Glossary of medieval terms
Readers frequently ask me about some of the Medieval terminology used in my novels so I thought I’d help by posting a glossary of some of them. I’ve made a start and will add to it periodically. For now, here are the most asked about ones.
Wimple – a head covering. Frequently a rectangle of fabric placed over the head and wrapped around the throat and shoulders. Or it could be left open to expose the throat.
Right: Regia Anglorum ladies in period dress. (Thanks to Maggie Ingram for this photo.)
Gambeson – A quilted tunic worn under the hauberk (see below) to absorb weapon blows. Could be stuffed with fleece, horse-hair, moss. Later on they became known as aketons, because they were stuffed with cotton.
Hauberk – A garment made up of interlinking rinks of iron – ‘chain-mail’ in common parlance. Short or long-sleeved, usually knee-length and split at front of back for ease of walking and horse riding.
Braies – Medieval underpants. Imagine a pair of very baggy boxer shorts without elastic at the waist. They were put on, a belt was tied around them at the waist and the surplus fabric rolled over (see photo, right).
Palfrey – Well-bred riding horse
Rounc(e)y – All purpose riding horse, less well-bred than a palfrey
Sumpter – A pack horse
Courser – A swift horse for hunting or racing
Ermine – the pelt of the stoat in winter when the animal turns white and just has a black tip to its tail. Very high status – royal. Ordinary people wore cat fur and lambskin.
Vair – the fur of Russian squirrels. High status again. William Marshal & co would have worn vair, or had it on their beds (see illustration, right).
Wastel Bread – Basically bread rolls. For a tasty authentic recipe: Cut a bread roll in half. Scoop out the centres and make breadcrumbs. Reserve. Fry onions and chopped mushrooms in a little butter – add a clove of garlic if liked. When tender, stir in the reserved breadcrumbs. Pile back into the bread casings and eat. You can vary the fillings with whatever you have to hand. I am told by a professional chef that spinach and mushroom is excellent.
Frumenty – a kind of wheat porridge, often flavoured with spices or cooked in almond milk and a traditional accompaniment to venison.
Morap – wine made from mulberries
Bailey – A castle courtyard
Ward – A castle courtyard
Sward – Area of green in the bailey
Aumbry – A small cupboard set in the wall
The Narrow Sea – known today as the English Channel