Monday, November 30, 2015

Word of the Month: Lit

The recent windy Welsh weather has certainly made staying in bed an attractive proposition this week! That got us wondering about what the Anglo-Norman Dictionary could tell us about where people slept in the Middle Ages. Beds and bedding aren’t normally things that are described in the types of sources the AND used – there's never much discussion of home furnishings in literary texts or in administrative documents. Two other types of texts do provide some clues about medieval beds: inventories and wills. These tend to be related to wealthy individuals, so the goods described certainly wouldn’t be typical for the average medieval person. They do provide an interesting glimpse at how the 1% of the population furnished their bedrooms during this period!

Talbot Shrewsbury Book

The bedroom was known as the chambre, from whence we get the Modern English chamber, though you can occasionally find the word closet used in Anglo-Norman (and in Middle English) to refer to a private room:

tapitz pour la chambre, cuissiens, closet, oreillers Test Ebor i 229[1]
[carpets for the bedchamber, cushions, closet, pillows]

This room seems quite luxurious, with cuissiens, a variant spelling of cussin. As we have noted in that entry, this word derives from the Latin word coxa, which meant ‘hip’, suggesting that these cushions were originally meant to support the hips or upper thighs.  By the medieval period, cussin was used to refer to any type of bed-pillow or bolster. This word was then borrowed into Middle English by 1361 where it would take the form cushion.

If you wanted to rest your head rather than your hips, you’d be looking for an oreillier, which is literally a place for your ears (oreille). This term would become synonymous with cussin, referring to any sort of cushion or bolster. It would also develop a heraldic sense, which would be borrowed into English as oreille meaning ‘a representaiton of a pillow or cushion used as a heraldic charge’. Pillow, the most commonly used term in English for a place to lay your head, derives from Old English. We were apparently very attached to our traditional sleeping patterns!

On top of our mattress, a term derived from the Anglo-Norman materas, which was likely filled with litere‘straw for bedding’, we would find our bed linen, which was normally referred to as draps, a generic term for fabric which, in the plural, often referred to sheets on a bed. These were clearly valuable items as one poor student, writing home to his parents, confessed that:

j’ay mys en gage lez draps de mon lyt  SAMPS1 402
(I put in pledge (gave as security) the sheets from my bed.)

I’m not sure you could get a payday loan with your bedsheets nowadays.

BL MS Royal 20.C.III

The assortment of sheets and cushions for a bed were referred to as apparail from which we have the modern equivalent of apparel. One can also find it referred to as aurnement which might be more familiar to English speakers as adornament:

.i. tent bede de drap de baudekyn d’or, fait pour le gesyne de la royne, ovec .ij. panes d’escharlet, furrez dez ermyns, ovec tout l’aparaille Rot Parl  iv 229
[1 ‘tentbed’[2] of baudequin of cloth of gold, made for the queen’s lying-in with two covers of scarlet furred with ermine, with all of the fittings]

Essential on these windy days, the bedframe could be surrounded by cortines, known in English as curtains. On top of the bed would be a canopy (celure or canopé).

un grant lit […] avec le celure entiere, curtyns, quissyns, traversin, tapitz, de tapiterie (l. tapicerie) , et tout entierment l’autre apparaille Black Prince 230
[a great bed, with the entire canopy, curtains, cushions, traversin (??), carpets tapestries and the entirety of the other fittings]

les curtins del taffata blank Test Ebor i 231
[the white taffeta curtains]

BL MS Harley 4431

The fabric of the bedcovers and curtains could be quite luxurious and striking:

mon graunt lit de camaca escheicé blank et rouge Test Ebor i 230
[my large bed of camaca (a silk fabric) chequered white and red]

mon grant lit de noir velvet embroudé d’un compasse de ferrures et gratiers Test Ebor i 229
[my large bed of black velvet embroidered with a circular image of fetterlock and gratings]

un coverture d’ermyn  […] ovecque la coverchief de la suyte ensemble Test Ebor i 230
[a bedcover of ermine [...] with the coverlet of the suite included]

mon grant lit de drap d'or, de champ piers poudrés des roses d'or mises sur pipes d'or Test Ebor i 227
[my large bed of cloth of gold, with a blue background powdered with gold roses place on gold piping]

Pour une chambre de drap d’or lozengee des armes de France, d’Angleterre et de Brebant, c’est assavoir coute pointe, chevetier, ciel, 8 quarreaux et 8 pecis(l. petis) tappis Isabella Inventory 520
[For a bedchamber of cloth of gold with lozenges containing the arms of France, England and Brabant, that is counterpane, trappings for the bed-head, 8 square cushions and 8 small carpets]

The most essential of all furnishings, especially with winter on the way, must be the chaufelit or bedwarmer! Keep warm!

