list of a royal diploma, S 497 (extract); Aelfwine]
Anchorite: Someone who had spent a period of
probation in a monastery and had received the permission of his abbot to become
a solitary. In the early Anglo-Saxon period an anchorite was held to be of high
status within the church.
Army: This translates the Latin word exercitus. It was sometimes used in Asser’s Life of Alfred to represent the Old English here, usually
with a qualifying word such as paganorum ‘of pagans’ to indicate that Asser was
referring to the vikings. In Æthelweard’s Chronicle the
word is used for both Old English here and fierd.
: Old English
æsc ‘an ash tree’ became by extension something made
of ash wood and hence ‘a ship’. The compound denotes ‘a sailor’ and is used of
the vikings. (There may here also be some element of another meaning of æsc ‘a
spear [made of ash wood]’.)
Band: An English approximation of Old English werod, used of a military troop.
Brother: This word is used in certain contexts
to indicate a member of a monastic community.
Canon: A member of the secular clergy attached
to a cathedral (as opposed to a monk). Apart from its use in the report of the
synod of 786 made by the papal legates, the term only starts being employed in
Anglo-Saxon sources in the latter half of the tenth century.
Cellarer: A monastic official responsible for
the maintenance of liquor and provisions.
Chanter: A person who intones the liturgical
: Originally this word
denoted a female baker but in later Anglo-Saxon usage it appears to refer to a
: The tried
warriors who were retainers of a chief or lord (contrasted with the geoguð, the untried warriors).
: In a general sense,
‘a rider’, it is also used more specifically to denote a mounted soldier.
: In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle this word denotes a native levy
summoned to defend its territory against external invaders, notably the
Scandinavian vikings. It should not be interpreted as a ‘standing’ or ‘national’
army or anyone’s personal military entourage. See also Landfierd and Scipfierd.
second element of this word is Old English stemn/stefn ‘a
voice’. The compound is used of a body of people summoned to serve in rotation
in the military levy.
Fleet: Like the word ‘ship’, the word was used
collectively by synedoche for those that manned a fleet of ships in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and its derivatives.
: Used in a military
context of a band or company of men.
: A term employed
to denote a raiding band in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
where it is used of attacking Scandinavian warrior groups.
: The term used
consistently in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to denote the
viking forces that invaded England from the 860s to the 890s. It implies a
raiding band rather than a native levy assembled for defensive purposes, the
latter being termed a fierd [e922]. Ine’s Law defines a
here [e942] as a band of more than thirty-five men
but the size of viking bands has been a source of controversy among historians.
See also Landhere and Sciphere.
Hloth A military troop or band used in
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of the vikings.
: This word
appears in the E version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
s.a. 1006, where it refers to the collective native forces of the Mercians and
West Saxons. Like the Danish foreign force (the uthere ) that it was summoned to
oppose, the innhere caused considerable destruction, which is presumably why the
author of the passage referred to the native forces as a here (‘a raiding band’)
rather than as a fierd.
: A native
military force operating on land (as opposed to a scipfierd or sciphere, a naval force).
: A raiding
force operating overland.
Lector: An ecclesiastic in the second of
the minor orders.
Lithsman: Derived from the Scandinavian lith
‘a fleet’ and meaning ‘a sailor’, the word appears in a few annals of the E
version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dating from 1036 to 1047, presumably
influenced by the language employed in the court of Cnut (King of England,
1017-1035) and his sons.
Miles: While this word retained its Classical
Latin sense of ‘a soldier’, it was used occasionally in Bede’s Historia
ecclesiastica in the collective sense of ‘soldiery, army’. More specifically, it
was used in the Historia ecclesiastica and elsewhere to represent the Old
English word thegn.
Minister: A Latin word equivalent to the Old
English thegn [e1280/e1790] in many charters and other sources, the term can
refer to persons in a serving capacity from a wide range of social
Missus: Literally ‘one who has been sent’, this
word had a wide range of meanings in Medieval Latin, from the general sense of
‘a messenger’, through ‘an envoy, ambassador’ to a commissioner sent by a king
for a specific purpose. Royal commissioners (missi dominici) were important
officials in Charlemagne’s government charged with specific commissions.
Mounted here: Viking raiding bands (cf.
here) quite frequently used horses once they had come
ashore in England as this increased their geographic mobility.
Pirate: The Latin piratus or piraticus, having a
basic meaning of ‘sailor’, could also be used of a brigand (not necessarily at
Reeve: An administrature agent of a king or lord
with diverse roles. Called a praepositus in Latin sources and in Old English a
gerefa, reeves were eventually found from the level of the shire (the later
‘sheriff’, a senior and potentially powerful figure responsible for the royal
lands) to the village (where he appears, at least at some areas, to have
collected the royal gold). See also King’s high-reevePort reeve.
Royal counsellor : A Modern English
approximation of the Old English wita.
Scipfierd: A native Anglo-Saxon naval
Scipflota: Used in the plural to denote
‘sailors’, it appears in the Old English poem ‘The Battle of Brunanburh’
preserved in five of the seven versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a.
Sciphere: Unlike the distinction made between
the native here and the Scandinavian fierd, this term was often used to denote
both an Anglo-Saxon and a Scandinavian naval force, possibly because the native
force was perceived to have had a punitive or destructive rather than defensive
Sciphlæst: ‘A ship’s complement’. The term
is used a few times in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle but is more usually referred to
simply by the word scip ‘a ship’.
