Glossary of terms

Glossary of terms

This page lists

  • local dialect terms (mainly agricultural);
  • legal terms especially for property holdings; and
  • other terms which may not be clear to the modern reader, perhaps because they are obsolete or their spelling is eccentric (or both).

(Back to Introduction)


  • For the dialect words, especially for animals or farm implements, the best source is a nineteenth-century glossary, R Oliver Heslop, Northumberland words. A Glossary of Words Used in the County of Northumberland and on the Tyneside,  English Dialect Society 1893-94, 2 vols. It is available in libraries, as a pdf on the Northumberland DVD published by, or (volume 1 only, going up to page 309) on the Internet Archive,
  • There is also A Glossary of North Country Words, with Their Etymology, and Affinity to Other Languages; and …by John Trotter Brockett , William Edward Brockett 1846;
  • Some words have also been found in Yaxley, D, A Researcher’s Glossary of words found in historical documents of East Anglia, The Larks Press (2003). Thanks to transcriber Jan Widmer, who knows East Anglian documents well, for this reference.
  • The Scots Dialect Dictionary, compiled 1911 by Alexander Warrack, can also be helpful
  • Wikipedia also has a useful Glossary of Sheep Husbandry;
  • For other words, a variety of sources has been found, largely on the internet, and these are included in the entry for that word. For any word not included, Wiktionary is often the best place to look.
  • Tomlinson, W. W., (1897) Life in Northumberland during the Sixteenth Century, has details of agricultural practices.


Aiteling, (also spelt Atelin, Yetelin, Yetling) a small cast iron pot with a rounded botton, having 3 projecting feet or “purys” (Heslop, p. 805)

Apprizer, a person who appraises the value of a deceased person’s estate (Merriam Webster)

Appurtenance, Minor property (such as an outhouse) that passes with the main property when it is sold (Wiktionary)

Ark, chest

Assign, now usually assignee, Legal term for one to whom rights or property is being transferred

Backe (also spelt Dacke), Bark Tanned Leather ,vegetable tanned, mainly by means of the tannins contained in the barks of trees (Glossary of Leather Terms)

Balk also spelt balke, a square piece of timber, a roof- or tie-beam, or a weighing beam

Beastgate, *The right to pasture an animal on the commons and wastes was regulated by the manorial courts, which imposed a stinting system of so many ‘gates’ per holding. (Oxford Companion to Local and Family History). Equivalent to a Cowstent or Stint, see below.

Bed of Close, possibly close-bed, a panelled bedstead that was sometimes hidden behind the panelled side of a room. Heslop vol 1, p, 167

Behoof (e), benefit or advantage (OED)

Bigg, barley (Heslop vol 1, p 55). The word survives in Newcastle’s Bigg Market, the market where barley was sold.

Buckram, a fabric stiffened with size, used for lining or stiffening clothes (Collins English Dictionary)

Buffett, a kind of sideboard

Burgage (or burgage plot), a rental property in a town, usually consisting of a house on a long and narrow plot of land, with a narrow street frontage (Wikipedia).

Callininca (also spelt Caliminco or Calamanco) a glossy woolen fabric of satin weave with striped or checkered designs manufactured from the 16th to the 19th centuries (Merriam-Webster)

Cambrick (also spelt Cambric), fine white linen or cotton cloth (Collins English Dictionary)

Camblett (also spelt Camlett or Camlet) fine weave wool or silk (Merriam-Webster)

Chaff, husks of corn or other seed separated by winnowing or threshing, used as fodder and also for filling mattresses. (Oxford English Dictionary online)

Chapman, a trader or pedlar – that is, someone who  travels round the country with a pack of goods to sell (Wikipedia)

Chattell, usually a name for tangible personal property, but in the Wills, Chattell is sometimes used as an alternative spelling for cattle

Childer, children

Chyrurgeon (also spelt chirurgeon), a surgeon

Cod (also spelt codd), a pillow (Heslop, vol 1,  p. 175)

Cordwiner (usually spelt cordwainer), a maker of shoes and other leather goods (Merriam-Webster), as opposed to a cobbler, who mended shoes

Cowstent, (also spelt stint) An allowance of pasture for one or two cows. (Heslop,  p. 318, Tomlinson p. 212, has an explanation of how the stints worked, for both cattle and sheep)

Copyhold (also spelt coppyhold), a form of tenure of land, where it was held according to the custom of the manor (Wikipedia)

Coupper, probably copper, but could also mean a dealer in horse and cattle (Merriam Webster)

Cawell (also spelt Cawel), is described as a hen-coop in Heslop (p. 141). However, in his transcription of the will at Document 95, Hodgson gave this word as ‘cowell’ and footnoted it as meaning ‘cowl, a tub or similar large vessel’, which fits the context rather better.