[1] This citation is taken from the collection of wills from Yorkshire published in three volumes by the Surtees Society, known as Testamenta Eboracensia. The first of these volumes can be consulted on the AND website at .
[2] Likely refers to the canopy of the bed having a pitched rather than a flat roof.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Word of the Month: Horsemanship - The Anglo-Norman Horse (part 2)

(Tristan and Yseult in Roman du Chevalier by Gassien de Poitiers, 15th Century) 

Tristran i fet Ysod mener <1140>
E par la raigne la senestre.
Caerdins li chevauche a destre
E vount d’envoisures plaidant;
As paroles entendent tant
Qu’il laissent lor chevaus turner <1145>
Cele part qu’il volent aler.
Cel a Caerdin se desraie
E l’Ysodt contre lui s’arbroie.
Ele le fiert des esperons
Li palefrois avant s’enpaint <1155>
E il escrille a l’abaiser
En un petit croser evier - Trist 1140-56

(Tristran took Yseut along with him, Holding her rein as he rode on her left. Katherdin rode on her right, And they told amusing tales as they went along. Such was their conversation That they let their horses roam where they would. Katherdin’s mount wandered across And Yseut’s reared up against it. She pricked it with her spurs [...] Her palfrey plunged forward, And, as it touched the ground, it slid into a water-hole - translation by S. Gregory)

This instance of blundering horse-riding in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman romance of Tristan and Yseut causes an uncontrollable fit of laughter in Yseut, who, to the horror of her brother Katherdin, jokes about the splashing water touching her in places that Tristran hadn’t tried to reach yet ‘Ceste aigue, que ci esclata, Sor mes cuisses main d’ome ne fist, Ne que Tristran onques me quist’ (ll. 1193-96). The fragment of text breaks off here, and any possible riposte by Tristran, a paragon of chivalry and fin amour, remains unrecorded.

For last July’s word of the month I started to look into the Anglo-Norman terminology of horses and horse-riding. The subject matter turned out to be such a prolific one that I had to restrict my overview to only the very general vocabulary for 'horse' (cheval, horse, estalon, stot, ive, jument, poutrel, pulain, hakeney, palefrei, sambuer etc.) and 'horse-riding (chevalcher); see here.  

(The Luttrell Psalter, BL Add. 42130, f.41r, 1325-40)

For this month’s blog, I’d like to return to the equine world, and have a look at some of the Anglo-Norman terminology on the subject of horse-riding. And the rather amusing passage cited above brings together a fine group of words relevant for the purpose.

Firstly, there's the verb chevaucher/chevalcher (line 1142): 'to ride a horse'. As discussed in the previous blogpost, this is a verbal derivation of the noun cheval, with the -auch/-alch part a reflex of the Latin etymon caballicare (FEW 2,6a). The term (literally 'to horse') is omnipresent in Anglo-Norman, as it is in Continental French, but, consistent with the noun cheval, was never borrowed in English (except for some rare late-medieval derivatives chivauchier for 'horse-rider', and chevachee for 'an expedition on horseback')[1]. The AND currently offers only two synonymous verbs, with chevaler2 (a rare and even more direct verbal derivation of the noun) and guier (a general term for 'to guide, steer, direct'[2]).

(Chroniques Jean Froissart Gallica, BN Français 2643 (detail), 15th century)

Yseut and her company ride in relaxed conversation, on horses that were probably amblant ('walking, ambling' from Latin ambulare[3] - one of the few words discussed in this post that were also used with the same sense in English[4]). Another verb used for the same type of relaxed riding is hobeler2, from an intensive form the Germanic root hobben ('to bounce', FEW 16,215a). The word is also attested in Middle English as hobelen ('to rock') but, apparently, without the equine sense.

