Vocabulary from Books #4: The Once and Future King Edition

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I looked up so many words in the first two chapters of The Once and Future King that, at one point, a linear projection of that rate would have yielded almost 400 new words by the end of the book.

That didn’t happen, of course. The new words dropped off dramatically after the first 200 pages. But I ended up with fourteen, and while that doesn’t set a record, it’s enough for another entry in my vocabulary series.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology.

organon: an instrument of thought, especially a means of reasoning or a system of logic

On a neat row of nails there were Indian bells and swivels and silver varvels, each with Ector cut on.

varvel: (falconry) a metal ring bearing the owner’s name or coat of arms, attached to a hawk’s jesses and used to identify the bird

A special shelf, and the most beautiful of all, held the hoods: very old cracked rufter hoods which had been made for birds before Kay was born, tiny hoods for the merlins, small hoods for tiercels, splendid new hoods which had been knocked up to pass away the long winter evenings.

rufter: (falconry) a loose-fitting hood for birds

Sir Ector visited the place each morning at seven o’clock and the two austringers stood at attention outside the door.

austringer: a keeper of goshawks

Hob is only a villein anyway.

villein: (in medieval England) a feudal tenant entirely subject to a lord or manor to whom he paid dues and services in return for land

Kay began walking off in the wrong direction, raging in his heart because he knew that he had flown the bird when he was not properly in yarak, and the Wart had to shout after him the right way.

yarak: (of a trained hawk) fit and in proper condition for hunting

This Beast has the head of a serpent, ah, and the body of a libbard, the haunches of a lion, and he is footed like a hart.

libbard: an obsolete spelling of “leopard”

‘I have a brachet,’ he said sadly.

brachet: a female hunting hound that hunts by scent

‘I am taking you to see one of those,’ said the tench, ‘the Emperor of these purlieus.’

purlieu:  1. the area near or surrounding a place; 2. a person’s usual haunts

There were … six pismires, some glass retorts with cauldrons …

pismire: (archaic) an ant

Also I will teach the child to lead out the hounds to scombre twice in the day in the morning and in the evening, so that the sun be up, especially in winter.

scombre: defecate

There, there, my dowsabel.

dowsabel: an obsolete word for “sweetheart”

The insect season was past its peak, for it was really the time for wasps and fruit; but there were many fritillaries still, with tortoise-shells and red admirals on the flowering mint.

fritillary: 1. A Eurasian plant of the lily family, with hanging bell-like flowers; 2. A butterfly with orange-brown wings that are checkered with black.

She was a true Weyve–except for her long hair, which most of the female outlaws of those days used to clip.

weyve: (obsolete) female outlaw


I’ll be posting my review of The Once and Future King on Friday — in the meantime, if you want to learn more strange and obscure words, check out the rest of the Vocabulary from Books series!

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