Cubbert (also spelt cubert), alternative spelling for cupboard (Dialect Dictionary)

Deal (also spelt deel), a board of fir or pine (Merriam-Webster)

Desperate debt, a debt that is never likely to be paid (The Law Dictionary)

Dinmen (also spelt Dinmont or Dinmond),a young male sheep, after its first shearing (Heslop, vol 1, p. 236)

Drift, ‘a kind of coarse sleeve, generally made of silk (Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Terms, Vol I, p 318)

Dyper (also spelt Diaper), patterned soft cloth for towels or napkins (The Draper’s Dictionary, p. 96)

Electuary, also called confection. A medicinal preparation usually made with sugar, syrup, or honey (Merriam-Webster)

Enseint, pregnant (from the French, enceinte)

furm, form (bench)

furr, fir (tree)

Fustian, a strong twill with a nap (Merriam-Webster)

Gallaway (also spelt Galloway), ‘a horse under fourteen hands high, of the sturdy breed formerly common but now almost extinct. They were used on the fells to carry ore over from the mines to the smelt mills.’ (Heslop, vol II, p. 314)

Gallown (also spelt Galloon), a narrow trimming (as of lace or braid with metallic threads) having both edges scalloped (Merriam-Webster)

Gavell, a strip of land (Heslop, vol II, p. 319)

Gimmer (also spelt Gimer), a young ewe between the time of its first and second clipping (Heslop, vol II, p. 325)

Girdle, A flat, circular iron plate with a bow handle. It is set on the open fire and is used for baking ” singin-hinnie” (Heslop, vol II, p 326)

Greavship (also spelt greaveship or grieveship), A greave was a paris officer in medieval times, and the term greavship was occasionally retained for subdivisions of a parish. The very large parish of Allendale had eight sub-divisions, some of them called grieveships (Vision of Britain).

Grice, a little pig (Heslop,vol II, p. 344)

Happin [also spelt happing and happen], a coverlet (Heslop, vol II, p. 360)

Hog(g), a young sheep (Heslop,vol II, p. 381)

Hogshead, a large cask usually containing alcoholic beverage (Collins English Dictionary)

Holland, a cotton or linen fabric in plain weave usually heavily sized or glazed and used for window shades, bookbinding, and clothing (Merriam-Webster)

Hollin, holly (Heslop,vol II, p. 383)

Huckaback, “A linen for towels with raised figures. Originally made from hemp, and only deemed fitting for the use of servants, but since imitated in fine linen, and now to be had in varying qualities.” (The Draper’s Dictionary, p. 170)

Hurle, wheeled; so a hurlebedsteed is a truckle bed – that is, a low bed with wheels which can be stored underneath the main bed. (Scots Dialect Dictionary, p. 279).

Inkle (also spelt inckle), an inferior kind of tape (Heslop,vol II, p. 401)

Kenting, thin plain weave linen, (Fairchild Textile Dictionary)

Kine, mature cow

Kirne (also spelt Kirn), a churn, (Heslop,vol II, p 412)

Lin, linen; also used in the sense of table-linen, such as tablecloths

Lint, flax; lint-wheel, spinning wheel used for flax (Dictionary of the Scots Language)

Loaning, a lane or a milking yard (Merriam Webster). In the context where it appears, on page 118, lane is probably meant

Manty, loose gown or mantle, often spelt ‘mantua’ (OED)

Messuage, a dwelling house with the adjacent buildings and curtilage and other adjoining lands used in connection with the household (a legal term dating back to the Middle Ages) (Merriam-Webster)

Norwich stuff (also spelt Norige Stuff), A textile fabric manufactured, or as manufactured, in Norwich (En.Oxford Dictionary on-line)

Perch, To stack timber around a frame, so that it could dry without rotting by allowing air to circulate

Plait, possibly plaited straw, used for making hats

Plaister, variant of plaster, (Merriam-Webster)

Quy (also spelt quey and whye, plural quies), a young cow that has not yet had a calf (Heslop, vol II, p. 558)

Regality, (also spelt Regallity) see Introduction

Remlett (also spelt remlet), remnant (Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Terms, Vol II, p 677)

Rigd, possibly Riggit Galloway breed of cattle (Galloway Cattle Society)

Runlett,(also spelt runlet) small barrel or keg (Collins English Dictionary)

Sarsenott (also spelt sarcenet) a soft silk in plain or twill weaves (Merriam-Webster)

Say (also spelt Saye), A sort of thin woollen stuff or serge.(The Draper’s Dictionary, p. 290)

Scotcht Lin, Scotch Linen – cheap linen cloth

Shallowne (also spelt Shalloon), a lightweight twill fabric (Merriam-Webster)

Shearling (also spelt Shearing),  a sheep that has once been clipped

Sheild (also spelt shield), commonly used in farm- or holding-names, ‘fixed habitations or towns
occupying the sites of earlier temporary huts’ (Heslop,vol II, p. 625)

Skeel, a wooden tub with a handle, containing about 6 gallons, wider at the bottom than at the top to give balance when carried on the head. (Heslop, vol II, p 646)

Skeene, skein of wound thread or yarn

Stackgarth, a rick-yard, an enclosed space for storing stacks of hay, straw etc. (World Wide Words)

Standage, not known. Heslop, p 689 defines it as meaning ‘a reservoir or space for water to accumulate in a pit during the suspension of a pumping engine from work’, but this does not appear to apply in the context.

Stirk  ‘a young beast, ox or heifer…. but formerly was applied to the male animal specially’ (Heslop,vol II, p. 694)

Stomager (also spelt Stomacher), decorative front section of bodice, (Merriam-Webster)

Stot, castrated ox of any age up to the second year, unbroken to the plough (Heslop,vol II, p. 699)

Tanning fats, unknown, may mean tanning vats

Teak, teakeing (also spelt tick or ticking), a strong linen or cotton fabric used in upholstering and as a covering for a mattress or pillow (Merriam-Webster)

Voider (also spelt voyder), ‘a kind of table basket for dishes, plates, knives etc taken away from the table; a basket for soiled clothes’ (Heslop, vol II, p. 760)

Wanded, plaited, interlaced, interwoven (Heslop vol II, pl 766)

Weather (also spelt Wedder or Wether), a castrated ram (Heslop,vol II, p. 778)

Whatsomever, whatsoever (Merriam-Webster)