A glossary is included at the end of each book in the Robin Hood Trilogy.
We hope that readers will find this helpful and informative.
We cherish all our readers, and we recognize that some of our readers are not native speakers of English. Because it can be difficult to find definitions and translations for older words, we hope the glossary will be a useful tool.
Below is a copy of the glossary found in the books, enhanced with a few illustrations.
From Greek mythology, a small, but fatal, weakness; a vulnerability in an otherwise invincible opponent which will lead to the opponent’s downfall. It can refer to any type of weakness – not just a physical vulnerability.
Originating from or belonging to the County of Anjou in France. Henry II’s father had been Count of Anjou, and Henry ruled both England and vast continental territories, including Anjou. For this reason, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, and John are referred to as the Angevin Kings of England, and their holdings are called the Angevin Empire. John lost control of these continental lands; thus, he is considered the last Angevin King of England. These three rulers are also referred to as the first Plantagenet kings.
A chamber that serves as a waiting room and entrance to a larger room.
A person with specialized knowledge of herbs, spices, and medicines. An apothecary would also be knowledgeable about poisons.
The courtyard of a castle. It’s an open area enclosed by the castle wall.
The area between the castle wall and the moat.
A long outer tunic worn by both men and women. The bliaut had a full skirt, a fitted bodice, and sleeves which were fitted along the upper arm while flaring between the elbow and wrist. The lower part of the sleeve sometimes flared into a trumpet shape. The length of the men’s version varied, but the women’s bliaut would have been full-length. Women’s tunics were also called gowns or kirtles.
A long, narrow arrowhead designed to pierce chainmail.
A weapon that propels projectiles (arrows).
bow (rhymes with how)
1) Bending at the waist towards another person as a formal greeting. Typically performed between men of equal rank.
2) The front of a ship.
In addition to the usual architectural meanings, a brace also refers to a pair. The phrase, “a brace of coneys,” refers to two wild rabbits.
A bracer is wrapped around the forearm of an archer in order to protect the arm from the bowstring. Bracers were made from leather or horn.
An undergarment that was made of linen and worn by men. Although underwear as we know it today was not worn, these would have been similar in that they were worn under other clothing.
A heavy fabric woven with an elaborate, raised design or pattern. During this time period, brocade fabric was the height of luxury and very expensive.
A clasp or ornament with a hinged pin and a catch to secure the point of the pin on the back. In the 12th century, there were no buttons or zippers, so a brooch was an indispensable piece of jewelry for securing clothing, especially cloaks. Elaborate, jeweled brooches were a sign of wealth and status. Brooches were popular gifts.
A town east of Nottingham which was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Today, the town is a suburb of Nottingham, and it is called Carlton.
A road or path that is raised in order to cross a moat, marshland, sand, or similar impediments to travel.
Leggings or stockings. They could be made of either cloth or chainmail.
In Greek mythology, Circe was a witch who turned men into pigs by giving them a drink from her cup of enchantment. With the help of Hermes, Odysseus was able to defeat her magic and force her to restore his men to human form.
Before 1215, a couple could declare their intention to marry in front of witnesses, and if these vows were followed by consummation, canon law considered the couple to be legally wed.
An older term referring to wild rabbits or hares.
A woman who seeks financial support and security from noblemen and men of wealth in return for companionship and sexual favors.
An attendant at court, especially a person who spends a great deal of time attending the court of a king or other royal personage.
For swords and daggers, this is positioned crosswise to the blade and between the grip and the blade. It protects the user’s hand. See also: hilt, pommel, and grip.
Another name for the castle’s outer wall surrounding the bailey.
A formal gesture of greeting and respect made by women and girls consisting of bending the knees to lower the body while slightly bowing the head.
A large, strong war horse. Only wealthy lords and knights could afford them.
A widow whose title was obtained from her deceased husband. Adding this modifier to a title distinguishes the widow from the wife of the man who currently holds the title.
