25 Jun, 2021 In Education

Forgotten English words (Part 1)

The English Language has always stood out to me as being amazingly versatile, with such a vast vocabulary, you can express a single thought in hundreds of different ways.

I recently stumbled upon a book, “Forgotten English” by Jeffrey Kacirk, and it was both the funniest and most confusing thing I had ever read in my life.

In the book, the author lists several English words that have fallen out of fashion as time progressed. So, I thought I would list some of the words that stood out to me for having such obscure or bizarre meanings.

William Shakespeare

1. Pilgarlick


This 16th-century term was used to refer to a bald head, pointing out its resemblance to peeled garlic. At the time, a bald man was also referred to as a pilgarlick, particularly if he had just been ill since it was commonly believed that hair loss was caused by pathology.

And since it was believed that hair loss was caused by diseases they also believed that it could be cured like one. One particular recipe from this time calls for; boar’s grease, ashes, juice from a white lily root, sweet almond oil and pure musk, among other things and then instructs the user how to apply this ointment in a very specific fashion.

2. Bibulous


This word originally meant “absorbent, like a sponge” but later in the seventeenth century it came to have the more figurative meaning of “addicted to alcohol”.

The word stems from the still commonly used word “bib”, which at the time was worn when drinking wine to protect one’s clothes from any stray drops that may slip down the side of the tankard.

3. Mocteroof


This term was used to describe a practice in which damaged fruit and vegetables were dressed up to make them look more appetising. This was often done using beeswax, but they also used techniques such as boiling prunes to make them appear plumper. This term originated back in the 1800s but interestingly enough this tradition is still practised today by many vendors to trick people into buying more of their produce.



4. Farcatate


A word that means to be bloated or full after consuming a large meal. This word has its root in the Latin word “farcire”, meaning to stuff. This led to many other words all across Europe such as “farci”, a French word that is still used today and refers to a spicy stuffing for meat dishes. Eliza Acton wrote about a dish she called “forcemeat” in 1845.

And later Smith writes of a recipe called “A good vomit” in his book, “The Compleat Housewife”. It seems that it was a common tradition among the English to eat to the point of sickness and then relieve themselves when the food was done. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare himself hints


“If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,  The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

5. Petty-Fogger

This old derogatory word used to describe a “lip-wise” lawyer back in the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

When paid these attorneys were willing to quarrel over insignificant legal points or use unethical practices to win a case.

Stay tuned for more vintage vocabulary in Part 2!