago, was easy.

Coger. A slang term derived from the members of the celebrated Cogers’ Club in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street. They styled themselves “Cogers” from the Latin cogito, to think deeply.

Cohees. Natives of Western Pennsylvania, owing to their addiction to the phrase “Quoth he,” softened into Quo’he.

Coin Money. To make money as fast as it is turned out at the Mint. Few men are so fortunate.

Coke Hat. After William Coke, who popularised it. See “Billycock.”

64Coldbath Fields. A district of Clerkenwell now long built over, but famous for a cold bath; the site is marked by the present Bath Street.

Colchester. The camp town on the Colne.

Coldstream Guards. The regiment raised by General Monk at Coldstream, Berwickshire, in 1660.

Coleman Street. Said to have been built upon by one Coleman; but long before his time the coalmen or charcoal merchants congregated here.

Colleen. Irish for girl. “Colleen Bawn” expresses a blonde girl.

College Hill. From a collegiate foundation of Sir Richard Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London.

College Port. Inferior port served up to the older students at college. It is said to be specially prepared for this market.

Collop Monday. The day preceding Shrove Tuesday, when housewives cut up all their meat into large steaks or collops for salting during Lent.

Cologne. The Colonia Agrippina of the Romans, so called after the mother of Nero, who was born here.

Colonel. A Far-West title of courtesy bestowed upon anyone who owns a stud horse.

Colorado. The Spaniards gave this name to the state in allusion to its coloured ranges.

Colosseum. Greek for “great amphitheatre.”

Combine. An Americanism for “Combination.” Applied in a financial or commercial sense, this term is now well understood in our own country.

Come up to the Scratch. A prize-fighting expression. A line was scratched on the ground with a stick, and the combatants were expected to toe it with the left foot.

Commonwealth. In theatrical parlance, a sharing out of the proceeds of the week’s performances after all expenses have been deducted. This generally happens 65when the manager has decamped with the entire takings, and left his company stranded.

Compton Street (Old and New). Built upon by Sir Richard Compton and Bishop Compton respectively.

Conduit Street. From a conduit of spring water set up here before the land was built over.

Confidence Man. An Americanism for one who in this country is known to extract money from strangers by the “confidence trick.”

Confounded Liar. Literally one who is covered with confusion on being brought face to face with the truth.

Congleton Bears. A nickname given to the people of Congleton, Cheshire. Local tradition has it that the bear intended for baiting at the holiday sports died, and, to procure another, the authorities appropriated the money collected for a new Church Bible.

Congregationalists. Independent Nonconformists, who are neither Baptists nor Wesleyans, and claim the right to “call” their own ministers, each congregation managing its own affairs.

Connecticut. From the Indian Quinnitukut, “country of the long river.”

Conscience Money. Money sent anonymously to the Treasury in respect of Income-Tax after the thought of having defrauded the Revenue has pricked the individual conscience.

Constance. Founded by Constantine, the father of Constantine the Great; one of the oldest cities of Germany.

Constantinople. The city of Constantine.

Constitution Hill. Where John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, took his daily constitutional walk while residing at Buckingham House, built by him in 1703. On the site of this mansion George IV. erected the present edifice, Buckingham Palace, in 1825.

66Cook your Goose. An old chronicler thus explains this saying: “The Kyng of Swedland coming to a towne of his enemyes with very little company, his enemyes, to slyghte his forces, did hang out a goose for him to shoote, but perceiving before nyghte that these fewe soldiers had invaded and sette their chief houlds on fire, they demanded of him what his intent was, to whom he replied, ‘To cook your goose.’”

Coon. Short for racoon, an American animal much prized on account of its fur.

Cooper. A publican’s term for half ale and half porter. See “Entire.”

Copenhagen Street. From Copenhagen Fields, where stood a noted tea-house opened by a Dane.

Copper. A policeman, from the thieves’ slang cop, to take, catch.

Copperheads. A political faction of North America during the Civil War, regarded as secret foes, and so called after the copperhead serpent, which steals upon its enemy unawares.

Cordeliers. Franciscan Friars distinguished from the parent Order by the knotted waist-cord.

Corduroy. In French Cord du Roy, “King’s cord,” because ribbed or corded material was originally worn only by the Kings of France.

Cordwainer. The old name for a shoemaker, because the leather he worked upon was Cordwain, a corruption of Cordovan, brought from the city of Cordova.

Cork. From the Gaelic corroch, a swamp.

Cork Street. From the residence of Lord Cork, one of the four brothers of the Boyle family.

Corncrackers. The Kentuckians, from a native bird of the crane species called the Corncracker.

Corner. The creation of a monopoly of prices in respect of natural produce or manufactured goods. The allusion 67here is to speculators who agreed in a quiet corner, at or near the Exchange, to buy up the whole market.

Cornhill. The ancient city corn market.

Cornwall. Pursuant to the Saxon Wahl, the horn of land peopled by foreigners.

Corpus Christi College. At Cambridge, founded by the united guilds or fraternities of Corpus Christi and the Blessed Virgin.

Corsica. A Phœnician term for “wooded isle.”

Cossack. The Russian form of the Tartar term kasake, a horseman.

Costa Rica. Spanish for “rich coast.”

Costermonger. In Shakespeare’s time a Costardmonger, or trader in a famous species of apple so called.

Cottonopolis. Manchester, the city identified with English cotton manufacture.

Cotton Plantation State. Alabama, from its staple industry.

Cotton to. An Americanism meaning to cling to a man as cotton would cling to his garments.

Counter-jumper. The derisive nickname of a draper’s assistant, on account of his agility in leaping over the counter as a short cut from one department to another.

Country Dance. A corruption of the French contre danse, from the opposite positions of the dancers.

Coup de Grace. The merciful finishing stroke of the executioner after a criminal had been tortured by having all his bones broken on a wheel. One blow on the head then put him out of his misery.

Court Cards. Properly Coat Cards, on account of their heraldic devices.

Court of Arches. The ecclesiastical Court of Appeal for the Archbishopric of Canterbury which in ancient times was held in the crypt of St Mary-le-Bow, or St Mary of the Arches at Cheapside. See “Bow Church.”

68Court Plaster. The plaster out of which ladies of the Court fashioned their decorative (?) face patches.

Covenanters. Those who entered into a Solemn League or Covenant to resist the religious and political measures of Charles I. in 1638.

Covent Garden. A corruption of Convent Garden, the site of which was converted into a market, temp. Charles II. The convent and garden belonged to the Abbey at Westminster.

Coventry. A corruption of Conventry--i.e. Convent town. Before the Reformation it was far famed for the number of its conventual establishments. The suffix try is Celtic for “dwelling.”

Coventry Street. From the residence of Henry Coventry, Secretary of State, temp. Charles II.

Cowcross Street. Where the cattle crossed the brook in days when this now congested neighbourhood was pleasant pasture land watered by the “River of Wells.”

Coxcomb. A vain, empty-pated individual. So called from the cock’s comb worn on the cap by the licensed jesters, because they were allowed to crow over their betters.

Cracker. Although the origin of this term when applied to a juvenile firework would appear to be self-evident, it is really a corruption of Cracque, the Norman description of “Greek Fire.”

Crackers. The people of Georgia, owing, it is said, to the unintelligibility of their speech.

Cranbourn Street. From the long, narrow stream of this name, when the whole district hereabouts was open fields.

Crank. One whose notions of things are angular, eccentric, or crooked. His ideas do not run in a straight line.

Cravat. Introduced into Western Europe by the Cravates or Croatians in the seventeenth century.

69Craven Street. From the residence of Lord Craven prior to his removal to Drury House in Drury Lane.

Cream City. Milwaukee, from the cream-coloured bricks of which its houses are built.

Credit Draper. The modern designation of a “Tallyman.”

Cree Church. See “St Katherine Cree.”

Creed Lane. Where the monks recited the Credo in procession to St Paul’s. See “Ave Maria Lane.”

Cremorne Gardens. Laid out on the site of the mansion and grounds of Thomas Dawson, Lord Cremorne.

Creole State. Louisiana. In New Orleans particularly a Creole is a native of French extraction.

Crescent City. New Orleans, built in the form of a crescent.

Crimea. From the Kimri or Cymri who settled in the peninsula.

Cripplegate. From the city gate around which gathered cripples begging for alms, the neighbouring church being dedicated to St Giles, their patron.

Crokers. Potatoes, because first raised in Croker’s Field at Youghal, Ireland.

Cromwell Road. From the mansion and grounds of Richard Cromwell, son of the Lord Protector.

Crop Clubs. Clubs formed to evade Mr Pitt’s tax on hair powder. The Times thus noticed one of the earliest in its issue of 14th April 1795: “A numerous Club has been formed in Lambeth called the ‘Crop Club,’ every member of which is obliged to have his hair docked as close as the Duke of Bridgewater’s old bay horses. This assemblage is instituted for the purpose of opposing, or rather evading, the tax on powdered heads.”

Cross Keys. A common inn sign throughout Yorkshire, from the arms of the Archbishop of York.

70Crowd. Theatrical slang for members of a company collectively.

Crow over him. A cock always crows over a vanquished opponent in a fight.

Crutched Friars. Friars of the Holy Trinity, so called from the embroidered cross on their habits (Latin, cruciati, crossed). Their London house was located in the thoroughfare named after them.

Cuba. The native name of the island when Columbus discovered it.

Cully. A slang term applied to a man, mate, or companion. Its origin is the Romany cuddy, from the Persian gudda, an ass.

Cumberland. The land of the Cymri.

Cupboard. See “Dresser.”

Curaçoa. A liqueur first prepared at the West Indian island of the same name.

Currants. First brought from Corinth.

Cursitor Street. From the Cursitors’ Office that stood here. The Cursitors were clerks of Chancery, but anciently choristers, just as the Lord Chancellor himself was an ecclesiastic.

Curtain Road. From the “Curtain Theatre,” where Ben Jonson’s “Every Man in his Humour” was put on the stage.

Curzon Street. From George Augustus Curzon, created Viscount Howe, the ground landlord.

Cuspidor. The American term for a spittoon, derived from the Spanish escupidor, a spitter.

Cut me to the Quick. The quick of one’s fingers when cut into is most alive or sensitive to pain. See “Quicksilver.”

Cutpurse. A thief who, in days before pockets came into vogue, had no difficulty in cutting the strings with which a purse was suspended from the girdle.

71Cut the Line. A printer’s expression for knocking off work. Formerly compositors finished the line they were composing; nowadays Trades Unionism has made them so particular that they leave off in the middle of a line on the first stroke of the bell.

Cypress. A tree introduced to Western Europe from the island of Cyprus.

Cyprus. From kupras, the Greek name for a herb which grew on the island in profusion.


Dachshund. German for “badger-dog.”

Daffodil. An English corruption of the French d’Asphodel.

Dagonet. The pseudonym of Mr George R. Sims in The Referee, after the jester at the Court of King Arthur.

Daguerreotype. An early process of photography discovered by L. J. M. Daguerre.

Dahlgreen Gun. After its inventor, an officer in the United States Navy.

Dahlia. Introduced to Europe from Mexico in 1784 by Andrew Dahl, the Swedish botanist.

Daisy. From the Anglo-Saxon dæges eye, or “day’s eye,” on account of its sunlike appearance.

Dakota. From the Dacoits, a tribe of Indians found there.

Dale Road. From the residence of Canon Dale, poet, and Vicar of St Pancras.

Dalmatian. A species of dog bred in Dalmatia.

Dalston. The town in the dale when the north of London was more or less wooded.

Damage. See “What’s the Damage?

Damascenes. From Damascus, famous for its plums.

Damascus. From the Arabic name of the city, Dimiskesh-Shâm.

72Damascus Blade. From Damascus, a city world famous for the temper of its sword blades.

Damask. First made at Damascus in Syria.

Damask Rose. Introduced to Europe from Damascus.

Damassin. A Damask cloth interwoven with flowers of gold or silver.

Dame School. The old name for a girls’ school taught by a spinster or dame.

Damsons. Properly Damascenes, from Damascus.

Dancing Chancellor. Sir Christopher Hatton so pleased Queen Elizabeth by his dancing at a Court masque that she made him a Knight of the Garter; subsequently he became Lord Chancellor of England.

Dandelion. A corruption of the French dent de lion, from its fancied resemblance to a lion’s tooth.

Dandy. From the French dandin, silly fellow, ninny.

Dantzic. Expresses the town settled by the Danes.

Danvers Street. From Danvers House, in which resided Sir John Danvers, to whom the introduction of the Italian style of horticulture in England was due.

Darbies. A pair of handcuffs, in allusion to Darby and Joan, who were inseparable.

Dardanelles. After the city on the Asiatic side founded by Dardanus, the ancestor of Priam, the last king of Troy.

Dark and Bloody Ground. Kentucky, the great battle-ground of the Indians and white settlers, as also that of the savage tribes amongst themselves.

Darmstadt. The stadt, or town, on the Darm.

Dartford. From the Saxon Darentford, the fort on the Darent.

Dartmoor. The moor in which the River Dart takes its rise.

Dartmouth. On the estuary of the River Dart.

73Dauphin. The title borne by the eldest son of the King of France until 1830, from the armorial device of a delphinus, or dolphin.

Davenport. After the original maker.

Davies Street. After Mary Davies, heiress of the manor of Ebury, Pimlico.

Davis Strait. After the navigator who discovered it.

Davy Jones’s Locker. Properly “Duffy Jonah’s Locker.” Duffy is the ghost of the West Indian Negroes; Jonah, the prophet cast into the sea; and “locker,” the ordinary seaman’s chest.

D. D. Cellars. See “Dirty Dick’s.”

Dead as a Door Nail. The reflection that, if a man were to be knocked on the head as often as is the “nail” on which a door knocker rests, he would have very little life left in him, easily accounts for this saying.

Dead Beat. Prostrate from fatigue, incapable of further exertion. Also the name of an American drink of whisky and ginger-soda after a hard night’s carousal.

Deadheads. In America persons who enjoy the right of travelling on a railway system at the public expense; in this country actors and pseudo “professionals,” who pass into places of amusement without paying. The origin of the term is as follows:--More than sixty years ago all the principal avenues of the city of Delaware converged to a toll gate at the entrance to the Elmwood Cemetery Road. The cemetery having been laid out long prior to the construction of the plank road beyond the toll gate, funerals were allowed to pass through the latter toll free. One day as Dr Price, a well-known physician, stopped to pay his toll he observed to the gatekeeper: “Considering the benevolent character of the profession to which I have the honour to belong, I think you ought to let me pass toll free.” “No, no, doctor,” the man replied; “we can’t afford that. You send too many deadheads through here as it is!” The story travelled, and the term “Deadheads” became fixed.

74Dead Reckoning. Calculating a ship’s whereabouts at sea from the log-book without aid from the celestial bodies.

Dead Sea. Traditionally on the site of the city of Sodom. Its waters are highly saline, and no fish are found in them.

Dean Street. After Bishop Compton, who, before he became Dean of the Savoy Chapel, held the living of St Anne’s, Soho.

Dean’s Yard. Affords access to the residence of the Dean of Westminster, which, with the cloisters, belonged to the abbots prior to the Reformation.

Death or Glory Men. The 17th Lancers, from their badge, a Death’s head superposed on the words “Or Glory.”

De Beauvoir Town. From the manorial residence of the De Beauvoirs.

Deccan. From the Sanskrit Dakshina, the south, being that portion of Hindustan south of the Vindhya Mountains.

December. The tenth month of the Roman Calendar when the year was reckoned from March.

Decemvir. One of the ten legislators of Rome appointed to draw up a code of laws.

Decoration Day. 30th May, observed in the United States for decorating the graves of the soldiers who fell in the struggle between the North and South.

Deemster. See “Doomster.”

Dehaley Street. From the residence of the Dehaleys.

Delaware. After the Governor of Virginia, Thomas West, Lord Delaware, who died on board his vessel while visiting the bay in 1610.

Del Salviati. The assumed name of the famous Italian painter Francesco Rossi, in compliment to his patron, Cardinal Salviati, who was born in the same year as himself.

Demijohn. A corruption of Damaghan, in Persia, a town anciently famous for its glass-ware.

75Democracy. From the Greek demos, people, and kratein, to rule. Government by the people.

Denbigh. From Dinbach, the Celtic for “a little fort.”

Denmark. Properly Danmark, the mark or boundary of the land of the Danes.

Depot. The American term for a railway station.

Deptford. The deep ford over the Ravensbourne.

Derby. Saxon for “deer village.” The Derby stakes at Epsom were founded by Edward Smith Stanley, Earl of Derby, in 1780.

Derrick. The old name for a gibbet and now for a high crane. So called after a seventeenth-century hangman at Tyburn.

Derry Down. The opening words of the Druidical chorus as they proceeded to the sacred grove to gather mistletoe at the winter solstice. Derry is Celtic for “grove.”

Dessborough Place. From Dessbrowe House, in which resided the brother-in-law of Oliver Cromwell.

Detroit. French for “strait.”

Deuteronomy. A Greek word signifying the second giving of the Law by Moses.

Devereaux Court. See “Essex Street.”

Devil’s Sonata. One of Tartini’s most celebrated compositions. He dreamt that the Evil One appeared to him playing a sonata on the violin. At its conclusion his visitor asked: “Tartini, canst thou play this?” Awaking with his mind still full of the grotesque music, Tartini played it over, and then recorded it permanently on paper.

Devil to Pay. When money was lost by unsuccessful litigation it passed into the hands of lawyers, who were thought to spend it where they spent much of their time--viz. at the Devil Tavern in Fleet Street. The money, therefore, went to the Devil.

76Devizes. From the Latin Devisæ, denoting the point where the old Roman road passed into the district of the Celts.

Devon. After a Celtic tribe, the Damnonii.

Devonshire House. The town house of the Duke of Devonshire.

Devonshire Square. From the mansion of William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, who died here in 1628.

Diamond King. The late Mr Alfred Beit, the South African financier, whose wealth rivalled that of the Rothschilds.

Dickey. A shirt front, which often has to do duty for a clean shirt. So called from the German decken, to hide.

Diddler. A schemer, an artful dodger. After Jeremy Diddler, the chief character in the old farce, “Raising the Wind.”

Die Hards. The 57th Foot. When the regiment was surrounded at Albuera, their Colonel cried: “Die hard, my lads; die hard!” And fighting, they died.

Digger Indians. Tribes of the lowest class who live principally upon roots. They have never been known to hunt.

Diggings. A Bohemian term for “lodgings.” Not from the Californian gold diggings, as generally supposed, but from the Galena lead miners of Wisconsin, who called both their mines and their underground winter habitations “diggings.”

Dime. A ten-cent piece, from the French dixme, or dîme, tenth--i.e. of a dollar.

Dimity. First brought from Damietta, Egypt.

Dine with Duke Humphrey. An old saying of those who were fated to go dinnerless. When the “Good Duke Humphrey,” son of Henry IV., was buried at St Albans, a monument to his memory was to be erected in St Paul’s Cathedral. At that time, as for long afterwards, the nave of our national fane was 77a fashionable promenade. When the promenaders left for dinner, others who had no dinners to go to explained that they would stay behind in order to look for the Good Duke’s monument.

Dining-room Servant. An Americanism for waiter or male house servant.

Diorama. See “Panorama.”

Dirty Dick’s. The noted tavern in Bishopgate, said to have been associated with Nathaniel Bentley, the miser, who never washed himself. As a matter of fact, Dirty Dick was an ironmonger in Leadenhall Street. After his death his effects were bought and exhibited at the Bishopgate tavern, together with his portrait as a sign.

Dirty Shirts. The 101st Foot, who were hotly engaged at the battle of Delhi in their shirt sleeves.

Dissenters. Synonymous with the Nonconformists. Those who dissented from the doctrines of the Church of England and those likewise who, at a later period, separated from the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Distaffs’ Day. The old name for 7th January, when, Christmas being over with Twelfth Night, women returned to their distaffs or spindles.

Divan. A Turkish word signifying a Council of State, from the fact that the Turkish Council Chamber has low couches ranged round its walls, plentifully supplied with cushions. The name has been imported into Western Europe specifically to imply a low-cushioned sofa or couch.

Dixie’s Land. The Negroes’ paradise in slavery days. Dixie had a tract of land on Manhattan Island. He treated his slaves well, but as they increased sold many of them off to masters further afield. They always looked back to Dixie’s Land as an ideal locality, associated with heaven, and when one of them died his kith and kin said he had gone to Dixie’s Land.

Dizzy. The nickname of Benjamin Disraeli, afterwards 78Earl of Beaconsfield, the great political opponent of Mr Gladstone.

Doctor. There are three kinds of Doctors--of Law, Physic, and Divinity. The first and the last are essentially University degrees, with which the vulgar orders of the people have little or no acquaintance. They know only of one “Doctor,” the medical practitioner, and since he wears a frock coat and a silk hat he is entitled to all the respect that they can pay him.

Doctors’ Commons. Anciently a college for Professors of Canon and Civil Law, who dined in common on certain days in each term, similar to students at the Inns of Court before they are called to the Bar.

Dog and Duck. A tavern sign indicative of the old sport of duck hunting by spaniels in a pond.

Dog-cart. Originally one in which sportsmen drove their pointers and setters to the field.

Dog his Footsteps. To follow close to his heels like a dog.

Dog in the Manger. From the old story told of the dog who did not require the hay for himself, yet refused to allow the ox to come near it.

Dog Rose. From the old idea that the root of this rose-tree was an antidote for the bite of a mad dog.

Dog Watch. A corruption of “Dodge Watch,” being a watch of two hours only instead of four, by which dodging seamen gradually shift their watch on successive days.

Dolgelley. Celtic for “dale of hazels.”

Dollar. From the German Thaler, originally Joachims-Thaler, the silver out of which this coin was struck having been found in the Thal or Valley of St Joachim in Bohemia.

Dollars and Dimes. An Americanism for money generally. See “Dime.”

Dolly Shop. The old name for a rag shop which had a 79black doll over the door for a sign. At one time old clothes were shipped to the Negroes in the southern states of America.

Dolly Varden. The name of a flowered skirt, answering to the description of that worn by Dolly Varden in Dickens’s “Barnaby Rudge.” This dress material became very popular after the novel was published. It also gave rise to a song, of which the burden was: “Dressed in a Dolly Varden.”

Dolphin. A gold coin introduced by Charles V. of France, also Dauphin of Vienne.

Dominica. Expresses the Spanish for Sunday, the day on which Columbus discovered this island.

Dominicans. Friars of the Order of St Dominic; also called Black Friars, from their habits.

Dominoes. A game invented by two French monks, who amused themselves with square, flat stones marked with spots. The winner declared his victory by reciting the first line of the Vesper service: “Dixit Dominus Domino Meo.” When, later, the game became the recreation of the whole convent, the Vesper line was abbreviated into “Domino,” and the stones themselves received the name of “Dominoes.”

Don. A corruption of the Celtic tain, river.

Donatists. A sect of the fourth century, adherents of Donatus, Bishop of Numidia.

Doncaster St Leger. The stakes at Doncaster races founded by Colonel Anthony St Leger in 1776.

Donegal. Gaelic for the “fortress of the west”--viz. Donegal Castle, held by the O’Donnels of Tyrconnel.

Donet. The old name for a Grammar, after Donatus, the grammarian and preceptor of St Jerome.

Donkey. An ass, from its dun colour.

Don’t care a Dam. When this expression first obtained currency a dam was the smallest Hindoo coin, not worth an English farthing.

80Don’t care a Jot. See “Iota.”

Doomster. The official in the Scottish High Court who pronounced the doom to the prisoner, and also acted as executioner. In Jersey and the Isle of Man a judge is styled a “Deemster.”

Dope Habit. An Americanism for the morphia habit. “Dope” is the Chinese word for opium. This in the United States is now applied to all kinds of strong drugs or bromides prepared from opium.

Dorcas Society. From the passage in Acts ix. 39: “And all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.”

Dorchester. The Roman camp in the district of the Dwr-trigs or water dwellers. See “Dorset.”

Dorset. The Anglo-Saxon Dwrset, or water settlement, so called from the British tribe the Dwr-trigs, “water dwellers,” who peopled it.

Dorset Square. After Viscount Portman, the ground landlord, who, before he was raised to the peerage, was for many years Member for Dorsetshire.

Dorset Street. From the mansion and grounds of the Earl of Dorset of the Restoration period. Here stood also the Dorset Gardens Theatre.

Doss. Slang for a sleep, a shakedown. From the old word dossel, a bundle of hay or straw, whence was derived Doss, a straw bed.

Doss-house. A common lodging-house. See “Doss.”

Douay Bible. The Old Testament translation of the Latin Vulgate printed at the English College at Douay, France, in 1609.

Doublet. So called because it was double lined or wadded, originally for purposes of defence.

Douglas. From its situation at the juncture of the two streams, the Dhoo, black, and Glass, grey.

Douro. From the Celtic Dwr, water.

81Dover House. The residence of the Hon. George Agar Ellis, afterwards Lord Dover.

Dover Street. After Henry Jermyn, Lord Dover, who died at his residence here in 1782.

Dowager. The widow of a person of high rank, because she enjoyed a substantial dower or dowry for her maintenance during life.

Dowgate. From the Celtic Dwr, water. Hence a water gate on the north bank of the Thames.

Downing Street. From the mansion of Sir George Downing, M.P., of the Restoration period.

Down with the Dust. A gold miner’s expression in the Far West, where money is scarce and necessary commodities are in general bartered for with gold dust.

Doyley. From the Brothers Doyley, linen drapers in the Strand, who introduced this species of table napery.

Do your Level Best. This expression means that, while striving to the utmost you must also act strictly straightforward.

Drachenfels. German for “dragon rocks.” Here Siegfried, the hero of the Niebelungenlied, slew the dragon.

Draft on Aldgate Pump. A punning phrase for a worthless bill or cheque.

Draggletail. A slovenly woman who allows her skirts to draggle or trail in the mire of the street.

Dragoman. From the Turkish drukeman, an interpreter. A dragoman is in the East what a “Cicerone” is in Italy and elsewhere in Western Europe.

Dragoons. From the ancient musket called a dragon, or “spitfire.” The muzzle was embellished with a representation of a dragon.

Draper. One who dealt in cloth for draping only, as distinct from a mercer, milliner, or mantle-maker.

Drapers’ Gardens. The property of the Drapers’ Company, whose hall is situated here.

82Drat it. A corruption of “Odd rot it,” from the old oath, “God rot them.”

Drawer. The old name for an inn or tavern keeper’s assistant, who drew the beer from the casks.

Drawing-room. Originally “Withdrawing-room” to which the ladies withdrew after dinner while the gentlemen sat over their wine.

Draw it mild. Originally a tavern phrase, when anyone preferred ordinary ale to hot spiced liquor.

Draw the Long Bow. In allusion to the exaggerated skill of the English archers prior to the introduction of gunpowder.

Dress Circle. That portion of a theatre which, before the introduction of stalls, was set apart for the superior sections of the audience.

Dressed up to the Knocker. To the extreme height of his resources. Before the establishment of the modern police system door knockers were placed as high as possible to prevent them from being wrenched off by sportive wags after nightfall.

Dresser. The kitchen sideboard, on which the meat was dressed before serving it up in the dining-chamber. The collection of cups, plates, and dishes which distinguishes a dresser originally had a place on a wide shelf or board over this meat dresser; hence cup-board.

Drinks like a Fish. Ready to swallow any quantity of liquor that may be offered. A great many fish have their mouths wide open whilst swimming.

Drive a Bargain. An expression meaning to knock down the original price asked, in punning allusion to “driving” a nail.

Drop o’ the Crater. See “Mountain Dew.”

Druid. In the Celtic Derwydd, derived from dewr, oak, and gwydd, knowledge. A priest who worshipped and offered sacrifices under an oak.

83Drum. The name for a fashionable evening party of bygone days, from the noise made by the card players.

Drummers. An Americanism for commercial travellers, who are engaged in beating up trade.

Drunkard’s Cloak. A large wooden crinoline that hung from a drunkard’s neck to the ground, causing every bone in his body to ache owing to the weight resting on his shoulders. The instrument resembled an inverted flower pot, having a hole in the top for his head to be thrust through. Under this drastic treatment he soon became sober.

Drunk as a Fiddler. The fiddler was generally incapable of discoursing further music half way through the night’s jollification, because the dancers freely plied him with drink.

Drunk as a Lord. When George the Third was King, and long afterwards, the fine old English gentleman acted up to his character by using strong language and imbibing strong potations. To be “drunk as a lord” was the surest mark of gentility, and a “three bottle man” a pattern of sobriety. After dining it was considered no disgrace to roll helplessly under the table.

Drury Lane. From Drury House, the residence of Sir William Drury, temp. William III.

Dublin. From Dubh-linn, “black pool.”

Dub Up. An expression derived from the very general custom of dubbing or touching a man on the shoulder when arresting him for debt.

Ducat. Duke’s money, anciently struck in the Duchy of Apulia, Sicily.

Duchess Street. After Lady Cavendish, who became the wife of the second Duke of Portland.

Ducking Stool. An instrument for the punishment of scolding wives. This public ducking in a pond effectually served to cool their temper for the time being.

84Duck’s Foot Lane. Properly “Duke’s Foot Lane,” the footway leading from the town house of the Earls of Suffolk down to the Thames.

Dude. An American name for a fop, derived from a very old English word, “dudes,” whence we have the slang term “Duds,” for clothes.

Dudley. From the castle built by Dodo, a Saxon prince, and ley, “meadow.”

Duds. See “Dude.”

Dug-out. A Far West Americanism for a boat or canoe hewn out of a large tree log.

Dukeries. That portion of Nottinghamshire distinguished for the number of ducal residences, of which Welbeck Abbey is perhaps the most admired.

Duke Street. In Aldgate, after the Dukes of Norfolk. Near Smithfield, the ancient property of the Dukes of Brittany. In Grosvenor Square, after the Duke of Cumberland. Off Langham Place, after the Duke of Portland. Near Manchester Square, after the Duke of Manchester. In the Strand, after George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.

Dulwich. The corruption of Dalewich, the village in the dale.

Duma. Russian for Parliament or popular representation.

Dumb Ox. One of the sobriquets of St Thomas Aquinas, from the silence with which he pursued his studies. His master, Albertus Magnus, however, predicted that “this dumb ox will one day fill the world with his bellowing.”

Dumping. A word which has come into prominence relative to Mr Chamberlain’s Fiscal Policy. In various forms the verb dump may be met with in Teutonic and Scandinavian tongues, meaning to “pitch down,” “throw down in a lump,” etc. etc. A “Dump Cart” in America is one that tilts up in front, and so “dumps” its load behind.

85Dun. A persistent creditor. After Joe Dun, a noted bailiff, who never failed to bring a debtor to book. People used to say: “Why don’t you Dun him for the debt?” meaning they would send Joe Dun to make him pay or arrest him.

Dunce. From John Duns Scotus, who, it is said, gave no proof of his remarkable attainments in his early scholastic days.

Dundee. A corruption of Duntay, the hill fort on the Tay.

Dunedin. See “Edinburgh.”

Dungeness. A corruption of Danger Ness, the Headland of Danger.

Dunkirk. Expresses the “Church in the Dunes,” or sand-hills, built by St Eloi in the seventh century.

Durham. A corruption of Dunholm, from its situation on a hill surrounded by the river.

Dusseldorf. The village on the Dussel.

Dutchman. A contemptuous epithet applied to our phlegmatic enemies during the wars with Holland.

Dyers’ Buildings. The site of an ancient almshouse of the Dyers’ Company.


Eagle. An inn sign, the cognisance of Queen Mary.

Earl Street. After Charles Marsham, Earl of Romney.

Earl’s Court. From the Earl of Warwick, whose estate it was until, by the marriage of the Dowager Countess of Warwick with Lord Holland, it passed into her husband’s family.

East Anglia. A name still popular as defining the eastern counties. This was one of the seven divisions or petty kingdoms of England under the Angles or Saxons.

86Eastcheap. The eastern chepe, or market, of the city of London.

Easter. From the Teutonic Ostara, goddess of light or spring; rendered by the Anglo-Saxons Eastre. This great spring festival lasted eight days.

Easter Island. The name given to it by Jacob Roggevin when he visited the island on Easter Sunday, 1722.

East Sheen. A name reminiscent of the original designation of “Richmond.”

Eat Dirt. An Americanism for a confession of penitence or absolute defeat in an argument.

Eat Humble Pie. In the days of sumptuous banquets of venison the lords of the feast reserved to themselves the flesh of the deer. The huntsmen and retainers had to be content with the heart, liver, and entrails, collectively called the “umbles,” which were made into monster pies.

Eat my own Words. To take them back again, to retract a statement.

Eaton Square. From Eaton Hall, near Chester, the seat of the Duke of Westminster, the ground landlord.

Eau de Cologne. A scent prepared at Cologne. The city itself is not sweet to the nostrils; it has been said that forty different smells may be distinguished there.

Eavesdropper. A corruption of Eavesdripper, one who, listening under the eaves of a house, caught the drips from the roof when it chanced to be raining.

Ebro. After the Iberi, who spread themselves over the country from the banks of this river. See “Iberia.”

Ebury Square. From the ancient manor of Eabury Farm, inherited by Mary Davies, and which, by her marriage, passed into the possession of the Grosvenor family.

Eccleston Square. From Eccleston, Cheshire, the country seat of the Grosvenors.

Ecuador. Expresses the Spanish for Equator.

87Edgar Atheling. Signifies “Edgar of noble descent.”

Edinburgh. The fortress or burgh built by Edwin, King of Northumbria. The Scots called it Dunedin.

Edinburgh of America. Albany, in the state of New York, so called on account of its magnificent public buildings and its commanding situation.

Edmonton. In Anglo-Saxon days Edmund’s Town.

Edmund Ironside. So called from the suit of chain mail that he wore. Notwithstanding this protection he was treacherously murdered after a reign of nine months only.

Edward the Confessor. The title bestowed upon the King of the Anglo-Saxons at his canonisation, on account of his remarkable asceticism, since, although he made the daughter of Earl Godwin his queen, he denied himself what are styled conjugal rights.

Edward the Martyr. Murdered at the instance of his stepmother at Corfe Castle after having reigned scarcely three years.

Eel Pie Island. From the invariable dinner dish served up to river excursionists.

Effra Road. At Camberwell, from the little river of the same name, now converted into a sewer.

Egalité. The name assumed by Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, the father of Louis Philippe, King of France, when, siding with the Republican Party in 1789, he accepted their motto: “Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality.” Four years later he met his death by the guillotine.

Ehrenbreitstein. Expresses the German for “Honour’s Broad Stone.” The castle stands on a precipitous rock, which well merits the description of the “Gibraltar of the Rhine.”

Eisteddfod. Celtic for a gathering of Welsh bards, from eistodd, to sit. As of old, the annual “Eisteddfod” is held for the encouragement of national music.

88Eldorado. California. Eldorado expresses the Spanish for “golden region.”

Electic Philosophers. Those who, agreeably to the Greek ek-lego, to pick out, selected what was best in the different schools or systems, and so built up one of their own.

Elephant and Castle. The famous landmark in South London derived its sign from the arms of the Cutlers’ Company. A tavern in St Pancras parish took its sign from the skeleton of an elephant, beside which was a flint-headed spear, dug up in the neighbourhood. The connection between these and the battle fought by the followers of Queen Boadicea against the Roman invaders was unmistakable.

Elephant stepped on his Purse. An Americanism implying that a creditor or some unlucky speculation has squeezed all the money out of a man.

Elgin Marbles. Brought from Greece by the seventh Earl of Elgin. Acquired by the nation for the British Museum in 1816.

Elia. The pseudonym of Charles Lamb for his “Essays” contributed to The London Magazine. This was the name of a gay, light-hearted foreigner, who fluttered about the South Sea House at the time when Lamb was a clerk there. At the moment of penning his signature to the first essay he bethought himself of that person, and substituted the name of Elia for his own.

Eltham. Anciently Ealdham, “the old home.” Here Anthony Bec, the “Battling Bishop of Durham,” built himself a palace midway in the thirteenth century. After his death it fell to the Crown, and became a Royal residence, until the time of James I. The original Banqueting-Hall, used in modern days as a barn, may yet be seen.

Ely Place. Marks the site of the residence of the Bishops of Ely.

89Ember Days. This term has no connection with embers or sackcloth and ashes as a penitential observance. The Saxons called them Ymbrine dagas, or “running days,” because they came round at regular seasons of the year.

Emerald Isle. Ireland, from its fresh verdure, due to its shores being washed by the warm waters of the “Gulf Stream.”

Empire Day. May 24th, formerly the Queen’s Birthday. In the last days of Victoria the British Empire was consolidated through the assistance lent by the Colonies to the Mother Country in the South African War. When, therefore, King Edward VII. came to the throne, the former Queen’s Birthday was invested with a greater significance than of old.

Empire State. New York, which, owing to position and commercial enterprise, has no rival among the other states of the Union.

Empire State of the South. Georgia, in consequence of its rapid industrial development.

Ena Road. In honour of Princess Ena, the consort of the young King of Spain.

Encore. From the Latin hauc horam, till this hour, still, again.

Encyclopædia. A book containing general or all-round instruction or information, from the Greek enkylios, circular or general, and paideia, instruction. An epitome of the whole circle of learning.

Endell Street. After the name of the builder. This is one of the few streets in London that has preserved its old characteristics, steadfastly refusing to march with the times.

England. In the time of Alfred the Great our country was styled Engaland, or the land of the Engles or Angles, who came over from Jutland.

Englishman’s House is his Castle. By the law of the land a bailiff must effect a peaceable entrance in order to 90distrain upon a debtor’s goods; therefore the latter is, as it were, sufficiently secure in his own fortress if he declines to give the enemy admittance.

Ennis. Expresses in Ireland, like Innis, the Celtic for an island. Both these words enter largely into Irish place-names.

Enniskillen. The kirk town on an island, the Celtic kil, originally implying a hermit’s cell, and later a chapel.

Ennismore Place. After Viscount Ennismore, Earl of Listowel, the ground landlord.

Enough is as good as a Feast. Because at no time can a person eat more than enough.

Enrol. See “Roll Call.”

Entente Cordiale. Expresses the French for cordial good will.

Entire. A word still to be met with on old tavern signs. It meant different qualities of ale or beer drawn from one cask.

Entrées. French for entries or commencements. Those made dishes are served after the soups, as an introduction to the more substantial portions of the repast, the joints.

Epicure. After Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, who taught that pleasure and good living constituted the happiness of mankind. His followers were styled Epicureans.

Epiphany. From the Greek Epiphaneia, an appearance, a showing; relative to the adoration of the Magi, who came from the East twelve days after the birth of the Saviour.

Epsom Salts. From the mineral springs at Epsom.

Equality State. Wyoming, where, first among the communities of the world, women were accorded the right to vote.

Erie. Indian for “Wild Cat,” the fierce tribe exterminated by the Iroquois.

91Escurial. Properly Escorial, Spanish for “among the rocks.” King Philip II. built this superb convent and palace after the battle of St Quentin, in the course of which he had been obliged to bombard a monastery of the Order of St Jerome. He dedicated it to St Lawrence. He caused the structure to be in the form of a gridiron, the symbol of the Saint’s martyrdom.

Esk. A river name derived from the Celtic uisg, water.

Esquimaux. An Alonquin Indian term signifying “eaters of raw flesh.”

Essex. The kingdom of the East Saxons under the Heptarchy.

Essex Street. From the mansion of Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, the Parliamentary General in Cromwell’s time.

Ethelred the Unready. From his incapacity and unwillingness to accept rede, or counsel.

Ethiopia. From the Greek aithein, to burn, and ops, the face. Hence “the country of the blacks.”

Etiquette. A French word for “label.” Formerly a ticket or card of instructions was handed to visitors on ceremonial occasions. Nowadays such rules as pertain to deportment or decorum are supposed to enter into the education of all well-bred persons.

Etna. From the Phœnician attuna, a furnace.

Eton. The Anglo-Saxon Eyton, “island town.”

Ettrick Shepherd. The literary sobriquet of James Hogg, the poet, of Ettrick, Selkirkshire.

Europe. From the Greek euros, broad, and ops, the face; literally “the broad face of the earth.”

Euston Road. From the seat of the Earl of Euston at Thetford, Norfolk, the ground landlord.

Evacuation Day. November 25th, observed in the United States as commemorating the evacuation of New York city by the British after the War of Independence, 1783.

92Evangelist. From the Greek euanggelion, “good news.” One of the four writers of the Gospels of the New Testament.

Evelyn Street. From the residence of John Evelyn, the diarist. One of his descendants, the Rev. W. J. Evelyn, of Wolton, built the church of St Luke, Deptford, in 1872.

Everglade State. Florida, from its tracts of land, covered with water and grass, called Everglades.

Ex. Another form of the Celtic uisg, water.

Exchequer. The table of this Court was formerly covered with checkered cloth, so called from the Old French eschequier, chess board.

Executive City. Washington, which contains the White House, the official residence of the President of the Republic, the House of Representatives, and the Senate Chamber.

Exellers. The 40th Foot, from the Roman numerals XL.

Exeter. Called by the Saxons Exancester, or the Roman camp town on the Exe.

Exeter College. Founded at Oxford by Walter Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter and Lord Treasurer of England, in 1316.

Exeter Street. From the mansion and grounds of the Earl of Exeter, the eldest son of the great Lord Burleigh.

Exhibition Road. This wide thoroughfare formed the eastern boundary of the plot of ground purchased by the Commissioners for the Great Exhibition of 1862.

Exodus. The Scriptural narrative of the departure of the Israelites from the Land of Bondage.

Eye. Expresses the Anglo-Saxon for island. The river Waveney surrounds the town.

Eye-opener. An American drink of mixed spirits as a remedy for drowsiness.



Face the Music. To bear the jeers and taunts of those who laugh at us.

Factory King. Richard Oastler of Bradford, the promoter of the “Ten Hours’ Bill.”

Fag. Slang for a cigarette, derived from the fag end--i.e. fatigued or spent end--of a cigar. Also a small boy who acts as a drudge in the service of another at a public school, so called from the Anglo-Saxon fæge, weak, timid.

Fair Cop. Thieves’ slang for a smart capture by the police. Whereas another would say “The game’s up!” a thief admits that he has been fairly caught by the expression “It’s a fair cop.” See “Cop.”

Fair Maid of Kent. Joan, the beautiful and only daughter of the Earl of Kent, who became the wife of Edward the Black Prince.

Fair Street. A name left us as a reminder of a once celebrated fair on the Southwark bank of the Thames.

Faith Healers. A sect which upholds the doctrine of healing the sick by prayer and anointing with oil in the name of the Lord, as set forth in James v. 13-15.

Faix. An Irishman’s exclamation for “Faith” or “In Faith.”

Fake. To make-believe or cheat. An actor is said to “fake up” an article of costume out of very sorry materials, which at a distance looks like the real thing. A photographer can “fake” a spirit photo by means of two distinct plates. Food also is largely “faked.” The word is derived from “Fakir.”

Fakir. From the Arabic fakhar, poor.

Falcon Square. From an ancient hostelry, “The Castle and Falcon,” hard by in Aldersgate Street.

Falernian. A celebrated wine, extolled by Horace, Virgil, 94and other Latin authors, prepared from grapes grown in the district of Falernicum.

Fall. An Americanism for autumn, in allusion to the fall of the leaves.

Fallopian Tubes. Said to have been discovered by Gabriel Fallopius, the eminent Italian anatomist of the sixteenth century. They were, however, known to the ancients.

Falls City. Louisville, in the state of Kentucky, because it overlooks the falls of the Ohio River.

Falmouth. A seaport at the mouth of the Fale.

Family Circle. This expression had a literal meaning in the time of the Normans, when the fire occupied the centre of the floor, and the smoke found its vent through a hole in the roof. In Germany and Russia the domestic apartments are economically warmed by an enclosed stove in the centre. Amongst ourselves the phrase “sit round the fire” only conveys a half-truth.

Fancy Drink. An Americanism for a concoction of various spirits, as distinguished from a Straight Drink of one kind.

Fandago. Spanish for a “lively dance.”

Farmer George. George III., on account of his dress, manners, and bucolic sporting inclinations.

Farm Street. From an old farm, on the land of Lord Berkeley of Stratton in the time of Charles I.

Faro. So called from a representation of Pharaoh on one of the cards originally.

Farringdon Road. After William Farringdon, citizen and goldsmith, who, for the sum of twenty marks, in 1279 purchased the Aldermanry of the ward named after him.

Farthing. From the Anglo-Saxon feorthling, a little fourth. In olden times penny pieces were nicked across like a 95Good Friday bun; so they could be broken into halves and fourths as occasion required.

Farthingale. A corruption of Verdingale, from the French vertugarde, a guard for modesty. Queen Elizabeth is said to have introduced this hooped petticoat in order to disguise her figure.

Farthing Poet. The sobriquet of Richard Horne, who published his chief poem, “Orion,” at one farthing, so that it should not want for buyers.

Fastern’s E’en. The Scottish description of Shrove Tuesday, being the eve of the Lenten Fast.

Father of Believers. Mohammed, because he established and promulgated the faith of the Moslem, or “true believers.”

Father of the Music Halls. The late William Morton, manager of the Palace Theatre of Varieties, and founder of the earliest London Music Hall, “The Canterbury,” in the Westminster Bridge Road, which dates from the year 1848.

Fathers of the Church. The great doctors or theological writers of the period from the first to the seventh centuries of Christianity. See “Apostolic Fathers.”

Faugh-a-Ballagh Boys. The 87th Foot, from their battle cry.

Feast of Lanterns. A Chinese festival which occurs on the fifteenth day of the first moon of the year. Walking by the side of a beautiful lake one night the daughter of a mandarin fell in, and was drowned. When her father heard of the accident he, attended by all his household, carrying lanterns, rushed to the spot. On the anniversary he caused fires to be lighted beside the lake, and invited all the people of the country round about to offer up prayers for the safety of her soul. In course of time the solemn character of the gathering was forgotten, and the day has ever since been observed as a national holiday.

Feast of Tabernacles. Commemorative of the forty years’ 96wandering of the Israelites in search of the Promised Land, during which long period they dwelt in temporary huts or tabernacles, formed of tree branches covered with leaves. Even at the present day the Jews at least take their meals in temporary structures covered with leaves throughout the nine days of the festival.

Feather in my Cap. An expression derived from a custom of the North American Indians, who stuck a fresh feather in their head-dress for every one of their enemies slain in battle.

Feathers. An inn sign originally, when the painted device appeared in place of the mere name, signifying the “Plume of Feathers,” or “Prince of Wales’s Feathers,” the crest of Edward the Black Prince.

February. From the Latin februare, to purify, this being the month appointed by the Romans for the festival of the Februalia of purification and expiation.

Federal States. During the American Civil War the Treaty States of the North, which resisted the Separatist or Confederate States in the South.

Feel Peckish. See “Keep your Pecker up.”

Fellah. Arabic for agriculturist or peasant. In the plural, “El Fellahin,” the term is specifically applied to the labouring population of Egypt.

Fenchurch Street. From an ancient church in the fens or marshy ground through which ran the Lang Bourne from Beach Lane to the Wall brook behind the Stocks Market, where the Mansion House now stands.

Fenians. Said to express the Gaelic for “hunters,” but the greater likelihood is that this secret society took the name of the Finna Eirinii, ancient organisation of Irish militia, so called after Fion MacCumhal, the hero of legendary history.

Fetter Lane. A corruption of “Fewters Lane,” from the Norman-French faitour, an evil-doer, on account of the idle vagabonds who infested it in days when this lane led to some pleasure gardens.

97Feuilleton. Expresses the French for a small leaf. Like the serial stories nowadays in many English newspapers, articles of a non-political character were introduced in the French Journal des Debatés as long ago as the commencement of the nineteenth century, these being separated from the news by a line towards the bottom of each page.

Fez. From Fez in Morocco, whence this red cap of the Turks was introduced into the Ottoman Empire.

F. F. V. Initials well understood in America, implying the “First Families of Virginia.”

Fiddler’s Money. A threepenny piece. Originally it was a small coin paid by each of the dancers to the fiddler at a merry-making.

Fifth Monarchy Men. Religious fanatics of the time of Charles I. who proclaimed the second coming of Christ to establish the fifth monarchy, or millennium. The four previous great monarchies of the world were the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman.

Fifty Club. A social club founded in 1899 by G. C. Paterson, incidentally for the entertainment of its members on the attainment of their fiftieth birthday.

Fighting Fifth. The 5th Foot, on account of their prowess during the Peninsular War.

Fighting Fitzgerald. George Robert Fitzgerald, a noted gamester and duellist of the eighteenth century, with whom no one ever picked a quarrel without falling by his hand. A sure shot and an expert swordsman, he was a man to be feared by all.

Fight Shy. Originally a prize-fighting expression, when one of the combatants betrayed a lack of courage.

Filberts. After St Philibert, on whose feast day, 22nd August, the nutting season commenced.

Filibuster. A Spanish and French corruption of the German freibeter, derived from the Dutch vlie-boot, or fly-boat, a small clipper vessel. This was introduced 98into England during the wars with the Low Countries. The word Freebooter claims the same origin.

Finality John. The sobriquet of John Russell, afterwards Earl Russell, from his conviction that the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 would be a finality to the universal Suffrage Question.

Finch Lane. Properly Finke Lane, after Sir Richard Finke, who resided in it, and rebuilt the church of St Bennet on the site of the present Royal Exchange. A tradesman in Cheapside rejoices in the possession of the full name of this vanished church, St Bennet-Finke.

Fingal’s Cave. That of Fion MacCumhal, abbreviated into Fingal, a celebrated legendary hero.

Finland. Properly Fenland, the land of lakes and marshes. The native name of the country is Suomesimaa, the watered land of the Suomes.

Finsbury. From the Anglo-Saxon Fensbury, the town among the fens or marshes.

Finsbury Pavement. The first London thoroughfare where the paving of the side walk with flagstones was introduced.

Fire dogs. These adjuncts to an old-fashioned fireplace received their name from the small dog that was anciently imprisoned in a wheel at one end of the spit. Three hours of this canine exercise were required to prepare the roast beef of Old England for the table. If the dog refused to exert himself a live coal was put inside the wheel to accelerate his movements.

Fire Water. The North American Indian designation of rum, and ardent spirits generally.

Fire Worshippers. The Parsees, who worship the sun as the symbol of the Deity.

First Gentleman of Europe. The complimentary sobriquet of George IV., owing to his rank, personal attractions, and the ability, as became a gentleman of the period, of telling good stories well.

99Firth of Forth. Firth expresses the Gaelic for an estuary or arm of the sea. Forth is the name of the river.

Fish Street Hill. From the fishmongers who first congregated here in the reign of Edward I. The Hall of the Fishmongers’ Company stands at the foot of London Bridge.

Fit-up. In theatrical parlance the entire appurtenances of a stage, excepting the floor only, carried from town to town, and fitted up in Town Halls, Assembly-rooms, and Corn Exchanges.

Fitzroy Square. From one of the family names of the ground landlord.

Fives. An old game at ball, usually played by five on each side. The “court” consists of a roomy space with a high wall at one end.

Fixings. An Americanism for dress ornaments or accessories; house, hotel, or theatre embellishments and decorations generally.

Flamingo. From the bright red colour of this tropical bird.

Flanders. From the native name Vländergau, the country of the Vländer, who from the earliest period of their history were ruled by counts.

Flannelled Fools. An opprobrious epithet bestowed upon the English people on account of their all-pervading sport of cricket by Rudyard Kipling. It gave rise to much acrimony at the time, and tended to lessen his popularity as a writer.

Flash Jewellery. Spurious, not what it pretends to be. Like a flash of fire, its brilliance is only fleeting.

Flask Walk. In this pleasant lane stands the old hostelry “The Flash.”

Fleet Road. All that is left us to remind one of the clear stream which coursed through the meadows down to Holborn (the Old Bourne) and Clerkenwell, emptying itself into the Thames in what is now Bridge Street, Blackfriars.

100Fleet Street. The River Fleet, which in old days was navigable from the Thames as far as what is now Ludgate Circus. The old English word Fleot expressed a tidal stream deep enough for vessels to float in.

Fleetwood Road. Here stood Fleetwood House, the residence of Charles Fleetwood, the Parliamentary General.

Fleshly School of Poetry. That of the sensuous order, popularised by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Swinburne, and Morris.

Flint. From the flint or quartz which abounds in this country.

Floralia. A Roman festival in honour of Flora, commencing 28th April and terminating 2nd May. It was said to have been instituted at the command of an oracle with a view of obtaining from the goddess the protection of blossoms.

Florence. Expresses “The City of Flowers.”

Florida. Named by Ponce de Leon from the twofold circumstance of his landing upon it on Pascua Florida, or Easter Sunday, and the luxuriance of its vegetation.

Florin. A silver coin of the value of two shillings, originally struck at Florence. It still bears on its reverse side a representation of a lily, symbolical of “The City of Flowers.”

Flower Sermon. An annual observance at the Church of St Katherine Cree, Leadenhall Street, inaugurated by the rector, the Rev. Dr Whittemore, in 1853. The flowers of the earth form the text; the pulpit is richly adorned with flowers; and every member of the congregation brings a bouquet. The idea of the flower service, if not the sermon, has been largely copied in various parts of the country.

Flunkey. From the French flanquer, the henchman or groom who ran at the flank or side of his mounted master.

101Fly. Provincial for a hansom cab. When one looks at such a hackney carriage it suggests a sedan-chair on wheels. Such a vehicle, introduced at Brighton for invalids, was a great favourite with George IV. then Prince of Wales, who often requisitioned it for a night frolic. Called by him on account of its lightness a “fly-by-night,” its name became abbreviated into a “fly.”

Fly Posting. A showman’s phrase for small bills posted hurriedly in all possible conspicuous places under cover of night.

Fly-up-the-Creeks. The people of Florida, who were wont to disappear on the approach of strangers.

F. M. Allen. The pseudonym of Mr Edward Downey at the time when he was also a publisher. F. M. Allen was his wife’s maiden name.

Foley Street. After the town house of Lord Foley.

Fontagne. A wire structure for raising the hair of ladies, introduced by the Duchesse de Fontagne, one of the mistresses of Louis XIV. of France.

Fontinalia. Roman festivals in honour of the nymphs of wells and fountains. It was from these that the English and French custom of “Well Dressing” in the month of May found its origin.

Foolscap. A size of paper which from time immemorial has had for its watermark a fool’s cap and bells.

Footpad. Originally a thief or highway robber who wore padded shoes.

Fop. From the German and Dutch foppen, to jeer at, make a fool of. This word must be very old, since Vanbrugh gave the name of Lord Foppington to a conceited coxcomb in this comedy “The Relapse,” 1697.

Forecastle. The quarters apportioned to the seamen in the fore end of a vessel. Anciently the whole forward portion bore the name of Aforecastle on account of “The Castle” or State Cabin erected in a castle-like form in the centre.

102Forefathers’ Day. December 21st, commemorated in the New England States on account of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620.

Forest City. Cleveland (Ohio) and Portland (Maine), on account of the trees which characterise their beautiful avenues.

Forest Gate. The district which in modern times has sprung up south of the old gate leading into Epping Forest. A representation of the gate appears on the curtain of the local public hall, or, as it is now styled, “The Grand Theatre.”

Forest Hill. A name reminiscent of days when this portion of South London as far as Croydon was forest land.

Fore Street. The street in front of the London Wall, the Barbican or watch-tower, and Cripple Gate.

Forget-me-not. A flower emblematical of friendship or a keepsake. The story goes that a German knight, walking on the banks of the Danube with his lady, undertook, at her request, to gather a tuft of Mysotis palustris, growing in the water. Encumbered by his armour, he was carried away by the stream, and sank, after having thrown the flowers to his mistress, exclaiming: “Vergess mein nicht!

Forlorn Hope. From the German verloren, lost. A company of soldiers ordered upon such a perilous enterprise, that there is small hope of their return.

Formosa. A Portuguese word signifying “beautiful.”

Fortino. A clipped phrase in several of the states of North America, from “For aught I know.”

Foster Lane. From the Church of St Vedast, the name of a Bishop of Arras. How Vedast came to be Anglicised into Foster is not explained.

Foul-weather Jack. Commodore John Byron, the circumnavigator of the eighteenth century. Whenever he put out to sea he was sure to experience foul weather.

Four Hundred. The Select or “Smart” Society of New York city.

103Fourteen Hundred. The cry raised when a stranger is discovered in the Stock Exchange, whereupon he is immediately hustled out. This had its origin in the circumstance that for a great many years the recognised full membership on ’Change was 1399.

Fourth Estate. The Press. Edward Burke referred to the Reporters’ Gallery as more powerful than the three great estates of the realm--viz. the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal, and the Commons.

Fox in the Hole. An inn or tavern sign contiguous to the hunting field.

Frame House. The American term for a house built of timber. Chinatown, or the Chinese quarter of the city of San Francisco, was entirely constructed of “frame houses.”

Franc. A silver coin of Franconia or France.

France. Anciently Franconia, the country of the Franks, so called from the franca, a kind of javelin with which they armed themselves when this people effected the conquest of Gaul.

Franciscans. Friars of the Order of St Francis of Assisi. Originally the Grey Friars, their habits are now brown. One of the rules laid down by their pious founder was that the brethren should always be clad like the poorest of the poor. He selected the loose sack of grey, undyed wool, bound round the waist by a cord of the Umbrian Shepherds. Towards the close of the fifteenth century the better classes affected gaudy colours, and the poorer orders, imitating them so far as the use of dyed materials was concerned, took to wearing garments of sober brown. Hence the change in the colour of the Franciscan habit.

Frankincense. Incense brought to the East from “Franconia.”

Freak Dinner. A latter-day term, arising out of the examples set by American millionaires to outdo all previous attempts in the way of sumptuous banquets. 104There have been dinners costing £100 per head. To please the eye, champagne has been made to flow wastefully from a fountain. The name is, however, more correctly applied to the scenic embellishments, as when the banqueting-chamber of the Gaiety Restaurant was converted into a South African mining tent, and real Kaffirs were the waiters, to remind the diners of the mode by which they had acquired their wealth.

