abnegates
denies oneself something, renounces a pleasure
Aladdin's lamp
In the Arabian Nights, a lamp which, when rubbed, releases a genie with the power to grant the finder three wishes
Amazon queen
the Amazons were a warrior race in South America, famous for cutting off one breast in order to shoot arrows with more freedom
apotheosis
the action of becoming divine, or credited with godlike powers and status
Argyrol
an antiseptic, rare today, but once used to treat gonorrhea and gonorrheal blindness in newborn children
assegai
an African weapon similar to a light spear or javelin
august
or Auguste - a colourful, clumsy clown, usually playing opposite a straightman in whiteface
baba au rhum
or rum baba, a small, rich, cylindrical yeast cake saturated in rum
baboushka
Russian for 'grandmother'
ballock
testicle
billycock hat
a felt hat with a low, rounded crown, similar to a bowler or derby
bipartite
having two parts or elements, which may or may not refer to sexual organs as in an hermaphrodite
bipedal
two-legged
Bokhara carpet
a brightly patterned, hand woven carpet from central Asia
bolas
throwing weapons used to capture animals by entangling their legs
bonhomerie
exuberant friendliness
boric acid
a weak acid used as antiseptic and insecticide
borsht
beetroot soup, popular in Russia and Eastern Europe
Brobdingnagian
of colossal size; from the giants of the land of Brobdingnag in Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' (1726)
Burke's Peerage
founded in 1826, a definitive guide to the royal, aristocratic and historical families of Great Britain, Ireland and the USA
c'est vachement chouette, ca
in French idiom, translated as 'that's great' or more recently, 'that's really cool'
cabalistic
having a secret or hidden meaning
caballero
Spanish for gentleman, or knight
cache-sexe
a g-string, or other small garment covering the genitals
caparisoned
in richly ornamented clothes or harness
capripede
having the legs of a goat
caryatids
a sculpted figure supporting a frame or buttress
caveat emptor
Latin; 'let the buyer beware'
censer
a metal vessel hung from a chain, used for burning incense
cerements
a burial garment, the cloth in which a corpse is wrapped
chalcedony
a semi-translucent, brownish crystal formed from quartz and moganite
Chateau d'Yquem
a sweet white Bordeaux wine, considered one of the best of its class
Cheshire cat
A character in Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', which can disappear leaving only a wide grin behind
Chinese boxes
a series of boxes, each fitting inside the next
cimex lectularius
the most common type of bedbug
circumlocution
talking around a subject, using an unnecessary number of words
Cirque d'Hiver
The Winter Circus, an indoor arena opened in Paris in 1852
cognomen
nickname; originally the third element of the Roman naming system
cold cream
an oil based cream used for removing makeup and, more recently, to relieve sunburn
cornucopia
a horn of plenty; originally a goat's horn overflowing with food and flowers, now sometimes meaning a great and varied quantity
costermonger
a pedlar selling fruit and vegetables from a barrow
crepitating
making a crackling sound
Croesus
Greek king of Lydia (595-547 BC) known for his wealth and for issuing the first gold coins
cyclorama
a panoramic landscape pieced together from multiple images, used for film backdrops to suggest distance
Darby and Joan
traditionally in Britain, a devoted old married couple living an uneventful life
deshabille
undress (French)
droshky
a low, horse drawn Russian carriage on two or four wheels
eclat
pomp, ceremony and splendour
efflorescence
flowering; rash on the skin; salts deposited from minerals as water is removed
elixum vitae
water of life
empyrean
of or relating to the sky or heavens
enfilades
a linear arrangement of rooms, or a line of sweeping gunfire; here, trees lined up in a regimental line
ensorcellating
enchanting; fascinating
erberus
deep darkness or shadow - from the Greek god Erebus, son of Chaos, a part of the underworld
exigent
demanding immediate attention
exiguously
meagrely, scantily
fards
cosmetics; face paints
farthing dip
a cheap candle
febrile
feverish
fructifying
bearing fruit; the Fructifying disc is the sun
fugue
in music, the sound of multiple voices or instruments in counterpoint
Fujiyama
Mount Fuji, near Tokyo in Japan
gemutlich
cosy and peaceful, adopted from the German by Queen Victoria
goffer
to apply hot irons to a lace frill in order to crimp or flute it
gonococci
bacteria responsible for the transmission of gonorrhea
grig
an expression from Middle English for a lively person, but also for a dwarf
gull
gullible, someone to be taken advantage of
gutta-percha
the gutta-percha is a type of tree, growing around Malaysia and Taiwan, whose sap produces a natural latex used for glue
icumen
coming; from a Middle English song, 'Summer is icumen in'
Illustrated London News
the world's first illustrated weekly newspaper, printed from 1842 to 2003
imprecations
curses, usually calling down misfortune on another individual
inimical
unfriendly or hostile
Irkutsk
one of the largest cities in Siberia, 3200 miles from Moscow
Isfahan runner
a Persian carpet with elaborate designs, used to run the length of a hallway or staircase
Ishmael
narrator of Herman Melville's 'Moby Dick' (1851)
Jonah
a Biblical character swallowed by a whale, in whose belly he repents of his sins and is saved by God after three nights
julep
a cocktail from the southern states of the USA, made from mint, bourbon, sugar and water
Kali
the Hindu goddess associated with eternal energy, time and change. Kali means 'the black one' and she can be potrayed as dark and dangerous.
