[These meanings given herein are limited only to England during the times of the English Sydnors and only for the special uses as found in the various references.  The reader might be surprised that some of the familiar words in modern use did not mean the same for the English Sydnors.  See for example bailiwick, college, grocer, and mercy.  Thus, too hasty a perusal may give a different meaning to some of the references.  Words for which there are further definitions given herein are italicized.]


Abbey: a religious house, usually large, of monks formed in a monastery governed by an abbot or of nuns formed in a convent governed by an abbess.  (There is no historical authority, however, for the designation of monastery for males and convents for females.)  Much of the authority, as well as the insignia of office, for an abbot were those for a bishop.  See Priory.


Acolyte: an ecclesiastical novice, specially delegated to the service of the altar, assisting priests and deacons in their duties and administering the Eucharist inside and outside the Mass.  See Deacon and Priest.


Acquittance: a release or discharge; a receipt in full.


Acre: a variable measure of land consisting of as much as could be plowed in a long day by a team of oxen; roughly equivalent to the area used today; standardized by Edward I at forty rods long by four rods wide, or 4,840 square yards.


Act of Administration: an act of a probate court in cases of intestacy.  The court would grant letters of administration, and grantees were required to sign a testamentary or administration bond typically worth twice the estimated value of the estate.


Administratis , de bonis non: administration incomplete or imperfect.


Advowson of vicarage: the heritable right of patronage to a church or ecclesiastical office; practically, the right of a patron to nominate a person to officiate in a vacant church; and further there was the right to collect and disburse tithes, the excess falling to the patron.


Aids: incidental pecuniary obligations of tenure of knight-service to ransom the lord from captivity, to knight the eldest son of the lord, and to assist in the expense of the marriage of the eldest daughter of the lord.


Alb: white vestment reaching to the feet, usually by a priest.


Alderman: chief officer or wardman of a guild; a municipal officer representing a ward next in dignity to the mayor.


Alias: otherwise named.


Alienation: transfer of property.


Allodium (or Allod): a form of estate or class of property held in absolute ownership without service or acknowledgment of any superior; applicable to about one-third of the land in Kent that were held by the crown, the church, nobles and gentry; heritable property, real or personal, held by a family and descended according to local custom; as opposed to fee or feudal estates.  See Freehold.


Ambling (with a horse): lifting each foot individually and both on one side before those on the other in a smooth and easy gait.


Amercement: the infliction of a penalty left to the mercy of the inflicter, hence the imposition of an arbitrary fine or mulct.


Angel (Angel-noble): a gold coin valued at 33 1/3 pence or ten shillings named for the depiction of the archangel Michael on its obverse side and pierced with a hole to carry it as a pendant for use as a touchpiece.  See Coins.


Archdeacon: chief deacon; chief of the attendants on a bishop appointed by the bishop superintending rural deans and holding the lowest of the ecclesiastical courts with the power of spiritual censure; one of several in each diocese holding a powerful and financially rewarding office with duties that usually included a general disciplinary supervision of the local parish clergy of the archdeaconry (who typically in times past were deacons).  Only since1662 must the archdeacon be a priest.


Armiger: Latin for esquire.


Arms: armorial bearings, those insignia originally used on the shields of knights and barons to distinguish them in battle and later possessed and used hereditarily by families.


Assize: an instruction, decree, or enactment made or issued at a legislative sitting or assembly; also .


Attorney (or Attenatus): one appointed or ordained to act for another; one who was substituted, or attorned, for another.


Bailiff of the Manor: a steward or agent appointed by the lord, generally by an authority under seal, to superintend the manor, collect fines, and quit rents, inspect buildings, order repairs, cut down trees, impound trespassing cattle, take account of wastes, spoils and misdemeanors in the woods and demesne lands.


Bailiwick: the jurisdiction of a sheriff or bailiff.




Banns: the published intention of marriage that were announced on three Sundays before the actual ceremony in the parish or parishes in which the parties reside so that objection could be made if necessary.  Banns were avoided by obtaining a marriage license.


Barrel: a bulging cylindrical wooden vessel banded with steel hoops and having flat ends, varying in measure with the liquid or dry commodity held therein.


Barrister: one learned in law and permitted to plead at the bar of the courts in England; analogous to the trial practice of a trial lawyer in American courts.


Beadle: herald; mace-bearer; an officer of a court who delivered or carried out orders and who made certain that those required to be in attendance were at the sessions; an oftimes onerous duty for which a substitute would be found or the office avoided if possible.


Benefice: an income from ecclesiastical property given to a member of the aristocracy or the church.


Bogye.  See Budge.


Bona Notabilia: a term that denotes goods worth at least £5.


Bordar (or Cotter): a villein of the lowest rank holding a cottage and possibly a small piece of land at the will of the lord and bound to menial service.


Brewhouse: a brewery, a place for brewing beer.


Brother (or Sister): besides the usual meaning, included brothers(sisters)-in-laws and step-brothers(sisters).  See Cousin and Nephew.


Budge: a lambskin.


Burgess: a citizen; a member of a borough having full municipal rights.


Burl: to dress cloth by removing knots and lumps.


Bursar: a purser or treasurer of a college.


Bushel: a dry or liquid measure of thirty-two quarts.


Cadet: a younger son or brother; a member of a younger branch of a family.


Canon: a member of the clergy belonging to the chapter or on the staff of a cathedral or collegiate church supported by a stipend called a prebend; before the reformation, the council of canons held the authority to elect the diocesan bishop.


Capite, In: literally, in chief; a tenure held directly from the crown.


Capon: a castrated domestic cock.


Carpenter: a carriage maker; a craftsman in woodwork.


Carucate.  See Hide.


Cathedral: the principal church of a diocese, containing the throne of the bishop.


Chafer: a portable warming dish.


Chalice: a drinking cup or goblet.


Chamber: a private room, especially a bedroom.