Money or land given by the bride’s family at the time of her marriage. If the girl entered a convent instead of marrying, the dowry would be given to the convent.
A bridge that can be raised to prevent access or lowered to allow passage of vehicles or pedestrians.
Heavenly; pertaining to the highest heaven.
A town northeast of Nottingham which was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Today, the town is a suburb of Nottingham, and it is called Arnold.
A large earthenware jug or pitcher with a wide mouth.
A field that has been left unseeded for one or more growing seasons in order to restore its fertility.
Loyalty that a vassal owes to his lord. This often refers to the actual loyalty oath, as in “an oath of fealty.”
Feast of St. Andrew
This was celebrated on November 30th. It was considered a major feast that was observed as a holiday and required fasting on the previous day.
Feast of St. John the Baptist
Also known as Midsummer; it was celebrated on June 24th. It was considered a major feast that was observed as a holiday and required fasting on the previous day.
This land-based economic and social system determined the rights and obligations of men. See also: fief, vassal, lord, liege, homage, and fealty.
Land granted to a vassal for his use. In return, the vassal provided loyalty and service to the owner of the land. A fief could also be a payment instead of land.
Land owned by a noble or knight.
In heraldry, the background color of a coat of arms is called the field.
In heraldry, a stylized representation of an iris, consisting of three petals. This heraldry represents the royal family of France.
An old word that actually dates to the 13th century. It means immediately, at once, without delay.
A period of two weeks, or fourteen days.
A complex system of gates and towers which protected the entrance to a castle. See also: causeway, drawbridge, and portcullis.
Briefly dropping to the right knee before rising. This was a formal greeting performed when in the presence of a man who is of superior rank. It is also performed towards the altar when in church.
Known as the heart of the living space in a castle, it was the location of feasts, and it was often the area where business was conducted. In earlier times, it was also where people slept.
The part of sword or dagger that is gripped by the hand. See also: hilt, cross guard, and pommel.
1) In Greek mythology, the god of the underworld where the dead lived.
2) A name for hell. This use is not capitalized.
A chainmail shirt or tunic that protected the upper body, especially the neck and chest.
1) A person who does not worship the triune God of the Bible.
2) An irreligious, uncultured, or uncivilized person.
An elevated table in the great hall where the lord, his family, and important guests were seated during feasts.
The handle of a sword or dagger. It is comprised of the cross guard, grip, and pommel (see the entries for these words for additional information). Hilt is often used interchangeably with grip.
A declaration of loyalty from one man to another. The man declaring his loyalty would typically receive a fief in return. The first step in becoming a vassal is to pay homage to the lord.
A sermon, usually on a Biblical topic.
The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem or the Knights Hospitallers. A military religious order founded by Crusaders in Jerusalem around the time of the First Crusade (1096-99). The order was named for a hospital in Jerusalem.
The fluids in the body. In ancient Greece, Rome, and the medieval period, humors were thought to be closely tied to health. Balancing your humors was vital to good health.
For Christians, a person who is not a Christian. For Muslims, a person who is not a Muslim.
A tournament competition where two mounted knights rode towards each other with the goal of unhorsing their opponent using blunted lances. This contest was conducted in a highly formalized manner, but it was still very dangerous.
The living area inside of a castle complex. It was a heavily guarded and fortified building or tower. The great hall would be located in the keep.
A Christian season of fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting 40 weekdays to Easter, observed annually.
A devastating illness that destroys skin, flesh, and bones. During the Middle Ages, it was considered divine judgment for a sinful life.
A feudal lord who is entitled to allegiance and service from his vassals.
A landholder, typically a noble or the king, who granted fiefs (the use of land) to vassals (who were often knights, or even other nobles).
A stringed musical instrument that is plucked to produce sound. It has a long, fretted neck and a hollow, pear-shaped body.
A Catholic Church service which includes Holy Communion.
