Dictionary of Medieval Terms for Writers

Writing can be one of the hardest tasks an author prepares for. Once the research, character development, plotting, and research have been done, you are finally able to write your novel. Unfortunately, the hard work isn’t over. And then there is the need to master of a whole new set of skills: sentence structure, prose, advanced grammar, and the correct word choice… No one said the writing portion was easy either.

Nothing can stop a writer dead in their tracks like the lack of a good word. Mid-sentence and you just can’t think of the right word to use. You start googling synonyms; before you know it you are watching cat videos on youtube. It happens to the best of us.

So next time you sit down to work on your novel, consult the Dictionary of Medieval Terms for Writers list below to make sure that you are using proper terms. Nothing screams amateur when you miss use(see what I did there?) a word, and if your readers are the grammar police, then it will be hard to please them. Besides that, you WANT to use correct wording and grammar, that just comes with the territory of a writer.

To keep you focused on your writing and away from potential cat videos, use this useful list of medieval terms that are specifically geared for fiction writers and storytellers.

Dictionary of Medieval Terms for Writers

Medieval Weapons & Armor

baselard:Thrusting sword used in Europe having a strong, short, diamond sectioned blade
bastard sword:long double edged sword which can be used single or doubled handed. Sometimes called a hand and half sword
falchion:a heavy broad-bladed sword designed for hacking blows
kettle hat:light weight, open-faced helmet, having a conical crown and wide brim
hilt:the handle or grip of a sword
fletchings:the feathers on an arrow, usually, in medieval times, glued and bound on
longbow:traditional, especially Welsh and English, bow. Usually made from a single bough of yew and usually the height of the archer plus a fistmeile
pell:a vertical pole designed for sword training. Practice at the pell. Pell-mell is derived from this word
melee:a massed combat at a tournament where individuals or groups of individuals meet together
sallet: an open faced helmet usually favoured by archers

General Medieval

Heroit:
The tribute in payment due to a lord or king upon the death fo a vassal.
Crusades:A period of time in the middle ages from the 11th to 13th centuries where a series of military actions were undertaken on behalf of the pope and religious beliefs. Knights would travel to the holy lands from the Muslims. These holy lands were once occupied by Christian forces but were taken over by Muslim forces. There were nine crusades in all.
Feudalism:

a system of life and government in Western Europe from around the ninth through fifteenth centuries. It was a system of rights and properties. And it stemmed out the lack of a strong centralized government. There were many lords, barons, kings and land owners. The feudal system defined the relationships between all these people and it covered all people from kings to the lowest of peasants. Some of the basic components of feudalism were chivalry and knighthood.
Guild:A trade association where craftsmen of the same trade ban together and establish rules of conduct, quality, education and standards. They also maintain and control pricing of crafted items. A guild will often have a set schedule for apprentices to learn and master the denoted craft.
Scutage:A tax or fee paid by wealthy sons in order to forego military service as knights.
Siege Engine:Any of a number of large war machines used to destroy the armaments and fortifications of a castle. There is a wide variety of siege engines from catapults to trebuchets, siege towers, and battering rams.
Vassal:A person who owed allegiance to someone above him in the feudal system. Knights could have many vassals that owed allegiance to them.
Vassalage:This refers to the term of the relationship between high ranking men of the ruling class. For example the relationship between two knights or a knight and his king.
Bailey:an enclosed courtyard
baldaquin:a canopy over the highest place on the top table in dining
bastion: part of the defences of a castle standing proud from the wall and giving a good field of coverage for defenders
batter:a sloping thickening at the base of a wall
kirtle:a long gown or dress
mead: alcoholic drink made from fermenting honey and water, sometime flavoured with the meadowsweet plant
inkhorn:the top of a horn used to contain ink or paint. Used mainly by wedging into a hole in the writing slope
motte:a mound of earth
moat:a ditch either dry or full of water
pickerel:small pike (fish)

Medieval Stature

Armiger:
A squire
Bard:
A singer and/or musician who sings tales of the deeds of people.
Count:In Europe it is the highest rank that can be attained by a person without having royal blood. Equal to the rank of Early and one step below Duke.
Duke:

Title for members of the royal family.
Earl:The highest rank that an english person can attain without having royal blood.
Knight:

A soldier trained in armed combat and sworn fealty to a king, lord or duke.

Minstrel:
A poet and singer who travels and entertains the aristocratic class.
Paladin:A type of knight, originally linked to Charlemagne,. Now often to be considered appropriate for any chivalrous and heroic knight.

Serf:
A semi free peasant who works for a lord by working the land and paying dues to the lord.
Sergeant:

A knight of lesser rank
Vavasseur:
A landed free man who has not attained the rank of knight
fletcher:maker of the arrow shaft including applying the feathers to the shaft
serf:a tenant who is not a freeman. The serf went with the land if ownership changed
MagsmanA swindler

S.M. Morgan
shane@toomuchtowrite.com
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