Chancel: a part of a church reserved for the clergy or the choir, usually enclosed by a railing.


Chancellor: for a university, the titular head; for an order of knighthood, the officer who sealed the commissions and mandates, kept the register of proceedings, and delivered the acts under the seal of the order.


Chancery Rolls: Records of royal grants of land, privileges, titles et cetera from 1199 to 1937; now held at the Public Record Office.


Chancue: a measure?


Chantry: a chapel within a church or built on its own site with an endowment for the maintenance of one or more clergy who sang daily a mass for the souls of the founder or others specified by them; a chapel, altar, or part of a church so endowed.


Chapel: a small church subordinate to the parish incumbent located for the convenience of some family or remote population.


Chaplain: a chantry clergyman; a member of the clergy who conducted religious service in a private chapel.


Chapter: an assembly or totality of the canons of a collegiate or cathedral church or of the members of a monastic order


Charger: a large platter, often used for serving.


Charter Office: an office created by the crown or parliament.


Chattels (Cattals): personal property; a moveable possession of property, goods, and money; chattels real are landholdings, excluding freeholds.


Churl: a person without rank in the lowest of the three ranks of freemen.


Citizen.  See Freedom.


Clarencieux: one of several English king of arms who had responsibility for the granting of arms south of the river Trent with the name derived from the seat Clare in county Suffolk.


Clerk: a learned person; a student or former student of a university; a person of extensive education; typically a candidate for the clergy or holy order; not necessarily a priest, though after the English Reformation often the case.


Clerk of the closet: a priest who presided in a room in a palace used by the sovereign for private or household devotions.


Close: an enclosure from the open fields.


Close Rolls: records containing grants of the crown originally folded (closed) and sealed that included enclosure awards, deeds poll, quit claims, provisioning of garrisons, aid and subsidies, and pardons, and on the reverse side used for enrolment of deeds, conveyances, and records of livery of seisin, charities and wills.


Codicil: usually a will, but not a testament; the word schedule was used for what today would be called a codicil.


Coins. The sterling money of England was one of the most stable in Europe and changed relatively little.  The silver in English coins was reduced in weight by one-sixth in1412.  Silver, by weight, was worth about one-tenth of gold.  See Angel, Crown, Mark, Noble, Pound, Shilling, Sterling.


College: a community of clergy living together on a foundation for religious service.


Collegiate Church: a church endowed by a chapter or body corporate that had no bishop's see; often located within the precincts of a cathedral.


Comb.  See Coomb.


Commissary Court: a diocesan court empowered to handle probate matters falling entirely within a specified part of the diocese.  See Consistory Court.


Commissioner of the Peace: one who served under a commission issued under the great seal of the crown that appointed justices of the peace; justices, or conservators, of the peace who took indictments, held those accused for trial by royal judges, and had the right to try certain prisoners.


Common: as in college fee,


Common: as in space, an area of land held jointly by all the members of a community.


Common Suit (or Common Plea) of Courts: a recourse granted under the Magna Carta that created a suit separate from a plea of the crown and provided this court would not travel, but should be held in a fixed location with jurisdiction over common pleas between subject and subject; in this court alone real actions and old personal action of debt, detinue, account and covenant were to be commenced with judgements subject to review if appealed; a suit under common law in local or manorial courts, as opposed to royal courts.


Composition: the composing or settling (of differences, etc.)


Compromise: mutual promise.


Constable: principal officer of a household, administration, or army of a sovereign or nobleman; an officer of the peace.


Convent: this term was used to denote a religious residence, usually a self-governing priory (as opposed to a dependent priory) and did not always apply only to the residence of nuns.


Convocation: a synod of the clergy of the province of Canterbury or York.


Coomb (or Comb): a volume of salt equal to four bushels, or half a quarter.


Consistory Court: a diocesan court empowered to handle probate matters falling entirely within the diocese.  See Commissary Court.


Coolton: meaning uncertain, but perhaps a bower or a spring house used as a food cooler.


Copyhold.  See Estate in Copyhold.


Corn Rent: a rent of agricultural land determined by the price of wheat or paid in wheat.


Coroner: a judicial and ministerial officer of great importance and dignity for a county or other district charged with maintaining the rights of the private property of the crown.


Cotter (Latin: Cotarius; also Cottset or Coterell).  See Bordar.


Court Baron: a private court of the manor or its jurisdiction where business and collection of taxes falling within the purview of the lord of the manor transpired; the main business of the court included escheats, surrenders and transfers of land, dower administration, management of commons and wastes, and the rights of the lord and the tenants.


Court, Commissary.  See Commissary Court.


Court, Consistory.  See Consistory Court.


Court, Hundred.  See Hundred Court.


Court Terms.  See Quarter sessions.


Court Leet: a court baron; a hundred court; or a great court leet of county held by the sheriff twice a year.


Court, Peculiar.  See Peculiar.


Cousin: any relative other than brother, uncle, aunt, or parent.  A cousin german was a first cousin.  See Brother and Nephew.


Croft: an enclosed meadow or arable land, usually adjacent to a house and almost invariably enclosed; a small farm worked by a tenant.


Cromb (Crome): a wooden handled rake terminating in an iron head consisting of two long hooked prongs, used to drag manure from a cart.


Crown: a gold coin worth 22 ½ pence when minted in 1526, then silver worth 25 pence in 1551.  See Coins.


Curate: originally a term to demote a minister in charge of souls, and until the 17th century synonymous with a parish incumbent; thereafter, the term denoted an assistant to the incumbent.


Curation: the guardianship of a male aged 15-20 or a female aged 12-20.  See Tuition.


Custumnal: a written collection or abstract of the customs of a manor, city, or other district.


Deacon: a first stage of normally short duration in becoming a priest, having provided the bishop with evidence of moral and intellectual suitability, having been accepted for some ecclesiastical title, and having reached the age of twenty-three unless he had a faculty.


