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Oxfordshire Family History Society

Transcribed Wills - Glossary

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Updated 4 Apr 2024.
The older the will, the stranger the spelling, and it would be impossible to include every spelling of every word.
Users are recommended to mutter to themselves various pronunciations and stresses of an unrecognised word.
"Brandian", for instance (given a long "i"), may turn out to be "Brand(ing) Iron".

The English Reformation may be regarded as happening around 1530, the Dissolution of the Monasteries beginning in 1536.
Prior to that (and afterwards, for "recusant" Catholics), wills would often include mentions of "our Lady St Mary", which later disappeared.
The diocese of Oxford was created and detached from the diocese of Lincoln in 1542.
The then county of Berks was transferred from Salisbury diocese in 1836, and Bucks from Lincoln diocese in 1845.
Great swathes of Oxon have traditionally been "owned" by Colleges of the University, and leased to individuals. That may be what "College-hold" property means.



MoneyAll sums are in pounds, shillings & pence (sd), written (before decimalisation) as x/y/z for x pounds, y shillings and z pence
 A Pound was 20 shillings, a Shilling was 12 pence.
 A Sovereign was a gold coin worth one pound (1/-/-) -- also Half-sovereign (10/-).
 A Broad (Piece) was a gold coin worth one pound (1/-/-) issued c 1656 by the Commonwealth (who disposed of Sovereigns ...)
 A Mark was 13 shillings & 4 pence (13/4), two-thirds of a pound.
 A Noble was 6 shillings & 8 pence (6/8), one third of a pound.
 A Spur-royal was a gold coin worth fifteen shillings (15/-)
 A Guinea (gn) was a gold coin worth one pound & one shilling (1/1/-).
     Bequests of 19 guineas (19/19/-) are due to the introduction of inheritance tax from the 20 level.
 A Crown was five shillings (5/-) -- also Half-a-crown (2/6).
 A Florin was two shillings -- a Victorian attempt at decimalisation.
 A Groat was four pence (4d).
 An Obolus (ob) was half a penny.
 A Farthing was a quarter of a penny.
 An Angel was a gold coin bearing the figure of an angel (value unknown at present)
Weights & Measures
EllA cloth measure, rather variable but usually around 40 inches.
Stone14 lb
Quarter28 lb (¼ hundredweight) [or] 8 bushels (perhaps originally ¼ ton of corn)
Hundredweight (cwt)112 lb -- one twentieth of a ton.
Bushel8 gallons (dry measure)
Dicker, DykerA bundle of ten hides or skins.
Peck2 gallons (dry measure), a quarter of a bushel
Acre4840 square yards
Rood¼ acre
Perch, Pole or Rod5½ yards [or] 30¼ sq yds (1/160 acre).
Furlong220 yards ("Furrow-long" -- the distance a plough-horse could pull before needing a short rest.)
Yard LandA measure of land area, often about 30 acres. Occasionally it can mean a half-acre.
Furndell, Ferundel, FarundelA measure of land area, about 10 acres or ¼ of a yard land.
Tod(d) (of wool)About 28 lb. A tod-stone might be a weight for weighing it out.
VirgateA measure of land area, often about 30 acres.
AdemptionCancellation of a bequest by destruction or sale of the thing bequeathed.
AdvowsonThe right of appointing a clergyman to a church benefice.
AgistTo take in (cattle) to graze for payment.
AgistmentThe price paid for cattle pasturing on the land; more generally, a burden or tax
AlembicA distilling vessel, often pear-shaped.
AmbryA recess, cupboard, pantry etc.
AndironsIron bars to support logs in a fire. Firedogs.
Angelsee Money.
AnticipationPayment in advance of annuities etc. Usually telling Trustees not to allow it.
ArmigerA person entitled to bear arms. An Esquire.
ArrasRich tapestry, wall-hanging.
AssartForest land reclaimed for agriculture.
Attestation ClauseDeclaration by witnesses that they were present, with their signatures.
BacksidePremises at the back of a house.
BailiwickThe jurisdiction of a Bailiff.
BaldHairless or featherless; an animal having white markings on face or head.
BandAn agreement or promise; Security given.
Barrow pigA castrated boar.
BavinA bundle of brushwood for kindling.
Beasts, BeasseCattle
BilletA small log used as fuel.
Boulting [Mill or Vat]Machine for sifting bran from flour - Vat containing the mixture.
BowerAn inner apartment or private room; a dwelling.
Branched(of cloth) Having a sprigged pattern.
Brewing LeadLead-lined vessel for cooling ale.
