Want to know the meaning of some of those colorful quirky Regency words? Would you like a Regency Vocabulary list? Is the Gentleman’s Cant a conundrum?

You mustn’t get overset. The old Regency lingo can get a bit topsy-turvey. Look here, I’ve made a handy Regency glossary for you. And if there’s a word stumping you that isn’t on our list please drop me an email and I’ll add it post haste. Meanwhile, may you have a lovely day, and enjoy hours of pleasant reading.

Check out Kathleen’s printable Regency glossary.  Click here and a pdf will open up

Or… check out this table:


Word or Phrase



Addle-pated Not right in the head, mentally deficient
apoplexy to suffer a stroke
arse ass
balderdash lies or nonsense
Balmy insane, or deluded, not quite right in the head. (See daft)
Banbury Tale A childish tale or fib. Banbury is drawn from a nursery rhyme of that name, and/or the fact that Banbury, England was where many fairy tales were published. Both hold the connotation that ‘the tale‘ is an innocent but unbelievable story told to avoid the truth. Most etymologists agree that Georgette Heyer coined this phrase. So, while it is not an authentic Regency phrase it was eagerly adopted as part of the accepted Regency vernacular.
Beau Monde French for ‘the beautiful people.’ The elite members of London’s high society. (See also Ton)
blackguard a villain, a black-hearted fellow.
bombazine a twill-woven black silk, often used for mourning clothes. Because it is stiffer it rustles more than regular silk,  creases and wrinkles easily.
“the sticking point” generally used to describe a young man  brought to the point where he is either willing or forced to propose marriage, or enter into some other agreement with some reluctance.
cabriolet a small two wheeled carriage, usually for hire. The forerunner of today’s word for a cab.
chit a pert young woman. May have originated from kitten.
Corsican Someone from Corsica. For instance, Napoleon was actually Corsican rather than French.
Corinthian A man of low morals; gambler, womanizer, but usually a fashionable high society gentleman
cudgel A short club. Footpads and robbers use a cudgel to hit people over the head.
daft stupid
folderol nonsense
foolscap a common type of writing paper
foxed drunk
frogs (clothing frog) a military type epaulet
fustian pompous or highly affected speech or mannerisms. An expression sometimes used to scoff at what another person is saying.
greatcoat a long heavy manly looking gentleman’s overcoat, very popular during the Regency. Think Matrix.
gammon to tell a fib in order to trick or tease someone.
high alt Very happy or excited. (see up in the boughs)
jibe – gibe (jībe) a tease, a barb, or a dig at someone’s expense. Gibe is the more commonly used form of the two words. Jibe is a variant, not to be confused with jib, which is a type of sail.
laudanum liquid opium used for dulling pain, very addictive.
Leech doctor, a general practitioner, called a leech because of the common practice of applying leeches. (see also Sawbones)
Lightskirt A woman of low moral character.
macadam tar and stone pavement for roads
mad crazy, insane
missish to behave girlishly, or to be squeamish or prim
missive A letter
muddle in the middle of a rather sticky problem
Mullioned glass small panes of glass divided by strips of either metal or wood. Old mullioned glass will often have a slightly lumpy characteristic because glass is actually a super thick liquid, not a solid. Over time (centuries), the glass slowly drips and is no longer smooth.
nightrail night gown, also called a bed dress, and it really was a dress, long sleeve high collar, ruffle along the bottom.
ninny or ninnyhammer derogatory term calling someone stupid or slow. Although often said with affection much as the terms , silly, dumdum, or dummy might be used now. (see also slowtop.)
Oak Galls A growth on oak trees generally caused by insects. Galls have been used to produce ink since the Romans.

Photo of a gall taken in Winchester UK by Bob Embleton, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Old Bailey The central criminal court of England and Wales. You can learn more and read actual court cases here:
overset upset, distraught, crying
patten a heavy wooden clog worn for work in the garden or to walk through mud.
pelisse An outer garment worn for warmth but often decorative as well.

Sleeves may be short or long, garment is buttoned or tied in the front, generally, the skirt extends full length to three quarters length.

Portmanteau a large two-sided trunk or suitcase
Prince Regent A Prince who rules in place of an incapacitated father. In this case Prince George IV rules because his father, George III, had a debilitating mentally illness.
puffed off when a young lady is married off, much to her mama’s delight.
quizzing glass a single lens spectacle with a short ornate handle generally worn on a ribbon or chain around the neck
ratafia A macerated fruit punch liqueur, flavored with almond extract. Sometimes a touch of brandy is added.
Regency The years 1811-1820 when Prince George ruled as Regent during his father, King George’s, mental illness.
River Tick To be deeply in dept. In the old days credit was drawn on a ticket—hence the shortened word ‘tick.’
Roly-poly A very old word based on two origins: 1. Biscuit dough spread with jam.  2. rowle powle, a worthless fellow. This term originates from a 16th century rolling ball game
Sawbones surgeon or doctor, originally meant army surgeon so often called upon to saw off bones. As soldiers returned home, usage enlarged to include all doctors. (See also Leech)
scratching on the door This was the common practice instead of knocking.
shilly-shallying indecisive, hesitating, taking too long to take action.
Slowtop Derogatory term meaning someone is stupid or slow-witted. (see also ninny.)
Stick/stuck his spoon in the wall Died. “Poor fellow, got a chill and stuck his spoon in the wall.” Poor fellow passed away.
Sticking point To bring a gentleman ‘up to scratch’, or ‘to the sticking point’ was to get him to propose.
(as in applied to one’s backside)
A switch is a slender flexible branch used to deliver a spanking, often a willow branch, stick or rod, used for giving a whipping. The law declared it legal for a man to beat his wife so long as the ‘rod’ was not bigger than his thumb. Hence the phrase ‘rule of thumb‘.
Thomas Coke Thomas William Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (6 May 1754 – 30 June 1842) known for many things, but his brilliant innovations in agriculture are mentioned in my books.
Ton Short for ‘the upper ten thousand.’ The elite members of London’s high society. (See also Beau Monde)
too high in the instep someone who is very proud, or haughty. Snobbish.
Topsy-turvy utter confusion, upside down. Derived from the obsolete 1528 English word terve to turn upside
up in the boughs “Emotions flying as high as the treetops” Excessively emotional due to being upset or overly elated. (see also high alt)
up the River Tick Bound for debtor’s prison. “So poor one does not even have a mattress with which to float up the river tick.” Speculative origins: some believe debtor’s notes were called tickets – shortened to tick, meaning a river of debt.
Window Tax During the Regency every window was taxed.