~Glossary of Regency Terms~
Are you flummoxed by the language of the Regency Era? Use this glossary to decipher those hard-to-understand words and terms you so often read in Regency novels.
Ague: A febrile condition used to indicate malaria. It was later used to signify a cold and fever. In book 1 of my Called to His Purpose series ague ravaged Georgette's body for several days. She suffered from cold and fever.
Apoplexy: A stroke
Assembly rooms: This is a place (often rented, usually ballrooms) used for the ton to enjoy private gatherings. Almack's is one such place. Almack's subscription balls were a must for anyone that longed to be a part of the haute ton. (Also haute monde or haut monde)
Bad bargain: also His Majesty's bad bargain, a worthless soldier. (Army slang)
Barking irons: Dueling pistols.
Bit 'o muslin: A woman that exchanges sexual favors for payment.
Blunderbuss: A short gun. It had a wide barrel and it scattered shot in all directions. It was also quite loud.
Caper merchant: A dance instructor (slang)
Cock up one's toes: This expression simply means 'to die'. (slang)
Covent Garden: The major fruit and vegetable market in London. It was also a place where prostitutes loitered.
Darken Someone's Daylights: To give someone a black eye. (slang)
Dowager: This is the title given to a widow of rank such as the widow of a duke.
Equipage: This term was most often used to indicate a gentleman's (or lady's) horse and carriage. At times it encompassed the servants as well.
Flummox: To confuse.
Gentleman's gentleman: A valet.
Hackney: In London during the Regency the hackney coach could be hired much like a modern day taxicab.
Hessians: These boots were initially used as standard issue in the military. They quickly become popular among the gentry.
Hoyden: A girl or woman that is boisterous, carefree even careless to the point of outright scandal in her behavior.
Hyde Park: A large park located on the West End of London where the fashionables rode (in carriages or on horses) to see and be seen.
Inexpressibles: These were trousers or breeches worn by a gentleman. They were very tight revealing an inexpressible amount of detail.
Jackboots: These boots came over the knee and helped to protect cavalrymen from injury.
Laudanum: A tincture of opium in use for many years. It was an addictive substance.
Leg-shackled: A slang term for 'married'. (slang)
Marriage Mart: Marriage Mart is a term used for the “Season” in town when ladies (usually young debutantes) seek husbands.
Michaelmas: The feast of St. Michael. It was held on September 29.
Morning Post: The London paper no self-respecting peer would be without, for it chronicled the happenings at court and of the ton.
Neckclothitania: Published in 1818 this illustration shows the popular styles of neckcloth arrangements during that time.
Newgate Prison: The main prison in London.
Oilskin: A cloth treated with oil to waterproof it. It was used as raingear (oilskin coat) and floor coverings.
On dit: In Regency slang this was the term used to mean gossip.
On the shelf: Beyond marriageable age. A spinster.
Pall Mall: A street in London's West End.
Parliament: Parliament encompassed the House of Commons and the House of Lords. During the Season the gentleman would be 'In Session' in Parliament.
Pelisse: A 3/4 to full-length outdoor garment worn like a coat. Sometimes fur-lined.
Peninsular War: The campaign fought by the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wesley (later Wellesley), from 1808-1814 on the peninsula of Spain and Portugal.
Quarter: One of the four parts of the year distinguished by quarter days. Michaelmas was one such quarter day.
Rake: If taken literally this is a dissolute person. In Regency romance however the rake is characterized with much less debauchery or none at all. The Regency rake is more often the gentleman with a ‘past’. He may have given up that ‘past’ or soon will once he meets that one special lady. Samuel Johnson defines a rake in this way;
'A loose, disorderly, vicious, wild, gay, thoughtless fellow; a man
addicted to pleasure.'
Rout: An extremely crowded party.
Shirt-sleeves: In Regency when a gentleman removes his coat you see his waistcoat and shirt beneath that. It is said he is in his shirt-sleeves. This simply wasn't done. It is the same as today's gentleman stripping down to underclothes and dashing about town. Proper gentlemen did not show their shirt-sleeves.
Shoe-roses: Ornamental ribbons which were tied to form roses and attached to the top of slippers. They were most often worn for special occasions such as balls.
Short-steppers: In book 1 of my Called to His Purpose series, Duke Travenor has a team of short-steppers harnessed to his coach. This is a team with broad wheelers and small leaders. Their gait is much more efficient then high-steppers. A team of high-steppers, although a beauty to behold, did not make good time and often the horses suffered from lifting their hooves high above the pavement then slamming in to it. Short-steppers were preferred by prudent men. High-steppers were often chosen by gentlemen that cared only for appearances and not their cattle. (Cattle in Regency encompassed a gentleman’s team of horses.)
Spencer: A short jacket along the lines of the Bolero jackets of today. It was generally designd to match the gown it covered. (The drawing is of an earlier style spencer, 1798, but it depicts well the look of a spencer.)
Staylace: This is one of the laces which were used to tighten a lady's corset.
Ton: The term used when referring to the upper echelons of Regency society, also the Upper Ten Thousand. The term derives from the French 'Le bon ton' meaning good manners or in the fashionable mode.
Vauxhall also Vauxhall Gardens: This was eleven acres of pleasure located across the Thames in London.
Vellum: Parchment made from sheep or goat skin. It was the best of the best writing paper.
Vinaigrette: A small ornamental bottle, box or piece of jewelry such as a pendant with a perforated top. It held aromatic preparations for reviving fainting (swooning) ladies.
Waistcoat: A vest worn by men.
West End: The western part of London from Charing Cross to Hyde Park where the fashionables (the ton) lived. Buckingham Palace, St. James Park and Mayfair were a part of the West End.
Yellow Fever: A tropical disease spread by mosquitoes. Many died of this terrible disease.
My Regency Glossary is a developing work.
I will add more words as time allows