English words first attested in Chaucer

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English words first attested in Chaucer, or special manuscript words of Chaucer, are a set of about two thousand English words whose first use found in existing manuscripts is credited to Geoffrey Chaucer.[1][2][3] This does not necessarily mean that he was the person to introduce these words into English, but that the earliest extant uses of these words are found in Chaucerian manuscripts.[4][5] Many of the words were already in everyday speech in 14th-century England (especially London).[6][7] The claim is that these words are found for the first time in written manuscripts where he introduced them in one of his extensive works from 1374 to 1400 as the first author to use these particular words.[2] Many of Chaucer's special manuscript words are used today: absent, accident, add, agree, bagpipe, border, box, cinnamon, desk, digestion, dishonest, examination, finally, flute, funeral, galaxy, horizon, infect, ingot, latitude, laxative, miscarry, nod, obscure, observe, outrageous, perpendicular, Persian, princess, resolve, rumour, scissors, session, snort, superstitious, theatre, trench, universe, utility, vacation, Valentine, veal, village, vulgar, wallet, and wildness.[3]


Christopher Cannon, in The Making of Chaucer's English, gives a complete detailed work on the etymology of Chaucer's special manuscript words and references the Middle English Dictionary (MED) definitions and etymology of each of these words.[8] He points out that the MED does not give details on the etymology of many of Chaucer's derived words, including many compounds, some participial adjectives, and most gerunds.[8] Cannon also points out that, while the Oxford English Dictionary lists Chaucer as the first cited author of these words, it also is mostly silent on the etymologies of these particular derived words.[8][9] Cannon furnishes a complete list of Chaucer's special manuscript words with their etymology.[8]

Historian Albert Baugh points out that some of Chaucer's aureate words came from Latin or French origin.[10] Some of Chaucer's aureate words like laureate, mediation, and oriental eventually became a part of everyday English. Baugh points out that the innovations of word development into common speech and everyday usage, such as these Chaucer words, is of considerable interest in the history of style.[11]


Below is a complete list of the 1,977 Chaucer's special manuscript words that are first found in the existing manuscripts below as listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as being the "first cited author".[9] Some now have different spellings and others are given the "root" word definition.[8] Some of these words are now dated or obsolete.[12] These manuscript words first found written in Chaucer's work, from The Canterbury Tales and other of his publications as shown below, were published in the 14th century.[8][9]

The Canterbury Tales[edit]

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of tales written sometime after 1373, with "sondry folk" that resemble Boccaccio's stories of The Decameron of fleeing nobles.

General Prologue[edit]

The General Prologue introduces the tellers of the tales, with much wry and subtle social commentary.

acate, affile, alight, ambler, army, arrive, bagpipe, begster, borax, bourdon, bracer, bream, cape, ceruse, chape, clasp, cordial, dagger, debtless, digestible, dormant, Flandrish, foot-mantle, foster, gaud, hostelry, householder, in, jingle, knob, licentiate, line, luce, magic, magician, marrowbone, mercenary, miscarry, moral, pardoner, parvis, patent, perse, session, significavit, stew, wallet, whistling

The Knight's Tale[edit]

From the first page of The Knight's Tale[13]

The Knight's Tale introduces many typical aspects of knighthood such as courtly love and moral issues.

alan, attourne, breastplate, broid, buckle, cerrial, chaas, Circe, citrine, clottered, collared, execute, expel, expulsive, feminie, fluttery, funeral, gigge, holm, howl, huntress, intellect, kemp, lacing, laxative, Lucina, melancholic, menacing, mishap, mortal, mover, murmur, murmuring, muzzle, naker, narcotic, nymph, obsequy, obstacle, opie, opposite, oyez, parament, party, perturb, pharmacy, plain, portraiture, possibility, princess, progression, refuge, renting, returning, save, saving, serie, shouting, smiler, strangle, strangling, tester, thoroughfare, turret, vanishing, variation, vital, vomit, whippletree, winged

The Miller's Tale[edit]

The Miller's Tale is told by a drunken miller to "quite" (requite) The Knight's Tale. The word "quite" here means to make repayment for a service – in this case, telling stories.

almagest, bragget, chant, cinnamon, fart, forge, haunch-bone, interrogation, keek, kneading, kneading-trough, lab, mislie, out, pearl, Pilate, piping, shelf, slumber, swive, tub, very, vere, watchet

The Reeve's Tale[edit]

The Reeve's Tale is about two clerks tricking a miller. This tale is possibly based on Boccaccio's sixth story of the ninth day (IX.6) in The Decameron.

bodkin, bolt, chime, derere, easement, grass time, halfway, jossa, messuage, mullock, popper, quack, sack, Sheffield, thick and thin, varnish

