Glossary of Obscure Terms
- to incite, instigate, encourage, or countenance (an
- given absolution for remission of sins by an ecclesiastical
- the increase of an inheritance or legacy by the addition of the
share of a failing coheir or colegatee.
- right of presentation to a benefice.
- an assessor of amercements.
- breach of the peace caused by fighting or riot in a public
- the taking in of cattle or livestock to feed at a rate of so
much per head; opening of a forest for a specified time for
- a piece of wet ground where alders grow.
- an inspector of ale.
- to transfer to another owner.
- the revenue from oblations at an altar, or a fund to maintain
an altar and a priest to say masses at it.
- to remove from a position.
- one of a pair of ornamental metal stands placed at each side of
a hearth to support burning wood.
- angel or angel noble
- an old English gold coin worth 6s8d to 10s having the device of
archangel Michael and dragon.
- to let out or farm at a rent.
- piece of land converted into arable by assarting (grubbing up
trees and bushes).
- enough goods to enable an heir to discharge debts and legacies
of the testator, or property to be so applied.
- (of wood) measure.
- (of rents) fixed and certain rents.
- an undertaking, a promise or contract oral or in writing, not
sealed founded upon a consideration. An action to recover damages
for breach of non performance of such contract.
- the extinction of civil rights and capacities when judgment of
death or outlawry was recorded against a person who had committed
felony or treason. It involved the forfeiture and escheat of the
lands and goods belonging to the criminal, or the corruption of his
blood ie. he became incapable of holding or inheriting land, or of
transmitting a title by descent.
- the conviction of a jury for giving a false verdict, a legal
process for reversing the verdict and convicting the jurors.
- to settle the term of; especially to adjourn payment of a debt
to day fixed.
- in feudal law, to transfer oneself (ie. one's homage and
allegiance) from one lord to another. In modern law, to agree
formally to be the tenant of one into whose possession the estate
has passed 1458, so 'attorn tenant'.
- advantage, benefit, profit.
- 'bald gelding' streaked or marked with white.
- a ferocious dog tied or chained up; hence, a mastiff or
- lime tree wood made into ropes and mats.
- cutter of lime tree wood bark.
- rich stuff originally woven with woof of silk and warp of gold;
- a bundle of brushwood etc. bound with one withe.
- bead roll
- list of names to be prayed for.
- pensioner bound to pray for benefactor.
- one of the senior members of the Inns of Court.
- to expose (a person) by divulging his secrets etc.
- bill of complaint
- petition addressed to the lord chancellor by plaintiff
requesting grant of a subpoena; the first pleadings in his
- bill of revivor
- if female plaintiff in Chancery married, the cause would abate
until a bill of revivor had been put in.
- a pollard tree.
- the bounds taken as a whole; compass or extent.
- boulting tub
- possibly from bolter, boulter a piece of cloth used for
sifting, a sieve.
- engaged in paltry noisy quarrel.
- summary of facts and law points in a case drawn up for
- buffet stool
- a low stool.
- burnet wool
- dyed cloth of superior quality originally dark brown.
- a glossy woollen stuff of Flanders, twilled and chequered in
the warp so that the checks are seen on one side only.
- capital messuage
- that occupied by the owner of a property containing several
- tenure in capite, name of tenure by which land is held
immediately of the king or crown.
- an implement for raising the nap on cloth, iron instrument with
teeth to comb out wool.
- as much land as could be tilled with one plough in a year; a
- measure of coal 36 bushels.
- brewing implement.
- vessel in which incense is burnt.
- a writ directed to an inferior court of record commanding it to
'certify' to the monarch in the high court of justice some matter
of judicial character. Used to remove civil causes or indictments
from inferior courts into the high court that they may be better
- chafing dish
- vessel with burning charcoal etc. inside for keeping things
placed in it warm.
- chamlet or camlet
- a name originally for a costly eastern fabric, subsequently for
substitutes, made of various combinations of wool, silk, hair, and
latterly cotton or linen.
- a large plate or flat dish.
- cheese moat
- cheese vat.
- one of various documents formally written, engrossed or
- one who engrossed documents.
- elected lay representative of the parish, one of two usually
elected one by the incumbent one by the parishioners.
- split wood especially for fuel.
- large area containing high windows (e.g. nave) usually of
- close stool
- a chamber pot enclosed in a stool or box.
- mending, patching.
- support of a spit, similar to an andiron.
- top (of trees).
- a supplement to a will.
- the party in whose favour a fine of land was levied.
- chief officer of a village.