Freebooter. See “Filibuster.”

Free Church of Scotland. The adherents of Dr Chalmers, who separated from the Scottish Presbyterian Church to establish an independent community, 18th May 1843.

Free House. A public-house, of which the landlord, being his own master, is at full liberty to change his brewer if the quality of the liquor supplied to him does not give complete satisfaction. See “Tied House.”

Free-lance. An unattached journalist who sends out his literary wares on approval. The term has been derived from those roving companies of knights who, at the close of the Wars of the Crusades, were ready to enlist under any banner for a monetary consideration. Like the mercenaries of the Carthaginians and Romans, these were the first paid soldiers.

Free List. A list kept by theatrical managers of Men about Town, barristers, medical men, and others, who can be relied upon to “dress the house” at short notice when business is bad, and so give it an air of prosperity. These are not “Deadheads” in the ordinary sense, because they render the management a service; but being well able to pay for seats at all times they are apt to be obnoxious in their demands when the entertainment really draws good houses. Hence the notice “Free list entirely suspended” at such times.

Freemasons. A brotherhood of masons who in the Mediæval Ages built the cathedrals which are even 105now lasting mementoes of their skill. They travelled from one city to another, always employed in the same devoted work, and, to prove that they were master craftsmen, invented various symbols, by which they could be recognised. Everywhere these masons enjoyed immunity from taxation and military service. Hence they received the name of “free-masons.”

Freeze on to him. To cling to a man as hoarfrost clings to wood in winter.

Freight Train. An Americanism for goods train.

Freshman. An undergraduate in his first year at a university.

Friar. Agreeably to the Latin fratre, brother. This term signifies a member of a religious community as distinguished from a monk (Greek, monas, alone), who was originally a hermit, and, except when at meals or at prayers in the monastery, spends his time in a cell.

Friar Street. Marks the eastern boundary of the monastery of the Dominicans or Black Friars anciently located south of Ludgate Hill.

Friar Tuck. So called because, like that of all friars, his habit was tucked or drawn up round the cord that encircled his waist.

Friday. In the Scandinavian mythology this day of the week was set apart for the worship of Frigga, the wife of Odin.

Friday Street. The fish market of Old London, so called from the weekly fast day, when it must have been particularly thronged.

Friendly Islands. So called by Captain Cook on account of the peaceable disposition of the natives.

Friesland. Anciently Friesia, the country of the Frisii.

Frisco. An American abbreviation of San Francisco.

Frith Street. Originally Fryth Street, after the name of the builder upon the land in 1680.

Frobisher Strait. Discovered by Sir Martin Frobisher, 1576.

106Frognal. That portion of Hampstead once graced by Frognal Priory, built by “Memory-Corner Thompson.”

From Pillar to Post. This had reference in olden times to the hooting crowds who followed a public offender from the pillory to the whipping-post. The “post,” however, was more usually a “cart’s tail.”

Fuchsia. After Leonard Fuchs, the distinguished German botanist.

Fudge. A word derived from the sound produced by the nasal expression of contempt, futsch! among the Germans and Dutch.

Fulham. The Fullenhame of Anglo-Saxon days, expressing the home or habitation of water-fowl.

Funeral. Specifically a torchlight procession, from the Latin funis, a torch. In ancient times burials always took place by night.

Furnival Street. A name left to remind us of Furnival’s Inn, on the opposite side of Holborn, and where Charles Dickens wrote his “Pickwick Papers.” Anciently this was the “Inn” or town mansion of the Lords Furnival, a title which became extinct in the reign of Richard II.

Fusiliers. Because originally armed with a light musket styled a fusil.

Fye Foot Lane. A corruption of Five Foot Lane, the width of this narrow thoroughfare when it led down to the Thames side.


Gad-about. The word “Gad” is Gaelic, signifying “to rove.”

Gaelic. See “Caledonia.”

Gaff. See “Penny Gaff.”

Gaffer. Provincial for an old man; a corruption of “grandfather.”

107Gag. An actor’s interpolation of catch phrases at his own sweet will. Originally, however, gagging was a device to disconcert or stop the mouth of another actor by the unexpected employment of words not in the text of the play.

Gallivanting. An old English word for “doing the agreeable.” Its derivation is clearly traceable to “gallant” and “gallantry.”

Galoshes. From the Spanish galocha, a patten or wooden shoe.

Galvanism. After Luigi Galvani, the eminent physician of Bologna in the eighteenth century, the discoverer of electrical currents produced by chemical agency.

Gamboge. Brought from Cambogia in Siam.

Gamp. After Mrs Gamp in “Martin Chuzzlewit,” who never went abroad without her fat, pawky umbrella, and when at home gave it an honoured position by the side of the fireplace. Charles Dickens must have had the town of Guingamp in his mind when he invented Mrs Gamp. See “Gingham.”

Gander Party. An Americanism for a social party composed of men only.

Ganges. The sacred river of the Hindoos, thought by them to flow through Gang, the earth, to heaven. The name they gave to it, therefore, was Ganga.

Garden of England. The Isle of Wight. The mildness of the climate and the luxuriance of the vegetation bespeak a perpetual summer.

Garden Spot. The fertile centre of Kentucky, whence the Indians, after many a sanguinary encounter, were banished by the white settlers.

Garden State. New Jersey, from the fertility of its soil.

Garden Town. The name bestowed upon both Cheltenham and Leamington in virtue of their spas, public gardens, and promenades tastefully laid out.

108Gargantuan. Anything out of all reasonable limits. We speak of a “Gargantuan Feast,” a “Gargantuan Thirst,” to express a capacity for enormous consumption. The word is derived from Gargantua, the hero of Rabelais’s famous satire of this title.

Garlick Hill. Where garlic was anciently brought to land at Queenhithe.

Garrick Street. From the Garrick Club, the premier rendezvous of the leading members of the dramatic profession.

Garrotters. Street marauders of the latter part of the last century who gripped their victim tightly round the neck while accomplices rifled his pockets. Their designation was derived from the Garrotte, with which malefactors are strangled in Spain.

Gas Bag. An Americanism for one who is always boasting of his own importance.

Gasconade. To boast. The people of Gascony had an unenviable reputation for boasting.

Gate. This old English word does not in all cases express a city gate, as in London, but a road, street, or passage--e.g. Canongate, the way past the House of the Canons of Holyrood Abbey at Edinburgh; Lowgate, Whitefriargate, etc., at Hull; Harrowgate, the passage through the hills; and Boulogne Gate, or entrance to Boulogne Harbour.

Gatling Gun. Named after R. J. Gatling, its inventor.

Gaul. The Gallia of the Romans, from the Celtic name of the country, Gal, “western.”

Gave him a Baker’s Dozen. As much as he merited, and one blow over as a finishing stroke. A drubbing that he little expected.

Gave him a Roland for an Oliver. Exactly what he gave me himself; a tit for tat. Roland and Oliver were two knights in the train of Charlemagne. Both were equally accomplished; what the one did the other essayed also with success. In the matter of fighting 109too they were exactly on a par, since, after having been put to the test in single combat, for a long time neither of them gained the least advantage.

Gave him the Cold Shoulder. Received him with scant ceremony. The allusion is to the fare generally set before an unexpected visitor who has not dined.

Gave him the Grand Shake. An Americanism for finally breaking off an acquaintance.

Gavelkind. A custom among the Anglo-Saxons whereby all the sons of a family inherited alike. Lord Coke traces it from the Teutonic gif eal cyn, and translates it literally “give all kinde.” Inheritance by Gavelkind obtained in Kent long after the Norman Conquest; indeed, it is said that some Kentish lands are still held by this ancient tenure.

Gavotte. A dance familiar to the Gavots in the French province of Dauphiny.

Gay Lothario. A seducer. From the leading character in Nicholas Rowe’s “The Fair Penitent,” produced in 1703.

Gazette. From the Italian Gazzetta, the name of a Venetian coin valued at about ¾d. of English money, which was charged for the individual reading, from hand-to-hand, of a written sheet at Venice containing news of the war with Soliman II., temp. sixteenth century.

Geneva Gown. The habit of Low Churchmen, so called from its resemblance to the gown worn by the Calvinists of Geneva.

Genre Painting. One on a pastoral subject, with figures, that does not properly come under the definition of a landscape. The word is French for a kind, a sort.

Gentleman in Black. A chimney-sweep, who, like a clergyman, was formerly saluted out of respect for “the cloth.”

Gentleman Jack. John Bannister, a favourite actor of 110Drury Lane Theatre, respected by all for his integrity even more than for his histrionic accomplishments.

Gentleman Smith. William Smith of Drury Lane, the beau ideal of a gentleman on the stage.

Gentleman Turkey. The Far Western description of a turkey cock.

George. An inn sign in honour of the patron saint of England. After the Hanoverian Succession, by which time pictorial signs had for the most part disappeared, and the name alone stood for a sign, the omission of the “St” made the sign complimentary to the reigning monarch. Reading of the execution of Charles I., we are told that the ill-fated King handed his “George” to Juxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who attended him on the scaffold. This was the badge of the Order of the Garter, representing St George on horseback piercing the fallen dragon with his lance.

George and Dragon. See “George.”

George Ranger. H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, who was appointed Ranger of the Royal Parks.

Georges Sand. This literary pseudonym of Mademoiselle Dupin, afterwards Madame Dudevant, arose out of her attachment to a young student named Jules Sandeau, with whom she collaborated in the production of her first novel, “Rose et Blanche.”

Georgia. In compliment to George II., the reigning monarch when this state was colonised.

German Silver. See “Sterling Silver.”

Germany. Called by the Romans Germania, from a Gaulish or Celtic word meaning “neighbours.”

Gerrard Street. After the family name of the Earl of Macclesfield, the ground landlord, when it was first built upon at the close of the seventeenth century.

Gerrymandering. An American political term for subdividing a constituency in such a way as to give one party an unfair advantage over all others. Its adoption 111was due to Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts. When a map of this new electoral distribution was shown to an artist he remarked that it looked very much like a salamander. “A salamander, you say? Why not a Gerrymander!” was the reply. And a Gerrymander the name of the scheme remained.

Get there all the same. An Americanism meaning to succeed in any enterprise, despite all obstacles or opposition.

Ghost. One employed by an author or an artist to do his work for him, so called because, his name and personality being withheld from the public, he is kept in the shade. In other words, he is a mere shadow of his master. Originally, however, the term had reference to the friend who had inspired or suggested the work.

Ghost walking. A theatrical phrase. Actors assembling at the theatre for their weekly salaries generally put the question among themselves: “Is the ghost walking?” While those about to accept an engagement with a manager of whom they know nothing ask: “Does the ghost walk?” Its origin is as follows:--Many years ago a manager of the Bogus type had in his company a self-willed actor whose strong part was the Ghost in “Hamlet.” If his salary was not forthcoming on a Saturday morning he exclaimed: “Then the ghost won’t walk to-night.” Indispensable actor as he was, the manager invariably acceded to his demands. Sometimes it happened that he received only a portion of his salary, with a promise of the remainder in the course of the performance, in which case he refused to go on until the money was actually paid. It is said that the other members of the company would wait on a Saturday morning about the time for “Treasury” until they received word by a messenger that the ghost would walk.

Giaour. From the Arabic kiafir, “unbeliever.” The Turks bestow this name on all European Christians, enemies of the Mohammedan faith. Readers of Lord Byron’s 112poem “The Giaour” may require to be informed of its meaning.

Gibberish. After Geber, an Arabian alchemist of the eleventh century, who employed an unintelligible jargon to mystify the ecclesiastics, lest by plain speaking he might be put to death as a sorcerer.

Gibraltar. From the Arabic designation, Jebel-al-Tarik, the Mountain of Tarik, in honour of Ben Zeyad Tarik, a Moorish General, to whose prowess the conquest of Spain in the eighth century was due.

Gibraltar of America. The city of Quebec, from its commanding and impregnable position on the heights.

Gibson Girl. A new type of womanhood popularised in America by the drawings of Charles Dana Gibson, and introduced to London by Miss Camille Clifford.

Gibus. An opera or crush hat, so called after its inventor.

Gift of the Gab. “Gab” is a very old word; it was used by the Anglo-Saxons for speech. The Scots employed it to describe the mouth; hence to “gabble.” The French had it too in the forms of “gaber,” to boast or talk wildly.

Gig. A term claiming the same origin as “Jig”--i.e. the French gigue, a lively dance--because this vehicle moves lightly.

Gilbertines. An English religious Order of the twelfth century, founded by St Gilbert of Sempringham, Lincolnshire.

Gilly flower. A corruption of July flower, from the month when it blossoms.

Giltspur Street. Said to have received its name from the gilt spurs of the knights riding to the tournaments in Smithfield. The greater probability is that the makers of gilt spurs congregated in this street.

Gimnal Ring. A love token of bygone days, so called from the Latin gemellus, joined. This ring was composed of two separate bands fitted into each 113other with little teeth. When lovers were betrothed it was divided, only to be put together again at the nuptial ceremony.

Gin. Short for Geneva. Not after Geneva in Switzerland, because this is the national spirituous drink of the Dutch, called at first by them giniva, from the French genievre, juniper. Juniper berries were originally employed to flavour the spirit distilled from unmalted rye. The native name for Dutch gin is now Schiedam, after the town where it is made. Dutch gin brought to England is called Hollands.

Ginger. Red-haired people are said to be ginger because Guinevre, the Queen at the Court of King Arthur, had red hair.

Gingham. A corruption of Guingamp in Brittany, where the cotton stuff brought from Java, there called gingang, was dyed and made into umbrella covers before silk and alpaca came into use for this purpose. Hence the slang term for an umbrella. See “Gamp.”

Gin Sling. An American drink composed of equal parts of gin and water. See “Sling.”

Gipsies. A corruption of Egyptians, because, when first heard of in Europe, they spread themselves over Bohemia, and were thought to have arrived there by way of Egypt.

Giraldus Cambrensis. The Latinised pen name of Gerald de Barri, Archbishop of St David’s, and historian of Cambria or Wales.

Girasole. The Italian name of the sunflower, from the Latin gyara, to turn, and sol, the sun.

Girondists. Deputies from the Department of the Gironde who formed the Moderate Republican Party in the French Revolution.

Girton Girl. A student of Girton College, Cambridge.

Give him Beans. An expression derived from a French proverb: “If he gives me peas I will give him beans”--i.e. I will be quits with him.

114Give him plenty of Rope. Let him do just what he thinks is best, and everything will come out right in the end. Following in your train, and, metaphorically, attached to your rope, the longer the rope the wider will be the sweep he can command; he can always be pulled in when it becomes necessary to check his movements.

Given Name. An Americanism for a Christian or forename.

Gives himself Airs. One who assumes a manner out of keeping with his social position. “Air” was formerly synonymous with deportment.

Give up the Ghost. Literally to yield up the Spirit.

Gladiator. From the Latin gladius, a sword. A slave trained to defend himself with a short sword in the mortal combats of the Roman arena for the amusement of the Emperors and the populace.

Glad Rags. An Americanism for holiday clothes or festive garments.

Gladstone Bag. So called in compliment to Mr W. E. Gladstone when, as leader of the Liberal Government, his name was “familiar in men’s mouths as household words.”

Glamorgan. From Gwlad-Margam, “the territory of Margam,” a Welsh chieftain of the tenth century. His name is correctly preserved in Margam Abbey.

Glenlivet. Whisky distilled in the Vale of Glenlivet in Banffshire.

Globe. An inn sign, the name of which was derived from the arms of the King of Portugal.

Globe Trotter. A tourist, a traveller in foreign lands.

Glorious Fourth of July. Another name for “Independence Day.”

Gloucester. The Gloicastra of the Romans, in honour of Gloi, son of the Emperor Claudius, who was born here.

115Gloucester Road. From Oxford Lodge, the one-time residence of the Duchess of Gloucester.

Go ahead. From the nautical phrase “The wind’s ahead”--i.e. blowing from the stern towards the vessel’s head.

Goat and Compasses. A corruption of the Puritan motto “God encompass us.”

Goatee. An Americanism for the typical Yankee chin tuft, in allusion to the beard of a goat.

Gobelin Tapestry. Made under royal patronage in the house originally occupied by Jean Gobelin, a wool dyer in Paris, temp. seventeenth century.

God help you. Anciently an invocation on behalf of a person subjected to the Ordeal of Fire.

Godstone. A corruption of “Good Stone,” relative to the excellence of the stone quarried here.

Goggles. Shaded spectacles, so called in allusion to gig lamps.

Go in for Banting. See “Banting.”

Gold Coast. The coast of Guinea, West Africa, where gold was found.

Golden Cross. The device of the Crusaders, extensively adopted as an inn sign.

Golden Gate. The entrance to San Francisco Harbour. This name had been bestowed upon it by the Spaniards centuries before the outbreak of the gold fever in 1847, from their own knowledge that this was the gate to the Land of Gold.

Golden Lane. A corruption of “Golding Lane,” after the builder.

Golden Square. Properly “Gelding Square,” from an old inn of this name.

Go Marooning. A southern state American expression for a picnicking party on the shore or up country which is to last for several days. See “Maroons.”

116Gone over to the Majority. A Parliamentary phrase equally, if more generally, applied to one who has passed from the scene of his life’s labours to the spirit world. Ancient and modern authors contain passages in the latter connection. The Rev. Robert Blair in “The Grave” says: “’Tis long since Death had the majority.”

Gone to Pot. Vanished possessions. The reference is to the metalliferous melting pot.

Gone to Rack and Ruin. A corruption of “wreck and ruin.”

Gone to Texas. An American expression for one who has decamped leaving debts behind him. It was (and is) no unusual thing for a man to display this notice, perhaps only the initials “G.T.T.” on his door for the information of callers after he has absconded.

Gone to the Devil. From the twofold circumstance that money lost through lawyers would surely be spent by them at their regular resort, the celebrated “Devil Tavern,” hard by Temple Bar, and the not unusual answer tendered by a subordinate to a caller at a place of business in Fleet Street that his master had “gone to the ‘Devil.’”

Gone to the Dogs. Money that has been squandered uselessly, as the remains of a feast in Eastern countries are thrown to the dogs instead of being given to the poor. A vicious man is said to have gone to the dogs because in the East social outcasts are often worried by ravenous dogs that prowl about the streets by night.

Gone under. One who has sunk in the social scale; never recovered from financial embarrassments; who found it impossible to “keep his head above water.” The allusion is, of course, to drowning.

Gone up the Country. An expression implying that a person is insolvent; originally introduced into England from the Colonies. When a man could not 117make ends meet in the coast cities he went prospecting up the country.

Gong Punch. The American term for the bell ticket punch used by conductors on tramcars.

Gonville College. The original name of Caius College, Cambridge, founded by Edmund Gonville in 1348.

Good enough Morgan. An American phrase for an imposition, or any person or thing likely to pass muster for the reality. This originated during the Anti-Masonic riots in the state of New York, when it was alleged that the Freemasons had drowned a man called Morgan for having betrayed their secrets. A body was actually found in the river near Fort Niagara, and identified by Morgan’s wife chiefly on account of a missing tooth. It was, however, proved that the whole story had been trumped up for political ends. A prominent politician who had a hand in the affair indeed confessed that, when reminded that the body would never pass for Morgan’s, he declared: “It’s a good enough Morgan.” Hence the phrase.

Goodge Street. After the name of the builder.

Goodman’s Fields. After the owner of the lands upon a portion of whose farm the Prioresses or Nuns of St Clare built their priory. This name recurs in the “Life of David Garrick,” who established his fame at the old Goodman’s Fields Theatre before he migrated to Drury Lane.

Good Old Town of Hull. A name originally bestowed upon the “Third Port” by tramps and beggars, who, in common with the deserving poor, fared exceeding well out of the bounty of the Dominican and Carmelite Friars. The streets Blackfriargate and Whitefriargate fix the locality of these conventual establishments.

Good Time. An Americanism for a very pleasurable or festive time. See “High Time.”

Good Wine needs no Bush. An ivy bush was in former times displayed at the end of a stake wherever wine 118was sold, the ivy being sacred to Bacchus. Travellers who had once tasted good wine took careful stock of the place before leaving it; consequently they needed no bush to direct them when next they visited the neighbourhood.

Goodwin Sands. At the time of the Norman Conquest this comprised the estate of Earl Godwin, from whom it was filched and bestowed upon the Abbey of St Augustine at Canterbury. Neglect of the repair of the sea-wall caused the waves to rush in and overwhelm the land.

Go off the Handle. To lose one’s head or go insane. The allusion is to the head of an axe flying off the handle.

Go one better. Originally a sporting expression, meaning that by jumping farther a contestant would make a scratch on the ground beyond the one just scored.

Goose. The tailor’s smoothing iron, from the resemblance of its handle to the neck of a goose.

Gooseberry. A corruption of Gorseberry, rough or coarse, on account of the hairs or diminutive prickles which distinguish this berry.

Gordon Hotels. Established by the late Frederick Gordon, a solicitor of Bloomsbury. These middle-class hotels have supplied a long-felt want in London and elsewhere.

Gordon Square. In compliment to Lady Georgina Gordon, wife of the sixth Duke of Bedford, the ground landlord.

Gospel. From the Anglo-Saxon God-spell, “good news.”

Gospel Oak. From the oak-tree marking the juncture of St Pancras and Hampstead parishes, beneath which the Gospel was annually read.

Goswell Road. From an ancient spring, styled “God’s Well,” discovered in this neighbourhood.

Gotham. The city of New York. Washington Irving first gave it this name in his “Salmagundi.” Its people in his time were anything but fools, yet he may not have 119appreciated the singular wisdom attributed to them. By referring to the city as Gotham he made a playful allusion to Gotham in Nottinghamshire, England, which for centuries had merited a reputation for being a town whose inhabitants did and said the most foolish things.

Go the whole Hog. An expression derived from Cowper’s poem entitled “Of the Love of the World reproved,” in which he discusses the eating of pork by the Turks:

“But for one piece they thought it hard
From the whole hog to be debarred.”

Got my Back up. In allusion to cats, which set up their backs on being confronted by their own species or by a ferocious dog.

Got my Dander up. The word dander here is a corruption of dandruff, which, though it means only the scurf on the head, has come to be curiously applied to the hair itself; as when the fur of enraged animals is raised.

Got the Bullet. Suddenly discharged from one’s occupation; “fired out,” as it were.

Got the Push. Ousted from one’s place of employment. Metaphorically to have been pushed off the premises.

Got the Sack. An expression derived from the sack in which mechanics and artisans generally carried their own tools. When engaged to work the tools were assigned to a proper place in the workshop, while the master took possession of the sack. On discharging his men he returned them the sack.

Go to. An Old English expression which leaves something to the imagination. Originally it must have implied a place where there is much caloric. In its popular acceptation it meant simply “Get along with you!”

Go to Bath. An expression signifying that a person is talking nonsense. When the west of England was the fashionable health resort silly and slightly 120demented folk were recommended to “Go to Bath, and get your head shaved.”

Go to Bungay. The curt answer received by persons who asked where they could get the once fashionable leather breeches. Bungay, in Suffolk, was the only place where they were made. This expression travelled over to New England with the first emigrants, and is still common in that portion of the United States.

Go to Jericho. Jericho was the name given by Henry VIII. to the Manor of Blackmore, near Chelmsford, whither he often retired quite suddenly from affairs of State. At such times his courtiers suspected some fresh freak of gallantry, and said he had “gone to Jericho.” Moreover, when in a testy mood, his Queen would tell him to “go to Jericho!”

Go to Putney. A very old expression, tantamount to consigning a person beyond the pale of London society or civilisation.

Got out of Bed the wrong Way. From the old superstition that planting the left foot on the ground first on rising in the morning was a harbinger of ill luck for the day.

Government Stock. The origin of the word Stock is interesting. Down to the year 1782, when the practice was abolished, public money invested in Government securities was acknowledged on the two opposite ends of a piece of wood called a stock, from the Anglo-Saxon stocc, a trunk. The stock was then cut in two, one portion being handed to the investor and the other consigned to the Tally Office.

Gower Street. After the name of the builder on this portion of the Bedford estate.

Gowk. The Scottish equivalent for an “April Fool,” signifying a foolish person.

Gracechurch Street. From the herb market anciently held around the Church of St Benet, called the Grass Church. This edifice has in modern times been 121pulled down, and the money realised for the site devoted to the erection of a new St Benet’s in the Mile End Road.

Gramercy. From grand merci, “great thanks,” a phrase introduced when French was the language of the Court.

Granby Street. In honour of John Manners, Marquis of Granby, whose name is also perpetuated by many a tavern sign.

Grand Hotel. Not in the sense of magnificence, but true to the French meaning of the word “great”; hence Grand Theatre, the Grand Tour, and the Grand Canal at Venice.

Grand Old Man. The name applied by Mr Labouchere to Mr W. E. Gladstone on the occasion of Mr Bradlaugh’s expulsion from the House after his election for Northampton because he refused to take the oath in the prescribed manner. Referring to a conversation in the tea-room Mr Labouchere said: “I told some friends that before I left Mr Gladstone came to me, and that grand old man, with tears in his eyes, took me by the hands, and said: ‘Mr Labouchere, bring me Mr Bradlaugh back again.’”

Grand Tour. More than a hundred years ago each of the sons of gentlemen in their turn made the Grand or Extended Tour through France, Germany, and Italy, just as nowadays daughters are presented at Court as a preliminary to moving in fashionable society.

Grange Road. Marks the situation of an old mansion called “The Grange.” The word Grange expresses the French for a barn or granary.

Granite State. New Hampshire, from its staple product.

Grapes. An inn or public sign, denoting that the house contained a vinery.

Grass Widow. A married woman separated from her husband, but not divorced. In the eyes of the world she passes for a widow by grace of courtesy. The 122correct description is, therefore, a “Grace Widow.” The corruption came about quite easily.

Grays. Anciently the estate of the noble family who gave their name to Gray’s Inn, their town mansion. Lady Jane Grey came of this stock.

Gray’s Inn. The Inn or mansion of the Earls Gray, made over to the law students, temp. Edward III. See “Inn.”

Gray’s Inn Road. From Gray’s Inn, the eastern wall of which it skirts.

Great Bear Lake. On account of its situation under the northern constellation of the Great Bear.

Great Belt. The great strait leading to the Baltic Sea. Both these names are derived from the Norse bält, strait.

Great College Street. At the southern extremity of this thoroughfare in Camden Town stands the Royal Veterinary College.

Great Coram Street. From the Foundling Hospital built and endowed by Captain Thomas Coram in 1739.

Great Dover Street. The London portion of the old Roman highway to Dover.

Great George Street. Stands on the site of the stable-yard of a famous old coaching inn, “The George and Dragon.”

Great Marlborough Street. In honour of the Duke of Marlborough, the people’s idol after the victory of Blenheim.

Great Ormond Street. After the British General, James Butler, second Duke of Ormond.

Great Peter Street. Contiguous to Westminster Abbey, dedicated to St Peter.

Great Portland Street. The business thoroughfare on the Duke of Portland’s estate.

Great Queen Street. First laid out across the fields in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and named after her.

123Great Russell Street. In honour of the ill-fated Lord William Russell, whose wife, Rachel, was the daughter of the Duke of Bedford, the great ground landlord.

Great St Helen’s. Occupies the site of the ancient priory of St Helen’s, of which the church remains.

Great St Thomas Apostle. Marks the site of a vanished church of this name.

Great Stanhope Street. From the mansion of Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield.

Great Suffolk Street. After Suffolk House, in which resided George Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

Great Sutton Street. Perpetuates the memory of Thomas Sutton, the founder of the Charter House.

Great Titchfield Street. After the Duke of Grafton and Marquis of Titchfield, father of the Earl of Euston, the ground landlord.

Great Winchester Street. From Winchester House, the residence of the first Earl of Winchester.

Great Windmill Street. A couple of centuries ago, when this district was open fields, a large windmill stood hereabouts.

Greece. Called Græcia by the Romans, after the Graikoi, a tribe of settlers in Epiros.

Greek Street. At one time a colony of Greek merchants who contributed to the erection of a Greek church here.

Greenaway Gardens. After the late Miss Kate Greenaway, the lady artist, who resided in its vicinity.

Greenbacks. The paper currency of the United States, printed in green and with a device of the same colour on the back. Mr Chase, Secretary of the Treasury in 1862, claimed the honour of having added this word to the American vocabulary.

Green Dragon. An inn sign anciently depicting the combat of St George with the dragon.

124Greengage. The greenish plum introduced to England by Lord Gage from the monastery of La Chartreuse in France.

Greengrocer. See “Grocer.”

Greenhorn. A raw, inexperienced youth. The allusion here is to the undeveloped horns of a young ox.

Green Horse. The nickname of the 5th Dragoon Guards, from their green facings.

Greenland. From the moss which grows abundantly in this otherwise sterile region. Iceland or Greenland moss is said to be very efficacious in the treatment of consumption.

Green Man. An inn sign denoting that the house was kept by a retired gamekeeper of the lord of the manor. Mediæval gamekeepers always dressed in green. See “Inn.”

Green Man and Still. A tavern sign pointing to the existence on the premises of a still where cordials were distilled from green herbs. In this case the house was not kept by a gamekeeper, but by a herbalist. It may, however, have belonged to an innkeeper or a “Green Man” further afield on the same estate.

Green Mountain State. Vermont, as its name implies.

Green Park. On account of its delightful grassy surface.

Green-room. From the green-coloured walls of the room set apart by David Garrick behind the scenes of Drury Lane Theatre for members of the company in the intervals of playing their parts. This colour was chosen as a relief to the eye after the glare of the stage lights.

Green Sea. From the aspect of its waters looking towards the shores of Arabia.

Greenwich. Expresses the Saxon for “green village.”

Grenadiers. Anciently a company of soldiers who marched in front of every regiment of foot, it being their 125function to throw hand-grenades into the ranks of the enemy.

Gresham Street. After Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange. His residence in Old Broad Street, on the site of the present Gresham House, was converted by him into a college, which in 1843 was removed into Gresham Street. The word Gresham comes from the German Grassheim, “grass home”; hence the grasshopper on the summit of the Royal Exchange.

Greville Street. Marks the site of the mansion of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, one of the ministers of James I.

Grey Friars. See “Franciscans.”

Greyhound. An inn sign derived from the badge of Henry VII. The dog of this name originally came from Greece, and was accordingly styled a graihund, after the Graikoi, the people of that country.

Gripsack. An Americanism for a travellers’ hand-bag, corresponding to an English carpet bag.

Grisette. A generic name for a Parisian shop or work girl, from the gris, or grey cloth, which was at one time generally worn by the inferior classes in France.

Grocer. A term derived from the same root as Gross, “the great hundred,” and applied to a provision dealer who in former times was the only trader rejoicing in the monopoly of dealing in large quantities.

Grocery. An Americanism for a grocer’s store or shop. Also used in the plural sense for commodities dealt in by a grocer; corresponding to our “groceries.”

Grog. The name originally given by the sailors under Admiral Edward Vernon to the rum diluted with water he served out to them on board ship. They called him “Old Grog” because he always appeared on deck in a long grogram cloak when the weather was “dirty.”

Groggery. An Americanism for a “grog shop” where 126spirituous liquors only are purveyed; answering to our “Gin Palace.”

Grosvenor Square. The centre of the London estate of the Grosvenor family. Sir Richard Grosvenor was Grand Cup-bearer to George II. The word Grosvenor is Norman-French--i.e. Le Gros Veneur, “the chief hunter.”

Groundlings. The common spectators at the plays referred to by Hamlet in his “Advice to the Players.” The earliest London playhouses were the inn-yards, whose galleries corresponded to our box tiers, while the yard itself was given up to the audience generally.

Growler. A four-wheeled cab, so called from the surly manners of the driver. Since the advent of the “Hansom” his vehicle is rarely in request, save when the “fare” has much luggage to convey to a railway station or when a patient is being driven to the hospital.

Guadalquiver. From the Arabic Wad-al-Kebir, “great river.”

Guildford Street. After Francis North, Lord Keeper, who resided in it.

Guildhall. The Hall of the City Guilds. The old word Guild expressed the fee paid for membership in an association of artisans; from the Anglo-Saxon gild, money, gildan, to pay.

Guinea. A West African term for “abounding in gold.” The English coin of this name was first struck in 1663 out of gold brought from the coast of Guinea.

Guinea Fowl. Originally brought from Guinea, West Africa.

Guinea Pig. A South American rodent, somewhat resembling a pig. Its name is a corruption of Guiana pig.

Gulf of Carpentaria. Discovered by Captain Carpenter, a Dutch navigator, in 1606.

127Gulf States. Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas--all bordering on the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Stream. The warm equatorial waters of the Amazon River, which, after coursing round the coasts of South America and the Gulf of Mexico, make their way across the Atlantic, direct for the British Isles and Norway. This ocean stream, never less than forty miles in breadth, is distinguished by a deep indigo colour.

Gunnersbury. The name of a Saxon village, after the Lady Gunylda, a niece of King Canute, who took up her residence here while England was under the sway of the Danes.

Gutta-percha. A Malay term, gutta, gum, and percha, the tree which provides it.

Gutter Lane. A corruption of “Gutheron Lane,” from a Danish burgher who resided in it.

Guy’s Hospital. The generous benefaction of Thomas Guy, a wealthy Lombard Street bookseller, in 1722. His large fortune was chiefly due to the buying up, at a large discount, of seamen’s prize-money tickets, and investing the proceeds in South-Sea Stock.

Gyp. The college servitor at Cambridge, so called because he subsists on the perquisites of those whom he waits upon. Gyp expresses the Greek for a vulture.


Haberdasher. Anciently one who sold Hapertas cloth, a mixture of silk and wool. In modern times a haberdasher is a vendor of smallwares, such as handkerchiefs, neckties, tapes, etc. The origin of the word Hapertas has been traced to the Anglo-Saxon Habihr das: “Will you buy this?” a trader’s exclamation similar to that of the London ’prentice of a later period: “What do you lack?” However this may be, the German tauschen stands for sale, exchange, barter.

128Hack Author. See “Hackney Coach.”

Hackney. The whole of this district originally belonged to a Danish Chief named Hacon. The suffix ey expresses an island--i.e. land intersected by rivulets (in this case of the Lea)--or low, marshy ground. The suggestion that coaches were first let out for hire in this neighbourhood is not correct. See “Hackney Coach.”

Hackney Coach. One let out for hire. In France a coche-a-haquenée expresses a coach drawn by a hired horse. Originally the word haquenée meant any kind of horse but a thoroughbred. The Dutch hakkenei means hack horse, an ambling nag. From the French haquenée we have derived the term hack author, or literary hack, one whose services are hired for poor pay by a bookseller.

Haggerston. A Saxon village called “Hergotstein,” “Our God’s Stone.” The stone is believed to have had relation to a miraculous well, beside which an altar was set up.

Hague. Properly, according to the Dutch name of the place, Gravenhaag, the ancient seat of the Gravs or Counts of Holland.

Hail. An exclamation of greeting derived from the Anglo-Saxon hæl, “health.” The Scandinavian heill expressed the same sentiment. See “Wassail.”

Halberd. From two Teutonic words, hild, battle, and bard, axe.

Halcyon Days. Days of peace and tranquillity. This was the name anciently given to the seven days before and after the shortest day, because, according to fable, there were always calms at sea during this period while the halcyon or kingfisher birds were breeding.

Half-and-half. Originally a mixture in equal proportions of strong ale and small beer. In modern days it consists of half ale and half porter. See “Entire” and “Porter.”

129Half Moon Street. After an ancient tavern, “The Half Moon,” which stood in this neighbourhood. This sign was derived from the crescent or ensign of the Turks.

Halfpenny. The original penny pieces were deeply indented crosswise, so that halfpennies and farthings (or fourthlings) could easily be broken off, as occasion demanded.

Half Seas Over. A nautical phrase applied to a drunken man staggering along, who is in danger of falling to the ground at any moment. When a ship has all her sails spread a sudden change in the direction of the wind often threatens to lay her on her side.

Halifax. A corruption of the Saxon “Haligfock,” from halig, holy, and fock, people. For what reason the inhabitants of this place were considered more saintly than people elsewhere local tradition does not say. Halifax in Nova Scotia was named, on the foundation of the city in 1749, by the Hon. Edward Cornwallis, after the Earl of Halifax.

Halifax Gibbet Law. An ancient enactment for the protection of the local woollen manufacture. Owing to the systematic theft by the employées in the trade of material supplied to them, it was found that the fabric lacked body and weight. To put a stop to this pilfering a law was passed, making the theft of anything whatsoever, to the value to thirteen pence halfpenny, subject to the death penalty. On conviction before a magistrate the thief was publicly executed on the next market day. The mode of execution was not by hanging, but by beheading, the instrument used being a kind of guillotine. Taylor, the Water Poet, speaks of this

“Jyn that wondrous quick and well,
Sends thieves all headless into heaven or hell.”

Hallelujah. From the Hebrew halelu, “praise ye,” and Iah, “Jehovah.”

Hallelujah Victory. That gained by the newly baptised 130Bretons under Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, in 429. As they marched to the attack they cried “Hallelujah!”

Hall Mark. The test mark of Goldsmiths’ Hall stamped upon gold and silver plate as a guarantee of its purity.

Hamiltonian System. A novel method of teaching languages, invented by James Hamilton, a merchant, whose death took place at Dublin, 1831. The peculiarity of this system was that it dispensed with the initiatory grammatical stages.

Hamilton Place. After Colonel James Hamilton, Ranger of Hyde Park, temp. Charles II.

Hammer and Scourge of England. The sobriquet of Sir William Wallace, the Scottish warrior patriot.

Hammer and Tongs. A corruption of “Hammer and Tongues.” A wordy warfare is well described as a hammering of tongues; hence the saying: “They went at it hammer and tongs” (tongues).

Hammer-cloth. It has been suggested that this is the covering for the box-seat of a coach that contained the hammer, bolts, nails, etc., useful to remedy a breakdown on a journey. The true meaning of the term is, however, that it is properly “Hammock-cloth,” the driver’s seat being formed of stout straps or webbing stretched upon crutches, after the fashion of a sailor’s hammock.

Hammered. A stockbroker is said to be “hammered” when he is driven out of the Stock Exchange on account of his failure to meet his liabilities.

Hammersmith. Originally Hammerschmiede, literally Saxon for blacksmith’s shop. In the early periods of its history this village had a great number of smithies.

Hampshire (or Hants). The shire of the Hamptune, Hantone, or Anton, which river gives its name to the county town and “Southampton Water.”

Hampstead. From “Homestead,” signifying the enclosed property--i.e. farm buildings--of a rural mansion.

131Hampton. From the Saxon heim, home, to which ton or town was added. “Hampton Wick” expresses the village home on a creek.

Hampton Court. In the thirteenth century the manor of Hampton belonged to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. Cardinal Wolsey built himself a sumptuous palace here, and lived in luxurious style. Eventually he presented it to Henry VIII., since whose time Hampton Court has remained Crown property. The last monarch who resided here was George II.

Hand in your Checks. An Americanism for dying, giving up the ghost; meaning properly to make your will and settle your earthly affairs. All over the United States it is the custom at German restaurants to give a certain amount of credit to known regular patrons, who now and again are asked to hand in their checks or vouchers for settlement.

Handkerchief. Anciently a kerchief, which term was a corruption of “Coverchef,” from the French couvrir, to cover, and chef, the head, reserved for hand use in wiping the face, and carried in the left sleeve of the garment. At a later period, until the reign of Elizabeth, when pockets came into vogue, the handkerchief found a place in the pouch worn on the left side of the girdle.

Handsel Monday. The first Monday in the New Year, when handsels or gifts were bestowed upon servants. The word “Handsel” is Anglo-Saxon, meaning the delivery of something into another’s hands; also the first instalment of a series of payments as an earnest of good faith.

Handyman. The modern designation of a bluejacket or man-of-war’s-man. Since 1882, when, after the bombardment of Alexandria, he was sent ashore to cooperate with our troops in Egypt, he has proved himself not only an expert fighting man with the cutlass and musket, but an agile auxiliary to the artillery--in short, a handy man in all respects.

132Hangbird. The Baltimore oriole, which suspends its nest from a tree branch.

Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered. The former capital sentence for treason. The criminal was drawn to the place of execution upon a hurdle, hanged, and his body was hewn into four quarters, each being spiked in a public place as an example to the multitude. This quartering was substituted, in the fifty-fourth year of the reign of George III., for the disembowelling of the hanged criminal while he was yet alive.

Hang of the Thing. An Americanism for the mechanism or the understanding of a thing--e.g. “I can’t get the hang of the thing nohow.”

Hanover Square. In honour of the Hanoverian Succession, because laid out and built upon in the reign of George I.

Hansards. Parliamentary debates and papers, so called because they were printed by Luke Hansard and his successors from the year 1752 until comparatively recent days.

Hanse Towns. Those towns of Northern Germany embraced by the Hansa or Hanseatic League, as long ago as the thirteenth century, for the protection of commerce against pirates at sea and marauders on land. The word Hansa is Gothic for a league, society, federation.

Hans Place. After Sir Hans Sloane, the original ground landlord. See “Sloane Square.”

Hansom Cab. The “Safety Cab” patented in 1883 by Joseph Aloysius Hansom. This was not so much an improvement upon the Four-Wheeler as a horse-drawn adaptation of the invalids’ chair introduced at Brighton at the commencement of the century. See “Fly.”

Hants. See “Hampshire.”

Hanway Street. Here resided Jonas Hanway, the founder of Magdalen Hospital, who, newly arrived in England from Persia, and in delicate health, excited much 133ridicule because he was the first male pedestrian to carry an umbrella through the London streets as a protection against the rain. Hackney coachmen were especially wrath at this innovation, foreseeing that their business would be ruined if it caught on with the public.

Happify. An Americanism for to make happy--e.g. “One ought to try to happify mankind.”

Hapsburg. The name of the Imperial family of Austria, derived from Habichtsburg, or “Hawk’s Castle,” built by Werner, Bishop of Strasburg, on the right bank of the Aar, in the Swiss canton of the Aargau--i.e. country of the Aar River.

Hard pushed. See “Hard up.”

Hard-shell Baptists. The American term for the hard and strait-laced sect of Baptists; corresponding to that which in England is designated the “Particular Baptists.”

Hard up. The allusion is to being pushed hard by circumstances into a tight corner.

Harem. Expresses the Arabic for “Sacred Spot.”

Harewood Square. From the town house of the Earls of Harewood.

Harlequin. From the Italian arlechino, a satirist, a jester.

Harlequinade. The comic scenes of a pantomime. In the original form of this entertainment the Harlequinade was by far the longer portion, and the principal character was Harlequin, the lover of Columbine. To his ingenuity in evading the clown and pantaloon, and confusing them by wondrous changeful tricks brought about by his magic wand, the success of the good old English pantomime was due. Speaking clowns did not come into existence before the days of Grimaldi.

Harley Street. After Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, the ground landlord.

134Harmonium. From the sustained harmonies produced on this wind instrument by means of the keys and finger-board.

Harold Harefoot. Harold I., the Saxon King of England, surnamed “Harefoot” because he was fleet of foot as a hare.

Harpsichord. An old form of pianoforte, so called because it was a harp encased longitudinally, and its chords were produced by the player on a key or finger board.

Harpur Street. After Sir William Harpur, Lord Mayor in 1562, the owner of a considerable estate in this neighbourhood.

Harrier. A dog specially suited for hunting the hare owing to his keen scent; also one who engages in a foot race according to the rule that each individual contestant makes for the goal by a different route.

Harringay. Expresses a neighbourhood or district abounding in hares.

Harrington Square. The property of one of the Earls of Harrington, whose daughter married the seventh Duke of Bedford.

Hart Street. Both these thoroughfares, in Bloomsbury and off Drury Lane, received their names from an adjacent inn sign, “The White Hart.”

Harum-scarum. One who is such a fright that he scares all beholders, causing them to fly from him with the swiftness of a hare.

Harvard University. The foundation and endowment of the Rev. John Harvard at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1638.

Harvest Festival. This distinctly religious observance by way of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth really originated in or grew out of the Harvest Supper which landlords were accustomed to give their tenants after the harvest had been gathered in, because what was the ancient “Lammas Day” fell into abeyance at the Reformation.

135Harz Mountains. Both these mountain ranges are for the most part forest clad. Harz is Old Saxon for wood, forest.

Hasn’t a Leg to stand on. A figurative expression applied to one whose argument has no support or firm basis.

Has the true Ring. A phrase generally applied to poetry, in allusion to the common test of genuine or debased coin by “ringing” it on a board or table.

Hatton Garden. Laid out across the extensive grounds attached to Hatton House, in which resided Sir Christopher Hatton, the Chancellor of Queen Elizabeth.

Hauled over the Coals. An expression dating back to the Ordeal by Fire, where persons accused of a crime were made to walk barefooted over red-hot iron shares or glowing embers. If they did so unharmed that was considered a proof of their innocence.

Hautboy. From the French hautbois, literally “high wood,” being a high-toned reed instrument.

Havelock. The white cloth forming part of the military cap as a protection against the scorching rays of the sun, introduced by General Havelock during the Indian Mutiny.

Haversack. Provincial English for Oatsack, derived from the German habersack. The word hafre, oats, is Scandinavian.

Haverstock Hill. From a stockaded dwelling among the oats. See “Haversack.”

Havre. Originally “Le Havre de Notre Dame de Grace,” the Harbour of Our Lady of Mercy, afterwards shortened into “Havre de Grace.”

Hawker. From the German hoken, to carry on the back. A pedlar who carried his wares in a sack over his shoulder.

Hawkeye State. Iowa, owing to the sanguinary conflicts with the savage tribe led by the chief “Hawkeye.” Its people are called “Hawkeyes.”

136Hawthorn. Expresses the Anglo-Saxon for “hedge thorn.”

Haydon Square. After the ground landlord, John Heydon, Alderman of the city of London towards the close of the sixteenth century.

Hay Hill. Marks the situation, together with Hill Street and Farm Street, of an old farm on the lands of John, Lord Berkeley of Stratton, temp. Charles I.

Haymarket. Where hay was sold in open market prior to January 1831.

Hayti. West Indian for “mountainous country.”

Hazing. An Americanism for a mad sport or frolic. Specifically it expresses the tricks played upon, and the ignominious treatment meted out to, an unpopular comrade in the army and the Military Schools; what in our own country is called “Ragging.” Like most other Americanisms, the word cannot be explained on etymological grounds.

Hear, Hear. A modern form of the ancient parliamentary exclamation “Hear him!” to enjoin silence while a Member was addressing the House.

Hearse. From the French herse and German hirsch. Both these terms expressed a harrow or triangular candlestick set at the head of a coffin at a funeral service in church. At a later period they implied a sepulchral mound temporarily distinguished by a triangular stake setting forth a number or other identification mark. The modern application of the term to a vehicle specially designed for the conveyance of a body to the grave was an easy transition.

Heart-breakers. Artificial ringlets formerly worn by ladies to enhance their beauty. It is said that the most inveterate woman-hater was not proof against the attraction of these Heart-breakers.

Heathen. Literally a dweller on a heath in the open country. The Romans applied the term to those who, having no communion with the dwellers in cities, were cut off from all knowledge of their complicated system 137of mythology. When Rome became converted to Christianity the untutored inhabitants of the country at large were the last to receive the Gospel. A heathen nation therefore, in a religious sense, is one far removed from civilisation, which offers a fruitful field for missionary work.

Heaven-sent Minister. William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham, one of the most eminent statesmen that England has ever possessed. His intense love of his own country prompted him to measures which made the success of British arms pre-eminent. Had his colleagues during the later portion of his career been actuated by the same patriotism as himself, and heeded his warnings, our American colonies might never have separated from the Mother Country.

Heavy Hill. Holborn Hill, because the hearts of those riding in the fatal cart to the place of execution at Tyburn were heavily laden.

“He” Bible. The first edition of the Authorised Version, containing a typographical error in Ruth iii. 15: “And he went into the city.” The subsequent edition, published in the same year, in which the passage was rectified, became known as “The ‘She’ Bible.”

Hebrews. Said to be descendants of Eber, the great-grandson of Shem, one of the ancestors of Abraham. The greater probability, however, is that the term has been derived from the native ebher, the region on the other side--i.e. of the Euphrates.

Hebrides. Expresses the “Western Isles” of the Norwegians.

Hector. To swagger, bully, treat with insolence, after Hector, the celebrated Trojan warrior. From the known character of this hero of antiquity it is not easy to conceive that he could ever have been a braggart. The inference is rather that this word in its accepted sense was derived from the brutal manner in which Achilles treated the body of Hector after he had slain him in single combat.

138Hedge Priest. Specifically in Ireland an itinerant cleric unattached to any mission; one admitted to Holy Orders without having studied theology.

Hedge School. An open-air school in the poor rural districts of Ireland beside a hedge.

Heel of Achilles. When Thetis, the mother of Achilles, dipped her son in the River Styx to make him invulnerable the water laved every portion of his body save that by which she held him. It was accordingly in the heel that he received his mortal wound.

Heir Apparent. The rightful heir to the crown, whose succession is beyond a doubt provided he survives the reigning monarch.

Heir-Presumptive. The presumed heir to the crown provided no child in the direct line of succession is born to supersede his claim.

Heligoland. Danish for “Holy Land,” which name was bestowed upon it after the conversion of its people by St Willibrod in the seventh century. A great many conventual establishments sprang up on the soil, but the encroachments of the sea had swept them away by the seventeenth century. Prior to their conversion the Anglii were wont to repair to this isle from the opposite mainland for the worship of the goddess Hertha, also known as Foseta, of whose temple it is said some ruins yet remain.

Heliotrope. From the Greek helios, sun, and tropos, to turn. The flowers of this plant are said always to turn towards the sun.

Hello Girls. A nickname popularly bestowed upon the telephone girls in the Post Office Department at St Martin’s-le-Grand.

Hellespont. The older name of the “Dardanelles,” where Helle in fleeing from her stepmother was drowned. This occurred at the point where Xerxes with his army had crossed the strait on a temporary bridge.

139Hell Kettles. Three very deep pits full of water at Oxenhall, Durham. The people of the neighbourhood declare them to be bottomless. They are really disused coal pits, the water in which cannot be drained off.

Helmuth the Taciturn. The sobriquet of Count Von Moltke, Field Marshal of the German Empire, on account of his habitual reserve.

Helot. The name given by the Spartans to a slave from the Greek town of Helos, whose inhabitants they reduced to slavery.

Henbane. A plant which is poisonous to poultry.

Henchman. A corruption of “Haunchman,” the groom or servant who out of doors was in constant attendance upon his master at the flank or haunches of his horse. See “Flunkey.”

Heneage Lane. After the residence of Sir Thomas Heneage, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the sixteenth century.

Henrietta Street. In Covent Garden, after Henrietta Maria, Queen of Charles I. On the north side of Oxford Street, after Henrietta Cavendish, who, by her marriage, carried not only a goodly portion of the Cavendish estate, but also that of her father, Lord Holles, into the Harley family.

Henry Irving. See “Irving.”

Heptarchy. The Saxon division of England comprising Kent, Sussex, Wessex, Essex, East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria, each having originally its own ruler.

Herculaneum. The foundation of this buried city was by the Romans traditionally ascribed to Hercules.

Hereford. Expresses the Saxon for “army ford” over the River Wye. During the Heptarchy this was the military headquarters of Mercia.

Heroic Verse. That usually selected for epic poetry, since 140the exploits of Achilles at the siege of Troy were set forth by Homer in hexameters.

Hertford. Originally “Hartford,” being the ford of the River Lea crossed by harts.

He’s a Brick. This expression, if not quite as old as the hills, carries us back to the time of Plutarch, who in his “Lives” gives the following account of its origin:--“On a certain occasion, an ambassador from Epirus paid a visit to Argesilaus, King of Sparta, on a mission of diplomatic importance. By that monarch he was shown over the capital. But the ambassador failed to see any massive walls reared to defend the city, and openly expressed his astonishment to the King. ‘Sire!’ he said, ‘I have visited most of your principal towns, and find no walls reared for defence. Why is this?’ ‘Indeed, Sir Ambassador,’ Argesilaus replied, ‘thou canst not have looked carefully. Come with me to-morrow, and I will show thee the walls of Sparta.’ On the following morning the King conducted his guest out upon the plains, where his army was drawn up in full battle array, and, proudly pointing to the serried host, he exclaimed: ‘There, Sir Ambassador, thou beholdest the walls of Sparta--ten thousand men, and every man a brick!’”

He’s joined the Majority. See “Gone over to the Majority.”

Hessel Street. The recent change from Morgan Street to Hessel Street in Stepney is accounted for by the discovery that here a celebrated character, in the person of Phœbe Hessel, was born. For many years she served as a private soldier in the Fifth Regiment of Foot, and fought at the Battle of Fontenoy, in which engagement she was wounded. A long inscription on her tombstone in Brighton churchyard would have us believe that she was at the time of her death, 21st December 1821, no less than one hundred and eight years of age.

Hessian. An Americanism for a hireling, a fighter for pay, 141a mercenary politician. The Hessian soldiers have always been ready to enlist in a foreign service for pay.

Hessian Fly. An insect which has caused the utmost destruction among young wheat in North America, so called because it was said to have been introduced by the Hessian troops in their horse straw during the Revolution.

Hetman. The Russian title of the general or headman of the Cossacks, derived from the Tartar Ataman. This too supplies the origin of the German Hauptmann, captain, chief, or headman of a village.

Hibernia. See “Ireland.”

Hickory. See “Old Hickory.”

Hicksite Friends. An American offshoot of the Society of Friends or Quakers under Elias Hicks in 1827.

Highbury. From the bury or enclosed land belonging to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell. In 1271 they built a priory here, of which the barn remained standing until modern days. Compared with the low-lying district round about, this was elevated ground.

Highbury Barn. Originally a cake and ale house contiguous to the ancient barn of the Clerkenwell Priory. This place of public resort developed into a theatre in 1865; subsequently it degenerated into a dancing saloon, and was finally abolished in 1875.

Highfalutin. A corruption of “high-flighting.” This word originated in the western states of North America.

Highgate. The village that sprang up around the ancient toll gate on the road from London to Barnet. The tolls levied here were for the benefit of the Bishop of London. Even in our time this elevated situation commands a good view of London. The absurd ceremony of “swearing on the horns” was formerly imposed on all travellers passing through the gate.

142High Seas. The great ocean highways out of sight of land and common to mariners of all nations.

High Tea. A substantial meat tea towards the close of the day in place of the fashionable set dinner. This is the invariable custom in Germany. In English it is usual to designate such a meal as a “Knife and Fork Tea.” See “High Time.”

High Time. A phrase employed in the same sense as High Street, High Seas, Highway, etc.--i.e. great. The German word for wedding is Hochzeit, literally a “high time.” In America the expression for a festive occasion or a pleasurable trip is “a good time.”

Hilary Term. In law the sittings of the Courts from 11th to 13th January, so called from the festival of St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, on the latter date.

Hill Street. See “Hay Hill.”

Himalaya Mountains. From the Sanskrit hima, snow, and alaya, abode.

Hinde Street. After James Hinde, a speculative builder, who more than a century ago laid out many of the streets now covering what was the estate of Marylebone Park.

Hindustan. Agreeably to the Persian stan, the country traversed by the Hindu or Indus; both terms are derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, “great river.”

Hippodrome. Expresses the Greek for a race-course, from hippos, a horse, and dromos, a course.

Hippocras. A cordial of spiced wine, so called by the apothecaries because it was supposed to have been made from the prescription of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine.

His Nibs. A corruption of “His Nobs”; used ironically for “His Highness” in reference to a parvenu or a conceited upstart.

Hispania. See “Spain.”

Hoboken. Indian for the “smoke pipe,” or pipe of peace. 143This was the place where the chiefs first met the white settlers, and while passing round the calumet entered into a friendly treaty.

Hobson’s Choice. In the seventeenth century Tobias Hobson kept a livery stable at Cambridge. When the students at the University wished to hire a horse for the day he led out the occupant of the first stall. If they demurred, he said abruptly: “It’s this one or none.” So Hobson’s choice settled the question.

Hock. The general name for Rhenish wines, but properly that made at Hockheim on the Maine.

Hockey. Expresses the diminutive of hook, the club used in this game being only slightly hooked at the end.

Hocking. See “Hock Tuesday.”

Hockley. Anglo-Saxon for a miry field. Clerkenwell was at one time called “Hockley-in-the-Hole,” after a bear garden dating from the Restoration period.

Hock Tuesday. Anciently a high festival throughout England, in commemoration for the final expulsion of the Danes, who had ravaged the eastern portions of our country for more than two centuries. This occurred on Easter Tuesday 1074. Most of the Danes were slaughtered off-hand by first hamstringing, or cutting their hams or houghs, which prevented them from making for their boats; hence the term Hock for the festival. The English landlords levied what was called “Hock Money” on this day from their tenants, in return for which they treated them to a good supper. In modern times people stopped pedestrians in the streets with ropes, and declined to release them until they had parted with hock money.

Hocus-pocus. The gibberish of a conjurer when performing his tricks; said to have been derived from one Ochus Bochus, a celebrated wizard of Northern Europe, three centuries ago. The early conjurers were thought to use these words as an invocation to this magician. Nowadays our sleight-of-hand professors dispense with words, and fire off a pistol, doubtless to prove that they can do the trick in a crack.

144Hodge. The generic name for a farm labourer; a corruption of Hedger.

Hoist with his own Petard. Caught in his own trap, blown up with his own engine of destruction. The petard was an ancient infernal engine filled with gunpowder; he who fired it stood in great danger of sacrificing his own life.

Holborn. Anciently spelt “Holeburne,” the bourn or stream in a hollow. This was the River Fleet, which had an outlet into the Thames. Further north, in Clerkenwell, it was called “the River of Wells.”

Holborn Bars. The western limits of the city of London.

Hold hard. This exclamation, when the advice really means to stop or “leave go,” sounds ridiculous. It originally meant, as it still does in the Emerald Isle, to keep a firm hold with both hands on the back rail of an Irish jaunting car lest the rider might be thrown out of it.

