absinthe
a highly-alcoholic, aniseed-flavoured spirit, usually drunk diluted with water
absolution
forgiveness of sin through a formal rite carried out by a Roman Catholic priest
adjutant
military term for an officer who acts as an assistant to a more senior officer
aesthete
someone who cultivates their appreciation of beauty in art or nature, often in a slightly affected way
agnostic
someone who believes it impossible to know whether or not there is a God
agog
full of excitement or interest
agued
affected by fits of shivering and shaking, especially those caused by malaria
anachronisms
out-of-date items
annulment
annulment in the Catholic Church involves declaring a marriage invalid on certain grounds laid down by the Church.
anomalies
deviations from a set of rules
ante-diluvian
belonging to a very ancient age prior to Noah's Flood
apostatized
abandoned religious faith
aquatint
an etching made in such a way that it resembles a watercolour painting
arabesques
intricate, elaborate patterns based on intertwined lines sometimes suggestive of flowers or foliage, sometimes forming geometric patterns
ashlar
building stone cut into squares or rectangles
assuaged
made less intense or severe
astrakan
(sometimes astrakhan) curly black wool from lambs from Astrakhan in Russia, or a fabric made to imitate this
atavistic
related to the reappearance (after a long absence) of a character trait that belonged to previous generations
atheist
someone who does not believe in the existence of God
Athenaeum
a gentlemen's club situated on Pall Mall in London
Atlas
The Atlas Mountains are a North African mountain range extending from Morocco, through Algeria, into Tunisia
augustan
relating to the Augustan period in English history (1660-1789)
backgammon
a board game for two players
badinage
playful banter
baize
a coarse woollen cloth (traditionally 'a green baize door' separated the servant's quarters from a family's living quarters, in large houses)
Balliol
one of the Oxford colleges
balustrade
vertical pillars joined by a horizontal rail to form a barrier at the edge of a balcony
bandanna
a large, brightly-coloured, patterned handkerchief, often used as a neckerchief
basket chair
a chair made of wickerwork
battels
bill for college expenses at Oxford University
before the mast
as an ordinary seaman i.e. with sleeping quarters at the front of the ship
benefaction
a charitable gift or deed
bêtise
an error
bezique
a card game for two played with a pack of 64 cards (some sources say 48)
bibulous
associated with the consumption of alcohol
bilked
cheated
bivouac
temporary living quarters, especially for soldiers
Black Forest
a wooded mountain range in south western Germany
blue-john
a semi-precious stone, sometimes known as fluor spar, which is only to be found in one particular location in Derbyshire
body-servant
a male servant who is a personal assistant to a male employer
bondieuserie
religious knick-knacks
Bordighera
a town in Italy
bosh
rubbish (slang)
boskage
woodland
box
(as in box hedges) a native British evergreen plant (Buxus sempervirens)
brazier
a metal container for burning coal or charcoal
brigand
a robber or bandit
Broad
Broad Street is a wide street in Oxford
browned off
fed up
burlesque
a ludicrous or mocking imitation
C.O.
Commanding Officer
camelopards
a giraffe, or a heraldic depiction of a giraffe-like animal with long curved horns
campanile
a bell tower
cant (phrase)
stock (phrase)
caravan
a group travelling together, usually on camels or horseback, and often through hostile territory
Carfax
a crossroads in the centre of Oxford
carissima
my dear
Carlsbad plums
a blue-black variety of plum that is often crystallized
caryatids
supporting columns carved in the shape of a woman
catachumen
someone who is being taught the principles of Christianity
cataract
waterfall
catechism
a manual giving a brief explanation of Christianity, in question and answer form
caterwaulling (often caterwauling)
shrieking
centripetal force
a term from physics - the name given to the inward force that a body experiences when moving around another body
chaff
light-hearted joking or banter
chantry
an altar or chapel endowed for the saying of particular masses or prayers
chatelaine
the mistress of a household or large establishment
chemin-de-fer
a version of the casino card game, baccarat
chequer
a pattern of squares which varies in some way e.g. in colour or texture
chinoiserie
decorative or artistic items whose design or execution is influenced by Chinese styles
chrism
a consecrated oil (also called Holy anointing oil) which is used for baptisms and for the last rites
chuck
end a romantic relationship
Churchill tank
World War ll heavy, infantry tank
claret
a Bordeaux red wine
clerk
archaic word for a clergyman
climacteric
a critical stage
cobalt
a bright, darkish, blue
coffered roof
a roof with a sunken panel in the shape of a square, rectangle or octagon
coffin stool
another name for a 'joint stool' - a rectangular stool with four turned legs
Collections
college exams set by tutors (i.e. not the main University exams)
colonnade
a series of columns placed at regular intervals
coming-out ball
a ball to celebrate the launch of an upper class young woman (a debutante) into society
commons