The Cook's Tale[edit]

The Cook's Tale is a tale of an apprentice named Perkins who is fond of drinking and dancing. He ultimately is released from his master and moves in with a friend. This friend's wife is a prostitute. The story becomes more 'seedy', continuing the downward trend of the preceding tales.

bribe, convertible, galliard, Harry, Hodge, louke, prenticehood

The Man of Law's Tale[edit]

The Man of Law's Tale is a story about a Christian princess named Constance. She is to marry a Syrian sultan on condition that he convert to Christianity. His mother gets involved and sets her adrift at sea.

constabless, crone, dilatation, erect, femininity, feminity, man of law, mortally, motive, muse, peace, seriously, victorious, wrack

The Wife of Bath's Tale[edit]

From the first page of The Wife of Bath's Tale[14]

The Wife of Bath's Tale is a tale about marriage. Scholars have associated this story as one of the so-called "marriage group" of Chaucer tales.

annex, ascendant, ba, bum, bumble, caterwaul, chose, disfigure, Ecclesiast, inclination, lure, Martian, peace, preamble, preambulation, resemblance, reveller, sip, spaniel, squire, stubborn, taur, vacation

The Friar's Tale[edit]

The Friar's Tale is a satirical attack on the profession of summoner.

approver, bribe, bribery, determinate, flattering, foal, rebeck

The Summoner's Tale[edit]

The Summoner's Tale is a tale in defense of the satirical attack by the Friar.

acceptable, chirt, dagon, demoniac, demonstrative, Dives, equally, pismire, reverberation, spence, swarm, tip, trip

The Clerk's Tale[edit]

Decamaron prologue,[15] Boccaccio

The Clerk's Tale is the story of Griselda, a young woman whose husband tests her loyalty.

amble, archwife, Chichevache, constant, dishonest, frowning, gaze, laureate, marquisess, mazedness, proem

The Merchant's Tale[edit]

The Merchant's Tale reflects Boccaccio's Decameron seventh day in his ninth tale. Chaucer's tale is a sexually explicit story.

a-noon, arc, bedstraw, brotelness, court-man, crake, hippocras, houndfish, ordinate, preen, Priapus, procreation, skink, sole, struggle, superlative, veal, vernage, visage

The Squire's Tale[edit]

The Squire's Tale is a tale of the Squire, who is the Knight's son. The tale is an epic romance about a novice warrior and lover with more enthusiasm than experience. It is quite explicit and descriptive.

albe, digestion, exaltation, feastly, heronsew, Pegasus, peregrine, plumage, poleyn, prolixity, prospection, prospective, resound, serve, Tartar, Tatar, trench, trill

The Franklin's Tale[edit]

The Franklin's Tale focuses on issues of providence, truth, and generosity. A franklin was a medieval landowner.

alnath, Armorica, arrayed, begged, begeth, collect, considering, declination, desk, equation, expanse, falconer, faring, Nowell, opposition, Parnassus, proportional, rigour, superstitious

The Physician's Tale[edit]

The Physician's Tale is a domestic drama about the relationship between a daughter and her father.

award, definitive, notable, vicar general

The Pardoner's Tale[edit]

The Pardoner's Tale is a tale in the form of a moral example.

bet, cinque, cinq, clink, corny, corpus, domination, envelop, fen, Galianes, policy, rioter, saffron, sane, village

The Shipman's Tale[edit]

The Shipman's Tale is similar to some of Boccaccio's stories in his Decameron and tells the story of a stingy merchant, his greedy wife and her lover.

creance, porteous, score

The Prioress's Tale[edit]

The Prioress's Tale story is of a child martyr killed by Jews.

outcry, sold

The Tale of Sir Thopas[edit]

The Tale of Sir Thopas is told by the narrator of the frame story of the Tales, presented unflatteringly as an awkward, reserved person. It is a parody of grandiose Gallic romances. The narrator is interrupted by the Host before the story is finished.

amble, piercing, poppet

The Tale of Melibee[edit]

The Tale of Melibee, told by the narrator of the frame story, consists largely of a debate between Melibee and his wife on how to seek redress for a violent crime.

accidental, accomplish, annoyful, anoyful, arbitration, blameful, brigue, chincher, chinchery, commit, counterwait, damnably, desiring, edifice, especial, estable, examination, examining, formal, garnison, hotchpotch, information, mishappy, persevere, pertinent, retain, withholding

The Monk's Tale[edit]

