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General glossary

This glossary explains some of the terms used in Forman’s and Napier’s casebooks.

The majority of Forman’s and Napier’s records are written in English. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar have all changed considerably since their day (Napier, for instance, frequently omits the final ‘e’ from words ending in ‘ence’), but this should not normally present insuperable problems to modern English-speaking readers. This page provides a list of archaic and technical terms, or highly variant spellings, that may be confusing to non-specialists.

The astrologers and their associates also sometimes used Latin, especially for certain stock phrases or for entries of a personal or sensitive nature. This glossary explains the Latin words and phrases that recur most frequently in the casebooks.

English | Latin

English terms
abort, abortion miscarry, miscarriage. The term could be used in the modern sense but very rarely was
bag, bagger Napier’s habitual spellings of ‘beg’ and ‘beggar’
band bond, in the sense of security or bail
beworded bewitched
biles boils
boy may mean son or male child, but more often means young male servant or apprentice
brought abed of/with delivered of (a child)
burdeus, burdeux Bordeaux
bwy Forman’s habitual spelling of ‘buy’
cast up vomit
chile child
clumpers clots
cods testicles
cossen, cozen cheat, swindle (as a verb)
cours, course menstrual period
cousin any relation by blood or marriage beyond the immediate nuclear family
diz short for ‘disease’, i.e. any medical condition (or anything construed by the practitioner as a medical condition)
docters, the the London College of Physicians, qualified medical practitioners with authority to grant licences to other physicians, and who repeatedly attempted to ban the unlicensed Forman from practising
evil tongue(s) enchantment, witchcraft
fairy-pinched having unexplained superficial injuries imputed to the action of malign spirits. Normally but not exclusively used with reference to small children.
fit may mean attack or seizure, but ‘by fits’ means ‘intermittently’
flowers menstrual period(s)
forspoken bewitched
frantic, frantick frenzied, delirious
frends, friends, frinds may mean ‘friends’ in the modern sense, but more often means ‘family’. Occurs mainly in judgment sections.
geale Napier’s habitual spelling of ‘gaol’
gossip to be godparent to
go(e) walk
go(e) to ground defecate
Goodwife, Goody a term of address for a married woman of middling social status (generally speaking, below ‘Mistress’ but above someone referred to with no honorific at all, though there is some overlap at both ends of the spectrum)
green sickness a wasting disease typically affecting relatively young women of post-puberal age, sometimes retrospectively diagnosed as chlorosis
grief, greefe, grife May mean either ‘grief’ in the modern sense, i.e. sorrow or emotional distress, or simply physical pain or discomfort, as in ‘Elisab. Smith for a greefe in her armes’ (CASE11696)
halek, halk Forman’s private code-word for ‘had/have/is having/has had/will have sex with’ or ‘the sex act’
hickets, hickocks, hitchcocks hiccups
holland a type of coarse linen fabric
holpen helped
Indians, the either the East Indies, i.e. the Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia, or the West Indies, i.e. the Americas. It is clear from the context that Forman uses this term to refer to the geographical areas, not their inhabitants.
kinsman, kinswoman basically the same as ‘cousin’ above, but gender-specific
leeke Napier’s habitual spelling of ‘like’
lying in The ‘lying-in period’ was the ritual period during which an expectant or recent mother was confined to bed. This lasted from shortly before the birth to approximately a month after it.
maid, maiden (usually spelled ‘mead’ or ‘meaden’ by Napier) may mean female servant, virgin and/or unmarried woman
make water urinate
man either ‘man’ in the modern sense or ‘male servant’
matrix womb
megrim(e), megrym(e) migraine
mistress most commonly used as a prefix to the name of a female of relatively high social status (above ‘Goodwife’ but below ‘Lady’). As such, it is normally abbreviated as ‘Mrs’ or ‘Mres’ and given in the normalised view of Casebooks transcriptions as ‘Mrs’, but note that it is not an indicator of marital status and is quite often applied to children of below marriageable age. The term may also mean ‘female employer’ or (much less often) ‘female lover’.