Bro(a)chProbably a roasting-spit.
Burd clothTablecloth.
BurnetReddish-brown colour.
BushelSee Weights & Measures.
CalamancoSatin-twilled woollen fabric with chequered or brocade design woven in.
Calivera 16C firearm - an improved form of arquebus with a standard calibre.
Cart lineSoft but strong rope to guide horses, in place of reins. At the time, made from hemp.
Catall(s)As Chattels, but more personal implications - clothes etc. Also alt sp of Cattle.
CaudleA warm sweet spiced drink, mixed with wine, given to the sick. Often served in a two-handled caudle-cup.
Chafing dishDish for cooking over hot coals.
ChaforneAs Chafing dish.
ChamberUsually a bedroom.
C(h)amlet(t)Fine wool (or wool and silk) cloth, or wool and goats' hair.
ChantryPre-Reformation, a chapel (usually endowed by a rich family) where Masses were said for the souls of the family dead.
Chantry LandsA Chantry could be endowed with lands, the rent going to the upkeep of the chapel etc. After the Reformation, the lands were sold off.
ChargerLarge flat dish, as for a joint of meat. Not a war-horse.
Chattel LeaseA tenancy for a fixed term of years, or occasionally a lease of lives (qv).
ChilverEwe-lamb, maybe for breeding.
CitationAn official summons to appear before some bureaucrat.
CiverShallow tub -- see also Dough Keever
CloseSmall enclosed field or other area.
CobironsIron bars in front of a fire, intended to support a spit.
CockloftA small room immediately under the roof..
CofferChest for holding money or valuables.
College-holdProbably a term sometimes used for lease-hold where the "landlord" was an Oxford College. But if anyone knows otherwise ...
Concealed LandsPre-Reformation, the monasteries owned a lot of land. After their dissolution, much of it remained "concealed" or undiscovered, so that the crown could not collect the rent. Much effort went into finding and dealing with these lands during Elizabeth's and James's reigns.
ConsolsConsolidated Annuities -- government securities.
ConygeareDomestic rabbit-warren (various spellings)
CopleA pair of anything, but particularly a ewe and lamb.
CorporasThe cloth on which the Eucharist is laid during Mass.
Coulter (and Share)Parts of a plough. The coulter slices through the solid ground, the share then turns the new slice aside.
CovertureThe status of a married woman considered as being under the protection of her husband. Not a chocolate coating.
CurtilageA court, garden, paddock etc attached and belonging to a house.
Customary LandLand held (as a tenant) in return for agreed services to the Lord of the Manor.
DagswainA coarse woollen fabric.
Deads YearSame as Executor's Year (below)
DemiseTransfer by lease.
DeodandA personal chattel which had directly caused the accidental death of a human -- forfeited to the Crown.
DiaperLinen (or cotton) cloth with a square or diamond pattern.
Dicker, DykerSee Weights & Measures.
DimothyHeavy cotton fabric, embroidered or striped.;
Dirige and MassPart of Catholic "Office for the dead" -- "Dirige Domine ..." being the first antiphon said at Matins, followed by the Requiem Mass.
DistraintSeizure of goods etc in payment of an overdue debt. "Sending in the bailiffs".
DobnetSmall saucepan.
Dornick aka DarnexStrong figured linen damask, originally from Doornik (Tournai) in Belgium.
Dough keeverShallow tub with a dished lid for mixing and kneading bread.
DowerThe right of a widow to claim a life interest in one third of her husband's lands (aka "thirds"}
DowlasA coarse linen cloth.
Dung potA low cart for transporting manure to the fields.
EllSee Weights & Measures
Executor's YearExecutor has one year to administer the estate without paying interest to the beneficiaries.
EyotA small island (also Ait).
Farthingsee Money.
Fee SimpleUnconditional inheritance.
FeoffTo grant possession of a fief (qv) or property in land.
FeoffeeThe person invested with a fief (qv).
FiefLand held in return for feudal service etc.
Fine, FyneA fictitious law-suit used as a means of conveying property or barring an entail.
Fire boteTenant's right to cut wood for firewood.
Fire houseThe main living-room, with the largest (or only) fireplace.
FlitchSide of bacon.
Flock mattressA mattress stuffed with wool - cheaper (and harder) than feathers.
FreebenchA widow's right to an endowment out of her husband's lands - also Dower, Thirds.
Fryse/FriezeRough heavy woollen cloth.
Fulling-millA mill in which new woollen cloth was cleansed and scoured to thicken it.
Furlongsee Weights & Measures above. Also used in naming fields and land areas within them.