Dean (or Tithingman): very early, one set over ten; later the head of the chapter or body of canons or prebendaries in a collegiate church or cathedral; at Oxford and Cambridge, one or more resident fellows appointed supervise conduct and studies of junior members, to maintain discipline, to present members for graduation, etc.


Dean, Rural: before the English Reformation, one who held an office of visitation, administration, and jurisdiction in the church.


Default: failure to fulfill a legal requirement, especially to appear in court on the appointed day.


Deforceant (Deforciant): a person, in levying a fine of lands, against whom the fictitious action was brought upon a supposed breach of contract.


Demesne: land that was part of the main farm of the manor and that was retained by the lord of the manor for his own use and upon which tenants gave free service according to the customs of the manor; an estate or land held or occupied by the owner, including all the land held of the owner by freehold tenants; the chief manor of a lord.


Demise: to convey a property by lease; a deed, lease, conveyance of the fee or of a life estate; a grant of land; to convey property by a lease.


Denn (or Den, Dene, Dane, Dean): a pig pasture; a deep, narrow, wooded vale of a rivulet, often used in early times for grazing swine, particularly located in the Weald of Sussex and Kent.  See Pannage.


Detinue: wrongful detention of chattels.


Devise: to leave by will landed property, whereas "bequeath" was used in the case of personal property.


Diaper: linen woven into a pattern of small diamonds, each decorated with some device.


Diocese: an ecclesiastical district administered by a bishop, with a cathedral, consisting usually of several archdeaconries; at the English Reformation, the number of dioceses increased from fourteen to eighteen with an additional four in Wales.


Dirge: ecclesiastically, the Office of the Dead.


Dissolution: The separation, occurring in several stages after 1534, of the Church of England with the Church in Rome.


Distrain (Distraint, Distress): a summary remedy by which a person may without legal process take possession of the personal chattels of another and hold them to compel the performance of a duty or satisfaction of a debt, such as rent to the lord of the land or payment of damages.


Doctor: a title denoting the authority to teach in a university, except in the faculty of arts.  (The corresponding title in the faculty of arts being Master.)


Dower: the portion of the estate of a deceased husband that the law allowed to his widow for her life or until she remarried.


Downs: an open expanse of elevated land, originally the treeless, undulating chalk uplands of Sussex and Kent that served chiefly for pasturage.


Droveway: a way or path along which cattle were driven.


Drowle and fall (of a whisk):


Dwile: a floor cloth.


Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction: the authority of the church to prove (probate) wills and testaments.  If the deceased had goods worth more than £5, the archdeaconry court had jurisdiction.  If the estate was in more than one archdeaconry, the consistory court or commissary court of the diocesan bishop had jurisdiction.  If there was property in more than one diocese, the provincial courts, Prerogative Court of Canterbury or Prerogative Court of York, had jurisdiction.  If the estate was in two provinces or if the death was at sea or abroad, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury had jurisdiction.  There were some parishes or groups of parishes called peculiars that were exempt from diocesan rule and had jurisdiction over will falling within their areas.


Emolument: the profit or gain from a situation, office, or employment.


Enfeoff: to put a tenant legally in possession of property; to surrender a property.


Enfranchisement (of the Land): In 1160, Henry II


Enrolled: placed in the records of the court.


Entail: the settlement of an estate by which a freehold property was limited to a person and the heirs of that person.


Escheat: the reversion of lands to the lord of the fee upon the failure of the heirs capable of inheriting the lands under the original grant that may result from the death of the tenant without competent heirs or where the heir had not achieved majority, or else by the extinction of the person's blood by sentence of death for outlawry or treason.


Escheator: one who held the reversion of those real and personal properties to the lord of the fee upon the failure of finding heirs or competent heirs capable of inheriting under the original grant or as the result of the extinction of tenancy due to attainder, that is by sentence for treason or felony or other just cause.


Esquire (or Squire): originally an apprentice knight; by the mid-fourteenth century, a class that for all practical purposes had attained equality with the knights; later the lord of the manor; later a person who belonged to one of the five (greatly disputed) classes of the highest order of gentry ranking immediately below a knight and above a gentleman and entitled to bear arms; later, a title broadly distributed as an ill-defined and ever-declining courtesy; in Latin armiger.


Essoin: an excuse for non-appearance in court at the appointed time; a tenant making excuse.


Estate: interest held in lands, tenements, or any other effects.


Estate at Will: an estate held at the pleasure of the owner or lessor from which the tenant might be evicted at any time.


Estate In Copyhold: an estate recorded in court rolls that thereby established the rights of the tenant and gave more permanency than an ordinary estate at will.


Ewer: large wide-mouthed pitcher or jug.


Eyre.  See Justice in eyre.




Exemplification: the authentication of a copy by attestation or certification under seal.


Exequy: a funeral service or procession.




Farm (Firmar): a fixed annual charge, in money or in kind, to be collected within a town or other district.


Fealties: the obligation of fidelity of a feudal vassal or tenant to the lord.


Fee (Fief, Feod): a heritable estate in land held on condition of homage and service to a superior lord by whom it is granted and in whom the ownership remains.


Fee-Simple: a heritable estate without limitation to any class of heirs.


Fee-Tail: a heritable estate entailed or limited to some particular class of heirs.


Feet of Fines: the collection of one part of tripartite indentures that recorded the particulars of a fine while the other parts retained by the two disputing parties.


Fellow: a senior member incorporated in a college or a collegiate foundation.


Fen: low land covered wholly or partly with shallow water.


Feod.  See Fee.


Feofee: one to whom a fee was conveyed; similar to a modern trustee.


Ferme: lease.  See Farm.


Feudal: a system of tenure of land founded in the principle or fiction that the crown was the universal lord and the original proprietor of all the land and that no person possessed or could possess any part of such lands that had not mediately or immediately been derived as a gift of the crown; pertaining to land tenure under which the land was held of a superior; as opposed to allodial where it was not.