'[...] Li destrers[5] neir ke il sist desure [...]; Par la plaine vait hobelant Vers la cité'  ˗ Ipom BFR 9322
([...] The black charger on which he sits [...] He rides, ambling over the plain, towards the city)

For a trotting horse, moving slightly faster (although the verb covers a range of speeds), Anglo-Norman uses the verbs troter (from a Germanic etymon *trotton, 'to run'[6], appearing in English from the second half of the fourteenth century) and ungler (a word previously discussed on this blog here).

'Busuin fait vielle trother' - Prov Serl2 4.32.
(Necessity makes an old horse trot)

An even faster gait would have been galoper (also from a Germanic root: possibly the compound *wala hlaupan, 'to jump well'[7]), or coure1 ('to run', from Latin currere[8]) les galops. Anglo-Norman has a number of expressions (les grans galops, les menus galops, les petits galops), which must have indicated different types running (including a canter and a trot), but which did not persist in English (where the word gallop itself wasn't attested before the sixteenth century).

'Les galops vient avant sur son cheval flory' - Rom Chev ANTS 1961
(He advanced at a gallop on his glorious horse)

(BN, Français 343, Queste del Saint Graal, f. 49v, c.1385)

When Yseut loses control of her horse, she pricks it with her spurs, and the phrase used is ferir des esperons (l.1149): literally, 'to strike' (ferir1) with 'spurs' (esporon)[9]. Anglo-Norman has a generous number of cognate periphrastic expressions for this particular action, using a variety of verbs that must have expressed the different levels of force applied: hurter des esporons (with the verb hurter related to modern English to hurt, but only in its original sense of 'to strike');[10] somewhat more softly in tucher des esporons ('to touch'); but more vigorously again in brocher as esporons (brocher, 'to prick, prod'); more painfully perhaps with  ficher des esporons (ficher, 'to fix, fasten', but also 'to drive in, pierce'), and poindre des esporons (poindre, 'to prick, sting'); and almost viciously in arguer des esporons (arguer, 'to oppress, afflict' and related to Modern English to argue). Once more, almost none of these verbs, even though most of them moved into the English language ('to hurt', 'to touch', 'to fix', archaic 'to poin', 'to argue')[11], were ever used in the same equine context.[12]

The noun esporon, also produced a direct verbal form esporoner2: 'lur chevals espurunent', FANT OUP 316. And the aforementioned verbs poindre ('to prick, sting')[13] and brocher ('to prick, prod')[14] were also used non-periphrastically:

'Ipomedon venir le veit, Vers lui point le cheval tut dreit' ˗ Ipom BFR 6190
(Ipomedon saw him coming, and spurred his horse straight towards him)

'Abessent les espiés e brochent les brandis[15]' ˗ Rom Chev ANTS 7416
(They lower their swords and spur their spirited horses)

Furthermore, poindre's present participle form, poignant, used as an adjective acquired the specific sense of 'at a gallop' or 'hastily':

'Mes les Alemans venent donc poynant' ˗ Boeve 2337
(But the Germans then arrived at a gallop)

(BL, Stowe 17, detail of f. 153v, ‘The Maastricht Hours’, 1st quarter of the 14th century)

Not surprisingly, the adjective poignant also developed a range of figurative uses in Anglo-Norman (e.g. 'par dures et poignantes penancez' Sz Med 107.19)[16], and it is mainly as such that the word gets borrowed in Middle English (MED poinaunt, '(of a sauce) piquant' and 'of a state of feeling) distressing'; and OED poignant, 'arousing or expressing deep emotion', first attested at the end of the fourteenth century in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). The horse-related sense is not attested in English.

Lastly, Anglo-Norman also uses the less common verb cuiter ('to urge, compel')[17] to refer to the spurring of a horse:

Sun chasceor[18] a tant cuté Que sanglant en sunt li costé ˗ Waldef BB 6655
(He has spurred his hunting horse until its sides were bloody)

together with the expression using the cognate noun, a cuite d'esporon ('with urging by the spurs, spurring hard', sub cuite):

'Le messager […] vint a Hamtone a coste de esperun' ˗ Boeve 109
(The messenger arrives at Hampton at a gallop)

In the case of Yseut, she spurs her palefrei (line 1154, cf. previous WoM) when it is rearing its legs (line 1148, s'arbrer - a verb derived from arbor, 'tree', drawing an effective analogy with the branch-like shapes of the horse's kicking legs).[19] The horse becomes entirely uncontrollable (line 1148, se desreier),[20] and the result is that the animal rushes forwards (line 1154, s'empeindre avant), slips and splashes into a ditch. Yseult takes the involuntary shower of water lightly, but the mareschal or garçun back at the estable may have been less impressed with the state of the horse, eschif and without deboneireté, having to torcher the wet skin with their strile, and taking off the mud-splattered huce, sele, lormerie and panelloun. But the discussion of these words will have to wait for another time.