Hole in the Wall. A tavern sign, derived from the fact that this house was originally approached either through an opening made in the ancient city wall or else through another house that stood in front of it.

Holiday. The modern form of “Holy Day,” expressive of a great feast in the Church calendar.

Holland. From the Danish ollant, “marshy ground.” The linen cloth of the same name was first made in Holland.

Holland Road. From Holland House, the residence of Henry Rich, Earl of Holland, temp. Charles I. By his marriage with the Dowager Countess of Warwick, widow of Lord Holland, in 1710, Joseph Addison became nominally master of this noble mansion, and here he died.

Hollands. See “Gin.”

Holles Street. In the West End, after John Holles, the 145last Duke of Newcastle, whose only daughter by her marriage carried the entire estate hereabouts into the possession of the Harleys. In Drury Lane, the name given by Gilbert, Earl of Clare, whose house stood in what became Clare Market, in honour of his uncle, Denzil, Lord Holles, temp. Charles I.

Holloway. At one time a miry highway in a hollow between Highbury and Highgate.

Holloway College. Founded in 1883 for the higher education of women at Egham, Surrey, by Thomas Holloway, the pioneer of modern advertising on a lavish scale.

Hollyhock. A species of mallow, called by the Anglo-Saxon hoc, and first brought to Europe from the Holy Land. Hence holy-hoc.

Holly Village. A modern settlement at Highgate founded by the Baroness Burdett Coutts-Bartlett but a short distance removed from her rural retreat known as Holly Lodge.

Holy Boys. The regimental nickname of the 9th Foot, because they sacked monasteries and sold Bibles in the street during the Peninsular War.

Holy Cross Day. Otherwise the “Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross,” 14th September, commemorates, the restoration of the Cross of Christ to Jerusalem, A.D. 628.

Holy Land. Palestine, the scene of the birth, life labours, and death of the Redeemer.

Holy Maid of Kent. The name given to Elizabeth Barton, a poor Kentish servant girl, who, subject to trances, foretold events, and afterwards entered a convent at Canterbury. Her fame as a religious enthusiast increased, until, for pronouncing sentence against the divorce of Queen Catherine of Aragon, she, in company with five monks, was hanged at Tyburn.

Holyrood Palace. This residence of the ancient kings of 146Scotland grew out of the Abbey of the Holy Rood built by David I. as the permanent abode of the Black Rood, brought to Scotland by St Margaret in 1070. This precious relic was a piece of the true cross set in gold and ebony. It fell into the hands of the English at the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1344, after which all trace of it was lost. James II. was born at Holyrood; here too he was buried. The foundations of the new palace were laid by James IV. in 1500.

Holywell. From the miraculous well of St Winifred in Flintshire, the scene of her martyrdom.

Holywell Lane. Here, in Shoreditch, stood an ancient Priory of Nuns of St John the Baptist, in the grounds of which a “sweet, holy well” was discovered.

Holywell Street. This now vanished thoroughfare, east of the Strand, received its name from a Holy Well close to the Church of St Clement Danes. That in Westminster marks the site of the town house of the Grosvenors, whose rural estates lay around “Holywell” in Flintshire.

Homely. An Americanism for “plain,” “ugly;” applied to persons only.

Home Office. The official department of the Secretary for Home--i.e., internal, Affairs.

Homerton. A corruption of “Heimathton,” which expressed the town that grew out of the Saxon village styled Heimath, “home” or “native country.”

Honduras. Spanish for “deep water.”

Honey Lane. In this lane stood an ancient market-house or hall for the sale of honey. Owing to the dearness of sugar prior to the discovery of America and the colonisation of the West Indies, honey was in general request.

Honeymoon. From the custom of the Scandinavians, who drank Hydromel, or diluted honey, for thirty days after a marriage feast.

147Honiton Lace. A superior kind of “Pillow Lace” made at Honiton in Devonshire. This industry was introduced into England by the Lollards, temp. Elizabeth.

Honor Oak. From the famous boundary oak beneath which Queen Elizabeth once dined. Prior to that event it bore the name of Gospel Oak, under whose shade, in common with all other parish boundary oaks, the Gospel was read there once a year.

Hoodlum. A street rough, originally a product of San Francisco, but now common in New York and most cities of the American Union. The origin of the term was thus accounted for by The Congregationalist, 26th September 1877: “A newspaper man in San Francisco, in attempting to coin a word to designate a gang of young street Arabs under the beck of one named ‘Muldoon,’ hit upon the idea of dubbing them Noodlums--that is, simply reversing the leader’s name. In writing the word the strokes of the N did not correspond in height, and the compositor, taking the N for an H, printed it Hoodlum. ‘Hoodlum’ it is, and probably ever will be.”

Hoodman Blind. The ancient form of the game of “Blind Man’s Buff.” Instead of being bandaged the Blind Man had the hood, which everyone wore, drawn over his eyes.

Hook it. A variant of “Sling your Hook.”

Hook of Holland. From the Dutch hoek, a cape, a corner. The same perverted designation obtained in all the early Dutch settlements of New York State, notably “Sandy Hook.”

Hooligan. A London rough. This term is of quite modern date, and clearly an adaptation of that which has become common all over the United States. See “Hoodlum.”

Hooter. A United States corruption of iota. The people of New York State in particular are addicted to the saying: “I don’t care a hooter whether I do or not.” “This note isn’t worth a hooter,” etc.

148Hoosier State. Indiana, from the nickname given to its people. “Hoosier” is really a corruption of Husher, touching the power of a bully to silence a stranger. The Hoosiers are noted for their brusque manners. The state is also called “Hoosierdom.”

Hopkinsians. An American Calvinistic sect named after their founder, Samuel Hopkins of Connecticut.

Hornbill. A bird distinguished for a horny excrescence on its bill.

Horn Book. A primitive text-book for children. It was really no book at all, but a piece of paper containing the alphabet, the nine digits, and at times the Lord’s Prayer, mounted on a small flat board, over which was stretched a transparent sheet of horn; below was a handle to hold it by.

Hornpipe. A lively sailor’s dance, which had its origin in the west of England to the accompaniment of a Welsh musical instrument of the same name composed of a wooden pipe with a horn at each end.

Hornsey. A corruption of “Harringsey,” a watered meadow of hares.

Horse Chestnut. Some say this term is a corruption of “Coarse Chestnut,” in contradistinction to the edible chestnut; others that these chestnuts were formerly ground up and given to horses for food.

Horseferry Road. Where horses were conveyed across the Thames on a ferry boat in bygone times.

Horse Latitudes. A portion of the Atlantic distinguished for its tedious calms, where old navigators were wont to throw overboard the horses they had to transport to the West Indies in order to lighten the ship.

Horsleydown. A corruption of “Horsadown”; formerly a down or hilly ground used for grazing horses.

Horse Marines. There can be no Horse Marines; but the 17th Lancers were at one time made to bear this opprobrious nickname from the circumstance that two 149men of this regiment had originally served as Marines on board the Hermione in the West Indies.

Horse Shoe. A large public-house at the Oxford Street end of Tottenham Court Road, this sign being derived from the trade mark of Messrs Meux’s brewery adjoining.

Hose. From the Icelandic hosa, stocking.

Hosier Lane. From the hosiers who congregated in it.

Hospice. From the Latin hospes, a stranger, guest. This term is now confined to an Alpine retreat for the reception of travellers. Elsewhere the French word Hospital obtains for any establishment set apart for the temporary accommodation of the poor. Formerly, however, it implied a lazar-house or a refuge for fallen women; in its modern sense a hospital is exclusively an institution for the sick poor.

Hospice of St Bernard. See “Bernardine Hospice.”

Hospital. See “Hospice.”

Hostelry. From the old French hostellerie, an inn, through the Latin hospes, a stranger, a guest. The modern French form is “Hotel,” which implies not only an establishment for the entertainment of travellers, but also a superior house or palace.

Hotel. See “Hostelry.”

Hotel des Invalides. A magnificent establishment in Paris, originally designed as an asylum for invalided and disabled soldiers by Henry IV. in 1596. Prior to that time no provision existed for warriors who had spent their best energies in their country’s service save the charity of the monastic institutions.

Hotspur. The surname of Harry Percy, on account of his mad courage when mounted on his charger. A man of fiery, ungovernable temper is said to be “a regular Hotspur.”

Houndsditch. The dry ditch outside the city wall which was made the receptacle for all kinds of refuse, and dead dogs in particular.

150Houp la. This exclamation on the part of a circus ringmaster as the signal for an equestrienne to leap over horizontal barriers or through paper hoops has been derived from the Californian stage drivers’ ejaculation to their horses.

Housemaids’ Knee. Housemaids are specially liable to this affection of the sac under the knee-pan through kneeling on hard or damp floors.

House of Keys. The Representative Council of the Isle of Man, so called from the Manx Kiare-as-feed, four and twenty, this being the number appointed by statute to form the “Court of Tynwald.” Tynwald is an artificial mound in the centre of the island whence a new law has from time immemorial been promulgated.

Housewarming. The name given to a party or reception of guests on taking possession of a newly built mansion. This was of old a winter function, when the lighting of large fires in all the rooms for the occasion proved serviceable in drying the plastered walls and ceilings.

Howard Street. From the town house and grounds of the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel and Surrey, that stood on the large plot of ground now covered by the four streets bearing these names.

Howitzer. A German cannon, properly called a haubitze, from the Bohemian term haufnice, a sling.

Hoxton. Little more than a hundred years ago this district bore the name of Hogsdon on account of the great number of pigs bred here. Hog Lane still exists off the High Street.

Hub. The proud pet name of the city of Boston, the social centre of the United States, in the same sense as the hub is a centre for a wheel. The origin of the term is ascribed to Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes who, in one of his books spoke of the State House at Boston as “the hub of the solar system.”

Hudibrastic Verse. That which is in imitation of the measure and doggerel style of Samuel Butler’s “Hudibras.”

151Hudson River. After Captain Henry Hudson, who discovered it in 1609. A year later, when searching for a north-west passage, he navigated the bay and the strait named in his honour.

Huggin Lane. After Hugan, a wealthy citizen who resided here, temp. Edward I.

Huguenots. The name borne by the adherents of the Reformation in France, after Hugh, a Genevese Calvinist, their leader, and the German eidgenossen, confederates.

Hull. From the river upon which it stands. Its ancient name was Kingston-upon-Hull, a town founded by Edward I. in 1299.

Hull Cheese. A strong ale for which the “Good Old Town of Hull” was at one time famous. To “eat Hull cheese” was to get incontinently drunk.

Hull, Hell, and Halifax. In olden times, before Kingston-upon-Hull could be approached direct from the Humber, the River Hull was navigable, as now, only at high water, and even then it required very skilful pilotage on account of the many sandbanks at its mouth; it was therefore dreaded by seafaring men. Taylor, the Water Poet, wrote: “From Hull, Hell, and Halifax, good Lord, deliver us!” The reference to Halifax arose out of the knowledge that in his day a man could be executed there for stealing property to the value of thirteen pence halfpenny. See “Halifax Gibbet Law.”

Humanitarians. Those who believe in the complete humanity of Christ, namely--that He was capable of committing sin like any other mortal.

Humble Bee. A corruption of “Humming Bee.”

Humbug. The old mode of expressing approbation of a speech or at the play was by humming, but since the sincerity of this form of applause could not always be relied upon, intermingled as it may have been with suppressed murmurs of disapproval, the word Hum 152came to be applied to mock admiration or flattery, intended only to deceive. Hence the saying: “That’s all hum.” The added word Bug is very old, signifying a frightful object, a thing to be shunned. To humbug is to deceive; to prefer candour to humbug is to be proof against flattery.

Humming Bird. So called from the sound caused by the rapid motion of its wings in flight.

Hummums. A hotel in Covent Garden built on the site of a Persian or Turkish sweating bath so called in the seventeenth century. The name is Arabic.

Hundred. A Saxon subdivision of the English shires said to have been introduced by Alfred the Great. Each hundred comprised a colony of “ten times ten” families--that is to say, ten divisions of ten freeholders and their dependents in each. In all then there were one hundred champions to defend the common cause. In legal and ecclesiastical documents relative to lands such property is still said to be situate in a particular “hundred” as well as parish.

Hungary. The country of the Huns, who swarmed over from Asia and expelled the Goths from this portion of Europe in the fourth century. When first heard of in China, about a hundred years previous, the natives designated them Hiong-nu, signifying “Giants.” These Huns were really the Mongolian race still known as the Kalmucks. The suffix gary is a Western modification of the Teutonic gau, district or country.

Hungary Water. A perfume, properly called “The Queen of Hungary’s Water” from the circumstance that the recipe had been given by a hermit to one of the queens of Hungary.

Hung on Wires. An American expression for one suffering from “nerves,” a nervous or fidgety person.

Huns. See “Hungary.”

Huntingdon. Expresses the shire most favoured for hunting, this being anciently a vast deer forest.

153Hurly-burly. An expression derived from the tumult of ancient warfare, with especial reference to the hurling of spears and battle-axes. The witches in Macbeth say:

“When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.”

Huron. This lake was so called by the French settlers on account of the profusion of hair of the Indian tribe, the Wyandots, whom they encountered on its shores. Hure is French for “head of hair.”

Hurrah. This exclamation is from the Scandinavian Hurra, said to have been originally Thor-aie, an invocation to the god Thor for aid in battle, just as the battle cry of the Normans was Ha-Rou, in honour of Rollo.

Hurricane. From the West Indian urican, “a violent wind.” The word was introduced to Europe by seamen, and so became incorporated in various languages.

Hurry up. An exclamation derived, both in England and America, from the custom of eating-house keepers anxious to expedite the service from the kitchens below stairs.

Husbands’ Boat. The steamboat by which city men and others go down to Margate for the week-end holiday in order to join their families who are staying there for the season.

Hussar. Expresses the Hungarian for a “twenty-paid soldier”--husz meaning twenty, and ar the price of. When Matthias Corvinus ascended the throne of the Magyars he decreed that, in order to provide a regular cavalry, each twenty families must enrol and equip one mounted soldier free of all cost to the State. An interesting point in connection with the uniform of the Hussar regiments everywhere was that they always allowed the right sleeve of the upper jacket to hang loose on their backs. This was only in keeping with the general custom of the Magyar peasantry, who had the right arm free on all occasions.

Hussites. The Protestants of Bohemia, after John Huss, the Reformer.

154Hussy. A corruption of “housewife.” The epithet now implies a slatternly sort of woman.

Hustings. The ancient name for the Court of Aldermen in the city of London. In modern days it came to imply the platform from which candidates for election delivered their addresses to the populace. The word Husting expressed the Anglo-Saxon for a council-house: from the Scandinavian hus, house, and thing, an assembly.

Hustler. An Americanism for a smart, energetic tradesman, more especially a caterer or restaurateur, who hustles about and never keeps his customers waiting. The word “Hustle” comes from the Dutch hutselen, to shake together or to and fro.

Hyacinth. According to the Greek fable this flower sprang from the blood of the beautiful youth Hyacinthus, who, having aroused the jealousy of Zephyr, received his death-blow at her hands by casting Apollo’s quoit at his head.

Hyde Park. Anciently described as the Hyde Manor belonging to the Abbots of St Peter’s, Westminster.

Hyde Park Corner. Of old the western extremity of London, defined by a toll gate.

Hydro. Short for a hydropathic establishment.

Hythe. From the Anglo-Saxon hithe, a haven.


Iambic Verse. Poetical satires written in Iambics, or two-syllable foot measure, were originally so called after Iambe, an attendant upon one of the queens of Sparta, who kept a commonplace book of lively, free, and satirical pieces.

Iberia. The ancient name of Spain, from the Iberi, its original inhabitants. These were maritime adventurers from Phœnicia who penetrated the country by 155way of the River Ebro. When in course of time the Celts descended upon them from the Pyrenees, they spread themselves to the south and west. On reaching the sea at the farthest limit of their wanderings they imagined themselves at the end of the world, and so gave the name of Iber, a Phœnician word of that import, to the country. Its principal eastern river, the Ebro, retains the original name.

Iceland. So called because its north and west coasts are generally blocked with ice that has drifted down from Greenland.

Iceland Moss. A lichen indigenous to Iceland and Greenland which is said to be very efficacious in the treatment of consumption.

Ice Plant. Found in South Africa, and so called on account of its glittering, watery vesicles which give it the appearance of being covered with ice.

Ich Dien. German for “I serve.” The motto assumed by Edward the Black Prince after he found it under the plume of John, King of Bohemia, slain by him at the battle of Cressy.

Iconoclast. An image breaker, from the Greek eikon, image, and klazo, I break.

Idolater. From the Greek eidolon, a figure, and latres, worshipper. The root of this word, eidein, to see, furnishes the key to its true meaning. An idolater is one who worships that which he sees, not on account of its intrinsic worth, but because it is a visible representation, or it may be merely a symbol, of the deity that he is taught to venerate.

Idol Lane. Said to be a corruption of Idle Lane, because this was perhaps the only thoroughfare in the neighbourhood not given up to business--i.e. either as a market or a hive of industrious artisans.

Il Bassano. See “Bassano.”

Il Furioso. The sobriquet of Jacopo Robusti, better known 156as “Tintoretto,” owing to the rapidity with which he turned out his wonderful paintings.

Iliad. The title of Homer’s epic treating of the destruction of Troy; originally called Illium, after Ilos, the founder of the city.

I’ll be through directly. An Americanism for “I’ll be ready very soon,” or “I’ll have it finished directly.”

Illinois. The Indian illini, men, with the French suffix oix, a tribe.

I’ll take my Davy on it. The word “Davy” is a corruption of “affidavit.”

Il Perugino. The better-known name of the celebrated Italian artist Pietro Vanucci, who, born at Citta della Pieve in Umbria, established himself and remained all his life in the neighbouring city of Perugia.

Il Tintoretto. See “Tintoretto.”

Imperial. The name given to the once fashionable chin tuft, after Napoleon III., who was the first to wear his beard in this diminutive fashion.

In a Crack. Done instantly, in no more time than it takes for a gun to go off.

In a Jiffy. The word “jiffy” is a corruption of the now obsolete gliff--i.e. a mere glance.

Inch of Candle. In some parts of the country land is still disposed of at auction by inch of candle. This was the ancient form of auctioneering. Candles of inch length were provided, and when the candle went out the bidding was closed.

Inchcolm. Expresses the inch or isle of St Columba, who dwelt here while labouring to convert the Picts to Christianity.

In Clover. In a contented frame of mind because provided with everything necessary for the time being. Cattle always make for the clover when turned out to graze.

157Incog. Short for Incognito, an Italian word signifying “not known.” Royal personages desirous of avoiding ceremony often travel incog., or under an assumed title.

Independence Day. The fourth of July, in commemoration of the American Declaration of Independence, 1776.

Independents. The same as “Congregationalists.”

India. From the Indus or Hindus, a Persian corruption of the Sanskrit Sindhu, “great river.” By the Greeks this river was known as the Hindus, which with the Persian suffix stan gave the name “Hindustan” to the whole country. In the time of Columbus, and long afterwards, the Asiatic continent east of the Ganges was generally styled India. This accounts for such names as “Indian Ink,” etc., products really of the Far East.

Indiana. From the great number of Indians that overran this state in the early days of its history.

Indianapolis. The capital of the state of Indiana. Polis is Greek for city.

Indian Corn. Maize, brought from the West Indies.

Indian File. A march in single file, as is the custom of the North American Indians.

Indian Gift. A reclaimed present. When a North American Indian gives anything he expects a gift equivalent in value, or else his own back again.

Indian Ink. Originally brought from China, but now made from lamp-black and animal glue in England. See “India.”

Indian Liquor. See “Indian Whisky.”

Indian Reservation. A considerable tract of land on the plains reserved for the Indian tribes.

Indians of North America. When Columbus discovered the “New World” he was under the impression that he had happened on that vast tract of country east of 158the Ganges vaguely known as India. This shows that, sailing westward as he did, he must have regarded the earth as a globe.

Indian Summer. The equivalent of what is called St Martin’s Summer in England. The North American Indians always avail themselves of the pleasant weather during the early part of November for harvesting their corn; they say there is an unfailing nine days’ second summer just before the winter sets in.

Indian Whisky. The name given to specially adulterated whisky for sale to the Indians of North America.

India Paper. A special kind of paper, made of vegetable fibre in China and Japan, on which the first impressions, called India proof, of engravings are taken. See “India.”

India Proof. See “India Paper.”

India-rubber. Caoutchouc, first imported from China, but now found elsewhere. See “India.”

India-rubber Railway Sandwich. The typical refreshment-room sandwich, the bread slices of which are as a rule so stale that they defy hasty mastication.

Indigo. A blue dye prepared from the Indicus, or Indian plant.

Industrial Schools. Also known as Ragged Schools, of which the scholars are waifs and strays brought together for the acquirement of some useful industry.

Infra. Latin for below, beneath. A word very generally met with in library catalogues: “See Infra.” It is the antithesis of Supra, above.

Infra Dig. Short for Infra Dignitatem, which expresses the Latin for “beneath one’s dignity.”

Infant. In law, any person under the age of twenty-one.

Infanta. The title of princesses of the royal blood in Spain and Portugal, except the heiress-apparent.

Infante. The corresponding title of the sons of the kings of Spain and Portugal.

159Infant Roscius. William Henry Betty, the celebrated boy actor, named after the greatest historian of antiquity. His public career was brief--viz. five years only, 1803-1808--but during that period he became the rage; so much so, that while at Covent Garden, where he received a salary of fifty guineas a night, the military had to be called out to maintain order.

Infantry. Foot soldiers, so called, not because, like children, they have to be trained to walk, but for the reason that one of the Infantes of Spain collected a body of armed men, unmounted, to rescue his father, the King, from captivity at the hands of the Moors. Afterwards foot soldiers in Spain and Italy received the name of Enfanteria.

Infirmary. The older and more correct description of an institution for the sick and infirm. See “Hospice.”

Inn. The Anglo-Saxon word Inne expressed a mansion. The Inns of Court were originally the town houses of noble families, whose name they still bear--e.g. Gray’s Inn. Our first inns set apart for the entertainment of travellers were in all cases the mansions of the nobility left in charge of the trusted servant, the gamekeeper, during the prolonged absence, either in the wars at home or in the Crusades abroad, of their owners. The family arms served as a sign. After the return of his master the servant, now an innkeeper, set up an inn of his own contiguous to the original, and adopted the same sign. Here we have an explanation of such grotesque inn signs--now that their names have taken the place of the painted device--as the Blue Boar, the Red Lion, etc. At times the innkeeper preferred the sign of the “Green Man.”

Innocents’ Day. December 28th, commemorating the massacre of the Holy Innocents by Herod. Anciently children were soundly whipped in their beds before rising on this day. Being undeserving of such punishment, they were taught to suffer pain for Christ’s sake.

160Inns of Court. See “Inn.”

In Quad. This is not altogether thieves’ slang, though the gipsy word for prison is quaid. Boys at our public schools say they are “in quad” when they are confined to their own quadrangle. The phrase became popular in connection with a prison when debtors were confined in the Fleet, the Marshalsea, and Whitecross Street, because they were free to receive visitors in the exercise court or quadrangle.

Insect. From the root seco, to cut, because this tiny species of the animal world is, as it were, cut deeply into three distinct parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen.

Interlaken. The Swiss village situated “between the lakes” Brienz and Thun.

In the Jug. Slang for “in prison.” The term is derived from the Scottish joug, a kind of iron yoke or pillory for the head designed for the punishment of rogues and vagabonds. When at a later period a round house of stone was set up in the market-place for such offenders, this earliest prison was popularly called “The Stone Jug.”

In the Nick of Time. This expression originated in the nicks or notches made in a piece of wood called a Tally, both as an acknowledgment of money paid and by way of registering a person’s arrival at a place of assembly. If, in the latter case, he arrived late, his tally would not be nicked, as evidence of having put in an appearance.

In the Odour of Sanctity. The ancient idea was that the bodies of saints after death emitted a peculiar fragrant odour. This originated in the profuse employment of incense at the administration of the last solemn rites of the Viaticum.

In the Soup. An Americanism for “out of the running.” This had reference originally to the hunting field when a rider was pitched into a ditch of foul water after leaping a hedge.

161In the Stone Jug. See “In the Jug.”

In the Straw. An expression denoting that a woman has been brought to bed with a child. Straw was the usual stuffing of a bed formerly among the poorer orders of the people.

In the Suds. An Americanism for being unprepared to receive visitors. The allusion is to a washerwoman with her hands in the soapsuds.

In the Swim. To be admitted to a certain professional or financial clique. River fish generally keep together, and an angler’s object is to get what he calls “in the swim.” By so doing he may hook fish after fish without difficulty.

In the wrong Box. The origin of this expression is simply this: When Vauxhall, Cremorne, Ranelagh, Highbury Barn, and similar alfresco resorts were in existence, they had rows of cosy hutches or boxes all around for the benefit of those who wished to do their courting in private, while they could at the same time listen to the music and see the illuminations. It was no easy matter for anyone to find his own box again among the many if he left it; consequently on returning to his partner after sallying forth, he rendered his presence obnoxious to strangers by suddenly finding himself in the wrong box.

Intrepid Fox. A historic tavern in Soho named after Charles James Fox, the great Whig Minister. At the time of the famous election of 1784 the redoubtable Sammy House, the landlord, served all customers free, and also entertained several notable Whigs.

Invention of the Cross. The name of this Church festival, 3rd May, commemorative of the finding of the True Cross by those sent in quest of it by St Helena, sounds peculiar, but the word “invent” is really from the Latin invenire, to find, discover, come upon.

Inverary. The county town of Argyleshire, “at the mouth of” the River Aray.

162Inverness. Situate at the mouth of the River Ness.

Invincibles. See “Irish Invincibles.”

Ionia. The ancient name of Asia Minor, settled by the Ionians, so called after Ion, the son of Apollo according to Greek fable.

Ionic. The style of architecture so called was peculiar to Ionia in Greece. The earliest of the Greek philosophers so called too were all natives of Ionia.

Iota. From the name of the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. “Jot” is a softened form of this word.

Iowa. Indian for “the sleepy-ones”; applied by the Sioux to the Pahoja or Graysnow tribe.

Ireland. From Ierne, Gaelic for “western isle.” The Greeks, who heard of it through the Milesians, called this remote land of the west Iernis, and the Romans Hibernia.

Ireland Yard. This property in Blackfriars was made over by its owner, William Ireland, to Shakespeare, as appears in the deed of conveyance now preserved in the Guildhall Library.

Irish Invincibles. A secret society whose members made it their boast that they defied extermination. Carey, the informer, openly declared that their mission was “the making of history by killing tyrants.” The Phœnix Park murders were the work of the “Invincibles.”

Irishman’s Crossing. An Americanism for the mode of many people anxious to cut off corners by crossing and recrossing the street, by which process one’s way is actually made longer.

Irish Stew. So called because among the Irish peasantry the beef is generally absent, the stew consisting wholly of onions and potatoes.

Iron Chancellor. The sobriquet of Prince Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire, on account of his iron will.

163Iron City. Pittsburg, world renowned for its ironworks.

Iron Devil. An inn sign corrupted from “The Hirondelle,” or swallow.

Iron Duke. The Duke of Wellington, distinguished for his unbending will.

Ironmonger Lane. Where the artificers in iron congregated during the reign of Edward I. Later they removed into Thames Street.

Ironside. The surname of the Anglo-Saxon king, Edmund II., on account of the iron armour that he wore as a preservative against assassination.

Ironsides. The name given to the Cromwellian soldiers on account of their heavy armour and iron resolution.

Irrawaddy. Hindoo for “the father of waters.”

Irving. The patronymic of the late Sir Henry Irving was Brodribb. When he went on the stage he took the name of Irving, out of his admiration of the writings of the American author, Washington Irving. Half-a-century ago no one ever thought of entering the dramatic profession under his own name. Now that the stage has become fashionable actors need no longer be actuated to select a nom de theatre out of regard to family pride.

Irvingites. The followers of the Rev. Edward Irving, who maintained the sinfulness of Christ’s nature in common with that of ordinary mankind. Deposed from his living by the Presbytery of the Church of Scotland in 1830, he founded the “Apostolic Catholic Church.”

Isabel. The name given to a yellowish brown colour from the circumstance that at the memorable siege of Ostend in 1601 Isabella, the wife of the Duke of Austria, vowed she would not change her linen until the town was taken. Unhappily for her, it held out nearly three years. Rash vows are always followed by leisurely repentance.

Isis. From the Celtic uisg, water. The word enters into 164many English river names, notably the “Thames.” The University of Oxford is called Isis from the river upon which it stands.

Islam. From the Arabic islama, to bend. This term expressed an entire submission or resignation to the will of God. By the Mohammedans “Islam” is described as the true faith.

Isle of Bourbon. A French settlement named in compliment to the House of Bourbon.

Isle of Desolation. When discovered by Captain Cook this island was utterly devoid of animal life.

Isle of Dogs. A corruption of “Isle of Ducks,” owing to the great numbers of water-fowl settled on the marshes. In our time it might well be described as the “Isle of Docks.”

Isle of Man. Properly “Mona Isle,” from the Celtic mæn, a stone; hence “Isle of Rocks.”

Isle of St Helena. Discovered on the Feast of St Helena, 1502.

Isleworth. Expresses a manorial dwelling beside the river. Sion House, in which Lady Jane Grey resided for a time, was built upon the ruins of an ancient nunnery. It is now the property of the Duke of Northumberland, who removed thither the famous lion on the top of the demolished Northumberland House at Charing Cross. The popular belief that when this lion heard the clock of St Martin’s Church strike it would wag its tail and turn round was on a par with that of the washing of the Tower lions on the first of April.

Islington. The family settlement of the Islings.

Is the Ghost walking? See “Ghost walking.”

Italics. Thin sloping types, altogether different from the older Roman, first used in an edition of Virgil by Aldo Manuzio, the celebrated printer of Venice, in 1207.

Italy. The modern form of the Roman description of the 165country, Latium, or “broad plain.” This resulted in the designation of all the tribes of the conquered districts as Latini, or the Latins.

Ivan the Terrible. Ivan IV., son of the founder of the Russian Empire, who rose to power from the position of Grand Duke of Moscow. This second Ivan, at the age of fourteen, during the regency of his mother, had the triumvirate put to death; whereupon he assumed the title of Czar. His reputation for cruelty soon began to assert itself. In the space of six weeks he caused to be put to death no less than 25,000 (some authorities say 60,000) persons at Novogorod, from the idea that they were plotting to deliver up that city to the King of Poland. To crown all, in a fit of passion he killed his own son.

Ivory Black. A pigment originally obtained from calcined ivory, but now from bone.

Ivy Lane. From the ivy-covered houses of the prebendaries attached to St Paul’s Cathedral.


Jackanapes. Properly “Jack-of-apes,” an impudent fellow who apes the manners of his social superiors.

Jackass. The male ass.

Jack-boots. When first worn by cavalry these high leather boots were covered with metal plates as a protection for the leg. The term Jack is derived from the Norman-French jacque, a leathern jerkin worn over a coat of mail. At a later period the jacque itself was made sword-proof by metal plates on its under side.

Jacket. Expressed originally the diminutive of the jacque--viz. a short or sleeveless coat of leather. See “Jack-boots.”

Jack Ketch. The name formerly given to the common hangman, after Richard Jacquett, who owned the 166manor of Tyburn, where malefactors were executed previous to 1783.

Jack-knife. The name formerly given to a large folding pocket-knife, and now used by sailors, in contradistinction to a “Penknife.” See “Jack Tar.”

Jackson. The name of a river and several towns of the United States, after General Andrew Jackson, the seventh President.

Jack Straw’s Castle. A noted hostelry at Hampstead, said to have been built on the spot where Jack Straw, one of the leaders in Wat Tyler’s insurrection, made his habitation on the hillside.

Jack Tar. A sailor, because he wears tarpaulins in “dirty weather.” Jack is a generic name for a man or servant.

Jacobins. The French designation of the Black Friars or Dominicans, from the situation of their earliest convent in the Rue St Jacques, Paris, 1219.

Jacobites. The Catholic adherents of James II. and his lineal descendants after the accession to the English throne of William III. Jacobus was the Latinised form of the King’s name.

Jacobus. The Scottish sovereign, valued at 25s., which became current in England also at the union of the two crowns in the person of King James I.

Jacquard Loom. After its inventor, Marie J. Jacquard of Lyons, who died in 1834.

Jacquerie. The name given to an insurrection of French peasants in 1358. Jacques is the generic name for a member of the artisan class in France, owing to the jacque, or sleeveless white cotton jacket, worn by them. The leader of this insurrection called himself Jacques Bonhomme, being of the artisan class himself.

Jag. An Americanism for drunkenness. The word is employed in a variety of ways: “He’s got a jag on”--“He’s on a drinking bout”; “He’s on his jags”--“He knows how it is to have the jags”; “He has the jags just now,” etc. etc.

167Jail Bird. So called because the earliest kind of prison in this country was an alfresco iron cage.

Jailed. An Americanism for being put in jail, sent to prison.

Jalap. From Jalapa in Mexico, whence the root of this plant was first brought to Europe for medicinal purposes in 1610.

Jamaica. From the West Indian Caymaca, signifying “a country abounding in springs.”

Jamaica Road. See “Cherry Gardens Pier.”

James Bay. After James I., in whose reign this arm of Hudson’s Bay was completely explored.

James River. After James I., in the fourth year of whose reign it was navigated, and the English settlement called Jamestown, thirty-two miles inland, formed.

James Street. In Covent Garden, in compliment to the Duke of York, afterwards James II. That on the south side of the Strand received the Christian name of one of the Brothers Adam, builders of the Adelphi.

Jamestown. See “James River.”

Jamie Duff. The Scottish designation for a mourner or weeper at a funeral. So called after an Edinburgh eccentric of this name; nothing pleased him better than to attend a funeral, perhaps because he enjoyed the ride in the coach.

Jane Hading. This famous French actress was christened Jeanne, but, appearing on the stage while she was quite a child, her parents habitually called her Jane, because, as she has herself explained, being shorter, it would admit of the family name appearing in larger letters on the playbill.

Janissaries. A militia of Turkish footguards originally composed of the sons of Christian subjects, this being the tribute levied upon the parents for allowing them to live in peace and safety. The native term is Jeniaskari, new soldier.

168Janitor. The American description of a caretaker or doorkeeper. This term has long been obsolete in England; it was derived from the Latin janua, door.

Jansenists. A religious sect headed by Cornelius Jansen, Bishop of Ypres, France, early in the seventeenth century.

January. Called by the Romans Januarius, after Janus, the sun god, who presided over the beginnings of things. In the temple of Janus the figure of this god had two faces: one supposed to look on the past, the other on the future.

Japan. A Western corruption, through the Portuguese Gepuen, of the native name Niphon, or “land of the rising sun.” The brilliant black varnish called “Japan” was first made by the people of the Far East.

Jarvey. A cabman or car driver, so called after the name of a hackney coach driver who was hanged.

Jaunting Car. The characteristic light vehicle in Ireland in which the people enjoy a jaunt or excursion. English folk newly arrived in the Emerald Isle do not always appreciate it. See “Hold hard.”

Java. A Malay word meaning “the land of nutmegs.”

Jayhawker State. Kansas, from the nickname borne by the soldiers of Colonel Jennison of New York, who, being a jovial fellow, was called a “Gay Yorker,” afterwards corrupted into “Jayhawker.” The people of this state in process of time came to be styled “Jayhawkers.”

Jedburgh. A royal burgh situate at the confluence of the Rivers Tefy and Jed. The ancient form of justice meted out here of hanging a man first and trying him afterwards is frequently alluded to as “Jedwood” or “Jeddart” justice.

Jefferson. The name of a river, a city, and a mount in the United States, after Thomas Jefferson, the third President.

169Jeffreys Street. After one of the family names of the Earl of Brecknock, Marquis of Camden, the ground landlord.

Jehu. A cabman, in allusion to Jehu, the son of Nimshi, who, we are told in 2 Kings ix. 20, drove furiously.

Jeremiad. A tale of woe, a doleful story. So called after the Prophet Jeremiah, who wrote the “Book of Lamentations.”

Jerked Meat. Dried meat, more particularly beef dried in the open air. The term is derived from the Chilian charqui, applied to dried beef throughout Spanish America.

Jerkin. Expresses the diminutive of the Dutch jurk, coat, frock; hence a short coat or jacket.

Jermyn Street. From the town house of Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans.

Jerry Builder. A speculative builder who runs up whole streets of houses as cheaply as possible in order to sell them. The word “Jerry,” derived from the French jour, day, is a corruption of joury, meaning temporary, unsubstantial.

Jersey. From Czar’s-ey, or “Cæsar’s Isle,” so called by the Romans in honour of Julius Cæsar. The close-fitting rowing shirt and female bodice received the name of a Jersey because it was first worn by the inhabitants of this isle.

Jersey Lily. The punning pet name of Mrs Langtry, when, as a society star, she first adopted the stage as a profession. Her Christian name is Lillie, and she was born in Jersey.

Jerusalem. Expresses the Hebrew for “habitation of peace.”

Jerusalem Artichoke. A corruption of “Girasole Artichoke,” from the resemblance of the leaf and stem of this flower to the “Girasole,” or sunflower.

Jerusalem Chamber. This apartment of Westminster Abbey, in which Henry IV. died, received its name 170from the pictures of the Holy Land, in connection with the Crusades, that adorned its walls.

Jesuits. The members of a powerful missionary order styled “The Society of Jesus” which was founded in 1534 by Ignatius Loyola, on a military basis, having himself been a soldier.

Jesuits’ Bark. Another name for the Peruvian or Cinchona Bark, because discovered by the Jesuit missionaries in Peru.

Jewin Street. The ancient burying ground of the Jews while they were permitted to reside within the city walls--viz. in the Old Jewry. The suffix in is a corrupt form of the Anglo-Saxon en, expressing the plural, as in Clerken or clerks’ well.

Jewry Street. All that remains of the old name given collectively to the Jewish quarter of London after this oppressed race had been driven eastward of the city proper. This street was the Jews’ later burial ground. The suffix ry denotes a place or district.

Jews’ Harp. A corruption of “Jaws’ Harp,” because it is held between the teeth.

Jezebel. A daring, vicious woman, so called after the wife of Ahab, King of Israel.

Jig. From the French gigue, a lively dance, and the Italian giga, a romp.

Jilt. From the Scottish gillet, a giddy young woman. This word expressed the diminutive of Jill or Julia, a name used in a contemptuous sense after Julia, the daughter of Augustus Cæsar, who disgraced herself by her dissolute conduct.

Jimmy. A crowbar used by house burglars. The word is not so much thieves’ slang as a corruption of Jenny, expressing the diminutive of gin or engine, the general term formerly for a machine or mechanical appliance.

Jimpson Weed. Properly “Jamestown Weed,” from the place in Virginia where it was introduced.

171Jingo. See “By Jingo.”

Jingoes. The British war party during the Russo-Turkish struggle of 1877-8, when there was grave likelihood of this country interfering. The term became popular through the refrain in G. H. Macdermott’s famous song:

“We don’t want to fight, but, by Jingo, if we do,
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too.”

For a time the Jingo Party was in the ascendant.

Joachims-Thaler. See “Thaler.”

Jockey. The diminutive of Jock, which is the Scottish form of Jack or John, expressive of a servant. The first jockeys engaged in horse racing were boys, on account of their light weight; hence the term.

Joe Miller. A stale joke, corresponding to the modern “Chestnut.” Joe Miller was a witty comedian whose sayings were compiled by John Mottley in the reign of James II. Until about a hundred years ago this was the only book of jests extant, and everyone who wished to “set the table in a roar” freely drew upon it.

Joey. The popular nickname of Mr Joseph Chamberlain, of Fiscal Policy fame.

Johannis. From Johannisberg, near Wiesbaden. This name is literally “John’s Rock,” on which stands the famous castle.

John Audley. An old showman’s phrase, which still obtains in what is called a portable theatre. As soon as a sufficient crowd for another “house” has collected outside, the money-taker, or the showman himself, calls out at the door “John Audley!” (originally it was the question “Is John Audley here?”) as a hint to the performers to finish quickly and dismiss the audience. This, it is said, was the invention of Shorter, the comedian, while he was playing in booths at country fairs.

John Bull. The Representative Englishman, bluff, long-suffering, 172and open-hearted. This national nickname was derived from a satire of the same title published by Dr John Arbuthnot in 1721.

John Carpenter Street. After the founder of the City of London School, which occupies one side of this modern thoroughfare, having been removed hither from Bow Lane in 1882. John Carpenter was town clerk of the city of London in the reigns of Henry V. and VI.

John Chinaman. Ever since the outbreak of the gold fever in California a Chinaman in that part of the United States has been addressed as “John,” the Transatlantic generic name for a man-servant, corresponding to the old English Jack.

John Doe and Richard Roe. Fictitious names, which prior to 1852, when they were abolished, appeared in every legal process of ejectment in place of the names of the real parties.

John Dory. The name of this fish is a corruption of the French Jaune-dorée, yellow, golden, relative to the colour.

Johnnies. Overdressed, empty-pated scions of good families who spent their surplus cash upon burlesque actresses, and hung about for them at the stage door when the “sacred lamp of burlesque” burned brightly at the Gaiety Theatre. Since “Jack” was the generic name for a man or servant, so one distinguished for the possession of more money than brains was, and is still, dubbed a “Johnnie.”

John of Gaunt. Properly of Ghent, his birthplace, in Flanders.

John o’ Groat’s House. Formerly the most northern habitation on the mainland of Scotland, said to have been that of Johnny Groat, for the accommodation of travellers who wished to cross the ferry to the Orkney Isles. Its site may now be recognised by a green knoll.

Johnson’s Court. Although the great lexocographer, Dr Johnson, spent ten years of his life in this Fleet 173Street court, it was not named after him, but after another Johnson, whose property it was, and who also resided in it.

John Street. In the Adelphi, after the Christian name of one of the brothers Adam. In Piccadilly, after one of the family names of the Berkeleys, the ground landlords.

Joiner. The provincial term for one who in London is called a “Carpenter.” Literally a joiner of wooden building materials.

Joint Ring. Another name for a “Gimnal Ring.”

Joint-Stock Company. So called because the stock is vested jointly in many persons.

Jonathan’s. The original name of the Stock Exchange, after a coffee-house keeper whose house was the rendezvous of the earliest dealers in stock.

Jollies. The sailors’ nickname for the Marines, because they are about as useful to a ship as the “Jolly Boat” which floats behind it.

Jolly Boat. A corruption of “Jawl boat,” from the Danish jolle, a small boat.

Jordan. Expresses the Hebrew for “the flowing.”

Journeyman. An artisan who hires himself out to labour, conformly to the French jour, day, a day labourer.

Juan Fernandez. After the navigator, who discovered it in 1567. On this isle Alexander Selkirk was the sole inhabitant from September 1704 until February 1707. Daniel Defoe made this adventurer the hero of his celebrated story “Robinson Crusoe.”

Jubilee Plunger. The sobriquet of Ernest Benzon, who lost £250,000 on the turf in two years after embarking upon his betting career in 1887, the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Judd Street. The property of Sir Andrew Judd, Lord Mayor of London in 1551. By his will he bequeathed 174it to the endowment of a school at Tonbridge, his native place.

Judges’ Walk. So called because a number of judges and barristers of the King’s Bench made themselves temporary habitations in tents on this breezy height of Hampstead during the Great Plague.

Jug. Thieves’ slang for prison. See “In the Jug.”

Juggins. A fool, a reckless fellow, so called after a noted character of this name, who about twenty years ago squandered his whole fortune by reckless betting on the turf.

Juggler. From the French jougleur, a jester or miscellaneous entertainer who was the invariable companion of a troubadour during the Middle Ages.

Julep. An American spirituous beverage, also a preparation to make medicines less nauseous. The word is derived from the Arabic julab, rose-water.

July. In honour of Julius Cæsar, who was born in this month.

Jump a Claim. A Far West expression meaning to deprive another of his lawful claim; literally to jump into his diggings and take possession.

Jump on it with both Feet. The Transatlantic mode of saying “I’ll denounce it to the utmost of my power.”

Jump the Game. An Americanism for running away from one’s creditors.

June. The sixth month of the year; that of growth, agreeably to the Latin juvenis, young. The Romans dedicated it to the “Juniores,” or young soldiers of the State.

Jungfrau. Two reasons are assigned for the name (German, “The Maiden”) given to this, one of the highest peaks of the Bernese Alps. Firstly, because of the unsullied purity and dazzling whiteness of the snow with which it is eternally clad; secondly, owing to the fact that, its summit being inaccessible, no man has ever conquered or ravished this mountain maiden.

175Junk. A seaman’s term for rope ends and also the salt beef served out on board ship. The word is derived from the Latin Juncus, a bulrush, out of which ropes were anciently made. In the second sense of the term the toughness of the meat is sarcastically implied.

Jury. From the Latin jurare, to swear.

Jury Mast. Properly “Joury Mast,” from the French jour, day, because it is only a temporary mast put up to replace one carried away by stress of weather.

Justice is Blind. An expression derived from the allegorical representation of Justice, who, holding the scales, is blindfolded. See “Scales of Justice.” This really had its origin in the custom of the ancient Egyptians, who conducted their trials in a darkened chamber, in order that the prisoner, the pleader, and the witnesses being alike unseen, the judges could not be moved to undue sympathy, and their judgment might be the more impartial.

Justice Walk. In this portion of Chelsea resided a London magistrate whose name has not been handed down to posterity.

Juteopolis. The name given to Dundee on account of its staple industry.

Jutland. The land of the Jutes.

Juveniles. In theatrical parlance the lovers’ parts. The principal stage lover’s part, such as Romeo, is called the “juvenile lead.” Other young men’s parts, that do not call for love making on the stage, are styled “walking gentlemen.”


Kaaba. The stone building inside the great Mosque at Mecca; said to have been erected over the spot where Adam first worshipped after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The name is Arabic for “square house.”

176Kaffraria. The country of the Kaffirs or “unbelievers,” from the Mohammedan standpoint. This term was applied not only to the natives south of Abyssinia and the desert regions of Africa, but also to the people of a country in Central Asia east of the Hindu Cush known accordingly as Kafiristan. Kaifer is Arabic for “infidel,” and the suffix stan expresses the Persian for “country.”

Kailyard. Scottish for cabbage garden.

Kaisar. The German form of the title of the Roman Emperors, “Cæsar.”

Kalmucks. A Western corruption of the native Khalmick, or “Apostates,” the name given to this large family of the Mongolian race because they rejected the doctrines of Buddha. It was these Kalmucks who, under the name of “Huns,” descended upon Europe in the fourth century.

Kamptulicon. From the Greek Kampto, to bend.

Kansas. The Indian name for the river, signifying “smoky water”; afterwards applied also to the state.

Keble College. A memorial college at Oxford of the Rev. John Keble, author of “The Christian Year,” whose death took place in 1866.

Keelhaul. To haul under the keel of a vessel from stem to stern by means of ropes on either side. This was the most dreaded, because the most dangerous, punishment meted out to seamen or apprentices by tyrannical captains in former times. Readers of Captain Marryat’s “Snarleyyow, or the Dog Fiend” will recollect what that meant to the hapless victim.

Keeping Crispin. An old phrase for the shoemakers’ annual holiday on the Feast of St Crispin, their patron saint, 25th October. In some parts of the country we hear of it in connection with what passes elsewhere under the name of “Cobblers’ Monday.”

Keep it Dark. The reference was originally to treasure kept in a place of concealment.

177Keep on Pegging at it. See “Peg Away.”

Keep the Ball Rolling. An expression derived from the game of Bandy, in which the two sets of players, armed with hooked sticks, continually sent the ball rolling to opposite goals.

Keep the Pot Boiling. The antithesis of a hand-to-mouth existence; meaning the command not only of something for the stock pot but also needful fuel.

Keep the Wolf from the Door. By paying one’s way others will prosper likewise, and ravenous creditors clamouring at the door for their just demands will be non-existent. The wolf is represented by a greedy landlord hungering for his rent, or, failing that, the household goods.

Keep your Nose to the Grindstone. To continue hard at work without cessation. If a tool is not held close to the grindstone the stone will go round all the same, but the tool does not get sharpened. So a man may loiter over his work, but the actual accomplishment is nil.

Keep your Pecker up. Have courage, and hold your head erect. Pecker is slang for the mouth, in allusion to fowls which peck their food--in other words, they strike at it with the beak.

Keep your Weather Eye open. Be on a sharp look-out in the right direction. A sailor looks towards the wind in order to forecast the weather.

Kendal. Expresses the dale of the River Ken.

Kendal Green. Green cloth made at Kendal in Westmoreland, for which this town was long famous. The cloths produced here still bear the name of “Kendals.”

Kennington. The town which grew up in the king’s meadow. Henry VIII. had a rural retreat erected here.

Kensington. Described in Anglo-Saxon records as Kynsington, or king’s meadow town.

178Kensington Gore. After Gore House, the residence of the Countess of Blessington, that occupied part of the site of the Royal Albert Hall.

Kent. Called by the Romans Cæsar Cantium after the Cantii, who peopled this Kenn, headland or corner, of Albion’s Isle.

Kentish Fire. The name given to rapturous volleys of cheers, such as that which distinguished the Kentish men when they applauded the “No Popery” orators in 1828-9.

Kentish Man. A native of the county of Kent, west of the Medway.

Kentish Town. A corruption of “Kantelowes Town,” built upon the manor of the same name. The modern spelling of this family name is “Cantlowes,” which is that given to a street on the south side of Camden Road.

Kent Street. Leads out of London to the great Kentish highway to Dover. At one time the landlords in this street took away the front doors of tenants who were more than a fortnight in arrears of paying their rent. This, styled a “Kent Street Ejectment,” was found effectual in getting rid of unprofitable tenants.

Kentucky. Indian for “long river.”

Keppel Street. From the “Admiral Keppel” at the corner of this street and Fulham Road.

Kerchief. See “Handkerchief.”

Kersey. From Kersey, in Suffolk, once famed for its woollen manufacture.

Kettledrum. A rounded drum, so called from its shape; also the name given to a tea party, both on account of the noise made by the guests, and because the hostess metaphorically beats them up at the time of sending out her invitations. See “Drum.”

Kettle of Fish. See “Pretty Kettle of Fish.”

Kew. Styled in ancient documents Kay-hoo, meaning a 179quay on a hoo or oe, which expressed the Danish for an island; also a spit of land at the mouth of a river or creek.

Keystone State. Pennsylvania, geographically considered as seventh among the thirteen original states of the Union.

Khaki. Expresses the Hindoo for “colour of cow dung.” This term came into prominence during the South African War, when all British uniforms were made of materials of this hue, so as to make our troops less conspicuous to the enemy.

Khan. Expresses the Persian, from a Tartar word, for a lord or prince.

Khedive. From the Persian khidiw, a king. In the Turkish khadiv the title expresses a ruler one grade removed from a Sultan.

Kicker. An Americanism for one who at a public meeting objects to a proposal.

Kick the Bucket. An expression derived from the primitive mode of a man hanging himself by standing on a bucket, and then kicking it aside. The “drop” in this case could not have been a long one.

Kidnap. Not only is this word accepted English in the absence of a more refined equivalent, but it is also made to do service in the case of an adult taken away against his will. Kid, of course, expresses a young goat, and is slang for a child. The second portion of the term is likewise slang, from nab, to steal.

Kidney Bean. The coarse bean shaped like a kidney.

Kiel. From the Danish keol, a ship.

Kilbride. The church of St Bride or Bridget.

Kilburn. Expresses the kil, or cell, of “one Godwynne, a holy hermit,” beside the bourn, or brook.

Kildare. From the Celtic kildara, the cell or hermitage among the oaks. A monastery was founded here by St Bridget towards the close of the fifth century.

180Kilkenny. The kil, or church, of St Kenny or Canice in connection with the ancient abbey dedicated to St John.

Killarney. A corruption of “Killeaney,” from the church of the Dominican monastery on the banks of the River Leane.

Kindergarten. Expresses the German for a children’s garden or playground. The system of juvenile education so called aims at self-tuition by means of toys and games.

Kinetoscope. The name originally given to our modern “living pictures,” from the Greek kinetikos, “putting in motion.” See “Mutoscope.”

King Charles Spaniel. The small species of “Spaniel” which was such a favourite with Charles I.

King Edward’s Grammar School. A superior academical institution founded and endowed for the tuition of Latin and Greek grammar by Edward VI.

King Edward Street. After Edward VI., the “Boy King,” founder of Christ’s Hospital, or Blue Coat Grammar School, hard by.

Kingfisher. The king of fisher birds that dive into water for their prey, so called on account of its gay plumage.

King James’s Bible. The Authorised Version ordered to be prepared and given to the people by James I.

King-maker. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, so called because he was instrumental in placing both Edward IV. on the Yorkist and Henry VI. on the Lancastrian side on the throne after espousing their individual cause.

King of Bath. The sobriquet of Richard Nash, also known as Beau Nash, who for more than half-a-century was Master of Ceremonies at the fashionable Assembly Rooms of Bath.

King’s Arms. An inn sign, originally representing the counterfeit presentment or royal arms of an individual 181sovereign, but now a mere name, which must have done duty alike in honouring a long line of monarchs.

King’s Bench. Anciently the superior Court of Law presided over by the King in person, when he sat on an oaken bench. Wherever he went in state this Court followed him. Judges and magistrates are still said to occupy the Bench.

King’s College. At Cambridge, founded in 1441 by Henry VI. In London, the foundation by a royal charter of George IV. in 1828.

King’s County. In honour of Philip of Spain, the husband of Queen Mary. The original name was Ossaly.

King’s Cross. So called from a statue of George IV. set up here at the accession of that monarch, and taken down in 1842 to make way for the Great Northern Railway terminus. It is highly probable that an ancient cross stood on the same spot, since, quite apart from the fact that Queen Boadicea was defeated by the Romans at Battle Bridge hereabouts, it was in this neighbourhood too that King Alfred waged a sanguinary conflict with the Danes.

King’s Evil. The name given to scrofula, from the old superstitious idea that it could be cured by the touch of a king or queen.

Kingsgate Street. So called from the gate through which James I. passed across the meadows to Theobalds in Hertfordshire, his favourite hunting seat.

King’s Head. See “King’s Arms.”

Kingsland. This district marked the southern limits of the ancient royal domain of Enfield Chase.

King’s Lynn. Anciently called “Lynn Episcopi,” being the property of the Bishop of Norwich. At the dissolution of the monasteries Henry VIII. sequestered this estate, and gave the town the name of Lynn Regis, or King’s Lynn. The word Lynn is Celtic for “pool.”

King’s Own Men. The 78th Foot, so called from their Gaelic motto: “Cuidichr Rhi” (Help the King).

182King’s Road. In compliment to Charles II., who caused this highway between Chelsea and Fulham Palace to be made passable.

Kingston. The capital of Jamaica, after William III., in whose reign (1693) it was founded.

Kingston-on-Thames. From the ancient stone on which seven of the Anglo-Saxon kings were crowned. This interesting relic is now enclosed with iron railings near the Town Hall.

Kingstown. Originally “Dunleary,” the name was changed in honour of the visit of George IV. in September 1821.

King Street. That in Covent Garden, after Charles I., in whose reign it was laid out. In St James’s, after James I. In Cheapside, in honour of Henry IV., who passed down it to open the new Guildhall. At Westminster, because this was the direct road between the Court and the Abbey.

Kingsway. The name given by the London County Council to the new thoroughfare from Holborn to the Strand opened by King Edward VII. in 1905.

King William Street. In the city, after William IV., who performed the inaugural ceremony of declaring the London Bridge open for traffic, 1st August 1831. The street of the same name west of the Strand was newly laid out in his reign as a direct thoroughfare to Leicester Square.

Kirkcudbright. Expresses the Celtic for “the Church of St Cuthbert.”

Kirkdale. The church in the dale or vale of Pickering.

Kirke’s Lambs. The nickname bestowed upon the 2nd Foot, under the command of Captain Kirke, during the “Bloody Assizes,” and having for their badge the Paschal Lamb.

Kirschwasser. German for “Cherry Water,” this beverage being distilled from the juice of the black cherry.

183Kiss-me-Quick. The name of a small bonnet popular in England midway during the last century. Though of the “coal scuttle” pattern it did not extend beyond the face, and was chiefly worn by ladies going to parties or the play.

Kiss the Place and make it better. The expression, commonly employed by mothers and nurses to pacify children when they have hurt themselves, is a survival of the days of the sorcerers, who pretended to cure a disease by sucking the affected part.

Kiss the Scavenger’s Daughter. See “Scavenger’s Daughter.”

Kit. A soldier’s outfit, which he carries on his person when on the march. The name is derived from the Dutch kitte, a wooden beer-can strapped on the soldier’s belt.

Kit-Cat. The name given by artists to a three-quarter length portrait, and also to a canvas measuring 28 by 36 inches, in allusion to the portraits of uniform size, and all painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, to suit the dimensions of the apartments occupied by the famous Kit-Cat Club. This club was long held at the house of a pastrycook called Christopher Cat in Shire Lane, Fleet Street (now Serle’s Place), after whom, familiarly styled “Kit-Cat,” it took its name. His own mutton pies were the staple refreshment, from which circumstance such pies were until quite modern times also called “Kit-Cats.”

Kleptomania. The name given to an impulsive desire to steal or appropriate that which is ready to hand; so called from the Greek kleptes, thief, and mania, madness.

Knacker. From the Icelandic knakkr, a saddle; hence a dealer in and slaughterer of old horses.

Knapsack. From the Dutch and German knappen, to bite or chew, and zak, a sack. Like the original German and Dutch forms of this receptacle for a 184soldier’s necessaries on the march, the Swiss still carry a bag made of goatskin.

Knave. From the German knabe, a boy. The tricks peculiar to a boy no doubt caused this term to be applied to a deceitful or otherwise reprehensible fellow. The knave in a pack of cards represents, of course, the knight or servant to the king and queen.

Knife-board. The advertisement-board on either side of an omnibus roof, so called on account of its fancied resemblance to the domestic knife-sharpener. On the old-fashioned omnibuses the roof passengers sat back to back, with their feet touching the “knife-board,” and it was facetiously said they thereon sharpened their wits.