Summer-fleet: Old English lida denoted ‘a
sailor’. The compound is used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for a viking
expeditionary force that arrived in England in 871 for the summer (as opposed to
one that could have overwintered and then continued campaigning the following
Synod participant: The Latin synodus
‘a synod, ecclesiastical council’ implied attendance by people, even if they are
not directly referred to in the text. PASE has created ‘anonymi’ to record the
implied attendance of such persons.
Uthere: Used of the Scandinavian vikings in the
E version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle s.a. 1006, the word refers to a
Scandinavian raiding force that like the native force referred to in the same
annal as an innhere caused considerable destruction.
Vestiarius: A keeper of the wardrobe at, for
instance, the papal or a royal court, or in a monasterium.
Aduocatus: A ‘next friend’ at law (equivalent
to the Old English term mundbora); a patron or protector (with respect to a
Ancilla Dei: Literally ‘a handmaiden of
God’, this was a common term for a nun.
Antistes: One of the terms for a bishop or an
Apocrisiarius: Derived from the Greek
word apochrisis ‘answer’, it was used of envoys, such as the future Pope Gregory
the Great (590-604), who while still a deacon served at the Byzantine imperial
court as a papal envoy from Rome.
Archbishop: A rare term in the sixth-century
Western church, it was never used by Pope Gregory the Great of Augustine, even
though the latter has become known to history as archbishop of Canterbury. In
Justinian’s Novels it was used of bishops who had jurisdiction over a Roman
imperial diocese, a secular unit of government such as Britain originally was.
In Anglo-Saxon practice it became a title accorded to the bishops of Canterbury
and (from the eighth century) York. Holders of these offices in England received
a pallium from the pope as a mark of their office.
Archicantor: ‘Principal chanter’ or ‘chief
precentor’, the term is used especially of John, who had been chief precentor of
St Peter’s in Rome and who went to Monkwearmouth to teach the monks the chants
used in the course of the liturgical year at St Peter’s.
Archipresul: An alternative term for
archiepiscopus, an archbishop.
Archon: Used in some tenth-century royal styles
as a synonym for a ruler.
Archons: A variant of archon used as a synonym
for a ruler.
Armiger: Someone who bore arms. In the
post-Conquest period it designated an esquire.
Artifex: A craftsman.
Auxiliator: A helper.
Basileus: The latinized form of the Greek word
for ‘king’, it was employed in some tenth- and eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon
sources instead of rex.
Bishop’s thegn: A person who performed
services of an administrative or military nature for a bishop.
Burthegn: The bur was a domestic apartment or
building, especially in a palatium regis . The burthegn was an official who
served this area.
Camerarius: An attendant who was in charge
of a private room, known in Old English as a bedþen or burþen (= Burthegn ). See
also Cubicularius .
Cancellarius: A royal chancellor, a post
that only becomes known in England in the late Anglo-Saxon period.
Castaldus: Also spelt ‘castaldius’,
‘gastaldus’ and ‘gastoldus’. In eighth-century Lombard usage it referred to an
administrator of royal estates. In later English usage it denoted a
Cellarius: A variant spelling of cellerarius,
its modern cognate is ‘cellarer’, a monk who was in charge of food
Circweard: An Old English word meaning
literally ‘a guardian of a church’, it denoted a sexton.
Clauiger: Derived from clauis ‘a key’, in a
monastic or ecclesiastical context the word denoted someone who kept the keys
(such as a treasurer). It could also be used of St Peter or the pope, who
symbolically bore the keys that gave entry to heaven. The word should not be
confused with its homonym derived from clauus ‘a club’, which in Medieval Latin
referred to an official who carried a mace.
Coadjutor bishop: A bishop appointed to
assist a diocesan bishop in his duties. See also
Coepiscopus: This was used in two senses.
It could be used to refer to a fellow bishop or it could denote a coadjutor
Colonus: A rather imprecise term referring to a
peasant or agricultural worker. It is used to gloss the Old English word
Congregatio: Frequently used of a monastic
or cathedral community, it also retained its Classical Latin sense of ‘a
Consiliarius: In general a counsellor or
adviser, this term also had the more specific sense of a royal counsellor, a man
known in vernacular sources as a wita.
Cubicularius: Denoting a bedroom attendant
or chamberlain (especially of a king), it was a synonym for a camerarius and was
likewise glossed by the Old English words burþen and bedþen (= Burthegn
Curagulus: Derived from the Late Latin ‘curam
agere’ meaning a ‘care-taker’, it was used in tenth-century Anglo-Saxon sources
to denote a ‘guardian’, especially a king or archbishop .
Custos: Having the basic sense of ‘a guardian’,
the word could be used in a variety of contexts.
Deacon: The holder of an ecclesiastical office
below that of a priest, a deacon assisted the priest in the office of the mass.
In the early Middle Ages holders of the office held it for life and often did
not proceed to a higher ecclesiastical office such as priest or bishop.
Dean: In origin a monastic official in charge of
ten men (a decanus), a dean held the position of a prior, a position subordinate
to an abbot.
Decurio: In origin an office held by a military
commander of ten men, the term gained a more general sense of ‘a royal
Didasculus: A Late Latin word borrowed from the Greek meaning ‘a
Disc thegn: A dish-bearer or sewer. The word
is the Old English equivalent of discifer . To judge from the land and wealth
granted to various discthegns in the charters, it was not a humble
Discifer: A dish-bearer or sewer. When held in
a royal household the office was of rather higher standing than the Modern
English words might imply.
