Abigail: Lady’s maid. This name originated with Queen Anne’s companion and Keeper of the Privy Purse, Abigail Masham.
Affair du Coeur: Affair of the heart.
Almack’s: A series of incredibly exclusive balls held every Wednesday night during the London Season; run by a committee of high society ‘lady patronesses’.
Appetitenal: Something done in order to gain an appetite.
Barouche: A type of fashionable carriage.
Blue Stocking: A derogatory name for a scholarly or well-educated woman; connotes pedantry and frumpiness.
Bon Parti: Engagement
Bon Ton: High society; the fashionable world. Sometimes just shortened to ‘ton‘.
Breguetin: A brand of Swiss watches.
Brobdignagian: Colossal; giant. Brobdignag was the land inhabited by giants in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
Chefs d’oeuvre: Masterpieces.
Claret: The specifically British word for red Bordeaux wine.
Cockade: A knot of ribbons.
Consumption: The generic term for a number of wasting illnesses.
Coronet: The crown-like headdress worn to court by aristocrats with the title of baron or higher. Each title rank had its own style of coronet. The term coronet was often used as a synonym for ‘peer’ or ‘peerage’.
Coxcomb: A dandy.
Curricle: A fashionable type of carriage.
Cut: To snub publicly.
Déshabille (sometimes written as Dishabille): Literally ‘undressed’, though it came to mean a state of early morning half-dress (usually including a very nice dressing gown) in which it was respectable enough to receive family or casual visitors, but not respectable enough to leave the house.
Entail: The restrictions placed on how a property may be inherited. For example, a man may set a three-generation primogeniture entail on his property, meaning that his son must leave the property to the next male in line, and that male must leave the property to the next male in line.
Entrée: Access; entrance.
Entrée en scène: Entrance to the scene.
Etrennes: A Christmas or New Year’s present.
Fives Court: A British sport which shares roots with many modern racket sports, like tennis and racquetball.
Four-in-Hand: A carriage drawn by four horses.
Gigot: A ‘leg-of-mutton’-shaped sleeve, large at the shoulder and very fitted at the wrist.
Gimcrack: A cheap and showy ornament; a knick-knack.
Grisettes: French working-class women, typically young and unmarried.
Hackney Coach: The coach equivalent of the modern taxi.
Liaison: A private meeting, usually of a sexual nature.
Macassar: An oil used for styling hair.
Maniérée: Laboriously elegant.
Mariages de Convenance: Marriages of convenience. Matches made based on wealth, the consolidation of property, dynastic alliance, etc. that have nothing to do with the personal feelings of those getting married.
Mauvais ton: Vulgar.
Meeting House: A public building in which large meetings, often political or religious, take place.
Melton: An abbreviated name for Melton Mowbray, a town in Leicestershire, renowned for its fashionable hunting scene.
Miniature: A miniscule portrait, usually of a loved one, mounted in such a way that it could be worn on a chain as a necklace, or attached as a bauble on a bracelet.
Outré: Excessive; shocking; unusual.
Parvenue: One from humble origins who has achieved celebrity or status.
Passes de mode: Out of fashion.
Petits Littérateurs: Minor writers.
Petite Maison: Literally, a little house. This phrase connoted a house set up for one’s mistress or a small and private (but luxurious) second home. In either instance, it was considered decadent.
Physiognomist: One who practices physiognomy, the study of physical features in their relation to one’s personality, behavior, and morality.
Pier-glasses: Large mirrors hung very high on a wall.
Postchaise: A fast carriage for traveling.
‘Put in Mourning’: An object dyed or covered in black.
Recht Herzliche: German for ‘warm and friendly’.
Rent-Roll: The quarterly or yearly income that a landowner gets from those renting his property for farming, living, or industry.
Repeater: A clock or, more frequently in this context, a pocket-watch with the ability to chime.
Snob: A lower-class person with aspiration for social improvement. This has a different meaning than it does today, since ‘snobs’ in the early nineteenth century tended to look up at others in admiration, while today ‘snobs’ look down on others in disdain.
Stomacher: A decorated triangular panel that filled in the front opening of a woman’s gown or bodice; it was sewn or buttoned in, and could easily be replaced with any other stomacher. Women could add variety to their wardrobe by have stomachers with different patterns, lace, or ruffles.
Ton: See ‘Bon Ton’.
Toujours Perdrix: Too much of a good thing.
Trousseau: A new and often large set of clothing bought for a bride to wear after her wedding for her honeymoon and various post-marriage visits.
Valet: A male servant who serves as a personal attendant upon his (male) employer, including dressing and grooming his employer. This is one of the highest ranking positions a male servant can attain.
Watering Places: Spas, beaches, and resorts.
‘White and Even’: Good teeth.
Workhouse: A parish institution that provided (often horrific) accommodation and food to those who were too poor to care for themselves in return for labor.