Knife and Fork Tea. See “High Tea.”

Knight. From the Saxon knicht, a servant, which is the origin also of the modern German knecht, a man-servant.

Knight Bachelor. One who in the days of chivalry forswore marriage until he had performed some feat of valour, and so merited renown.

Knight Banneret. A knight hastily created on the field of battle in recognition of signal bravery. This was done by tearing off a streamer from a banner and handing it to him as a token of investiture.

Knight Errant. One who went forth in quest of adventures, more particularly to win the admiration of fair ladies, by rescuing them, in common with the weak and oppressed, from the feudal lords whose rapacity in those barbarous ages knew no bounds. The word errant, like its modern equivalent errand, was derived from the Latin errare, to wander. It was in ridicule of this system of knight-errantry that Cervantes wrote his immortal romance “Don Quixote.”

Knight of the Yard Stick. An Americanism for a draper’s assistant or a retail dry-goods salesman; what in England people often style a “Counter Jumper.”

Knightrider Street. The place of assembling of the 185knights of old on their way in procession to the Smithfield tournaments.

Knightsbridge. Tradition has it that two knights who went to receive a blessing from the Bishop of London at Fulham Palace suddenly quarrelled, and fought a deadly combat on the bridge which anciently spanned the Westbourne where now stands Albert Gate. A public-house close by, demolished within the last three years, bore the sign of “The Fulham Bridge.”

Knights Hospitallers. The Second Order of Knights of the Crusades, who founded and protected the hospital at Jerusalem for the accommodation of pilgrims to the Holy Places. When at a later period they erected a larger hospital in connection with the church dedicated to St John the Baptist, they assumed the title of “Knights of St John of Jerusalem.”

Knights of Malta. The Knights Hospitallers who, having taken Rhode Island, were at length expelled therefrom by the Turks, and took up their establishment permanently at Malta.

Knights of St John of Jerusalem. See “Knights Hospitallers.”

Knights of the Road. Highwaymen, who were always good horsemen.

Knights Templars. The military Order of Knights of the Crusades, styled “Soldiers of the Temple.” Their aim was to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the Saracens, and maintain it through futurity.

Knights Teutonic. An independent Order of Knights of the Crusades composed of nobles from the cities of Bremen and Lubeck for the protection of German pilgrims to the Holy Land.

Knickerbockers. The people of the city of New York. When Washington Irving wrote his “History of New York” he assumed the name of Diedrich Knickerbocker, in allusion to the wide breeches worn by the early settlers of the colony, then called by them New Amsterdam; hence the application of the term 186“Knickerbockers” to knee-breeches generally. New York is known as “The Knickerbocker City.”

Knocked into a Cocked Hat. Prostrated or completely flattened out like a cocked hat, which, as its name implies, could be cocked or carried under the arm.

Know-nothings. A secret society in the United States pledged to the checking of foreign immigration and political influence by foreigners which came into existence about the year 1848, and finally split upon the slavery question in 1860. When asked what its party or political aims were, all the members merely replied: “I don’t know; I know nothing.”

Knows the Ropes. Said of one who thoroughly understands his calling. A naval phrase, since a sailor must know all the ropes belonging to his ship.

K’nucks. In Canada the name given to French Canadians; elsewhere to Canadians generally. It has been stated on the authority of an intelligent French Canadian, by way of accounting for the origin of this term, that “the word ‘Cannuck’ is a corruption of ‘Connaught,’ the name we usually apply to the Irish, who are mostly emigrants from that province of Ireland.”

Kohinoor. A famous diamond which came into the possession of Queen Victoria on the annexation of the Punjaub in 1849. Its name expresses the Hindoo for “Mountain of Light.”

Kolis. The nickname of the 51st King’s Own Light Infantry, from the initials of their regimental name.

Koordistan. Pursuant to the Persian stan, the country of the Koords, “fierce, strong.”

Kopeck. A Russian copper coin of the value of three-eights of an English penny. So called from kopye, the native term for a lance, because this coin originally had upon it the representation of a lancer on horseback.

Kops Ale. A non-alcoholic ale brewed from the best Kentish hops, and not to be distinguished by appearances from the intoxicant. The name was chosen as a near approach to Hops Ale.

187Koran. Properly Al Koran, Arabic for “the book,” “the reading,” or “the thing to be read.”

Koumiss. A Mongolian term for an intoxicating beverage made by the Kalmucks from camels’ or mares’ milk by fermentation and distillation. “Koumiss” is the popular Russian beverage.

Kraal. The Kaffir term for a collection of huts shaped like a beehive and arranged in circular form, a native South African village.

Kremlin. The citadel of Moscow, so called from the Russian krem, a fortress.

Krems White. A pigment extensively produced at Krems in Austria.

Kreuzer. A copper coin of Germany conspicuous for a kreuz, or cross, on its reverse side. Its value was the sixtieth part of a gulden or florin.

Krupp Gun. After its inventor, and made at the famous Krupp Steel works at Essen in Germany.

Kümmel. The German name for a beverage, expressive of “Carraway,” from the seeds of which it is made.

Kummerbund. A Hindoo term for waistband. It became current in England two or three years ago during the excessively hot weather, when waistcoats were discarded, and the trouser tops concealed by a brilliant blue or scarlet sash.

Kurdistan. See “Koordistan.”

Kursaal. A place of entertainment at Southend-on-Sea. The name is German, literally “Cure-hall,” expressive of the public assembly-room at a “Kurhaus,” or hydropathic establishment, corresponding to the pump-room at a west of England health resort.

Kyrle Society. A modern society having for its aims the improvement of the homes of the poorer orders. It originated with the Misses M. and O. Hill in 1875, and was formally inaugurated by Prince Leopold a couple of years later. The title of the society was derived from John Kyrle of Ross, Herefordshire, 188whose artistic tastes and benevolent disposition contributed to the happiness and well-being of the people on his estate and all the country round about.


Labadists. A sect of Protestant mystics founded in the seventeenth century by Jean Labadic of Bourg, Germany.

La Belle Sauvage Yard. The yard of the famous coaching inn of the same name. The history of this sign was curious. Kept by Isabelle Savage, it bore the name of “The Bel Savage”; but its sign was a bell suspended within an iron hoop at the top of the usual “Ale Stake.” Hence its proper name was “The Bell in the Hoop.” When in the year 1616 John Rolfe brought his Virginian bride Pocohontas to London, the story of his remarkable adventures had anticipated his arrival, and people spoke of this Indian heroine as “La Belle Sauvage.” It was odd that these strangers within our gates should put up at the “Bell Savage,” and the association resulted in the change of title on their account.

Labrador. Called by the Portuguese navigators Tierra Labrador, “cultivatable land.”

Lackland. The surname of King John, who, owing to his thriftlessness, was left entirely without provision at the death of his father, Henry II.

Laconics. Terse and pithy replies, so called from the Lacons, which was the name applied to the Spartans, from the country whence they came. When Philip of Macedon sent this message to the Spartan magistrates: “If I enter Laconia I will level Lacedæmon to the ground,” the reply was briefly: “If.”

Lacrosse. This name was given to the game by Charlevoix, who, seeing it played by some Alonquin Indians with a stick between Quebec and Three Rivers, called it le jeu de la Crosse.

189Ladbroke Grove. This, with the square of the same name, was built upon by the Ladbroke family, who acquired the lease of the land for the purpose.

Lad Lane. A name frequently met with in connection with the old coaching inn, “The Swan with Two Necks.” It was a corruption of “Our Lady Lane,” so called from a statue of the Virgin.

Ladrones. Expresses the Spanish for “thieves,” the name given to those islands by Magellan because the natives made off with the stores he had landed.

Ladybird. A pretty species of beetle resembling a bug, and anciently called “Our Lady’s Bug.” Bug is the accepted American term for a beetle.

Lady Day. The Feast of Our Lady, otherwise of the Annunciation to the Virgin (25th March). Prior to 1752 this was also the first day of the New Year; now it figures as Quarter Day, when rents and taxes have to be paid.

Lady Freemason. The Hon. Elizabeth St Leger, niece of Sir Anthony St Leger, who founded the stakes named after him at Doncaster Races, and daughter of Lord Doneraile of Dublin. Chancing to overhear the proceedings at a Lodge held at her father’s mansion she was discovered, and, as the only way out of an unprecedented dilemma, initiated to the craft. No other female has ever been made a “Freemason.”

Lager Beer. The German “lager bier” is simply stock beer, the liquor being kept in a lager, or cellar, until it is sufficiently ripened for consumption. All over the United States the demand for “Lager” is enormous.

Laid on the Shelf. A phrase implying that one’s period of usefulness has been passed. The allusion is to books read and clothes laid aside as of no further use.

Laid up in Lavender. Something put away very carefully, as a good housewife preserves linen strewn with 190lavender in a press against moths. At times we hear the expression allusive to an article put in pawn.

Lake Erie. See “Erie.”

Lake Huron. See “Huron.”

Lake Ontario. See “Ontario.”

Lake School of Poets. A term applied by The Edinburgh Review to the imitators of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey, who communed with Nature in the Lake District of Cumberland and Westmoreland.

Lake Superior. The uppermost and principal of the five great lakes of North America.

Lake Winnipeg. See “Winnipeg.”

La Marseillaise. See “Marseillaise.”

Lambeth. A corruption of “Lamhithe,” the Anglo-Saxon for mud haven, or a muddy landing-place.

Lambeth Palace. The historic residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury.

Lamb’s Conduit Street. After William Lambe, a wealthy clothworker, who at his own cost built “a faire conduit and standard” in the fields here off Holborn in 1577.

Lamb’s Wool. A rural beverage of roasted apple juice and spiced ale. It received its name from the Saxon La Mæs Ubhal, or “Feast of the Apple Gathering.” From lammas ool its further corruption was easy.

Lame Duck. The name given to a member of the Stock Exchange who cannot meet his liabilities on settling day. Instead of walking erect, like a man of strict integrity, he ducks his head, and waddles off, well knowing that he has been black-boarded and struck off the list of members.

Lammas Day. The ancient name for the first of August, when every parishioner brought to church a loaf made of new wheat. The name expresses the Anglo-Saxon for “loaf mass,” and the bread was a gift of first-fruits to the clergy. Its modern equivalent is the “Harvest Festival.”

191Lamp-black. So called because this pigment was at first obtained by burning resinous matter over the flame of a lamp.

Lancaster. The Roman Lunecastra, or fortified camp on the Lune.

Lancaster Gun. After the name of its inventor.

Lancastrians. During the Wars of the Roses the partisans of the House of Lancaster in the contest for the crown of England as opposed to the House of York.

Lancers. This dance received its name from a company of Lancers who went through the evolutions of a quadrille on horseback about the year 1836.

Landau. After Landau in Germany, where it was first made.

Landes. Expresses the French for heaths. The people of this marshy and, in parts sandy, district walk on long stilts.

Landgrave. The Anglicised form of the German landgraf, count, a ground landlord.

Land o’ Cakes. Scotland, which has always been celebrated for its oatmeal cakes.

Land of Green Ginger. A square at Hull where, as popularly thought, green ginger was anciently landed from the river and sold in open market. The name is, however, a corruption of “Greenhinger,” being the land owned by Moses Greenhinger, a boat builder, who lived in Whitefriargate in the seventeenth century. This is proved by a letter of Sir Willoughby Hickman, a candidate for the borough in 1685. Therein he states that a coach took him from the waterside to the George Inn, “at the corner of the land of Moses Greenhinger.”

Land of Promise. The name of a short street in Hoxton, so called, sarcastically no doubt, because it leads to the workhouse.

Land of Steady Habits. Connecticut, so called on account of the excellent moral character of the people.

192Land of Sundown Seas. Alaska. “Sundown” is an Americanism for sunset, just as “Sun-up” is for sunrise.

Land o’ the Leal. The Scottish heaven, or “Dixie’s Land”; according to the Baroness Nairne’s ballad the word Leal means faithful.

Land of the Midnight Sun. Norway.

Landscaper. Local slang in the eastern counties for a tramp, vagrant, or “Loafer.”

Land Shark. The name given by sailors to a boarding-house keeper in a seaport town who preys upon them by systematic overcharges.

Landwehr. The German equivalent for our volunteers, or soldiers for land defence. The term wehr means bulwark, defence.

Lane. Actors refer to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, as “The Lane,” the playhouse of London par excellence since the palmy days of the Drama.

Langbourn Ward. From the long bourn or stream, of which now no trace remains.

Langholm Place. After the mansion and grounds of Sir James Langham, which occupied what is now the street of the same name.

Laodicea. This ancient city was so called after Laodice, the queen of Antiochus Theos, who founded it.

Lap Dog. One literally nursed in the lap of luxury. Mothers of families are strangers to such pets.

Lapsus Linguæ. Latin for “a slip of the tongue.”

Largess. From the Latin largitso, to give freely, through the French largesse. This word meant originally a fee or present bestowed upon a butler or head servant by a departing guest. In its modern acceptation it is a distribution of money amongst a number rather as a matter of policy or necessity than from choice.

Lascar. The generic name for an East Indian seaman, though it really expresses the Persian for a soldier, 193from lashkari, a camp-follower. Lascars were first employed by the East Indiamen homeward bound. Nowadays all Asiatic sailors, of whatever nationality, are called Lascars.

Lasso. From the Spanish lazo, a noose.

Latakia. A Turkish tobacco, so called from the place (the ancient Laodicea) where it is produced.

Latch-string is always out. An Americanism for a hearty welcome at all times, without need for a formal invitation. The allusion to the latch-string means: “You have only to walk in, like any member of the family.”

Lath. A subdivision of land while certain portions of Eastern England were held by the Danes, so called from the Norse “Lathing,” a law assembly.

Latins. See “Italy.”

Latin Vulgate. The Roman Catholic Bible authorised by the Council of Trent in 1546. This translation of the Scriptures was made by St Jerome from the Greek into the Latin or vulgar tongue A.D. 405.

Latitudinarians. The opposers of the High Church party, and also of the Puritans, during the Restoration period. Modern Latitudinarians are those who hold very broad views in regard to orthodox doctrine.

Laugh and grow Fat. In allusion to Democritus, “The Laughing Philosopher,” who waxed fat, and lived to be 109 years old.

Laughing Philosopher. Democritus of Abdera, from his habit of humorously exposing the absurdities of his countrymen, whose stupidity, he declared, was proverbial; the feeble powers of mankind, contrasted with the forces of nature, likewise aroused his contempt.

Laugh in your Sleeve. Anciently the sleeves of all outer garments were very wide, and when a person covered his face with his hand there was always a suspicion that he was making merry at someone else’s discomfiture.

194Laugh on the wrong Side of your Face. A person may preserve a grave countenance while listening to a story, and at the same time wink significantly to a bystander on the opposite side of the speaker. The expression means that if, for his insolence, he received a castigation, both his eyes would be made to wink or blink.

Laundress. The exclusive designation of a housekeeper or caretaker of bachelor chambers in the Temple. This is because during the Crusades a great many women of the town followed in the train of the Knights Templars to the Holy Land for the purpose of washing their linen. It afterwards transpired that, as a rule, they acted also as mistresses to the Knights, and had tents set apart for them even within sight of Jerusalem. Historians tell us too that, though a religious Order, the Templars did not scruple to introduce these women into their London house after their return from the seat of warfare, and this irregularity, in fact, led to their suppression by Edward II. in 1313.

Laundried. An Americanism for “washed,” in relation to household or personal linen. This, when one comes to look into the word, is correct English, meaning lawn dried.

Lavender. From the Latin verb lavare, to wash, because this shrub yields an essential oil employed in medicine and perfumery. Laundresses also use it for preserving newly washed linen against moths.

Lavender Water. A scent produced from the essential oil of lavender, spirits of wine, and ambergris.

Lawing. An Americanism for “going to law.”

Lawless Parliament. See “Parliament of Dunces.”

Lawn. The finest linen, which has been bleached on a lawn instead of the usual drying ground. The greensward called a lawn received its name from the Celtic allawnt, a smooth, rising ground.

Lawrence Lane. From the Church of St Lawrence, at its foot, in Gresham Street.

195Law Sakes. An American corruption of the phrase “For the Lord’s sake!” which, current among the Puritans of New England, found its way in this new form into neighbouring states.

Laws, Laws-a-me. A corruption of “Lord, have mercy on me.”

Lawyer. From the old English Lawwer, literally “lawman”; the suffix is allied to the Latin vir, man.

Lawyer’s Treat. A phrase implying that each shall pay for his own drinks. A lawyer never treats his clients at a refreshment bar; they defray the cost between them.

Lay-by. The name given to an article, generally clothing, purchased on the weekly instalment system, and laid by on a shelf until the whole amount has been paid off.

Lazar-house. The old name for a poor-house, in allusion to Lazarus, who picked up the crumbs under the table at the mansion of Dives. On the Continent such an institution is styled a “Lazaretto.”

Lazarists. An Order of missionaries founded by St Vincent de Paul, so called from their headquarters in Paris, the Priory of St Lazare, between 1632 and 1792.

Lazzaroni. The beggars of Naples, and originally all the poorest people of that city who had no regular habitation save the streets. Their name was derived from the common refuge, the Hospital of St Lazarus.

Leadenhall Street. After the edifice known as the Leadenhall, the first in London ever roofed with lead, built in 1419 by Sir Simon Eyre, and presented to the city for the purposes of a granary in time of scarcity.

Leading Article (or Leader). There are three reasons for this term applied to a large-type newspaper article. It is supposed to be written by the chief of the literary staff, the editor; it leads off the foreign and all other important news on the inside pages of the paper; and it is intended to lead public opinion according to the party views maintained by the journal in question.

196League of the Cross. The title of a modern crusade among the Roman Catholics for the total suppression of drunkenness.

Leamington. The town in the meadow on the banks of the Leam.

Leap Year. That which every fourth year leaps to the total of 366 days by adding a day to the month of February.

Leather Lane. From “The Old Leather Bottle,” now modernised, at the corner of this lane and Charles Street.

Leave some for Manners. A dinner-table phrase, which had its origin in the ancient custom of making an offering of a portion of the viands to the gods.

Lebanon. From the Hebrew laban, white; expresses “the white mountain.”

Lee. A variant of the Anglo-Saxon lea and ley, “meadow” or “pasture land.” This word enters into many river and place-names.

Leech. The old name for a medical man in the days when bleeding the patient, no matter what his ailment might be, was the common practice.

L. E. L. The literary pseudonym, formed from the initials of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the poetess.

Leg and Star. A corruption of “The Star and Garter.” This, of course, arose when a painted device, instead of a mere title, served as an inn and tavern sign.

Legend. An Americanism for a written or printed notice. The term has latterly come into use in England relative to a tradesman’s shop announcement.

Legitimate Drama. That which is dependent upon its intrinsic literary and constructive merits, quite apart from scenic effects.

Leg Stretcher. A Far Western expression for a drink. This arose from the common travellers’ exclamation while the stage coach was waiting for the mails: “I’ll get off a bit, and stretch my legs.”

197Leicester. The Leirecastra of the Romans, being the fortified camp on the Leire, now called the Soar.

Leicester Square. Originally Leicester Fields, from the town mansion built on its east side by Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, in 1636.

Leipsic. Expresses the Slavonic for linden or lime tree town, from lipa, lime-tree.

Leman Street. Properly “Lemon Street,” from a wharf at the Thames side, where, before the construction of the docks, lemons were landed and sold.

Lemon Sole. The species of sole found on the south coast of England; really a mud sole, from the Latin lima, mud.

Lent. From the Anglo-Saxon lencten, the spring. The word has the same origin as “lengthen,” since at this season of the year the lengthening of the days becomes perceptible.

Lent Crocking. A popular old-time diversion of the schoolboys on Shrove Tuesday. The ringleader, having knocked at a house door and recited a garbled set of verses, to the effect that he had come a-shroving, his companions kept up an incessant din with old saucepans and kettles until they were paid to go away.

Leonine Verses. Those which rhyme both in the middle and at the end of each line, so called after Leoninus, a canon of St Victor in Paris midway in the twelfth century.

Let the Cat out of the Bag. To disclose a trick unwittingly. The illusion is to a very old device at country fairs of selling a cat for a sucking pig. One pig only was exposed to view; all the others were supposed to be ready tied up for carrying away. If, on occasion, a purchaser insisted on untying the sack before paying for it, the cat leapt out, and the fraud was discovered. As to the other victims who had taken away theirs on trust, they were forced to admit, because their sack contained no sucking pig, that they had been “sucked in.”

198Levant. An Italian term for the Orient or East--i.e. all those parts of the Mediterranean eastward of Italy. The word is also used in the sense of to depart, and a defaulter was said to have levanted, or gone to the Levant. This was in allusion to the “Grand Tour” which all scions of the nobility were expected to make on reaching their majority.

Levee. A French word applied to a royal reception, from lever, arising, because in former times such a function took place in the King’s bed-chamber at the hour of rising.

Levellers. The primitive Radicals or Socialists of the time of Charles I. and long afterwards; their plea was that all men should be on a common level in regard to office-seeking. Also the original name of the “White Boys” in Ireland, who commenced their agrarian outrages by levelling the hedges and fences on enclosed lands.

Leviticus. That book of the Old Testament which sets forth the laws pertaining to the priests or Levites, the descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah.

Lewisham. From Leesham, the home or family settlement in the meadow. See “Lee.”

Leyden. Originally Lugdunum, the Latinised form of the Celtic llwch, a morass, and dun, a hill, fortress.

Leyton. The town in the lea or meadow.

Leytonstone. A corruption of “Leytonstowe,” the stock or wooded place in the vicinity of a meadow.

Lhassa. A Tibetan word for “full of gods.”

Liberal. The modern designation of the Progressive or “Whig” Party. This arose out of Lord Byron’s political magazine, The Liberal, in 1828, though the name was not formally assumed until the agitation for the Reform Bill in 1831.

Liberator. The surname of Simon Bolivar, who established the independence of Peru.

199Liberia. An independent republic of free Negroes on the west coast of Africa. The word is derived from the Latin liber, free, and the Celtic suffix ia, country.

Library. From the Latin librarium, a bookcase, through liber, a book.

Lifting. This technical term in the printing trade, because type is lifted out of the columns prior to distribution, or, as may happen in a newspaper, to be held over until the next issue for want of space, has come to be applied by journalists to literary theft. Facts, anecdotes, or jokes stolen from a contribution submitted to an editor on approval are said to have been “lifted.” One newspaper, too, often “lifts” matter from another without acknowledgment.

Light. A journeyman printer’s term for “credit.” Derived from the old saying: “He stands in a good light with his neighbours.” The boast: “My light is good,” has about it little to find fault with.

Liguorians. Another name for the Redemptorists or Preachers of the Redemption, an Order founded by St Francis Liguori in 1732.

Like a Thousand of Brick. An Americanism for very heavily, as if a waggon-load of bricks had been dumped down on one.

Lille. Properly L’Isle, the island.

Lima. A Spanish corruption of the Peruvian Rima, the name of the river on which it is situated.

Limavady. From the Irish Leim-a-madha, “The Dog’s Leap.”

Limehouse. A corruption of Limehurst, or wood of lime-trees.

Lime Street. Where lime was sold in ancient times.

Limoges. Anciently called “Lemovica,” from the Lemovices, the people who settled in this portion of Gaul.

Lincoln. Originally Llyn-dun, the Celtic for “Pool hill,” 200or the town built on the eminence overlooking the Swanpool, which was not drained until the eighteenth century. When the Romans established themselves here they called it Lindum Colonia, or the colony beside the pool. Of this name, therefore, Lincoln is a softened abbreviation.

Lincoln College. Founded at Oxford by Richard Fleming, Bishop of Lincoln, in 1427.

Lincoln’s Inn. Anciently the town mansion of the Earls of Lincoln, built by Henry de Lacey, Earl of Lincoln, in the fourteenth century.

Line of Business. A theatrical phrase for the special kind of parts in which an actor is experienced. One who plays the “Juveniles” would not be entrusted with an “Old Man’s” part, and so forth.

Liner. A steamship belonging to a regular line or service of fast sailers--e.g. the Cunard Line.

Lingo. Slang for language, derived from the Latin lingua, the tongue.

Lingua Franca. A common language along the Mediterranean shores, being a mixture of French and Italian. See “Lingo.”

Linoleum. A floorcloth, into the manufacture of which linseed oil enters largely.

Linseed Lancers. The nickname of the Army Medical Corps.

Lion. An ancient inn sign derived from the heraldic device of a particular monarch, or it might be, the Lord of the Manor. According to the colour of the animal in that device, so the name of the inn, after a mere name was substituted for the painted representation, came to be designated. Hence “Red Lion,” “Black Lion,” etc.

Lion and Key. A corruption of “The Lion on the Quay,” by way of distinguishing an inn or tavern from other Lions in the same seaport.

Lion Comique. The name bestowed upon George 201Leybourne and other music-hall vocalists of his class in days when comic singing was very different to what it is now. The modern type of vocal comedians is, happily, not “lionised” in the strict sense of the word.

Lionise. See “Lion of the Season.”

Lion of the Season. A distinguished musical executant or other celebrity, generally a foreigner, at whose shrine society metaphorically worships while his fame is at its zenith. The expression is the outcome of the anxiety of the country folk in former days to see the “London Lion” at the Tower. Hence to “lionise,” make the most of a “stranger within our gates.”

Lion Sermon. This is delivered once a year at the Church of St Katherine Cree in commemoration of Sir John Gayer’s miraculous escape from death by a lion when he found himself separated from his companions in the African desert. He bequeathed the sum of £200 a year to the poor on condition of this sermon being annually preached.

Lisbon. Anciently Olisipo or Ulyssippo, after Ulysses, who, visiting Portugal with Lucus, is traditionally stated to have laid the foundations of the city.

Lisson Grove. Formerly Lidstone Green, a corruption of “Ossulton Green,” the name of a Hundred cited in Domesday Book. Ossulton Street in the Euston Road preserves the name in the original form.

Litany. See “Rogation Days.”

Little Bit of All Right. A popular expression meaning “Just the thing I wanted,” or “It couldn’t have happened better.”

Little Britain. From the ancient residence of the Dukes of Brittany.

Little Corporal. The name bestowed upon Napoleon I., at the commencement of his military career, from his rank and low stature.

Little John. The real name of this Sherwood forester 202was John Little, but Robin Hood playfully inverted it because its owner was a tall, strapping fellow.

Little Man. The affectionate sobriquet of the late Mr Alfred Beit, the “Diamond King,” on account of his diminutive stature.

Little Mary. A modern euphonism for the stomach, popularised by J. M. Barrie’s successful comedy of this title.

Little too Thick. The antithesis of a “thin” story; one so crowded with extraordinary statements that it is hard to grasp or credit.

Little Turnstile. The lesser turnstile on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, set up to prevent sheep from straying into Holborn.

Live like Fighting Cocks. From the days of the Greeks down to comparatively modern times game-cocks were fed luxuriantly, so as to increase their pugnacity; hence the application of the phrase to good living.

Live Man. An Americanism for an energetic agent or canvasser.

Liverpool. From an extinct bird, somewhat resembling the heron, and called the liver, that made the pool on which this city was built its home.

Liverpool Landseer. The sobriquet of William Huggins, who acquired an equal celebrity for animal painting in his native place, as Sir Edwin Landseer in the country at large.

Liverpool Street. After Lord Liverpool, one of the most popular members of the Ministry at the accession of George IV. There is another Liverpool Street named after him at King’s Cross.

Liverymen. Freemen of the city of London who on great special occasions wear the distinctive livery of the companies to which they belong.

Llandaff. Properly Llan Taff, the church on the Taff.

Lloyd’s. After Edward Lloyd, a coffee-house keeper in 203Abchurch Lane, whose premises were first used by merchants and shippers as a sort of club.

LL Whisky. That distilled by Messrs Kinahan of Dublin. When the Duke of Richmond was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland between 1807 and 1813 he in the former year sent to various distilleries for samples of good whisky, and preferring that tendered by Messrs Kinahan, he ordered a large vat of the same quality to be exclusively reserved for him. This vat had LL painted on it, denoting “Lord-Lieutenant Whisky.”

Lo. An American term for an Indian. This originated in Pope’s “Essay on Man,” a couplet of which reads:

“Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds or hears Him in the wind.”

Loaded. An Americanism for intoxicated or “primed.”

Loafer. This word is neither Dutch nor German, as generally stated; it is distinctly Spanish-American. The early settlers of Mexico and Texas gave the name of gallofo to a vagrant, who, like the lazzaroni of Naples, hung about the churches begging for alms. From the western states this word travelled to New York, and in the process became changed into “Loafer.”

Loan. An Americanism for “lend.”

Lock-out. When artisans have struck for an advance of wages, and afterwards decide to return to work on the former scale, the masters retaliate by shutting them out of the works altogether and employing fresh hands from elsewhere.

Lock, Stock, and Barrel. A sportsman’s phrase for the whole of a thing, in allusion to the three parts of a gun. In the modern sense it is used to imply the complete discomfiture of an adversary in argument or of one utterly outwitted in his schemes.

Loco-Focos. The American term for lucifer matches. By a patent dated 16th April 1834 John Marck, a storekeeper of Park Row, New York, brought out a self-lighting 204or friction cigar, which he called a Loco-Foco. The first portion of this name was taken from the newly introduced locomotive, which people generally thought to mean self-moving; the latter half was a euphonism of his own. When friction or self-firing matches came in they received the same designation. The Democratic Party of the United States received the name of “Loco-Focos” from the circumstance that at a great general meeting held in Tammany Hall to confirm the nomination of Gideon Lee as the Democratic candidate for Congress, a tumult arose, and the lights were turned out; whereupon the adherents of the candidate, who had provided themselves with loco-focos and candles, relighted the hall in a moment.

Loft. An Americanism for storey. In the United States it is usual to say a house contains so many “lofts” instead of storeys.

Logger. One employed in the North American forests cutting down trees and sawing them into logs.

Loggerhead. A dull, stupid fellow with no more sense in his head than a “logger” or lumberman. These loggers often quarrel for no visible cause; hence the expression to be “at loggerheads.”

Log-rolling. Primarily a political term descriptive of mutual co-operation on the part of individuals for the furtherance of a general cause. It means: “You help me and I’ll help you”; “If your party further my Bill through Congress I’ll pledge my party to push yours along too.” The expression obtains also in a social and journalistic sense: “If I propose a testimonial for you I expect you to do the same for me”; “I’ll write you up in the Press if you engage to return the compliment.” For the origin of the term we must look to the lumber regions of the state of Maine, where the loggers of different camps assist one another by turns to roll their logs down to the river.

Lollards. Originally an association of pious people in Germany at the commencement of the thirteenth century 205banded together for the purpose of burying the dead. They were so called on account of the solemn dirges they sang, from the Low German lollen, to sing softly. After a time the same title was assumed by the followers of one Walter Goilard, a dissolute priest, who was burned for heresy at Cologne in 1322. The Wycliffites assumed this name still later, and some of these it must have been who were imprisoned in the “Lollards’ Tower,” Lambeth Palace.

Lombard Street. From the Jews of Lombardy, who here set up banks and money-lending establishments, at the instance of Pope Gregory IX., as a means of assisting the people of England to raise money for the payment of their taxes early in the thirteenth century.

Lombardy. Called by the Romans Longobardi after its people, whom they subdued. This name was not derived from their long beards, as generally stated, but from the longis bardis, or long battle-axes, with which they were armed.

London. This name claims the same origin as “Lincoln,” the first rude habitations beside the Thames being situated on the rising ground now known as Tower Hill.

London Bridge was built on Woolpacks. This expression had its origin in the fact that, when the construction of Old London Bridge was stopped for want of funds, Henry II. expedited its completion by imposing a tax upon wool.

Londonderry. The town built by a company of London adventurers, to whom it, with the county of the same name, was granted by a royal charter of James I. Derry is Celtic for a grove or oak forest.

London Lion. An expression derived from the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London ere the metropolis rejoiced in a Zoological Gardens, and when travelling menageries were unheard of. Country visitors up in town for a few days never failed at that period to feast their eyes upon a real live lion, and on returning to their homes boasted of having seen the London Lion.

206London Stone. Marked the centre of Roman London, from which all the great roads through the country radiated.

London Wall. From the Roman wall which here defined the northern limits of the city. A portion of this old wall may yet be seen in Cripplegate Churchyard.

Lone Star State. Texas, from the single star in her flag.

Long Acre. The Anglo-Saxon acer, like the modern German acker, expresses a field. This was anciently a path across the fields between Lincoln’s Inn and “Lomesbury Village,” or the manor now known as Bloomsbury in the parish of St Giles’s-in-the-Fields.

Long Friday. The old name for Good Friday, both on account of the length of the Church service and the long fast imposed on all good Catholics.

Longford. The long ford on the River Camlin.

Long Island. So called from its shape.

Long Lane. This was a long, narrow lane extending from Barbican to Farringdon Road before the greater portion of its one side was cleared for the Smithfield Market.

Long Lane that has no Turning. An expression meaning that sooner or later a turn of fortune must come, since no lane, however long, exists that has no turning.

Long Peter. This name was merited by the celebrated Flemish painter, Peter Aartsen, by reason of his abnormal stature.

Long Parliament. That which was dissolved by Oliver Cromwell after it had lasted more than twelve years.

Longshanks. The surname of Edward I. on account of his spindle legs.

Longshoreman. Properly “Along-shoreman”--namely, a wharfinger, or one employed in loading and unloading vessels.

Look Daggers. A phrase used when two persons look fixedly at each other as if their eyes were dagger points ready to make a fatal thrust.

207Loosen your Purse Strings. See “Purse Strings.”

Lord Bobs. The later nickname of Lord Roberts since the close of the South African War.

Lord’s Cricket Ground. After Thomas Lord, the founder of the earliest private Cricket Club in London, in 1780. First in Dorset Square, and eventually on its present site--his own landed property--he set up a private pitch for genteel folk far from the haunts of the city apprentices and other enthusiasts of the game.

Lord’s Day. The name given to Sunday by the Quakers.

Lordship Lane. From the Lord of the Manor of Dulwich.

Loretto. Called by the Romans Lauretana after Laureta, the lady to whom the country villa, and a large tract of land on which the town was afterwards built, belonged.

Lorraine. Anciently Lotharingia, the duchy of Lotharius II., grandson of the Emperor Lewis I.

Los Angeles. Originally called by the Spaniards “Pueblo de los Angeles,” the city of the angels, on account of its delightful situation and climate.

Lo Spagnoletto. The surname of Guiseppe Ribera, the celebrated Spanish painter. It means “Little Spaniard.”

Lothbury. A corruption of “Lattenbury,” where the workers in latten ware, a species of bronze, had their shops in the Middle Ages. In the modern sense latten is a kind of sheet brass.

Loudoun Road. After the name of the builder on the estate.

Louis d’Or. A gold coin first struck in the reign of Louis XIII. of France. The name means a “Louis of gold.”

Louisiana. The name bestowed upon this State by M. de la Sale in 1682 in compliment to Louis XIV. of France.

Louvre. An adapted French word, from l’ouvert, “the opening,” which expressed a kind of turret on the roof of a building by way of a chimney to let out the smoke. 208A rude contrivance of this kind distinguished the ancient hunting seat of Dagobert, on the site of which Francis I. commenced the famous Parisian palace of this name in 1528, completed twenty years later by Henry II. A louvre window partakes of the same character.

Lower Berkeley Street. See “Berkeley Street.”

Lower Thames Street. The eastern portion of Thames Street, from London Bridge to the Tower.

Lowndes Square. After the ground landlord, lineally descended from William Loundes, secretary to the Treasury, temp. Queen Anne.

Low Sunday. Not only was this Sunday at the bottom of the Lenten or Easter Calendar, but prior to the alteration of New Year’s Day it was frequently also the last Sunday of the year.

Luciferians. A sect of Christians in the fourth century, under Lucifer, Bishop of Cagliari in Sardinia, who separated from the Orthodox Church on the ground that the reconverted “Arians” should not again be admitted to the fold.

Lucifer Matches. Early friction matches, so called from the Latin lucis, light, and ferre, to bring.

Lucullus Feast. A sumptuous banquet, so called after Licinius Lucullus, a famous Roman general, who in the days of his retirement was no less distinguished for the costly suppers he gave to the greatest men of the Empire. The sums expended on those entertainments were enormous. As an epicure he was unrivalled; he could also be a glutton on occasion. There is a story told that after the feast had been prepared no guests arrived. “Lucullus will sup to-night with Lucullus” was the explanation of the host.

Lud-a-massy. A corruption of the old exclamation “Lord, have mercy!”

Luddites. A name borne by the wilful destroyers of machinery in the manufacturing districts; said to have been adopted from Ned Lud, an imbecile of Leicester, 209who being, chased by boys, took refuge in a house, and there broke a couple of stocking frames. These rioters caused great havoc during the second decade of the last century.

Ludgate Hill. The testimony of Old Stow notwithstanding, there is grave doubt whether King Lud, the reputed builder of the western gate of the city, ever existed. In much greater likelihood this gate received its name from its situation near the River Fleet, and meant simply Flood Gate. See “Fleet Street.”

Lug. Northern and Scottish for “ear.” In England generally this word is regarded as slang except when employed in connection with “Lugger” and “Luggage.”

Luggage. So called because it is lugged about in transit by the handles, as a Lancashire man would pull another by the lug or ear.

Lugger. A small craft having lugs, or drooping sails, like a dog’s ear.

Lumber. An Americanism for timber sawn into logs and sent floating down the rivers for eventual shipment.

Lumber-room. One set apart for odds and ends of no practical utility. The name is derived from “Lombard Room,” in which the Lombards, who were the first goldsmiths and money-lenders in England, stored the articles pledged with them.

Lunatic. From the Latin luna, the moon. The Romans persistently cherished the idea that a person’s mind was affected at the several changes of the moon.

Lupercalia. A Roman festival in honour of Lupercus, the god of fertility. This occurred on the 15th of February.

Lupus Street. This keeps alive the name of Henry Lupus, first Earl of Chester, from whom the Grosvenors, the ground landlords, are descended.

Lurid Waistcoat Banquet. The latest style of “Freak Dinner” in America, each guest disporting himself in a waistcoat of startling hue and design.

210Lutherans. After Martin Luther, the German Reformer.

Luxembourg. This celebrated palace of the French capital stands on the site of that purchased and enlarged in 1583 by the Duke of d’Epinay, Luxembourg. The title of the Dukes of Luxembourg is very ancient, having been derived from a beautiful chateau called Luici burgum, which was acquired by Siegfried, Count of Ardennes, in 963.

Lyceum Theatre. Opened in 1834 as the English Opera House. This was originally a lyceum or academical establishment connected with the Society of Arts. The word Lyceum was correctly applied in this case from the academy formed by Aristotle in the temple of Apollo Lyceus, near the River Illissus.

Lych-Gate. A large gateway at the entrance to the churchyard where the coffin can be set down while the mourners await the arrival of the clergyman to lead the funeral service. The word comes from the Gothic leik, and German leiche, a corpse.

Lyddite. So called because experiments with this explosive were first made at Lydd in Kent.

Lying around Loose. An Americanism for being out of a situation, lounging about the town.

Lyme Regis. This little Dorsetshire seaport on the River Lym was honoured with a royal charter and the title of Regis because it furnished Edward III. with three ships to aid in the siege of Calais in 1346.

Lynch Law. The summary justice meted out to public offenders in the western states of North America. This term was derived from James Lynch, a farmer of Piedmont on the western frontier of Virginia. There being no Court of Law for many miles around he was always appealed to in cases requiring a legal decision, and his judgments were so sound and impartial that the people gave him the name of Judge Lynch. The death sentence was by hanging at the nearest tree. To “lynch a man,” however, in the 211modern sense is to dispense with legal formalities altogether.

Lynn Regis. See “King’s Lynn.”

Lyon King at Arms. The principal at Heralds’ College in Scotland, so called from the lion rampant on the armorial bearings of the Scottish kings.

Lyre Bird. So called from the resemblance of the sixteen feathers of its tail when spread erect to a lyre.


Ma’am. An Americanism for mother. See “Madam.”

Ma’am School. The American term for a young ladies’ seminary, or an infants’ school kept by a woman.

Macadamised Road. This system of road-making by means of broken stones pressed down by a heavy roller was introduced by John Loudon Macadam, a Scotsman, appointed Surveyor of Public Roads in 1827.

Macaroni. From the Italian macare, to crush, to bruise, through Macarone, a mixture, a medley. This confection originally consisted of cheese and bread paste squeezed into balls.

Macaronies. Fashionable dandies first heard of in London after the accession of George III. Their leaders hailed from France and Italy, where Macaroni Clubs abounded. These clubs arose out of Dilettante Societies, formed for the cultivation of what was styled Macaronic Verse, after a poetical rhapsody entitled “Liber Macaronicorum,” a jumble of Latin and other languages published by a monk of Mantua in 1520. Subsequently everything in dress or taste received the name of Macaroni.

Macaroon. A biscuit the name of which has the same etymology as “Macaroni.”

Macassar Oil. So called because it was first exported from Macassar, the Dutch capital of Celebes Island.

Macclesfield Street. After the Earl of Macclesfield, the landlord of the estate when it was laid out in 1697.

212Macedonians. A fourth century sect of Christians founded by Macedonius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Machinaw. A heavy blanket worn by Indians, and also nowadays in the western states used as a travelling rug and bed pallet. The term is derived from Machinac (pronounced Machinaw), the chief trading station with the Indians formerly. Western settlers also describe an overcoat as a Machinaw.

Machine. A bicycle is called a machine because it is a more or less complicated piece of mechanism made up of many parts. In the United States the term machine is applied both to a locomotive and a fire engine.

Mackenzie River. After Alexander Mackenzie, by whom it was first navigated in 1789.

Mackerel. From the Danish mackreel, “spots.”

Mackintosh. After the Scotsman who invented water-proofing material for over-garments.

Macklin Street. After Charles Macklin, the celebrated actor of Drury Lane Theatre. His name was really Maclaughlin shortened into Macklin.

Macmillanites. An offshoot of the Presbyterians under John Macmillan; also styled the “Reformed Presbytery.”

Madagascar. A corruption of the native name Malagasay, the island of the Malagese or Malays.

Madam. In New England the term applied to the deceased wife of a person of local distinction, such as the parson, doctor, etc. In the southern states it expresses the mistress or master’s wife universally among the Negroes. Elsewhere it is either Madam or Ma’am for a mother.

Mad Cavalier. Prince Rupert, so called on account of his rash courage and lack of self-control.

Mad Dog. A skull cap, from the old idea that keeping the head impervious to air was a remedy against the bite of a dog.

Mad Poet. Nathaniel Lee, who wrote some of his finest 213pieces while confined during four years at Bethlehem Hospital.

Mad as a Hatter. A corruption of “Mad as an atter.” Atter expressed the Saxon for a viper or adder. The word “Mad” was anciently used in the sense of venomous; hence this expression really meant “venomous as a viper.”

Mad as a March Hare. Being their rutting season, hares are very wild in March.

Made a bad Break. An Americanism for having made a silly slip of the tongue, a sad mistake, or a great blunder. The expression is, of course, derived from a game of billiards.

Made his Pile. Although a Californian phrase for having amassed a fortune, this originated at the gaming-tables throughout the States generally.

Madeira. Expresses the Portuguese for “timber.” This island was at the time of its discovery covered with forests. Also the name of a rich wine imported therefrom.

Madeleine. The church at Paris dedicated to Mary Magdalen or Mary of Magdala.

Maddox Street. After the name of the builder upon the land in 1720.

Madras. From the Arabic Madrasa, “university.” Originally Madrasa Pattan, the name expressed “University town.” Pattan is Sanscrit for town.

Madrid. In the tenth century this was simply a Moorish fortified outpost of Toledo, as expressed by its Arabic name, Majerit.

Maelstrom. Expresses the Norwegian for an eddy or whirlpool; literally “whirling stream.”

Maffiking. A word used to denote the madness which may seize upon an entire community on an occasion of great public rejoicing, as happened when news of the relief of Mafeking, during the South African War, reached England. Staid citizens--bankers, stockbrokers, 214and others--assembled in front of the Mansion House, cheering wildly, and losing all control over themselves to such a degree that they threw their hats high in the air. For the remainder of that day and far into the night all London went mad with joy.

Magazine. From the Arabic Makhzan, a depository for stores. In a literary sense this originally expressed a periodical whose contents were made up of elegant extracts from the best authors.

Magdalen Hospital. The old name of a penitentiary for fallen women, so called after Mary Magdalen. The French form of this name is Madeleine.

Magdalen Smith. The famous Dutch portrait painter, Gaspar Smitz, is usually known by this name on account of his many “Magdalens,” in which he excelled.

Magdeburg. German for “town on the plain.”

Magenta. This colour was so called because first produced after the battle of Magenta in 1859.

Magic City of the South. Birmingham in the state of Alabama. Since its foundation by the Elyton Land Company in 1871 it has bidden fair to rival Pittsburg as the Birmingham of America.

Magnolia. In honour of the eminent French botanist, Pierre Magnol.

Mahala. The Californian term for an Indian squaw, derived from the Spanish muger (pronounced muher), a woman.

Mahatma. A Hindoo term for a Buddhist gifted with what appear to be supernatural powers, as the result of the very highest intellectual development.

Mahogany. A vulgar term very frequently heard in the Midland counties for a man’s wife. This arose from the fact that the wood of the Mahogany-tree (West Indian Mahogan, but botanically Swietenia Mahogani) was for many years at first used exclusively for the manufacture of domestic dining-tables; hence a 215man would say: “I’ll discuss it with my wife over the Mahogany.” Eventually the phrase was corrupted into “I’ll talk to the Mahogany about it,” and so the term came to denote the man’s wife.

Mahrattas. The Hindoo term for “outcasts.” Although devout worshippers of Buddha, this powerful Hindoo family does not recognise that fine distinction of caste which obtains elsewhere.

Maida Vale. After the victory of Maida, 4th July 1806.

Maiden. An ancient instrument of capital punishment made in the form of a woman, the front of which opened like a door, and, the victim being imprisoned, sharp steel spikes pierced his body on every side. This name was also given to an early species of guillotine in Scotland. To be executed by its means was to “Kiss the Maiden,” because she clasped him in a death embrace.

Maidenland. A Virginian term for the land which comes to a man by marriage on his wife’s side, and which passes from him at her decease.

Maiden Assize. So called when there are no charges for the jury, which in the event of conviction merit capital punishment or the death sentence. On such an occasion the sheriffs present a pair of white gloves to the judges as the emblems of innocence.

Maiden Lane. Anciently skirting the garden of the Convent. This thoroughfare had at its western corner a statue of “Our Lady” let into the wall.

Maid Marian. So far from having any connection with Robin Hood and his merry men in Sherwood Forest, this term is derived from the “Morris Dance,” in which five men and a boy took part. On account of his antics and the ill-fitting morione, or helmet, that this boy wore, he came to be styled as the “Mad Morion,” of which Maid Marian was an easy corruption.

Maid of Orleans. Joan of Arc, who led her countrymen 216against the English, and effected the capture of the city of Orleans, 29th April 1429.

Maid of Saragossa. Augustina Zaragossa, who distinguished herself in the heroic defence of the city of Saragossa during its eight months’ siege by the French in 1808-9.

Maidstone. From the Anglo-Saxon Medwægeston, the town on the Medwæge, or Medway, which river runs through the middle of the county of Kent.

Mail. The American term for “post”--i.e. a letter. This word is, of course, derived from the mail bag in which letters are transmitted.

Mail Stage. The American form of “Stage-coach.”

Maine. The name given to the French settlement in the New World after the city so called in the Mother Country. Maine, from the Celtic man, expresses a district or region.

Majorca. Expresses the Latin for Greater, relative to the “Balearic Islands.”

Make Bricks without Straw. To make something without the needful materials. In the East bricks are made out of straw and mud dried in the sun. The expression comes from the burdens laid upon the Israelites in Egypt as related in Exodus v.: “Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.”

Make Money out of a Shoe-string. An Americanism for a capacity to make money out of nothing--that is, without working capital.

Make the Raise. An Americanism for to “raise the loan.”

Make the Sneak. An Americanism for to sneak or run away.

Make Tracks. Originally a Far West expression when a squatter deserted his claim and set out to explore an unknown region.

217Make Trade hum. An Americanism for whipping up business by advertising or extraordinary energy.

Malaga. From the Phœnician malaca, salt. The wine of the same name is imported from this city of Spain.

Malmsey. Wine from Malvasia, an island in the Mediterranean historically famous for its vineyards.

Malta. From the Phœnician Melita, “a place of refuge.”

Mamelukes. From the Arabic mamluc, a slave. The original standing army of Egypt, composed of boy slaves purchased by the Sultan from the Tartar Khan in the Caucasus in the thirteenth century.

Mamma. Latin for “breast”; hence all animals that are suckled by the mother belong to the class of “Mammals.”

Mammon. From the Syriac mamona, “riches.”

Manchester. Expresses the Anglo-Saxon for a common on the site of a Roman camp. The Friesic man in this sense enters into many place names also on the Continent.

Manchester Square. After the Duke of Manchester, the owner of the estate.

Manchuria. The territory of the Manchus, the founders of the present ruling dynasty of China.

Mandarin. Although this title is borne by officers of every grade in China the word is really Portuguese, mandar, to command. It was applied by the early settlers of Macao to the Chinese officials of that colony, and has remained a European designation for a Chinaman of rank ever since.

Manhattan. From the Indian munnohatan, “the town on the island.”

Manicure. The American mode of “Manicurist,” which, from the Latin manus, hand, literally means one who undertakes the care of the finger-nails.

Manitoba. After Manitou, the “Great Spirit” of the Alonquin Indians. This name is pronounced Manitobar not Manitobar.

218Man in the Street. A metaphorical expression for the average man, with no more than a superficial knowledge of matters in general. Not belonging to a club, he has small means of adding to his own store of knowledge by daily communion with those better informed than himself.

Manlius Torquatus. The Roman Consul Manlius received his surname “Torquatus” through having wrested the golden torque or collar from his adversary on the field of war.

Mannheim. German for “the home of men.” Until the Elector Palatine Frederick IV. built a castle here, and a town grew up around it in the seventeenth century, this was a village of refugees from religious persecution in the Netherlands.

Man of Kent. A native of the county of Kent east of the Medway.

Man of Ross. The name given by Pope to John Kyrle of Ross, Herefordshire. See “Kyrle Society.”

Man of Straw. One who, having nothing to lose, descends to mean practices for gain, well knowing that his victims rarely go to the expense of entering a prosecution against him, since they cannot obtain damages. This term was derived from the hangers-on at the Westminster Law Courts, who were ready to swear anything at the instruction of counsel for a bribe. They were known by displaying a wisp of straw in their shoes. If another witness was required while a case was being heard, counsel generally sent out to look for “a pair of straw shoes.”

Man-of-War. This term is a popular abbreviation of man-of-war ship--i.e. the floating home of a man-of-war’s-man. Our national prestige has from time immemorial been dependent on the supremacy of the seas, therefore an English sailor, more than a soldier, was regarded by our ancestors as a fighting man. Since the introduction of ironclads, however, it has become the custom to speak of a floating battery as a war vessel or battleship, and a sailor as a bluejacket.

219Mansard Roof. After its inventor, François Mansard, the French architect of the seventeenth century.

Mansfield Street. From the town mansion of the Earls of Mansfield, which stood here.

Mansion House. Expresses the “house of houses,” the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London, the representative in the city of the King, whose flag proudly waves in the breeze from the roof.

Mantua. A lady’s cloak or mantle, originally introduced from the Italian city of this name.

Maoris. The aborigines of New Zealand. In the native tongue this means “indigenous.”

Maraboo Feathers. Those plucked from the underside of the wings of the stork of the same name. The stork being held sacred by the Mohammedans, as it was by the ancient Egyptians, its name has the same meaning as that of the “Marabuts.”

Marabuts. The priestly order of the Arabs in North Africa; those who attend the mosques and call the people to prayers. Their name is derived from the Arabic Marabath, sacred or devoted to God.

Maraschino. A liqueur distilled from delicate and finely flavoured cherries, called Marazques, cultivated at Zara in Dalmatia.

March. In honour of Mars, the Roman god of war.

Marconigram. A wireless telegram, so called after Marconi, the inventor of the system.

Margate. From the Anglo-Saxon Mære, the sea; expresses the road or entrance to the Thames estuary from the sea. See “Gate.”

Margaret Street. After Lady Margaret Cavendish, wife of the second Duke of Portland, landlord of the estate.

Marigold. This, golden flower, indigenous to Mexico, was dedicated by the Spaniards to the Virgin. What are called “Marigold Windows,” having these flowers represented on them, appear in Lady Chapels.

220Marine Store Dealer. The legal description of what is now a rag and bone merchant in a small way, because at one time old ships’ iron and cables were not allowed to be disposed of in any other manner save to such a registered dealer.

Market Street. The site of an ancient market on which at a later period the annual May Fair was held. This district is now one of the most fashionable in the West End of London.

Mark Lane. A corruption of “Mart Lane,” in which an ancient annual fair or mart of Flemish merchants was held.

Mark Twain. The literary pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, reminiscent of his early life as a pilot on a Mississippi steamboat. “Mark Twain” in nautical phraseology means “mark two fathoms of water.”

Marlborough House. This, the residence of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, was built by Sir Christopher Wren for John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, in 1709 at a total cost of a million of money.

Marlborough Road. This, like the square of the same name off the Fulham Road, was so called after the “Duke of Marlborough” at one end of it. At Peckham, after the one-time residence of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, before he removed to Pall Mall.

Maroons. Revolted Negroes in South America and the West Indies. The term was derived from the Morony River, between Dutch and French Guiana, where great numbers of these fugitives found a place of safety.

Marquee. Originally the tent of a marchioness.

Marquis. From the Italian and French Marchese, pursuant to the root mark, a boundary. Anciently expressive of an officer who had the guardianship of the marches or boundaries of a duchy. At a later period the owner of a slice of land bestowed upon him out of a duchy. Nowadays the title next below that of duke.

Marquis of Granby. A tavern sign in honour of John 221Manners, the British general during the Seven Years’ War in Germany, a soldier beloved by his men and esteemed by his country.

Marry. A perverted form of the oath “By Mary” in days when people were wont to swear by the Virgin.

Marsala. A light wine exported from Marsala in Sicily. This name was bestowed upon the town by the Arabs, Marsa Alla, “Port of God,” on account of its delightful situation.

Marseillaise. This was the composition of Rouget de Lisle, an artillery officer stationed with the French garrison at Strasburg. First sung at a banquet given by the mayor of that city, it became immensely popular; and when in 1792 the Marseilles volunteers were summoned to Paris, they sang it as they approached and entered the capital. The words and music at once struck the popular ear, so that “La Marseillaise” became the national war song.

Marshal. From the Teutonic mare, horse, and schalk, servant. This term, through the French maréchal, originally signified the groom of the horse; now it means in a civil sense the master of the horse and head of the ceremonies in devising pageants and processions. The Duke of Norfolk, as Earl Marshal of England, takes precedence over all other noblemen.

Marshal Forward. General Blucher, on account of his eagerness to make a dash in the campaign which terminated in the victory of Waterloo.

Marshalsea. The old Debtors’ Prison in Southwark, so called because the Court of the Knight Marshal, for the settlement of disputes between members of the Royal Household, was held within its walls. This edifice was demolished in 1842.

Marsham Street. From the ground landlord, Charles Marsham, Earl of Romney.

Martel. The surname of Charles, the son of Pepin d’Heristal, who signalised himself in battle against the Saracens when, according to the chronicler, “he 222knocked down the foe and crushed them between his axe, as a martel or hammer crushes what it strikes.” This exploit occurred during the attempted Saracenic invasion of France A.D. 732.

Martello Tower. Originally built near the sea as a watch-tower for protection of merchandise against pirates. The term arose from the custom of the sentry striking a bell with a martel, or hammer, as often as he discerned a pirate ship out at sea.

Martin. The common wall-swallow, corrupted from its Latin name Murten, from murus, a wall.

Martinet. From the name of a strict officer under Louis XIV. of France; hence the phrase “a regular martinet.”

Martin’s Lane. From St Martin’s Church in this lane.

Martlemas. A corruption of “Martinmas,” or Feast of St Martin, 4th November, the usual time for the hiring of servants in the rural districts of England.

Maryland. The name given by Lord Baltimore to the colony founded by him, in honour of Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I.

Maryland End. An Americanism for the hock of the ham, as distinguished from the other, the “Virginia End.”

Marylebone. A corruption of “St Mary of the Bourn”--i.e. the parish church of St Mary beside the bourn or stream which descended from near the hermitage at “Kilburn” to “Tyburn.”

Masaniello. The name of the leader of the Neapolitan insurrectionists of the seventeenth century was Tommaso Aniello, of which Masaniello is a corruption.

Masher. From the Romany or gipsy Masha, “to fascinate the eye.” Whether the overdressed fop, so designated in our day, really possessed this enviable quality is open to question.

Mason and Dixon’s Line. An American expression for the old-time boundary between the slave and the 223free states. This line was defended between Pennsylvania and Maryland and Virginia by two English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, in 1763-7.

Massage. A Frenchised Hindoo word for rubbing. A male and female practitioner of this new curative mode of friction treatment are respectively styled a masseur and masseuse.

Mattan Diamond. This, the largest in the world, weighing 367 carats, is the property of the Rajah of Mattan in India.

Maudlin. A word expressive of sentimentality or an inclination to shed tears, more especially when in a state of intoxication. Old painters always represented Mary Magdalen with swollen eyes, the result of penitential tears; hence a corruption of “Magdalen.”

Maund. The Saxon for an alms-basket employed in the distribution of bread to the poor by the Lady of the Manor.

Maundy Thursday. So called from Maundé, the French form of Mandatum, the first word in the New Commandment or mandate given by our Lord to His disciples after washing their feet at the Last Supper. The essence of this mandate was to love one another; hence the washing of feet of poor persons and distribution of doles by the reigning sovereign on this day. See “Maund.”