Discipulus: ‘A pupil’.
Dux exercitus: Commander of an
Ealdorman: Having the basic sense of ‘someone
in authority over others’ and hence ‘a ruler’, this Old English word was used
specifically to refer to a holder of high office in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, in
standing above that of a thegn and approximating in status to a bishop. In the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it is also used of Frankish mayors of the palace. In
ninth-century Wessex the ealdorman had responsibilities for justice, the
collection of dues within his geographic area of responsibility (usually a
shire) and for the military leadership of the local levy. The term could
represent several Latin words: dux, praefectus, princeps and patricius . See
Economus: A manager of an ecclesiastical or
monastic estate or household, a steward.
Electus: Employed without an accompanying noun
to denote an archbishop or bishop elect.
Exactor regis: ‘a king’s reeve’. The word
exactor developed through the sense of ‘one who demands or exacts’ to ‘a
collector (of taxes)’ and hence ‘a reeve’, the collection of estate dues being
one of the latter official’s functions.
Exorcista: An exorcist, the holder of third
degree in holy orders.
Fasellus: Cognate with the word ‘vassal’, the
word appears in Asser’s Life of Alfred and some early tenth-century
Gemot participant: The Old English
gemot ‘a meeting’ implied that it was attended by people, even if they are not
directly referred to in the text. PASE has created ‘anonymi’ to record the
implied attendance of such persons.
Geneat: A peasant freeman of superior standing
who was not subject to week-work and who performed a variety of duties described
in the legal tract called Rectitudines singularum personarum.
Gubernator: Having the general sense of ‘a
governor or ruler’, either secular (i.e., a king) or ecclesiastical (i.e., a
bishop), it was also used in maritime contexts to denote ‘a helmsman of a ship’.
It is frequently used in the royal styles of some Anglo-Saxon kings from the
reign of Alfred, king of the West Saxons (871-899), onwards.
Heretoga: In general, ‘a (military) commander’
(the word did not necessarily have the negative connotations that the word here
held in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). More specifically it denoted an ealdorman, a
sense that probably developed from the latter’s military functions.
High Reeve: A reeve of high rank, possibly
having a special commission like a Carolingian missus . The term may have
originated in Northumbria. It cannot be shown to be older than the tenth
century. See also
Hired: A household; a retinue; a (military)
Housecarl: This term appears in Anglo-Saxon
England in the reign of Cnut (1017-1035) and refers to a body of household
troops, who, however, appear to have had more than just military functions (such
as tax collection) and who were given grants of land. The term is Danish in
origin and seems to have approximated to the native word thegn, both terms
sometimes being applied to the same persons in the sources.
Imperator: From its root sense of ‘one who
commands’, the word had the general sense of ‘a military commander’ but was
frequently used to denote an emperor and after 800, specifically, the Holy Roman
Induperator: A word created for metrical
reasons in Classical Latin as a synonym for imperator [e1161] ‘an emperor’, it
was used in Anglo-Saxon sources of particular rulers, usually kings.
Iudex: Used in association with comitatus, it
denotes the judge of a shire court (Old English scirman).
King’s geneat: A peasant freeman who
doubtless had much the same rights and obligations as an ordinary geneat but who
would have held higher status because his overlord was a king.
King’s high-reeve: This was a high
official who had a wergeld (the compensation payable if he were killed) below
that of an ealdorman but equivalent to a Danish hold.
King’s Thegn: An official whose status was
enhanced by holding office of a king. Cf. thegn.
Lector: From its root sense of ‘someone who
reads’ the word gained the sense of ‘teacher’ (i.e., one who reads aloud to
students). In ecclesiastical contexts it had several senses: a member of the
second of the minor orders; an official in the papal curia; or the person who
read aloud during lessons or during meals in a monastic setting.
Legates: An envoy or legate, private, royal,
imperial, episcopal or papal, according to the context.
Legatio: A delegation.
Leodbisceop: Plummer in his edition of the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle interprets this word as meaning ‘suffragan bishop’,
Whitelock in her translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as ‘diocesan bishop’.
Leod means ‘a people’, which would suggest the meaning for the compound word of
‘the bishop of a people’. This is not inappropriate as Anglo-Saxon bishops are
often associated with particular ethnic groups rather than with an episcopal see
located in a specific place.
Marchio: ‘A lord or master’. In Anglo-Saxon
England the word did not have either the specific sense of ‘margrave’ that it
had on the Continent or ‘marquis’, a sense that it gained in Anglo-Norman
Marchisus: In Continental sources
contemporaneous with the Anglo-Saxon period the word denoted someone who held
the title of marquis.
Mass priest: A priest who celebrated mass
but who lived as a layman, i.e., not in a religious community or subject to a
rule such as that of Chrodegang.
Mercator: This could refer to a person
exercising any trade, craft or occupation and not simply a merchant.
Metropolitan bishop: A bishop who in
theory exercised jurisdiction over what had originally been a Roman province
with the right to consecrate bishops within his province, to summon periodic
synods of the bishops in his province and to exercise disciplinary jurisdiction
over the province. In practice the establishment of non-Roman kingdoms sometimes
superseded the old Roman provincial boundaries.