A general term for trained soldiers. Typically, they were trained like knights, but not all men-at-arms were knights.
The Feast of St. Michael was celebrated on September 29th. It also marked the end of the harvest season. It was considered a major feast that was observed as a holiday and required fasting on the previous day.
Also known as the Feast of St. John the Baptist; it was celebrated on June 24th. It was considered a major feast that was observed as a holiday and required fasting on the previous day.
A heavy disc-shaped stone. Grain was placed between two millstones, and they were rotated against one another in order to grind the grain into flour.
An entertainer. Minstrels were primarily performers. Although some wrote their own songs, they often sang songs composed by others, notably the troubadours. Minstrels also performed acrobatics, juggled, told jokes, and recited poems.
The name given to the Muslim people who invaded Spain in the 8th century. The Moors were from northwest Africa, and they were of mixed Arab and Berber heritage.
In Greek mythology, Morpheus was the god of sleep and dreams. The phrase, “in the arms of Morpheus” simply means that the person is asleep. Today, the narcotic morphine can trace its name to Morpheus.
In Greek mythology, the location where the gods lived.
Giving proper respect and deference to someone of superior rank. Typically this would require kneeling (see genuflect), bowing, or curtsying.
In Greek mythology, Odysseus was the King of Ithaca, who was called by his High King, Agamemnon, to wage war against Troy. Known as “Odysseus the Resourceful,” it was his strategy of the Trojan horse that resulted in the victory of the Greeks over Troy. Odysseus was anxious to return to his wife, Penelope, but his voyage home was fraught with fantastical dangers and adventures. His story is known as the Odyssey. He was gone from Ithaca for twenty years, and many believed that he was dead. He returned in disguise and defeated the men who were pursuing his wife by winning an archery contest where he demonstrated his amazing skills with a bow that only he could string.
In Greek mythology, Orpheus was a talented musician and poet. While still living, he descended to the underworld in hopes of rescuing his dead wife, Eurydice, from Hades. He was given permission to lead her back to earth, as long as he did not turn around to look at her. At the last moment he looked, and she was lost to him forever.
A French word meaning, “overseas.” Used as a name for the Crusader States, especially the Kingdom of Jerusalem, after the First Crusade.
A boy in training to become a knight. He would progress from page to squire to knight.
A horse used for everyday riding. These smaller horses were often ridden by women.
Animal skin that has been processed to use as a writing surface. It was typically sheepskin, and it was also used to cover windows before the widespread use of glass.
In heraldry, a beast walking, with the right foreleg raised.
In Greek mythology, the wife of Odysseus. She faithfully waited for her husband and refused to remarry when everyone else was convinced that Odysseus had died and would not return. Pursued relentlessly by a band of unwanted suitors, she delayed any decision to remarry by weaving a shroud for her father-in-law by day, only to unravel her work at night. When her ruse was discovered, she devised an archery contest that only Odysseus could win. He returned just before the contest and won it before slaying the unwanted suitors.
A university educated doctor.
A religious journey to a holy place.
This became the family name of Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou. Reputedly this name was given to him due to his habit of wearing a sprig of yellow broom blossoms (in Latin: planta genista) in his hair. Geoffrey’s descendants would rule England from 1154 to 1485 as the Plantagenet dynasty.
Originating from or belonging to the County of Poitou in France.
1) A knob attached to the end of the grip in swords and daggers. It provided a counter balance to the blade, and it helped the user maintain a better hold on the weapon because it prevented the hand from sliding off the grip. See also: hilt, cross guard, and grip.
2) A knob at the front of a saddle.
A heavy gate that was raised and lowered to control entry into the grounds of a castle. It was part of the gatehouse. A portcullis was composed of crossed bars, forming a grate or grille. The bottom edge consisted of spikes.
A small door hidden in the castle wall that allowed soldiers to enter and exit the castle grounds without using the main gate. This was useful during sieges. Typically, a postern gate was only large enough to allow the passage of one man at a time.