kiss me, Hardy
the final words of Admiral Horatio Nelson
Kropotkin
a Russian communist leader and anarchist (1842-1921)
kvass
a low alcohol Russian beer brewed from rye bread, still sold in the streets in Russia and Eastern Europe
Kyrie
the first prayer in the sung mass, usually set in a Gregorian style
Land of the Dragonfly
Japan, chiefly Yamato province
Land of the Rising Sun
Japan
layette
clothing for a newborn child
lingam
a phallic symbol, particularly when worshipped in connection with the Hindu god Shiva
Longius
(or Longinus) - the Roman soldier who pierced Christ's side with a spear during the Crucifixion. Longius is not identified in the Bible but has been sainted for his later recognition of Christ as the Son of God
Lot's wife
in Genesis, in the Old Testament, Lot's wife is turned to a pillar of salt when she turns back to see the destruction of Sodom
lugubrious
excessively mounful, gloomy or melancholic
lusus naturae
a markedly unusual or deformed person or animal; a freak
macedonia of fruit
a mixed fruit salad, often served with ice cream in Europe and Latin America
Madonna of Misericordia
a 15th century painting by Piero della Francesca, showing Christians kneeling beneath the cloak of an angelic Mary
Man Friday
native of a remote island, who befriends the shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe in Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel
marmoreal
resembling marble, or a marble statue
meretricious
of or relating to prostitution
Montgolfier
a hot air balloon; the Montgolfier brothers achieved the first ascent by balloon in 1783
naphtha
a flammable liquid used in cigarette lighters and for stage effects, such as fire juggling
neophyte
a beginner or novice
Novgorod
a major Russian city, between Moscow and St Petersburg
obeisance
deference, respect
obfuscation
the concealment of meaning in communication
Old Grandad
Bourbon whiskey from Kentucky, USA, produced since 1840
oracular
of or relating to an oracle or prophecy
orizens
or orisons, prayer
orts
worthless leftovers, particularly of food
oviparous
egg laying
papirosse
a filterless cigarette with high tar content, the only type available in Russia until the mid twentieth century. Plural: papirossi
parure
a set of matching items of jewellery
patronymic
part of a name derived from the name of one's father, used in common address in Russia; ie Alexandrovna, daughter of Alexander
pediment
a triangular section of roof above a doorway, usually supported by columns
penumbra
the shaded fringes of shadow
perruque
a wig of hair, worn by men in the 17th-18th centuries; a periwig
phalloi
an erect penis, or a symbol of the same
picaresque
involving or pertaining to a roguish hero or adventurer living by his/her wits, particularly associated with Spanish satiric novels
piroshkis
bread buns stuffed with fruit, meat or vegetable filling; literally, 'small pie' in Russian
plebiscite
a vote to determine public opinion; a referendum
poke bonnet
a large bonnet with a stiff, hood-like rim to shade the face, fashionable in the early 19th century
Pollyanna
young heroine of the 1913 novel by Eleanor H Porter, whose 'Glad Game' allows her to see the best in all situations
polyvalent
reacting with, or counteracting, multiple substances, although in this case ideas; a chemical term originally relating to atomic or chemical reactions
post-diluvian
occurring since the Biblical Flood
pre-Adamite world
the world before the creation of mankind, empty of all life
preternatural
surpassing natural limits
priapic
Priapus was the Greek and Latin god of male genitalia, known for his huge, permanent erection
prolegomena
(plural) beginning sections, outlining the purpose and content of what is to come; prologue
Prospero
exiled sorceror and rightful Duke of Milan, protagonist of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'
putative
generally believed to be true
Queenstown Road
a main road running through Battersea in South London
raki
an aniseed flavoured spirit from the Balkans
rara avis
strange bird (Latin)
revenant
a ghost or animated corpse, returned from the grave
ringbark
shavings of bark from a tree, here used as flooring for the circus ring
roustabout
a labourer performing temporary, unskilled work, especially in the travelling circus or on oil rigs
rude mechanicals
the team of labourers who perform a ridiculously over-dramatic play, including a bergomask, at the end of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
Scheherezade
narrator of 'The 1001 Nights', who prevents her own murder by telling fantastic stories
Shanks's pony
on foot; deriving from the word shank for the part of the leg now called the shin
simulacra
an image or representation without real substance
spigot
tap or valve for releasing liquid
susurrating
whispering, making indistinct noises
Svengali
one who manipulates others with evil intent; from George du Maurier's novel 'Trilby' (1894)
syllogism
a logical argument, in which one deduction is inferred from the combination of two others
tableaux vivants
living pictures
taiga
or boreal forest - broad, coniferous forest covering much of Siberia, Canada and Alaska
tatterdemalion
tattered, worn to shreds
Ten-in-Ones
A variety act taking place in a tent, in which audiences saw ten acts for a single admission price (USA)
The Lancet
a leading international medical journal, published in London since 1823
toppers
top hats
tritonic
using a musical scale with three notes per octave
troika
a sled or carriage drawn by three horses, once common in Russia
uroboric
self-devouring
uvula
a projection of skin in the back of the mouth, crucial to articulating speech
Variety
Major magazine of the entertainment industry, first published in 1905
verisimilitude
the appearance of truth
vestigial
not fully developed or having lost its original function through evolution
vitrification
glazing; making glassy
Wagnerian
grand, emotional and dramatic, as are the operatic works of Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
waters of Babylon
quote from Psalm 137, often adopted for popular music and culture, telling of Jews exiled to Babylon
Worth (black by)
fashion house started in Paris by Charles Frederick Worth in 1871
Yahoo
a coarse human serving the Houyhnhnms, intelligent horses from Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' (1726)