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August 26, 2010

Nineteenth Century Words

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been in a real historical mood lately, both in my reading and my research. It’s good to be writing another historical romance. My favored time period is the Eighteenth century—pre-Regency in the 1700s, and if it has a gothic tone that’s even better.

For my TT this week I thought I’d give you terms or words you might come across while reading a historical romance or a historical fiction novel. These words are Nineteenth century words and my source is the book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool

Thirteen Words in Usage During the Nineteenth Century

1. Trap – a small light carriage with springs

2. Turnkey – a jailer

3. Weeds – mourning garments, the word “weed” meaning simply clothes

4. Vinaigrette – a little box made of silver containing vinegar and having holes in the top. A vinaigrette was used to revive ladies who had fainted.

5. Washballs – little round balls of soap used for washing or shaving

6. Wafer – a small round made of flour and gum or a similar substances, which was dampened and placed on a letter to seal it.

7. Turtle – turtles were eaten and were a popular dish, so popular it spawned lots of imitation foods called “mock turtle”. Turtle was a staple at official banquets.

8. Tosspot – someone who drank a lot

9. Note of hand – a promissory note

10. Negus – Colonel Francis Negus cooked this drink, which consisted of sugar mixed with water and a wine such as sherry or port. It was a popular drink at balls and dances.

11. Mute – a person hired to come to a funeral and mourn

12. Season – the London social season, in which the fashionable high life of the nobility dominated the city. Although families returned from their country houses to London in February, the real season—of balls, parties, sporting events like Ascot and so on—ran only from May through July.

13. Sennight – a contraction of “seven night” meaning a week.

Are you familiar with these terms? Do you like historical romances? Do you like historical fiction? Do you have an recommendations?


  1. Anthony North

    Some great words and definitions. It’s amazing how some words and phrases change meaning over time.

  2. N.J. Walters

    Great list. I knew some of them, but not all.

  3. Nessa

    I knew most of those because I like reading historical romances.

  4. Pamela

    Great list – along with #12 would be the ton – the popular echelons of Britain’s elite society during the British Regency (definition courtesy of Wikipedia!).

  5. Carol L.

    :grin: Love Historical romance and the Regency. Loved reading the words and definitions. Thanks for sharing with us.
    Carol L.
    [email protected]

  6. Forgetfulone

    I wasn’t familiar with most of these. Interesting. I like “some” historical fiction. I’ve read Phillipa Gregory and Michele Moran recently.

  7. Maria Zannini

    I love these words! Though now I realize I’ve read some of these in novels but was never sure what they meant.


  8. anny cook

    Heh. Own all of Georgette Heyers…so yeah. I knew what they meant. Great list.

  9. Kristen

    I have read way too many historical novels because I recognized almost all of those words!

  10. Journeywoman

    Great list. I knew some and others were new.

  11. Darla

    Thank you for sharing. Happy TT!

  12. Hazel

    I love most things British, especially old England. The Regency’s got Jane Austen, woot!

  13. Maddy Barone

    This is great! I do love historical romance. Even as a child I loved Sally Watson’s books. And I learned a lot from my reading.

  14. Maria D.

    I’ve been reading quite a bit of historicals lately too and have to say that I am familiar with some of the words but not all of them,
    the one’s I’ve seen so far; turnkey, wafer, turtle, season and sennight.

  15. Adelle Laudan

    Great list of words. I have to say, I never liked historical until I became a published author. What an incredible amount of research must go into these books. Thanks for sharing.
    Happy T13!

  16. Heather

    GMTA — more vocabulary! I’m reading a historical fiction right now, but have not come across any of these words in it.

  17. Jennifer Leeland

    I’m not familiar with ANY of them. LOL!
    Perhaps that’s why I leave the historicals to others.

  18. Shelley Munro

    I always wondered what Negus was. I knew it was a drink of some sort but had no idea what was in it.

  19. Janice Seagraves

    I use to read a lot of historical romances until I read a real badly written one and lost my taste for it. :(

    Some of those sound familiar. But it was while reading the Chronicle of Narnia that I learned what a fortnight was.

    Happy TT.

  20. Elise Logan

    all but vinaigrette, actually. That one was a new one.

    Cool list.

  21. Tatiana Caldwell

    I only recall seeing a couple of those words before, but appreciated all of them. Love learning new things. Great post!

  22. Eleni Konstantine

    Fascinating list – thanks Shelley :smile:

  23. Jill Conyers

    Thanks for sharing these. Now I want to find a situation where I can use tosspot.