food eaten communally (also the name given to a dining hall at a university or college). Oxford students used to eat bread and cheese, accompanied by beer, in their rooms at lunch time
companion-ways
staircases or ladders leading from the decks of a ship to its cabins or lower quarters
concierge
French word for 'caretaker'
confessional
a small enclosed area of a Catholic church where a priest hears confessions
console
a small table fixed to a wall, or designed to stand against a wall
conté crayon
a stick made of graphite or charcoal mixed with wax or clay, used for drawing
contra mundum
Latin for 'against the world'
coppers
policemen (slang)
cornice
horizontal moulding between the top of a wall and the ceiling
Cornmarket
Cornmarket Street - a major shopping street in Oxford
crap
usually, 'craps' - a gambling game played with two dice
crapulous
suffering the effects of too much alcohol
crêpe-de-Chine
a soft, thin silk with a crinkled surface
cuckold
a man whose wife is unfaithful to him
cumulus
mound or heap
cupolas
dome-shaped structures built onto a roof or larger dome, to function as a look-out or to let in light and air
cyphers
secret codes
damascened silver
silver inlaid into a dark oxidised steel background to form a pattern
damask
durable shiny material (cotton, linen, silk or wool) with a pattern woven into it
dapper
smart and stylish
darkling
growing dim and gloomy
Darwin
a city in Northern Australia
dictaphone
a speech-recording machine which allows the speech to be played back for typing etc.
dipsomaniac
old-fashioned word for an alcoholic
Divinity
what would now probably be known at school as 'Religious Studies'
donkey stools
low seats designed to be used by those learning to draw or paint
doubleted
wearing a doublet* (*a close-fitting jacket worn by men between the 15th and 17th Centuries)
dowager
a widow with a title or property derived from her deceased husband; or any elderly woman of high social status
drab
prostitute
dress
wear formal clothes (as in 'dress for dinner')
dressing case
a small case for carrying brushes, toiletries etc. whilst travelling
Druses
members of a religious sect living in Syria and Lebanon
dysentry
an illness whose symptoms include intestinal inflammation, diarrhoea and fever
Earl's points
the 'Earl' is Brideshead; 'points' are positions on a coat of arms
Ecco si siamo, signori
Here we are, gentlemen
entablature
a horizontal structure supported by columns, consisting of an architrave, frieze and cornice
entail
the obligation that a specific heir should inherit an estate
epergne
a decorative table centrepiece with several dishes for holding fruit, sweets or flowers
epicene
sexless, or having the characteristics of both male and female
Episcopalian Bishop
a bishop of the Episcopal Church - a U.S. Church whose belief system is in concordance with that of the Anglican Church ('episcopal' also means 'relating to bishops')
escutcheons
shield-shaped emblems bearing coats of arms
excommunicated
formally excluded from membership of a religious group - particularly, the Catholic Church
fairies
old-fashioned term for homosexuals
fatigue party
a group of soldiers assigned manual or menial duties - 'fatigues' are the clothes worn to carry out such duties
feinting
making a pretend attack to catch an opponent off guard
fête champêtre
French 18th Century garden party
fetish
an object believed to have magic or spiritual powers
florid
elaborately, or excessively, ornamented; showy
folios
books or manuscripts made of sheets folded once down the middle, thus creating four pages
frogged
fitted with ornamental braided fastenings known as frogs
futurist
a member of a movement known as Futurism, a social and artistic movement that began in Italy in the early 20th Century. Its central tenet was the rejection of the traditional and the espousal of all that was 'new'
garconnière
bachelor flat
genuflected
bent the knee or touched the ground with one knee
gerontophilic
linked to the idea of being sexually attracted to old people
gesso
plaster of paris made with glue - usually used decoratively, and then painted over
Gethsemane
a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before his crucifixion
glaucose
pale greyish or bluish green in colour
glee-singing
a type of unaccompanied part singing, particularly popular between 1750 and 1850
Golden Cross
an Oxford pub
gone down
left the University
gone in ducks and drakes
linked to the idea of 'playing ducks and drakes with', which means 'to squander'
gorgon
The Gorgons were three terrifying monsters from Greek mythology - the sisters: Stheno; Euryale; and Medusa
grandmother's steps
often called 'grandmother's footsteps' - a children's game in which one person faces a wall, whilst others attempt to creep up on him/her behind his/her back
Greats
Classical studies (the study of the language, literature and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome)
greenery-yallery
affected
Grenadier
a member of the Grenadier Guards, an infantry regiment in the British Army
grippe
influenza
grisaille
a style of painting in shades of grey
grog
alcohol - originally, rum diluted with water
groined
having ceiling vaults which form curved edges at their intersection
Guatemala
a country in Central America
guineas
former British gold coins worth 21 shillings (i.e. £1.05)
Gulf of Lions
an inlet of the Mediterranean Sea on the southern coast of France, where Marseille is situated