The Monk's Tale is a collection of seventeen short stories on the theme of tragedy. These are of Lucifer, Adam, Samson, Hercules, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Zenobia, Pedro of Castile, Peter I of Cyprus, Bernabò Visconti, Ugolino of Pisa, Nero, Holofernes, Antiochus, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Croesus. The Monk's Tale De Casibus Virorum Illustrium of these illustrious men[clarification needed] is modeled after Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium of illustrious men.

afear, annunciate, appurtenant, armless, centaur, Cerberus, clubbed, consecrate, conspiracy, contributary, cursedly, customance, custumance, hexameter, humblehede, importable, leonine, lim-rod, misery, misgovernance, monster, morality, Occident, orient, officer, Persian, pompous, precept, proverb, Septentrion, size, sperm

The Nun's Priest's Tale[edit]

The Nun's Priest's Tale of the Cock and the Hen, Chanticleer and Partlet is a vigorous and comical beast fable and mock epic poem.

aha, apoplexy, catapuce, centaury, cholera, chuck, clinking, cottage, digestive, embattled, fortunate, fumitory, herb Ive, jade, jet, laureole, poop, reverse, tame, tiptoe

The Second Nun's Tale[edit]

The Second Nun's Tale tells the story of Saint Cecilia.

chasteness, eternal, noble, oppose, oppress, outer, preface, prefect, proceed, rote, soul, trine

The Canon's Yeoman's Tale[edit]

The Canon's Yeoman's Tale is an attack on alchemists.

ablution, amalgam, ammoniac, argol, arsenic, blunder, bole, calcination, calcining, cered, chalk-stone, citrination, clergial, coagulate, corrosive, crude, cucurbit, elixir, fermentation, fusible, gris, hayne, hazelwood, induration, ingot, introduction, lamp, luna, lunary, magnesia, malleable, mollification, orpiment, pellitory, porphyry, proffered, prowl, rap, rehearsal, relent, rosary, sal, sluttish, sol, sublime, sublimed, tartar, test, vitriol

The Manciple's Tale[edit]

The Manciple's Tale is a story of a purchasing agent for a law court telling a fable about Phoebus Apollo and his pet crow.

affect, bottle, cock, nod, palled, python, rackleness, textual, titleless

The Book of the Duchess[edit]

The Book of the Duchess is a poem on the death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster and the first wife of John of Gaunt.

aside, bagge, bear

The Parson's Tale[edit]

The Parson's Tale is a prose treatise on virtuous living.

annoyance, appertain, ardour, ardor, arrogant, barring, bending, castle, closure, clotheless, consideration, contract, contumacy, create, curiousness, cutted, dedicate, departed, dishonesty, durable, elation, embracing, emprise, eschew, furring, gabber, hernia, homicide, homily, hostler, humiliation, impudent, manslaughter, material, mistrest, mortification, mystery, natural law, nigromancian, observe, ordure, ours, paling, parting, pax, perdurable, performing, platly, pounced, pouncing, raffle, replenish, retraction, slumbery, somnolence, springer, sticking, strangeness, sustenant, talker, thunderclap, total, trey, uncharitably

Parlement of Foules[edit]

The Parliament of Fowls is a love poem associated with Valentine's Day. Many claim Chaucer is the mythmaker of the concept as we know it today.[16]

abstinent, bedside, blossomed, cackling, Cupid, disfigurate, dishevel, disobeisant, entitle, facund, formel, formal, horologe, messagery, mirthless, tercel, tiercel, tercelet, tiercelet, uncommitted, untressed, valence, Valentine, west

The Romaunt of the Rose[edit]

A page from c. 1440 manuscript of the Romaunt of the Rose.[17]

The Romaunt of the Rose is an allegorical dream, in which the narrator receives advice from the god of love on gaining his lady's favor, her love being symbolized by a rose.

absent, communably, forwelk, fresh, fur, galantine, guerdon, habit, householding, jacounce, jagounce, jargon, jocund, lambskin, lightsome, lozenge, mansuete, masonry, mavis, medlar, mendicity, mendience, miscoveting, misway, mourning black, muid, nock, non-certain, obscure, overgilt, outwine, outstretch, outsling, palasin, papelardy, par coeur, parochial, patter, praise, prill, prime temps, Proteus, quail-pipe, racine, ravisable, recreandise, refraining, reft, resemblable, return, reverie, ribanding, rideled, riverside, roin, roinous, rose-leaf, sailour, Sarsenish, satin, savorous, scutcheon, seemlihead, shutting, slitter, smallish, snort, squirrel, suckeny, tassel, terin, thick-set, thread, timbester, tissue, tress, tretis, villainsly, volage, waterside, well-arrayed, well begone, well beseen, well-fed, wyndre

The House of Fame[edit]