Mauritius. A Dutch colony named in honour of Maurice, Prince of Orange.

Mausoleum. After the magnificent sepulchral monument erected by his widow, Artemisia, to Mausolus, King of Caria, at Halicarnassus, 353 B.C.

May. The budding or shooting of plants in this month caused the Romans to give it the name of Magius, afterwards shortened into Maius, from the Sanskrit mah, to grow. Eventually this month was held sacred to Maia, the mother of Mercury, to whom sacrifices were offered on the first day.

224Maydew Cherries. A corruption of Medoc cherries, from the district in France where they are cultivated.

Mayfair. On the site of this fashionable district Edward III. established a six days’ fair in the month of May for the benefit of the leper hospital of St James the Less, where St James’s Palace now stands.

May Meetings. The annual meetings of the many religious, missionary, and philanthropic bodies of the United Kingdom are held in London, generally at Exeter Hall, during the month of May.

Mazarin Bible. A very rare edition of the Scriptures, being one of the earliest printed by Gutenberg with separate metal types, between 1450 and 1455. It received this name from the fact that a copy was discovered in the library of Cardinal Mazarin.

Mecklenburg Square. One of the many names about London which, when new streets were built upon, complimented the Hanoverian Succession.

Medina. Expresses the Arabic for “City.” Its full name is Medinat al Nabi, “City of the Prophet.”

Mediterranean Sea. The sea “in the middle of the earth” is that between the two great continents, Europe and Africa.

Medway. See “Maidstone.”

Meerschaum. Expresses the German for “sea foam,” the fine white clay out of which pipes are made being at one time thought to be the petrified scum or foam of the sea.

Meistersingers. Literal German for “Master Singers”; master craftsmen who in the Middle Ages revived the national minstrelsy, which had been allowed to fall into decay.

Melbourne. In honour of Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister in 1837, when this Australian colony was founded.

Melodrama. Modern drama, distinguished by incidental music as an accompaniment to the action.

225Memorial Day. The United States mode of expressing a great commemorative occasion, such as Independence or Decoration Day.

Memorial Hall. This building, in Farringdon Road, commemorates the issue of the famous “Act of Uniformity,” whereby 2000 ministers of the Church of England were deprived of their livings on 24th August 1662. The site was formerly occupied by the old Fleet Prison.

Memory-Corner Thompson. The name borne by John Thompson of the parish of St Giles’s-in-the-Fields. Seated in a corner of a coffee-house, he was wont for the amusement of regular habitues to display his astounding powers of memory in regard to the topography of London.

Memory Woodfall. The sobriquet of William Woodfall, brother to the reputed author of the celebrated “Letters of Junius.” His mnemonical powers differed from that of “Memory-Corner Thompson” in that, after listening to a debate, Parliamentary or otherwise, overnight, he could repeat it word for word the next morning.

Mentor. A “guide, philosopher, and friend,” so called after Mentor, the faithful friend and counsellor of Ulysses.

Mercenaries. From the Latin mercer, wages, reward. These hired soldiers of antiquity figured largely in the Punic Wars.

Mercer. The old name for a dealer in silks and woollen fabrics, so called from the Latin mercis, wares, merchandise. Nowadays such a one styles himself a “Draper.”

Merino. A fabric of wool from the sheep of the same name, which expresses the Spanish for an inspector of sheep walks.

Merioneth. After Merion, an early British saint.

Merrimac. Indian for “swift water.”

226Merry Andrew. A buffoon or clown, said to have been so called after Andrew Borde, a noted physician of the time of Henry VIII., whose witticisms were on a par with his medical skill. His sayings were widely repeated, and since it happened that Andrew was then the most common name for a man-servant, facetious fellows came to be dubbed Merry Andrews.

Merry Monarch. Charles II., who from the time of coming to the throne never knew care, but made his life one round of pleasure.

Mesopotamia. The ancient description of the region situate between the Tigris and the Euphrates. The name is Greek, from mesos, middle, and potamos, river.

Messe Rouge. Expresses the French for “Red Mass.” At the resumption of their duties at the Law Courts after the Long Vacation all the Catholic judges and barristers attend a Mass of the Holy Ghost to invoke the Spirit for the gift of wisdom. Like the masses of the Feast of the Holy Ghost, the vestment worn by the officiating priest is red, in allusion to the tongues of fire that descended upon the Apostles on Whit Sunday.

Methodists. This name was first given by a fellow-student of Christ Church, Oxford, to the Brothers Wesley and a few friends who were in the habit of meeting on certain evenings for religious conversation. They also visited the inmates of Oxford Jail at stated times, always faithfully kept their engagements, and acted up to their Christian principles in a strictly methodical manner. The new sect was afterwards styled by John Wesley “The First Methodist Society.”

Metz. This city was styled by the Romans Mettis, from the Medio matrici, the people of the country, whom they conquered.

Mexico. Expresses the seat or place of Mexitli, the Aztec god of war.

227Michaelmas Day. The feast of St Michael, prince of the heavenly host, and patron saint of the Catholic Church. This is properly described as “St Michael and all Angels” (29th September).

Michaelmas Goose. Stubble geese being at their best about this time, the rural tenantry always brought their landlords a goose with their Michaelmas rent. Since the latter usually received more geese than they could consume themselves, they passed them over to friends, and thus the goose became a standing Michaelmas dish.

Michigan. Indian for “a weir for fish.”

Middlesex. Expresses the territory of the Middle Saxons, situate between that of the East and West Saxons under the Heptarchy.

Middling. North of England, and also American, for medium or passable in the sense of feeling well.

Mignonette. Expresses the diminutive of Mignon, the French for “darling.”

Mildmay Park. The estate of the Mildmays, whose ancestor, Sir Henry Mildmay, came, by marriage, into possession of Mildmay House and its park in the time of Charles I.

Mile End Gate. From a toll gate which at this point of the highroad marked the eastern limits of London town and the parish of Whitechapel, distant one mile from the city boundary at Aldgate.

Miles Lane. After Miles Coverdale, a famous preacher at the Weigh-House Chapel hard by in former days.

Milford Lane. From an old mill that stood here in the fields. The lane itself led to a ford across the river at low water.

Milking the Street. An Americanism for the operations of stockbrokers who, by alternately raising and depressing shares, capture all the floating money in the market. The allusion is, of course, to Wall Street, the financial centre of New York city.

228Milk Street. The ancient milk and butter market in connection with Cheapside.

Millbank. From an old mill that stood on the Thames bank, on the site of which the Grosvenors built a mansion, subsequently displaced for the gloomy prison of the same name.

Millerites. An American religious sect, whose founder, William Miller, prophesied the millennium or first judgment of the world by Christ and His angels to take place on 23rd February 1843. Many of his followers went mad through excitement as this date approached. Subsequent days assigned for the fulfilment of the prophesy proved alike misleading.

Milliner. A corruption of Milaner, after the city of Milan, which at one time set the fashion throughout Europe for elegance and taste not only in matters of dress, but of art. A milliner is one who deals in hats, feathers, and ribbons. See “Mercer.”

Mill Street. From a mill that stood hereabouts when the scene was one of peaceful rusticity.

Milton Street. After the author of “Paradise Lost,” who resided here for a time, and was buried in the parish church of St Giles’s, Cripplegate. This was the famous Grub Street of tradition.

Milwaukee. Indian for “rich land.”

Mincing Lane. A corruption of “Mynchen Lane,” denoting the property of the Minchery, the Saxon term for a nunnery of St Helen’s in Bishopsgate Street.

Minden Boys. The 20th Foot, so called from the conspicuous bravery displayed by them at the battle of Minden.

Mind your P’s and Q’s. This had reference originally to the pints and quarts chalked up against a rustic at the village alehouse. When his score threatened to become too disproportionate to his prospective wages, the alehouse-keeper generally administered a timely warning in these set terms. It was a polite way of 229saying he would very soon decline to serve him with more until the next settling day.

Miniature. So called because this early species of hand-painted portraiture originated in the head of the Madonna or of a saint that formed the initial letter of the beautifully illuminated rubrics produced by the monks styled the “Miniatori,” because their paints were made out of minium, or red lead.

Minnesingers. Expresses the Old German for “love singers,” the troubadours of the Fatherland in the Middle Ages.

Minnesota. Indian for “smoky water.”

Minorca. Expresses the lesser of the “Balearic Islands.”

Minories. This thoroughfare was laid out across the lands belonging to the Minoresses or Nuns of St Clare after their priory had been demolished at the Reformation. The Order of the Minoresses corresponded to the Friars Minor of the Franciscans founded by St Francis de Paula.

Minster. The distinction between a minster and a cathedral lies in this: the former is the church in connection with a monastery, whereas the latter contains the kathedra, or chair, of a bishop.

Minstrel Boy. A favourite page whose duty it was to attend a knight in peace and war. On his return from “feats of arms” he recited the doughty deeds of his master to the accompaniment of a lute, harp, or lyre in the banqueting-hall. In times of peace his theme was the bravery of the knight in the lists at tournaments or his prowess in defence of fair maidens.

Minstrel of the Border. The name bestowed upon William Wordsworth by Sir Walter Scott.

Mint. On the spot where Manlius Capitolinus had built himself a sumptuous residence the Romans set up a temple to Juno Moneta, or “The Monitress,” since Manlius had been apprised of the Gallic invasion through the cackling of the sacred geese. Subsequently 230this temple of Moneta was converted into an establishment for the coinage of money. Both mint and money therefore come from Moneta.

Mint Street. From the old mint established at Suffolk House by Henry VIII. when that property was sequestered to the Crown.

Minuet. So called from the Latin minutus, small, on account of the short, graceful steps which distinguish this dance.

Miserere. The name given to a mediæval choir stall of which the seat could be turned up so as to form a ledge for the support of the aged monks while kneeling. Its name, miserere, “Have mercy,” was singularly appropriate.

Misluck. An Americanism for misfortune or ill luck.

Misses’ Tailors. An Americanism for “Ladies’ Tailors.”

Mississippi. Indian for “great and long river.”

Missouri. Indian for “muddy water.”

Mitre. An inn sign most generally to be met with in a cathedral city, having reference, of course, to the mitre worn by a bishop.

Mitre Court. So called after an ancient Fleet Street tavern hard by.

Mitre Square. From an old inn, “The Mitre.”

Mob. From the Latin mobile vulgus, “the vulgar crowd.”

Mobtown. The name given to the city of Baltimore on account of the lawlessness of a certain section of its inhabitants.

Mocha. Coffee brought from the district of the same name in Arabia.

Mocking Bird. A species of thrush that mocks or imitates the notes produced by other birds.

Moet and Chandon. A favourite brand of champagne from the vineyards of the French firm trading under the name of “Moet et Chandon.”

231Molasses. The American term for syrup or treacle, derived from the French melasse, the root of which is the Latin mellis, honey.

Money. See “Mint.”

Mohair. From the Arabic Mukhayyar, “goatskin hair,” through the French moire, the fine silken hair of the Angora goat.

Mohawks. Night marauders who in the days of the “Old Charlies” terrorised peaceable London citizens, self-styled after the fierce Indian tribe of the same name. “Mohawk” means “man-eater” or “live-eater,” this term being applied to the Iroquois by the eastern Indians of North America.

Moire Antique. The French description of watered silk worked in the style of the olden times. See “Mohair.”

Moldavia. The country traversed by the River Moldau.

Moleskin. A superior fabric of fustian or strong cotton distinguished for a smoothness like the hair of the mole.

Molly Maguires. An Irish Secret Society in the United States, more especially Pennsylvania, composed of young men dressed in women’s clothes, and with blackened faces, who did not hesitate to murder in connection with the agrarian outrages that they committed. The execution of ten of the ringleaders in June 1877 at length put an end to their reign of terror.

Monastery. From the Greek monos, alone. This term expresses an establishment of monks, secluded from one another in cells except when at prayers or at meals; recluses who never go into the outer world at all. A Friary, on the contrary, is a convent whose inmates live in community and go forth to preach among the people.

Monday. A term derived from Scandinavian mythology when, after the first day of the week given up to sun-worship, 232the second was set apart for the worship of the moon.

Money makes Money. This is a truism which it were vain to deny. Without capital a man cannot possibly set up in business for himself, even as a costermonger. The command of money makes its possessor doubly rich.

Monger. This word enters into various designations of the trading community, such as Fishmonger, Costermonger, being derived from the Anglo-Saxon mongere, “one who trades.”

Monk. From the Greek monachos, “one who lives alone.” See “Monastery.”

Monkey. From the Italian monicchio, the diminutive of monna, an ape. This word is often used as a verb--e.g. “Don’t monkey about on there,” meaning “Don’t play about or be up to monkeyish pranks.”

Monkey Board. The platform at the back of an omnibus, so called on account of the capers usually indulged in by the conductor. On a vehicle of the old-fashioned kind this platform was so small that he had to jump off it in order to allow a passenger to enter or alight.

Monk Lewis. The sobriquet of Matthew Gregory Lewis after he had published his celebrated novel, “The Monk,” in 1795.

Monmouth. The mouth of the Mon, the ancient description of which was Mynwy, “the border river.”

Montague Place. This, like the street close by, received its name from Montague House, the town mansion of the Dukes of Montague, in which the treasures of the British Museum were at first deposited pending the erection of the present edifice.

Montague Square. Like the street of the same name, this was designated in compliment to Mrs Montague of the “Blue Stocking Club,” who after the death of her husband resided in Portman Square.

Mont Blanc. French for “white mountain,” because it is eternally snow-clad.

233Montenegro. Literally “black mountain.”

Montepulciano. A famous Italian wine produced at the ancient city of the same name.

Montgomery. After Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, who obtained forcible possession of the castle erected on the height by the Lord of the Marshes in the time of William the Conqueror.

Montreal. So called from the admiring exclamation of Jacques Coutier, when in 1534 he viewed the surrounding country from its summit. The name is French for “Royal Mount.”

Montserrat. Expresses the Latin for a mountain serrated or jagged like a saw.

Monumental City. Baltimore, so called on account of its one hundred and four churches, the obelisk, etc., which it contains.

Moonshiners. The name given in the western states of America to illicit whisky distillers.

Moonshine Whisky. American whisky distilled under cover of night by “Moonshiners.”

Moorfields. See “Moorgate Street.”

Moorgate Street. From the postern gate in the Roman Wall leading to the moor beyond the fen lands or marshes of Finsbury known as Moorfields.

Moors. From the Latin mauri, and Spanish moros, “black.” Elsewhere denominated “Saracens,” these Arab conquerors of the peninsula were called by the Spaniards “Moriscoes.”

Mop Fair. The name given to a fair held a few days after the periodical Statute Fair for the hiring of farm servants. The dregs of the Statute Fair are then mopped or swept up.

Moravia. From the Morava, which name expresses a marsh or boundary river.

Moravians. The followers of John Huss, driven out of Bohemia and Moravia by religious persecutions early in the eighteenth century.

234Morgan Horse. A favourite breed of American sporting horse descended from the animal owned by Justin Morgan, a schoolmaster of Randolph, Vermont, nearly a hundred years ago.

Morgue. So far from denoting a mortuary, this term really means the inner wicket of a prison, where the identification marks of new arrivals are taken before they have their cells and tasks assigned to them. It is therefore not incorrectly applied to the place of public examination and identification of the unknown dead.

Morisonians. A religious sect which separated from the Scottish Presbyterians in 1841, under the leadership of James Morison.

Mormons. A sect whose founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to have received a new revelation in “The Book of Mormon,” written on gold plates by the angel Mormon, the last of the Hebrew line of prophets, in 1827.

Mornington Crescent. After the Earl of Mornington, Governor-General of India, the brother of the Duke of Wellington.

Morocco. The territory of the Moriscoes or “Moors.”

Morris Dance. An ancient military dance of the Moriscoes or Moors of Spain introduced to England by John of Gaunt after his return from that country, temp. Edward III. Hence the companions of the “Jack in the Green” at the May Day festival always blackened their faces, and disported themselves in extravagant costumes, imitative of the flowing robes of the original dancers. See “Maid Marian.”

Mortimer Street. After Edward Harley, Earl of Wigmore and Mortimer, landlord of the estate in 1717.

Mosaics. So called because such inlaid work of stones was originally employed in the pavements of the temples of the Muses. The word is French mosaique, derived from the same Greek root as Museum.

Moscow. From the River Moskwa, on which the city was built.

235Moselle. Wines produced at the vineyards on the banks of the French river of the same name.

Moslem. From the Arabic Muslim, “true believer,” through Salama, “to submit.” This term expresses the plural of “Mussulman” among the Persians. By the Turks “true believers” are styled “Moslemin.” There is no such word as “Mussulmen” or “Mussulmans.”

Mosquito. From the Spanish mosca, a fly.

Mosquito Coast. A territory in Central America which, on account of its climate and the swampy nature of the land, is infested by mosquitoes.

Mothering Sunday. The Sunday in Mid-Lent when the members of a family in domestic service visit their parents and enjoy “Mothering Cakes” for tea. These cakes had their origin in offerings made to the “Mother Church” on the afternoon on this day.

Mother Black Cap. A public-house sign in Camden Town set up in opposition to the “Mother Red Cap” over the way. There never was a noted character of this name.

Mother of Believers. The name bestowed by Mohammedans upon Ayesha, the favourite wife of “The Prophet,” styled “The Father of Believers.” Mohammed himself declared that Ayesha was the only member of his family who cherished the slightest faith in his mission. His preference for his second wife, therefore, can be readily understood.

Mother of Presidents. Virginia, on account of the many Presidents which this state has given to the American Republic.

Mother of South-Western Statesmen. Tennessee, from the seventeen eminent Congressmen which this state has given to the Union.

Mother of States. Virginia, the pioneer British colony in the New World.

Mother Red Cap. An omnibus stage in Camden Town, 236the sign of which perpetuates the memory of a notorious London poisoner during the Commonwealth.

Mother Shipton. A noted hostelry at Haverstock Hill, built when the prophecies of this Welsh sorceress were the common talk of the day. Some of her less baneful predictions were actually verified; notably those as to ships ploughing the ocean without sails and vehicles careering along the road without horses. Is it possible that she had the motor car in her mind?

Moulin Rouge. Expresses the French for “Red Mill.”

Mound City. St Louis, on account of the numerous artificial mounds occupying its site at the time when the city was built.

Mountain. The extremists of the Democratic party in France during the Reign of Terror, so called because they occupied the elevated benches in the House of Convention.

Mountain Dew. An Irishman’s term for whisky, because it was often secretly distilled among the mountains in order to escape excise duty; hence the expression: “A drop o’ the cratur.”

Mount Street. On a natural mound the Parliamentary forces here erected a fort or bastion when the Royalists were expected to make an attack upon London from the west.

Mrs Grundy. A term expressive of the prudishness of the English character. It arose out of the line: “What will Mrs Grundy say?” in Thomas Morton’s drama, “Speed the Plough,” produced in 1798.

Mudlarks. The nickname of the Royal Engineers, whose function it is to throw up entrenchments.

Muff. This term was at first applied to an effeminate dandy who at one time, like the ladies, carried a muff to keep his hands warm in winter. This incapacitated him from defending himself with his sword against an unexpected attack at the hands of a street bully, and hence, as now, a muff was easily taken advantage of, or likely to become a prey to the sharp-witted.

237Muff Dogs. Small dogs carried by ladies in their muffs during the seventeenth century. A “muff dog” figures in an engraving by Hollar.

Mug. Slang for a man’s face. This arose out of the rude portraiture of Lord Shaftesbury or some other political celebrity which from the time of the Restoration to the middle of the eighteenth century adorned the yellow chinaware beer mugs at an alehouse, or Mug-House as it was called. These Mug-Houses were the first political clubs; out of them sprang the popular “Free and Easies” of modern times, and more recently the Music Halls.

Muggletonians. A religious sect headed by Ludovic Muggleton, a tailor, who proclaimed himself a prophet, in 1651.

Mugwump. An Indian word for “wise chief.” The Mugwumps of North America are the Democrats, whose political aims are above cliques or parties; therefore they refuse to be influenced by a “Caucus.”

Mulatto. From the Spanish mulato, a mixed breed, through mulo, a mule, the offspring of a white and a Negro.

Mumm. A strong German beer named after Christian Mumme, who first brewed it.

Mummer. Slang for an actor. This old English term, derived from the German mumme, a mask, was applied to the performers in a Christmas masque or buffoonery.

Mummock. An Americanism for handle, disarrange, or play with--e.g. “Don’t mummock things about.” The word is really obsolete provincial English for “maul.”

Munich. From the German monchen, monks. On the spot where the city stands some monks built a warehouse for the salt which they obtained in the neighbourhood. In the twelfth century Henry the Lion made this Villa Minichen, as it was then called, into a mint, and a town grew up around it.

Munster Road. From Munster House, the residence of Melesina Schulenberg, created Duchess of Munster by George II.

238Munster Square. In honour of the eldest son of William IV., created Earl of Munster.

Murphies. Potatoes, the chief articles of consumption among the Irish peasantry. This term is current also in America.

Muscadel. French and Italian wines, so called from the Italian muscado, musk, nutmeg. Variants of this name are Muscatel and Muscadine.

Muscatels. Raisins exported from Muscat in the Gulf of Oman, Arabia.

Muscovy Duck. A corruption of “Musk duck,” a species larger than the common duck.

Mush. An Americanism for an umbrella.

Musical Comedy Artiste. The new pet name for a chorus girl.

Musical Small-Coal Man. The lifelong sobriquet of Thomas Britton of Aylesbury Street, Clerkenwell, where was his coal shed. He inaugurated Thursday evening concerts, that attracted fashionable enthusiasts from the West End. This worthy, though he earned his livelihood by crying small coals in the street, was a scholar, a musician, and a companion of gentlemen.

Muslin. Called by the French Mousseline, from Mosul in Asiatic Turkey, whence during the Middle Ages this fabric was sent to supply all the markets of Europe.

Muss. An Americanism for “mess,” used in the sense of a confusion or disorder. It is used also to imply a squabble or a reprimand--e.g. “I got into a dreadful muss this morning.”

Mussulman. See “Moslem.”

Muswell Hill. Properly “Mustwell Hill,” from the Latin mustus, fresh. On this hill there was discovered an ancient well of clear, fresh water, that belonged to the prior of St John’s Clerkenwell and Highbury, who had a dairy farm hereabouts.

Mutes. See “Undertaker.”

Mutoscope. A modern peep show, in which the figures 239move; living pictures, so called from the Latin mutatis, to change, and the Greek skopein, to view.

Myddleton Square. After Sir Hugh Myddleton, who at his own cost embarked upon the ruinous enterprise of constructing the New River from Chadwell in Hertfordshire, nearly forty miles distant, to London. One of the reservoirs occupies the enclosed portion of this square.

My Eye. An exclamation signifying “You dazzle me,” “You make me blink with astonishment.” Its American equivalent is briefly “My!”

My Lady Nicotine. The pretty name now generally applied to tobacco since the republication in book form of J. M. Barrie’s essays on smoking which originally appeared in the St James’s Gazette. See “Nicotine.”

Mythology. From the Greek muthos, a fable, and logos, a discourse. This was essentially a religion built upon fable.

My Uncle. The popular designation of a pawnbroker. See “Uncle.”


Nailed. Slang for “caught,” in allusion to being pinned down by the captors. Also a thing seized and made off with; a punning reference to “driving” a nail.

Naked Possessor. The Far West description of the possessor of a piece of land for a long period without a legal title to it. He is the naked possessor because his title is not clothed in a set form of words recognised by the Courts of Law.

Nankeen. Cotton stuff originally made at Nankin, in China.

Nankin. Expresses the Chinese for “Southern Capital.”

Nanny Goats. The nickname of the 23rd Foot on account of their regimental pet goat.

240Nantes. A native brandy exported from Nantes in Brittany. The name is the Celtic for “valley.”

Nap. A game of cards, originally named after Napoleon I.

Naples. Called by the Greeks Neapolis, “New City.” The ancient name is better expressed when speaking of the inhabitants as “Neapolitans.”

Napoleon. A gold coin of France issued during the Consulate of Napoleon Bonaparte. This superseded the “Louis d’Or.”

Narcissus. This flower is fabled to have sprung up on the spot where the beautiful Grecian youth so called died of love-sickness.

Naso. The nickname given to Ovid on account of the length of his nose; hence “Ovidius Naso.”

Nassau Street. After the royal House of Nassau, to which William III., as Prince of Orange, belonged.

Natal. So called because the Portuguese navigator Vasco di Gama landed upon its shores on Christmas Day, or the Feast of the Nativity, 1498.

Nation. An Americanism for “damnation.”

National Democrats. Those in the United States whose principles are national as opposed to sect or party.

Navvy. Originally the name of a labourer employed in the construction of canals for inland navigation. An alehouse set up beside one of the earliest canals bore the sign of the “Navigation Inn,” and those who frequented it were called Navigators. This term soon became shortened into Navvies.

Nazarenes. Semi-converted Jews who, while nominally Christians, believed “Jesus of Nazareth” to be the long-promised Messiah, and still conformed to the rites and ceremonies prescribed by the Jewish law.

Nebraska. Indian for “water valley.” This fertile region is traversed by several shallow rivers.

Neckerchief. A kerchief for the neck. See “Handkerchief.”

241Neckwear. An American term for neckties, scarves, or mufflers.

Needle in a Bottle of Hay. See “Bottle of Hay.”

Needle’s Eye. The postern gate in the wall of an Eastern city, so called because with some difficulty a camel is able to thread its way through it.

Negus. Hot spiced wine, originally concocted by Colonel Negus in the reign of Queen Anne.

Nemesis. From the goddess of vengeance, who bore this name.

Nepaul Paper. India paper made in the district of Nepaul, Northern India. The original India paper came from the Far East.

Nest Egg. The nucleus of a banking account, so called because if a china egg be placed in a hen’s nest it is an inducement for her to lay eggs of her own there. When a person has a trifle put by he is anxious to increase it.

Nestorians. A sect of heretics of the fifth century under Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

Netherlands. Literally the Low Countries, now comprised in the kingdom of Holland.

Netop. Indian for “my friend.” In saluting a friendly Indian a white in North America always makes use of this word.

Nevada. Spanish for “snowy,” in allusion to the snow-clad mountain ridges of this state.

New Amsterdam. The name given by the Dutch settlers to their colony at the mouth of the Hudson River, now “New York.”

New Bond Street. See “Bond Street.”

New Bridge Street. Leads to Westminster Bridge, opened in 1862. This name was chosen in contradistinction to Bridge Street, Blackfriars.

New Brunswick. On assuming its independence of Nova Scotia in 1784 this British colony was named after the House of Brunswick.

242New Burlington Street. See “Burlington Street.”

Newcastle-under-Lyme. The name of the river on which the town stands is the Lyne, not the Lyme. To take the place of an ancient castle at Chesterton-under-Lyne a new castle was built in this neighbourhood, but of such a stronghold no vestige now remains.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Originally Moncaster or Monkchester, so called from a colony of monks on the site of a Roman camp. Robert, Duke of Normandy, the son of William the Conqueror, built a castle here for the defence of the town against the incursions of the Scots. This castle was afterwards rebuilt by William II.; whereupon the town assumed the title of Newcastle.

New Cavendish Street. See “Cavendish Square.”

New Compton Street. See “Compton Street.”

New Christians. Portuguese Jews of the fifteenth century who, having embraced Christianity under compulsion, secretly conformed to the Mosaic rites and ceremonies.

New Cross. The district which grew up around an old coaching-house, “The Golden Cross,” afterwards rebuilt, and renamed “The New Cross.”

New England. The collective name given to the six eastern states of the American Union--Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut--because the people are descended from the Puritans of England and Scotland, and therefore may be regarded as the only true “Yankees.”

Newfoundland. The name bestowed by Sebastian Cabot upon all the new land that he discovered, but now confined to this British possession.

Newfoundland Dog. A native breed of dog from Newfoundland.

Newgate Street. From the newest of the city gates, first alluded to in history in 1207. The gateway having for centuries been used for the confinement of debtors, 243it gave its name to the prison erected on its south side. The gloomy edifice which has been demolished within the last few years dated from 1782, after the burning of its predecessor by the Gordon rioters in 1780.

New Hampshire. This state having been granted to Captain John Mason, he in 1629 named it after his native county in England.

New Holland. The name given to what is now Australia by its Dutch settlers in 1606 after their Mother Country.

Newington. Expresses the new settlement in the meadow.

Newington Butts. The site of the archery butts in South London corresponding to those of Moorfields in the north.

Newington Causeway. This was the first road or causeway across the swampy fields of South London beyond the “Borough.”

New Jersey. In honour of Sir George Cartaret, the gallant defender of Jersey Island against the Parliamentary forces in 1664.

Newman Street. After the builder on the site.

New Orleans. The name given to the French settlement in the New World after the city in the Mother Country.

New Pye Street. See “New Way.”

New Scotland Yard. The new headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, occupying a site which has not the slightest connection with its name, and devoid of all historic interest further than that its foundations were laid for a Metropolitan Opera House, the building of which went no further. With the transference of the Police Department from “Scotland Yard” the old name was retained.

New Southgate. The modern residential district in the vicinity of the entrance to the enclosed hunting ground extending northward to Enfield, anciently known as Enfield Chase.

New Spain. The name given by Cortes to “Mexico.”

244News-stand. An Americanism for a railway bookstall.

New Way. A modern extension of Old and New Pye Streets, named after Sir Robert Pye, who had his residence on its site.

New Woman. A term which came into vogue during the early days of the modern bicycling craze. The New Woman disported herself abroad in knickerbockers, and generally made herself ridiculous in the eyes of all sensible men. Latterly she has returned to the obscurity whence she sprang.

New York. Originally New Amsterdam. When taken from the Dutch in 1664 it received the name it now bears in compliment to the Duke of York, afterwards James II.

New Zealand. Named by the Dutch after their native Zeeland, or “Sea-land,” of the Low Countries.

Niagara. From the Indian On-aw-garah, “the thunder of waters.”

Nicaragua. So called by Gil Gonzales de Avila in 1521, after a Haytian chief called Nicaro, who gave him a friendly reception on the shores of the lake, which also bears this name.

Nicholas Lane. After the wealthy banker, Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, who also gave his name to Throgmorton Street.

Nickel. An American five-cent piece, so called because it is coined out of nickel silver.

Nick of the Woods. The first word in this American designation is a corruption of “neck,” denoting a settlement or habitation in the wooded regions of the south-western states.

Nicotiana. The tobacco-producing regions of the United States. See “Nicotine.”

Nicotine. After Jean Nicot, who introduced tobacco, which he had purchased at Lisbon, into France in 1560.

245Nigger. A corruption of Negro, which term is derived from the Latin niger, “black.”

Nightcap. Since everyone in the days of our grandfathers wore a nightcap, and fancied he could not go to sleep without one, so the modern substitute is a glass of spirits just before retiring, with a view to making him feel drowsy; hence such a drink is called a “nightcap.”

Nightingale. Literally a bird that sings in the night.

Nihilist. Originally a member of a Russian society whose members recognised no law save their own happiness. They sought to annihilate all ideas of God and government, as also of the rights of property. These ultra-Socialists sprang into existence in 1848.

Nimrod. Charles James Apperley, the sporting contributor to The Quarterly Review, and author of “The Chase, The Turf, and The Road,” adopted this pseudonym after Nimrod, the son of Cush, who is mentioned in Genesis x. 9 as the “mighty hunter before the Lord.”

Nincompoop. A dull-witted person, so called from the Latin phrase non compos mentis, “of unsound mind.”

Nine Days’ Wonder. Puppies and kittens remaining blind for nine days after birth, they are during this period a subject of much wonder to the young members of the household. A sensational event or a piece of public scandal arouses uncommon interest for a few days, and then it gradually subsides.

Nine Elms. From nine fine elm-trees on this portion of the south bank of the Thames.

Nine Tailors make a Man. The second word in this expression is a corruption of Tellers. A “Teller” was in olden times a stroke of the “passing bell” of the parish church. Three tellers gave warning of the death of a child, six of a woman, and nine of a man. As the parishioners counted the strokes they would say: “Nine tellers make a man.”

246Ninny. Short for “Nincompoop.” In America this term is generally thought to be derived from “Pickaninny.”

Niphon. The native name of “Japan.”

Nipped in the Bud. While a flower is in the bud it may be destroyed by a mere nip of the fingers. Afterwards its leaves would have to be plucked separately. To curb mischief or a bad habit at the very commencement is therefore the easier plan.

Nipper. Originally in thieves’ slang a boy trained to pick purses and pockets, and nip off unobserved; hence the expression “A Young Nipper.”

Nitrate King. The sobriquet of the late Colonel J. T. North, who amassed a fortune by the nitrate industry in South America.

Nob. Short for “noble” or “nobleman.” From University slang the term has come to imply among the vulgar anyone of aristocratic pretensions.

Noctes Ambrosianæ. A characteristic feature of Blackwood’s Magazine in its early days. This, “The Ambrosial Nights,” was contributed as a regular series by Professor Wilson, being for the most part the actual conversations of the author, John Gibson Lockhart, and Mr Blackwood at a small Edinburgh tavern kept by one Ambrose. Although Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, also figured in those dialogues, he was not present at the meetings.

Nocturne. A quiet, dreamy species of musical composition, suggestive, as its name denotes, of peaceful night.

Noddy. A kind of jaunting car peculiar to Dublin, so called because its jolting motion makes its riders nod their heads.

No Flies on me. An Americanism expressive of individual energy. The meaning is: “I am so active that no flies can ever settle on me.”

No Hat Brigade. Modern faddists who walk abroad bare-headed and shelter themselves against the elements under an umbrella.

247Nonconformists. Those ministers of the Church of England who refused to subscribe or conform to the “Act of Conformity,” and thereby lost their livings. The term is now generally applied to all Dissenting congregations.

No Quarter. When the battle cry of “No Quarter,” consequent on an order, goes forth, no lives are spared by the victors. To give quarter means to spare the vanquished. This had its origin in ancient European warfare, when, by way of earning prize-money, a soldier refrained from dealing the death blow to a fallen foe on condition of receiving a quarter of the latter’s pay.

Norfolk. The northern of the two districts or counties on the east coast settled by the Angles, the north folk and south folk respectively.

Norfolk Howards. An excess of refinement has caused this term to be substituted for bugs. This originated in the action of Joshua Bugg of the Swan Tavern, Norwich, who by deed poll, as advertised in The Times 26th June 1862, changed his name to Norfolk Howard. In America all beetles are commonly styled bugs.

Norfolk Street. From the town house and grounds of the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel and Surrey.

Norland Square. Built on the site of Norland House, the residence of one of the Drummonds, bankers of Charing Cross, temp. William IV.

Normandy. The country peopled by the Northmen or Danes.

Northampton. Anciently described as “Northavontown,” having been built on the north of the River Avon, now called the Nen.

North Audley Street. See “Audley Street.”

North Britain. Scotland. In conjunction with England and Wales it becomes Great Britain.

248North Pole. A tavern sign in Wardour Street up at the time when Captain Parry’s Arctic Expedition was the common topic of interest.

North Star State. Minnesota, so called on account of its northern situation in the Union and the motto on its arms: “L’Etoile du Nord.”

Northumberland. The north-east portion of that vast tract of land described as “Northumbria,” because situated north of the River Humber under the Heptarchy.

Northumberland Alley. This name in Fenchurch Street is reminiscent of the original town house of the Dukes of Northumberland before they took up their residence at Charing Cross in 1607.

Northumberland Avenue. From Northumberland House, the town mansion of the Dukes of Northumberland, demolished in 1874 to make way for this fine broad thoroughfare.

Norton Folgate. A corruption of “Northern Falgate”; expressive of the fine barred gate leading from Bishopsgate without the city limits into the open fields.

Norway. Called in the native tongue Nordrike, “the north kingdom.” This country was long thought to be wholly surrounded by water, on which account it received the name of Nordee, “north island.” This the Saxons modified in Norea, and later Norway.

Norwich. So called from the castle erected by the East Anglian kings as a “North wic,” or northern fortified village, relative to Caistor, to resist the invasion of the Danes.

Norwood. This was formerly the northern portion of the vast wooded district situated between London and Croydon.

None of my Funeral. An American mode of saying “Nothing to do with me,” or “It’s no affair of mine.” Being an Americanism, the expression is devoid of etymology.

Nosey. The nickname borne by Cervetto, the violoncellist 249of Drury Lane Theatre, and John Wilson, the painter, both of whom had exceptionally long noses. The Duke of Wellington was also popularly referred to under this name by his soldiers on account of his Roman nose.

Nothing succeeds like Success. When a man is successful the world bows before him. Each fresh enterprise is crowned with success, because there is an abiding public faith in the man who has made money or hit the popular taste. His intrinsic merits may be no greater than those of the poor devil who has systematically failed; yet what he lacks himself he readily finds in his subordinates, whom he can afford to pay, while the credit is all his own.

Notions. An Americanism for small wares or trifles in regard to dress.

Not much. An Americanism for “of no consequence.”

Not quite the Cheese. A saying which originated with those who insisted on being served with prime Stilton or double Glo’ster.

Nottingham. Called by the Anglo-Saxons Snottengaham, “a place of caves.” The name is partly Celtic, and little doubt exists that the Britons made their habitations in the caverns with which this county abounds.

Nottingham Place. After the county estates of the Duke of Portland, the great ground landlord. A goodly portion of Sherwood Forest is included in this ducal possession.

Notting Hill. Properly “Knolton Barn Hill,” the ancient description of a manor of the De Veres, which in the time of Henry VIII. was held by Robert Fenroper, an alderman of the city of London.

Not worth a Dam. See “Don’t care a Dam.”

Not worth a Rap. A rap was an Irish copper coin issued early in the eighteenth century to supply a long-felt need for very small money. Nominally worth a halfpenny, its metal was so thin and base that it 250never passed for more than a farthing. Its infinitesimal value consequently gave rise to this expression.

Not worth a Song. A song is worth nothing at all after its popularity has waned. The good old songs live on account of their intrinsic merits, but they were not pushed into public favour by adventitious methods at the time of publication. Those of our day are ground out of street pianos and sung everywhere for a brief season, then heard no more.

Nova Scotia. This name, expressive of “New Scotland,” was bestowed upon the island by Sir William Alexander, a Scotsman, to whom James I. granted a charter of colonisation in 1621.

Nova Zembla. From the Slavonic Nowaja Zemlja, “new land.”

November. From novem, nine, the ninth month of the Roman calendar when the year commenced with March.

Noyau. Expresses the French for the stone or nut of a fruit; hence the name given to a cordial flavoured with the kernel of the bitter almond or peach stone.

Nun. From the Italian nonna, a grandmother. Those who retired into convents originally were aged women. It was only in modern times that seminaries for girls were established in convents; this opened the way to maidens becoming deeply imbued with religious ideas and secluding themselves from the world by taking the veil.

Nunhead. From a tea garden and holiday resort known to Londoners as “The Nun’s Head” ever since the days of James I.

Nutcrackers. The 3rd Foot, so called because they boasted of having broken the heads of the Polish Lancers at the battle of Albuera.

Nutcrack Night. Another name for All Hallows’ Eve, when nuts are laid on the fire bars to crack, as a relic of an ancient kind of divination.

251Nutmeg State. Connecticut, whose people were believed to manufacture wooden nutmegs for exportation.


Oak Apple Day. Another name for Royal Oak Day (29th May), when people formerly wore oak leaves or oak apples in their hats to commemorate the manner in which the partisans of Charles II. welcomed his return to England on his birthday, 1651. This was, of course, in allusion to his concealment in an oak-tree near Boscobel House, Shropshire, after the battle of Worcester, on 3rd September previous.

Oakley Square. After Oakley House, near Bedford, one of the country seats of the Duke of Bedford, the ground landlord.

Oaks Stakes. So called from a Lodge or Club-House built among the oaks by the Hunters’ Club, and afterwards converted into an inn, known as “Lambert’s Oaks,” after the name of its landlord.

Obiter Scripta. Latin for a thing written in passing, a note by the way.

Observants. The name borne by those monastic orders whose members adhere to the strict rule laid down by their pious founders in contradistinction to others styled “Conventuals,” who, like the secular clergy, take upon themselves the performance of parochial duties.

Obstropulous. A corruption of the word “obstreperous,” inclined to quarrelling.

Ocean Greyhound. A fast Atlantic steamer belonging to one of the great lines.

Octavo. A sheet of printing paper which, when folded and cut, makes eight leaves or sixteen pages.

October. The eighth month of the Roman calendar when the year began with March.

Octroi. The name given to a toll or tax levied upon 252market produce passing through the gates of a town. It comes from the Latin auctoritas, authority.

Odder. Colloquial for one who obtains a livelihood by doing odd jobs.

Oddfellows. This friendly society originated with five Manchester shoemakers who in 1812 were accustomed to meet after the day’s work. It having occurred to one of them how his family would fare if, through sickness, he should be unable to follow his occupation, and thinking it would be wise to make some provision against such a contingency, he proposed that each of them should subscribe a few pence weekly towards a common sick fund. The idea was at once taken up. They called themselves Oddfellows because they numbered five. Others soon joined the little society, and from these humble beginnings it grew into a powerful organisation.

Odd rot it. A perversion of the Crusaders’ curse: “God rot them!” meaning the Saracens, the enemies of Christianity.

Odds Bodkins. A perversion of “God’s Body,” in allusion to the Eucharist. This oath was not considered profane during the Ages of Faith.

Odds Fish. A favourite exclamation of Charles II. It was a corruption of “God’s Flesh,” or the Body of Christ.

Odds Splutter. A corruption of the Dutch oath Got’s plut, “God’s Blood,” introduced into England during the reign of William III.

Odd Zounds. A corruption of “God’s Wounds.” See “Zounds.”

Off Colour. To look pale and sickly.

Off the Hooks. An expression meaning “beyond hope of requisition for further service,” “completely done for,” whether on the score of chronic ill health, lunacy, or old age. This originally had reference to the Maypole stored away in Shaft Alley, Leadenhall Street, and perhaps other Maypoles elsewhere of post-Reformation 253days. As long as it rested “on the hooks” there was a likelihood of its being once more called into service. See “St Andrew Undershaft.”

Ohio. Indian for “beautiful.”

O.K. This arose out of an Irishman’s endorsement for goods passed by him, as he would have spelt out the words “Orl Korrect.”

Old Bags. The nickname of Lord Eldon, because he always carried about with him, in separate brief bags, the cases on which he had to pass judgment.

Old Bailey. From the Latin ballium, a rampart, through the French baille. The term “Bailey” expressed the open space or court between a castle and the embattlements. Seeing that Lud Gate stood in line with this street at its southern extremity, there must have been a keep or fortification behind the Roman Wall where the Sessions House came to be built. The name was therefore retained after the wall was demolished.

Old Bold Fifth. The 5th Fusiliers, which regiment has distinguished itself for valorous deeds in many campaigns.

Old Bond Street. See “Bond Street.”

Old Broad Street. With the exception of Cheapside, this was the widest thoroughfare in Old London, all the others being similar to what Old Change is at the present day. During Elizabeth’s reign Old Broad Street constituted the residence of the wealthiest citizens.

Old Buffer. The colloquial term for a short, thick-set elderly man, whose big paunch suggests a railway buffer.

Old Bullion. See “Bullion State.”

Old Burlington Street. See “Burlington Street.”

Old Carthusians. Old scholars of the “Charter House.”

Old Catholics. The followers in Germany of the late Dr Döllinger, who separated from the Roman Catholic 254Communion after the promulgation of the dogma of Papal Infallibility in 1870.

Old Cavendish Street. See “Cavendish Square.”

Old Change. So called from “The King’s Exchange,” where the bullion was anciently stored prior to being sent to the shearers or clippers at the neighbouring Mint. See “Sermon Lane.”

Old Charlies. See “Charlies.”

Old Christmas Day. Twelfth Day, because, according to the old style calendar, Christmas Day fell on what is now 6th January.

Old Compton Street. See “Compton Street.”

Old Dominion. Virginia, on account of its documentary description, “the Colony and Dominion of Virginia.”

Old England. This term was first applied to the Mother Country after the colonisation of New England in North America.

Old Fogey. A term derived from the Danish fjog, a stupid old man, one in his dotage.

Old Fox. The sobriquet of Marshal Soult on account of his strategic cunning.

Old Grog. The nickname of Admiral Edward Vernon, who always wore a grogram cloak in foul weather.

Old Harry. A corruption of “Old Hairy,” as applied to the Devil.

Oldham. Expresses the old home or settlement.

Old Hat. A country tavern sign which must have been the original when the same premises was devoted to some other business, in days characterised by the display of signs by tradesmen generally.

Old Hickory. “Hickory” is an Americanism used adjectively for anyone who is tough, obstinate, or hard, after the tree of the same name. General Andrew Jackson merited the nickname of “Old Hickory” from his own soldiers on account of his tough, unyielding disposition. Its origin is thus explained by Parton, 255the author of the President’s “Life”: “The name of ‘Old Hickory’ was not an instantaneous inspiration, but a growth. First of all, the remark was made by some soldier, who was struck with his commander’s pedestrian powers, that the General was tough. Next it was observed that he was as tough as hickory. Then he was called ‘Hickory.’ Lastly, the affectionate ‘Old’ was prefixed, and the General thenceforth rejoiced in the completed nickname, usually the first-won honour of a great commander.”

Old Jewry. The original Jewish quarter of the city of London. See “Jewin Street.”

Old Kent Road. The South London portion of the Roman highway to Dover.

Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. The popular name of the Bank of England. There is a tradition that towards the end of the eighteenth century a demented old lady wandered up and down Threadneedle Street day by day for a long period until she suddenly disappeared. It was generally assumed that this old lady of Threadneedle Street must have been waiting for someone who had passed into the Bank, and, according to her idea, never came out again. When, therefore, in 1797 the Bank threatened a temporary stoppage of payment, and one-pound notes were issued, John Gilray, the artist, published a caricature entitled “The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street in Danger.” Since that time the Bank has been colloquially referred to by this title.

Old Line State. Maryland, whose famous regiment, the Old Maryland Line, saved the prestige of the army when Lord Cornwallis’s Grenadiers broke the American lines at Loughland.

Old North State. North Carolina, from its relative position to South Carolina.

Old Paulines. Old scholars of St Paul’s School.

Old Pye Street. See “New Way.”

Old Quebec Street. Laid out and built upon soon after the capture of Quebec by General Wolfe in 1759.

256Old Rep. Short for “Old Reprobate.”

Old Rowley. A sobriquet of Charles II., from the name of his favourite race-horse.

Old Rye. A United States term for old whisky distilled from rye.

Old Salt. An old sailor who has sniffed the brine of the ocean from his youth.

Old Scotland Yard. See “Scotland Yard.”

Old Soldiers. An Americanism for cigar-ends, because they are the remnants of the originals that have done good service.

Old Sport. An Americanism for a broken-down gambler.

Old Tom. The name first given to gin by Thomas Norris, who, after having long been employed in the distillery of Messrs Hodges, opened a gin palace in Covent Garden, and perpetuated the affectionate name of “Old Tom Chamberlain,” his former master.

Old Toughs. The nickname of the 103rd Foot, merited during the Indian Mutiny.

Old Woman. In stage parlance an actress who plays old women’s parts. A fine distinction is, however, drawn between “old women” and what are called “Aristocratic Old Women.”

On the Tapis. Tapis is French for a carpet; expressive also of the cloth or kind of tapestry which covered the table in the Council Chamber when French was the language spoken at the English Court.

On the Tenterhooks. To have one’s curiosity fully aroused; on the tiptop of expectation. The phrase has been derived from the mode of tentering or stretching cloth upon hooks after it is woven.

On the Tiptoe of Expectation. A phrase derived from the crowds awaiting a public procession. As soon as the music is heard everyone stands on tiptoe, and looks in the direction whence the sounds proceed.

Oof. A slang term for “money”; derived from the 257legendary “Oof Bird,” which from the Latin, ovum, an egg, traces its origin to the goose with the golden eggs.

Olive Branches. A man’s children are so designated from the Biblical simile in Psalm cxxviii. 3: “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.”

Olla Podrida. A Spanish term for a mixture of meat and vegetables collected in a common pot for cooking as required. In a literary sense it signifies a miscellany of short productions. The French equivalent for the term is pot-pourri, which is also employed figuratively.

Omnibus. The dative Latin plural of omnes, all. In a public vehicle of this kind there is room for many, without class distinction.

One-horse. A term used adjectively for anything mean or insignificant. This figure of speech is derived from agriculture.

Oneida. Indian for “people of the beacon stone.”

Ontario. From the Indian Onontae, which expresses “the village on the mountain,” whence the tribe of the Onondagas derive their name.

On this Side of Jordan. An Americanism for “in this life” or “in this world.”

Opal. From the Sanskrit opula, through the Latin opalus, a precious stone.

Oporto. Portuguese for “the harbour.”

Orange Lilies. The 35th Foot, so called on account of the facings on their uniform.

Orangemen. The Protestants in the northern provinces of Ireland, so called on account of their adherence to William III., Prince of Orange, in opposition to the “Jacobites” or the adherents of the Stuart king, James II.

Orange Peel. One of the nicknames of Sir Robert Peel, owing to his strong anti-Catholic spirit. See “Orangemen.”

258Orange River. This, the largest river in South Africa, received its name from the colour of its waters when in flood.

Orange River Free State. This name was given by the “Boers” to what is now British territory in South Africa because its early settlers were also emigrants from the principality of Orange in Holland. Its new title is the Orange River Colony.

Orange Street. In compliment to William III., Prince of Orange.

Orator Henley. The sobriquet of John Henley, an English divine who in 1726 attracted large and fashionable congregations in a so-called “Oratory” or chapel in Newport Market.

Oratorio. A term derived from the fact that the first sacred musical dramas or cantatas were performed in the Church of the Oratorians, which religious Order was founded by St Philip Nero at Rome in 1540.

Orchard Street. Off Portman Square, after Orchard Portman, one of the country seats of the Portmans in Somersetshire. At Westminster, from the ancient orchard belonging to the Abbey.

Orchestra. A Greek term applied to the place in the theatre allotted to the chorus of the dancers. Among the moderns it expresses the place assigned to the instrumentalists.

Orchid. From the Greek orchis, a testicle, which the root of this plant resembles.

Oregon. From the Spanish Oregano, “wild majorum,” which grows abundantly in this state.

Orellana. The original name of the “Amazon” River, after its navigator.

Oriel College. This college at Oxford was built in 1326 by Adam de Brome, the Almoner of Edward II., and called by him St Mary’s College. A few years later Edward III. added to its revenues a rich messuage hard 259by known as “Le Oriel,” from which circumstance the foundation received the name which it now bears.

Orinoco. Indian for “coiling snake.”

Orion Horne. One of the sobriquets of Richard Horne, author of “Orion,” which acquired an exceptional notoriety on account of its being published at the low price of one farthing.

Orkney Isles. Under the name of Orcades these are mentioned by the ancient geographers. Orkney is Gaelic for “Isle of Whales.”

Orleans. A corruption of Aureliani, after the Roman Emperor Aurelian.

Orloff Diamond. This gem, weighing 194 carats, and purchased by Catherine II. of Russia in 1775, preserves the family name of that Empress.

Orme Square. After the name of a printseller of Bond Street who bought the land and built upon it.

Orrery. After the Earl of Orrery, who first caused one to be made.

Osnaburg Street. Named in compliment to Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the last sovereign-bishop of Osnaburg in Hanover.

Ossulton Street. See “Lisson Grove.”

Ostend. Literally the east end of Flanders in Belgium.

Ostler. From the French hostelier, an innkeeper.

Oswestry. A corruption of Oswaldstry, the “place of Oswald,” where Oswald, King of Northumbria, was slain in 642. Evidence of this is afforded by the original name of Oswald’s Well, which yields a spring of pure water.

Ottawa. Expresses the Indian for “traders.”

Ottoman Empire. That of the Turks, founded by Othman I. at the commencement of the fourteenth century.

Ouida. The pseudonym of Louise de la Ramée. This was suggested to her at the very commencement of her literary career by the infantile perversion of Louise into “Ouida.”

260Ouse. From the Celtic uisg, water.

Out of Collar. Out of harness and the working habit. A horse has the collar slipped over its neck when put to work.

Out of Sorts. A technical phrase in the printing trade. “Sorts” are the different sizes and kinds of type used by a compositor. At times he runs short of “sorts,” so that the composition of the particular work in hand has to be suspended until the required sorts are obtained, either by distributing old matter put up in paper or sending to the typefounder’s for a new supply. Hence a person indisposed for work confesses to being “out of sorts.”

Ovidius Naso. See “Naso.”

Oxford. Cited in Domesday Book as Oxeneford. Literally a ford for the passage of oxen across the River Isis.

Oxford Blues. The Royal Horse Guards, from their dark blue uniforms and the circumstance that this regiment of horse was first raised by Aubrey, Earl of Oxford, soon after the Restoration.

Oxford Movement. The great Catholic revival in England, which, midway in the last century, resulted in the passing over of many of the most eminent Oxford scholars to the Church of Rome.

Oxford Street. After Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, landlord of the estate north of this principal thoroughfare.

Oyez, Oyez. The old French ceremonial exclamation (“Hear ye, hear ye!”) to enjoin silence. This obtained in our own country when French was the language of the Court. In modern times it has been corrupted by Court criers and town bellmen into “O yes, O yes.”

Oyster Part. In theatrical parlance a part which contains only one line or speech; like an oyster, the actor opens his mouth but once.



Pacha. See “Pasha.”

Pacific Ocean. So called by Magellan, who, after a tempestuous passage through the straits which bear his name, enjoyed a cruise of three months and twenty-one days across this ocean in continuous fine weather, and with the advantage of favourable winds.

Pack Horse. An inn sign denoting that the establishment provided accommodation for “Packmen,” and also that pack horses were let out on hire.

Packmen. The old name for commercial travellers, whose goods or samples were carried in packs or sacks fastened to the saddle of a pack horse.

Paddington. The ancient description of this parish was “Padynton,” the settlement of the Pædings. Another branch of the same family gave its name to “Padendene”--i.e. the wooded valley of the Pædings in Surrey.

Paddington Street. Originally a narrow lane leading northward on to the common known as Paddington Fields.

Paddle your own Canoe. Originally a Western phrase for self-reliance. A canoe is an Indian boat affording room for one person. If he cannot paddle it himself no one else is in a position to help him. The expression became extremely popular in England through a song of this title thirty years ago.

Paddy. The common name for an Irishman, being short for “Pat,” after St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Pagan. This term had at first not the slightest connection with religion. Derived from the Latin pagus, the country, a paganus denoted a peasant or villager. Removed from the refinement of the cities such a one had, of course, very little acquaintance with the complicated system of Roman mythology. On this account 262only could it be said that those who remained unconverted to Christianity were Pagans.

Page Green. See “Seven Sisters’ Road.”

Painted Hall. The picture gallery of Greenwich Hospital received this name on account of its superbly painted ceiling.

Painter. The rope by which the “Jolly Boat” or any other is attached to a vessel, so called from the Latin panther, through the French pantier, a drag net.

Paint the Town. An Americanism for a night’s drunken frolic; the allusion is to a drunkard’s red nose.

Palace Car. An Americanism for a “Pullman” or Saloon car.

Palaver. From the Portuguese palavra, “a talk.”

Pale Faces. The name popularly bestowed upon the whites by the North American Indians.

Palestine. From the Hebrew Palæstina, “the land of strangers.” This was the ancient Philistia, the country of the Philistines, a term derived like that of Palestine from the root phalash, to emigrate or wander.

Pall Mall. From a species of croquet, called Paille Maille, introduced by Charles II. after his involuntary exile in France, and played by him and his courtiers here when the thoroughfare was open to St James’s Park.

Palmer. The name bestowed upon a “Pilgrim” returning from the Holy Land who carried a palm branch, usually affixed to his head-gear, as a proof that he had actually accomplished his self-imposed task. On arriving at the place whence he had set out he repaired to the church or chapel, and offered the palm to the parish priest, who laid it on the altar on his behalf.

Palmetto City. Augusta, the capital of the Palmetto State.

Palmetto State. South Carolina, from the palmetto-tree in her arms. During the Civil War the soldiers of this state bore the name of “Palmetto Boys.”

263Palm it off. A phrase derived from the usual procedure of a conjurer, who is an adept at concealing in the palm of his hand that which he pretends to have “passed” elsewhere.

Palm Oil. A bribe placed in the hand of a servant makes him the more willing to throw open the apartment of the great man to whom one wishes to gain access.

Palm Sunday. From the palms distributed to the congregation by the Catholic Church in commemoration of Christ’s entry into the city of Jerusalem, when the populace strewed palm branches and leaves in His path.

Palmy Days of the Drama. The days of our greatest exponents of the Drama, so called because, had such celebrated histriones as Garrick, Mrs Siddons, the Keans, and the Kembles lived in the time of the Romans, they would have been awarded a palm branch in recognition of their genius.

Palsgrave Place. In honour of Frederick, King of Bohemia, Palsgrave of the Rhine, married to the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I.

Pam. The popular name of Lord Palmerston.

Pamphlet. After Pamphilia, a Greek lady who kept a commonplace book for the collection of anecdotes and literary memoranda.

Panama. Expresses the Carribean for “mud fish,” with which the shores of this isthmus abound.

Panama Hat. A corruption of “Palmata Hat,” from the primitive head covering in equatorial South America made out of the large leaf of the Cardulavia palmata tree.

Pancake Tuesday. From the pancakes eaten on this day. The custom arose in Catholic days with a view to using up the eggs and lard that were interdicted during Lent; also because pancakes were an excellent stay to the appetite while the faithful had to wait long hours in church to be shrived by the priest in the confessional.

264Pancras Road. From Old St Pancras parish church. New St Pancras church is situated in the Euston Road.

Panel Den. An Americanism for a brothel, in which the rooms are panelled off into small compartments.

Pan-Handle State. West Virginia, on account of its shape, rising up like a wedge between Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Panorama. Expresses the Greek for “a view of the whole,” as would be obtained from a monument or a natural eminence. This is the correct description of a picture exhibited in a circular building, where the spectators are placed in the centre; not at all of an old form of picture entertainment at one end of a hall, which approximates to a Diorama, because conformably to di, through, it is viewed through the darkness.