[1]  Earliest attestations for these uncommon words are 1420 and c.1380 respectively.
[2]  Just like English guide v. from Germanic *witan (FEW 17,600b).
[3]  FEW 24,425a.
[4]  Cf. OED amble v.: 'Of a horse, mule, etc.: To move by lifting the two feet on one side together, alternately with the two feet on the other; hence, to move at a smooth or easy pace', first attested in Chaucer.
[5]  See AND destrer1.
[6]  FEW 17,371b.
[7]  FEW 17,484a.
[8]  FEW 2,1565b.
[9]  The noun esporon comes from the Germanic word for the same object: *sporo (FEW 17,185b).
[10] The etymology of Anglo-Norman hurter remains unclear, and the FEW's proposed Frankish origin (*hurt-, FEW 16,271b) was already questioned by the OED in 1899. The DEAF prefers the reconstruction of *urgitare, an intensive form of urgere ('to push') as an etymon, but is by no means convinced (hurter, H732).
[11]  The verb ferir1 (from Latin ferire, FEW 3,465b), though particularly common in Anglo-Norman, has no equivalent in English.
[12]  The only exception is brocher, with its Middle English counterpart brochen also used to refer to the action of spurring horses (as well as, among other things, putting meat on a skewer or tapping a barrel).
[13]  From Latin pungere (FEW 9,597a).
[14]  From Latin broccus (FEW 1,547b).
[15]  The word 'brandif' is considered a spelling variant of braidif, defined in the AND as 'spirited horse'.
[16]  The AND entry poindre is currently under revision, together with the rest of the P-entries. The second edition of this part of the AND is planned to be published online towards the end of 2016.
[17]  From the reconstructed Latin verb *coctare (FEW 2,830b).
[18]  A type of horse, cf. chaceur. The term for 'hunter' was used not only with reference to a 'hunting horse', but also as a gloss for the Latin word for 'ambler, trotter'.
[19] FEW 25,89b and DMF arbroyer ('to plant or decorate with trees'). Anglo-Norman also has the synonyms brandir ('to brandish') and once again ferir1 ('to kick') for a horse bucking or rearing.
[20]  FEW *arredare 1,144b.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Word of the Month: Predire

Do you ever wish you had a way to see into the future, to see how events might play out? The editors at the AND would certainly love to have this ability! As evidenced by a numerous medieval writings, the desire to predict or foretell the future, or predire in Anglo-Norman, has been a longstanding wish of many.

Two of the most recent additions to the Dictionary library are Tony Hunt’s Writing the Future: Prognostics Text of Medieval England (Textes littéraires du Moyen Âge 24, Paris, 2013) and Stefano Rapisarda’s Manuali medievali di chiromanzia (Biblioteca Medievale 95, Rome, 2005). Both of these books contain editions of Anglo-Norman texts which could be used to tell the future – texts to interpret the lines on hands, the meaning of dreams, the zodiac, the moon, the stars...[1]

Palmistry, BL Additional 11639, f. 115
Lunarie, a term attested in another prognostic text edited by T. Hunt[2], refers to a ‘lunary’, a text that provides a collection of predictions based on the day of the lunar month. These lunaries provide a wide range of very practical predictions, including the best time for blood-letting, the fates of children born on that day, the medical prognosis for those that are sick and general statements about the day.

The full moon falls on the 27th this month, and the lunary in Oxford, Bodl. Libr. Ashmole 342 provides this prediction for the first moon:

La prime lune est bone a comencer totes choses, vendre ou achater. Ki enmaladira, ben eschapera e garra. L’enfant ke nestra serra de grant age. Le soynge turnera a grant joye. Bon seigner fet de veyne. Future 68

[The first moon is good for beginning all things, selling or buying. Those who will fall ill, will escape and recover. The child who is born will live to a great age. Worry will turn to great joy. Good bloodletting can happen from a vein.]