The House of Fame is a love poem based on works by Ovid and Virgil. The allegorical poem consists of a dream that journeys to two temples, The House of Fame and The House of Rumour which are various aspects of truth and falsehood.

accustomance, act, agreeable, airish, appearance, arrivage, arrival, assail, babery, blaze, burned, cadence, casually, celestial, check, clarion, congealed, conservative, corbet, cornemuse, covercle, crowding, dear-bought, desesperat, dissimulation, doucet, dowset, ducat, duration, encumbrous, existence, feminine, fouldre, fumigation, galaxy, gig, greenish, harmony, Hebraic, herald, herd-groom, herewithal, humble, inclined, inclining, intermeddle, lee, lilting, masty, Milky Way, minstrelly, misgovernment, ray, renovelance, rumble, scissors, signal, spring, stellify, sorceress, sweynt, syllable, tewel, tuel, tinned, unshut, upper


Boece is Chaucer's work derived from The Consolation of Philosophy, a Latin work originally written by the Roman Christian philosopher Boethius around AD 524.

abashing, accordable, add, address, adjection, adjoust, adjudge, administer, admonishing, admonition, agreeability, agreeably, albeit, alien, all-utterly, amenuse, amenusing, amoved, annoying, annoyously, anointed, arbitry, Arcturus, ardent, armourer, asperness, assigned, astoning, attaste, attemper, attemperance, attention, auster, autumn, awaiter, beholder, bespot, betiding, biting, blandishing, blissfulness, border, byname, Caurus, cavern, celebrable, centre, center, coemption, coetern, commonality, commove, complish, compotent, compound, comprend, compress, conject, conjoin, conjunction, conjuration, consequent, conservation, consular, contagious, continuation, contrary, convenient, corollary, corrige, Corybant, credible, declaring, decreet, defeat, definish, delicate, delie, delye, deluge, demonstration, despoiling, destinable, destinal, differing, disarm, discording, discourse, disincrease, disordinance, dispensation, dispense, dissolve, distempre, distrait, divide, divination, division, dull, durability, during, eager, echinus, egality, empoisoning, emprent, enbaissing, enchafe, enchantress, encharge, endamage, endark, enduring, enhance, enlace, ensampler, entach, entech, entalent, environing, eschaufe, establish, estimation, eternity, everyday, eve-star, evidently, exceed, exempt, exerce, exercitation, exiling, fellness, fellowship, felonous, festivally, fleeing, flitting, fluttering, foleye, forline, formly, fortuit, fortunel, fortunous, frounce, furthest, gaping, gastness, geometrian, ginner, gizzard, glaring, glow, governail, guerdon, guideress, habitacule, habitation, harmfully, henter, Hesperus, hider, honeyed, honied, hustlement, hydra, ignorant, imaginable, immovability, immovable, impair, imperial, impetre, imply, imposition, imprint, inconvenient, indifferently, indignation, inestimable, infect, infinity, infirm, inhabit, interchanging, intercommuning, interlace, interminable, jangling, jaw, jointure, knower, lash, leecher, lost, luxure, manifest, Marmaric, marvelling, marveling, meanly, misdrawing, misknowing, miswandering, movability, mowing, mutable, necess, nilling, orphelin, overlight, over-swift, overthrowing, overwhelve, perdurability, plungy, poetical, porism, portionable, presentary, previdence, pronouncer, proportionable, purveyable, reasoning, reddy, redoubt, reduce, remount, rending, replenished, replication, requirable, resist, resolve, resounding, resounding, rhetorian, roil, roundness, rower, rumour, sarplier, scaping, scorkle, semblable, senatory, sensibility, sensible, shadowy, showing, similitude, simplicity, singler, Sirius, skilling, slaked, slead, smoking, smoothness, stadie, starlight, starry, speculation, Stoician, suasion, submit, summit, superfice, supply, sway, sweller, tempest, theatre, theater, thenceforth, thunderer, thunderlight, tragedian, tragedy, tranquillity, transport, troublabla, tumbling, twitter, two-footed, unagreeable, unassayed, unbetide, unbowed, uncovenable, undepartable, undiscomfited, undoubtous, uneschewable, unexercised, ungentle, unhoped, universal, universality, unleeful, unmovablety, unparegal, unperegal, unpiteous, unpiteous, unplight, unplite, unraced, unscience, unsolemn, unstanchable, unstanched, untreatable, unusage, unweened, unwit, unworshipful, unwrap, upheaping, used, variant, vengeress, voluntarily, weening, weeply, withinforth, witnessfully, wood

Anelida and Arcite[edit]

A page from an original manuscript of Anelida and Arcite[18]