Feoffment: a common law action of conveying the fee, or title, to real estate, accompanied by traditional and conventional livery of seisin, or later recorded in deeds.


Fief.  See Fee.


Field: originally, a clearing, not necessarily enclosed.


Fifteenths.  See Tenths.


Fine (1): in early law, an action utilized to convey land compromised and approved in court, thereby "finishing" the matter.


Fine (2): relief; a money payment made to the manorial lord by an incoming tenant; a money payment due by a feudal tenant to the lord; payment due to the King on every conveyance to a third party for tenure in capite (chief) by knight service.; payment due to the lord on every conveyance to another party for tenure in copyhold.


Fine Rolls: records of payments to the crown for various purposes in which the crown held an interest, and by the end of the fourteenth century primarily escheats and disposal of wardships.


Flaxen: made of linen.


Fleet: house room associated with water.


Flock: stuffing made of wool tufts or refuse.


Fold (or Courses): a small enclosure; a pen for animals.


Folio: an individual leaf of paper or parchment, either loose in a series or bound in a volume, numbered only on the recto, or front side, of page.


Forstal (or Fore Stall): a small opening in a street or lane not large enough to be called a common; a farmyard before a house; a small piece of wasteland.


Freehold: tenure by which an estate was held in fee-simple, fee-tail, or for term of life.


Freedom: the right of participating in the privileges attached to membership in (1) a company or trade or (2) citizenship in a town or city.  The word citizen [Latin: cives] that occurred in the charters of English cities became synonymous with freemen.  Admission of new citizens to the freedom occurred through apprenticeship in the guilds, purchase, or inheritance.  "In addition to the general exemption from tolls throughout the country conferred by the city charters, freemen enjoyed an absolute monopoly of trade in certain articles, and of retail trade in others.  They had a complete monopoly of retail selling, except for the trade in victuals on the three market days, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, that were open to outsiders."  Members of the guilds were freemen, and only the freemen could vote. [1]


Freeman.  See Freedom.


Frise: a thick woolen cloth used for outer garments.


Fruit, Hard: probably apples or pears, as opposed to soft fruits such as berries, etc.


Garter: an English king of arms with responsibility for the grant of arms for the Order of the Garter.


Garter. Order of:


Gavelkind: partible lands; a custom for about two-thirds of the land in Kent for all sons to succeed in their father's inheritance; as opposed to the general rule in England under which the eldest son alone succeeded to all property.  Lands originally held in socage were gavelkind.


Geld: gold.  See Wergeld and Danegeld.


Gelding: a castrated male horse.


Gentle Birth: in the medieval sense well-born; to the fifteen century, interchangeable with noble in the social sense, including barons, knights, and persons of knightly class who had not been knighted; through the sixteenth century, interchangeable with noble in the heraldic sense.  See Gentleman.


Gentleman: a man of gentle birth entitled to bear arms, but not ranked among nobility; later broadly applied without precision to any person of distinction.


Gentry.  See Gentleman.


Gilt, Double: with gilt, or gold, inside and out.


Girdle: a belt or cord used around the waist to secure clothing or to hold a purse


Gleeb: land held by a clergyman.


Gloves, Presenting: a phrase sometimes used as a pretense for making a gift of money.


Godchild (or Godparent): a religious relationship and responsibility sanctioned by the church, often overlapping with kinship.


Grocer: buyer and seller in gross, hence a wholesale merchant; one of twelve (in Norwich) Grand Companies.


Grome: grommet; ring of rope.


Guild, Trade: an association of persons that exercised the same craft, formed for the purpose of protecting and promoting their common interest.


Guild, Merchant: a corporate society of the merchants of a town or city that held exclusive rights of trading within the town; later the corporation evolved into the governing body of a town or city.


Haberdasher: a dealer in a variety of household articles, especially a dealer in hats and capes.


Hard fruit: a general name, locally given, probably to such as apples and pears; as opposed to soft fruits such as strawberries.


Harrow: a heavy frame for use in plowed fields to break clods, clear vegetation, and smooth the surface.


Heath: a tract of open uncultivated land covered with brushwood and heather.


Hereditament: real property that would descend to an heir in cases of intestacy; any property that can be inherited.


Heriot: a feudal service restored to a lord on the death of his tenant; later an incident of manorial tenures only.


Hide (Latin: Carucate, Hida, Sulung): in 7th and 8th century England, the land for one family consisting of four virgates; that amount of land that could be tilled with one plough and eight oxen in one year; at the time of the Conquest and for several hundred years thereafter, a fiscal unit for assessment of land, primarily in southeastern England the amount of land to support one free family with dependents; the area varied with the nature of the land, the location of the land and the different periods from 80 to 180 acres, typically reckoned at 120 acres.  See Plough.


Highway: a road or way that was large and public.


Hogg: a two-year-old ram.


Homage: in feudal law, formal and public acknowledgment of allegiance wherein the tenant or vassal declared himself to be the person of the lord of whom he was held or bound to the service of the lord.


Hoorde (probably Hoarde or Horde): stored or saved


Hundred: an administrative district that varied widely in area land and that probably consisted of one hundred taxable hides or the ability to raise one hundred warriors or ten tithings.  The hundreds seem to have been effected probably during the tenth century, and the assembly of notables and village representatives usually met once a month.


Hundred Court: 


Husbandman: a tenant farmer.


Hutch: a coffer.


Immediate: without mediate; without anything or anyone in between.


Indenture: a deed or sealed agreement or contract in as many copies as parties thereto with a common notch, or indent, on all the parts.


Indre, By (possibly Endear): possibly by friendship.


-In-Law: denoting a relationship in which marriage was prohibited under ecclesiastical law; a term seldom used in early times.


