arsenic
a highly poisonous metallic element (symbol As), most commonly found in a grey crystalline form. It is used in weed-killers, alloys and doping agents
bangs
American term for the British word 'fringe' (a woman's hairstyle)
beeswax
a hard, natural wax produced by bees in the making of honey, used in food preparation, cosmetics, candles, polish and more
behemoth
a giant being, from a reference in the Old Testament (Job 40:15) to a huge animal that was probably a hippopotamus
blue-stocking
a woman with strong scholarly or literary interests, often used in a disparaging manner
bombazine
a fine twilled fabric of silk and worsted or cotton; when dyed black it was often used for mourning clothes
cameo
a decorative medallion on which a picture is carved in relief, with the two layers usually of contrasting colours
celeritous
quick, speedy; from the French 'célérité', meaning 'speed'
chaise-longue
a reclining chair with a long seat to support outstretched legs, originated in France
chatelaine
the mistress of a castle or large household, from French
chemise
a simple smock, worn as an undergarment
chère/chérie
French word for 'dear' (masculine/feminine)
chiffon
a very light, almost transparent fabric of silk or rayon
coal scuttle
a large bucket-shaped container for coal, shaped to allow the coal to be poured onto the fire
cochineal
a vivid red colour; the dye is made from the dried bodies of female cochineal insects found in South America and Mexico
cockle
a fresh- or saltwater mollusc consisting of a soft body inside a heart-shaped or rounded shell
coiffure
hairstyle, from French
courtesan
a female prostitue whose clients are of the upper classes or from the court
coz
short for 'cousin'
dowry
the goods, money or estate settled upon a groom by the bride's family at the time of a marriage; sometimes seen as an early form of inheritance for the bride. The custom died out in England after the nineteenth century but is still practised commonly in Asian countries
école
French word for 'school'
emetic
a medicinal agent which causes vomiting
folderol
trifle; foolishness, nonsense
footman
a male servant, originally employed to run alongside a carriage and prevent it from being turned over, but commonly assigned a variety of household tasks including serving meals and answering the door
guinea
a gold British coin, taken out of circulation in 1813. It was worth one pound and one shilling; in 1840 this had an equivalent spending worth today of £46.31
ha'penny
a small coin used in the old British money system, worth half a penny
hansom cab
a two-wheeled, covered, horse-drawn carriage for two people, with the drivers' seat above and behind the passengers. Patented in 1834, it was a quick and popular form of transport - the original taxi cab
hod
a trough carried over the shoulder for transporting heavy loads; another word for a coal scuttle
institutrice
a female teacher
ipecacuanha
a medicinal preparation made from the roots and leaves of the Cephaelis ipecacuanha, a tropical American shrub. It induces vomiting and was used as a remedy in cases of overdoses or poisoning
La Bête
French for 'beast'
La Stupide
French for 'stupid' (woman)
laudanum
a bitter herbal drug prepared with opium, with strong narcotic purposes. Widely available in the 19th century, its prescription is now strictly controlled
maquillage
French word for 'cosmetics'. Make-up was frowned up in Victorian times - Queen Victoria dismissed it and the emphasis was on women looking natural. Make-up was regarded as being used only by actresses, prostitutes and women of poor manners breeding
mercenary
someone who works (usually illegally) entirely for financial gain - in many cases it has the sinister connotation of an assassin
milliner
a person who makes and sells women's hats
pensée
thought or reflection, from French
place of resort
a public place; place of leisure or entertainment
pomade
perfumed oil or ointment smoothed onto the hair to achieve a shiny effect
poule de luxe
French for an expensive, high-class prostitute
probosces
the long, slender, tubular mouth organ of some insects such as butterflies, used for piercing and sucking food
pupil-teacher
a student teacher: a student or recent graduate teaching under the supervision of a certified teacher
rapier
a light, straight sword with a narrow two-edged blade, popular in the 16th and 17th centuries
rheumy
wet, damp; excreting watery discharge from the eyes or nose
rock cake
a small cake containing fruit and spices. The name comes from its rough surface which resembles a rock, as opposed to the common myth that it is hard to bite into!
salver
a tray, usually of silver, used for presenting drinks, food, calling cards etc.
sedan chair
an enclosed chair for one person, carried on poles by two servants, common in the 17th and 18th centuries
shilling
a coin used in the old British money system; it was worth twelve pennies, and twenty shillings made up a pound. In 1840, a shilling would have been worth £2.21 of today's money
slipper
a woman's delicate dancing or evening shoe (now almost exclusively used to mean a light shoe worn around the house)
suet
hard fat found around the kidneys and loins in sheep and cows, used for cooking