Anelida and Arcite is a retelling of an old Roman story previously written by Boccaccio.

assure, awaiting, causeless, chair, chantepleure, crampish, crookedly, desolate, doubleness, ecliptic, excuse, lowly, sound, subtile, Theban, whaped, unfeigned, whaped, womanhead

Troilus and Criseyde[edit]

Troilus and Criseyde is a story from Boccaccio's Il Filostrato.

abetting, abusion, accident, accord, accusement, adieu, adorn, adverse, advertence, advocary, a-game, agree, alembic, aloud, alter, ambassador, appoint, argument, alite, ambage, amphilbology, argument, Aries, a-root, asfast, askance, asper, aspre, astrologer, atrede, attendance, attrition, atwixt, audience, augury, avaunter, await, bawdry, bay, beblot, befalling, benignity, bestiality, betrend, beware, blossomy, bounteous, burn, bypath, calculing, captive, casual, childishly, chittering, circle, circumscrive, collateral, combust, comedy, complain, complete, conceit, concord, conserve, consolation, constraint, continuance, convers, counterpoise, cramp, crow's foot, cumber-world, curation, dart, defeit, defet, define, deliber, deliberation, derring do, desespeir, desesperance, desesperaunce, determine, digression, direct, disadvance, disadventure, disblame, disconsolate, discordable, discordant, disdainous, disjoint, dispone, disport, disposition, disseverance, dissimule, distil, distill, disturn, divineress, dulcarnon, embassador, enchant, enterpart, entune, erratic, estately, estrange, exchange, excusable, execute, executrice, expert, eyed, faithed, farewell, fatal, fate, faun, feasting, fervently, fetching, finally, firmly, fix, forbysen, forlose, forpass, fury, future, gaure, goodlihead, good night, goosish, governance, graceless, groof, grufe, guide, half-god, hardiment, hawking, heinous, hemisphere, herdess, heroner, hollowness, homecoming, horizon, howne, humbly, hust, immortal, impression, increase, in-eche, infernal, influence, infortune, inhelde, inhielde, injure, inknit, intendment, interchange, intercommune, janglery, jeopard, Jove, jumper, just, kankedort, knotless, let-game, lethargy, liberty, lign-aloes, loadstar, lodestar, martial, mask, melodious, misaccount, misconstrue, misforgive, mislived, mismeter, molest, muck, mucker, munch, mutability, natal, native, new, nouriture, occidental, oriental, ounded, outring, overcarve, over-haste, over-rede, palaceward, palaceward, palaestrial, parody, peoplish, philosophical, phrenetic, plumb rule, pole arctic, predestiny, pregnant, Progne, proverb, qualm, racket, rackle, railed, refigure, refrain, refreid, reheting, reprehension, repression, resistence, resort, resport, return, revoke, Robin, rootless, rosy, royal, ruin, safeguard, saluing, sand, satyr, scrivenliche, secondly, sentiment, shapely, signifer, sling-stone, slink, sliver, snowish, soar, sob, space, strangely, subtilty, sugared, sunnish, surplus, supprise, teary, tempestous, testy, thriftily, thrifty, trance, transitory, transmew, trapdoor, tremor, unapt, unbody, unbridled, unbroided, uncircumscript, undeserved, unespied, unfeelingly, unhappily, universe, unkissed, unlikeliness, unlove, unmanhood, unnest, unprayed, unsheathe, unsitting, unswell, unthrifty, untied, untormented, untroth, unwist, urn, vapour, verre, vetch, virtueless, voidee, voluptuous, vulgarly, vulture, wantrust, weak, well-shapen, well-willy, wester, wieldy, womanhood, womanish, wrongfully, yfled, yold, yolden

The Legend of Good Women[edit]

The Legend of Good Women is a dream vision love poem.

accompass, adulation, agrote, angel-like, angrily, appete, appetite, arguing, bedote, bench, betraising, bleeding, box, bridled, browd, clift, complaining, countryward, crinkled, distain, during, emboss, ensure, eternally, everything, famous, father-in-law, felicity, figuring, fingering, fleuron, forgiving, foundation, fret, gledy, graciousness, imagining, infinite, joining, knightly, lure, Mantuan, paper-white, penful, presenting, radevore, reclaiming, renownee, ruled, seemliness, skirmishing, stately, storial, subtilly, subtilely, tidife, tidive, tuteler, toteler, virelay, well, wifehood

Treatise on the Astrolabe[edit]

Treatise on the Astrolabe is Chaucer's scientific paper of clearer definitions on how to use the astrolabe, an astronomical instrument.