Inns of Chancery: collegiate houses for younger law students before their admittance to the Inns of Court and were affilliate to specific Inns of Court:  Barnard’s and Staple affiliated with Gray's Inn; Clement's and Clifford's and Lyon's with Inner Temple; New with Middle; and Furnival's with Lincoln's.


Inns of Court: collegiate houses in London that held the exclusive privilege of conferring the rank of barrister at law; the societies of students and practitioners of the law of England that exercised the exclusive right of admitting persons to practice at the bar; the four sets of buildings for the societies: the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple, Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, and Staple's Inn.  The Inns served as living quarters, dining facilities, offices, meeting rooms, and class rooms for those practicing and studying law.


Inquisition: an inquest; a judicial or official inquiry before a jury.


Inquisition post mortem: an inquest into the possessions, services, and succession of a deceased person who held land of the crown.


Jointure: the provision and settlement for the wife, precisely before marriage, in satisfaction of a dower of a competent livelihood by way of a freehold in the husband's property to take effect in possession immediately after his death and to continue at least for the life of the wife; estate or income settled on a widow for the period in which she survived her husband or until her remarriage.


Justice in Eyre: where eyre means "journey" or "circuit," the system of six circuits of three judges used as royal agents for the audit of royal revenues, the hearing of crown pleas, the inspection of the administration of the county; from 1066 or before until abandoned at the end of the fourteenth century, sitting in the full county court when visiting, the justices formed a link between royal and county courts; the main contribution of this court was establishing a standardized form of justice as opposed to the local standards and customs in local courts.


Justice (Keeper) of the Peace: originally Keepers of the Peace from 1277 and 1287 until 1361 when the power to hear cases was added to the responsibility of bringing cases; by 1388, one of eight and by 1565 one of thirty to forty justices in each county appointed by the crown to take indictments and hold the accused for trial by royal judges at Quarter Sessions; by the fourteenth century, the office held the right to try prisoners.


Kine: cattle.


King of Arms:


Kirtle: a woman’s gown or outer petticoat.


Knight: in medieval times, an order or rank of military service; a feudal tenant holding land from a superior on condition of serving in the field as a mounted and well-armed man; later an honor conferred by the crown in recognition of personal merit or as a reward for services to the crown or country.  Many of the knightly class chose not to be knighted, a custom that grew to be so popular as to create difficulties in raising armies for the crown.  See esquire and gentleman.


Knight Service: the feudal tenure of land from the crown on terms of providing a stated number of armed and accoutered knights to serve in the army at the land-holder's expense; (2) provide aids; (3) pay a relief upon taking up the fief of an ancestor; (4) deliver the wardship and the lands, without liability or account of care or profits, of heirs under age; and (5) the right of disposition in marriage of female wards as security against the lord having to receive an undesirable tenant, whereby the female ward forfeited the sum as the suitor was willing to pay as the price for the match, or twice the market value if she married without the consent of the lord.


Larder: supply of meat.


Lathe: the primary administrative division of early Kent consisting of several hundreds.  Originally the provinces of the Jutish kingdom in Kent, by the time of the Conquest the jurisdiction of the lathes were substantially reduced.


Latten (Laten, Latine): an alloy of copper and zinc, similar to brass, used as tomb monuments.


Lay Subsidy (Tenths and Fifteenths): a tax on movable item standardized at one-tenth for town residents and one-fifteenth for country dwellers that was collected between 1181 and 1623.


Lease (Leaze): meadow land, usually held in common.


Legate: early, a legacy or bequest.


Letter Patent: an open letter or document usually from the crown issued to record an agreement or contract or to confer some right, privilege, or office.


Libra (Li, £).  See Pound.


Lieutenant (of the Garter): one appointed to serve in the stead of the dean when the that person was gone for more than eight days.


Livery of Seisin, Conveyance By: delivery of property through actual delivery of a portion from the subject land, as with the passing of twig or turf, or by being on the land at the time the feoffer (vendor) expressly gave it to the feoffee (purchaser) before a witness.


Lord: the owner, possessor, proprietor (of lands houses, etc.)


Lord, Chief:


Lord of the Fee.  See Fee.


Lord Paramount: the king or queen; the crown.  See Mesne.


Lynch: undulating sandy ground; a ledge of plowland on a hillside; an unplowed strip between fields.


Maid: (as used in marriage entries).


Majority, Age of: originally determined by the age at which the heir of land held by knight service could enter into inheritance, that is the age at which growth had ceased and one could be fitted with full permanent armor; .other land tenures required different ages; the age defined by a testator who was only limited by judgement and the perpetuity rule by which vesting had to occur within a life-in-being and twenty-one years.


Manor: early, an estate in land held of the crown or a mesne lord that may have included a principal house and hall, that may have included services, and that often held the right to hold courts baron; the lord of the manor retained part of the land in demesne for his own use while part might be held by tenants or for common or waste; may be held in knight’s service or managed by a bailiff for some other holder.


Mansion: a hide of land; a large house.


Marches: boundaries, frontiers, borders; a tract of debatable land.


Mark: never an English coin but a unit of accounting denoting a weight of metal originally 128 silver pence or 53 1/3 pence, later revalued at 66 2/3 pence.  The mark sterling was valued at 160 pence.  See Coins.


Marriage License: a device dating from the early 16th century used to avoid the inconvenience of banns and obtained from the diocese in which one of the parties resided and at which the marriage was to take place.  One party swore an allegation that there was no existing impediment to the marriage.  The vicar-general of the province could take marriage applications in some circumstances.


Marsh: a fen; badly drained land.


Master: a title denoting the authority to teach in a university, confined to the faculty of arts; supposedly a university graduate, but often used as a courtesy title for esquires and gentlemen.  (The corresponding title in other faculties was Doctor.)


Matriculation: formal admission of a student into the university by ancient ceremony offering an oath of fidelity to Alma; as distinguished from admission to a college; occurred in each of three terms: Lent, Easter, Michaelmas.


