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Medieval Terms List


Thank-you so much!

This is an incredible, and exhaustive list, and just what I need for my research :)

I'd add another thank-you to your post if I could!


My friend Grace (who is a bit obsessed with historical clothing) would say that Medieval Terms list is sadly incomplete: it has nothing about the clothing people wore then (ever mistake a kilt for a kirtle? oh, the embarrassment!), nor about their food and drink (much needed because there really are people who think that mead is a kind of beer), and these things are bound to come up in medieval-ish fantasy fiction.

I'm not saying that we cannot sometimes make up our own terms for such things, but it helps to know the real-world (oh, the temptation to make a joke of that!) terms. Besides, you may recall the warning issued to would-be science fiction writers about calling a rabbit a smeerp: Don't do it. Same thing applies for fantasy. No need to call that thing on the platter a zikkabande if it has the same ingredients as an apple-stuffed pheasant and is served on the same kinds of occasions.


toujours gai, archie
For those interested, the very fine academic effort that was the Orb (Online Reference Book) has long been moribund. It bounced around two or three universities before finally calling it quits. There's a mirror here
ORB: The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies
and as always the Internet Archive has its Wayback Machine.

It breaks this historian's heart to see what has become of the brave and ambitious undertakings of the 90s. Historians embraced the Internet very early as it, like historians, is fundamentally text-driven. Individuals put in countless hours to put up documents, translations, original sources, and articles.

The reasons why that trend did not continue are complex. There were countervailing forces in both academia and the tech industry. A good many of those early, earnest efforts have gone the way of the Orb, to everyone's loss. *sigh*