adding, aline, almanac, almucantar, almury, altitude, Arabic, Arctic, arm-hole, Arsechieles tables, azimuth, calculer, Capricorn, coldness, compilator, concentric, couching, crepuscule, cross-line, denticle, depression, descension, direct, distant, elevate, elevation, elongation, embelif, epicycle, equal, equator, equinox, fraction, Gemini, gerful, Greek, half-ebb, hence-forthward, indeterminate, intercept, introductory, latitude, line-right, longitude, lop-web, meridian, perpendicular, possibly, precedent, rete, retrograde, right angle, scale, Scorpio, second, septentrional, site, solid, solsticion, succedent, Taurus, tortuous, tropic, unstrange, usward, utility, vulgar

Miscellaneous poems[edit]

A handwritten manuscript of 24 lines with a signature below, only the word "Chaucer" in the signature line is easily legible.
A manuscript copy of Balade to Rosemounde'[19]

Below are words first attested to in his miscellaneous poems, namely:

  • An ABC
  • Balade to Rosemounde
  • Chaucers Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn
  • Complaint to His Lady
  • Fortune
  • Gentilesse
  • Lak of Stedfastnesse
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer a Scogan
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton
  • Proverbs
  • The Complaint unto Pity
  • The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse
  • The Complaint of Mars
  • The Complaint of Venus
  • The Former Age
  • The Truth
  • Womanly Noblesse

accumbrous, advocatrice, ancille, artillery, aspen, benevolence, besprent, blaspheme, blasphemer, cannel-bone, carrack, carack, cart-wheel, castigation, causer, collusion, comeliness, complaint, confeder, convict, coverter, craze, create, dapple-grey, delicacy, desespeire, desperation, distrouble, down, dullness, dulness, emboss, enfortune, enlumine, entune, envoy, envy, errant, eterne, fattish, fawn, feigned, fers, fickleness, fleshy, flute, forloin, fortune, fortuned, furious, gere, glazing, half-word, hearse, Hercules, humblesse, inconstance, interess, jane, knack, lake, lambish, lancegay, leer, likeliness, limer, litster, lustihead, meet, midpoint, overstrew, prose, rechase, resign, royalty, scant, seeming, solein, solitude, sore, sough, sturdily, suffisance, suing, surmount, sweaty, tall, Tantalus, tapet, Tartary, tickleness, tongued, traitress, traitoress, Turkey, tyranny, uncorven, uncoupling, unforged, ungrubbed, unsown, weld, well-faring, well-founded, whirling, wildly, wildness


Below are some of the words first found in Chaucer's manuscripts that we use today and how they were used in his poems in the 14th century.