Mercer: a member of a class or guild in a city dealing in textiles, especially costly fabrics.


Merchant: a member of a class or guild in a city, trading at wholesale in goods and commodities, especially with foreign countries; comparable to the esquire of the countryside.


Merchets: a fine paid by a tenant or bondsman to the overlord for the liberty to give his daughter in marriage.


Mercy, In (Amerciment): the position of a plaintiff who failed in a suit to be at the mercy of the court with regards to a fine that could be imposed for a false claim; also the money penalty imposed by an officer of a court for misconduct or neglect of duty, the object being to insure promptness and fidelity to duty and to furnish a plaintiff with an opportunity to collect debts, damages, or costs in a speedy fashion.


Mesne: middle or intermediate; see mesne lord.


Mesne lord: a lord who held land directly of the crown (in capite), but a superior lord with tenants.  See Demesne.


Messuage: a dwelling house, necessary buildings, attached gardens, and lands appropriated to the use of the household.


Millman: a person in charge of or employed in a mill, perhaps to thicken cloth.


Missle: a book of prayers and responses used for the Mass.


Moiety: one of two equal halves.




Motley: multi-colored.


Mulct: a fine or penalty imposed for an offence.


Nabbe: as in marsh, signifying marsh lying at the head of a body of water.


Nailer: a nail-maker.


Napery: household linen, especially that for the table.


Nephew: a grandson or descendent; a niece.  See Brother and Cousin.


Niece: a granddaughter or remote descendent; a female relative; a nephew.  See Brother and Cousin.


Noble: a gold coin worth ten shillings.  See Coins.


Noble: as in heraldic, a class of persons holding hereditary titles of duke, marquess, viscount, or baron.


Nonage: being under age.


Notary: a person publicly authorized to perform specific and limited legal duties.


Obit: a mass performed on the anniversary of death for a benefactor of an institution.


Oswern: probably was a warren for keeping hares.  Likely, the second syllable was “warren,” an enclosure for keeping rabbits and hares.  “Hare” was earlier “haso,” and that easily was shown as “os-.”


Overseer: a person appointed by a testator to supervise or assist the executor of a will.


Pannage: the right to feed pigs in manorial woods; payment made for that right; pasturage for swine.  See Denn.


Paravail: lowest; supposed to make avail or profit from the land.


Parcel: partial.




Parish: originally a township or group of townships possessing it own church and clergy to whom it paid its tithes and other ecclesiastical dues; a parish could contain one or several manors; a subdivision recognized for various purposes of civil administration or local government, but primarily ecclesiastical; from 1538 the keeper of records of births, deaths, and weddings; empowered by law to levy a rate for poor relief and the repair of highways.


Patent.  See Letter patent.


Patent Rolls: chancery records relating to the crown, borough charters, grants of land and privileges, presentation to benefices, alienation, wardship, and appointment of officers running from 1201 to 1920.


Patronage: the right of presentation of a qualified person to an ecclesiastical benefice.  See Advowson.


Peculiar: a parish or church exempt from the jurisdiction of the diocese in which it lies.


Penny, Pence: a silver coin first minted in the eighth century and called then a denier.  For five hundred years, it was the only English coin, and it remained silver until 1797.  The Saxon pound weight of silver provided 240 pennies and in the tenth century a long cross was formed on the obverse side to let the coin be broken into halves and quarters.  See Coins.


Pensioner (at Cambridge University): an undergraduate of the second of three ranks: fellow-commoner ( who was a young man of family), pensioner, sizar (who performed many menial services); not a scholar on the foundation of a college or a sizar who paid for his own commons and other expenses.




Perpownd (Perpend?): to ponder or weight exactly.


Personality: personal property that is bequeathed by testament and that does not necessarily pass to the principal heir of the estate.


Pightel (Pickle, Pingle): a small enclosed parcel of arable land; a croft.


Pincera: attendant; a cup-bearer of high rank; butler.


Pine Rolls: accounts rendered by the sheriffs to the Exchequer that include details of rent and farm and any other form of revenue to the crown together with the expenses of the sheriffs.


Pit: a well.


Plough: a measure of arable land originally correlated with the more ancient hide, but later of lesser measure; about eight acres.


Porriger: a small bowl, often with a handle, used for soup, broth, or porrige.


Posnet: a measure of half a bushel.


Post Mortem: an examination after death, often of an estate.


Pottle: a measure of half a gallon.


Pound (Pound Sterling, £): originally an accounting unit of 240 pence; in coinage, a pound weight of twelve ounces of silver from which 240 pence could be minted; the first coin was minted in the reign of Charles I and was short-lived; abbreviated “Li,” stylized as £.  See Coins and Libra.


Prebend: a stipend or maintenance granted out of the estate of a cathedral or collegiate church to a canon or member of the chapter.  A prebendary was one who received a prebend.


Prerogative Court of Canterbury:


Presentation: the formal bringing or presenting of a person before God as a religious act.  See Advowson.


Priest: validated in his ecclesiastical powers through ordination by the bishop; came to hold the powers to consecrate the Eucharist and to exercise the power of absolution; came to be regarded as the representative of God to the people (rather than the converse).  The title was forsaken after the Reformation in favor of the term “clergyman.”


Primogeniture: the custom or right where the eldest son was heir to the real estate of his father in the case of intestacy to the exclusion of his own brothers and sisters; descent of property to the eldest son, as opposed to borough English that required succession through the youngest son.


Prior: the head or deputy head of a monastery, later the rank next to an abbot, the head of a mendicant order, or the head of a dependent monastery.


Priory: a community of monks formed in a religious house in the mendicant orders or dependent on an abbey governed by a prior (or of nuns governed by a prioress formed in a convent).


Proctor: one of two such members of the government of the university who were chosen annually, together with the chancellor, high steward, and vice-chancellor, who held the master of arts, who assisted the vice-chancellor in convocations and congregations, who saw the scholastic exercises were duly performed, statutes observed, just weights and measures kept, right habits worn, and the public place preserved, etc.