Monarchus: A ruler, most usually referring to
a king, but in ecclesiastical contexts the word can denote an anchorite, abbot
or bishop. The word, which is a Late Latin borrowing from the Greek, can appear
in the form monarcha, monarches or monarchus.
Nonnus: This refers to a senior or respected
monk and should not be confused with nonna ‘a nun’.
Notarius: A notary. In the Anglo-Saxon period
the term is employed in an ecclesiastical or monastic context.
Offestre: A woman who received a child into
her own house to nurse.
Patricius: Originally a title of honour in
the Roman imperial court, this term was used in various polities for holders of
a high office such as a governor of a province among the Burgundians and a mayor
of the palace among the Franks. Among the Anglo-Saxons it was originally used of
subreguli and even reges. From the later eighth century it seems to be used
occasionally of a single important figure within a realm but disappears in the
ninth century. Thacker has suggested that it was resurrected to recognize the
pre-eminence of Æthelred, lord of the Mercians in the later ninth century. It is
used twice by Æthelweard adjectivally in his Chronicle as a Latinate equivalent
of the first element of his name Æthel- ‘noble’. See also Quaestor.
Pedisequus: In contrast to its meaning
during Antiquity, when the word referred to an attendant, usually a slave
(literally ‘one who followed the feet [of a master]’), in early Anglo-Saxon
charters it refers to a high royal official whose duties, however, are
uncertain. The word is spelt in a variety of ways including pedes sessor,
pedesecus and pedisecus. Cf. also Sesquipedus.
Pincerna: A word that signified a person who
served wine or acted as a butler, it appears to have designated a person who
held a position of high status within a royal court at least up to the time of
Pontifex: A word frequently used to denote a
bishop, it is also used in the phrase ‘summus pontifex’ (‘highest priest’) to
refer to an archbishop or the pope.
Port reeve: An officer known to have existed
in Bath, Bodmin, Canterbury and London, he witnessed legal transactions such as
the sale of slaves and collected the toll or royal tax on such transactions.
‘Port’ here does not refer to a harbour but to an enclosed town where the buying
and selling of goods was permitted.
Portarius: A monk in charge of guest service
at a monastery.
Potestas: Senior dignitaries in a
Praeco: This word normally means ‘a herald’. It
use in the record of the synodal settlement of a land dispute of 824 to
designate a representative of Pope Eugenius II. Dorothy Whitelock interpreted
the word in this context to mean ‘a messenger’, though since the person
concerned had an Anglo-Saxon name, his role might have been slightly
Praefectus: In early Northumbrian sources
the term appears to be used of a high-level office-holder. The word is used
especially in late-eighth and early-ninth-century West Saxon charters for an
ealdorman; thereafter it seems to be superseded by dux . Praepositus is also
used as the equivalent of the Old English gerefa ‘a reeve’.
Praepositus: Because this had the basic
sense of ‘someone who had oversight or charge of an organization’, the word had
a very wide range of meanings dependent on the context in which it is found. In
an ecclesiastical setting the word could denote a bishop, a priest, an abbot,
the person second in rank to an abbot (a praepositus coenobii ) or a prior; in
early tribal government a significant official under a king and, in later
sources, a shire-reeve; finally, in the case of a landed estate, the word could
also denote a reeve (a person with responsibility for the fiscal management of
Praepositus coenobii: This was a
monk who ranked second after an abbot, having particular responsibilities for
manorial and household management.
Praeses: A senior dignitary in a
Praesul: A bishop.
Precentor: A person who chants the liturgical
offices. See also Chanter.
Predux: A guide. It is used in a charter with
suspicious features of Edgar, king of England (957-975), as part of his royal
Presbyter: The usual Latin word (derived from
the Greek) for a priest.
Primates: The senior officials in a
Primicerius: A senior dignitary in church
or state. It appears in many royal styles from the time of Alfred, king of the
West Saxons (871-899), onwards as a synonym for a ruler.
Primicerius notariorum: A
dignitary holding an office in the papal court.
Princeps: A word indicating someone holding a
high office, including, in Anglo-Saxon documents, an ealdorman, and more
generally, a leading man of a tribe or people. In eighth-century Mercian
charters the term sometimes appears to be the equivalent of dux; in others it
implies seniority to the latter. The term seems in both Mercia and Wessex to
have had associations with persons of royal blood or those of families of
formerly royal status. It is rarely used in early Northumbrian sources as a
Princeps domus: This is used by Bede in
his Historia ecclesiastica iii.4 to denote the head of a queen’s
Principatus: Part of the style in one
charter of Æthelred, lord of the Mercians (died 911).
Prior: The most senior monastic official under an
Procer: A dignitary of unspecific rank and
Procurator: A term used in Medieval Latin
for a number of offices, including a manorial officer or steward.
Propincernarius: The term is used in
one charter of Eadwig, king of England (955-959), it is of uncertain meaning. It
is possibly a variant of propinquarius ‘kinsman’ or a nonce-word based on
propinquus with some such meaning as ‘member of an entourage’.
Propugnator: Used in several charters as
part of the royal style of Eadred, king of England (946-955), and once by his
successor, Eadwig (955-959), in the phrase Brettonum propugnator, which appears
to mean ‘mighty fighter against the Britains’. It is also used once in a charter
of Æthelred, king of England (975-1016), where ‘Britains’ is replaced by
Quaestor: Originally a Roman officer in
Antiquity with responsibility for the pecuniary matters in the state, by the
ninth century it was used of a trustee who looked after the material side of a
church’s affairs. Presumably because it involved guardianship it was title used
by the chronicler, Æthelweard, of himself as a play on the latter part of his
name (weard ‘a guardian’). See also Patricius
Referendarius: An official in a royal
court who received petitions.