Word Middle English usage Modern English usage Poem and estimated year it was published
annoyance Suffrance suffreth swetely alle the anoyaunces Tolerance suffers sweetly all the annoyances The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
approach whan she approched to jhesu Crist when she approached Jesus Christ The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
aspect Som wikke aspect or disposicioun Some wicked disposition or aspect The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
begger And been a beggere; heere may I nat dwelle And be a beggar; here I cannot dwell The Franklin's Tale, c. 1386[20]
cense Gooth with a sencer on the haliday Went with a censer on the holy day The Miller's Tale, c. 1386[20]
centaur He of Centaures layde the boast adoun Of centaurs laid he all the boastings down The Monk's Tale, c. 1375[20]
chose For if I wolde selle my bele chose For if I would go peddle my belle chose Wife of Bath's Tale, c. 1386[20]
cinnamon My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome? My cinnamon, my fair bird, my sweetie The Miller's Tale, c. 1386[20]
citrine His nose was heigh, his eyen bright citryn His nose was high, his eyes a bright citrine The Knight's Tale, c. 1386[20]
consecrate And was to God Almighty consecrate And was to God Almighty consecrated The Monk's Tale, c. 1375[20]
consideration Heere bihoveth the consideracioun of the grace Of jhesu crist here it behooves one to give consideration to the grace of Jesus Christ The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
conspiracy Ful privily hath made conspiracie Against this Julius Full secretly did lay conspiracy Against this Julius The Monk's Tale, c. 1386[20]
contract whan the soule is put in oure body, Right anon is contract original synne when the soul is put into a body, immediately is contracted original sin The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
create And Al be it so that God hath creat alle thynges In right ordre And though it be that God has created all things in right order The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
depart Shal nat departe from his hous Will not depart from his house The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
derive That every part dirryveth from his hool That every part derives but from the whole The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
desk Hadde prively upon his desk ylaft Which book he'd privately on his desk left The Franklin's Tale, c. 1386[20]
digestion The norice of digestioun, the sleep The nurse of good digestion, natural sleep The Squire's Tale, c. 1395[20]
disfigure She sholde tellen of his disfigure. She'd tell of his disfigurement impure. Wife of Bath's Tale, c. 1386[20]
dismembering ne swereth nat so synfully in dismembrynge of crist by soule swear not so sinfully, thus dismembering Christ by soul The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
displeasant Moost displesant to crist, and moost adversarie. this sin is most displeasing to Christ, and most hateful. The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
double-tongue Now comth the synne of double-tonge Now comes the sin of the double-tongued The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
durable Remoeven harmes and to han thynges espiritueel and durable removal of evils and to obtain things spiritual and durable The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
exaltation For he was neigh his exaltacioun For he was near his exaltation The Squire's Tale, c. 1386[20]
execute That executeth in the world over al That executes in this world, and for all The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
fart Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous. Of farting and of language haughtyish. The Miller's Tale, c. 1386[20]
feast He leet the feeste of his nativitee He let the feast of his nativity The Squire's Tale, c. 1386[20]
femininity How wonnen was the regne of femenye Was gained the realm of Femininity The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
forge That in his forge smythed plough harneys Who in his forge smithed plow parts The Miller's Tale, c. 1386[20]
funeral Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse Lighted the sacred funeral fire The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
galaxy See yonder, lo, the galaxyë lo, see yonder the galaxy The House of Fame, c. 1380[21]
hexameter Of sixe feet, which men clepe examétron In six feet, which men call hexameter The Monk's Tale, c. 1375[20]
homicide Of worldly shame? certes, an horrible homicide. Certainly, such a one is called a horrible homicide. The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
howl Shrighte emelye, and howleth palamon Shrieked Emily and howled now Palamon The Knight's Tale, c. 1386[20]
humiliation Nat sory of his humiliacioun. not sorry for his humiliation. The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
huntress With bowe in honde, right as an hunteresse With bow in hand, like any right huntress The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
kneading He hadde yboght hym knedyng tubbes thre Procured these kneading-tubs, or beer-vats, three The Miller's Tale, c. 1386[20]
laborious And myn office is ful laborous My job is most laborious The Friar's Tale, c. 1386[20]
laureate Fraunceys petrak, the lauriat poete Francis Petrarch, the laureate poet The Clerk's Tale, c. 1386[20]
laxative Vomyt upward, ne dounward laxatif. By vomiting or taking laxative The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
lure With empty hand men may none haukes lure. With empty hand men may no falcons lure Wife of Bath's Tale, c. 1386[20]
magician In al the lond magicien was ther non In all that land magician was there none The Monk's Tale, c. 1375[20]
menacing By manasynge of mars, right by figure. The menacing of Mars, in likeness sure The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
mercenary He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie. He was a shepherd and not mercenary. General Prologue, c. 1387[21]
Milky Way Which men clepeth the Milky Wey which men call the Milky Way The House of Fame, c. 1384[21]
muzzle And folwed hym with mosel faste ybounde And so they followed him, with muzzles bound The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
noble And saluces this noble contree highte. Saluzzo is this noble region bright. The Clerk's Tale, c. 1395[20]
nymph The nymphs, the fauns, the hamadryades The nymphs, the fauns, the hamadryades The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
observe Jhesu Crist and his freendes observede to shewen in hir lyve. Jesus Christ and His friends observed in their lives. The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
outrageous outrageous wratthe dooth al that evere the devel hym comaundeth outrageous wrath does all that the Devil orders The Parson's Tale, c. 1386[20]
Persian and it shal be To Meedes and to Perses geven and it shall be To Medes and Persians given now The Monk's Tale, c. 1375[20]
philosophical To the and to the, philosophical Strode and to you, philosophical Strode Troilus and Criseyde, c. 1374[21]
plumage As wel of plumage as of gentillesse As well of plumage as of nobleness The Squire's Tale, c. 1395[20]
princess Though that she were a queene or a princesse Although she be a queen or a princess The Knight's Tale, c. 1385[20]
resound That all the wode resouned of hire cry. rill all the wood resounded mournfully. The Squire's Tale, c. 1395[20]
scissors Withoute rasour or sisoures not the kind with razor or scissors The House of Fame, c. 1384[20]
session At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire At county sessions was he lord and sire Canterbury Prologue, c. 1386[21]
soar I woot wel, for to sore As doth an hauk I have no cause to soar like a hawk Troilus and Criseyde, c. 1374[21]
superlative Ther nys no thyng in gree superlatyf There is no pleasure so superlative The Merchant's Tale, c. 1386[20]
superstitious Of swich a supersticiuos cursednesse. Of such a superstitious wickedness. The Franklin's Tale, c. 1386[20]
thick and thin thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne. through thick and thin. The Reeve's Tale, c. 1386[20]
vacation Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun When he had leisure and took some vacation Wife of Bath's Tale, c. 1386[20]
wallet His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe His wallet lay before him in his lap Canterbury Prologue, c. 1387[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cannon, p. 129
  2. ^ a b Cannon, pp. 231–233
  3. ^ a b Vivian Cook. "Chaucer's words". Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  4. ^ Cannon, pp. 226–230
  5. ^ Phelan, pp. 61–70
  6. ^ Baugh, pp. 193–194
  7. ^ Fisher, pp. 7–8
  8. ^ a b c d e f Cannon, 224–460
  9. ^ a b c Simpson, Weiner, et al, The Oxford English Dictionary. According to the Library of Congress for those that have academic library subscribing to the OED, here are the steps you can use to find such a list of words:
    • Once you are in the OED Online, select "Simple Search" found at the bottom of the screen.
    • Enter the word Chaucer in the box on the upper left of the screen where it says Search for
    • For the next box below labeled "in," use the pull-down arrow and click on "first cited author."
    • Most Universities and Colleges and many large public libraries have OED Online where the reference librarian can give you a listing.
    • The listing output shows Chaucer's works where he is cited as the first cited author of these words and the year the work was published.
  10. ^ Baugh, p. 186
  11. ^ Baugh, p. 186
  12. ^ Cannon, p. 232
  13. ^ The Knight's Tale Prologue
  14. ^ The Wife of Bath's Prologue
  15. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Boccaccio: The Decameron – Introduction
  16. ^ Oruch, Jack B., "St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February", Speculum, 56 (1981): 534–565. Oruch's survey of the literature finds no association between Valentine and romance prior to Chaucer. He concludes that Chaucer is likely to be "the original mythmaker in this instance". Colfa.utsa.edu – "St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February". Chaucer as Valentine mythmaker
  17. ^ The Romaunt of the Rose
  18. ^ Geoffrey Chaucer (1301–1400). Anelida and Arcite. Retrieved 28 February 2010 – via Wikisource.
  19. ^ Geoffrey Chaucer (2010). "Balade to Rosemounde". Wikisource. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be Geoffrey Chaucer (1386). "Classic Literature – The Canterbury Tales". Canterbury Tales. About.com Classic Literature. Retrieved 11 March 2010.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Geoffrey Chaucer (1374–1395). "Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century". various poems. eChaucer, Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century. Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 11 March 2010.


