Regency Era Lexicon – Continues with the Letter “S”

s. – the abbreviation for shilling (a shilling is a English silver coin worth twelvepence; 20 shillings = one pound)

Sabbatarians – VERY strict observers of the Sabbath

sack – a dry white wine from Spain

St. Giles – a notorious London slum with a large Irish and Jewish population; a center for prostitution

St. James Palace – the official residence (until 1837 when Queen Victoria moved the royal residence to Buckingham Palace)

“Saint Jane” myth (not necessarily a Regency  term, but important to the era) – When Henry Austen wrote his biography of his sister Jane, he presented a “saint” to the world, which is in sharp contrast to the Jane Austen we meet in her letters.

saloon or salon – a large room, such as a drawing room, used for receiving and entertaining guests; this room often doubled as a picture gallery in a fine house

salver – a silver tray which held calling cards; either placed on a table in the hallway or delivered by the head servant to his master/mistress; also used by servants to passing around biscuits during social gatherings

sal volatile – smelling salt (made with ammonium carbonate)

sandals – used by ladies in the early part of the century; slipperlike shoes that fastened over the instep with a strap

sash – worn by little girls as a complement to the muslin frock

schoolroom – where children received their lessons in a wealthier home; large enough for dancing lessons and to accommodate games indoors; “in the schoolroom” meant a young lady had not made her “Come Out”

scout – a man servant at Oxford

Scottish reel – a folk dance with gliding steps and jumps; a quick-stepping dance

scullery – place where dishes were washed and stored

sealing wax or sealing wafer – a drop of wax (dropped wet over the fold of a letter and allowed to dry) or a sealing wafer (a thin disk of dried paste used to seal a document) was used to seal a letter (There were NO envelopes.); a signet ring or seal pressed into the wax secured the paper seal; usually made of beeswax; red wax was used only for business; other colors for social correspondence; black wax indicated mourning

seals – small ornament on a watch chain, including a seal to set the wax on a letter

sedan Chair – a rickshaw-like enclosed chair with two poles, carried by two men, one at the front of the poles, another at the back of the chair holding the rear poles

seedcake – a sweet cake usually made with caraway seeds

sell up – selling all of a person’s worldly goods to settle his debts

seminary – the most fashionable, educational, and expensive institution for young ladies; girls learned sewing (“work”), reading, writing, mathematics, French, and history, along with dancing, music (instrument and singing), and art (although these fine arts often cost extra)

senior wrangler – in Cambridge’s math honors exams, the top students were called “wranglers”; the highest ranked student was the “senior wrangler”

sennight – a contraction of “seven nights” = one week

sent down – expelled from a university

servants’ hall – a special room where the servants of a household ate and socialized

servants’ quarters – servants (both male and female) had their bedrooms in the manor house’s attic, basement, or a separate wing of the house (The lady’s maid often had a room near her mistress.)

set – the name given to a group of dancers in a dance, as well as the series of dances they perform

settee – an indoor chair on which two people could sit

settle – a wooden bench with a high back on which several people could sit; usually found in taverns and rustic homes; often faced the fireplace

settlement – the legal arrangement of property; marriage settlements involved ensuring that a woman would receive pin money, a jointure and portions for her future children;  strict settlements ensured that a landed estate remained entailed against the possibility of a male heir selling or mortgaging it; settlement under the Poor Law meant a person could not receive financial relief in a parish without being born in the parish, been apprenticed in the parish, or being married to a parish resident

Seven Deadly Sins – pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth (Unfortunately, these characteristics often defined members of the aristocracy.)

Seven Dials– an infamous criminal district in London; it was the seven streets that converged upon St. Giles (see above)

sexton – the man who rang the bells and dug the graves at a churchyard

shaking hands – was a sign of real friendship, not generally part of an introduction as it is in current times; occurred less frequently between members of the opposite sex; was considered improper

shawl – worn by women throughout the century

sheriff – in previous centuries the High Sheriff was the king’s representative in the shire (i.e., the Sheriff of Nottingham); by the 1800s, the “sheriff” was a country gentleman who entertained the assize justices when they made their judicial circuit; in some areas, the sheriff also carried out official county business

shift– a long kind of nightgown type of material which women wore as underwear, along with the corset (“drawers” did not become popular until the 1860s); “shift” replaced the word “smock”; eventually, “shift” was replaced by the word “chemise”

shilling number – a monthly installment of a serialized novel (very popular in the mid and later part of the century)

ship-of-the-line – a warship usually of 60+ guns; one that could take its place in the “line” of battle

shire – unit of regional government run by the earl and the sheriff (shire reeve) in the monarch’s name; the Normans substituted the word “county” for “shire”; “The shires” in foxhunting groups referred to the Midland shires, including Rutland, Northamptonshire, and Leicestershire

shivaree – a noisy mock serenade (made by banging pans and kettles) to a newly married couple (also referred to as belling, charivari, chivaree, callathump, and callithump in regional areas of the US and UK)

shorts – knee breeches

shove-halfpenny– a children’s game similar to shuffleboard, but played on a table and with coins

sideboard – dining room furniture that held extra dishes; later, it became a storage place for plate, silverware, etc.