guttural
having a harsh, grating quality
habeas corpus
the right of an individual who is detained to be taken before a court to determine whether his/her detention is lawful
hacked
rode on horseback at the horse's walking speed
halcyon
calm and peaceful
half-baked
lacking judgement, intelligence or common sense
half-company-fallen-in
company: a military unit consisting of 2 or 3 platoons; fallen-in: in a military formation or in line
halma
a board game
hansom cab
a small two-wheeled carriage drawn by one horse, and generally available for hire
hawser
a cable or rope used for mooring or towing a ship
hermaphroditic
either, possessing both male and female qualities, or, possessing contradictory qualities
herring pond
the Atlantic Ocean
hind
female deer
hinterland
a remote area lying beyond a town or city
Hispano
Hispano-Suiza was a Spanish/French luxury-car manufacturing company founded in 1904
hoar-frost
frozen dew
holland
linen or cotton cloth
hoodoo
someone or something that brings bad luck
Hope
one of the three virtues associated with salvation in Christian philosophy, the other two being Faith and Charity
House
the House of Commons (in relation to Rex Mottram)
houses in the Kasba
houses: brothels; Kasba (usually kasbah or casbah): the older section of a North African or Middle-Eastern city
hypodermic
relating to the layers just below the skin (i.e. below the epidermis)
Il marchese
The marquess
importunate
overly persistent in requesting or demanding something
imposture
deception through taking on a new name or identity
impressario
a person who organises and/or finances plays, concerts, etc.
in extremis
at the point of death
in his cups
drunk
internecine
mutually destructive
inverted
old-fashioned term for homosexual
IOU
'I owe you' - a written note acknowledging a debt
jackal
a wild animal similar to a dog
jambs
the vertical posts that form the sides of a doorway
japanned
varnished to give a hard, glossy finish
jaundice
an illness that causes yellow coloration of the skin
jejune
dull; uninteresting
jerkin
a sleeveless jacket
jeroboam
an extra large bottle of wine or champagne containing between 4 and 6 times the amount contained in a standard bottle
Jesuit
a member of a Catholic order known as the Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1534
jinn
a spirit in Islamic mythology who may have either a good or an evil influence on humankind
knocking-shops
brothels
kudos
praise; acclaim
lapidary
concise, clear-cut and dignified
last sacraments
the ceremony carried out by a Catholic priest when an individual is on the verge of death - sometimes known as 'the last rites' or 'extreme unction'
latrines
public toilets in military areas
Legation
the premises of a legate - a diplomatic official of lower rank than an embassador
legitimist
a supporter of a monarch's hereditary right to rule
Levant (the)
countries bordering the Eastern Mediterranean from Turkey to Egypt
levee
a reception held by a person of importance on getting up from bed
litany
a long, repetitive recital
lobster Newburg
lobster cooked in a sauce made from butter, cream, cognac, sherry, eggs and cayenne pepper
louche
irreputable; of questionable taste or morality
lubricity
lewdness
lugubrious
dismal; gloomy
lupus
a disease causing ulceration of the skin
m'tutor
my tutor - every boy at Eton College has a tutor (as well as a House Master) who meets with him once a week, and oversees his personal and academic development
maelstrom
whirlpool
Magasin du Louvre
Les Grands Magasins du Louvre - a Parisian department store that closed in 1974
magnum
a bottle holding about two fifths of a gallon i.e. twice the amount contained in a standard bottle
Magyar
a member of the principal ethnic group of Hungary
mah-jong
a Chinese board game usually involving four players
maitre d'hotel
chief waiter
major domo
the head steward or butler in an aristocratic or royal household
make hay
usually means 'to take advantage of' as in, 'to make hay while the sun shines'
mandarin
a high-ranking public official in the Chinese Empire
man-o'-war
a war-ship
mantillas
lace or silk scarves worn by Catholic women to cover their heads and shoulders
Maronites
members of an Eastern Catholic Church to which a large percentage of the Lebanese population belongs
Masonic
many towns have Masonic Halls, built for the use of members of the Freemasons (an all-male society), but often used for social purposes
Master of Foxhounds
an individual who organises and runs a fox hunt on behalf of hunt club members
matriculation
enrolment as a member of a college or university
mausoleums
large burial chambers, usually above ground
medallion
a painting or an engraving set in an oval or circular frame
metaphysics
a branch of philosophy which examines the nature of reality
Modern Greats
the original name of the Oxford University course of study now known as Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)
mono-maniac
having an obsession with one subject
monsignori
male clerics in the Catholic Church who have had the title 'monsignor' bestowed on them by a pope
muniment rooms
rooms where documents proving inheritance, and property-ownership, rights are kept
N.C.O.'s
non-commissioned officers
Narcissus
a figure from Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection
needle-hook
what would now be described as a crochet hook?