Regimen: The word is used of a ruler of the
Hwicce in an eighth-century charter.
Regionarius: A deacon or sub-deacon who was
head of one of the seven ‘regions’ or wards of Rome.
Regulus: A ruler below the rank of a
Sacerdos: A word that can signify either a
priest or a bishop.
Sacerdotus: A rare word apparently referring
to a priest.
Sacrist: A monk have responsibility for the
care of sacred vessels, relics and other items such as a liber vitae within a
Sacristan: A sexton, an official charged with
the duty of caring for the fabric of a church and its contents.
Satraps: An ealdorman or other dignitary
subordinate to a king.
Sequipedus: Probably a variant of the Latin
Signifer: Someone who bore a pennon or banner,
usually in a martial context. The word appears in a single tenth-century charter
that might be corrupt or interpolated.
Speculator: A bishop. Presumably this Latin
term represents an attempt to replicate roots of the Greek term episcopos, ‘one
Sub-deacon: A person in the lowest of the
three major ecclesiastical orders, he had especial responsibilities in the mass,
viz., to prepare the bread, wine and sacramental vessels, present the chalice
and paten at the offertory and remove the vessels after the mass.
Sub-king: This could denote someone who was
king over a polity that was in some way subject to another kingdom or to a
person, such as the son of a king, who had been designated to rule a defined
portion of a kingdom.
Subregulus: In Anglo-Saxon charters this
word can designate an ealdorman or a subordinate ruler. It is used as part of
the style of Æthelred, Lord of the Mercians, in a charter jointly issued by him
and Alfred, king of Wessex (871-899). See also Sub-king.
Swine-reeve: A bailiff or steward
(presumably) on an estate who was responsible for the fiscal aspects of the
holding of pigs (such as annual payments in kind).
Thelonarius: A collector of tolls.
Thesaurarius: A treasurer, a royal or
ecclesiastical functionary with a very important custodial role in an era when
there were no banks.
Tribune: This word is used in a poetic context
by Alcuin to designate a high official.
Tyrant: A term used a few times in Æthelweard’s
Chronicle to when referring to the leader of a viking warband.
Vassalus: A term used occasionally in
tenth-century charters of an official owing loyalty to a king. Cf. Fasellus.
Vicecomes: A shire-reeve (later sheriff). The
word appears in three charters of uncertain authenticity and so may be a
borrowing from the post-Conquest period.
Vicedominus: Shire-reeve (later
Wealhgefera: In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
s.a. 897, this word refers to someone who had superintendence over people of
British origin on behalf of a king. A gefera was in essence a companion or
colleague. Some manuscripts read wealhgerefa, ‘a reeve with responsibilities
over the British’, which might be the more accurate reading.
Wicgerefa: A reeve with responsibilities over
a settlement (more specifically, a trading settlement). One holder of the office
held his position in Winchester. He probably had to witness legal transactions
involving the sale of goods and may well have had to collect toll, a royal tax.
Cf. Port reeve.
Wita: An Old English word, literally meaning ‘a
wise person’ (plural: witan), it usually referred to counsellors of a king, who
frequently met together in a so-called witenagemot (‘a meeting of counsellors’)
to give the king advice.
Witan: The body of counsellors that advised an
Anglo-Saxon king. See also wita.
Agellus: A small field and, more generally, a
Arcisterium: (= archisterium): A monastery,
a chief place such as a cathedral and, in a spiritual sense, a dwelling
(Willibrord, for instance, is referred to as a ‘hermit, a dwelling of the Holy
Arx: A fortress or fortified settlement,
approximately equivalent to a number of vernacular words such as fæsten and
Aula: In general, ‘a hall’, it was used
specifically of a church and, especially, of a royal court.
Burh: This word denoted a wide range of
settlements over the Anglo-Saxon period. In early records it could signify an
Iron Age hillfort or a monastic site (which was often demarcated by some kind of
curvilinear bank). From the eighth century in Mercia a burh was a fortified
settlement. These were developed especially in the reigns of Alfred, king of the
West Saxons (871-899) and his son, Edward ‘the Elder’ (899-924), into a network
of defensive sites against the viking incursions. In the late Anglo-Saxon period
it could be used of a manorial site with defences, the memory of which is
preserved in many places called ‘Kingsbury’.
Capella: A chapel and, when used by Alcuin, the
staff of a royal household concerned with divine service.
Castellum: In Anglo-Saxon sources, this is
used in two distinct senses: a walled town and, more generally, a hamlet or
Castrum: In the singular it denoted a walled
town. When used in the plural, it retained its Classical Latin sense of a camp
but also acquired the sense of a monastery, especially when followed by the word
Dei (‘of God’).
Cathedra: An episcopal or archiepiscopal
Ceaster: Equated in sources to the Latin
castellum, castrum and ciuitas, the term denoted ‘a fortified settlement’ and,
more generally, a town surrounded by walls (made of brick, stone or earthen
banks, possibly stockaded).
Cellula: Amongst other senses, the word was
used specifically of a monastic cell and could more generally be used of a small
house of religion.