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  • Brown, Peter, A companion to Chaucer, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002. ISBN 0-631-23590-6.
  • Burnley, David, A guide to Chaucer's language, Macmillan, 1983. ISBN 0-333-33532-5.
  • Cannon, Christopher, The making of Chaucer's English: a study of words, Cambridge UP, 1998. ISBN 0-521-59274-7.
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, The works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Macmillan, 1898.
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer: The house of fame, The legend of good women , Editor: Walter William Skeat. Clarendon, 1894.
  • Cousin, John W., A short biographical dictionary of English literature, Babylon Dreams, 1910. ISBN 1-60303-696-2.
  • Davis, Norman, A Chaucer Glossary, Clarendon, 1979. ISBN 0-19-811171-1.
  • Elliott, Ralph Warren Victor, Chaucer's English, Deutsch, 1974. ISBN 0-233-96539-4.
  • Fisher, John H., The emergence of standard English, UP of Kentucky, 1996. ISBN 0-8131-0852-7.
  • Gardner, John, Life and Times of Chaucer, Barnes & Noble, 1999. ISBN 0-7607-1281-6.
  • Gosse, Edmund, English literature : an illustrated record , Heinemann, 1906.
  • Horobin, Simon, Chaucer's language, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. ISBN 1-4039-9356-4.
  • Langer, William Leonard, An encyclopedia of world history, ancient, medieval and modern ..., Volume 1, Houghton Mifflin, 1948.
  • Phelan, Walter S., The Study of Chaucer's Vocabulary, Computers and the Humanities, Vol. 12, No. 1/2, Medieval Studies and the Computer, 1978.
  • Stearns, Peter N., The Encyclopedia of world history: ancient, medieval, and modern , Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001. ISBN 0-395-65237-5.
  • Tatlock, John S. P., The Development and Chronology of Chaucer's Works, BiblioBazaar, 2009. ISBN 1-110-65731-5.
  • Simpson, J. A., Weiner, E. S. C., The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, Oxford UP, 1989, Reprinted 1991. ISBN 0-19-861186-2.
  • Wallace, David, Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, Cambridge UP, 1991. ISBN 0-521-38851-1.

External links[edit]