morphew, morpheus skin eruption
on Napier’s habitual spelling of ‘one’
onc Napier’s habitual spelling of ‘once’
pocks, pox any ailment characterised by pock-marks, often retrospectively diagnosed as either smallpox or venereal disease
poultfooted club-footed
questo question (or, in Latin, quaestio)
quick a term used by Napier (among others) to describe a pregnant woman who can feel her unborn child moving. Some writers use it simply to mean ‘pregnant’, but Napier explicitly distinguishes between the two (e.g. MS Ashmole 239, f. 92v: ‘20 weekes since with child quick a fortnight’).
reins kidneys
running of the reins as used by Forman and Napier, male or female genital discharge; gonorrhoea. Later practitioners applied the term to genital or urinary problems more generally.
seck sack (fortified white wine)
sennet sevennight, i.e. week
share groin
sicknes(s), womans sicknes(s) menstrual period(s)
skrike, skriking (esp. of young children) scream, screaming
spice species, type
sprite spirit, in the sense of supernatural agency
suet suit, in any of the senses of lawsuit, marriage suit, or petition for favour or preferment from an authority figure
teeming pregnant
toyed headed mentally disturbed
walles, walls Wales
wench, wentch young woman or female child of relatively low social status
wher sometimes means ‘where’, but in Forman’s notes normally means ‘whether’
whites, the bloodless vaginal discharge, often retrospectively diagnosed as leucorrhoea
wickes Forman’s habitual spelling of ‘weeks’
with child pregnant
wordl, wordle Forman’s habitual spellings of ‘world’
yard penis, or groin more generally
yerland Ireland
Latin terms
abscondita, absconditus (having) run away or disappeared
ad hoc tempus at this time
amissa, amissus lost, missing
amo to love
circiter approximately
cond[uco] to marry
consilium advice
curabilis curable
Deus God
domina mistress, in the sense of female employer (but especially if spelled with a capital D may also be a prefix to the name of a female of relatively high social status)
dominus master (but especially if spelled with a capital D may also mean ‘Mr’ or ‘God’)
ego, ego ipse I, I myself
eodem tempore at the same time
filia, filius daughter, son
frater brother
furata, furatus stolen
gravida pregnant
hora (often abbreviated to ‘h.’ or ‘hor’) literally ‘at the hour of’, or in modern English simply ‘at’
lues venerea venereal disease
maritus husband
mater mother
mi., min. abbreviation for medieval Latin ‘minuta’ (minutes)
mine sang[uinem] let blood
morbus disease, illness
morbus Gallicus lit. ‘the French disease’, i.e. syphilis, or venereal disease more generally. (In French, the same condition was often referred to as ‘la maladie anglaise’, i.e. ‘the English disease’.)
nata, natus born
necne, nec non or not
obeo to die
pater father
pecunia money
prius first
pro for, about (in the sense of who or what a question is about)
profluvium renum ‘running of the reins‘ (q.v.)
profluvium seminis lit. ‘overflow of seed’, i.e. male or female genital discharge
pro rebus amissis/furatis for things lost/stolen
quid inde literally, ‘then what?’. A formula used by Forman to mean ‘what will the outcome/consequence be?’, sometimes expanded as ‘quid inde accidet’, ‘quid inde evenit’, ‘quid inde sequitur’, meaning ‘what will happen next?’ or ‘what will follow?’.
sectum suit, in any of the senses of lawsuit, marriage suit, or petition for favour or preferment from an authority figure
serva, servus servant (female and male respectively)
soror sister
thezaurus treasure
turba impending trouble of a non-medical nature
ubi where
utrum whether
utrum sit gravida whether she is pregnant
uxor wife
veneficata, veneficatus bewitched
veneficium witchcraft
vidua, viduus widow, widower
viva aut mortua, vivus aut mortuus alive or dead
vivit aut moritur will live or die
vulnerata, vulneratus wounded, injured

Cite this as: Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, Robert Ralley, and John Young, ‘General glossary’, A Critical Introduction to the Casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634,, accessed 25 February 2024.