Jun 202012

 Regency Glossary by Donna Hatch Part 1.

Lots of Regency authors, especially the members of The Beau Monde Regency Romance Chapter, use glossaries to explain words no longer in common use.

The Beau Monde will post some of these, bit by bit, and then combine them to make a larger glossary.

Do you have any words or lists that we can add to our expanding glossary?  Types of carriages? Names for servants or workers?  Commonly used items in the Regency Era?

 We’d love to hear from you.

Our first glossary is Part 1 from Donna Hatch, regency romance author and a member of The Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Part 2 is a glossary of Carriage Types and will be in tomorrow’s post.

Donna Hatch says…..

The Regency has its own terminology with which the modern reader may not be familiar. The following are a few terms I often use in my books that bear explanation.


AbigailA lady’s maid.



Almack's Assembly Room

Almack’s Assembly Room

Assembly rooms on King Street in London. Exclusive subscription balls were held there each Wednesday night of the Season and only those deemed worthy were awarded vouchers to entrance.


Apoplexy: A stroke.


Banns: Public announcement in church of a proposed marriage. The banns were read aloud during church service, following the reading of the second lesson, for three consecutive Sundays, with a query as to whether anyone knew of any reason why the couple should not wed. This was done in the parish of both the bride and groom. Once the banns were read three times, without objection, the cleric issued a certificate allowing the couple to marry at one of their parish churches.


Batman: An orderly assigned to a military officer.


Bluestocking: A woman with unfashionably intellectual and literary interests, often with a scientific bent.


Bow Street Runner:

Bow Street Magistrates' Court in London: This ...

Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London: Engraving published in Microcosm of London (1808) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The forerunner of the metropolitan police later referred to as Scotland Yard, the Bow Street Runners were established in the mid-18th century by the magistrate of the Bow Street court, Henry Fielding.


Cut direct:A deliberate, public snub.


Demi-monde: Literally “half world”; a class on the fringes of respectable society but most often referred to courtesans, prostitutes, etc.


Dowager: The widow of a peer, eg the Dowager Countess of Placename. The term was not added to a woman’s title until the new holder of the title married. This differentiated her from the wife of the new peer. The term also sometimes refers informally–and disparagingly–to an older woman of the upper classes.


Drum: A party.


Entail: An inheritance of real property which cannot be sold by the owner but which passes by law to the owner’s heir upon his death. The purpose of an entail was to keep the land of a family intact in the main line of succession. The heir to an entailed estate could not sell the land, or bequeath it to anyone but his direct heir.


Foolscap: Writing paper. The term refers to the size of the paper (17 by 13½ inches, which was typically folded, and sometimes cut, in half ) and not the quality or weight. The standard foolscap size was in use since the 15th century, and the name derives from the watermark in the shape of a jester’s hat that was once used to identify it.



George III Third Guinea

George III Third Guinea

A gold coin worth 21 shillings. Last coinage in 1813.



Hell (ie gaming hell): A gambling establishment, more respectable than the elite gentlemen’s clubs which also provided many opportunities for gambling and betting.



Jarvey: The driver of a hackney coach or cab.


Jointure: A financial provision for a widow. Typically the amount is negotiated based on the portion she brought to the marriage, and is generally established as part of the marriage settlement.


 LaudanumLaudanum: A tincture made with a mixture of brandy and opium used to control pain or as a sleeping aid.





Linen draper: a fabric merchant.


Mayfair: The most desirable residential neighborhood in Regency London. Its unofficial boundaries are Picadilly on the south, Oxford on the north, Park Lane on the west, and Regent Street on the east. It includes Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, and Hanover Square.


Modiste: A lady’s dressmaker.



Regency young lady playing the pianoforte

Regency young lady playing the pianoforte

An early version of the piano developed about 1730. Unlike the harpsichord, it coul be played softly (piano) or loudly (forte). The full, original Italian term wasgravicèmbalo col piano e forte (literally harpsicord with soft and loud).


Rake: Literally, “a dissolute person; a libertine,” most often rake is used in the same way as “playboy” or “womanizer.” In its truest sense a rake indulges in drinking, debauchery, and general lechery.


Rout: A crowded party, akin to a modern cocktail party.


Season: The social “Season” began in early spring and lasted until the end of June. The Season typically followed the sitting of Parliament.


Special license: A license obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury or his office in Doctor’s Commons in London, that granted the right to marry at any convenient time or place. They were valid for 3 months. Without a special license, marriages could only take place between 8:00am and noon in a parish in which one of the parties has resided for a minimum of 4 weeks.


Tiger: A liveried groomgenerally small and young, who managed the horses when his master ascended to or descended from the seat, and sometimes took the reins to exercise the horses while his master temporarily left the vehicle. An owner-driven curricle or phaeton typically had a groom’s seat between the springs on which the tiger sat. The tiger wore an orange and black striped waistcoat which is what gave them their “title.” A small, lightweight tiger was preferred in order to maintain the proper balance. In fact, it was something of a status symbol to have the smallest possible tiger.


Ton: Fashionable Society, or the fashion. From the French bon ton, meaning good form, ie good manners, good breeding, etc. A person could be a member of the ton, attend ton events, or be said to have good ton (or bad ton).

Reposted with permission from Donna Hatch, Romance Novelist


Donna Hatch

Donna Hatch


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