While the many prose and verse lunaries do not always agree on their predictions, most seem to agree that the first day of the lunar cycle is a good day for new beginnings. So plan your weekend accordingly!

Prognostic texts based on a combination of the zodiac and the months of the year were also common, and provide information on the fates of individuals born in certain months, under certain signs, with different predictions for men and women (the predictions for women are much shorter). So what is in store for the dictionary editors based on their birth months?

Il serra de ouel estature de cors. Il avera bel chevelure. En acune tens il avera plenté e en autre tens defaute [...] Il avera le[s] dens large. Il espousera treys femmys e le un irra de ly sans revenyr [...] Le[s] premere [en]fans que il ad serrunt femmeles. Ky o ly mange ou beve il dirrent mal de ly e volenters voylent combatre o ly. Quant il est de age de .xxiii. ans, une grant renoumé avera [...] il vivera a l’age de .lxix. ans e il morra en autre tere de une espeye ou de doulur de ventre en jour de mardy. Future 144

[He will be of regular physical stature. He will have beautiful hair. At some times he will have plenty and at other times not enough. He will have large teeth. He will marry three women and one will leave him without returning. The first children he will have will be female. Those who eat or drink with him will speak ill of him and wish to fight him. When he is 23 years old, he will be famous. He will live to the age of 69 and will die in another land from a sword or a pain in the stomach on a Tuesday.]

Ele serra honuré. Ele avera fort corouce. [...] Ele serra sages. Un jour ele serra seyn e une autre jour serra dolant. Ele avera treys barons e entre ly e la premere serra grant corouce e grant changle e de le[s] deus ele avera fiz e fillez. De ces que ele eyme ele eydera volenters. Ele avera descord entre ly e sa veysyne. Ele morra en le jour de judy en dolur de la senestre coste Future 143

[She will be honoured. She will have a great anger. She will be wise. One day she will be healthy and another ailing. She will have three husbands and between her and the first will be a great anger and bickering and of the other two she will have sons and daughters. Those whom she loves she will help voluntarily. There will be discord between her and her neighbour. She will die a day in July of a pain the left rib.]

A bit of a mixed bag for us both, though we clearly need to line up more marital partners!

BL Arundel 377, fol. 5, Calendar page for September and October

Another series of texts predicts future events based on the day of the week the event or major holidays fall. For example, the text in Oxford, Bodl. Libr. Digby 86 offers predictions based on the day on which Christmas is celebrated. Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year so,

Si avient par venderdi, iver mervilous sera, ver bon, esté sech, [...], Aust sech. Vendeinge bone et plentivous. [...] Chevalers cumbatrirount. Plenté de oille. Noveles entres princes serount. Ouailles e boys perirount. Les vendredis de cel an bon est de toutes choses comencer. Future 208

[If it (=Christmas) occurs on a Friday, the winter will be marvellous, spring good, summer dry, August dry. The harvest will be good and plentiful. Knights will fight. Plenty of oil. There will be news between the princes. Loss of sheep and wood. Fridays of this year will be good for beginning things.]

Next year looks like a promising year – Fridays might be a good time to put into action some of the new plans we have in store for the dictionary. The price of oil might go down, but we better not buy any more sheep.

BL Egerton 2572, fol.51. Description from the BL: A volvelle, a device with a moveable disc rotating with a fixed matrix, the pointing moveable index of which could be set at the sign and degree of the zodiac for a particular day in order to predict the best time to provide medical treatment: the moving central part of the volvelle, with the pointer, is inscribed in red with numbers from 1-30; in the concentric circles around this are drawings of the signs of the zodiac, their names, and the names of the months and emblems for the occupations of the months

Numerous dictionary entries will be improved thanks to these new editions, with new citations to illustrate words such as geomancie ‘the art of divination by means of signs derived from the earth’, or new variants spellings such as maginacioun for machination. Multiple new entries will be created based on the vocabulary attested here: juracioun meaning ‘blasphemous oath’, malageous to mean ‘a sick person’ or soungerie to mean ‘a book of dreams’.