In heraldry, a beast standing on its hind legs, the right foreleg raised above the left.
Sacred objects which were associated with a saint or holy person. It was believed that relics could work miracles. Relics included objects that the saint might have owned or touched. Physical remains of a saint, including blood and bones, were also considered relics.
Saint George and the Dragon
This legend was very popular during the 12th century. A dragon had nested in a village, and he would not let the people draw water from a nearby spring unless they gave him one person to eat each day. The victims were chosen using a lottery, and one day the town’s princess drew the unlucky lot. Saint George was traveling through the town and heard about the princess’ plight. He slew the dragon, saving her and all the people of the town.
During this time period, Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, were called Saracens.
A rigid sheath made of wood, metal, or hardened leather. It is used to enclose and carry the blade of sword or dagger, both to protect the wearer and to keep the blade clean and sound.
A farming tool with a sharp, curved blade affixed to a long wooden handle. It was used to cut grass for hay.
A period of one week, or seven days.
A county in England, typically combined with the name of the shire to form a single word: Nottinghamshire.
A farming tool with a sharp, curved blade affixed to a short wooden handle. It was used for cutting grain, corn, grass, and similar crops.
The form of direct address used for royalty prior to the 16th century. “Your grace” was also used for royalty and high-ranking clergy.
Inside a castle tower, this room (or suite of rooms) was the primary living area for a lord and his family, and it provided them with some measure of privacy.
A boy in training to be a knight. He would progress from page to squire to knight.
A traditional pole-shaped weapon popular in England during the Middle Ages. It was made of hardwood and was typically 6 to 9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 m) long. It was also called a quarterstaff or a short staff.
The back end of a ship.
In Greek mythology, a river in the underworld over which the souls of the dead were ferried by Charon.
This sleeveless cloth tunic was worn over chainmail. Heraldry symbols were often sewn onto the chest of the surcoat. For example, Crusaders often wore white surcoats with a red cross emblazoned on the chest.
Saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, and so forth. The equipment and accessories needed for horseback riding and for hitching horses to wagons and carts.
A tax that a lord could demand at any time without giving a reason.
The Knights of the Temple of Solomon. A military religious order founded by Crusaders in Jerusalem around 1118 to defend the Holy Sepulcher and Christian pilgrims.
A sporting event that allowed knights to demonstrate and hone their skills. Tournaments also provided an opportunity for knights to build wealth from winnings.
A table composed of a removable top supported by trestles (A-frame supports with horizontal beams at the top). This type of table could be easily moved around or stored when not needed.
A poet and songwriter. Troubadours sometimes performed, but they were primarily seen as composers. They were sometimes from noble families.
When a man swore loyalty to a noble landowner in return for use of that land (a fief), he became a vassal of the lord. A vassal was expected to provide services to the lord whenever needed. A vassal might be required to go to war and fight for his lord. If the vassal could not go to war, he would have to provide a substitute to fulfill his vassalage. Although it is often thought of in terms of lower ranking men, such as knights, anyone could be a vassal. Henry II was King of England, but he was also Duke of Normandy (and many other noble titles). As Duke of Normandy, Henry paid homage to King Louis VII of France; thus, he was also Louis’ vassal. The same was true for King Richard; as Duke of Normandy, he was King Philippe’s vassal.
A small room in a church used for storage of items such as vestments, sacred vessels, and other worship-related supplies and accessories.
When the illumination of the moon is decreasing; the time between a full moon and a new moon.
A person who has been placed under the control and protection of a guardian. In 12th century England, if the child of a noble family became an orphan, the child automatically became a ward of the king. This would include unmarried daughters, regardless of their age.
When the illumination of the moon is increasing; the time between a new moon and a full moon. See diagram above.
A woman who breastfeeds and cares for an infant who is not her biological child.
A craftsman who builds and repairs wooden wheels.