Glossary of Modern Terms

with origins in military history

annoy
bother 16C La in odio "in hatred", attack or annoy a town
astonish
surprise 16C La extonare "to strike by thunder", a blow on the head astonished a man
at full tilt
as fast or as forcibly as possible 14C sword or lance
at the ready
prepared for immediate use 15C preparing to raise firearm to aim or fire
avante-garde
unorthodox, experimental approach 15C Fr "front guard" or "advance guard"
bachelor
unmarried man 11C Fr bacheler or bas chevalier "below a knight", squire
bag and baggage
all of one's belongings 15C army retreats with all of its property, surrendering nothing
barricade
barrier 16C Fr barriques barrels to block army "la Journee des Barricades" 05/12/1588
basin
water bowl 9C La bachinas "an eating bowl", Fr bacin "bowl on the head", En bassinet "little basin"
bastion
stonghold 15C Fr 5-sided projection in fort wall
bear the brunt
take main impact 15C army front ranks
beat a retreat
back down 14C drums sound recall
belfry
bell tower 12C Fr berfrei/berfrooi "place of safety" siege tower
berserker
wildly crazy 6C Sc ber serkr, "bear shirt", no armor
besiege
crowd from all sides 11C Fr siege "seat", sit & wait
beleaguer
harass 12C Du leger "military camp"or "attack by surrounding"
blue ribbon
outstanding 14C King Edward III Knights of the Royal Garter
booty
prize or gain 16C Ge bute "share or distribution" of war plunder
boulevard
major street ?? Fr boulevard, Du bul "trunk of a tree" vark "work", defending bulwark, fortification
broadside
strong verbal attack 16C simultaneous discharge of all guns on one side of ship
bulwark
strong defense of support 15C strong defensive rampart made of earth or other materials
burn one's bridges/boats
commit oneself irrevocably 10C vanquish or die (Roman "cross the Rubicon")
caddie
golfer's aide 15C Fr cadet "younger son in army"
camp follower
1C Fr campagne, La campus "field"
cartel
groups joined in common cause 16C It cartello "written challenge to a duel", later "agreement" between opponents
cartridge
container for liquid, powder, gas, film, tape 15C La carta "paper" (cardboard) container for spices, drugs black powder
cavalcade
procession 16C It cavalcata (fr. La caballus) "raid by men on horseback"
comrade
fellow member, colleague, friend, crony 16C Sp camarada "place where soldiers sleep", soldiers who live & work together
decimate
annihilate 1C La decimare "to kill every tenth man"
drill
practice 16C drill in a circle
drum up
gather support 15C drum troops to rally
earshot
within hearing 16C a distance like "bowshot" for a `gunshot
egg on
urge, encourage 6C No eggja "to put an edge on"
feather in one's cap
special honor 16C Hungarian (and other European) soldiers got one feather for each kill
flash in the pan
short-lived success 16C Powder in matchlock pan does not exploded
forlorn hope
little chance of success 16C Du verloren hoop "lost troop", select soldiers to start battle
havoc
destruction or devastation 11C ME havok "plunder" (became outlawed to say)
hoisted on one's own petard
caught in one's own trap 15C ME hoist "to send sky high" petard "iron canister of explosive"
lock, stock and barrel
the whole thing 16C three parts of a matchlock, black powder musket or arquebus
loophole
way out 14C hold or opening in fortress walls (first for shooting from, later for exiting)
magazine
collection of articles 16C Ar makhazin "store house", originally for storing black powder
marshal
set out in orderly way 7C OHGe marahscah "mare servant", keeper of horses
musketeer
friends engaged in a similar enterprise 16C Fr mousequitaire "soldier with musket"
muster
measure up 13C La monstrare "to show up, assemble", muster militia to training camp
petard, hoisted on one's own
caught in one's own trap 15C ME hoist "sky high", petard "shaped charged"
pioneer
first settlers 16C Fr peonier "foot soldiers", first to go ahead andmake camp, later engineers, sappers
pummel
pound 16C Fr pomme "apple", La pomom "fruit", shape of sword pommel... used to strike blows
quell
subdue, quiet 16C OE cwellan, ME quellan "to kill with violence or slaughter"
rank and file
followers rather than leaders 16C En rank "side by side", file "behind one another", information
rendezvous
pre-arranged meeting 16C Fr "present yourselves", troops or warships to assemble
scuttlebutt
rumor or gossip ?C En scuttle "hole in a vessel", hole in butt/cask where sailors drank water, talked
stun
surprise 14C ME "to make a 'din'"
subsidy
financial support 14C La subsidii "troops held in reserve" to provide assistance
swash buckler
swaggering doer of daring deeds 16C OE swash "to dash against", buckle "raised boss on shield
to the hilt
to the utmost 16C En "sword plunged in to its hilt"
visor
brim of a cap 10C Fr viser "to face", later moveable portion of a military helmet (also remove helm/hat & salute)
wardrobe
close or clothes cabinet 15C Fr warde guard, robe "valuables"
watchword
principle, slogan, or motto 14C En "word to pass the watch", later "to signal an attack"
whine
plaintive or complaining noise 15C A-S hwinan "whizzing sound of flying arrows", later bullets, children & animal sounds


En = English, ME = Middle English, OE = Old English, A-S = Anglo-Saxon, Fr = French, Sp = Spanish, It = Italian, La = Latin, Du = Dutch, (OH = Old High) Ge = German, No = Norse, Sc = Scandanavian, Ar = Arabic
Originally created 25 March 1999
by Michael Foster