We predict that these new texts will greatly aid our understanding of the uses of Anglo-Norman and may even bring us our first attestation of prediction and prognostication![3]


[1] There still remains material to be edited of this type, which would undoubtedly enrich the dictionary even further. For example, the catalogue entry for BL Ms. 18210 Additional notes that ‘ff. 85-103: Treatises on palmistry (or chiromancy), spatulomancy (the use of the shoulder bone in divination), geomancy and hematoscopy (prognostication by inspection of the blood) in Anglo-Norman French. The texts on spatulomancy and hematoscopy are unique’. These latter texts are not currently edited.
[2] Tony Hunt, 'Les Pronostics en anglo-normand: Méthodes et documents', in Richard Trachsler, Julien Abed and David Expert, 'Moult obscures paroles': Études sur la prophétie médiévale, Paris, 2007, 29-50.
[3] The word prediction appears in English  from the mid sixteenth-century only and slightly earlier in Middle French. It was attested in Classical Latin so its absence from the Anglo-Norman lexis is surprising. The word prognostication is attested in Middle French from 1355 and in Middle English from 1400 which strongly suggests that it would have been present in Anglo-Norman.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

David Trotter

It is with extreme sadness that we report the death of our chief editor, Professor David Trotter, after a battle with cancer. Not only is the loss to the field of historical lexicography immense., we will also greatly miss our friend and mentor. 

While the editors will continue their work revising the entries for P-, we will be taking a temporary break from the Word of the Month out of respect for him.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Word of the Month: The Anglo-Norman Horse (part 1)

A term that may be familiar to the casual Googler of 'Anglo-Norman' as much as to professional horse-breeders is 'the Anglo-Norman Horse'. Historians may point out that this particular breed was one of the main saddle-horses used by the French cavalry in the second half of the nineteenth century. Sports lovers might know it as a former show jumping horse or a nineteenth-century trotting racer. In the second half of the twentieth century the breed was abandoned and combined with other types in the Selle Français - France's national saddle horse breed. However, in recent decades attempts have been made to re-instate the Anglo-Norman as a separate breed once more.

(The Anglo-Norman horse, Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890—1907)

It is perhaps only the Anglo-Norman linguist who might be confused in thinking that this is an ancient breed, dating back to medieval times and the Norman invasion. Was the cavalry of William the Conqueror as we see it on the Bayeux tapestry made up of ‘Anglo-Norman horses’? The answer is a resounding: Absolutely not! Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the ‘Anglo-Norman’ is a hybrid breed that was developed only in the early nineteenth century in Lower Normandy (France), simply by crossing the native Norman horses with the English Thoroughbred.[1] It is a sense of anglo-norman has not been incorporated in the OED entry Anglo-Norman a. and n. (Third edition, 2008 - 7596) but is listed in the TLF entry anglo-normand: ‘Cheval obtenu par le croisement du pur sang anglais et du cheval normand’.

Bayeux tapestry (detail): Norman soldiers on horseback

Leaving this red herring of the nineteenth-century Anglo-Norman horse aside, it is worth having a closer look at the richness of vocabulary that Anglo-Norman, as a medieval language, did have when it came to horses. The horse was an animal that was often essential in many parts of medieval society, with plenty of references found in Romance literature, agricultural instruction books, hunting treatises and many other sources.

As mentioned before, it is now possible to search the Anglo-Norman Dictionary by semantic tags (currently only an in-house option, though set to become available to the wider public at some point in 2016 - for more information on this, see the earlier WoM entry on Anglo-Norman chess terminology), so that it has become more straightforward to retrieve all Anglo-Norman equine terminology.

With over 100 entries tagged as horse-related, this blogpost will just look at a selection. 

To begin with, the main Anglo-Norman word for horse, as in continental French, is cheval, used with sometimes interesting variant spellings such as chivaule, chuval or kaval. For plural forms, aside from the regular chevaux, Anglo-Norman also yielded chevals together with more outrageous spellings such as chewaws, chivex,  cavaus or chivachx. The term is common in romance languages and derives from Latin caballus[2] ('horse').