- an estate or manor belonging to an order of knights and placed
under the charge of one of them.
- an officer exercising jurisdiction as the representative of the
bishop in parts of his diocese.
- common recovery
- a mode of barring entails. It was a judgment in a collusive
suit brought by a friendly plaintiff or 'demandant' against the
tenant in tail (abolished 1833).
- common vouchee
- the crier of the court vouched to warranty in a common
- action of clearing a man from a charge by the oaths of a number
of others an old English method of trial.
- witness to character, who swore along with the accused in order
to acquit the latter.
- the diocesan court.
- fellow witness.
- wilful disobedience to the summons or order of a court.
- one who shares equally with others his inheritance of the
estate of a common ancestor.
- a vestment resembling a long cloak made of a semicircular piece
- a kind of tenure in England of ancient origin: tenure of lands
being parcel of a manor, 'at the will of the lord according to
custom of the manor', by copy of the manorial court roll.
- an ancient eucharistic vestment a linen cloth upon which the
consecrated elements are placed during celebration and with which
they are subsequently covered.
- a piece of defensive armour covering the body, as distinct from
- counterpart of an indenture.
- by collusion, fraudulently.
- condition of being a married woman.
- small dog irons paid placed between the andirons.
- an enclosed field, also a piece of enclosed arable land
adjacent to a house.
- 14th September.
- plant resembling fennel cultivated for aromatic fruit or
- curator ad lites
- someone who acted as guardian taking care of the legal matters
of a minor.
- clerk in the chancery office whose duties consisted in drawing
up those writs which were 'of course'.
- a small court, yard, garth, or piece of ground attached to a
dwelling house, and forming one enclosure with it, or so regarded
by the law; the area attached to and containing a dwelling house
and its out buildings.
- the head of a decena or tithing or a member of a tithing.
- person making deposition under oath or giving written testimony
for use in court etc.
- de recte
- a writ of right.
- diminution by taking away, reduction.
- a condition which makes a deed void.
- possession (of real estate) as one's own, i.e. in ones's own
hands as possessor by free tenure.
- legal exception taken to an opponent's point as
- in law, a personal chattel which, having been the immediate
cause of death of a person is forfeited to the crown to be applied
to pious uses.
- person making deposition under oath or giving written testimony
for use in court etc.
- the action of detaining, withholding, or keeping in one's
possession. The (wrongful) detaining of goods taken from the owner
for distraint, etc. Forcible detainer violently taking or keeping
possession, with menaces, force, of lands and tenements, without
the authority of law.
- a person to whom a devise is made.
- textile, usually linen, woven with pattern shown up by opposite
reflections from its surface consisting of lines crossing
diamondwise with spaces filled up by parallel lines, leaves, dots
also could be towel or baby napkin.
- diem clausit extremum
- writ issued out of the court of Chancery to the escheator of
the county upon the death of any of the king's tenants in capite to
enquire by a jury of what lands he died seised and of what value
and who was the next heir to him etc.
- the action of depriving of, or cutting off from, an
- order in Chancery, normally with the force of a decree, whereby
a bill was dismissed.
- the wrongful putting out of him that is actually seised of a
- action of distraining; the legal seizure and detention of
chattels originally for the purpose of constraining the owner to do
some act, later in order out of the proceeds of its sale to satisfy
some debt or claim.
- landmark, boundary mark.
- an ordinance or decree.
- applied to certain fabrics originally manufactured at the
Flemish town of Dornick and used for hangings, carpets, vestments
- ejectio firmae
- action brought by a lessee who had been ejected before the
expiration of his term, or by a lessor to eject a tenant who
refused to leave when his term had expired.
- to enter the names of a jury on a panel or official list; to
constitute or enrol a body of jurors.
- to put in possession of the fee simple or fee tail of lands,
- to enfranchise a copyhold or leasehold estate: to convert it
- written in legal hand.
- an incident of feudal law whereby a fief reverted to the lord
when the tenant died seised without heir.
- an officer appointed yearly by the Lord Treasurer to take
notice of the escheats in the county to which he is appointed, and
to certify them to the Exchequer.
- a writing.
- the products which ground or lands yield; and the hay of
meadows, herbage of pasture, corn of arable, rents, services etc.
also the lands etc. themselves.
- estate for life
- either limited to the life of the tenant, land given to A for
life or during the life of another, in A for the life of B 'pur
autre vie' or 'cestui que vie'.
- estate tail
- one given to a man and the heirs of his body. It is only
alienable if the tenant in tail has issue, on his death without
heirs it will revert to the grantor.