Cenobium: A religious house for communal
living, generally translated as ‘monastery’, though it could describe
establishments that did not observe the strict details of a specific monastic
Civitas: A major town, particularly one that
was an episcopal see.
Clymiterium: (= clymeterium): An oratory.
This word, which appears in Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica, is glossed in the
later Old English version by the words gebædhus and cirican (‘house of prayer
Collis: Latin for ‘a hill’, it probably
represented quite a wide range of vernacular words such as dun.
Diuersorium: An inn or guesthouse.
Fæsten: A fortress. Cf. Geweorc.
Fen: A wetlands area navigable in the Middle Ages
almost solely by boat or punt extending from Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and
Cambridgeshire to East Anglia.
Geweorc: One of a number of words used in the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to denote a fortified place (cf. Fæsten), equivalent to the Latin arx . The contexts seem to imply
that it was not occupied by a permanently settled community as a burh
Haga: In a rural context it refers to a
fenced enclosure. In an urban context it can denote a dwelling or a
Hospitium: An inn. In a monastic setting it
referred to the guesthouse.
Locus: Simply meaning ‘a place’, the word was
frequently used in association with a place-name such as in cognominato loco
Ottanforda ‘in the place called Otford’, especially in Æthelweard’s
Monasterium: Denoting a religious community
that lived communally, the word did not necessarily indicate one that lived by a
specific monastic rule, that consisted of monks (it was also used of a community
of canons) or that comprised members of only one sex. Since the Modern English
‘monastery’ tends to have the latter associations, the Latin word has in general
been retained. Cenobium and the Old English word mynster (also spelt minster)
had much the same range of meanings.
Mynster: Denoting a religious community that
lived communally, this Old English word derived from the Latin monasterium did
not necessarily indicate one that lived by a specific monastic rule, that
consisted of monks (it was also used of a community of canons) or that comprised
members of only one sex. Since the Modern English ‘monastery’ tends to have the
latter associations, the Old English word has in general been retained. Cenobium
and monasterium had much the same range of meanings. The word also had the
associated meaning of a church (collegiate or cathedral): when used in this
sense, it is usually spelt ‘minster’ in the PASE database (as in ‘Old Minster,
Oppidum: In Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica the
word is used of York. A number of glosses seem to associate the word with a
fortified settlement, though its precise nature seems to vary from ‘a city’
through ‘a town’ to simply ‘a fortified place’ (cf. Burh).
Ora: Depending on the context this can refer to the
bank of a river, the seashore (especially in the plural), or a region or
Oratorium: An oratory, either as a separate
structure or as part of a church. From the latter sense the word sometimes
denotes a church itself.
Pagus: In general, ‘a village’ but also ‘a
geographic district’. In the letter of Wealdhere, bishop of London, to
Beorhtwald, archbishop of Canterbury, written in 704x705, the word signifies
‘the territory occupied by a people’.
Palatium regis : Literally ‘a palace of
the king’, it was a place that a king and his retinue would visit on an
occasional basis to receive the food-rent (feorm), hold assemblies for
ceremonial, legal and consultative purposes, and use as a base for hunting and
entertainment. Some 193 palatia are known from written sources; these include
both urban and rural sites.
Parochia: A word spelt in Hiberno-Latin
paruchia, it denoted in Late Latin in Gaul a rural community with a regularly
staffed church often headed by an archipresbyter (and thus not unlike the
Anglo-Saxon mynster ), as opposed to a ciuitas headed by a bishop. In British
usage it signified a territory that was subject to an episcopal church (though
separate from it). In Irish usage it applied to a collection of daughter houses
controlled by the abbot of the mother house. In Anglo-Saxon usage it often
signified the territory subject to a bishop.
Porticus: Chambers constructed at the sides of
apses and naves in Anglo-Saxon churches used especially as sacristies and places
Praedium: Landed property held by the
superiority of a lord as opposed to being held by tenancy.
Prouincia: Used rather imprecisely especially
in eighth-century sources, like regio, to designate a division of a kingdom
based probably more on kinship and ethnic ties than on any specific
Regio: A term used rather imprecisely especially
in eighth-century sources, like prouincia, to designate a division of a kingdom
based probably more on kinship and ethnic ties than on any specific
Rivulus: A rivulet or stream.
Rivus: A river bank.
Ruricola: A small estate.
Schola Saxonum: Specifically a hospice
for Anglo-Saxons organized as a corporation and, more generally, the quarter of
Rome occupied by it (near the present-day church of S. Spirito in Sassia),
mentioned, for instance, in Asser’s Life of Alfred. It was supported by money
sent from England known as Peter’s Pence or Romscot.
Secretarium: The sacristy, vestry or
parlour of a church.
Stow: In general ‘a place’, and more specifically,
‘a place where people assemble’ and hence ‘a holy place’.
Tellus: Having the general sense of ‘a land’,
the word could also denote a kingdom.
Terra: A piece of land, cultivated or able to be
cultivated; more generally, a territory or kingdom.
Urbs: Denoting ‘a city’, a settlement that in the
Anglo-Saxon period would neither have had the density of settlement or extent of
its modern counterpart.
Urbs regia: A phrase meaning ‘royal city’
used once in Æthelweard’s Chronicle with reference to the sacking of Winchester
by the vikings in 860. Since there are no equivalent vernacular words used in
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the description presumably reflects Æthelweard’s
perception of the status of Winchester in the late tenth century.