(BL, Harley 2278, fol. 108r (detail))

In contrast, the common Classical Latin word for horse, equus[3], did not produce a vernacular form in Anglo-Norman (or Middle French, for that matter). It appears only as a rare adjectival form, equin, from Latin equinus[4]:

Monoceros [...] ad pez d’olifant; de corps est equins Rom Chev ANTS 6817
(‘The Monoceros [...] has the feet of an elephant; its body is horse-like’)

The Germanic alternative hors (see OED horse n.) is also absent from Anglo-Norman,[5] but the AND lists a number of compounds, all clearly Middle English in origin but used in an Anglo-Norman context, that retain the Germanic word: horsehouse (‘a horsecloth’), horsehove (the plant ‘coltsfoot’), horsmaunger (‘manger’), horsmete (‘horsemeat (?)’, horssecoller (‘horse-collar’), and fischehors (‘horse used by fishermen’).

Returning to the most common word, cheval, the composite expressions and derivatives illustrate the different uses to which medieval horses were put. Firstly, cheval d’armes or cheval de guerre are two terms for (armored) battle-horses:

avera […] restor por ses chevaux d’armes perduz en les dites guerres Private Indentures 59
(‘he will have compensation for his war-horses lost during the said wars’)

Et serront ses chivaux de guerre prisez Ind Ret 2.15
(‘and his war-horses will be captured’)

Packhorses are called cheval de carriage or cheval maler:

de tous chevaus des gens d’armes horsmis chevaus de kariage Treaty Rolls ii 4.14
(‘of all the horses of the soldiers, except for packhorses’)

facez paier a l’abbé de Feversham pur un chival malere de lui achaté GAUNT2 i 50
(‘make a payment to the abbot of Feversham for a packhorse bought of him’)

The adjective maler derives from the Frankish word *malha[6] (malle in Middle French and male1 in Anglo-Norman), meaning ‘leather bag’. In Anglo-Norman the word is also used as a noun in Gaunt’s records, specifically to refer to a packhorse: ‘facez paier [...] pur un maler de nostre chambre’ (GAUNT2 ii 242).

(St. John the Baptist's Church, Mileham - stained glass window (detail))

A cheval de charette is used with the sense of cart-horse, attested as a vernacular gloss to the Latin word veredarium (TLL ii 73).[7]

In addition to these, the AND entry also includes interesting compounds such as cheval de mer (‘horse of the sea’, meaning ‘hippopotamus’), cheval de fust (an 'instrument of torture', presumably shaped like a wooden horse) and ungle de cheval (the plants ‘coltsfoot’ or ‘water-lily’).

The term cheval also produced a large word-family of derivations: chevalcher, enchevacher and (less frequently) chevaler2 are the verbs for riding a horse, while the person who does so is called a chevalchant, chevalcheur, echivachure (an unetymological and possibly erroneous form), or, most frequently chevaler1. The latter word widened it sense from ‘mounted soldier’ to ‘knight’ in general, and went on to produce a separate group of frequently used words – chevalerie, chevalerus, etc. – related to knighthood[8]. For unhorsing, Anglo-Norman has the prefixed verb deschevalcher, while entrechevaucher is a somewhat peculiar intransitive verb that means ‘to ride on horseback in the middle of a troop’. A troop of horses, which in a military sense became a 'cavalry', was called a chevalchee (also used for a procession, the service of escorting a feudal lord or a perambulation of the borders of one’s land – all on horseback), chevalcherie (a rare word, probably under the influence of the abovementioned chevalerie), and, exceptionally, chevalchement. Chevalchure is a noun used for horse-riding, but also referred to the right to possess a horse, or even the horse itself:

lur beens moebles […] forpris tresor, chivauchure, liz, robes, vessels […] Parl Writs 12
(‘their movable property [...] with the exception of treasure, horses, bedclothes, robes and vessels’)

The only adjectival derivation, chevalin, meaning ‘horse-like’, is rare (‘.iij. bestes chivalaynes’ Charboclois 350). Finally, a diminutive noun, chevalrette, was used for a figurine or statue of a horse:

une pier de marbelle […] pur la sepulture de […] mon pier […] ov chivalrettes de laton desuis ficchez Reg Chich ii 149
(‘a marble stone [...] for the grave [...] of my father [...] with brass horse figurines attached upon it’)

(BL, Harley 5256, fol.22r, late sixteenth-century)

While cheval is by far the most common word for ‘horse’, Anglo-Norman also has a great number of, usually more specific, alternative terms.