- park or enclosed pasture for cattle, or the grass or clover
- pitcher or water jug with wide neck.
- examiner (in Chancery)
- principal duty was to keep and copy answers of witnesses in
response to written interrogatories.
- to cut off from communion, to exclude by an authoritative
sentence from the communion of the church or from religious
- exposition of the scriptures.
- either impounded animals, or goods escheated for intestacy;
taking animals from stock.
- fee simple
- freehold, absolute ownership.
- feet of fine
- documents recording a judicial proceeding used for conveying
land through a fictitious suit (abolished 1833).
- feme covert
- a woman under cover or protection of her husband; a married
- feme sole
- a woman who has not the protection of a husband; an unmarried
woman, a spinster, a widow. A married woman who with respect to
property is as independent of her husband as if she were
- one who holds land of an overlord on condition of homage and
- the action of investing with a fief or fee applied especially
to conveyance by livery of seisin; the deed or instrument by which
corporeal hereditaments are conveyed.
- field bed
- a bedstead for use in the field, a bed upon the ground.
- a tax of one fifteenth formerly imposed on personal
- measure of capacity; small cask for butter originally
containing quarter of a 'barrel' or half a 'kilderkin'.
- fish; ray or skate.
- one who makes or deals in bows and arrows, or a bowman.
- forcible detainer
- see detainer.
- to take beforehand, to take for granted, to allow for, to
- the making of a thing in fraudulent imitation of something;
especially the forging, counterfeiting, or falsifying of a
- writs brought by persons who claimed land under a gift in tail
when it was in the possession of a person not entitled to it.
- basket made of rushes used for packing figs, raisins, etc.; the
quantity of raisins etc. (30 to 75lb) contained in this.
- coarse cloth with nap usually on one side only.
- a wooded piece.
- alehouse keeper.
- fish with a spear like snout, also called green bone, horn fish
and sea pike etc.
- to measure the girth of trees etc.
- an outlying farmhouse with barns etc. belonging to a monastery
or a feudal lord, for storing tithes in kind etc.
- turf on which grass is growing.
- corn to be ground.
- a timber serving as a foundation to carry a superstructure,
especially a wooden building.
- grydy iron/gridiron
- griddle for cooking over fire, could be an open mesh of
- part of a deed (beginning in law with the words habendum et
tenendum, and in English 'to have and to hold') which defines what
estate or interest is thereby granted.
- first week in November.
- particular type of cloth.
- chattel that follows devolution of real estate.
- any kind of property that can be inherited; anything, corporeal
or incorporeal, that in the absence of testamentary disposition
descended to the heir at common law.
- itinerant dealer, esp. carrier or huckster who buys up poultry
and dairy produce, and supplies in exchange petty commodities from
the shops in town.
- linen fabric names after north Netherland province.
- hopkiln or hopkill
- a kiln for drying hops; an oast.
- Hugo (or Hugh) Hunt
- fictional legal character in a recovery on account of whose
actions a plea of disseisin is brought.
- the 15th of March, May, July, October and the 13th of the other
- an extension of time to put in a response in pleading a case,
on the (real or fictitious) ground of a desire to negotiate for an
amicable settlement; a continuance of the case to another day
- a fee paid on coming in or entering; an entry fine.
- keep free from hurt.
- in extremis
- at the point of death.
- to pollute, defile, corrupt.
- written questions to elicit testimony put to witnesses and
answered by depositions.
- to come into operation, to operate; to take or have
- horse, usually used contemptuously of a worn out horse, or one
of an inferior breed.
- John Doe
- name given to fictitious lessee of the plaintiff in the action
- joint tenancy
- the ownership of land in common by several persons where there
is a right of survivorship.
- John Doe
- name given to fictitious lessee of the plaintiff in the action
- vessel for cooling liquids, a shallow tub.
- kneading trough
- a wooden trough or tub in which to knead dough.
- August 1st, in early English church a harvest festival in which
loaves of bread made from the first ripe corn were
- a writ which supposed the defendant to lie concealed and which
summoned him to answer in the Kings Bench.
- basin or bowl for washing.
- lead work in general.
- a person to whom a lease is granted, a tenant under a
- plaintiff's written declaration.
- lime tree.
- linen cloth.
- the action of handing over, delivery of goods.
- a linen fabric of various qualities, named after a village in
Britanny where it was formerly made.
- root of plant used as medicine to purge the liver.
- the action of making oneself legally responsible for
thefulfilment of a contract or undertaking by another; suretyship.
Also, action of procuring the release of a prisoner by becoming
surety (mainpernor) for his appearance in court at a specific time.