Province: a principal ecclesiastical division consisting of several dioceses under the jurisdiction of an archbishop; for the church of England, there were two provinces (of which Canterbury was senior): Canterbury (below the river Trent) and York (the remainder of England).


Protonotary: chief clerk of the court.


Psalter: a copy of the book of Psalms arranged for liturgical or devotional use.


Quarter Days: Much of English commerce was tied to Quarter Days, those times at which rents and leases were typically collected. The first quarter day was Michaelmas (Feast of St Michael and All Angels) on 29 September; Christmas (Feast of the Nativity) on 25 December; Lady Day (Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin) that was also the first day of the new year on 25 March; and Midsummer (Nativity of St John the Baptist) on 6 July (up through 1752).


Quarter Sessions: starting in 1361, the meetings of county justices held four times a year dealt with murder, riot, theft, assault et cetera, but not with civil matters, forgery or treason; the terms during which the superior courts of England were formally open: Michaelmas term (different from Michaelmas quarter day) ran from 2 to 25 November; Hilary term from 11 January until the Wednesday before Easter and during which the High Court of Justice met as well; Easter term from 15 April to 8 May; and Trinity term from 22 May to 12 June.


Quarter (of grain): a measure of eight bushels; or one-fourth of a portion or allotment.


Quern: a hand mill for grinding grain.


Quit Claim: set free; free from claim.


Quit Rent: a rent, usually a small amount, paid by the freeholder or copyholder in lieu of service that might be required.


Raffeman: a dealer in imported lumber, usually for ships; a member of the Grocers, one of twelve (in Norwich) Grand Companies that comprised the trades, mysteries and occupations.


Rape: one of six political subdivisions of Sussex, each with a castle and a harbor.


Reader (at the Inns of Court): a lecturer on law.


Receiver General: a collector of taxes; the chief receiver of public revenues, that was typically for a college or county or some other particular revenue collection.


Recto: the right-hand page of an open book; the front of the page of a manuscript.  See Verso.


Rector: an incumbent of a parish where the tithes were held by the incumbent and who was responsible for the upkeep of the chancel and rectory an for the provision of vestments and service books.  The rector acting as parish priest held exactly the same spiritual status and authority as a vicar.


Reeve: an official of high rank with a local jurisdiction under the crown; the chief magistrate of a town or district.


Registrar: an official recorder.


Release (as in Pardon):


Relevium.  See Relief.


Relief (Relevium): an entry fee paid by the purchaser of property or incoming tenant by inheritance to the feudal tenant-in-chief, typically a year's rent; an arbitrary incident of every feudal tenure in recognition of the seigniory of the lord by way of fine or composition with the lord to succeed in property or an estate that was lapsed or fallen in by the death of the last tenant; originally used while feuds were life estates and continued after feuds became hereditary; provided the heaviest grievance of tenure when used to ask an exorbitant fine to disinherit rightful heirs.  The use of relief could sometimes be circumvented by a freeholder conveying the property to several people who were technically the owners but who held it for the use of the original owner.  This practice was ended by law in 1535 because it limited the revenue collected by the crown.  The same year saw another law that required conveyances to be enrolled and thereby prohibited secret conveyances.


Remainder: entitlement through a will to an estate dependent upon the termination of another ownership or tenancy; also applied to personal estates.








Rood: a measure of land about one quarter of an acre.


Say (Saye): a cloth of fine twilled texture containing silk and resembling serge used for bedcovers, hangings, table covers; a serge.


Scholar (at Cambridge University): a student who received compensation as a reward of merit during a fixed period from the funds of the college to defray the cost of studies.


Scutage: a tax levied upon a tenant of a knight's fee in commutation for military service.


Secular (priest):


Sedulam, Per: through diligence or great care.


See: a seat of dignity or authority; hence, the rank or position symbolized by a throne; the area governed ecclesiastically by a bishop.


Seignior: a feudal superior; a lord.


Seigniory: the holdings of land by a lord, usually a manor.


Seisin.  See Livery of seisin.


Seized: in legal possession of.


Segreant (heraldic): of a griffin; with wings extended; rampant.


Sepulchre: a permanent or temporary structure in a church for receiving the reserved sacrament on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.


Serf: a slave; the lowest of the villeins bound to the soil and subject to the will of the owner of that soil.


Sergeant (Serjeant) (at Law):


Service (to hold by):


Shearman: a person who trims woolen cloth.


Shilling: a silver coin first minted in ????, and then called a testoon, that was one-twelfth of a the pound sterling; one ounce of the pound sterling.  See Coins.


Sizar (at Cambridge University): an undergraduate who received an allowance from the college to enable the pursuit of study, originally performing service to receive free sizes.


Sizes: a jury; an ordinance fixing the amount of taxes or payments.


Skeyne (Skein): a loosely coiled length of thread or yarn.




Soc: the right to hold court and do justice with the franchise to receive certain fees arising from the court.


Socage: land held in tenure other than military service.


Socman: one who held lands in socage.


Solicitor General: the Crown law officer, ranking next to the Attorney General, who acts for the State in matters affecting the public interest; usually a member of the House of Commons.


Sovereign: a gold coin first minted in 1489 and then worth thirty shillings.  See Coins.


Squire.  See Esquire.


Stammel: fine worsted cloth.


Steward: the official who controlled the domestic affairs of the household; a servant of a college charged with the duty of catering.


Striked (napkins): dyed.


Stripe: steep slope




Suit of Court: under feudal law, attendance by a tenant at the court of the lord.


??Suitor: one who owed suit to a court and in that capacity acted as an assessor or elector.


Sulung.  See Hide.




Supervisor (of a testament): a person appointed by a testator to supervise the executors of a testament or will.


Surname: the family, or last, name; first required by statute in 1464.