Nissen Hut
a prefabricated hut of corrugated iron in the shape of a half cylinder, used by military personnel
nobs
slang for 'posh people'
Notre Dame
a Catholic cathedral in Paris
novena
a series of prayers and devotions said on nine consecutive days
novitiate
the period of being a novice* (*a member of a religious order who has not taken final vows)
nugatory
negligible
O.S.C.U.
Oxford Student Christian Union
O.U.D.S.
Oxford University Dramatic Society
obdurate
stubborn in the refusal to give up wrongdoing
obelisk
a four-sided pillar of stone, tapering to a pyramid-shaped top
OCTU
Officer Cadet Training Unit
oleograph
a print made to look like an oil painting
on the stocks
under construction; being prepared
orderly
military term for a soldier assigned to carry out tasks for a senior officer
ormolu
copper, zinc or tin alloys resembling gold
Ottoman Bank
one of Turkey's main commercial banks
P.& O.
a passenger shipping line (originally part of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company)
pacifically
in order to appease
padre
usually a chaplain in the armed forces, but may be used to mean a Roman Catholic priest, or a priest from another denomination
Palazzo. Pronto
Palazzo: palace, building; mansion; Pronto: quick
panegyric
a speech or piece of writing which praises someone or something
parapet
a low protective wall along the edge of a roof or balcony
pastiche
imitation of an artistic work
patience
a card game which can be played by one person
patina
a fine coating of oxide on a metal through age or exposure to air
patrimony
inheritance
pavilion
an annexe of a main building; or, a garden summerhouse
pediment
a triangular space that forms the gable of a low-pitched roof
pepper-and-salt
speckled with contrasting colours - especially black and white
Philistine
a person who is ignorant about, and indifferent to, artistic and cultural values
phlegm
calmness; lack of emotion; apathy
phosphorescent
glowing in the dark
pilaster
a column attached to a wall
Pilgrim's Way
an historic route said to have been taken by pilgrims travelling from Winchester (in Hampshire) to Canterbury (in Kent)
platoon
a military unit made up of two or more squads or sections, usually under the command of a lieutenant
plenary indulgences
Through the carrying out of good acts or prayer, Catholics may be excused some of the suffering which awaits them in purgatory. This is known as an indulgence. If they are excused all of the suffering, this is known as a plenary indulgence.
plus fours
men's baggy trousers fastened just below the knee
Polynesian
an inhabitant of Polynesia - a group of island in the central and southern Pacific Ocean
pop (1)
the name for the school prefects at Eton College who are also known as the 'Eton Society'
pop (2)
pawn (slang)
portico
a roofed walkway or porch, with columns, often leading to the main entrance of a building
Post-Master General
A ministerial post in the British cabinet which no longer exists - its holder was responsible for the postal system, telecommunications and broadcasting
potin
a French word which may be translated as 'gossip' or 'rumpus'
predilection
a special liking; a 'soft spot'
presbytery
the residence of a Roman Catholic priest
press
closet; cupboard
pretenders
claimants
proctors
University officials responsible for enforcing discipline amongst students
prosciuto
usually prosciutto - ham, or possibly a particular kind of dry-cured, thinly cut ham known as Parma ham (prosciutto crudo di Parma)
prurient
having an exceptional interest in sexual matters
Prussians
the people of a former European kingdom which included northern Germany and Poland
pugilist
boxer
pullulating with
teeming with; or swarming with
purser
an officer on board a ship who is responsible for financial matters and for the welfare of passengers
putative
generally supposed to be, rather than known to be with certainty
pygmies
various ethnic groups whose adult males are not more than 5 foot tall
Quartering Commandant
possibly the same as Quartermaster - a military officer responsible for the food, clothing and equipment of troops
queer fish
odd people
quintessential
a perfect example of a class or quality
R.T.O.