Pantaloon. One of the characters of the Italian comedy or “Pantomime,” so called because he was typical of the Venetians, wearing, like them, originally a close-fitting garment made all in one piece, known as a pantaleone. The Venetians were nicknamed Pantaleone (“all lion”) from their common patron, St Mark, whose symbol was a lion; hence the application of the term pantaloons to tight-fitting knickerbockers or trousers.

Pantaloonery. An Americanism for trouser material. See “Pantaloon.”

Pantechnicon. A Greek word compounded out of pan, all, and techne, art. The large vehicle of this name was first used exclusively for the conveyance of pictures and art treasures to exhibitions.

Pantheism. From the Greek pan, all, and theos, God; the religion which recognises the Spirit of God moving throughout all the processes, works, and glories of His creation. The single doctrine expressed by Pantheism is that “God is everything, and everything is God.”

Pantheon. The Roman temple erected in honour of the gods collectively, so called from the Greek pan, all, and theos, god.

265Pantomime. In the modern sense a pantomime is an entertainment in which current events or fashionable foibles are introduced by way of burlesque. Formerly it denoted a performance of Italian comedy in which the action took place in dumb show, so called from the Greek pantomimos, an imitator of all or everything. The Roman mimes or mimi were not theatrical performers, but mutes at funerals, whose function it was to imitate the characteristic actions of the deceased--e.g. the virtue of generosity.

Panton Street. After a noted gamester, Colonel Thomas Panton, whose daughter became connected by marriage with the family of the ground landlord, Lord Arundel of Wardour.

Pants. Short for “pantaloons,” an Americanism for trousers. See “Pantaloon.”

Panyer Alley. This was an alley behind an ancient church facing Cheapside, where the bakers stood with their bread paniers. The word “panier” is French for a bread basket.

Pan’s Pipes. The primitive reed instrument named after Pan, the god of shepherds.

Pansy. From the French “penseé,” which in the Language of Flowers means “thoughts.”

Papa. See “Pope.”

Papal Bull. So called on account of the bulla, a seal embellished with the symbol of St Peter.

Paper. From the Greek papyros, the Egyptian plant out of the reeds of which the earliest writing material was made.

Paper King. John Law, the projector of the Mississippi Scheme, whose prospectus promised fortunes that were never realised by the luckless speculators.

Papua. Expresses the Portuguese for “frizzled.” This name was bestowed upon the natives of New Guinea on account of their enormous heads of frizzled hair.

Parachute. From the Greek para, “beyond,” and the French chute, “a fall.”

266Paraquay. Expresses the Brazilian for the country of the Para, or “great river.”

Parasol. This term is now obsolete, having been superseded by “Sunshade.” Derived through the Italian parasole, from the Greek para, beyond, and sol, the sun, its meaning was synonymous with that of its modern substitute.

Parchment. From the Greek pergamenos, through the French parchemin, so called after Pergamos, the city of Asia Minor where, consequent upon Ptolemy’s prohibition of the exportation of the Egyptian papyrus, dried goatskins were first utilised for a writing material.

Paris. Called by the Romans Lutetia Parisiorum, a name signifying the collection of mud huts inhabited by the Parisii, a Gallic tribe conquered by them.

Paris Garden. A notorious bear-baiting establishment in South London for several centuries, so called after Robert de Paris in the reign of Richard I. The entrance thereto is fixed by what bears the name of Bear Garden at the corner of Sumner Street, Borough.

Park Lane. Originally a narrow lane skirting the east side of Hyde Park; it is now one of the most fashionable streets in the West End of London.

Park Street. Leads westward from Camden Town to Regent’s Park.

Parker Street. In honour of Archbishop Parker, who founded two fellowships and five scholarships at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in addition to presenting it with a valuable library of ancient manuscripts. This street was at one time called Bennet Street, after the original name of the college, from the adjacent church of St Benedict.

Parliament. From the French parlerment, founded on the Latin verb parler, to speak. See “Parlour.”

Parliamentarians. The forces under the Parliament of 267the Commonwealth under Cromwell during the Civil War with Charles I. and the Royalists.

Parliamentary Whip. One whose duty it is to hunt up Members of the House of Commons when questions of grave import are being put to the vote.

Parliament of Dunces. That convened at Coventry by Henry IV. in 1404 because it did not number among its members a single lawyer. Sir Edward Coke styled this the “Unlearned” and also the “Lawless Parliament.”

Parlour. Originally the apartment reserved for visitors where conversation could be indulged undisturbed. See “Parliament.”

Parnellites. The Home Rule party in Ireland during the lifetime of their political leader, Charles Stewart Parnell.

Parry Islands. Discovered by Rear-Admiral Sir William Parry in the course of his search for the North-West Passage.

Parsees. The modern designation of the Zoroastrians or Fire Worshippers in Persia and India. The Parsees were the original inhabitants of Persia, a wild Ayrian family called the Parsa, meaning “The Tigers.” By the Greeks the territory they overran was styled Perseus, on account of their chief stronghold, Persipolis, “the city of the Parsa,” the ruins of which may yet be seen. The modern Parsees are therefore descendants of those who refused to embrace Mohammedanism.

Parsons Green. Prior to the year 1740 the parsonage of Fulham Parish Church stood facing this green. On its roof was a cross which bore the name of “Parson’s Cross,” afterwards corrupted into “Percy Cross.”

Partridge Day. The first of September, when partridge shooting commences.

Pasha. A Western corruption of the Turkish “Pashaw,” from the Persian bâshâ, a governor or ruler of a province under the Shah or King.

268Passenger Pigeon. So called on account of its migratory habits. This species is found chiefly in America.

Passing Bell. That rung at the parish church to announce publicly that the soul of a parishioner has just passed away.

Passion Flower. The traditional reverence for this favourite flower is due to a fancied resemblance of its tints and various parts to the instruments of Christ’s Passion; also because it remains open for three days, corresponding to the period between the Last Supper and the Resurrection.

Passionists. A missionary Order founded by St Francis de Paulo, otherwise “St Paul of the Cross,” for the preaching of “Christ’s Passion and Him Crucified.”

Passion Play. An alfresco sacred drama based upon the incidents of Christ’s Passion and Death; that performed every tenth year at Oberammergau is world famous.

Passion Sunday. Although this should properly be the first day of what is called Passion Week, Palm Sunday is in a sense a feast day, in allusion to the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. The Sunday previous is therefore set apart for a general commemoration of the Passion--all crosses, statues, and paintings in the churches being draped in purple, with a view to concentrating the attention of the worshippers on the sufferings of the Redeemer.

Passion Week. The week in which Good Friday occurs, in commemoration of Christ’s Passion.

Passive Resister. One who in our own day passively resists the imposition of the Education Rate by allowing his goods to be seized or going to prison instead of resorting to active measures of violence.

Passover. The great Jewish festival commemorative of the Destroying Angel having passed over or spared the houses of the Israelites whose doorposts were sprinkled with the blood of the lamb slain overnight 269by Divine command. The Hebrew term for this festival is Pesach, whence “Pasch” has been derived.

Pastoral Letter. One addressed by a bishop to his flock. As his title implies, he is an overseer, and his crook is symbolical of a shepherd.

Pat. See “Paddy.”

Patagonia. This name, from the Spanish patagon, a large, clumsy foot, was given by Magellan to the country because, seeing the impressions of the great shoes worn by the natives, he imagined them to be giants.

Paternoster Row. Two reasons are assigned for this designation. The Row was the locale of the makers of “Pater Nosters,” or rosary beads, so called from the name of the first large bead, and the sellers of religious texts and prayer-books. Also because on great festival days the monks went in solemn procession to St Paul’s, the recital of the Pater Noster being commenced at the eastern corner of the lane, outside the churchyard, and concluded at the western extremity, where the Ave Maria was then taken up. See “Amen Corner.”

Pathfinder. The surname of General John Charles Fremont, the leader of four exploring expeditions across the Rocky Mountains.

Patricians. See “Plebeians.”

Paul’s Chain. This lane, on the south side of the Paul’s Churchyard, formerly had a chain drawn across it during divine service; hence its name.

Paul Veronese. The better-known name of the celebrated Italian painter Paulo Cagliari, who was born at Verona.

Pawn. In relation to the game of chess. The ordinary piece or “man” bears this name from the French peon, a walker or foot soldier, the superior pieces being kings, queens, knights, castles, and bishops. An article left in the charge of a pawnbroker is called a pawn, from the French pan, a pledge.

270Pawnbroker. See “Pawn” and “Broker.”

Peabody Buildings. After George Peabody, the American philanthropist, who left a huge fortune in trust for the building of “model dwellings” for the poorer classes. His statue, at the back of the Royal Exchange, was unveiled 23rd July 1869.

Peach. A schoolboy term for to inform against another. In allusion to the fruit of this name, it means to turn soft-hearted, and betray. In American the word is used to denote a pretty woman or anything soft and beautiful.

Peacock. An inn sign dating from the Crusades, when, the flesh of the peacock being deemed incorruptible, this bird was adopted by many a knight as a crest, typical of the Resurrection. “By the peacock” was a common oath in those days.

Pearl Bible. So called from the name of the printing type employed in its composition.

Peckham. A corruption of Beckham, a home or settlement among the becks or brooks.

Peckham Rye. In its application to common, the word “Rye” comes from the Anglo-Saxon ree, a watercourse.

Peculiar People. Originally those who believed that disease was the direct consequence of sin, and that by prayer alone could it be removed. See “Faith Healers.”

Pedlar. An itinerant trader, so called in conformity with the Latin pedes, the feet.

Pedro the Cruel. The surname of the King of Castile and Leon, who, midway in the fourteenth century, murdered his two brothers and poisoned his queen. How he meted out punishment to those outside his own family may be guessed.

Peeler. The old name for a policeman, after Sir Robert Peel, to whom the introduction of the modern system of Watch and Ward was due.

271Peep O’Day Boys. Irish insurrectionists who broke into the houses of the people at peep of day in search of arms. They were not averse to carrying off other plunder at the same time.

Peewit. This bird is so called from its characteristic notes.

Peg Away. Originally a camping phrase. When a tent is being put up it is necessary to secure its ropes to the ground on all sides before the work can be left, lest the whole structure, caught by the wind, should be blown down.

Pekin. Chinese for “northern capital.”

Pelican State. Louisiana, from the pelican in her arms.

Pembroke. Called by the Welsh “Penbroshire,” signifying the pen or head of the bro or country; literally the Land’s End.

Pembroke College. Founded at Cambridge in 1348 by the widow of Aylmar de Valence, Earl of Pembroke.

Peninsula State. Florida.

Penitentiary. The modern name for a “Magdalen Hospital,” designed as a home or refuge for fallen women who are penitent. This term was adopted also by the Quakers of Philadelphia in 1786 for a prison.

Penknife. A small pocket-knife intended primarily for cutting quill pens. Though quills are no longer in fashion, save among lawyers and bankers, and the penknife is serviceable only for trimming one’s finger nails, its original name survives.

Pennsylvania. From the Latin sylva, a wood; expresses the colony in the wood founded by William Penn.

Penny. From the Danish pennig and German pfennig, a copper coin of full value. This was originally nicked across to admit of being broken into halves and quarters.

Penny Blood. The modern substitute for the “Penny Dreadful.” The term “Blood” is short for a blood-curdling relation.

272Penny Gaff. The term applied to a low-class theatre, in allusion to the first Drury Lane Theatre, built on the site of a famous cockpit. Gaff was but another name for a cockpit, expressing as it did in various languages the iron hook, fork, or spur with which the cocks were goaded when they showed a reluctance to fight.

Penny Wedding. One to which all the villagers are invited, each contributing his or her quota to the expenses of the feast amounting to less than a shilling, while children uniformly bring a penny.

Pennyweight. Anciently, before standard weights came into use, the weight of a Norman silver penny.

Penrith. A corruption of “Perith,” from Perith Hill, at the foot of which the town is situated. The name is Celtic for “red hill,” in allusion to the red stone quarried on the spot.

Pensioner Parliament. That of Charles II., which, though it lasted sixteen years and a half, was more remarkable for the bestowal of pensions upon the adherents of the King than for the framing of new laws.

Pentateuch. A Greek word compounded out of penta, five, and teuchos, an implement, tool. This name was given to the first five books collectively of the Old Testament, its second portion being applicable in the sense of an instrument of direct communication between God and His people.

Pentecost. From the Greek pentekoste, the fiftieth day; relative to the gift of the Law to the Israelites fifty days after their deliverance out of the Land of Bondage. This great festival, corresponding to the Whitsuntide of the Christians, is celebrated by the Jews on the fiftieth day after the “Passover.”

Penton Street. See “Pentonville.”

Pentonville. Prior to 1773 the whole of this neighbourhood north of the New Road was open fields. It was then acquired for building purposes by Henry Penton, M.P., one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and received its 273name from “Penton Villa,” his residence, on the site of what is now Penton Street.

Penzance. Expresses the Celtic for “Saint’s Headland,” in allusion to St Michael’s Mount.

People’s Friend. The surname of Dr William Gordon of Hull, merited by his kindly disposition and unfailing generosity. When he died in 1849 the whole town followed his body to the grave, and the name by which he had always been known was subsequently chiselled on his tombstone.

Percy Cross. See “Parsons Green.”

Pere La Chaise. This, the principal cemetery of Paris, originally constituted the land attached to a beautiful mansion built by a grocer named Regnault. After his death the property passed into the hands of a lady, who made it over to the Jesuits of the Rue St Antoine. Thenceforth the Maison Regnault became the recognised seat of the Jesuits. In 1705 Pere La Chaise, the confessor of Louis XIV., was made Superior to the Order, and by the King’s desire the house received his name. The eventual suppression of the Order caused the property to be sold and the land converted into a cemetery.

Perfectionists. An American sect of religionists who, relying on the gift of the Spirit, dispense with civil laws so far as their own community is concerned.

Peripatetics. The school of philosophy founded by Aristotle, who taught his disciples in the colonnade or covered walk (styled the peripatos, from peripatem, to walk) in the garden of Lyceus at Athens.

Pernambuco. Expresses the Spanish for “the mouth of hell,” so called on account of the violent surf, which is such an impediment to the safe navigation of the mouth of its chief river, the San Francisco.

Persia. The country of the Parsa. See “Parsees.”

Peru. From its principal waterway, the Rio Paro, on the banks of which the ancient city of Paruru is situated. 274All these names are modifications of the native Para, water or river.

Perugino. See “Il Perugino.”

Peter. A word employed in America for running up the prices at an auction. It is derived from the Dutch pethur, to run, to hurry. The common name for a confederate of the auctioneer at a mock auction is a “Peter Funk,” that of the fictitious person to whom the goods are knocked down.

Peter Boat. One built alike at both ends, so that it can be run out quickly. See “Peter.”

Peterborough. From the great Benedictine monastery built and dedicated to St Peter by Oswy, King of Northumbria, in the seventh century.

Peterhouse College. Founded at Cambridge in connection with a hospital dedicated to St Peter by Hugh de Balsham in 1280.

Peterloo Massacre. The name given to the dispersal of Lancashire operatives assembled to discuss Parliamentary reform in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, by an armed force, 10th July 1819. In this melee many were wounded and several killed. The term was a fanciful one, suggested by the battle of Waterloo of five years previous to this event.

Peter’s Pence. An annual contribution throughout the Roman Catholic world for the upkeep of the vast establishment of the Vatican and the Papal Court. Since the loss of the Papal States in Italy this constitutes the sole revenue of the Pope. Anciently it was a tax of a silver penny in respect of every member of a household.

Petrel. See “Stormy Petrel.”

Petticoat. A smaller or shorter coat, which was the ancient description of a woman’s outer garment; derived from the Norman cotte.

Petticoat Lane. Another name for “Rag Fair,” the old 275clothes mart of the Jews in the East End. Its modern name is Middlesex Street.

Petty. Provincial for an out-house, because its accommodation is restricted to one person; also called a “Privy,” short for private.

Petty Sessions. A criminal court for the disposal of petty or lesser felonies, as distinguished from the usual “Quarter Sessions,” where all graver charges, short of those meriting capital punishment, are dealt with.

Phaeton. A name derived from the Phaeton of ancient mythology, who, having received permission to drive the sun car of Helios, his father, for a day, had the ill fortune to cause it to be overturned, and thereby almost set the world on fire.

Pharmacist. An Americanism for a chemist; derived, of course, from “Pharmaceutist,” one who keeps a pharmacy or drug store.

Pharisees. Those of the Jews who affected a greater degree of holiness than their neighbours, and were consequently regarded as a separate people. The word is from the Hebrew pharash, “separated.”

Philadelphia. Expresses the Greek for “city of brotherly love.” This name was happily chosen by William Penn for the capital of his Quaker colony in the New World.

Philippe Egalité. See “Egalité.”

Philippi. A ruined city of Macedonia, named after Philip II. of Macedon, who conquered it. It was to the Philippians, the people of this city, that St Paul addressed one of his Epistles.

Philippic. A powerful invective or denunciation. So called from a famous oration of Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon with a view of arousing the Athenians to repel his ambitious designs.

Philippine Islands. Discovered by Magellan in 1521, he named them in honour of Philip II. of Spain.

Philistines. The inhabitants of ancient Philistia, or 276“Palestine.” Because these were continually at war with the Jews, the term has been applied by university students to the citizens generally, and to the preservers of law and order more particularly. “A battle with the Philistines” is but another name for “a town row.” By the people of Norfolk too, policemen and bailiffs, likewise earwigs and such tiny tormentors, are called Philistines.

Philistinism. The name given to that cynicism which sneers at religion. This arose out of the scorn with which the Philistines of Palestine regarded the rites and ceremonies of the Israelites.

Phiz. Slang for the face; derived from “Physiogomy.”

Phœnicia. Called by the Greeks Phoinike, from phoinos, purple, which colour was discovered by the Tyrians and manufactured by them for the supply of all the then known Eastern nations.

Photograph. From the two Greek words photos, light, and graphein, to write. Accordingly a picture obtained by the action of light and transferred to paper chemically prepared.

Phyrric Dance. The famous war dance of the ancient Greeks, so called after Phyrrichos, a flautist of great skill and renown.

Pianoforte. A modern development of the old harpsichord and clavichord, so called because it was the first musical instrument which, by means of pedals, admitted the alternations of piano, soft, and forte, loud.

Piccadilly. After “Piccadilla Hall,” a once famous mart for the sale of “piccadilly lace,” having pica, or spearlike points. Of this pica, the word piccadilly expressed the diminutive. So fashionable was this lace during the time of Elizabeth that when in the succeeding reign of James I. the high ruff came into vogue, it bore the name of a piccadilly, though shorn of its lace edging. “Piccadilla Hall” must have stood somewhere 277about the modern circus of the same name, since there were no houses further afield.

Pickaninny. From the Spanish pegueno nino, a little child.

Pick-me-up. A stimulating beverage or a medicinal tonic as a remedy for languor or lowness of spirits.

Pick up. An Americanism for a cold dinner composed of the fragments of the previous day’s joint. Sometimes such a one is called a “Pick-up Dinner.”

Picts. The Lowlanders of Scotland, called by the Romans picti, or painted men, because, they stained their skins with woad.

Pie Corner. It has been considered curious that the Great Fire of London should have broken out in “Pudding Lane” and ended at Pie Corner. Scarcely less curious was it that this Pie Corner was an eating-house. Its sign was “The Pie,” a corruption of “Magpie.”

Piedmont. Expresses the French for “mountain foot.”

Pierrot. French for “Little Peter.”

Pig and Whistle. A tavern sign corrupted from “Piggen Wassail.” Piggen expressed the Anglo-Saxon for a milking pail, of which pig was the diminutive. When a large party frequented the alehouse the liquor was set before them in a piggen, each helping himself from it with his pig, or mug. “Wassail” was, of course, the Anglo-Saxon Was hæl (“Be in health”). See “Hail.”

Pigeon English. That employed by the Chinese in their commercial relations with Europeans. The word pigeon is a native corruption of “business,” which it seems impossible for a Chinaman to pronounce correctly. Their business English is therefore a jargon of many languages heard by him in the “Open Ports.”

Pig in a Poke. See “Buy a Pig in a Poke” and “Let the Cat out of the Bag.”

Piggott Diamond. One of the smaller diamonds of 278celebrity, weighing 82¼ carats. This was brought to England from India by Lord Piggott in 1818, when it passed into the hands of Messrs Rundell & Bridge.

Pigtails. The European nickname for the Chinese on account of their shaven heads and braided pigtails.

Pikes. The name given in California to the poor southern whites, most of whom came from Pike County, Missouri. See “Pukes.”

Pilgrim. From the Italian pellegrino, “a visitor to foreign lands.” Since the days of Peter the Hermit and the Crusades this term has been confined to one who travels on foot to worship at a holy shrine, whether he be a Christian, Mohammedan, or Buddhist. See “Palmer.”

Pillow Lace. So called because produced by twisted threads around rows of pins arranged on a cushion or pillow.

Pilot Jack. The name given to the “Union Jack” when flown from the mast-head in the merchant service as a signal for a pilot.

Pimlico. This was originally a district of tea gardens for holiday folk, with a specialité for nut-brown ales. It received its name from Ben Pimlico, the owner of a noted resort in Hoxton on the site of what is now the Britannia Theatre. The nut-brown ale was first popularised by this worthy, who could not have regarded the application of his name to ales purveyed elsewhere with much favour. From “Pimlico Ales,” the neighbourhood itself soon came to be known as Pimlico.

Pimlico Walk. It is hard to believe that this was once a regular holiday promenade for the citizens of London. On Sundays and on week-day evenings it was thronged, skirting as it did the famous tea gardens of Ben Pimlico, in whose retired arbours courting couples softly murmured “sweet nothings.” This resort was to Londoners of a bygone day what Rosherville is in our 279own time. From a tea garden it developed into what was styled a “saloon,” and eventually into a regular theatre.

Pinafore. Literally an apron pinned on the bosom and at the hips of the wearer. The modern example of a pinafore with armholes is pinned or buttoned behind.

Pinchbeck. A mixture of copper, zinc, and tin, out of which metal watch cases and cheap jewellery were formerly made. So called after its inventor, Christopher Pinchbeck of Fleet Street.

Pindaric Verse. A style of verse, irregular in regard to metre, imitative of the Odes of Pindar, the Roman poet.

Pine-tree State. Maine, from the pine-tree distinguished in her arms, symbolical of her glorious forests.

Pin Money. The allowance made by a husband to his wife in order to purchase pins for the current year. Such articles were at one time neither abundant nor cheap.

Pin your Faith on it. An expression derived from the days of feudalism, when all the dependents of a baron or feudal lord displayed his badge pinned on the sleeve. Sometimes while on a predatory expedition of their own these vassals exchanged the badge for another to prevent recognition. This gave rise to the saying: “You may wear the badge, but I cannot pin my faith on your sleeve. I require some further evidence whence you came.”

Pipeclay. The fine white clay out of which clay pipes are made.

Pistol. From Pistoja in Italy, where this kind of small firearm was first introduced in 1545.

Pit. The floor of a theatre bears this name because the original Drury Lane Theatre was built by Killigrew on the site of the famous cockpit in Drury Lane.

Pitcairn Island. Discovered by Captain Cartaret in 1767, and named by him after one of his officers.

280Pitchfork. A fork for pitching hay; also one for determining the correct pitch of a musical note.

Pitt Diamond. After Thomas Pitt, grandfather of the first Lord Chatham, who, while Governor of Fort St George in India, purchased it for £24,000. On coming to England he sold this gem, weighing 136¾ carats in its cut state, to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, for £130,000, on which account it bears the name also of the “Regent Diamond.” It decorated the sword hilt of Napoleon I., and after the battle of Waterloo passed into the hands of the Prussians.

Pittsburg. This city was built on the site of the French Fort Duquesne. When, after a sanguinary engagement, it was taken from the allied French and Indians in 1758 by General Forbes, he gave it the name of Fort Pitt, after the English statesman, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.

Pius X. The Vatican Journal Voce Della Verita recently gave an authorised explanation as to why the present Pope chose to be styled “Pius the Tenth.” It said: “The Holy Father preferred a name that would emphasise the undying struggle of the Holy See against the Revolution. From the very beginning Pius has been the name of predilection assumed by our most illustrious Pontiffs. His present Holiness, whose Pontificate opens under a hostile Government, and at a time when both Pope and State are the victims of imperious revolution, was determined to adopt the title of ‘Pius the Tenth.’”

Plain. The name given to the Girondist party on the floor of the French House of Assembly during the Revolution, as opposed to the “Mountain” party.

Plantagenet. The family name of the House of Anjou, which succeeded to the throne of England at the extinction of the Norman dynasty. It was assumed by Fulke Martel, the first of this line, as a perpetual reminder of the incident of having allowed himself to be scourged by two attendants with branches of the genista, or broom plant, while on a pilgrimage to the 281Holy Sepulchre, as an atonement for his murder of the Earl of Brittany.

Platonic Affection. The kind of mutual esteem between persons of opposite sexes free from carnal desires or love in an earthly sense, as advocated by Plato and his school of philosophers.

Platonists. The disciples of Plato. See “Academy.”

Play Fast and Loose. An expression derived from a very old cheating game called “Pricking the Belt,” which in the modified form of “Prick the Garter,” may yet be met with at fairs and race meetings. The victim was invited to stick a skewer through a folded belt so as to pin it to the table; whereupon the other, taking the two ends, proved that the belt had not been made fast at all; hence to “play fast and loose with a man.”

Playhouse Yard. Marks the site of the “Fortune Theatre,” the second regular playhouse opened in the city of London.

Please the Pigs. A corruption of “Please the Pixies,” or woodland fairies, still common in many rural districts.

Plebeians. The ordinary citizens among the Romans, so called from plebs, the people, as distinguished from the “Patricians,” or fathers of the State.

Plough Monday. The first Monday after the Epiphany, when, the Christmas festivities having come to an end, farm labourers were supposed to return to the plough. Instead of which they dragged a plough round the parish, begging for “plough money” from door to door, and spent the evening at the alehouse.

Plume and Feathers. An inn sign, corrupted from “The Plume of Feathers,” in allusion to the plume of ostrich feathers adopted as his crest by Edward the Black Prince. See “Ich Dien.”

Plunger. A gambler who plunges into bets without considering the risks he incurs. Recklessness is his characteristic. To retrieve his losses he plays for 282high stakes, which make or break him in a very short time.

Plymouth. The seaport town at the mouth of the Plym.

Plymouth Brethren. A sect which sprang into existence at Plymouth in 1830. It has extended far and wide, both on the Continent of Europe and in America. Its chief tenet is the utter rejection of priestly or ministerial organisation.

Pocket Borough. An old Parliamentary term for a borough in which the votes at an election could generally be commanded by one influential person.

Poet Laureate. The officially appointed poet of any nation, so called from the Roman custom of crowning a favourite poet with laurel, symbolical of Apollo, the god of poetry.

Pogrom. Expresses the Slavonic for “devastation” or “desolation.” The word is allied to grom, thunder, thunder clash, and gromit, to thunder, batter down, as with a thunderbolt; utterly overthrow, destroy without mercy.

Pointer. This dog is so called on account of its remarkable instinct for pointing out or indicating to sportsmen the presence of game.

Point Lace. So called because it is worked with the point of a needle.

Poke Bonnet. One which poked out beyond the face on all sides. See “Kiss-me-Quick.”

Poland. From the Slavonic poln, “a country of plains.” Its original settlers were a tribe called the Polnali, “men of the plains.” When this country was an independent kingdom it bore the name of “Polska,” and its people “Polacks.” Shakespeare mentions “the sledded Polacks on the ice” in Hamlet Act i. sc. i.

Poland Street. From the Polish refugees who congregated in it soon after this street was built.

283Police. The appropriate designation of civil guardians of the peace, from the Greek polis, city.

Polka. Originally a Bohemian dance, so called from the native word pulka, a half, on account of the half step peculiar to it.

Polynesia. Greek for “many islands.”

Polytechnic. An institute or academy of the Arts, so called from the Greek polys, many, and techne, art.

Pompeii. So called by the Romans in honour of Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey the Great.

Pomeranian. A valuable breed of dog from Pomerania in Prussia.

Pomeroy. From pomme roi; expresses the French for “King’s Apple.”

Pommery. After Madame Pommery, mother of the Duchess de Polignac, and owner of the estate near Rheims where this fine brand of champagne is produced.

Pompadour. Both the puce colour and the dress material of this name were first popularised by Madame le Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV.

Pompadours. The nickname of the 56th Foot on account of their claret or Pompadour facings.

Pontac. From the town of the same name in the south of France.

Pontefract. Literally “broken bridge.” The popular corruption of this name is “Pomfret.”

Pontiff. The Pope of Rome bears this name conformably to the Latin pons, bridge, and facere, to make, because the earliest bridge over the Tiber was constructed at the sole cost of the High Priest of the Romans.

Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard. The first regiment of Foot, the oldest in the service.

Poole. From the pool or inlet of the sea on which this Dorsetshire port is situated.

284Pope. From the Greek papas, and Latin papa, father.

Poplar. From the poplar-trees formerly abounding in this district.

Poppin’s Court. A corruption of “Poppingay Court”; originally, in the reign of Elizabeth, “Poppingay Alley,” so called because it marked the site of an ancient inn or mansion owned by the Abbots of Cirencester, and displaying the sign of “the Poppinjaye” or parrot.

Pop the Question. A corruption of “Propose the question of marriage.”

Porkopolis. The nickname of Chicago and Cincinnati, both world-renowned cities in relation to the pork-packing industry.

Port. The native wine of Portugal, shipped from Oporto.

Porte. The official designation of the Government of Turkey, because anciently justice was administered at the porta, or gate, of the Sultan’s palace.

Porter. Another name for “Entire,” which was first retailed at “The Blue Last” in Curtain Road, Finsbury. Finding that it was in great request by the porters who frequented that house of call, the publican dropped the name of “Entire” and called it “Porter.”

Portland Place. After William Bentinck, second Duke of Portland, the owner of the estate.

Portman Square. After Edward Berkeley Portman, Viscount Portman of Bryanstone, Dorsetshire, the great ground landlord.

Portmanteau. From the French porter, to carry, and manteau, a cloak; literally a receptacle for a cloak on a journey.

Porto Rico. Express the Spanish for “rich port.”

Portsmouth. The seaport town built at the mouth of the harbour.

Portsoken Ward. One of the wards of the city of London, 285so called because anciently the thirteen knights styled the “English Knighten Guild,” claimed the soken, or franchise, at the porta, or gate, to their ward in return for services rendered to King Edgar by their ancestors.

Portugal. From the ancient name of the capital city, Portus Cale, “the gate of Gaul.”

Portugal Street. In compliment to Catherine of Braganza, queen of Charles II.

Portuguese Hymn. The “Adesta Fidelis,” so called from the erroneous assumption of the Duke of Leeds that it was part of the regular service in Catholic Portugal, since he first heard it sung in the private chapel of the Portuguese Ambassador in London.

Portway. The name given to that portion of a great Roman highway in this country wherever it was crossed by an arch or within sight of a walled city; from porta, gate.

Poser. A corruption of “Opposer”; derived from collegiate argumentative examinations.

Poses Plastiques. French for “statuesque attitudes.”

Poster. So called because auction, play, and other public announcements were first exhibited on the posts separating the roadway from the side walk. Being stuck on these posts, the bills were said to be “posted.”

Post Paper. So called from the original watermark, a post horn, which it bore.

Pot Boilers. Specifically pictures painted by a poor artist for ready sale to a dealer in order to “Keep the pot boiling.” The term is also employed by authors and journalists in the same sense.

Pothooks. The nickname of the 77th Foot, owing to the fancied resemblance of these two figures to pothooks.

Pot Luck. Anything ready at hand for a meal. The allusion is to the primitive stock pot, into which meat and vegetables were thrown at any time for boiling up as required.

286Potomac. Indian for “place of the burning pine.”

Poultry. Where the scorchers and stuffers of poultry in connection with the old Stocks Market on the site of the Mansion House had their shops.

Pouter Pigeon. So called on account of its pouting or bulging breast.

Powis Place. Marks the site of the town house of William Herbert, Marquis of Powis, temp. Charles I.

Prairie State. Illinois, which for the most part consists of prairie lands.

Praise-God Barebone. A fanatical leader of the time of the Commonwealth, and a prominent member of the “Barebone Parliament,” who was addicted to praising God and damning his neighbours. This kind of hypocrisy was characteristic of the Puritans.

Pratt Street. After one of the family names of the Earl of Brecknock, Marquis of Camden, landlord of the estate.

Presbyterians. From the Greek presbuteros, an elder. The National Church of Scotland is governed not by prelates, as in England, but by elders, equal in office and power.

Press Yard. The open courtyard between the Sessions House and Newgate Prison. Those who refused to plead when put upon their trial were pressed to death with heavy weights.

Preston. A corruption of “Priests’ Town,” so called on account of its many ancient monastic establishments.

Pretoria. In honour of Pretorius, the first President of the Boer Republic in South Africa.

Pretty Kettle of Fish. Save that the second word should be “Kiddle,” expressive of a basket placed in a river for catching fish, this expression is very old. During the time of the Plantagenets the warder of the Tower claimed the right of trapping fish outside Traitors’ Gate in this way for his own benefit; but the citizens of London systematically made a raid upon his kiddles, 287and destroyed them. “A pretty kiddle of fish indeed!” he was wont to exclaim to the Beefeaters on discovering the damage done to his preserves.

Primitive Methodists. The original Methodists, those who resort to open-air preaching and singing, after the style of Wesley and Whitfield. On account of their “Camp Meetings” they are styled also Ranters.

Primrose. So far from expressing the first or spring rose, the term is a corruption of the Italian primerola, the first spring flower.

Primrose Day. The 19th of April bears this name because it is the anniversary of the death of Lord Beaconsfield, 1881. When the body of this great statesman was laid to rest his coffin was adorned by a wreath sent by Queen Victoria, and superscribed “His favourite flower.” This gave rise to the formation of the Primrose League and the annual decoration of the Beaconsfield Statue at Westminster with a wreath of primroses on this day.

Prince of Wales’s Feathers. See “Plume and Feathers.”

Prince of Wales Island. Named in compliment to the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV.

Princes Street. Laid out on the site of the old Westminster Mews, and so named on account of its proximity to King Street.

Printer’s Devil. When Caxton introduced printing into England many people regarded it as an invention of the devil. This idea was also fostered by his boys, whose hands and faces were besmeared with ink. They were accordingly called “Imps” and “Devils.” Since his day the boys engaged in feeding the printing press have not improved in their personal appearance. Young devils they are, and young devils they will remain until the end of time.

Printing House Square. This, the courtyard of The Times office, was formerly covered by the King’s Printing House, where King James’s Bible was printed, and which for centuries had the monopoly of turning out Bibles for the people.

288Priory. This term denoted a lesser house or branch establishment of an abbey, under the control of a Prior or Prioress, who had the prior claim to election as Abbot or Abbess of the mother community.

Private Boxes. The idea of these adjuncts to a theatre auditorium was derived from Spain, where plays were formerly performed in a public square, the ordinary spectators being accommodated on the ground, while the grandees looked on from the windows of the houses.

Privy. See “Petty.”

Pro-Cathedral. The beautiful Catholic Church in High Street, Kensington, erected as a provisional cathedral at the time when the present Westminster Cathedral was first mooted.

Profile. The outline of a side view, so called from the Italian profilo, and Latin filum, a thread.

Protectionist. One who advocates the protection of home industries by levying imposts on foreign merchandise.

Protestants. Those who, with the Lutherans of Germany, protested against the decree of the Emperor Charles V. This decree was ostensibly to invoke the aid of the German princes against the Turks, but really to restore peace and order after the disturbances caused by Martin Luther’s opposition to the Church of Rome. From this protest the Reformers received the name of “Protestants.”

Prussia. A Western corruption of Porussia, which expresses the Slavonic for “near Russia.”

Prussian Blue. After its inventor, Diesbach of Berlin, in 1710.

Prussic Acid. Originally the acid of “Prussian Blue,” but nowadays obtained from cyanide of iron.

Pye Street (Old and New). See “New Way.”

Pymmes Park. This new suburban “lung” at Edmonton comprised the grounds in connection with the lordly 289mansion built by William Pymme, which was mentioned in 1593 as the residence of the great Lord Burleigh, and in 1612 as that of Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury.

Pythagoreans. The school of philosophy founded by Pythagoras.

Public-house. A house of public resort for refreshment and conviviality. It may be either an inn or a tavern in the modern sense.

Pudding. From Stow’s description of “Pudding Lane” it would seem that the puddings of his day were scarcely edible productions. The word is derived from the Celtic poten, a bag, and was applied originally in the sense of a modern hog’s pudding or black pudding--to wit, a sausage.

Pudding Lane. Whether or not the Great Fire of London broke out in the house of the King’s baker, as generally stated, the lane did not receive its name from the royal bakery. Old Stow tells us it was so called “because the butchers of Eastcheap have their scalding-house for hogs there, and their puddings with other filth of beasts are voided down that way to their dung boats on the Thames.”

Pudding-time. The old name for “dinner-time,” because, as still is the custom in some parts of the country, the pudding was served before the meat.

Pueblo Indian. One who in the western states has been brought under Catholic influences, and lives in a village, where he subsists by agriculture. The word Pueblo is Spanish for village.

Pukes. A corruption of Pikes, generally applied to the natives of Missouri, who originally settled in Pike County of that state.

Pullman Car. After its inventor, Pullman of Chicago.

Pull up Stakes. An Americanism for to pack up one’s belongings and remove elsewhere. The expression has, of course, reference to dismantling a tent among a mining community.

290Pumps. Dancing shoes bear this name in allusion to the fashionable assemblies in the pump-room at the Western Spas when Beau Nash, styled “King of Bath,” presided over the ceremonies.

Punch. From the Hindoo panch, five, this beverage being composed of five ingredients: spirit, sugar, lemon juice, spice, and water.

Punch and Judy. A hybrid form of entertainment evolved out of an old mystery play, Pontius cum Judæis (“Pontius Pilate and the Jews”).

Punic Wars. Those waged between Rome and Carthage. By the Romans the Carthaginians were called the Puni, a corruption of Phœni, in allusion to their descent from the Phœnicians.

Punitive Expedition. A petty war with the set purpose of inflicting a well-merited punishment upon a rebellious tribe. The word “punitive” is derived from the Latin pœna, penalty.

Punjab. Expresses the Persian for “five rivers.”

Punkah. From the Hindoo pankha, a fan.

Puritans. Those who affected a greater degree of holiness or purity than their neighbours. They were to the Anglicans and Roman Catholics of the time of Charles I. and the Commonwealth what the Pharisees were to the Jews.

Purple. This dye, in which the people of Tyre excelled, was discovered in the following manner:--One day a favourite dog of Hercules of Tyre ate a species of fish known to the ancients by the name of purpura, and on returning to his master his lips were found to be tinged with the colour, which, after a few experiments, Hercules successfully imitated.

Purse Strings. In the days of our grandfathers, when hasp and clasp purses were unknown, the only kind of purse was a small money bag secured round its mouth by a tape or string. To “tighten one’s purse strings” was 291therefore to be proof against almsgiving or money-lending.

Putney. Described in ancient documents as Puttaney, or “Putta’s Isle.”


Quack. The name borne by an itinerant trader, who makes a great noise in open market, quacking like a duck in his efforts to dispose of wares that are not genuine; hence anyone nowadays who follows a profession which he does not rightly understand. A “Quack Doctor” was formerly styled a Quack Salver, from the salves, lotions, and medicines he dispensed to the crowd at the street corners.

Quadragesima Sunday. The first Sunday of Lent, expressing in round numbers forty days before Easter.

Quadrant. The Piccadilly end of Regent Street, so called because it describes a quarter of a circle.

Quadrille. Expresses the French for “a little square,” in allusion to the positions taken up by the dancers.

Quadroon. A Mulatto being half-blooded, like a mule, the offspring of such a woman by a white man is black-blooded to the degree of one-fourth.

Quaker City. Philadelphia, the seat of the Quaker colony founded by William Penn.

Quaker Poet. The sobriquet of Bernard Barton.

Quakers. The origin of this designation of the “Society of Friends” is thus given by George Fox, the founder of the sect in his Journal: “Justice Bennet of Derby was the first to call us ‘Quakers,’ because I bade him quake and tremble at the word of the Lord.” This occurred in 1650.

Quarantine. Agreeably to the French quarantaine, the period of a ship’s detention outside a port in the circumstances of infectious disease should be forty days.

292Quarter Sessions. See “Petty Sessions.”

Quarto. In the printing and stationery trades this term expresses a sheet of paper which, when folded into quarters, makes four leaves or eight pages.

Quassia. A tonic obtained from the bark of a tree of South America, the virtues of which were discovered by a Negro of this name.

Quatemala. When the Indians who accompanied Alvarado into this region discovered the ruins of an ancient palace of the kings beside an old worm-eaten tree they assumed this to be the centre of the country, and gave it the name of Quahtemali, “a decayed log of wood.”

Quebec. Indian for “take care of the rock.”

Queen Anne’s Bounty. A perpetual fund raised by the augmentation of the tithes and first-fruits at the instance of Queen Anne for the benefit of the poor clergy whose incomes are insufficient for their proper maintenance.

Queen Anne’s Square. Like the gate and the street further west of the same name, this was built during the reign of Queen Anne.

Queen Charlotte Island. In honour of Queen Charlotte, the consort of George III.

Queen City of the Lakes. Buffalo, in the state of New York, situated at the junction of the Erie Canal with Lake Erie.

Queen City of the Mountains. Knoxville (Tennessee), admirably situated on the hills overlooking the Upper Tennessee River.

Queen City of the Plains. Regina, in the north-western territory.

Queen City of the West. Cincinnati (Ohio), so called in virtue of its fine situation, beautiful parks, and noble architectural features. Also styled “The Queen City” and “Queen of the West.”

293Queen Elizabeth’s Walk. In compliment to Queen Elizabeth, who often visited the Earl of Leicester when he resided in this portion of Stoke Newington.

Queenhithe. So called because the tolls collected at this hithe, or wharf, were appropriated by Eleanor, Queen of Henry II., for her pin money.

Queen of Hearts. Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, the daughter of James I., who by her amiable disposition endeared herself to all hearts.

Queen of Watering-places. Scarborough.

Queen’s College. At Oxford, founded by Robert de Eglesfield, the confessor of Philippa, queen of Edward III., in her honour. At Cambridge, founded by Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI.

Queen’s Hall. Built on the site of the Langham Hall, and opened in 1893, this high-class concert hall was named after the late Queen Victoria.

Queen’s Head Street. From the ancient inn, “The Queen’s Head,” now modernised, at its juncture with Essex Road. Queen Elizabeth is said to have slept at this hostelry on several occasions.

Queensland. This portion of Australia received its name in honour of Queen Victoria, when in 1859 it became an independent colony.

Queen’s Square. After Queen Anne, in whose reign it was laid out.

Queen Street. In Cheapside, from a permanent wooden balcony situated between Bow Church and this corner for the accommodation of the reigning queen and her ladies when jousts and tournaments were held here. In Mayfair, after the queen of Charles II., in whose reign it was built.

Queen’s Tobacco Pipe. The name given to the furnace at the London Docks where contraband tobacco was formerly consumed. This custom obtained down to within the last few years of the reign of Queen Victoria.

294Queenstown. Originally styled “The Cove of Cork,” this Irish seaport received its present name on the occasion of the visit of Queen Victoria in 1850.

Queen’s Weather. Throughout the long reign of the late Queen Victoria it was remarkable that, whenever she appeared abroad on the occasion of a public function, glorious weather favoured her invariably; hence the expression “Queen’s Weather” came to be applied to a fine day for a summer outing.

Queen Victoria Street. A modern thoroughfare, named after the late Queen Victoria.

Queue. Expresses the French for a tail, like that of a periwig or peruke. In the sense of a line of people waiting outside the doors of a theatre the term has latterly become popular on both sides of the English Channel.

Quick Lunch. An American stand-up luncheon served with expedition.

Quicksilver. Living or moving silver. Quick is old English for “living”; hence “The Quick and the Dead.”

Quidnunc. One who is always inquiring after news. “What news?” is the literal interpretation of the term. As a personal designation, it originated in the name of the chief character in Murphy’s farce, “The Upholsterer, or What News?” A kind of political Paul Pry.

Quid of Tobacco. A corruption of “Cud,” because it is used for chewing. The allusion is to the cud chewed by ruminating animals.

Quids. The slang term for cash, properly restricted to gold. A sovereign is called a “Quid” in allusion to the Latin phrase, Quid pro quo, something of equal value, which change for a sovereign truly is.

Quill-driver. The popular designation of a clerk. Quill pens having been supplanted by those of steel, it is scarcely appropriate in our time.

295Quinquagesima Sunday. The name given in the Church calendar to the Sunday preceding Ash Wednesday or the commencement of Lent; approximately fifty days before Easter.

Quit Rent. A rental anciently paid by a tenant to a baron with a view of being relieved or quit of feudal service.

Quod. The slang term for prison; also “Quad.” See “In Quad.”


Rabbi. The title of a Jewish expounder of the Law. The word is Greek for “My Master,” through the Hebrew rabi, from the root rab, lord, chief.

Rack. From the Saxon wrocan and German recken, to stretch. The word is therefore correctly applied to the instrument of torture of former days.

Rack Rent. A term expressing the actual full annual value of land as paid from the earliest times, not modified by circumstances. See “Rack.”

Radcliffe Library. Founded at Oxford by the celebrated physician, Dr John Radcliffe, in Radcliffe Square, also named after him.

Radicals. That advanced section of the Liberal party, whose set purpose it is to root out the evils, according to their view, of our constitutional system which are systematically maintained by the Conservatives. The term first came into notice in 1818, when a strenuous effort was made to institute a radical change in the Parliamentary representation of the country. This paved the way for the Reform Act of 1832.

Radnor. The modern form of Rhiadnwr-Gwy, signifying “The Cataract of the Wye.” This is in reference to the beautiful cascade, with a fall of seventy feet, called “The Water-break-its-Neck,” the great natural feature in the vicinity of the county town.

296Rag. Theatrical slang for the curtain, having originally reference to the green baize. Also military slang for the national flag, and the members’ colloquial term for the Army and Navy Club.

Rag Fair. The name given to the old clothes mart in Petticoat Lane, now Middlesex Street, Aldgate, on Sunday mornings.

Ragged Regiment. Dilapidated waxen effigies of several English monarchs and persons of note that were borne through the streets at the obsequies of the subjects represented. They are located in Islip’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

Ragging. In military parlance this word expresses the system of persecution by which an unpopular man suffers indignities at the hands of his comrades. It has the same meaning as the North Country “Rag,” to enrage or make angry, and “Bullyrag,” to administer a severe scolding. The latter, however, of which the former is an abbreviation, has not been derived from the Dutch bulderen, to scold or bully, as is generally supposed, but from the custom of the Spanish bullfighters of waving a red cloak in front of the bull in order to excite him to fury. This is the rag referred to. The corresponding United States term for “ragging” is “Hazing.”

Rag Money. American slang for paper money.

Rag Time. An Americanism for a dancing frolic of the “go-as-you-please” order, in which musical time and rhythm are, as it were, torn into shreds; a ragged, loose, disconnected, unconventional time. The term has been well explained by an authoritative writer in The Referee as follows:--“Rag time is the outcome of ‘Rag Speech,’ a speech that casts tradition, balance, beauty, elegance, and refinement to the winds, and that believes that more effect can be made by punching certain syllables into the brain of the listener. Technically speaking, ‘Rag Time’ shifts the strong accent from the first to the second beat of the bar. Against this there is a cross-rhythm with a kind of 297halting contrapuntal ornamentation in the accompaniment, which sometimes brings a stress on to the fourth beat of the bar. The result of this irregularity and false quantity is to destroy the rhythm to an extent that often makes it difficult to say whether the music is in duple or triple measure. The musical consequence is the breaking down of symmetrical form, and the tendency is to reduce the organised structure to its component parts.”

Railroad City. Indianapolis, a junction of the great trunk lines.

Railway King. The sobriquet of George Hudson, Chairman of the Midland Railway Company, who amassed a huge fortune by successful speculations in the early days of railway enterprise.

Rains Cats and Dogs. This expression is traceable to two distinct sources--popular superstition and Scandinavian mythology. Witches who rode the storm on broomsticks were believed to have the power of transforming themselves into cats at will, while the dog or wolf is represented as the attendant of Odin, the Storm King of the northern nations.

Rainy Day Smith. John Thomas Smith, the antiquary, whose chatty volume, “A Book for a Rainy Day,” brought him more money and reputation than all his other works put together.

Raise your Screw. This expression arose out of the custom of masters paying their employées’ wages screwed up in a tiny paper of uniform size. The more money it contained the less tightly the paper could be screwed; hence an advance of wages implied metaphorically giving the screw one turn backwards.

Rake the Pot. An American gambling phrase meaning to seize the stakes.

Ram and Teazle. A tavern sign common to the woollen manufacturing districts, this being the device of the Clothworkers’ Company.

298Ranch. From the Spanish rancho, a hut of posts, covered with branches or thatch, in which herdsman or farm labourers in the western states of North America lodge by night.

Rand. Expresses the Dutch, specifically in South Africa, for a mining district.

Ranelagh Gardens. This fashionable public resort, now built over, occupied the site of Ranelagh House and its grounds, owned by an Irish peer, whose title it bore.

Ranters. Another name for the “Primitive Methodists.”

Rape. The name given to a division under the Danes of the county of Sussex, from the Norse repp, a district.

Rapier. This species of sword being eminently adapted for rapid thrusting and withdrawing, its name, from the Latin rapere, to snatch away, is appropriate.

Rappahannock. Indian for “quick-rising waters.”

Rapparee. The name given to an Irish plunderer, because he was armed with a rapera, or half pike.

Rascal. From the French racaille, “the scum of the people.”

Ratcliff Highway. Originally a manor belonging to the parish of Stepney, this highway for sailors ashore, where they found lodgings and entertainment of a low class in days prior to the provision of “Seamen’s Homes,” received its name from the multitudes of water rats that congregated on the Thames wall by night. On account of the evil reputation which this neighbourhood bore in former days, its name was changed to “St George’s in the East.”

Rathbone Place. After Captain Rathbone, its builder, in 1718.

Rat Hole. A printers’ term for a non-society house. Since rats are known to desert a sinking ship, so a journeyman who refuses to take advantage of a trades union is stigmatised as a “Rat,” because he forsakes 299the general cause of his craft. Hence also the term “Rattening,” by which is meant the taking away of or destroying a workman’s tools consequent upon his desertion of the union or accepting work in a house opposed to its principles.

Rationalism. The kind of religion (if it deserved such a name) set up during the French Revolution, when Reason took the place of Faith. The worship of the “Goddess of Reason,” in the person of an actress installed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, was a fitting illustration of the unreasoning tenet that public worship was opposed to the natural instincts of mankind.

Rattening. See “Rat Hole.”

Ray Street. After the victim of an old-time Clerkenwell sensation, Miss Ray, who, on becoming the mistress of Lord Sandwich, was shot by her jilted lover, Hackman.

Ready. Short for ready money, cash always on hand, in readiness for emergencies.

Rechabites. The name borne by total abstainers in the United States, after the followers of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, who lived in tents and abstained from the use of wine.

Reckon without your Host. When putting up at an inn the cost is often greater than the traveller anticipates; therefore it is always wise to be well prepared with funds, lest, when the host presents his bill, discomfiture may arise.

Recluse. From the Latin reclusus, shut up; one who voluntarily cuts himself off from communion with his fellow-men, a solitary.

Rector. A clergyman who enjoys a living in his own right, as distinguished from a “Vicar,” who holds the appointment at the pleasure of the Lord of the Manor. The former also receives the tithes direct, whereas the latter passes them on to a layman, a college, or 300a chapter, by whom he is paid a proportion thereout as a stipend.

Red Cent. An Americanism for a copper coin.

Redcross Street. From the red stone cross anciently set up by the Knights Hospitallers to define the limits of the land belonging to them in the direction adjacent to that of the Knights Templars, indicated by a white cross of stone in what is now “Whitecross Street.”

Red Dragon. An inn sign, complimenting Henry VII., whose device it was.

Redemptorists. Also called “Redemptorist Fathers.” See “Liguorians.”

Red Eye. The Far West term for fiery new whisky, which is well calculated to make the eyes of the toper look red.

Red-hot Time. An Americanism for a jolly time, because the proceedings were conducted with the utmost warmth.

Red-Letter Day. A phrase used to express a pleasurable event in one’s past life. This had its origin in the old calendars and almanacks, in which high Church festivals were printed in red ink, and all the other days in black.

Red Lion Court. After an ancient tavern, “The Red Lion.”

Red Lion Square. After a famous old coaching-house, “The Red Lion.”

Red Republicans. The extreme Republican party of the French Revolution, which adopted the red cap, the Roman symbol of Liberty. The lower orders of the people, to whom the cap meant everything, were likewise only too ready to follow the behest of their leaders, and steep their hands in the blood of the aristocrats.

Red Skins. The name first given by the white settlers to the Indians of North America.

Red Rose. An inn sign, in compliment to the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses.

301Red Sea. Three reasons are assigned for the name of this sea: the red sandstone which forms its bottom, the red rocks which in some parts border its shores, and the colouring imparted to its waters by coral reefs, animaculæ, and sea-weed.

Red Tape. That leisurely officialism which refers a matter from one department to another, until at length the highest authority is reached to take it in hand. The term has been derived from the red tape with which all legal and official documents are tied together.

Reel. A whirling dance by a single person, peculiar to the Scots, so called in allusion to the winding of cotton on a reel.

Reformed Presbytery. See “Macmillanites.”

Reform School. An Americanism for an institution for the reformation of juvenile offenders.

Refresher. The legal term for an extra fee paid to a barrister by a client while the latter’s case is pending, in order to refresh the former’s memory concerning the interests at stake.

Regent Diamond. See “Pitt Diamond.”

Regent’s Park. Part of the general scheme of John Nash, the royal architect, when he projected the building of Regent Street, was to provide a magnificent palace for his patron, the Prince Regent, in the park named after him. This was not realised, and the site of the intended palace was appropriated to the Zoological Gardens.

Regent Street. In honour of the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV.

Regiomontanus. The name assumed by Johann Müller, a celebrated German mathematician of the fifteenth century, being a Latinised rendering of “Konigsberg,” his native place.

Regius Professor. The professorial chair in various departments of learning at Oxford and Cambridge Universities founded by Henry VIII.

302Regular Brick. See “He’s a Brick.”

Regular Clergy. Those who in the Catholic Church are attached to monasteries and friaries, living by rule; in contradistinction to the “Secular Clergy,” who are appointed to parochial work by a bishop, and move among the people.

Regular Zantippe. See “Zantippe.”

Rehan. See “Ada Rehan.”

Rendezvous. Literally an individual haunt or resort, and in no sense a place of public meeting. The word is French for “betake yourself.”

Republican Marriage. The name given by the Red Republicans during the French Revolution to their atrocious procedure, instigated by Jean Baptiste Carrier, of tying a young man and woman together and drowning them.

Resurrection Men. Body snatchers, who “resurrected,” as the Americans say, bodies from the graves in order to sell them to the medical faculty for dissection. Since the general institution of public hospitals, the last refuge of so many “unknowns,” whose dead bodies are never claimed, the demand for subjects snatched from the grave has entirely ceased.

Revolver. The modern type of pistol, in which the breach which contains the cartridges revolves. In the earlier stage of this invention it was the barrel that revolved.

Rheims. The capital of the Remi, a Gallic people referred to by Cæsar.

Rhine. From the Celtic rhe, “rapid.” This name was given by the Swiss to rivers generally.

Rhinoceros. Greek for “nose-horned.”

Rhode Island. A corruption of “rood,” red, the name given to it by the Dutch settlers on account of its reddish appearance.

Rhodes. From the Greek rhodon, a rose; expresses “the isle of roses.”

303Rhododendron. From the two Greek words rhodon, rose, and dendron, tree.

Rhody. The American designation of Rhode Island on account of its limited area; also called “Little Rhody.”

Rhone. Derived from the same root as “Rhine.”

Ribbonmen. The name borne by the members of a Catholic political association in Ireland early in the last century on account of the distinctive badge or ribbon worn in the button-hole. The Ribbonmen were violently opposed to the “Orangemen.”

Ribston Pippins. The name given to a fine species of Normandy apple grown at Ribstone, Yorkshire, from pips originally planted on his estate by Sir Henry Goodriche.

Richmond. When Edward I. built himself a sumptuous palace on the south bank of the Thames he gave it the name of Sheen, the Saxon for “resplendent.” This being consumed by fire in 1479, Henry VI., rebuilt it, and then called it Richmond, after the beautiful seat in Yorkshire whence he took the title of his earldom. Richmond signifies a rich prospect from the hill occupied by its ancient castle.

Riding. A Danish division of the county of Yorkshire corresponding to the Lincolnshire Trithing, of which it is a corruption, signifying a third part.

Riff-raff. Expresses the Anglo-Saxon, from the Danish rip-raps, for “sweepings”; hence the scum of society.

Right off the Reel. To do a thing without stopping until it is finished. The allusion is to unwinding the entire length of cotton off a reel or bobbin.

Right Foot Foremost. A phrase derived from the old Roman superstition that if a visitor crossed the threshold with the left foot foremost he would be certain to bring ill luck upon the household.

Rile. A provincial corruption of “Rail,” to anger or tease.

304Ring. A professional term for a charmed circle--e.g. “The Dramatic Ring.”

Ring him up. A telephone phrase, really borrowed from the theatrical profession, in which the prompter’s “Ring up” and “Ring down”--i.e. the curtain--have obtained favour since the “Palmy Days of the Drama.”

Rink. An American variant of “Ring.” In the sense of a skating rink the term has become popular in England.

Rio de Janeiro. This city takes its name from the river discovered by Alfonso de Sousa on the Feast of St Januarius, on which it stands.