Surrender: to convey a copyhold property.


Surrogate: a deputy chancellor who presided in English ecclesiastical courts.


Surveyor: one who has the oversight of the lands and boundaries of an estate and its appurtenances; or an officer of the crown or other great household who superintends the preparation or serving of the food.


Tenant: the possessor.


Tenant at Will.  See Estate at will.


Tenant in Common: a person who held an interest in land with several persons having concurrently distinct interests, that might be of the same or of different quantity and that might be of equal or unequal shares, where the property was held undivided and might be devised or transferred independently and where, upon death, the common interest did not accrete to any other.


Tenement: the thing holden; all forms of proprietorship or occupation of real property.


Tenure: manner of possession.  See Fine.


Tenths.  See Tithes.


Testament: a formal declaration, usually in written Latin, of a person's wishes as to the disposal of soul, body, debts, personal property and crops after death.  Because these items were considered a gift of God and bequeathable by the testator.  In the case of intestacy, the personal estate went to the widow and children, and in the absence of children to other relatives.  See Will, Ecclesiastical jurisdiction and Act of administration.


Testamentary powers:


Testator: one who made a will or testament.


Thegn (Thane): a person of superior status, originally one of the Kings's military companions; later a companion of the king who served in an administrative capacity; a class of free attendants on a lord who held land and certain voting rights.


Theow: a slave.


Tithe: the collection, based on ecclesiastical law and enforced by secular law from the tenth century, of a tenth part of all fruits and profits; commuted in later times from tithe-in-kind to corn-rents or tithe-rents.  Tithes were often divided into Small Tithes, about one-third of the total amount and used for the maintenance of a vicar if applicable, and Great Tithes.  See Vicar, Rector, and Advowson of Vicarage.




Tithe Rents:


Tithing: a subdivision of one-tenth of a hundred; or a group of ten men with their families associated in a group that was bound to the crown for their good and peaceable behavior.


Title: an ecclesiastical preferment.


Toft: a plot of land on which a building stood or formerly stood for which common rights might still attach to the house even though the building was gone.


Tolvet: two peck measure.


Tourn (as in Mayor's or Sheriff's Tourne): the tour, turn, or circuit made by an official twice each year within a month after Easter and Michaelmas; a court of record or grand court leet held by the sheriff.


Towen (sheets):


Trammel: one of a series of rings or links used to bear a vessel at varying heights above a fire.


Transom: a bolster.


Tremelin's (Bible):


Trental (Trendyl): Thirty requiems celebrated consecutively; also a circular lampstand or chandelier that held thirty lamps or candles.


Tuition: the guardianship of a male under the age of 15 or a female under the age of thirteen.  See Curation.


Vassal: a tenant in fee; in the feudal system, a person holding lands from a superior on condition of homage and allegiance.


Verso: the left-hand page of an open book; the back of the page of a manuscript.  See Recto.


Vicar: originally, a person ministering to a parish in place of the rector or as the representative of a religious community, the Great Tithes went to the rector or monastery and the Small Tithes went to the vicar; after the English Reformation, an incumbent of a parish of which another person or institution held advowson of vicarage that was the ownership of the tithes and the right to appoint the incumbent.  The vicar acting as parish priest held exactly the same spiritual status and authority as a rector.


Vicar General: an ecclesiastical officer assisting or representing a bishop in matters of jurisdiction or administration.


Videlicet: namely.


Vill: the smallest administrative unit under the feudal system corresponding to a tithing or a parish; a feudal township.


Villein (Villain): a villager; any free common villager or village peasant of the classes lower than thane; specifically, a churl who was lower than a socman and higher than a cotter or bordar or collibert; a peasant freeman.


Virgate: in Kent, a measure of land that consisted of one-fourth of an acre; a hide in other counties.


Visitation: a periodic visit made to a district by a herald to examine and enroll arms and pedigrees.


Viz.  See Videlicet.


Ward: under feudal law, the control and use of the lands of a deceased tenant by knight service and the guardianship of infant heirs that belonged to the superior until the majority of the heir.  See Wards, Court of.


Wards, Court of: established in 1540 to give the crown an effectual means of asserting its rights to the incidents of feudal tenure by knight service, including wardships and liveries, relief and primer seisin, etc.  Quite unpopular, the court was abolished in 1660.


Wardship: the entitlement by the crown to hold and receive the revenues of the land of a tenant-in-chief after his death until the heir reached majority, twenty-one for males, fourteen for females.  Frequently, the wardship was awarded to the highest bidder.  The crown was entitled to control the marriage of the ward as well as the widow.


Way: track, as opposed to a highway; weight of cheese varying from two to three hundred pounds


Weald: tract of ancient woods along the Kent and Sussex border and that lay between the North and South Downs.


Wergeld: the prescribed value for a human life; the fixed price to be paid by the kindred of a slayer to the kindred of the slain person.  See Geld.


Wey: a measure of forty bushels.


Whisk: a broom or brush.


Will: a formal declaration, usually in written English, of a person's wishes as to the disposal of real property such as land and buildings after death.  These items were regarded as the property of crown and its disposal was bound by the customs of the manor or the realm.  In most of England, primogeniture determined the disposal of real estate.  Widows and single women were permitted to make wills, but because the property of a married woman was considered to belong to her husband, she was not allowed to make a will without his consent.  See Testament, Ecclesiastical jurisdiction and Act of administration.


Yard: a quarter of an acre; an enclosure, laid by a house or building.


Yeoman: a free tenant, usually a prominent farmer, a holder of a small landed estate, who worked with his hands and thereby who could not be termed a gentleman; a freeholder under the rank of gentleman, hence a commoner or countryman of respectable standing, especially one who cultivated one's own land.

[1]                  The information and quotation are from Exeter Freemen, 1266-1967, (Devon & Cornwall Record Society, 1973), pp.xi-xxiii.