Rail Transport Officer
rabid
extremely enthusiastic, bordering on the fanatical
rake
libertine; immoral person (usually applied to a man)
rampart
an embankment often with a parapet built on top
ravening
predatory
recce
inspection or exploration of an area, especially with a view to obtaining military information (military slang - an abbreviation of 'reconnaissance')
rectitude
moral uprightness
red-skin
a term for a Native American Indian, now considered offensive
remittance man
a man living abroad sent money from home - a particularly common term in the days of the British Empire
Requiem
in the Roman Catholic Church, a mass for someone who has died
reveille
the sounding of a bugle or drum to wake people in a military setting
rococo
an 18th Century French style of design in art and architecture, characterised by ornateness and elegance
romanesque
a style of architecture containing both Roman and Byzantine elements, practised during the 11th and 12th Centuries
rubber
a series of games of whist or bridge - the object being for one side to win two out of three games; or three out of five
Russia-leather
a smooth leather, often dyed red, made from hides scented with birch-bark oil
sabres
swords with a curved blade
sacerdotal
relating to priests or the priesthood
sacked
expelled
Sappers
military engineers who deal with explosives
sardonic
scornful; sneering
scagliola
a substance made from glue, selenite and pigment, which is used to imitate marble or precious stones
schools
the Oxford University Examination Schools - a building located in central Oxford - or, the examinations taken in that building
sconce
a decorative wall bracket for holding a candle
scrimshankers
shirkers; loafers (military slang)
scrofulous
suffering from scrofula: a skin infection on the neck caused by tuberculosis of the lymph nodes
scupper
ruin or destroy
scuttles
small openings or hatches on the deck or the hull of a ship
secondary syphilis
the second stage of the sexually-transmitted disease, syphilis
sent down
expelled from the University
sequestered
secluded
serum
a clear yellowish fluid obtained when clotted blood is separated into its solid and liquid components
Si, si, subito, signori
Yes, yes, rightaway, gentlemen
Si, signore Plender
Yes, Mr. Plender
sibilants
consonants, such as 's', 'sh' and 'z', which are pronounced with a characteristic hissing sound
singular
remarkable
sirens
seductive women
soaking
drinking alcohol, especially in excess
sobriquet
nickname
sojourn
a temporary stay
sophistries
arguments designed to deceive
sovereign
a British gold coin valued at one pound sterling
spinney
a group of small trees or shrubs
spur
a lateral projection from a mountain or mountain range
stock-jobber
a stockbroker, especially an unscrupulous one
storm trooper
a member of the Nazi militia* (*an army composed of civilians not professional soldiers)
stoup
a basin or font containing holy water at the entrance to a church
straddled
sat with legs apart
subaltern
someone who holds a military rank just below captain
subfusc
the specific clothing, dark in colour, which is worn with formal academic dress at Oxford University
succubus
a female demon who is reputed to have sex with men whilst they are asleep
suffragan
a bishop who is appointed as an assistant to another bishop
sundered
wrenched apart
superior
head of a monastery or other religious community
talisman
a trinket or piece of jewellery believed to magically protect its wearer from harm
tanner
informal word for the old British sixpence
titanic
huge or colossal
tithe barn
a barn originally built for housing tithes (the tenth part of income or produce that was paid as a tax to the Church)
tombola
a lottery in which winning tickets are drawn from a revolving drum
tout
someone who seeks out customers in a very forward way
transept
usually the term is used for the area of a church at right-angles to the nave, but possibly may be used to mean any 'aisle' or 'passage'
Trinity
one of the Oxford colleges
triptych
three painted or carved panels hinged together
trustee stock
reliable companies in which trust funds may be legally invested
ulster
a long, loose, heavy overcoat, sometimes belted, sometimes having a cape
under-secretaryship
a post as second-in-command to a British cabinet minister
unlettered
illiterate
usurer
usually a money-lender, but may mean 'someone who does something with force'
vaporetto
a large public transport motor-boat used on the canals of Venice
venery
related to the act or sport of hunting
verisimilitude
the quality of appearing true or real
voluptary
(usually voluptuary) a person committed to luxury and sensual pleasures
wand
twig or stick
Warden
the chief official of a college
wash-leather
leather (often sheepskin) that has been treated to make it very absorbent
watered-silk
silk fabric with a wavy surface pattern
weirs
dams built across a river to raise the water level or divert the flow
Whatman H.P.
Whatman was a make of handmade paper for watercolour painting. H.P. (hot-pressed) paper is a type of paper with a smooth surface
wolfram
another name for tungsten - a hard, greyish-white metallic element
Wykhamist
(Usually written Wykehamist) a pupil or former pupil of the public school, Winchester College
Yeomanry
a volunteer cavalry force founded in the 18th Century which later became part of the Territorial Army