Rio de la Plata. Spanish for “river of silver.”

Rio Grande. Spanish for “great river.”

Rip. A corruption of “Rep.” See “Old Rep.”

Ritualists. The extreme High Church party, who for many years past have revived the ancient ritual to such a degree that they may be said to be Roman Catholics in everything save in name.

Riviera. Literally “coast,” “sea-shore.”

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. An expression derived from the following circumstance:--By Royal Letters Patent, dated 17th December 1540, the abbey church of St Peter, Westminster, was constituted a cathedral, with a resident bishop. Ten years afterwards this order was revoked, the diocese of Westminster being united to that of St Paul’s Cathedral, and its revenues were granted towards the repairs of the city fane; hence what was taken away from St Peter’s went to benefit St Paul’s.

Robert. The generic name for a policeman, after Sir Robert Peel, who introduced the modern constabulary system.

Robert Street. In the Adelphi, after the Christian name of one of the three brothers Adam, its builders. In Camden Town, after one of the family names of the Marquis of Camden, the ground landlord.

305Robert the Devil. The surname of the first Duke of Normandy, the father of William the Conqueror, merited by his outrageous cruelty and daring in war.

Robin Hood. The proper name of this renowned leader of the Sherwood Foresters was Robert Fitzooth. The first he euphonised into Robin and the second into Hood, leaving out the Fitz, which is Norman for “son,” altogether, since having been declared an outlaw, he was not unwilling to renounce his claims to Norman descent. Whether or not he was really Earl of Huntingdon, as some historians assert, cannot be proved.

Robinson. The French popular name for an umbrella, in allusion to Robinson Crusoe.

Rob Roy. The popular name of the Scottish outlaw Robert Macgregor, meaning simply “Robert the Red” on account of his beard.

Rochester. From Hrofoceaster, after Hrop, a Saxon chieftain, who built a castle on the site of a castra, or Roman encampment.

Rochester Row. A name which recalls the fact that, prior to the time of George III., the Deanery of Westminster was included in the Bishopric of Rochester.

Rock Day. Another ancient name for “Distaffs’ Day,” 7th January, the word rock being the Anglo-Saxon for a distaff.

Rogation Days. So called from the Latin rogare, to beseech, and also from the Greek litaneia, supplication. These being the three days preceding the Feast of the Ascension, the Litany of the Saints is chanted by way of preparation and supplication for the joyful event.

Rogation Sunday. That which ushers in the “Rogation Days.”

Roger de Coverley. The correct description of this surname is Roger de Cowley, or Roger of Cowley, near Oxford. The dance of this name was invented by an ancestor of the country squire, Sir Roger de Coverley, mentioned by Addison in The Spectator.

306Rogues’ Gallery. The name given to the collection of criminals’ photographs in the State Prison of New York.

Roland for an Oliver. See “Gave him a Roland for an Oliver.”

Roll Call. The list of names called out in the army. The term “Roll” is a survival of those far-off days when not only a list, but writing of all kinds, was set forth on one long roll of paper. We still speak of a “Burgess Roll,” while to belong to any society is said to be “enrolled” among its members; hence also the phrase “Roll of Honour.”

Rolls Chapel. This ancient edifice, now incorporated in the New Record Office, was built by Henry III. for a number of Jewish rabbis who, had been converted to Christianity. Into it Edward III. caused all the accumulated rolls or records to be stored, and there they remained in the custody of the Master of the Rolls, until in more modern days they were overhauled and catalogued.

Roman Catholic Church. The ancient original fold of “The Holy Catholic Church,” which acknowledges the authority of the Pope of Rome. The recognised head of the English Catholic Church is the King, represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury, just as that of “The Greek Catholic Church” in Russia is the Czar, represented by the Metropolitan of St Petersburg.

Rome. After Romulus, its mythical founder.

Romeo Coates. Robert Coates was a fashionable amateur actor during the early part of the last century; surnamed Romeo Coates on account of his very many appearances in the character of the ill-fated hero in Romeo and Juliet.

Romford. The ford over the Bourne, anciently called the Rom, this being the Roman highway between London and Colchester.

Romney Street. After Charles Marsham, Earl of Romney, the owner of the estate.

307Rood Lane. From an ancient holy rood or cross, on which was a figure of the dying Saviour, that stood in this thoroughfare as a boundary mark of the landed property of the nuns of St Helen’s. See “Mincing Lane.”

Rosary. A string of beads, and also the prayers said in connection therewith, so called because the Virgin appeared in a vision to St Dominic, who instituted this Catholic devotion, holding out to him a garland of red and white roses. The ancient rosaries, or “pater-nosters” as they were called, bore an impression of a rose on each bead.

Rose. An inn and tavern sign which, as a painted device, red or white, displayed a partisanship for the Lancastrians or the Yorkists. After the union of the two royal houses nothing was easier to quench the former partiality for either the red or white rose than to exhibit in place of the coloured design the name of “The Rose,” as a general compliment to the Crown.

Rose and Crown. This inn and tavern sign symbolised the cessation of the Wars of the Roses by the marriage of Henry VII. to Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV.

Rosebery Avenue. After Lord Rosebery, the erstwhile leader of the Liberal party in our time.

Rosoman Street. Perpetuates the memory of Mr Rosoman, who converted Sadler’s Musick House into a regular theatre in 1765.

Rosslyn Hill Park. From Rosslyn House, the residence of Alexander Wedderburn, Earl of Rosslyn, and Lord Chancellor of England.

Rotherhithe. Properly Roth-hithe, the Anglo-Saxon for “red haven.” See “Rutland.”

Rotten Row. This name is a survival of the days when French was the language of the Court. Properly route du roi, it is literally “route of the King,” and meant the King’s drive across the park.

Rouge et Noir. French for “red and black,” the alternate 308colour of the diamonds that distinguish the spaces on the gaming-table.

Roughriders. The name borne by expert horsemen in Natal, who dispense with saddles.

Roulette. Expresses the French for “a little wheel.”

Roumania. As its name implies, this was anciently a Roman province.

Roumelia. A Turkish corruption of Roumania, “the country of the Romans.”

Roundheads. The Parliamentary soldiers under Cromwell, so called from the custom of the Puritans of cropping the hair close to the head, as opposed to that of the Cavaliers, who wore it long.

Rouser. An Americanism for what we in this country style a “Pick-me-up.”

Rout. A fashionable assembly, so called from the German rotte and Celtic “rhauter,” a crowd. The name is now never heard, but what are called “Rout Seats,” generally requisitioned for such gatherings, are still let out on hire.

Rowton Houses. The name given to large blocks of tenements exclusively designed for the accommodation of unmarried clerks and others employed in the city. The foundation of the late Lord Rowton.

Roxburgh. From the Celtic ross, a headland, the castle on the promontory.

Roxburghe. A superior style of bookbinding, so called from that uniformly adopted by the Roxburghe Club, a society established for printing rare books, and named after John, Duke of Roxburghe, a famous collector of works of art and literature.

Royalists. The adherents of Charles I. in the Civil War.

Royal Maunds. The name given to doles of money corresponding to the years of life attained by the reigning monarch to the poor on “Maundy Thursday.” 309This custom has been in vogue ever since the time of Edward III.

Royal Oak. An inn sign which had its origin during the Restoration period, in compliment to Charles II. See “Oak Apple Day.”

Royal Oak Day. Another name for “Oak Apple Day.”

Rufus. The surname of William II. on account of his florid complexion; rufus is the Latin for “ruddy.”

Rugby. A corruption of the Saxon Rothby, “red village,” in allusion to its soil.

Rum. A West Indian word for spirit distilled from cane juice.

Run. An Americanism used as a verb for “finance,” whether in relation to a person or a business enterprise. “Who’s running him?” means who is it that keeps him going, or on his feet?

Run Amuck. To run foul of a person or thing. The phrase is derived from the Malays, who, while under the influence of opium, rush through the streets with drawn daggers, crying: Amog! amog! (“Kill! kill!”), and threaten the lives of everyone they encounter.

Running Footman. A tavern sign in Mayfair, reminiscent of the days when running footmen, carrying a short staff of office, preceded the carriages of the wealthy. The object of this custom was to give timely notice of the impending arrival of their masters. The tavern in question, situated in Hayes’ Mews, was formerly the regular resort of running footmen and sedan chairmen.

Rupert’s Land. After Prince Rupert, one of the founders of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Rupert Street. After Prince Rupert, who introduced his invention of “Prince Rupert’s Drops,” or glass bubblers, into England.

Russell Square. After Lord William Russell, the patriot, whose wife, Rachel, was the daughter of Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Marquis of Tavistock, 310Duke of Bedford, the ancestor of the present great ground landlord. The several streets of the same name are included in the estate.

Russell Street. In Bermondsey, after Richard Russell, a noted benefactor to the parochial charities during his life, and after his death in 1784. For other streets so denominated on the Bedford estate see “Russell Square.”

Russia. The country of the Russ, the tribe that first overran it.

Rutland. A corruption of the Anglo-Saxon Rothland, “red land,” so called on account of the colour of its soil.

Rutland Gate. After the town mansion of the Dukes of Rutland.

Rye Lane. Leads to “Peckham Rye.”

Ryot. A Hindoo peasant or cultivator of the soil, so called from the Arabic raaya, to pasture.


Sabbatarians. The followers of Brabourne, a Baptist minister, who held that the real Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, as enunciated in the Book of Genesis. This sect arose in 1628. Also known as “Seventh Day Baptists.”

Sabeans. The first idolaters, worshippers of the sun, moon, and stars as the visible representations of the Deity; so called after Sabi, the son of Seth.

Sack. A dry wine of great repute in Elizabethan times, so called from the French sec, dry.

Sackville Street. Built upon in 1679--that is, twenty years after “Air Street”--this thoroughfare was named in honour of Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset, one of the favourites of Charles II.

Sacramentarians. The designation of the Calvinists, 311or those who denied the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

Sacrilege. Literally the act of despoiling that which is sacred.

Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Originally a “Musick House” in connection with a Spa opened by Mr Sadler, who, after digging for gravel in his garden in 1683, discovered an ancient “holy well” that had been stopped up since the Reformation.

Saffron Hill. From the saffron which grew abundantly in the grounds attached to Ely House, the town mansion of the bishops of Ely.

Sahara. Expresses the Arabic for “desert.”

Sailor King. William IV., who, having been bred to the sea in his youth, worked up his way from a midshipman to the position of Lord High Admiral. In his case promotion was no doubt easy.

St Albans. The scene of the martyrdom of St Alban, A.D. 297, in honour of whom Offa, King of Mercia, founded a Benedictine abbey.

St Andrew Undershaft. The Church of St Andrew in Leadenhall Street, so called from the tall shaft or Maypole which, bedecked with garlands on high festivals, stood within a few yards of its door. Since this shaft towered high above the steeple the church was said to be “under the shaft.” After the Reformation the shaft was taken down and kept in an adjacent alley, now called “Shaft Alley.” Thirty-two years later the popular voice declared it to be a relic of superstition, whereupon it was “raised off the hooks,” sawn into pieces, and burnt.

St Andrews. After St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, whose bones are enshrined in the Cathedral.

St Andrew’s Hill. From the church of St Andrew, at its south-western extremity.

St Bees. From an ancient nunnery founded in the seventh century by an Irish saint named Bega. Partly destroyed by the time of Henry I., it was then reconstituted 312as a priory by Randulp, Earl of Cumberland. This village is known chiefly on account of its college, the foundation of Dr Law, Bishop of Chester in 1806.

St Bride Street. From the neighbouring parish church of St Bride or Bridget.

St Clement Danes. Dedicated to St Clement, this parish church received the bones of Harold I. and many of his countrymen during the Danish occupation of England.

St David’s Day. The birthday (1st March) of St David, the patron saint of Wales, who when archbishop advised his countrymen to wear a leek in their caps, to distinguish them from their foes. In consequence of the precaution they won a decisive victory over the Saxons on this day, and the leek became the national emblem.

St Ethelburga’s. This, one of the most ancient churches in the city, was dedicated to St Ethelburga, the daughter of King Ethelbert, and a paragon of all the Christian virtues.

St Ethelreda’s. This beautiful city church in Ely Place, after having gone through many vicissitudes since the Reformation, is now once more a Roman Catholic place of worship. St Ethelreda was the daughter of Ethelred, King of the East Angles; her name is often corrupted into St Audrey. See “Tawdry.”

St George and Dragon. An inn sign after the patron saint of England.

St George’s Hall. This place of entertainment, now occupied by Messrs Maskelyne & Devant, was opened in 1867 as St George’s Opera House, so called on account of its location in the parish of St George, Hanover Square.

St George’s in the East. The modern designation of “Ratcliff Highway,” from the parish church dedicated to St George, patron saint of England.

St George’s Square. After the neighbouring church, dedicated to St George.

313St Grouse’s Day. The jocular term for the twelfth of August, when grouse shooting begins.

St Helena. This island was discovered on the Feast of St Helena, 1502.

St Helen’s Place. From the adjacent church of St Helen’s, dedicated to St Helena, the mother of Constantine. Thirty years later in 1180, William Fitzwilliam, a wealthy goldsmith, founded a priory of nuns in connection therewith.

St James’s Palace. Stands on the site of an ancient hospital for lepers dedicated to St James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem. The original palace was built by Holbein for Henry VIII.

St James’s Square. Like the street of the same name, after St James’s Palace.

St John’s Gate. The last vestige of the ancient priory of St John of Jerusalem, the English seat of the Knights Hospitallers. The gateway now forms the headquarters of the St John’s Ambulance Association. Here William Cave, the printer, projected and published The Gentleman’s Magazine.

St John’s Wood. From the ancient “Abbey of the Holy Virgins of St John the Baptist,” which nestled among the now vanished woods in this neighbourhood.

St Katherine Coleman. Dedicated to St Katherine, this city church received its second name on account of its location in the garden of one Coleman, the builder of the street called after him.

St Katherine Cree. Originally a chapel dedicated to St Katherine in the parish of Holy Trinity (in the Minories). This on the abolition of the neighbouring benefices of Christ Church, St Mary Magdalen, and St Michael was made into a separate parish of Christ Church, and, while retaining the old name, came to be known as “St Katherine Christi,” of which “Cree” is a corruption.

St Katherine’s Docks. From an ancient hospital of St 314Katherine, displaced when these docks were constructed in 1828.

St Kitt’s Island. Discovered by Columbus, it was named by him after St Christopher, his patron saint.

St Lawrence. The gulf of this name was first entered, and the navigation of the great river embarked upon, on the Feast of St Lawrence, 1500.

St Lawrence Jewry. The church dedicated to St Lawrence in the Jewry. See “Old Jewry.”

St Leger Stakes. See “Doncaster St Leger.”

St Lubbock. The popular nickname of Lord Avebury, formerly Sir John Lubbock, to whom our countrymen are indebted for the introduction of legalised Bank Holidays.

St Margaret Pattens. This church received its name from the gilt spots, or patines, with which its roof was anciently decorated. A paten is the circular gold dish which covers the chalice at the altar.

St Martin’s Lane. From the parish church of St Martin in the Fields.

St Martin’s-le-Grand. The official designation of the buildings collectively comprised in the headquarters of the General Post Office. This is because the original edifice occupies the site of an ancient college church dedicated to St Martin-le-Grand, the foundation of Within, King of Kent in 750, and invested with the privilege of sanctuary under a charter of William the Conqueror.

St Mary-Axe. From a vanished church of St Mary that stood opposite to a shop which had an axe for its sign. Originally “St Mary-by-the-Axe.”

St Mary-le-Bow. See “Bow Church.”

St Mary Woolnoth. Dedicated to the Virgin; this church was so called because it stood nough, or nigh, to the ancient wool beam or staple.

St Michael’s Mount. Anciently the seat of a religious 315house, to the monks of which, as tradition states, St Michael once appeared on the crag, where in later years a castle was built, the exact spot being indicated by a stone lantern, since known as “St Michael’s Chair.”

St Olave’s. A corruption of “St Olafs,” this church having been dedicated to Olaf, King of Norway, who Christianised his country, and at the invitation of Ethelred came over to England to render aid in the work of expelling the Danes.

St Pancras. This parish takes its name from the ancient church in Old St Pancras Road dedicated to the boy saint who was martyred by Diocletian. A representation of this youth being attacked by wild dogs may be seen on the stone bridge over the Regent’s Canal, which serves as a boundary mark to the parish.

St Partridge’s Day. A popular nickname for “Partridge Day.”

St Paul of the Cross. See “Passionists.”

St Petersburg. Founded by Peter the Great, and dedicated to St Peter, whose church is situated within the citadel.

St Sepulchre’s. The foundation of this church was the outcome of the Crusades, in honour of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Appropriately enough, the bell of the modern edifice gave warning to the unhappy inmates of the condemned cell in Newgate Prison over the way of their approaching last hour.

St Sophia. This beautiful mosque at Constantinople, although originally a Christian cathedral, so far from having been dedicated to any St Sophia, was called Hagia Sopia, “Holy Wisdom”--i.e. the eternal wisdom of God manifested in the Second Person of the Trinity.

St Stephen’s. The House of Commons bears this name because, in the absence of a separate building, its members held their sittings in the Chapel of St Stephen’s, Westminster Abbey, until that edifice was burned down, 16th October 1834.

316St Swithin’s Day. The day of the attempted reinterment (15th July) of the body of St Swithin, preceptor of King Ethelwulf and Bishop of Rochester, whose death took place 2nd July 862. Not regarding himself worthy to be “laid” within the sacred edifice, he requested that he might be buried just outside the door in the churchyard, so that the faithful would walk over his grave. Although they acceded to this last wish, the monks decided afterwards to lay him inside the church; but their design was frustrated for forty successive days by a pouring rain, until at last they desisted from the attempt. This circumstance gave rise to the saying that “If it rains on St Swithin’s day it will rain for forty days.”

St Valentine’s Day. The connection between St Valentine and the poetical epistles that were formerly interchanged between young lovers on the 14th of February is somewhat remote. On this day the good Christian Bishop was beheaded at Rome in the year 278. Long before this, however, Roman youths and maidens had followed the custom of selecting a lover for the year by shaking up the names of their favourites, written on separate tablets, in a box. This arose out of the old notion that birds begin to pair on the 14th of February. The martyrdom of Bishop Valentine on this day therefore actuated the Christians to style their selected lover their Valentine, and the presents they exchanged in modern times bore the same name.

Salic Law. The ancient Frankish law by which females were excluded from the throne. This was originally confined to what were called “Salic Lands,” either, as some say, from the salle, or hall of the owner, or, according to others, from the Salian Franks, those bordering on the Sale or Yssel River; the enactment eventually applied to the heritage of the Frankish kingdom.

Salisbury Square. This, like the street and court of the same name, marks the site of the town mansion and grounds of the bishops of Salisbury.

317Salop. See “Shropshire.”

Salt Lake City. The hot-bed of the Mormons, founded on the borders of the Great Salt Lake, so called on account of the saline character of its waters.

Salutation. An inn sign in honour of the Salutation of the Virgin.

Salviati. See “Del Salviati.”

Salzburg. The fortified town on the Salza River.

Samaria. After Shemer, the owner of the hill which, as we are told in 1 Kings xvi. 24, Omri bought for two talents of silver, “and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria.”

Sambo. The generic name of a North American Negro; derived from the native Zambo, the offspring of a black and a Mulatto.

Sanci Diamond. One of the great gems of the world, weighing 106 carats, originally the property of a French nobleman of this name, and purchased in 1835 by the Czar of Russia for half-a-million roubles.

Sandbaggers. A modern street terror in American cities while the police are looking the other way, so called because they stun their victims with elongated bags of hard, wet sand, and then rob them at leisure.

Sandhillers. A name given in America to the descendants of the white labourers, who, ousted from their employment when slavery came in, sought the sand-hills amid the pine forests of Georgia and South Carolina.

Sandow Girl. A physical culture girl trained at the Academy of Eugene Sandow, or at home by means of appliances advertised in connection therewith. Also known as the “Symmetrion Girl” from the name on the familiar posters. The Sandow or Symmetrion Girls proved a great attraction in the Athletic Scene of The Dairymaids at the Apollo Theatre.

Sandwich. The sand village.

Sandwiches. After John Montague, Earl of Sandwich, 318whose chief claim to celebrity lay in the fact that he was an inveterate gamester. It is on record that he often remained engrossed in play for thirty hours at a stretch without partaking of a meal. From time to time, however, he would ask the waiter to bring him a slice of meat between two pieces of bread, as a stay to the appetite. The waiter called this improvised meal a “Sandwich,” and by that name it has ever since been known.

Sandwich Islands. Named by Captain Cook in honour of Lord Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, at the time when they were discovered by him.

Sandy. The nickname of a Scotsman, being short for Alexander, the most common Christian name to be met with in North Britain.

San Francisco. Dedicated to St Francis, this Spanish-American city really received its name from a coast settlement of missionaries styled “San Francisco de Costa Dolores” as far back as September 1776.

Sankey’s Horse. The regimental nickname of the 39th Foot. This was merited in India, when they were called upon to do temporary service on horseback under Colonel Sankey.

Sansculottes. The lowest orders of the people during the French Revolution. This, literally “without breeches,” was the scornful title at first bestowed by the aristocrats upon the Democratic party on account of their neglectful attire. A little while later the Red Republicans accepted it with pride as the password for patriotism.

San Salvador. This being the first land sighted in the New World by Columbus, he honoured it with the name of the “Holy Saviour,” as a perpetual expression of thanksgiving.

Sans Souci. This, the French for “free and easy,” or “without care,” was the name borne by a famous place of amusement originally built by Dibdin as a bijou theatre in Leicester Square.

Santa Fe. Spanish for “Holy Faith.”

319Santa Cruz. Spanish for “Holy Cross.”

Santiago. From the cathedral (in the city of Spain so named) containing the bones of St Jago, or James the Less, the national patron saint.

Saraband. After Zarabanda, a celebrated dancer of Seville, who invented it.

Saracens. From the Arabic sharkeyn, “eastern people”; originally the designation of the Bedouins of Eastern Arabia. By the Crusaders it was applied to the Mohammedans generally. See “Moors.”

Saracen’s Head. An inn sign of the time of the Crusades. Lest it might be thought that this was complimentary to the enemies of Christianity, mention may be made of the fact that the head of the Saracen was represented as severed.

Saragossa. A corruption of the Roman name Cæsarea Augusta.

Saratoga. Indian for “miraculous waters from the rock,” touching the famous mineral springs.

Saratoga Trunk. The popular type of travelling trunk in the United States, so called because it was first used by visitors to Saratoga Springs.

Sarcophagus. A Greek compound of sarkos, flesh, and phargo, to eat. The term was originally applied to a receptacle for the dead, because the early examples were made out of a kind of limestone which was thought to possess the property of consuming a corpse in a very short time.

Sardines. From Sardinia, in the waters of which island the true species of this fish abound.

Sardinia. Called Sandaliotis by the Greeks on account of its resemblance to a human footprint; this name was changed by the Romans to Sardo. At a later period the island was called Sardonion, from a poisonous herb, transplanted from Sardis in Asia Minor, which brought about a twitching of the muscles of the face 320resembling laughter; hence the phrase to “Smile sardonically.”

Sardinia Street. From the Sardinian Chapel built in 1648 in connection with the residence of the Sardinian Ambassador at the time when the island of Sardinia was nominally a kingdom, but really in the possession of Spain.

Sardonic Smile. See “Sardinia.”

Sarsenet. A fine silk originally of Saracenic manufacture.

Saturday. This, the seventh day of the week, was dedicated by the Romans to Saturn. As, however, all the other week-days were named by the people of Northern Europe in accordance with Scandinavian mythology, one must incline to the opinion that this was named after Sæter, a water deity. Its Anglo-Saxon designation was Sæterdæg.

Saturnalia. The great winter festival of the Romans in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture.

Saunders Blue. An easy corruption of the French Cendres bleus, “blue ashes,” calcined bluestone being the substance from which this pigment is obtained.

Sauterne. A French wine produced at the place of the name, in the department of Gironde.

Saved my Bacon. This expression originated during the Civil War, when housewives took extraordinary measures to save the bacon stored up for winter consumption from the greedy appetites of soldiers on the march.

Savile Row. After Dorothy Savile, who, marrying into the Burlington family, received this portion of the estate as her separate property.

Savoy. A cabbage originally introduced from the French department of this name.

Savoy Street. From the Savoy Chapel, the original of which, prior to its destruction by fire, 7th July 1864, was the only remaining portion of the ancient Savoy Palace built by Peter of Savoy, uncle to the queen of Henry III., in 1249.

321Sawney. A variant of “Sandy.”

Saxons. From the seax, the short crooked knife with which this tribe were armed. Sahs is the Old German for knife. Since the days of Daniel O’Connell Irish patriots have been fond of referring to the English people as Saxons, the natural enemies of the Celts.

S’Blood. A trooper’s corruption of “His Blood,” or the precious blood of the Redeemer. This species of profanity survives in the vulgar swear-word “Bloody.”

Scales of Justice. The ancient Egyptians believed that the good deeds of a soul after death would be weighed against his evil deeds. The Koran likewise teaches that the merits and demerits of departed souls are balanced in the scales of the Archangel Gabriel; hence the phrase now popular all the civilised world over.

Scalper. An Americanism for one who speculates in railroad tickets, and consequently obtains them at a reduction of their top prices.

Scaramouch. A character in the old Italian comedy, the prototype of the modern clown, so called from scaramuccia, a skirmish.

Scarborough. The fortified scar or precipitous cliff, so called on account of the castle built about 1136.

Scarborough Warning. A warning given too late to be taken advantage of. In 1557 Thomas Stafford seized Scarborough Castle before the townsfolk had the least intelligence of his approach. After taking possession he advised them to fly from the town and leave their belongings.

Scarlet. From the Persian sakarlat, “bright red.”

Scavenger’s Daughter. A corruption of Skevington’s Daughter, this instrument of torture being the invention of William Skevington, Lieutenant of the Tower, temp. Henry VIII. He called it his daughter because it emanated from his own brain. Those who were fated to suffer by it sadly consented, as the saying was, to “Kiss the Scavenger’s Daughter.”

322Schaffhausen. Literal German for “sheep-houses” or pens.

Schiedam. Another name for Hollands, or Dutch gin, from the place where this native spirit is distilled.

Schooner. This kind of vessel received its name from the exclamation of a spectator at the time when its earliest example was launched: “Look, she schoons!”

Schottische. Expresses the German for a Scottish dance, a variation of the polka, in three-quarter time. The Scots, however, repudiate its invention. It is not improbable that a Scotsman, sojourning in the Fatherland, blundered into this step through his inability to dance the polka correctly.

Scilly Isles. After the name of one of the smallest, in proximity to a very dangerous rock similar to that of Scylla in Sicily which, according to Homer, was the abode of a monster so denominated.

Scissors-tail. A South American bird which in the course of its flights opens and shuts its tail for the purpose of entrapping the flies that constitute its prey.

Scorching. A bicycling term which, curiously enough, only came into vogue after the possibility of realising it had been removed. In the days of the old “Bone-shaker,” before rubber tyres were heard of, there would have been great likelihood of setting the wooden machine on fire by furious riding on the part of an expert.

Scotch Reel. See “Reel.”

Scot-free. A phrase derived from the old legal exaction “Scot and Lot,” the former being derived from the Anglo-Saxon sceat, pay, and the latter meaning a tribute allotted to every man according to his means. It was rare indeed that anyone got off “Scot-free” in ancient times.

Scotia. From the Celtic scot, wanderer, with the suffix ia, country; the ancient designation of the Highlands, now, with the Lowlands, called “Scotland.”

323Scotists. Those who accepted the doctrine of John Duns Scotus relative to the Immaculate Conception, in opposition to the “Thomists.”

Scotland. See “Scotia.”

Scotland Yard. On the site of the original Scotland Yard stood an ancient palace appropriated to the Scottish kings, who were required to pay homage once a year to the English sovereign at Westminster Abbey. The last Scottish monarch so accommodated was Margaret, the sister of Henry VII.

Scots. See “Scotia.”

Scottish Covenanters. See “Covenanters.”

Scottish Hogarth. The surname of David Allan of Alloa, whose portraits and historical paintings occupy a high position in the esteem of his countrymen.

Scottish Presbyterians. The successors of the Scottish Covenanters, and founders of the Established Church of Scotland. See “Presbyterians.”

Scowerers. Eighteenth-century rakes who scoured the streets of London by night, overturning the “Old Charlies” in their boxes, and molesting peaceable citizens.

Scratched Horse. One that has its name struck out of the final list of runners in a race. Those who have backed their money on it swear a little, but no one else cares a jot for their discomfiture.

Screw. Colloquial for “wages.” See “Raise your Screw.”

Screwed. Drunk. This is simply a play on the word “Tight.”

Screw of Tobacco. So called because it is screwed up in a paper.

Scriptures. Expresses the plural of the Latin scriptura, a writing, from the verb scribere, to write. The Bible is a collection of books or writings.

Scroll of Fame. The word “Scroll” is a corruption of 324“Roll,” relative to paper, although from “scroll” we have derived the term “Schedule.” See “Roll Call.”

Scullery. The annexe to a kitchen, where the dishes and pots are washed up, so called from the Norman-French esculle, a porringer or dish. The man-servant or boy whose work lay in the scullery was in former days called a “Scullion.”

S’Death. A softened form of the profane oath “His Blood,” in reference to the Saviour.

Sea of Marmora. From the Latin marmor, marble, which for centuries has been quarried on a small island at its western extremity.

Sebastopol. From the Greek Sebastopolis, “august city.”

Secretary Bird. A South African bird distinguished by a tuft of feathers on each side of its head which form a fanciful resemblance to quill pens stuck behind the ear.

Sectarians. The general name for Dissenters attached to any one of the numerous sects or denominations outside the Established Church.

Secular Clergy. See “Regular Clergy.”

Secularist. From the Latin seculum, an age, a generation; one who advocates the happiness or well-being of the community during the present life, leaving the future completely out of count.

Sedan-chairs. First made at Sedan, France.

See how it pans out. Originally a miners’ phrase in the Far West. To separate the gold grains from the earth in which they are found a pan of water is brought into service; when the pan is shaken the gold collects at the bottom.

Seekers. The original designation of the Quakers, because they sought the truth with the solicitude of Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler (John iii. 1-21).

Seething Lane. A corruption of Sidon Lane, after the name of the first builder on the land.

325Selkirk’s Island. Also called the isle of “Juan Fernandez.”

Seltzer Water. A corrupted spelling of “Seltsers,” the name of a village near Limburg in Prussia famous for its mineral springs.

Senate. The Upper House of the United States Congress. The term properly implies an elder, from the Latin senis, an old man.

Senegambia. The territory situated between the Senegal and Gambia Rivers.

Sent to Coventry. As its name implies, Coventry was in olden times a great centre of religious life, touching the number of its conventual establishments. Soldiers sent to the garrison there soon discovered that no woman would speak to them. Hence to be sent to Coventry was a great hardship, since it meant being cut off from “life” in every form, and female intercourse particularly.

Separatists. Another name for the Home Rulers during the lifetime of Mr Parnell. It implied virtual separation from English rule.

Sepia. Greek for “cuttle-fish,” from the inky secretion under the glands of which this pigment is obtained.

September. The seventh month of the Roman year, counting from March.

Serjeants’ Inn. Anciently the inn or mansion of the “Freres Serjens,” a brotherhood of Servitors to the Knights Templars hard by. It was these who performed the ordinary household duties in the Temple.

Serle Street. After Henry Serle of Lincoln’s Inn, the owner of considerable property in this neighbourhood when the parish of St Clement Danes was very different to what it is now.

Sermon Lane. Anciently “Sheremoniers’ Lane,” so called from the money shearers or clippers’ office adjacent to the first London Mint.

326Serpentine. An artificial winding lake formed out of the pools and the Tyburn in Hyde Park in 1733. See “Bayswater.”

Servia. The country of the Suevi, a people driven by the Romans into that portion of Germany now called “Suabia,” until after further migrations northward they settled in Sweden.

Servites. This religious Order grew out of the pious example of seven Florentine merchants who in 1283 assembled each evening for devotional exercises in a lady chapel and styled themselves “The Religious Servants of the Holy Virgin.” The London house of the Community is in the Fulham Road.

Set her Cap at him. With the coquetry peculiar to her sex, a female always put on her most becoming cap to attract the male visitor whom she favoured. Now that caps are no longer worn she resorts to other devices, but the old expression survives.

Set the Thames on fire. A “temse” was the old name for a sieve, agreeably to the French tamis and the Italian tamiso, which terms express the same implement. A sifter would require to work very hard indeed to ignite his sieve. Accordingly a bystander often said to him touching his apparent laziness: “You’ll never set the temse on fire!” Its punning

Seven Dials. A once notorious thieves’ neighbourhood, which received its name from a stone column presenting seven dials or faces, from which the same number of streets radiated. This, originally set up to mark the limits of St Giles’s and St Martin’s parishes, was removed in 1763, owing to the erroneous idea that a large sum of money lay buried beneath it.

Seven Sisters’ Road. This long road, extending from Holloway to Tottenham, received its name from seven trees planted in Page Green in the latter parish by the Sisters Page. Local tradition has it that one of these was a cripple, and the tree planted by her grew up deformed.

327Seventh Day Baptists. See “Sabbatarians.”

Saxagesima Sunday. Approximately the sixtieth day before Easter.

Seymour Place. After one of the family names of the Portmans, owners of the estate.

Seymour Street. Far removed from Seymour Place, this has no connection with the Portman family, having received its name from the first builder on the land.

Shadwell. A corruption of “St Chad’s Well,” a reputed holy well discovered hereabouts in ancient days.

Shaft Alley. See “St Andrew Undershaft.”

Shaftesbury Avenue. After Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftsbury, who performed the opening ceremony of this new thoroughfare shortly before his death in 1885.

Shah Diamond. A gem weighing 86 carats, long the property of Chosroes I., Shah of Persia, who, dying in 579, presented it to a Khan of the Tartars, from whom it descended to Ivan III., the grandfather of Ivan the Terrible, the first Czar of Russia.

Shakers. An American sect, first heard of in 1774, at Albany in the state of New York, so called from the convulsive movements of the hands and arms as part of their peculiar form of worship. Its founder was Ann Lee, self-styled “Mother Ann,” of Manchester, who, receiving little encouragement for her religious tenets in her native land, emigrated with a few disciples to the New World.

Shalloon. Originally manufactured at Chalons in France.

Shanty. This term for a hut or cabin first obtained currency in Canada, having been derived from the French settlers, who gave the name chantier to a hut erected in a dockyard under construction.

Shattered Prices. An Americanism for “reduced prices.”

“She” Bible. See “‘He’ Bible.”

Sheen. See “Richmond.”

328Sheet Anchor. A corruption of “Shote Anchor,” an extra heavy one, that can be expeditiously shot out for the greater security of a vessel under stress of weather. To act as a sheet anchor to a man is to be his mainstay or chief dependence.

Sheffield. From the River Sheaf, on the confluence of which and the Don the town stands.

Shekel Day. The day (27th May) set apart every year throughout the Jewish world for the collection of a shekel--a shilling, franc mark, half rouble, or “quarter,” according to the currency of the individual country--in support of the Zionist Movement for the re-colonisation of Palestine. The word “shekel” is from the Hebrew shekal, to weigh.

Shepherdess Walk. A name reminiscent of the days when the entire district between Finsbury and “Merrie Islington” was open fields.

Shepherd’s Bush. Pleasantly pastoral as the name is, this district is now wholly built over. A “Shepherd’s bush” was a hillock covered with soft vegetation on which he reclined while tending his flocks.

Shepherd’s Market. The site of a former weekly market, the land of which, like that of Market Street and Shepherd Street, was owned by a person of this name.

Shepperton. A corruption of “Shepherd’s Town”; whether derived from the name of the landowner, or because the district was originally given up to sheep-folds, is not known.

Sherbet. The national beverage in Arabia, so called from shariba, to drink, because it is taken at a single draught; hence the same name applied to effervescing liquors in this country.

Sherry. An English corruption of “Sherris,” a dry wine exported from Xeres in Spain.

Sherry Cobbler. An American drink which, in addition to the ordinary ingredients of a “Cobbler,” contains a dash of sherry.

329Shetland Isles. Anciently described as Hyaltland, the Norse for “Viking Land,” the name was softened into Zetland, and finally as we now have it.

She Wolf of France. A name that will ever cling to the memory of Isabella, the queen of Edward II., whom she caused to be murdered most foully through the instrumentality of her paramour, the Earl of Mortimer. This monster of iniquity lies buried in Christ Church, Newgate Street.

Shift. An old name for a chemise, denoting a shift or change of linen; also an industrial term for a change of men at certain hours, so that work can be carried on uninterruptedly by day and night.

Shillelagh. A oaken sapling fashioned into a cudgel for self-defence, so called from a wood in Ireland celebrated for its oaks.

Shilling. This silver coin was of considerable value to our ancestors, who always sounded it as a test of its genuineness. Hence, as the “ringing coin,” the Anglo-Saxons gave it the name of scilling, which, like the modern German schilling, is derived from the verb schallen, to sound.

Shinplaster. An Americanism for a bank-note. During the Civil War paper money was so much depreciated in value that its possessors could not easily negotiate it at any price. Finding this to be his own case, an old soldier philosophically used his bank-notes as plasters for a wounded shin.

Ship. A tavern sign commemorative of the circumnavigation of the globe by Sir Francis Drake; also a technical term in the printing trade for the compositors working together in a particular room or department, being an abbreviation of “Companionship.”

Shire. A portion of land scired or sheared off under the Saxon Heptarchy for the creation of an earldom.

Shoe Lane. This name has no connection with shoemakers, or cordwainers as they were anciently called. As an offshoot of Fleet Street, the great thoroughfare 330of taverns, this was anciently “Show Lane,” lined with booths and shows like a country fair.

Shooter. An Americanism for a revolver.

Shooters’ Hill. A corruption of “Suitors’ Hall,” so called from the suitors or place hunters who came this way when Henry VIII. had his Court at Greenwich.

Shooting Iron. A Far West term for a rifle.

Shop. Theatrical slang for an engagement.

Shop-lifting. This phrase for abstracting goods from a shop counter had its origin in the printer’s technical term “Lifting.”

Shoreditch. All other suggested derivations notwithstanding, this district really received its name from the manor of Sir John Soerditch, a wealthy citizen, and a favourite of Edward the Black Prince, by whose side he fought at Crecy and Poitiers.

Show. Theatrical slang for a performance.

Shrewsbury. See “Shropshire.”

Shropshire. This name expresses in a roundabout way the shire of Shrewsbury, the Anglo-Saxon Scrobbesburgh that grew up around an ancient castle among the scrubs or shrubs, softened by the Normans into Sloppesbury, which lent its name to what is now “Salop,” and finally corrupted into Shrewsbury.

Shrove Tuesday. A corruption of “Shrive Tuesday” when all good Catholics confessed their sins in preparation for receiving the blest ashes on the following morning.

Siberia. The country ruled from the ancient town of Sibir, the capital of the Tartars, and which contained the palace of the renowned Kutsheen Khan, the ruins of which are still visible.

Sicily. From the Siculi, a tribe who became masters of the island, expelling the Sicanii, its ancient inhabitants.

Sick. A word uniformly used throughout the United States in the place of “ill,” as in our own country. This is not an Americanism, but good honest English, having been introduced to the New World by the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed in the Mayflower. Both 331in the Bible and in Shakespeare sick, not ill, is employed. This is one of the few instances in which the Americans have preserved a word true to its original meaning.

Sidmouth Street. After Lord Sidmouth, a popular Minister at the accession of George IV., when this street was first built upon.

Side Walk. An Americanism for the English “pavement” and the Scottish “causeway.”

Siedlitz Powders. From Siedlitz in Bohemia, whence, like the celebrated mineral waters of the same name, they are obtained.

Sienna. A pigment obtained from the native Terra di Sienna in Italy.

Sign on. An industrial phrase for signing one’s name in a book on arriving to commence the day’s work. The like procedure at the day’s close is styled “Sign off.”

Silhouette. After Etienne de Silhouette, Comptroller of Finance under Louis XV., who was the first to have his features outlined from a side view on black paper.

Sillery. A champagne produced from the extensive vineyards of the Marquis de Sillery.

Silver Captain. The sobriquet of Admiral Sir Henry Digby from the large haul he on 15th October 1799 made by the capture of a Spanish treasure ship laden with dollars, his own share of the prize money amounting to £40,730, 18s. This he attributed to a fortunate dream, in which he repeatedly heard a voice exclaim: “Digby! Digby! steer to the northward!”

Silver-tongued Sylvester. John Sylvester, the translator of Du Barta’s “Divine Week and Works,” so styled on account of his harmonious verse.

Simple Life. A term which has come into vogue, both in England and America, since the publication of the Rev. Charles Wagner’s remarkable book “The Simple Life,” in advocacy of plain living, three or four years ago.

332Single-speech Hamilton. The sobriquet of William Gerard Hamilton, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland. He delivered on 13th November 1775 a speech which electrified the House, but after that memorable first effort he never spoke again.

Sing Small. A corruption of “Sink Small,” meaning to be lowered in the estimation of those to whom one has made a vain boast.

Sinking Fund. One that provides for the annual reduction of a National Debt.

Sinner-saved Huntingdon. William Huntingdon, the theologian and preacher, who, having led a wild life in his youth, made amends for these delinquencies in the full vigour of manhood.

Sirree. A vulgar American corruption of “Sir,” corresponding to the old English “Sirrah.” Originating at New York, it is now quite a common thing for people in the States generally to answer: “Yes, sirree,” and “No, sirree.”

Sise Lane. A corruption of St Osyth’s Lane, after an ancient church in it, now removed.

Sixteen String Jack. Jack Rann, the highwayman, hanged in 1791, so called from the sixteen tags he wore on the knees of his breeches.

Six-shooter. An Americanism for a six-chambered revolver.

Skagerrack. Expresses the crooked strait between the Skagen, the plural of the Gothic skaga, a promontory, between Jutland and Norway.

Skald. An ancient northern bard or minstrel. The word is Scandinavian for “poet.”

Skied. An artists’ term for a picture hung on the highest row, just under the ceiling, at any exhibition, where no one can look at it closely.

Skinner Street. Stands on land belonging to the Skinners’ Company.

333Skylarking. Originally an American seaman’s term for rough sport among the ship’s rigging and tops.

Sky Parlor. An Americanism for an attic.

Sky Pilot. An American naval expression for a ship’s chaplain. The allusion is obvious.

Sky-scraper. The name given in the United States to a building of lofty proportions, often running to as many as thirty storeys. Viewing these from Brooklyn Bridge it would really seem as if the New Yorkers were anxious to scour the heavens out of their top windows.

Sky Sign. A structure on the roof of a house of business for the purposes of a bold advertisement. This Transatlantic innovation has within the last few years been interdicted by order of the London County Council.

Slacker. An Eton term for one who never takes part in games; he cannot be coerced, and declines to exert himself in any way.

Slate Club. Originally a parochial thrift society whose members met in the schoolroom, their contributions being pro tem entered on slates, conveniently at hand.

Slick into it. To do a thing right away, never pausing until it is finished. As a variant of “Polish it off” this expression is rightly employed, slick being derived from the German schlicht, polished, clean.

Sling. An American mixed drink, so called on account of the different ingredients slung into it.

Sling your Hook. Originally an abbreviated angler’s phrase: “Sling your hook a little farther along, and then we shall both have more room.”

Slipper. A shoe into which the foot is easily slipped, more particularly among the Orientals, who dispense with the back leather clasping the heel.

Sloane Square. After Sir Hans Sloane, the original owner of the estate, whose daughter became by marriage the first Countess of Cadogan.

334Slope. To run away with expedition, as it were down the slope of a hill.

Smile. An Americanism for a “drink.” Unlike the common run of Americanisms, there is warranty for the term. When drinking their native beverage, “pulque,” the Mexicans look at one another, and smile. This custom has obtained with them ever since Montezuma gulped down this tipple offered to him by the hand of his daughter. See “Cocktail.”

Smithfield. A corruption of “Smoothfield,” a fine tract of meadow land on which mediæval tournaments were held, likewise horse races.

Smith of Antwerp. Quentin Matsys, the celebrated painter, who began life as a blacksmith.

Smalls. In theatrical parlance “the small towns.”

Smart Set. Originally an Americanism for the exclusive fashionable set of Boston society. The term has latterly travelled over to these shores, and the Smart Set of West End London does not appear to be beloved by Father Bernard Vaughan.

Snapshot. An Americanism for a photograph taken instantaneously with a portable camera. “Snap” is, however, a good old English word. We speak of a person being “snapped off” by disease--i.e. carried off suddenly.

Sneesh-box. Scottish for a snuff-box.

Snob. This term arose out of the expressions on the part of the vulgar whenever a conceited person who aped gentility was encountered: “He’s a nob,” “He’s not a nob,” or “He wants to make people believe he’s a nob,” until they resulted in the simple exclamation “Snob.” Such a word having once been established as the antithesis of “Nob,” a shoemaker merited the description of a Snob because his work was confined to the pedal extremities instead of the person’s head.

Snow Hill. A corruption of “Snore Hill,” so called because travellers by the stage-coach from Guildford 335were generally snoring by the time they reach their destination at the hill foot, “The Saracen’s Head.”

Soaker. Both in England and America this term denotes a habitual drunkard, soaked in liquor.

Soane Museum. This magnificent but little known collection of works of Art was acquired by Sir John Soane, the antiquary, at his residence in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where, subject to certain seasonal restrictions, it may be visited by anyone.

Sociable. An open carriage with two seats, thus admitting of its riders being face to face.

Socialists. A term of wide meaning, but according to its modern acceptation synonymous with “Levellers,” the adopted name of the malcontents of the time of Charles I., who sought to reduce society to a common level.

Society Islands. Named by Captain Cook in compliment to the Royal Society.

Society of Jesus. See “Jesuits.”

Socinians. The followers of Lælius Socinus, an Italian theologian of the sixteenth century. They held the same views as the modern “Unitarians.”

Sock and Buskin. The drama, alluding to the low and high shoe or sandal worn respectively by comic and tragic actors in the theatre of the ancients. The soccus was a simple shoe, whereas the brossquin, a term remotely derived from the Greek bursa, a hide, extended to the knee, and was, moreover, two or three inches thick in the sole to increase the height of the performer.

Sod. A north country term for a mean, ignorant fellow, no better than a lout or clodhopper, in allusion to the sod of agriculture.

Soft Soap. Flattery, because, unlike the ordinary kind, soft soap is easily rubbed in.

Soho. A name pleasantly recalling the days when, prior to the sixteenth century, the whole of London westward of Drury Lane was open country. So ho was the 336cry of the huntsmen when a hare broke cover, expressing the Norman-French for “See! Hie! (after him).”

Soirée. A sociable evening party, so called from the French soir, evening.

Soldier of Fortune. A soldier without fortune who seeks to make one by enlisting in any service which holds out the prospect of good pay.

Solid Straight. Another name for a “Straight Drink.”

Somerset. Described in Anglo-Saxon days as Suthmorset, the “South Moor Settlement.”

Somerset House. Covers the site of the palatial residence of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, the Lord Protector of Edward VI. On the sequestration of his estates in 1552 this passed to the Crown, and became a virtual royal residence. Here the body of James I. lay in state; here too the queens of Charles I. and Charles II. took up their abode. The present edifice dates from 1766.

Somers Town. From Lord Somers, the owner of the estate.

Sorbonne. After its founder Robert de Sorbon, a canon of Cambrai in 1252.

Souchong. A species of black tea called by the Chinese se-ou-chong, “small, good quality.”

Soudan. Properly “Suden,” from the Arabic Belad-ez-Suden, “district of the blacks.”

Southampton. The south town on the Ant or Hantone. See “Hampshire.”

Southampton Buildings. Marks the site of Southampton House, in which lived and died the last Earl of Southhampton, Lord Treasurer of Charles II.

Southampton Street. After one of the family titles of the Duke of Bedford, the great ground landlord.

South Audley Street. See “Audley Street.”

Southgate. See “New Southgate.”

337Southwark. A name which points to the Danish rule in England. The earliest London bridge of wood having been built in 1014, or two years before Canute seized upon the throne, this monarch took up his residence on the south bank of the Thames, and holding his Court there, styled it Sydrike, the Norse for “South Kingdom.” His successors also affected the Surrey side; as we know, Hardicanute died of a surfeit at Lambeth. By the Anglo-Saxons under Edward the Confessor the Danish Sydrike was rendered Suthwerk, or South Fortification, whence we have derived the name in its present form.

Southwick Crescent. After Southwick Park, the country seat of the Thistlewaytes, at one time joint lessees of the manor of Paddington.

Sovereign. So called because when first struck, in the reign of Henry VIII., this gold coin had upon it a representation of that sovereign in his royal robes.

Sovereign Pontiff. The superior title of the Pope. See “Pontiff.”

Spa. From the town of the same name (which expresses the Flemish for “fountain”) in Belgium, the fashionable Continental resort during the seventeenth century.

Spa Fields. From an ancient public resort known as the “London Spa,” in connection with a medicinal well discovered during the thirteenth century. An account of the “Spa Fields Chapel,” originally a theatre, purchased by the Countess of Huntingdon, the name has survived to our own time.

Spagnoletto. See “Lo Spagnoletto.”

Spain. Called by the Carthaginians “Hispania,” from the Punic span, rabbit, on account of the wild rabbits which abounded in the peninsula. See “Iberia.”

Spaniards. This famous “house of call” for pedestrians across Highgate Heath was originally the private residence of the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of James I.

338Spaniel. From Hispaniola, the old name of Hayti Island, in the West Indies, whence this breed of Spanish dog was introduced to Europe.

Spanish Main. The ancient designation of the waters around the West Indian Islands in the Caribbean Sea that rightly belonged to Spain.

Spanish Place. From the residence of the Spanish Ambassador during the eighteenth century. The private chapel attached to this mansion formed the nucleus of the present Catholic church.

Sparking. An Americanism for “courting.” There may be warranty for this in relation to “the spark of affection.”

Spa Road. From a long-forgotten spa or mineral well in this portion of Bermondsey.

Spa Water. Natural mineral waters drawn from a “Spa” or well.

Speaker. The official designation of the President of the House of Commons, to whom technically, the Members address themselves, though as a matter of fact, they address the country at large through the medium of the Press. Since he never speaks himself, except to rule a point of order, his title is a misnomer.

Spencer. A short overjacket introduced by the Earl of Spencer. This nobleman made a wager that he would set a new fashion by appearing abroad in any style of garment, however hideous it might be. He won his bet, for “Spencers” became popular.

Specs. Short for “spectacles.”

Spelling Bee. The name given to a competitive examination, in spelling in American schools, and later introduced in the cities as a fashionable pastime. From the States it reached England about a quarter of a century ago. The term “Bee” is essentially Transatlantic, being employed in the sense of a “hive” for any assemblage of workers--e.g. “a Sewing Bee.”

339Spindle City. Lowell in Massachusetts, so called on account of its numerous cotton factories.

Spinet. An early form of pianoforte, so called because it was played upon exclusively by unmarried females, as a relaxation from the labours of the spindle.

Spinster. A maiden lady, so called from the distaff or spindle, the regular occupation of an unmarried female.

Spiritualist. One who cherishes a belief in the power of communicating with departed spirits through the instrumentality of a Medium.

Spitalfields. The derivation of this name is generally given as from an ancient priory of “St Mary of the Spittle.” This is wrong. There may have been such a priory, but if so, like the present parish church, its designation arose out of the “spital,” or hospital in the sense of an almshouse, founded in the fields for the poor by Walter Brune and his wife during the reign of Richard Cœur de Lion.

Spithead. This famous roadstead, so eminently adapted for naval reviews, received its name from being situated at the head of the “spit” or sandbank which extends along the coast for three miles.

Spitzbergen. Danish for “sharp-pointed mountains,” relative to the mountain peaks in these islands.

Spook. Expresses the Dutch for “ghost.” Introduced to the United States by the early settlers of New York, this term has obtained currency on both sides of the Atlantic in connection with Spiritualism.

Spooning. This word is a play on “billing and cooing.” Courting couples in the act of whispering “soft nothings” have their mouths in such close contact that it resembles the manner of a mother bird feeding her young brood.

Sporting Women. An Americanism for “gay women.”

Spouting. Colloquial for public speaking, because the orator indulges in a constant flow of rhetoric, like water issuing from a pump spout.

340Sprat Day. 9th November, the opening of the London sprat-selling season.

Spread Eagle. An inn sign adopted from the arms of Germany, indicative of the fact that the wines of that country were to be had on the premises.

Spreads himself. Said of one in America who makes an ostentatious display of self-conceit. The allusion is to a peacock spreading its tail feathers to their utmost capacity.

Spring Gardens. So called because at this north-eastern entrance to St James’s Park unwitting pedestrians were suddenly drenched by a spray of water through stepping on a hidden spring. This was considered fine sport for the gallants who looked on during the Restoration period.

Spring Heel Jack. The sobriquet of the eccentric Marquis of Waterford, who about a century ago cultivated the habit of frightening people after nightfall by springing upon them out of obscure corners and alleys. It was said that terror of the streets had steel springs fitted to his heels for the purpose.

Square Meal. An Americanism for a full meal, which can only be enjoyed at the table, in contradistinction to a snack at a luncheon bar.

Squatter. Literally one who squats down on land to which he has no legal title.

Squaw. Algonquin for an Indian woman.

Stafford. The county town of the shire derived this name from the ancient mode of fording the River Sow, upon which it stands, by means of staves or stilts.

Stage-coach. So called from the stages or degrees of the whole journey, at each of which the coach pulled up to change horses and refresh the travellers.

Staines. From the Saxon stane, stone, the boundary mark set up beside the Thames, bearing date 1280, and the inscription: “God preserve the City of London.” 341This defined the western limits of jurisdiction claimed by the Thames Conservancy or Water Board.

Stand Sam. An Americanism for to “stand treat,” which originated among the soldiers during the Civil War. When billeted upon the people they demanded liquor by wholesale, saying that “Uncle Sam” would pay for it, and it was everyone’s duty to stand Sam. See “Uncle Sam.”

Stanhope. An open carriage named in compliment to the Earl of Stanhope, author and politician.

Stanhope Gate. This entrance to Hyde Park, in Park Lane, received its name from Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, residing at Chesterfield House close by.

Staples Inn. Properly “Staplers’ Inn,” the ancient Hall of the Woolstaplers, styled Merchants of the Staple.

Star and Garter. An inn or tavern sign commemorative of the institution of the Order of the Garter by Edward III.

Star Chamber. This historic court received its name not from the stars decorating the ceiling, as generally stated, but because it was the ancient depository of the Starra, or Jewish records, at the order of Richard I.

Start your Boots. An Americanism for “Be off!” “Walk away.”

Starvation Dundas. The sobriquet of Henry Dundas, created Lord Melville, owing to his constant repetition of the word “Starvation” in the course of a debate on American affairs in 1775.

State of Spain. New Jersey. After the battle of Waterloo Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon I., fled to New Jersey, and, settling on an estate at Borderstown, gathered so many Frenchmen and Spaniards around him that the Philadelphians regarded the people of this state generally as Spaniards and foreigners. At this time Joseph Bonaparte was nominally King of Naples and of Spain.

Stationer. This term was not derived from “Stationery,” 342since the latter grew out of the former. Ancient so-called booksellers were of two kinds: the itinerants, and the stallholders in open market. Both dealt in such books as were known at the time--hornbooks and the like--but principally in writing materials, and as the stationery booksellers had a more varied assortment than the pedlars, pen, ink, and paper eventually received the name of “stationery,” and their vendors that of “stationers.”

Steelyard. The name given to a weighing machine on which a single weight is moved along a graduated beam. This has no reference to a “yard” measure, but to the ancient Steelyard near London Bridge, where the German merchants of old landed, weighed, and sold their fine steel.

Steeplechase. This term originated in a race by a party of unsuccessful fox hunters, who agreed to run a race to the village church, the steeple of which was visible a couple of miles away, the one who touched its stones with his whip first being declared the winner.

Stepney. A corruption of “Stebenhithe,” after the owner of a hithe or wharf on this portion of the Thames bank in Anglo-Saxon days.

Sterling Money. That originally coined in this country by the “Esterlings,” the name given to the people of the Hanse Towns in the eastern portion of Germany, at the invitation of King John. The purity of the Esterling coinage was above reproach, whereas that of England anterior to the mission of the Hansa merchants to reform it had long become debased.

Sterling Silver. Genuine silver in its natural purity as opposed to “German Silver,” an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc first made in Germany. See “Sterling Money.”

Stick a Pin there. An Americanism for “make a note of it as a reminder.” Dressmakers always stick a pin to mark the place where material is to be stitched or taken in.

343Stiletto. Expresses the diminutive of the Italian stilo, a dagger.

Stingo. See “Yorkshire Stingo.”

Stock. This flower received its name from the circumstance that it was largely sold in the Stocks Market (so called on account of a pair of stocks that stood there), on part of the site of which the Mansion House was erected in 1737.

Stock Exchange. For the application of the term “Stock” to money, see “Government Stock.”

Stockwell. From an ancient well discovered in a stoke or wood.

Stoke Newington. Expresses the new town in the meadow adjacent to a stoke, or wood, in reference to “Enfield Chase.” See “New Southgate.”

Stonecutter Street. From the lapidaries who congregated here in ancient days.

Stone Jug. See “In the Jug.”

Stones End. See “Stony Street.”

Stonewall Jackson. This sobriquet of General Jackson originated with General Lee during the American Civil War. Rallying his troops after the battle of Bull Run, he exclaimed, pointing in the direction with his sword: “There is Jackson, standing like a stone wall!”

Stony Street. So called from the nature of this portion of the great Roman highway to Dover, in continuation of “Watling Street,” north of the Thames.

Store. An Americanism for a shop or warehouse.

Storey’s Gate. Marks the site of the residence of Edward Storey, keeper of the royal aviary of Charles II. in that portion of St James’s Park known as Birdcage Walk.