The words used for ‘stallion’ are estalon (from Frankish *stallo[9]) or, with the typical loss of the French initial ‘e’, stalun, and the rare gareignun (from Frankish *wrainjo[10]). A stallion kept specifically for breeding (in a haras or stud-farm) was called estot (or sometimes stot), a word – obviously the same as stud n.2 and deriving from Old English stód  not found in Continental French.

In contrast, female horses and the young of the horses are referred to using vocabulary that is Latin in origin: a ‘mare’ is called ive1 (from equa[11], with the ‘qu’ assimilated to a ‘w’ or ‘v’ sound) or jument (from jumentum[12]), whereas the words for ‘foal’ are poutrel (from pulliter[13]) or pulein1 (from pullus, through its derivation pullanus[14]).

(ninth-century equestrian statue of Charlemagne, Paris (Louvre))

Among the names for small riding horses (often for women) Anglo-Norman has hakeney[15] (which the FEW considers English or Germanic in origin[16], but which is well attested in Continental French as well, cf. DMF haquenée and haquenet), palefrei (from Latin paraveredus[17]), and sambuer (from sambue, a saddle specifically for women, which derives from Latin sambuca, originally meaning ‘harp’ but transferred to a variety of harp-shaped objects[18]).

A large war-horse or charger is called a destrer1 (from Latin dexter[19], i.e. ‘right’; according to the FEW from the expression equus dextrarius, i.e. a horse that is led by the squire using his right hand - an unexpected etymology that is repeated by the OED sub destrer n.).

Another word for pack-horse or draught-horse is affre1, with variant spellings such as aver, havere or even vere. The term was also used more generally for all draught-animals or even livestock. It is related to the verb aver2: ‘to have, own, possess’, and as such derives from Latin habere[20], the idea being that the domestic animals are the ‘stock’ or ‘possession’ that belong to a farm.

Finally, a grand and valuable horse is sometimes called a milsoudur in chanson de geste. In other words, the horse was referred to rather boastfully by its hypothetical price-tag of ‘a thousand shillings’.

(Late fifteenth-century German armour for man and horse, Royal Armouries, Leeds)

This is certainly not a complete overview of all Anglo-Norman words for horses. Perhaps in a next blogpost, we hope to return to the subject and discuss horse-names based on their place or origin (e.g. arabi), the colour of their coat (e.g. baiard1), the manner of their breeding (e.g. bastard), etc.


[2] FEW 2i,8b and DMLBS 233a.
[3]  DMLBS equus 2, 791a.
[4]  DMLBS equineus 789b and equinus 789c.
[5] Possibly as a result of the formal overlap with the ubiquitous adverb/preposition/ conjunction hors/fors1 (‘out’) and/or urs/ors (‘bear’).
[6] FEW 16,508b: ‘Mantelsack’.
[7] DMLBS veredarius, 3636b: ‘horse used to draw a cart or other vehicle’.
[8] These are the only words of the caballus family (with the exception of the rare adjective caballin, perhaps chevauchour (although most of the MED attestations are Anglo-Norman), and chevauche) that were readily borrowed into Middle English: chevaler, chevalrie and chevalrous.
[9] FEW 10,17b. See also DMF étalon 3
[10] FEW 17,613b. Absent from DMF.
[11] FEW 3,233a
[12] FEW 5,63b. DMLBS  jumentum 1512a. The primary sense of jumentum is ‘domestic draught animal or beast of burden. The term was used specifically for horses already in Medieval Latin, and in French, probably from the feminine jumenta, always referred to a mare (see DMF jument).
[13]  FEW 9,530a. There is no such form in the DMLBS, but medieval Latin produced pultrella and pultrellus (DMLBS 2573a), possibly under the influence of the Anglo-Norman word.
[14]  FEW 9,541a and DMLBS pullus 2 2569b and pullanus 2 2568a.
[15]  One fourteenth-century Anglo-Norman citation, possibly in an attempt to ‘frenchify’ the word, spells it rather fancifully as hache de nethe; see hache2.
[16]  FEW hackney 16,109a. The MED has hakenei(e n.
[17]  FEW 7,640a; DMLBS palefredus 2085b and paraveredus 2110a.
[18]  FEW 11,136b,
[19]  FEW 3,62a. Re-borrowed in Medieval Latin as dextrarius, DMLBS 646a.
[20]  FEW 4,363a