To procure or grant the release of (a prisoner) by mainnprise.
- a breeder of strife.
- male veniendo
- a ground for essoin.
- judicial or legal command from superior commission to ask for
- beam across the opening of a fireplace serving as a lintel to
support the masonry above.
- tenure, occupation (of land), control, management, now only in
law, cultivation of land tillage manuring.
- maser or mazer
- a maser dish is a bowl made of maple wood.
- mixed grain esp. rye mixed with wheat.
- a mowing.
- fish, whiting.
- originally the portion of land intended to be occupied, or
actually occupied, as a site for a dwelling house and its
appurtenances. Later used as a dwelling house with its out
buildings and curtilage and the adjacent land assigned to its use.
See capital messuage.
- mill bill
- a steel adze fixed in a wooden thrift for dressing and cracking
- a kind of cloth used for clothing in sixteenth and seventeenth
- toll in kind paid to the miller for grinding corn; the right to
- bog, marsh.
- mort d'ancestor
- term applied to an assize brought by the right heir against one
who wrongly took possession of his inheritance on the death of his
- put between or under slates or tiles in building.
- a document, a title deed etc., preserve of evidence of rights
- Naboth's vineyard
- biblical reference to deceitful procurement of a vineyard.
- a beam or post of wood esp. one used as a temporary support for
a wall during underpinning.
- (obsolete) a niece or a descendant.
- nisi prius
- trial of civil cases by jury at assizes in the country.
- the condition of being under age, the period of legal infancy,
- type of sheep.
- notary public
- person publically authorized to draw up or attest contracts
- (of wills) oral, not written.
- fostering, careful bringing up.
- memorial service.
- the action of solemnly offering or presenting something to God;
the offering of a sacrifice, of thanksgiving, or religious
- an incoming fee or revenue, especially one of an occasional or
- right of pasturage of swine.
- seems to be a variant on parcenary, joint heirship.
- belonging to God.
- one allowed because of poverty to sue or defend in a court of
law, without paying costs 'in forma pauperis'.
- a hospital for persons suffering from any infectious
- pocket especially in a woman's skirt opening in outer
- planking, boarding, a floor or platform of planks.
- patch, plot, of ground.
- bag or sack.
- a small metal pot for boiling having a handle and three
- law. that part of the record of civil process which sets forth
the proceedings at the trial and the verdict given.
- a large cupboard, usually shelved, esp. one placed in a recess
in the wall for holding clothes, books etc.
- one who manages the affairs of another, an agent or
- the action of lengthening in duration extension of time;
further continuance. The action of proroguing an assembly,
especially Parliament. The time Parliament stands prorogued.
- superior kind of woollen cloth of which gowns were made.
- a proportion, a share especially of an inheritance.
- that which is conveyed or expressed especially by a formal
- an enclosure, encroachment.
- lime tree.
- vessel in which the host or consecrated bread of the sacrament
- a small plot or narrow strip of land.
- 15th day after any feast, the day of the feast itself being
included in the reckoning.
- quit rent
- usually due from tenants of manors in lieu and discharge of
- act of shaving (the head etc.), tonsure.
- a person appointed by a court to receive the rents and profits
of real estate etc.
- formal acknowledgement of a debt or some other obligation,
usually with sureties and penalties for breach of same.
- magistrate or judge having criminal and civil jurisdiction in a
city or borough.
- a retailer, middleman.
- second pleading of a defendant's cause in Chancery and made in
response to the plaintiffs replication.
- rent charge
- a rent forming a charge upon lands etc. granted or reserved by
deed to one who is not the owner, with a clause of distress in case
- rent seck
- a rent reserved by deed in favour of some person without a
clause of distress in case of arrears (abolished 1731).
- rent service
- personal service by which lands or tenements are held in
addition to or in lieu of, money payment.
- the restoration to, or recovery by a person, of goods or
chattels distrained or taken from him upon his giving security to
have the matter tried in a court of justice and return the goods if
the case be decided against him; replevy, to bail out.
- second pleading of a plaintiff's cause in Chancery and made in
response to the defendant's answer.
- (of rents) paid.
- Rich Roe
- legal name of defendant against John Doe.
- to split or cleave wood etc.
- the second growth or crop of grass or hay in a season.
- fine soft silk material.
- small piece of wood.
- scire facies
- a judicial writ, requiring the sheriff to warn the party
concerned, to wit that he should come before the court to 'show
cause' why execution should not be taken against him, or why
letters patent, such as a charter, should not be revoked.