Viculus: A small village. Cf. Vicus.
Vicus: A settlement without defences and not
having the rank of a civitas or ‘city’.
Villa Regalis: A royal establishment,
usually acting as a central place for the receipt of food rent (feorm) and other
dues. Also called in the sources uilla regia and uilla regis. See also Palatium regis.
Villa venatoria: A landed property
devoted to hunting.
Villula: A small village; a rural
Villulus: A small village; a rural estate.
Presumably a variant of uillula.
Wic: A word used to signify an early trading
settlement, usually located on a shoreline, estuary or river bank where boats
could be beached. It is found as an element in a number of Anglo-Saxon
place-names (Lundenwic ‘London’ and Eoforwic ‘York’) as well as being preserved
in some modern place-name such as Ipswich.
Curtis: A word that developed a wide range of
meanings. Originally it referred to the fence that surrounded a garden or
farmstead from which derived the meanings of ‘a fenced off property or
homestead’, hence ‘a farmyard’, ‘a manor’, ‘an estate’, ‘a central manor’ and
thus ‘a royal palace’. Following from this last sense it came to denote ‘a royal
court’ and the household that supported it.
Haga: Originally meaning ‘a hedge’ in Old English,
the word developed the sense of ‘an enclosed place’ and the further associated
meanings of ‘a dwelling-place’, ‘a messuage’ and, in London, ‘an urban
Pallium: This was a Late Roman item of
liturgical dress, being a woollen band that was draped round the shoulders and
hung down in front. For the popes it was a symbol of apostolic succession and it
gained distinction by being granted by Pope Gregory the Great to various
bishops, including Augustine of Canterbury. It became the norm for the
archbishop of Canterbury and then also the archbishop of York to receive the
pallium from the pope as a mark of his office. The honour was also extended to
Willibrord and Boniface on the Continent. By the tenth century English
archbishops were expected to travel to Rome to receive this vestment.
Adolescens: According to Isidore of Seville
adolescentia was one of six ages of Man falling between pueritia (‘boyhood’) and
iuuentus; according to Isidore it designated someone capable of procreation and
fell between the ages of 14 and 28.
Æthelboren: An Old English term for someone
who was nobly born.
Ætheling: A prince of an Anglo-Saxon royal
family, sharing with a reigning king descent from a common grandfather and
eligible for succession to the throne. It appears to have been a status rather
than an office. In some early eleventh-century law codes the ætheling is given
the status of an archbishop and was second only to a king. See also Clito.
- Bretwalda A term used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a.
827, of Ecgberht, king of the West Saxons (802-839), meaning something like
‘ruler of Britain’. It was probably not a formal office but used by the
Chronicler (following Bede, who employed the word imperium ‘power’) to designate
those kings who gained hegemony over areas of Britain south of the Humber more
extensive than simply their own kingdom. Yorke has suggested kings in the eighth
and ninth centuries ‘preferred titles which accurately reflected the extent of
their real power to those which defined a vaguer hegemony’.
Burgess: Literally ‘those who lived in a burh
‘, they held a status that changed over time as these settlements evolved from
sites with publicly maintained defences but perhaps quite thinly settled to more
densely populated urban settlements that fostered active trade.
Ceorl: A word of wide semantic range, it could be
used simply to refer to a male person, but it could also have a disparaging
social sense of ‘peasant’ or ‘rustic’ and a more legal sense denoting someone
who was a member of the ordinary class of freeman (in contrast to an eorl, who
was a person of high legal standing). It also was used as a personal
Cild: Cognate with Modern English ‘child’ and in
many Anglo-Saxon literary sources having that meaning, the word developed the
sense of ‘a youth of noble birth, prince’ and then became a title held by a
youth of noble birth. It could also be used as a by-name and as a personal
Ciuis: A citizen or, more generally, an
inhabitant of a place such as a town or a country.
Cliens: A servant, attendant or a retainer. In
an educational context it can denote a pupil.
Clito: Possibly derived from a Greek word, it was
an elevated term for a prince, representing the Old English word ætheling . It
first appears in Anglo-Saxon sources in the tenth century.
Comes: In eighth-century Northumbria the term was
used of senior members of the comitatus on their own property (see Duguth). In Mercia it seems to refer to royal
companions who might be described as an ealdorman, as is the case in Kent. In
West Saxon charters comites usually only attest in the late eighth-century,
which is possibly evidence of Mercian influence. The term became generally
archaic in the ninth century. In Continental sources the word came to prominence
under the Carolingians referring to someone who might formerly have been
described as a dux and survived thereafter to describe men exercising higher
levels of jurisdiction.
Comitatus: A company or retinue of a lord
(not to be confused with the same word in the sense of the office or territory
of an ealdorman or eorl or in the specifically territorial sense of ‘a
Comitissa: In Anglo-Saxon contexts it refers
to the wife of an ealdorman or eorl.
Conciuis: A fellow citizen (used specifically
of membership of the heavenly city).
Congregatio ciuitatis: Used once
to describe an assembly of the city of Winchester.
Cyneboren: This word is used to denote
someone of royal birth.
Domina: Used of a woman such as a queen as a
courtesy title and a mark of respect.
Dominus: Used of a man such as a king, senior
ecclesiastic or saint as a courtesy title and a mark of respect.