Furndell, Ferundel, FarundelSee Weights & Measures
GoodyWife of a yeoman - more generally, a respected elderly village-woman.
GospaneA large pan, supposedly big enough to cook a goose.
Groatsee Money.
Guineasee Money.
GarnerGranary, or more generally a store of anything.
GorgetA neck ornament.
Grograma coarse cloth of silk and mohair.
GrosgrainA heavy corded silk material.
Hallowtide, HallontideFeast of All Saints, 1 Nov.
HanaperA former department of Chancery; also a case for a goblet or for treasure, papers etc.
HardenVery coarse sheeting made from poor materials.
HealingA covering, usually for a bed.
HeiferYoung cow
Hemp cardscombs for preparing hemp for weaving etc.
HereditamentAny property that may pass to a heir.
HeriotA "renewal fee" due to the Lord of the Manor on the death of a tenant. Originally his best beast or chattel.
HiglerA trader, often one who travelled.
Hogg, HoggerelYearling sheep, as yet unshorn.
HollandLinen fabric, originally fine, later coarse and unbleached.
Holyrood Day14 September.
HomestallHomestead, Farmyard.
HotchpotA commixture of property in order to secure an equable division amongst children.
House boteTenant's right to cut wood for repairs to his house.
Hovel[ling]Shed, also wood for sheds and framework of ricks.
HundredweightSee Weights & Measures.
ImpropriationTransference of ecclesiastical property to a layman.
InkleA braided linen tape.
ItemLatin for "Also" (when used at the beginning of a bequest).
Joined/JoynedOf furniture, constructed with proper woodworking joints.
Joint TenantHas non-specific share in property which cannot be left by will but passes automatically to survivor(s). Cf "Tenant in Common".
JointureProperty transferred by husband to wife at marriage, for her use after his death.
Keever, Kiversee Dough keever, Wort keever.
KilderkinSmall cask. Liquid measure of 18 gallons.
KirtleGown or outer petticoat.
LammasAugust 1st. A festival for the wheat harvest, aka Loaf Mass.
Land/Half-landOne (or half) strip of an open (shared) field.
Latten/LattyneBrass or similar alloy; sometimes tin-plate.
Laver or Laving basinWashing basin.
Lease of LivesA vague period or term of a lease involving the lifetimes of three persons, usually the purchaser and two young people, not necessarily relatives. If one died, a fourth life could usually be added for an extra fee.
LeasowePasture, Meadow.
LeyArable land under grass or pasture.
LibertyArea within which certain privileges (legal or ecclesiastical) may be enjoyed.
Life LandLand held under a Lease of Lives (see above)
LiquidateTo turn assets into cash; To pay debts.
LivingA person's farm, small-holding or similar source of income.
LockramType of coarse linen cloth, originally from Locronan in Brittany.
MaltGrain (usually barley) sprouted and dried. The basis of ale & beer.
ManteauA woman's loose gown.
Marksee Money.
Martinmas / MartlemasFeast of St Martin of Tours, Nov 11.
MaserOrnamental goblet
Maslin, MaskelinMixed grain (especially rye & wheat).
Mazard bowlA drinking bowl without a foot, made from a turned knotty wood, probably black cherry.
Mazarine Disha cooking dish set inside a larger dish, like a double-boiler.
Measvate or MasvatVat for infusion of malt and barley.
Medley gown/coatMade of mixed-colour wools.
MessuageDwelling with offices and adjoining land.
Michaelmas29 Aug, marking the turn of the husbandman's year, after harvest and before sowing.. See Quarter-Days.
Milch (cow)Cow kept for milking
MockadoA Flemish cloth imitating velvet.
MoietyA part -- usually half.
MonteithA large bowl with scalloped edges, used to hang punch-glasses to cool them.
Month's mindCommemoration (by Masses) one month after death or burial.
MortuaryBurial fee due to local vicar if estate worth more than 40.
Mrs or MistressNOT necessarily a married woman or widow, but a term of respect for a middle-class woman.
Muncke corn, MuncornMixed grain.
NakerOne of a pair of small mediaeval kettle-drums, later probably a measure.
Noblesee Money.
NuncupativeWill made orally and unsigned, before witnesses who later swore to it pre-Probate.
OccamyA silvery alloy, used in alchemy.
Parcel-giltPartly gilded.
PartletFemale neck-covering or ruff. A kind of shirt covering the neck and upper chest.
PeasonsPlural of pease (pea)
PeckSee Weights & Measures.