Stormy Petrel. A sea-bird, the appearance of which is regarded as a portent of storms. Its Italian name, Petrillo, expresses the diminutive of Peter, in allusion 344to St Peter, who walked on the sea, because, instead of flying in the air, this bird habitually skims on the surface of the water.

Storthing. From the Norse stor, great, and thing, court, the Norwegian and Swedish House of Assembly.

Stout. This black alcoholic beverage is so called because it contains more body and nourishment than ale or beer.

Stradivarius. A violin made by the celebrated Antonio Stradivari of Cremona; generally abbreviated into “Strad.”

Straight Drink. An Americanism for a drink of pure, undiluted spirit.

Strand. The name given to the north bank of the Thames (from the Norse strönd, shore, border) in days when, with the exception of a few princely houses dotted here and there, the whole of this portion of London was open country.

Straphanger. A term which has come into vogue since the introduction of electrified railways, the trains being so crowded in the morning and evening that straps are provided for standing passengers to cling to en route.

Strasburg. This name was first heard of in the fifth century, expressing the German for a fortified town on the strass or strata, the great Roman highway into Gaul.

Stratford. From the Latin strata, road, way; that portion of the old Roman highway where the River Lea had to be forded. In Chaucer’s time this little town, situated a long distance out of London, was described as “Stratford-a-te-Bow,” in allusion to “Bow Bridge.”

Stratford Place. After Edward Stratford, the second Lord Aldborough, who leased the ground for building purposes from the Corporation of the City of London in 1775.

Stratton Street. After Lord Berkeley of Stratton, the 345owner of the district now comprised in Mayfair, temp. Charles I.

Strenuous Life. The antithesis of the “Simple Life.”

Stuarts. This dynasty received its name from the fact that Walter, the Lord High Steward of Scotland, married the daughter of King Robert the Bruce. Since this Walter was the sixth of his line honoured with such a position, he was said to belong to the Stewards, which, eventually corrupted into “Stuarts,” resulted in a family name.

Stumped. To have no money left. See “Stump up.”

Stump Orator. One who harangues a crowd from the stump of a tree.

Stump Speech. A term popularised in this country through the minstrel entertainment, being an extempore speech delivered to the Negroes of the southern states from the stump of a tree.

Stump the Country. Colloquial for an electioneering campaign, derived from the practice of political agents in the United States addressing the people at large from a convenient tree stump.

Stump up. Originally an Americanism for “put down your money.” After delivering a speech for a benevolent object the “Stump Orator” stepped down, and the people around laid their contributions on the tree stump.

Suabia. See “Servia.”

Sub. Short for “subsidise,” or to draw something in advance of one’s salary.

Sub Rosa. “Under the Rose”--i.e. strictly between ourselves. It was the custom of the Teutons when they assembled at a feast, to suspend a rose from the ceiling as a reminder that whatever might be said concerning their absent friends should not be repeated.

Subtle Doctor. Duns Scotus, the schoolman and prince of metaphysicians, whose subtlety of reasoning has never been equalled in ancient or modern times.

346Sucked in. An expression derived from “Buying a pig in a poke.” See “Let the Cat out of the Bag.”

Sucker State. Illinois, so called from the Galena lead miners, who disappeared during the winter and returned to Galena in the spring, when the sucker-fish in the Fevre River abounded. The people of this state are accordingly styled “Suckers.”

Suffolk. A corruption of “South Folk,” the inhabitants of the southern division of East Anglia.

Suffolk Lane. From the ancient town house of the Dukes of Suffolk.

Suffolk Street. From Suffolk House, the residence of the Earls of Suffolk in former days.

Suffragette. If this latter-day term possesses any etymological significance whatever, it expresses the diminutive of one who claims the suffrage or the right, from the Latin suffragio, to vote. A suffragette is, in brief, a woman who ought to know better. Eager to take upon herself the responsibilities of citizenship on a common footing with the male orders of creation, she cannot but shirk those which rightly belong to her own state.

Sulky. A two-wheeled carriage for a single person, so called from the popular idea at the time of its introduction that anyone who wished to ride alone could not be otherwise than morose and sulky in his disposition.

Sumatra. From the Arabic Simatra, “happy land.”

Sumner Street. After Dr Sumner, Bishop of Winchester, one of the last occupants of Winchester House in this neighbourhood.

Sun. An inn sign after the heraldic device of Richard II.

Sunday. The first day of the week, dedicated in the Scandinavian mythology to sun-worship.

Sun-down. An Americanism for “sunset.”

Sunflower. So called from the form and colour of its flower. See “Heliotrope.”

347Sunnites. The orthodox Mohammedans, who accept the Sunna, or collective traditions, equally with the Koran.

Sunset Land. Arizona, on account of its glorious sunsets.

Supers. In theatrical parlance short for “supernumeraries,” those who form the stage crowds, but have no individual lines to speak.

Supper. A term which has survived the changes of time. We still invite a friend to “sup” with us, but the repast is more or less a substantial one. Anciently the last meal of the day consisted only of soup.

Surrey. From the Anglo-Saxon Suth-rey, south of the river--i.e. the Thames.

Surrey Street. After the town mansion and grounds of the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel and Surrey.

Suspenders. An Americanism for trouser braces.

Sussex. The territory of the Suth-seaxe, or South Saxons, under the Heptarchy.

Sutton Place. After Thomas Sutton, founder of the Charter House, whom the good folk of Hackney were proud to number among their residents on this spot.

Swallow Street. It is difficult to imagine that this once merited the name of “Slough Street,” on account of its miry condition; but such is the fact.

Swan Alley. From the ancient town house of the Beauchamps, whose crest was a swan.

Swan-Upping. The name given from time immemorial by the Vintners’ Company to their annual up-Thames visitation of the swans belonging to them for the purpose of marking their bills with two nicks, by way of distinguishing them from the royal swans, that have five nicks.

Swan with two Necks. An ancient London inn sign, corrupted from “The Swan with two Nicks,” in compliment to the Vintners’ Company. See “Swan-Upping.”

348Sweating. A word used in the original Biblical sense, and applied to the unhealthy conditions which obtain among the denizens of the East End of London, specifically the Jewish tailors, numbers of whom work together in the fœtid atmosphere of a single small room.

Swedenborgians. The followers of Emmanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish mystic. Prior to 1719, when his family became ennobled, his real name was Svedborg.

Swedish Nightingale. Jenny Lind Goldschmidt, the rage of musical London, who died in 1887.

Sweepstake. Money staked on a race by different persons, the fortunate winner among whom takes the whole amount, literally at one sweep.

Sweetbriar. Expresses a “fragrant thorn.”

Sweetheart. A corruption of “Sweetard,” the suffix ard expressing the intensitive in many class names, such as “Dotard,” “Bastard,” etc.

Swell. Slang for one of the upper classes, no doubt suggested by the phrase: “The bloated aristocracy.” Also applied to an overdressed person puffed out with the idea of his own importance.

Switches. An Americanism for ladies’ hair curlers, fringes, and other hirsute appendages.

Switzerland. The English form of the Austrian Schwyz and German Schweitz, originally the name of the three forest cantons whose people threw off the Austrian yoke and asserted the independence of the whole country.

Switzerland of America. West Virginia, so called on account of its mountains.

Sworn Brothers. An ancient legal phrase signifying that two friends had entered into a solemn compact to lend mutual aid and protection and share each other’s fortunes. This custom was of Scandinavian origin.

349Sydenham. Expresses the home or family settlement in the south.

Symmetrion Girl. See “Sandow Girl.”


Tabard. The famous inn sign in Southwark immortalised by Chaucer’s “Canterbury Pilgrims,” from the ancient tunic with wide flap sleeves still worn by the heralds.

Tableaux Vivants. French for “living pictures,” specifically the realisation of a celebrated painting or a scene from history by a group of persons.

Table d’Hôte. Most people are under the impression that this term means a dinner as served at a hotel. This is erroneous. Its literal signification is “the table of the host.” Until quite modern days a traveller who desired to be served with a meal at an inn had to take it with the landlord at his own table.

Taboo. Strictly speaking, there is no such word as “tabooed,” yet we generally find it employed in the place of “taboo.” The latter is the European rendering of the Polynesian tapu, signifying a thing reserved or consecrated to the use of one person. For a South Sea Islander to exclaim tapu when he sees anything that he fancies, is tantamount to saying “I claim this thing; anyone else who touches it shall die.” Amongst ourselves a subject which is taboo must not be discussed.

Taffy. The generic name for a Welshman, corrupted from Davy, which is short for David, the most common Christian name of the country, in honour of St David.

Tagus. The Phœnician for “river of fish.”

Tailor. From the French tailleur, based upon the verb tailler, to cut.

Take a Back Seat. An Americanism for “You have outdone me; I’ll retire from the front row.”

Take a Rise out of Him. To take an undue advantage, 350to benefit by a mean action. This originated in fly-fishing; when a fish sees the fly held out of the water it rises to seize the coveted prey, and is caught itself.

Takes the Cake. An expression derived from the Cake Walking competitions of the Negroes in the southern states of the American Union. A cake is placed on the ground, and the competitors, male and female, walk around it in couples. Those who disport themselves most gracefully take the cake as their prize.

Take your Hook. See “Sling your Hook.”

Talbot. An inn sign in compliment to the Earls of Shrewsbury.

Talbotype. A process of photography, by means of the Camera Obscura, invented by Fox Talbot in 1839.

Talking Shop. The nickname for the House of Commons. See “Parliament.”

Tally Ho! From the Norman hunting cry Taillis au (“To the coppice”), raised when the stag made for its native place of safety.

Tallyman. One who supplies goods on the weekly instalment system, so called originally from the acknowledgments for payments that he gave to his customers having to “tally” or agree with the entries in his book. Why such a one should be ashamed of his old-time designation, and now style himself a “Credit Draper,” can only be explained on the ground that the tallyman is in bad odour with the husbands of the guileless women whom he systematically overcharges. See “Government Stock.”

Tammany Ring. The name given to certain officials of the Democratic party in New York who in 1871 were punished for having during a long series of years plundered the people wholesale. Tammany Hall was the place where they held their meetings. This was originally the headquarters of a benevolent society, but it degenerated into a political club. By way of 351accounting for the designation, it may be added that Tammany or Tammenund was the name of a famous Indian chief of the Delaware tribe, greatly beloved by his people.

Taming the Alps. A phrase which has lately come into vogue through the popular solicitude to prevent intrepid amateurs from climbing the Alps without the assistance of local guides.

Tantalise. A word based upon the fable of Tantalus, a son of Jupiter, who, because he betrayed his father’s secrets, was made to stand up to his chin in water, with branches of luscious fruit over his head, but when he wished to drink or to eat the water and the fruit receded from him.

Tapestry. From the French tapisserie, based on the Latin tapes, a carpet.

Tapster. The old name for a tavern-keeper or his assistant, applied in days when taps were first fitted to barrels for drawing off liquor.

Tarantella. A dance invented for the purpose of inducing perspiration as a supposed remedy for the poisonous bite of the Tarantula spider, which received its name from the city of Taranto in Italy, where its baneful effects were first noted.

Tarlatan. From Tarare in France, the chief seat of the manufacture.

Tar Heels. The nickname of the people of South Carolina, relative to the tar industry in its lowland forests.

Tarragona. Called by the Romans Tarraco, after the name given to the city by the Phœnicians, Tarchon, “citadel.”

Tarred with the same Brush. This expression originated in the custom of marking the sheep of different folds formerly with a brush dipped in tar, but nowadays more generally in red ochre.

Tart. A punning abbreviation of “Sweetheart.”

352Tasmania. After Abel Jansen Tasman, the Dutch navigator, who discovered it in 1642.

Tattersall’s. After Richard Tattersall, who established his famous horse repository near Hyde Park Corner in 1786; on 10th April 1865 it was removed to its present locale at Knightsbridge.

Taunton. The town on the River Tone.

Tavern. From the Latin taberna, a hut of boards.

Tavistock. The stockaded place on the Tavy.

Tavistock Street. After the ancestor of the present great ground landlord, Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, Marquis of Tavistock, and Duke of Bedford, the father of the celebrated Rachel who became the wife of Lord William Russell, beheaded in 1683. The square and place similarly designated are included in the ducal estate.

Tawdry. A word derived from the cheap, showy lace anciently sold at the annual fair of St Audrey in the Isle of Ely. This was called St Audrey’s lace, afterwards corrupted into Tawdrey. The name of St Audrey itself was a corruption of St Ethelreda.

Tay. From the Celtic tain, river.

Tearless Victory. Plutarch in his “Lives” gave this name to the great victory won by Archimandus, King of Sparta, over the Arcadians and Argives, B.C. 367, without the loss of a single Spartan soldier.

Teetotaler. This designation of a total abstainer arose out of the stammering address at Preston in September 1833 of one Richard Turner, who concluded by saying: “Nothing but t-t-t-t-total abstinence will do--that or nowt!”

Teetotum. A coined term for a Working Man’s Total Abstinence Club, suggested by the word “Teetotaler.”

Teignmouth. Situated at the mouth, or in the estuary of, the Teign, which name is a variant of the Celtic tain, river.

353Tell that to the Marines. In the old days, before the bluejackets proved themselves as good fighting men on land as at sea, the Marines were an indispensable adjunct to the Navy, but as time hung heavily upon their hands they were always ready to listen to a story. Finding that they were easily gullible, the sailors loved to entertain them with the most extraordinary yarns, and, while on shore, if they heard a wonderful story themselves they made up their minds to “tell that to the Marines.”

Temple. The seat of the “Knights Templars” in this country down to the time of the dissolution of their Order by Edward II. in 1313.

Temple Bar. The ancient gateway, at the western extremity of Fleet Street, defining the “liberty” of the city of London on that side, and originally set up as the ordinary entrance to the London house of the Knights Templars. Taken down in 1878, the “Bar” now adorns the park of Sir Henry Meux at Theobalds, Cheshunt, Herts.

Tenement House. An Americanism for a dwelling-house let off to different families.

Tennessee. Indian for “river of the great bend.”

Tent Wine. A corruption of vinto tinto, the Spanish for a white wine coloured.

Terpsichorean Art. After Terpsichore, one of the Nine Muses, who presided over dancing.

Terra-cotta. Italian for “baked earth”--i.e. clay.

Texas. Indian for “the place of protection,” where a colony of French refugees were kindly received in 1817.

Thaler. Originally called a Joachims-Thaler, because this German coin was struck out of silver found in the thal, or dale, of St Joachim in France about 1518. From this “Thaler” the term “Dollar” has been derived.

Thames. To assert that this name has been derived from 354the Latin (?) Thamesis, “the broad Isis,” or that it expresses the conjunction of the Thame and the Isis, is ridiculous. The word is wholly Celtic, from tam, smooth, and esis, one of the many variants of the original uisg, water. It is quite true that that portion of our noble river which flows past Oxford is called the Isis, but the name is scholastic only, and cannot be found in any ancient charter or historical document. Thames simply means smooth water, or, if we care to admit it, “the smooth Isis.”

Thames Street. Runs parallel to the river on the north bank.

Thanet Place. This cul de sac at the eastern end of the Strand received its name from the Earl of Thanet, the owner of the land prior to 1780.

Thavie’s Inn. A range of modern buildings on the site of an ancient appendage to Lincoln’s Inn, so called by the Benchers in honour of John Thavie, an armourer, who when he died in 1348 left a considerable amount of property to the parish church of St Andrew.

Theobalds Road. So called because James I. was wont to pass along it on the way to his favourite hunting-seat at Theobalds in Hertfordshire. See “Kingsgate Street.”

Thespian Art. After Thespis, the Father of the Greek Drama.

Thirteen Cantons. A tavern sign off Golden Square, complimentary to the Cantons of Switzerland, at a time when Soho was as much a Swiss colony as it is now French.

Thomas Street. In honour of Thomas Guy, the founder of the Hospital, also named after him.

Thomists. Those who accepted the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas, in opposition to that of John Duns Scotus relative to the Immaculate Conception.

Threadneedle Street. A corruption of, first, “Thridneedle,” 355and later “Three-Needle” Street, so called from the arms of the Needlemakers’ Company.

Three Chairmen. A tavern sign in Mayfair, this house being the regular resort of gentlemen’s servants in the days when sedan-chairs were fashionable.

Three Exes. The nickname of the 30th Regiment of Foot (XXX).

Three Kings. An inn sign derived from the Magi or Three Wise Men who came to adore the new-born Saviour at Bethlehem.

Three Men Wine. The name borne by a very bad wine which requires two men to hold the victim, while a third pours it down his throat.

Three Nuns. A tavern sign in Aldgate, reminiscent of the neighbouring priory of the Nuns of St Clare in ancient times.

Three Suns. An inn sign derived from the device of Edward IV. as King of England.

Throgmorton Street. After the wealthy London banker, Sir Nicholas Throgmorton.

Throw up the Sponge. Originally a boxing expression. When a prize-fighter had been badly bruised in the first round he often declined the sponge offered to him by his second, or, in a sudden fit, threw it up in the air, declaring he had had enough of it; hence to “throw up the sponge” is to acknowledge oneself beaten.

Thundering Legion. The name ever afterwards borne by that Roman legion which, A.D. 179, overthrew the power of the Alemanni by defeating them during a thunderstorm, which was thought to have been sent to them in answer to the prayers of the Christians.

Thurlow Place. After Lord Chancellor Thurlow, whose residence was in Great Ormond Street, close by.

Thursday. The day of Thor, the God of Thunder, in the Scandinavian mythology.

356Tied House. A public-house owned or financed by a firm of brewers, with the result that the nominal landlord is not allowed to replenish his stock from any other brewer.

Tierra del Fuego. Spanish for “land of fire,” so called from a volcano on the largest island which throws up flame and smoke visible a very great distance out at sea.

Tight. Intoxicated, because a person in this state generally clutches tight hold of a street lamppost or a convenient railing when unable to walk home after a debauch.

Tighten your Purse Strings. See “Purse Strings.”

Tilbury. The ancient form of the name of the village two miles west of Tilbury Fort was Tillaburgh, after one Tilla, a Saxon, of whom, however, nothing is now known. A small two-wheeled gig without a cover is called a Tilbury, after a London sportsman who introduced it nearly a century ago.

Tinker. A corruption of “tinner,” or tin-worker. This has given rise to the verb “to tinker,” which meant originally to hammer lightly at a thing after the style a tinman, without being able to repair it in a thoroughly workman-like manner.

Tintoretto. The better known name of the famous Italian painter, Jacopo Robusti, because his father was a tintore, or dyer.

Tobacco. From tobaco, the inhaling tube of the North American Indians. By the Spaniards alone has the original spelling of the name, now given universally to the fragrant weed itself, been preserved.

Tobago Island. So called by Columbus on account of its resemblance to the inhaling tube of the Indians, the tobaco.

Toddy. From the Hindoo taudi, a stimulating beverage made from the juice of various palm-trees.

Toff. A vulgar corruption of the University term “Tuft,” 357a young nobleman who pays high fees and is distinguished by a golden tuft or tassel on his cap.

Toggery. A term derived from the same source as “Togs.”

Togs. Slang for clothes, but originally derived from toga, the characteristic male garment of the Romans.

Tokay. An excellent white wine produced in the district of the same name in Upper Hungary.

Tokenhouse Yard. Marks the site of the ancient Token-House, which came into existence through the insufficiency of small copper coinage. A number of Nuremberg “tokens” having been introduced into this country, tradesmen imported large quantities of them for purposes of small (halfpenny and farthing) change, but instead of being kept in circulation such tokens were afterwards exchanged by the inhabitants of the city for their face value at the Token-House. About the same time various municipalities throughout the country manufactured their own tokens. The London Token-House was swept away by the Great Fire and never rebuilt.

Toledo. From the Hebrew H’toledoth, “generations,” “families,” relative to the Jewish founders of the city.

Tom Folio. The sobriquet of Thomas Rawlinson, the bibliomaniac.

Tommy Atkins. This general designation of an English soldier arose out of the hypothetical name, “Thomas Atkins,” which at one time figured in the Paymaster-General’s monthly statement of accounts sent to the War Office. So much money claimed by “Thomas Atkins” meant, of course, the regular pay for the rank and file.

Tom Tidler’s Ground. A corruption of “Tom the Idler’s Ground.”

Tontine. The name given to a system of reducing the State Loans in France in 1653 after Lorenzo Tonti, a Neapolitan protegé of Cardinal Mazarin, its 358projector. According to this system, when one subscriber dies, the money accredited to him passes to the others, until the last survivor inherits the whole amount.

Tooley Street. Originally “St Olaff Street” after the parish church dedicated to St Olaff or Olave. This thoroughfare was in the time of the Commonwealth known as “St Tulie Street,” of which its modern name is an easy corruption.

Toothpicks. A nickname borne by the people of Arkansas on account of the Bowie Knives carried by the early settlers.

Topaz. From topazios, after Topazos, the Greek name of an island in the Red Sea where this gem was anciently

Tories. Originally, during the Restoration period, the nickname bestowed by the Protestants on their religious and political opponents. This was in derisive allusion to a band of outlaws that infested the bog districts of Ireland, the word toree being Gaelic for a robber.

Toronto. Indian for “oak-trees beside the lake.”

Torquatus. See “Manlius Torquatus.”

Torres Strait. After the Spanish navigator, L. N. de Torres, who discovered it in 1606.

Torrington Square. After the family name of the first wife of John, the sixth Duke of Bedford, the ancestor of the great ground landlord.

Tothill Street. A name which recalls the ancient manor of Tothill, properly Toothill--i.e. beacon hill. Wherever toot or tot appears in a place-name, it points to the one-time existence of a beacon.

Totnes. A corruption of “Toot Ness,” the beacon on the headland.

Tottenham. From “Totham,” a corruption of Toot ham, the house or hamlet by the beacon.

Tottenham Court Road. So called ever since the days of 359Elizabeth because it then led to “Tottenham Court.” This was an ancient manor, originally belonging to St Paul’s, and held in the reign of Henry III. by William de Tottenhall.

Touched him on the Raw. Reminded him of something which hurt his feelings. This expression arose out of an ostler’s solicitude to avoid a sore place on a horse while grooming him.

Toulon. The Telonium of the Romans, so called after Telo Martius, the tribune who colonised it.

Tractarians. Those Oxford men who assisted Dr Pusey with the composition of the famous “Tracts for the Times,” as well as those who accepted the opinions expressed therein.

Trafalgar Square. From the Nelson Column, set up in 1843, two years before the square itself was laid out as it now exists.

Traitors’ Gate. The riverside entrance to the Tower of London reserved for State prisoners convicted of high treason.

Tramway. An abbreviation of “Outram way,” after Benjamin Outram of Derbyshire, who was the first to place his sleepers end to end the whole length of the rails, instead of crosswise, as on our railways. Long before this, however, the word “Tram” had been applied to a coal waggon or truck in the colliery districts, while the rails on which a vehicle ran bore the name of a “Tramroad.”

Transformation Scene. So called because in the good old days of Pantomine the Fairy Queen was at this juncture of the entertainment supposed to transform the chief characters of the “opening” into Clown, Pantaloon, Harlequin, Columbine, and Policeman.

Transvaal. Expresses the territory beyond the Vaal River.

Transylvania. From the Latin trans, beyond, and sylva, wood; this name was given by the Hungarians to the country beyond their wooded frontier.

360Trappists. A strict Order of Cistercian Monks, so called from their original home at La Trappe in Normandy, established during the twelfth century.

Treacle Bible. A rare version of the Scriptures, so called on account of the rendering of the passage (Jeremiah viii. 22): “Is there no balm in Gilead?” as “There is no more traicle at Gilead.”

Trent. Celtic for “winding river.”

Tried in the Balance and Found Wanting. An expression founded on the belief of the ancient Egyptians that the souls of men were weighed after death.

Trilbies. Colloquial for feet, because Trilby in the novel and the play named after the heroine appears in bare feet.

Trilby. A soft felt hat of the kind popularised by the heroine of the famous Haymarket Theatre play, Trilby, founded upon the late George du Maurier’s equally famous novel of the same title.

Trinidad Island. The name given to it by Columbus as an emblem of the Trinity, relative to its three mountain peaks which, when seen from afar, he at first imagined rose from three different islands.

Trinitarians. Those who accept the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as opposed to the Unitarians; also the original designation of the “Crutched Friars,” or Friars of the Holy Trinity.

Trinity House. This had its origin in an ancient guild incorporated in 1529 under the title of “The Master-Wardens and Assistants of the Guild, or Fraternity, or Brotherhood, of the Most Glorious and Undivisible Trinity, and St Clement, in the parish of Deptford, Stroud, in the County of Kent.” The present building dates from 1795.

Trinity Sunday. That which follows Whitsunday, pursuant to the good old Catholic custom of allowing religious exercises, specifically the partaking of the Holy Communion, to be performed within the octave, or eight days, of a great feast.

361Tristan d’Acunha. After the Portuguese navigator who discovered this island in 1651.

Trithing. See “Riding.”

Trump Street. After the makers of trumpets, who, in the days of public pageants and processions, here had their workshops.

Trust. Another word for a “Combine” or “Corner,” with this difference that its members are pledged to stand by one another, and faithfully maintain the high prices their action has brought about.

Tudors. This royal house received its name from Owen Tudor, a Welsh soldier, who while stationed at Windsor, contracted a secret marriage with Catherine, the widowed queen of Henry V.

Tuesday. In the Scandinavian mythology the day set apart for the worship of Tiw, the God of War.

Tuft. See “Toff.”

Tulle. From the French town of the same name, where this fabric was first made.

Tumble to it. This phrase is a vulgar perversion of “stumble upon it”--i.e. the meaning or comprehension of a thing.

Tunis. Anciently Tunentum, after the Tunes, who peopled the country.

Turin. Called by the Romans Augusta Taurisonum, the capital of the Taurini.

Turkestan. Conformably to the Persian stan, the country of the Turks.

Turkey. From “Turkia,” the Celtic suffix expressing the country of the Turks. The bird of this name was long thought to be a native of Turkey; it was, however, introduced to Europe from North America early in the sixteenth century.

Turnagain Lane. So called because it ends at a high brick wall, and the pedestrian has no alternative but to retrace his steps.

362Turnmill Street. A name which recalls the days when an old mill, whose sails turned with the wind, stood in the pleasant meadow.

Turpentine State. North Carolina, from the turpentine found in its great pine forests.

Turquoise. From Turkey, the country where this precious stone was first found.

Tuscany. The territory of the Etruscans.

Tweed. It is perfectly true that this cloth is fabricated in the vicinity of the River Tweed, but the name is really a corruption of “Twill,” which word, in an invoice sent to James Locke in London, being blotted, looked like “tweed,” and the customer thought the cloth might as well be called by that name as by its original.

Twelfth Night. That which brought the Christmas holidays and festivities to a close in former days. In the morning the people went to church to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, afterwards they gave themselves up right merrily to indoor amusements.

Twickenham. When Pope resided in this pretty up-river village its name was “Twitnam” for short, but it meant the same as of yore, a hamlet located between two rivulets of the Thames. The word is Anglo-Saxon, cognate with the modern German zwischen, between, and heim, a home.

Twill. From the German zwillich, “trellis work,” so called from the diagonal ribs distinguished on the surface of this cloth.

Two Fours. The 44th Regiment of Foot.

Two Sevens. The 77th Regiment of Foot.

Two Twos. The 22nd Regiment of Foot.

Tyburn. A corruption of Twa-burne, “two streams,” the one from Bayswater, the other from Kilburn, which met on the spot where the public executions formerly took place and the Marble Arch now stands.

Tyne. Another variant of the Celtic tain, river.


Uisquebaugh. From uisge, water, and beatha, life, the national drink of the Irish people. Out of this we have derived the English term “Whisky.”

Ukase. From the Russian ukasat, to speak.

Ukraine. Expresses the Slavonic for a “frontier country.”

Ultramarine. Another name for “Saunders Blue,” introduced to England from beyond the sea.

Umber. From Umbria in Italy, where this pigment was first obtained.

Umbrella. From the Latin umbra, a shade. The original function of such an article was to act as a shelter against the scorching rays of the sun, similar to those monster white or coloured umbrellas one sees in a Continental market-place. It was Jonas Hanway who first diverted it from its proper use. See “Hanway Street.”

Uncle. How this name came to be applied to a pawnbroker was as follows:--Before the “spout” was introduced all those pledges which consisted of clothing were attached to a very large book, or uncus as it was called, conformably to the Latin description of the article, since the Lombards were the earliest pawnbrokers of history. When this uncus could accommodate nothing more, the rope from which it depended was unslung from the ceiling, and laid across the shoulders of an assistant, who then carried the whole collection to the store-rooms overhead. Hence an article which had been pledged was said to have “Gone to the Uncus,” or, as the modern phrase has it, “Gone to my Uncle’s.”

Uncle Sam. The national nickname of the United States. This arose out of the initials “U.S.,” which the Government caused to be painted or branded on all its stores just as the Government property in this 364country is marked with a broad arrow. Since it happened that the official whose duty it was to see this marking properly carried out was known among his numerous acquaintance as “Uncle Sam,” the general impression obtained that the letters really applied to him, as evidence that the goods had passed through his hands. In this way “Uncle Sam” bequeathed his name to a great nation.

Uncle Sam’s Ice-box. Alaska, so called on account of its northern situation. Prior to the year 1867 this territory belonged to Russia.

Undertaker. Specifically one who in former days undertook to be responsible for the custody of a corpse until the moment that it was lowered into the grave. This was the raison d’être of the two “mutes” stationed by him at the door of the house by day and by night as guards.

Underwriter. One who accepts the responsibility of insuring a vessel or its merchandise by signing his name at the foot of the policy.

Unionists. Those who are opposed to Home Rule for Ireland; now identified with the Conservative Party.

Union Jack. The first part of this name has, of course, reference to the Union of England and Scotland in the person of James I., but the application of the word “Jack” to our national flag is not so easily disposed of. Nevertheless, reference to our note on “Jack-boots” will afford the reader a key to the question. Twenty-six of such “Jacques,” emblazoned with the arms of St George, were ordered by Edward III. for one of his warships. Designed primarily for the defence of his soldiers when in fighting array, they were placed in a row along the low bulwarks while the vessel was sailing, just as the Romans and the hardy Norsemen disposed of their shields at sea. After this statement it should not be difficult to see how the Cross of St George displayed on a jacque lent its name at first to the staff from which the English flag was flown, and later to the flag itself.

365Unitarians. Those who are opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity, denying, as they do, the Godhead or divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. This tenet was promulgated by Lælius Socinus, an Italian theologian, in 1546.

United Brethren. Another name for the religious sect styled the “Moravians.”

University. From the Latin universitatis, the whole. This word expresses the various distinct colleges and halls at Oxford, Cambridge, and elsewhere, incorporated by a royal charter as one great educational centre.

Unlearned Parliament. See “Parliament of Dunces.”

Unready. See “Ethelred the Unready.”

Up a Tree. Completely cornered, yet defiant; the allusion is to the refuge of a tree-branch against the attack of a bull stationed beneath it.

Upper Berkeley Street. See “Berkeley Street.”

Upper Crust. A modern term for the aristocracy, because it was formerly considered a mark of high honour to allow the most distinguished guest to cut off the top of the loaf at table.

Upper Seymour Street. After the Seymours, from whom the Portmans, owners of the estate, are descended.

Upper Ten. Short for “The Upper Ten Thousand,” which, at the time when N. P. Willis first made use of the term, was the approximate number of fashionables or really well-to-do in the city of New York.

Uppertendom. An Americanism for the aristocracy.

Upper Thames Street. The western portion of Thames Street between London and Blackfriars Bridges.

Up the Spout. This expression requires no elucidating. Nevertheless, there was a time when a pawnbroking establishment had not the convenience of a “spout,” and because this was so, the matter-of-fact tradesman 366earned for himself the endearing title of “My Uncle.” See “Uncle.”

Up to Snuff. Said of one who has a keen scent for reckoning up his neighbours.

Uruguay. Expresses the Brazilian for “the golden water.”

Ural. A Tartar word for “belt.”

Usher. From the old French huisher, door, signifies a doorkeeper.

Usk. A variant of the Celtic uisg, water.

Ursulines. An Order of nuns named after St Ursula, who suffered martyrdom at Cologne in the tenth century.

Utah. After an Indian tribe, the Yuta or Utes, encountered in the region so named.

Utilitarianism. A word implying “the happiness of the greatest number.” In this sense it was first popularised by John Stuart Mill, after Jeremy Bentham had promulgated a similar ethical religion under the style of “Utility.”

Utopia. From the Greek ou, not, and topos, place, this compound term signifies “nowhere,” “no such place.” Ideas and Systems are said to be “Utopian” when they cannot be accepted by the average reasoning mind.


Valance. From Valencia in Spain, where bed drapery was at one time made for the supply of the world’s markets.

Valencias. Raisins grown in the Spanish province of Valencia, which name, relative to the capital city, means “powerful, strong.”

Valenciennes. Lace made at the French town of the same name.

Valentines. See “St Valentine’s Day.”

Valparaiso. Expresses the Spanish for “Vale of Paradise.”

Vamoose. An Americanism for “decamp,” “run along,” “be off.” This had its origin in the Spanish vamos, “let us go.”

367Vanbrugh Castle. This castellated mansion at Blackheath was built by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1717.

Vancouver Island. Discovered by Captain Vancouver while searching for an inlet on the west coast of North America in 1792.

Van Diemen’s Land. The name first given by Tasman, its discoverer, in 1642, to what is now “Tasmania,” in compliment to the daughter of the Dutch Governor of Batavia.

Vandyke. A pointed lace collar, always distinguished in the portraits painted by Sir Anthony Vandyck. Also a peculiar shade of brown colour used by him for his backgrounds.

Vassar College. Founded in the state of New York by Matthew Vassar in 1861 for the higher education of women. This might be said to constitute the Girton College of the New World.

Vaudeville. The name given to a short, bright dramatic piece interspersed with songs set to familiar airs, after Vaudevire, a village in Normandy, where Olivier Basselin, the first to compose such pieces, was born. The Vaudeville Theatre in the Strand was built for entertainments of this class.

Vauxhall. After Jane Vaux, the occupant of the manor house in 1615. This name, however, would seem to have been corrupted in modern times, since the manor was originally held soon after the Norman Conquest by Fulka de Breante. The manor house might consequently have been in those far-off days described as “Fulkes Hall.”

Venerable Bede. The Saxon historian merited the surname of “Venerable” because he was an aged man and also an ecclesiastic.

Venezuela. Finding that the Indian villages in this country were uniformly built upon piles in the water, the Spaniards gave it their native term for “Little Venice.”

368Venice. After the Veneti, the early inhabitants of the district.

Vernier. After Pierre Vernier, the inventor of the instrument.

Vere Street. After the De Veres, owners of the estate before it passed to the Harleys.

Verger. From the French verge, a rod, the name borne by the custodian of a cathedral or minster, because in common with official attendants, he formerly carried a rod or staff of office.

Vermicelli. Italian for “little worms.”

Vermont. A corruption of “Verd Mont,” in allusion to its green mountains.

Vermuth. The white wine tinctured with bitter herbs appropriately bears this name derived from the Anglo-Saxon wermod, wormwood.

Verulam Buildings. This portion of Gray’s Inn was named in honour of Lord Bacon, created Baron Verulam and Viscount St Albans.

Veto. This word is Latin for “I forbid.”

Vicar. From the Latin vicarius, in place of another. See “Rector.”

Vichy Water. So called because drawn from the celebrated springs at Vichy in France.

Victoria. The carriage of this name was introduced in 1838, the coronation year of the late Queen Victoria. Much about the same time the Australian colony so designated in her honour was first colonised.

Victoria Regia. So called because it was brought to England from Guiana soon after the accession of Queen Victoria.

Victoria Street. After Queen Victoria, in the early years of whose reign it was cut through and built upon.

Vienna. From a small stream, the Wien, from which the city received its German name.

369Vignette. Expressing the French for a “little vine,” this name was given to an early style of photograph, and also to a book engraving that faced the title-page, on account of the vine leaves and tendrils that surrounded it.

Vigo Street. In honour of the capture of Vigo by Lord Cobham in 1719, shortly before this street was built upon.

Viking. From the Icelandic vik, a creek, the usual lurking-place of the northern pirates.

Villain. Although signifying originally a mean, low fellow, but by no means one of reprehensive morals as now, this term was applied to a labourer on a farm or a country seat. To argue this point with the humble day-labourer who trims the shrubs at a suburban villa in our own time, would serve no useful purpose.

Villiers Street. One of the group of streets the names of which perpetuate the memory of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, whose town mansion hereabouts was approached from the river by the old water gate, still in existence.

Vinegar. From the French vinaigre, “sour wine.”

Vinegar Bible. So called from the substitution of the word “vinegar” for “vineyard” in the headline to Luke xx., printed at the Clarendon Press in 1717.

Vinegar Yard. Wherever this corrupted term is met with in London it points to a “vineyard” originally belonging to a religious order. That in Clerkenwell was attached to the Priory of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, that adjoining Drury Lane Theatre to St Paul’s Convent in what is now Covent Garden.

Vine Street. Recalls the existence of a vineyard at Westminster and off Piccadilly, anciently held by the abbots of the venerable pile of St Peter’s at Westminster.

Vintry. This ward of the city of London was anciently the “place of” the vintners, or wine merchants who came from Bordeaux.

370Virginals. An early example of keyed musical instrument resembling the pianoforte. Also this was played upon with some degree of skill by Queen Elizabeth, the so-called “Virgin Queen,” and is said to have given her name to the instrument. It was, however, well known long before her time, having been used by nuns in convents to accompany hymns to the Virgin.

Virginia. Named by Sir Walter Raleigh in honour of Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen.”

Virginia Bible. A translation of the Scriptures into the native tongue of the Indians of the state of Virginia, first printed in 1661. Copies are said to be worth at least £200.

Virgin Mary’s Body Guard. The 7th Dragoon Guards, because this regiment once served under Maria Theresa of Austria.

Voltaire. The anagrammatic literary pseudonym of François Marie Arouet, formed as follows:--“Arouet l. j.” (le jeune).

Volume. From the Latin volvo, I roll. The earliest documents or writings consisted of long rolls of the Egyptian papyrus, and when these were rolled up each one corresponded to what the moderns called a volume. See “Roll Call.”


Wadham College. Founded at Oxford by Nicholas Wadham in 1613.

Walbrook. From a pleasant stream of clear water which, after skirting the wall of St Stephen’s Church, behind where the Mansion House now stands, ran southward, to empty itself into the Thames at Dowgate.

Waldenses. The followers of Peter Waldo, a merchant of Lyons, who towards the end of the twelfth century had the four Gospels translated for the benefit of the people, and was unsparing in his denunciation of the 371clergy. With the Albigenses of Languedoc these people, who entered with their leader into the valleys of Dauphine and Piedmont, may be regarded as the earliest of the Reformers.

Wales. This Celtic territory, which was never even penetrated by the Anglo-Saxons, received the name of “Wallia,” signifying the country of the Wahlen or Wahls, foreigners.

Walham Green. The original spelling of this name “Wahlheim,” expressed from the Anglo-Saxon point of view a home or settlement of the Wahls or foreigners.

Walk a Virginia Fence. An American phrase applied to a drunken man. In Virginia the rail fences are constructed in a zig-zag manner, whence they are also called “worm fences.”

Walking Gentlemen. In theatrical parlance, one who plays the part of a gentleman or noble on the stage; he may not have much to say, but his bearing must be above reproach. The plays of Shakespeare abound in parts of this kind.

Walk the Chalk. An Americanism for to act straight or keep in the right path.

Wallop. In the year 1514 the French fleet ravaged the coast of Sussex, and burned Brighthelmstone, now Brighton, whereupon Sir John Wallop, one of the best naval commanders of his time, was sent by Henry VIII. to make reprisals. In this he succeeded only too well; he burned twenty-one French coasting villages, demolished several harbours, and thrashed the enemy to his heart’s content. His men, however, proud of the achievement, declared that they had Walloped the French; and thus it was that a new synonym for “thrash” came to be incorporated into the English language.

Waltham. From the Anglo-Saxon Waldheim, the home or settlement in the wood.

372Waltz. From the German “Waltzer,” the name of the dance, and waltzen, to roll, relative to the revolutions made by the pairs of dancers.

Walworth. Originally a settlement of the Wahls, or foreigners, descendants of the Danes (see “Southwark”). This district became in Anglo-Saxon days a worth, or manor, from which Sir William Walworth, the Lord Mayor who slew Wat Tyler, derived his family name.

Wandsworth. Anciently described as “Wandlesworth,” the manor watered by the River Wandle.

Wapentake. Expresses the Saxon for “a touching of arms.” This territorial division, which obtained in Yorkshire in the time of the Anglo-Saxons, and corresponded to the “Hundred” elsewhere, received its name from the periodical meeting of the champions of each hundred to touch spears and swear to defend the common cause.

Wardour Street. After Wardour Castle, the seat of the ground landlord, Lord Arundel of Wardour.

Wardrobe Terrace. Marks the site of the ancient “Wardrobe,” when our sovereigns resided in what was styled “Tower Royal” hard by.

Warwick. From the Anglo-Saxon Wærwic, “war town,” so called on account of its permanent garrison of soldiers.

Warwick Lane. From the town mansion of the Beauchamps, Earls of Warwick.

Warwick Road. After the Earls of Warwick, owners of the Earl’s Court estate before it passed to the Holland family.

Washington. Laid out under the superintendence of George Washington, the first President of the United States. This seat of the Government was honoured with his name.

Water Lane. Prior to the construction of Victoria Street this winding lane led down to the Thames.

373Waterloo Bridge. So called because it was declared open 18th June 1817, the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo.

Waterloo Park. After Sir Sidney Waterloo, who presented it to the public.

Waterloo Place. So called as a military set-off to Trafalgar Square when the Duke of York’s column was erected by public subscription in 1833. The statues of famous British generals around this open space are quite in keeping with the design.

Water Poet. The literary sobriquet of John Taylor, who was a Thames waterman.

Watling Street. A corruption of Vitellina Strata, “the road of Vitellius,” so called because this great Roman highway from Dover to Cardigan in Wales was projected by the Emperor Vitellius, and those portions of it in London and elsewhere were constructed during his reign.

Watteau. See “Á la Watteau.”

Way Down. An Americanism for “down the way to” e.g.--“Way down the lone churchyard.”

Wayzgoose. A printers’ summer outing, so called from the wayz or stubble goose which, when the outing took place later in the season, was the invariable dinner dish. The term wayz is from the Dutch wassen and German waschen, to grow; hence a goose that has fattened among the stubble after the harvest has been gathered.

Wedding Breakfast. The nuptial banquet had in Catholic days a real significance, when, having fasted from midnight, the entire party attended Mass, and partook of the Communion. At the close of the marriage ceremony the priest regaled them with wine, cakes, and sweetmeats in the church porch by way of breakfast.

Wednesday. In the Scandinavian mythology this was “Wodin’s Day,” or that set apart for the worship of 374Odin or Wodin, the god of magic and the inventor of the Arts.

Wedgwood Ware. The style of pottery invented or introduced by Josiah Wedgwood in 1775.

Weeping Cross. A cross set up on the way to a churchyard where the coffin was rested for a brief space while prayers were offered up for the soul of the deceased. The wailing of the women generally interrupted the proceedings.

Weeping Philosopher. Heraclitus of Ephesus, who voluntarily embittered the declining years of his existence by weeping over the folly of mankind.

Wedlock Street. After Welbeck Abbey, the seat of the Duke of Portland, the great ground landlord.

Wellingborough. Anciently “Wellingbury,” on account of the medicinal wells or springs which abound in its vicinity.

Wellington. This province and capital city of New Zealand received the name of the Duke of Wellington.

Wellington Boots. After the Duke of Wellington.

Wellington Street. In honour of the Duke of Wellington, because it leads to Waterloo Bridge.

Wells Street. A corruption of “Well Street,” after Well in Yorkshire, the seat of the Strangeways family, from whom Lady Berners, owner of the estate, was descended.

Welsher. The name borne by an absconding bookmaker on a race-course was originally a “Welshman,” in allusion to the old ditty: “Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief.”

Welsh Rabbit. A popular corruption of “Welsh Rarebit.”

Wesleyan Methodists. The name borne by that portion of the Methodist sect which worship in chapels and so-called churches, which was far from the intention of their founder. See “Primitive Methodists.”

Wesleyans. The followers of John Wesley, or “Methodists” in general.

375Wessex. The great kingdom of the West Seaxe, or West Saxons, under the Heptarchy.

Westbourne Park. The district formerly traversed by the west bourne or stream between “Kilburn” and “Bayswater.”

West Indies. Those islands in the Caribbean Sea, which Columbus imagined to form part of the great unknown India, as approached from the west.

Westminster. This name has been from time immemorial given to the district of which the ancient fane tautologically styled “Westminster Abbey” is the centre. One does not speak of “York Minster Abbey” or “Lincoln Minster Abbey.” A minster is a great church in connection with a monastery. Since the Reformation the abbeys have been swept away, the Minsters remain. The earliest mention of “the West Minster” occurs in a Saxon charter of 785, in contradistinction to “the East Minster” that stood in those days somewhere on Tower Hill. All trace of this has been lost, yet it is possible that St Katherine’s Hospital, now displaced by the docks of the same name, grew out of it.

Westmorland. The land peopled by the Westmorings, or those of the Western moors.

Weymouth Street. After Lord Weymouth, the son-in-law of the ground landlord, the Duke of Portland.

What’s the Damage? This expression arose out of the damages awarded to a successful litigant in the Law Courts.

Whig Bible. So called owing to the substitution of the word “placemakers” for “peacemakers.”

Whigs. An abbreviation of “Whigamores,” first applied to the Scottish Covenanters in consequence of a rising among the peasantry among the Lowland moors called the “Whigamore Raid,” and finally to that political party which strove to exclude the Duke of York, James II., from the throne because he was a Catholic. The term “Whigamore” arose out of the 376twin-syllabic cry “Whig-am!” of the teamsters and ploughmen of those districts of Scotland to drive their horses.

Whisky. An English form of the Irish “Uisquebaugh.”

Whitby. So called by the Danes when they took possession of this abbey town on the cliffs, literally “white town.”

Whitebait. On account of its silvery whiteness and because it was at one time used exclusively for baiting crab and lobster pots.

Whiteboys. A band of Irish insurgents who wore white smocks over their ordinary garments.

Whitechapel. As in the case of Westminster, this name now expresses a district, and “Whitechapel Church” sounds ridiculous. Its ancient designation was the “White Chapel of St Mary.”

Whitecross Street. See “Redcross Street.”

Whitefriars Street. In olden days this was the western boundary of the Carmelite or White Friars’ Monastery, built in 1245.

Whitehall. The central portion of the wide thoroughfare between Charing Cross and Westminster. This received its name from the Banqueting-hall of white stone, originally part of a palace designed by Cardinal Wolsey for the London house of the Archbishop of York, and now the United Service Museum.

White Hart. An inn sign from the device of Richard II.

White Hart Street. After an ancient inn, “The White Hart,” removed during the reign of George I.

White House. The official residence of the President of the United States at Washington, so called because it is built of freestone painted white.

White Quakers. An offshoot of the Quaker sect, about 1840, who adopted white clothing.

White Queen. Mary Queen of Scots, who appeared in 377white mourning for her murdered husband, Lord Darnley.

White Lion. An inn sign from the badge of Edward IV. as Earl of March.

White Sea. So called because during six months out of each year it is frozen over and covered with snow.

White Swan. An inn sign complimentary to Edward III. and Henry IV., whose badge it was.

Whit Sunday. A corruption of “White Sunday,” so called from the earliest days of Christianity in England because the catechumens or newly baptised attended Mass, and received the Sacrament dressed in white, on the Feast of Pentecost.

Whittington Avenue. After Sir Richard Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London, who resided in this neighbourhood.

Whittington Stone. The name of a tavern on Highgate Hill, opposite to which is, according to tradition, the identical stone on which Dick Whittington, the future Lord Mayor of London, rested while listening to the bells of Bow Church chiming across the pleasant fields.

Wicked Bible. Wilfully or otherwise the word “not” is omitted from this edition of the Scriptures, so that the passage in Exodus xx. 14. reads: “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

Wide-awake. The slang term for a soft felt hat, because, having no nap, it must always be wide awake.

Widow Bird. A corruption of “Whydaw Bird,” from the country in West Africa where it is found.

Wigmore Street. In common with several neighbouring streets, this perpetuates one of the titles of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, who in 1717 was created Baron Harley of Wigmore in Herefordshire, the ground landlord.

Wilburites. The orthodox or strict members of the Society 378of Friends in America under John Wilbur, as opposed to the “Hicksite Friends.”

William the Lion. The surname of this King of the Scots was due to his selection of a lion rampant for his crest.

Willis’s Rooms. See “Almack’s.”

Will Scarlet. A euphonism invented by Robin Hood for William Scathelocke, the real name of one of his merry men.

Wilton. See “Wiltshire.”

Wiltshire. A corruption of “Wiltonshire,” or the Shire of Wilton, which name in its original form, “Willy Town,” expressed the town on the River Willy.

Wimbledon. Originally Wibbadon, expressing the Celtic for a low-lying meadow or common belonging to one Wibba.

Wimpole Street. After the country seat of the Harleys on the Herefordshire and Cambridgeshire border.

Winchester Yard. From Winchester House, the ancient town mansion of the Bishops of Winchester.

Windermere. Expresses the Anglo-Saxon for “clear water lake.”

Winchester. Inhabited by the Belgæ, this stronghold, called by them Cær-Gwent, “fortified enclosure on the plain,” was after the Roman invasion made a great centre of military activity under the Latinised name of Venta Belgarum, which the West Saxons changed into Wintancæstre, “the camp town of the Winte,” whence its modern name has been derived.

Windmill Street. A name suggestive of peaceful rusticity. The thoroughfare in Finsbury so denominated marks the site of three windmills that were erected on a mound formed by the deposition of a thousand cart-loads of human bones from the Charnel-house of St Paul’s Cathedral by order of the Lord Protector Somerset in 1549.

379Windsor. Anciently described as “Windlesora,” the winding shore.

Wine Office Court. From an ancient office where wine licences were issued.

Winnipeg. Indian for “lake of the turbid water.”

Wirepuller. In allusion to the manipulators of the figures at a marionette show.

Wisconsin. Indian for “wild-rushing channel.”

Within an Ace. Since the ace in a pack of cards is the unit of pips, he who accomplishes anything by the merest shave does so within a single mark.

Wizard of the North. Sir Walter Scott, so called on account of the enchantment which, through his novels, he exercised over the inhabitants of North Britain.

Woburn Square. After Woburn Abbey, the ancestral seat of the Duke of Bedford.

Woke up the Wrong Passenger. An Americanism for having made a mistake in the individual. This originated in the Mississippi steamboats, the stewards on board of which often call up the wrong passenger at the stopping-places by night.

Wolverhampton. Anciently “Wulfrune’s Hampton,” so called from the church and college of St Peter founded by Wulfrune, the sister of King Edgar, in 996.

Wolverine State. Michigan, on account of the prairie wolves which formerly infested this region. Its people are called “Wolverines.”

Wood Green. In old days this was a glade in Hornsey Wood.

Wood Street. In this locality congregated the turners of wooden cups, dishes, and measures of olden times.

Woolly Heads. An Americanism for the Negroes of the southern states.

Woolsack. The seat reserved for the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, being a large sack stuffed with 380wool, and covered with scarlet cloth, its object being to keep him in constant reminder of the great importance of the woollen manufacture in England.

Woolwich. Anciently described as Hylwich, “hill town.”

Worcester. Known to the Anglo-Saxons as Hwicwara ceaster, “the stronghold of the Huiccii.” The latter portion of the name, however, proves that this must have been a Roman encampment; the Huiccii were a Celtic tribe.

Worcester College. Originally known as Gloucester Hall, this Oxford foundation was in 1714 enlarged and endowed as a college by Sir Thomas Cooksey of Astley, Worcestershire, who, not desiring his name to be handed down to posterity, called it after his native county.

Work a Dead Horse. A journeyman’s phrase implying that he has to set to work on the Monday morning upon that for which he has already been paid on the previous Saturday.

World’s End. A famous house of entertainment during the reign of Charles II., so called on account of its immense distance in those days out of London. Like many other places of outdoor resort, it exists now only as a public-house.

Wormwood Street. From the bitter herbs which sprang up along the Roman Wall in ancient times.

Worsted. After a town in Norfolk of the same name where this fabric was of old the staple industry.

Writes like an Angel. Dr Johnson said of Oliver Goldsmith: “He writes like an angel and talks like a fool.” The allusion was to Angelo Vergeco, a Greek of the sixteenth century, noted for his beautiful handwriting.

Wych Street. This now vanished thoroughfare was anciently Aldwych, “Old Town,” so called because it led from St Clement Danes Church to the isolated settlement in the parish of St Giles’s-in-the-Fields, 381which in our time is known as Broad Street, Bloomsbury.

Wye. From the Welsh gwy, water.

Wyndham College. The joint foundation at Oxford of Nicholas and Dorothy Wyndham of Edge and Merefield, Somersetshire, in 1611.


X Ale. The original significance of the X mark on beer barrels was that the liquor had paid a ten shilling-duty. Additional X’s are simply brewers’ trade marks, denoting various degrees of strength over that of the first X.

XL’ers. See “Exellers.”

XXX’s. See “Three Exes.”


Yale University. After Elihu Yale, formerly Governor of the East Indian Company’s settlement at Madras, whose princely benefactions to the Collegiate School of the State of Connecticut, founded by ten Congregational ministers at Killingworth in 1701, warranted the removal of that seat of learning to New Haven fifteen years later.

Yang-tse-Kiang. Chinese for “great river.”

Yankee. A term popularly applied at first to one born in the New England states of North America owing to the fact that Yankees, Yangkies and similar perpetrations were the nearest approaches to the word “English,” which the Indians of Massachusetts were capable of. Afterwards it came to be applied to the people of the continent generally.

Yankee Jonathan. The nickname of Jonathan Hastings, a farmer of Hastings, Mass., on account of his addiction 382to the word “Yankee,” used adjectively for anything American. Thus he would say “a Yankee good cider,” “a Yankee good horse,” etc.

Yankee State. Ohio, so called by the Kentuckians on account of its many free institutions.

Yarmouth. The port situated at the mouth of the Yare. See “Yarrow.”

Yarn. A spun-out story bears this name in allusion to the thread out of which cloth is woven.

Yarrow. From the Celtic garw, rough, rapid.

Yeddo. Japanese for “river entrance.”

Yellow Book. A French Government report, so called from its yellow cover.

Yellow Boy. Slang for a sovereign.

Yellow Jack. A yellow flag which is flown from a vessel in quarantine and from naval hospitals as a warning of yellow fever or other contagious disease on board. See “Union Jack.”

Yellow Press. By this term is meant that section of the Press which is given up to creating a scare or sensation. It has been derived from what in the United States bears the name of “Yellow-covered Literature,” consisting of trashy sensation novels, published chiefly for railway reading.

Yellow Sea. From the tinge imparted to its waters by the immense quantities of alluvial soil poured into them by the Yang-tse-Kiang River.

Yendys. The literary sobriquet of Sydney Dobell, being simply his Christian name reversed.

Yeoman’s Service. Originally that rendered to the State in time of war by volunteers of the Guilds or City Companies. The term “Yeoman” is derived from the German gemein, common, and applied in the sense of enlistment for the common good.

Yokohama. Japanese for “Cross Shore.”

383York. The Eboracum of the Romans, a Latinised rendering of the British Eurewic (pronounced Yorric), “a row of houses on the Eure,” which river is now called the Ouse.

York and Albany. An omnibus stage in Camden Town named after Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the second son of George III.

York Gate. The water gate, still standing, built for York House, of which no other vestige remains.

York Road. This long road, parallel to the Great Northern Railway at King’s Cross, owes its designation to the circumstance that the line in question was originally styled the “London and York Railway.”

Yorkshire Stingo. A public-house sign indicating that the celebrated ale of this name, due to the sting or sharpness of its taste, is sold on the premises.

York Street. In Covent Garden, after James, Duke of York, the second son of Charles I., and brother of Charles II., subsequently James II. In Westminster, from the erstwhile residence of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, son of George III.

Young Buffs. The 31st Foot, whose uniforms were very similar to those of the Buffs, or 3rd Foot--viz. scarlet coats faced and lined with buff, and the remainder wholly of buff-coloured material. Soon after their formation in 1702 they distinguished themselves greatly in action, whereupon the General rode up, exclaiming: “Well done, old Buffs!” “But we are not the Buffs,” some of the men replied. “Then, well done, young Buffs,” was the retort, and the name stuck to them ever after.

Young Nipper. See “Nipper.”

Yucatan. From Yuca tan, “What do you say?” which was the only answer the Spaniards were able to obtain from the aborigines when they asked them the name of the country.

Yuletide. Christmastide, from the Norse juul, Christmas.



Zadkiel. The literary sobriquet of Lieutenant Richard James Morrison, author of “The Prophetic Almanack,” after the angel of the planet Jupiter in the Jewish mythology.

Zantippe. After the wife of Socrates, whose name has become proverbial for a bad-tempered spouse.

Zanzibar. A European inversion of the Arabic Ber-ez-Zuig, the coast of the Zangis, or Negroes.

Zeeland. Expresses the Dutch for “Sea-land,” land reclaimed from the sea.

Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas. Duluth, so called from its picturesque situation at the western extremity of the Great Lakes.

Zoroastrianism. The religious system of the “Parsees” or Fire-worshippers, introduced into Persia by Zoroaster circa B.C. 500.

Zounds. A corruption of “His Wounds,” or the Five Sacred Wounds on the Body of the Redeemer. This oath was first employed by John Perrot, a natural son of Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth was much addicted to the exclamation “His Wounds,” but the ladies of her Court softened it into “Zounds” and “Zouterkins.”

Zurich. From the Latin Thuricum, in honour of Thuricus, the son of Theodoric, who rebuilt the city after it had been destroyed by Attila.

Zuyder Zee. Properly Zuider Zee, the Dutch for “Southern Sea,” relative to the North Sea or German Ocean.