Dux: In general a leader (especially a military
one) but specifically in Anglo-Saxon sources someone holding the office of
ealdorman or eorl . The term seems to come into use to designate senior noblemen
in the latter part of the eighth century in Mercia and Northumbria, and from the
820s in Wessex.
Eorl: A person of noble rank (as opposed to a
ceorl ), in poetic sources the word simply denotes a warrior. In the Anglo-Saxon
Chronicle it frequently refers to a Scandinavian jarl (often as a title, used in
contrast to the Anglo-Saxon ealdorman ) until the time of Cnut, when the word
began to refer to someone with responsibility for one of the major
land-divisions in England and became practically synonymous with
Gebur: A peasant with free status but holding
land from an overlord in return for rent and services.
Gesith: Literally ‘someone who journeys [with
someone else]’ and hence ‘a companion’, the term appears in the earliest English
laws designating a man of high status, probably arising out of his relationship
as a member of the personal entourage of a king. With royal service came land.
As the term evolved in the eighth and ninth centuries it came to represent a
noble and/or landholder without connotations of service, after which time it
passed out of use.
Hold: A Danish title signifying someone of high
status intermediate in rank between an ealdorman and a thegn, with a wergeld
(the compensation payable if he were killed) double that of the latter and
equivalent to that of a king’s high-reeve.
Homo: Although this word could be used
specifically of a male person, it could also be used of a human being of either
sex, (in the plural, homines ‘people’), a range of meanings shared with the Old
Ignobilis: A man of humble status (in
contrast to a nobilis).
Infans: An infant, more generally a child, and
specifically in monastic contexts, an oblate child.
Iuuenis: In general, a mature young person (of
either sex), and, according to Isidore of Seville, was a person in the prime of
life, older than an adolescens; the period extended from after twenty-eight
years to the age of fifty.
King pollens potestate: Literally
a king ‘who is mighty in power’, the phrase is used in Æthelweard’s Chronicle to
represent the word Bretwalda used in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 827.
Maior: Through its comparative sense of
‘greater’, this word gained a wide range of meanings: ‘an older person’, i.e.,
someone greater by birth and hence in the plural, ‘ancestors’; also, someone
greater in importance or authority, ‘a noble’, and in the plural ‘noblemen,
magnates or important people’. When used with domus it was used of Merovingian
mayors of the palace.
Matricularius: In origin this term
denoted someone who appeared on a church’s list of the poor that permanently
received a dole. Derived from the word for a mother church (‘matrix’), it gained
various associated meanings from ‘sexton’ to ‘bishop’. The word was used
especially by Alcuin as a mark of humility to signify that he was a servant of a
Paterfamilias: The Latin term for the
head of a household (which extended beyond those related by blood), he had held
significant powers under Roman Law.
Peregrinus: An ascetic who renounced his
kindred to go on a peregrinatio or religious journey (sometimes lasting a
lifetime) away from his native land; more generally it referred to a
Primates: The plural form of primas used
collectively of persons of note, usually the dignitaries of a kingdom.
Primatus: ‘First/Chief men’, a term used in
Æthelweard’s Chronicle, where in one instance it is the equivalent of the word
witan in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Principes: The plural of princeps, this term
in general referred to rulers and, more specifically, was used to designate
ealdormen or other senior dignitaries.
Puer: A word of wide semantic range, it could
retain its Classical sense of ‘a boy’ and, in the context of a religious
community, ‘an oblate’, but in other contexts could also refer to a servant or a
slave. In both Willibald’s Life of Boniface and Alcuin’s letters there are
instances where it denotes an armed retainer.
Rusticus: A peasant. In Æthelweard’s Chronicle
the plural form is used as the equivalent of cirlisce men ‘men who were
Sapiens: Having the basic sense of ‘wise’, the
word was used as a noun in the British and Irish Churches to denote a scholar
(as in ‘Gildas sapiens’). In the plural, sapientes, it could signify in
Anglo-Saxon charters the body of counsellors of the king known as the
Secundarius: As used by Asser in his Life
of Alfred, the word denoted a ‘joint king’.
Senator: Used in two charters to describe
senior dignitaries of the Mercian kingdom.
Senex: According to Isidore of Seville, a senex
was a member of the oldest of six ages of Man, a person who was older than a
senior and thus over seventy years of age.
Senior: A principal or chief member of a
community, the word was often used of the senior monks in a monastic community.
It could also denote one of six ages of Man as defined by Isidore of Seville,
following iuuentus (which ended at aged fifty) and preceding senectus (‘old
age’). It extended from the age of fifty to seventy years of age.
Sodalis: A comrade.
Thegn: Having the basic meaning of ‘one who
serves’, the word could refer to wide spectrum of social statuses. Usually,
however, it referred to someone of high social status (though below the rank of
ealdorman ), typically referred to as a minister in Latin sources, who served a
king in an administrative and a military capacity. Loyn noted that the term was
used from the seventh century of ‘a royal servant sent on royal business to a
locality not his own’. They become especially prominent in ninth-century West
Saxon charters. By the end of Anglo-Saxon period a royal thegn could hold a
substantial amount of bookland, could represent the king in shire meetings and
might even possess a personal seal. There were various sub-categories of thegn
such as disc thegn, bishop’s thegn and hors-thegn.
Theod: A people, nation or tribe.
Vilicus: As used in Bede’s Historia
ecclesiastica, it refers to a person responsible for a landed estate, i.e., a