PeculiarA parish or church exempt from the jurisdiction of the Diocese within which it lies.
per stirpesIf one of a group of legatees dies, only his/her share is divided among his/her own children, rather than the whole being reallocated.
PightleA small enclosure or croft.
PosnetA small cooking-pot with a handle and (usually) three legs.
PosyA small bunch of flowers. A motto (eg engraved inside a ring).
PottingerSmall bowl.
Powdring Trough, TubTrough or Tub for salting & curing meat.
PressA cupboard or shelved recess.
PurpartyA share of an estate left to co-heirs which is apportioned to one of them when the estate is divided.
QuarterSee Weights & Measures.
Quarter-DaysDays (derived from ancient Church Feast-days) when quarterly payments such as rents and annuities were (and still are) to be made.
English Quarter-days are 25 Mar Lady Day (the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary); 24 Jun Midsummer; 29 Sep Michaelmas (Feast of St Michael the Archangel); 25 Dec Christmas Day. Scottish Quarter-days are different.
Queen Anne's BountyFund (started 1703) for helping to support C of E clergy in poor parishes.
QuernHand-operated stone mill for grinding corn, malt etc.
RelictWidow (or widower, but rarely so used).
RenunciationOfficial surrender of Rights.
Rule against PerpetuitiesAaarrrggghhh -- Google it :-)
RussetA reddish-brown colour; A coarse homespun cloth, dress or coat.
SafeguardAn over-skirt to protect garments from wet or dust (often when riding).
SainfoinA leguminous fodder plant.
SallowA variety of willow, the timber having specialised uses.
SaltSalt-cellar - a container for salt.
SarsenetA thin tissue of fine silk.
Sart(e)sSee Assart.
SarumOld name for Salisbury.
SaucerSauce dish.
SaveallA metal or pottery container in which candle-ends could be melted down to be re-used.
Save harmlessProtect or indemnify [someone] against harm (often financial)
SayeA woollen fabric like serge.
Searce, SearchFine sieve or strainer
Seedlip, sidlip &cLidded basket to hold seed for manual sowing.
Sert(e)sSee Assart.
Shepick, Suppick etcA pitchfork, hayfork.
Shere ThursdayMaundy Thursday
Shooting upona triangular or pointed area of land meeting a road or normal rectangular area of land.
SirUsed as an honorific for local priests (as well as for Knights and Baronets)
Solar/SollerAn upstairs room.
SpecialtyA money bond with priority over other debts.
SpenceA room or cupboard for storage of food and drink.
Spur-royalsee Money.
Staddle(-stone)Mushroom-shaped stone construct used to support hay-ricks etc, to keep ground-damp and rats out.
Stall (of bees)A hive or skep.
Standard to the houseWhat we might now call Fixtures and Fittings, to be treated as part of the house.
SteerYoung ox or bull-calf, usually castrated, 2-4 years old.
Stell, stele etcProbably portable enclosures for stock. Also a barrel-stand.
StoneSee Weights & Measures.
Stryke, Strick(le) etcMeasure of grain or malt; also a tool for levelling the top of such a measure.
TabbyWatered silk material, maybe patterned.
Table-boardA table-top. Tables commonly came with separate trestles.
Tail maleLimitation of inheritance to males.
TalletEither animal-fodder or cut timber for building.
Tallow-chandlerDealer in candles etc.
TammyHard-wearing worsted cloth.
TawerA tanner specialising in white leather.
Tear(e)The finest form of hemp fibre, used for sheets etc,
TegSecond-year sheep.
Tenant in CommonOwns specific share in property which can be left by will. Cf "Joint Tenant".
TenementDwelling or habitation, or part thereof. A holding.
TheaveYoung ewe.
ThirdsSee "Dower".
TickingThe cloth casing of a mattress, stuffed with feathers, flock etc.
TippetA short cloak.
TodSee Weights and Measures.
TreenSmall household articles made of wood.
TrentalSeries of 30 Requiem Masses.
Tusser, TussoreFawn silk cloth.
Twill(y)clothWoven cloth.
WainscotOak panelling on an interior wall.
Wainscot chestAn oak-panelled chest.
WeaningNewly-weaned (farm) animal.
WetherCastrated ram.
Witch, WhichA wooden meal-bin..
WoodwardOfficer who guards or has responsibility for woodlands,
WortMalt liquor - part of the brewing process.
Wort keever, Wort panWort tub for brewing.
Wrought[usually] Embroidered.
Yard LandSee Weights & Measures.
YeltYoung sow.
YoteTo pour water on, to soak.
Yoting vatA trough for soaking and fermenting, eg barley for beer.

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