- tax levied on knight's fee: chiefly such tax paid in lieu of
- a packhorse load.
- seizure, confiscation (of goods).
- dry, withered.
- property is said to belong to persons in severalty when the
share of each is ascertained (so that he can exclude the others
from it) as opposed to joint ownership, ownership in common, and
coparcenery, where the owners hold individual shares.
- obscure form of shippon, cowshed.
- (from the W. Flemish schet) a rail or bar.
- shoat/shott/shett etc.
- young weaned pig.
- shred; to lop of branches of a tree; to prune.
- deputy churchwarden.
- absolutely, without condition.
- basket or hamper.
- an upper room or apartment in a house, in later use a loft,
attic or garret.
- 'he appeared and alleged that he had not done his penance for
that the sompner was not present' official summoner (somner).
- bright chestnut colour.
- the action of providing with spars.
- a room or separate place in which victuals and liquor are kept;
a buttery or pantry.
- a woman (rarely a man) who spins, especially one who practises
spinning as a regular occupation. From the seventeenth century used
as the proper legal designation of one still unmarried.
- spire (tree) not pollarded or coppiced.
- small or slender twigs of trees or shrubs fused for fuel fine
- money: 1588 16s, 1617 15s.
- a stump left when underwood is cut.
- a pond, especially a fish pond.
- young tree left standing for timber.
- stanty hedge
- stake and rice fence.
- statute merchant or statute staple
- a bond or recognizance by which the creditor had the power of
holding the debtor's lands in case of default.
- an ornamental covering for the chest, often covered with
jewels, worn by women under the lacings of the bodice.
- container for wine, probably stoppered as in stople.
- broken straw etc.
- woollen bedcovering, blanket.
- dry measure usually identical with a bushel but in some
districts equal to two or four bushels.
- of trees, cut down to a stub, cut off near the ground; also
deprived or branches or pollarded.
- to bribe, induce or procure (a person) by underhand or unlawful
means to commit a misdeed; especially to give false testimony or
- initial process of chancery requiring under pain that the
- 'my lord of London's suivant', confidant.
- a portable consecrated stone slab for use upon an unconsecrated
altar, a table etc.
- sur cognisance de droit come ceo que il ad de son
- a variety of fine, grantor called conusor and grantee called
conusee. Whole process is described as levying a fine. In this type
the conusor admits that the lands in question belong to the conusee
on the grounds that he the conusor previously gave them to the
conusee. Such a fine was said to be 'executed' this meant that
since it is admitted that the lands are already the lands of the
conusee there is no need for any livery of seisin to him.
- an assembly of churchmen.
- cloven rod, as the official receipt formerly given by the
Exchequer for a tax, tallage etc. paid, or in acknowledgement of a
loan to the sovereign.
- teller of Exchequer
- one of the four officers of the Exchequer formerly charged with
the receipt and payment of money.
- tenancy in common
- each tenant has distinct and separate title to his share and no
right to survivorship as in joint tenancy.
- tenant from year to year
- one who holds under demise for a term.
- rack for stretching skins.
- a canopy over a bed, supported on the posts of the bedstead or
suspended from the ceiling, also could be headboard and
- latin word for witness.
- a tapster, a tavern keeper
- drinking intoxicating liquor.
- size of hooped pots for ale.
- the site of a house and its outbuildings.
- clipping of hedges.
- net with three layers of mesh.
- frame usually of a window, could also be of a bed.
- enclosed apartments (of houses).
- the traversing or formal denial in pleading of some matter of
fact alleged by the other side; also a plea consisting of this. To
contradict formally; to deny at law.
- flat piece of wood, square of circular, on which meat was
served and cut up; a plate or platter.
- set of thirty successive daily services for the dead commencing
thirty days after the funeral.
- a violet blue or purple colouring matter obtained from a plant
formerly much used for colouring jellies, confectionery, wine
- the octave of any feast.
- visit paid by a bishop or archdeacon to examine the state of a
diocese, parish, or religious institution.
- a trundle, lantern wheel.
- a deep furrow made for conducting water from the land and
keeping it dry.
- animals newly weaned.
- (of cheese) for Essex 236lb, for Suffolk 356lb (in Harlakenden
Accounts 25/9/1626 described as 252lb).
- a wooden drainpipe, originally a tree trunk halved vertically
hollowed and turned with the cavity downwards to form an arched
- flexible branch of willow used for tying or any similar
flexible branch twig.
- wombe (of leather)
- the belly piece of a hide or skin.
- blue dye obtained from India, indigo.