Sir – the title by which baronets and knights are addressed

sitting room – used for morning activities (reading, letter writing, cards, painting, sewing, etc.); in smaller manor houses the husband would have his study at one end while the wife had her sitting room

sizar – scholarship students at Cambridge

skittles – similar to bowling (nine pens or skittles)

small clothes – knee breeches

smock frock – an outer garment worn by the agricultural working poor

snob – meant someone of no social standing, the opposite of a “nob”

snuffers – scissorlike instruments used to trim the wicks of tallow candles

Social Season – London’s fashionable high life; ran from February to June and September to pre-Christmas

solicitor – a lawyer who dealt in wills and estate issues; they could not appear in court; therefore, solicitors would hire a barrister to represent his client in court matters

Somerset House– housed various government offices, most notably the tax office (Board of Inland Revenue); located on the Strand in London

Southwark – the “Borough”; located across the Thames south of London

sovereign – a gold coin worth a pound (first came into circulation in 1817)

spatterdashes – long gaithers to protect the legs from water and mud

spencer – a short jacket worn by ladies of the day; for men, a spencer was an overcoat without tails

sponging house – a house run by a sheriff’s officer where debtors were housed while they repaid their debts

Sprezzatura – Though dating from the Renaissance, Castiglione’s sprezzatura remained in place during the Regency. Taught from childhood, “gracefulness” became a way of life. A member of the gentry should speak and act with modest confidence; maintain emotional control; use proper language; and be well educated in literature, the arts, history, and dancing.

squire – a term of courtesy for a member of the gentry whose family lved for generations in an area and who had tenants on his property; often served as the justice of the peace in the area

stagecoach – public transportation, generally for the lower classes; the Royal Mail coaches were quicker and more expensive than the regular stagecoaches (Note: Jane Austen’s house in Chawton was located beside a main stagecoach route; therefore, the noise of the carriages was commonplace for Austen in those days.)

stair rod – metal rods clamped along the base of a riser to hold the carpet in place

stall – metonymy at work; a position a prebendary held (i.e., Dr. Grant in Austen’s “Mansfield Park” succeeds to a stall in Westminster.)

stand up – to dance with someone

stanhope – a light carriage with no top; could have 2 or 4 wheels; named for the Honourable and Reverend Fitzroy Stanhope (1784-1864)

Statute of Wills – passed by Henry VIII in 1540, the statute allowed a person to leave his property to anyone he wanted, provided he had stated his desires in a will; unfortunately, Parliament had not abolished the “Statute of Uses” from 1536, which supported the concept of primogeniture, so primogeniture remained the preferred inheritance method

stay – one of the two halves of a corset

staylace – one of the laces used to tighten a corset

steeplechase – a horseback ride or race across country; originally the gentlemen raced toward a distant steeple; therefore, it was a straight course, but that did not mean the race lacked obstacles

steward – managed the estate for the owner so that the owner did not have to deal directly with tenant farmers; the steward would oversee the estate’s accounts, settle tenant squabbles, purchase seed and animals, etc.

stile – a set of three or four wooden steps built to help people over a wall or fence constructed in a field to keep animals enclosed

stillroom – where preserves and wine were kept in a house; also where coffee and tea was made

stock – a tight, stiff collar worn by men, especially soldiers; it was also the black shirtfront over which the white bit of collar was fastened for clerical dress

stone – a measurement of weight = 14 pounds

strand – shore of a river or ocean

stud – horses raised for breeding or racing

stuff – name for different kinds of fabrics, but generally applied to those commonly made of wool

sugarloaf– the hard, crusty form in which sugar was available; usually shaped like a cone

sugarplum – a round piece of flavored candy made chiefly of sugar

surgeon – a man who tended to external injuries (broken bones, wounds, etc.) “Physicians” never bloodied their hands. Physicians were addressed as “doctor,” whereas surgeons were referred to as “mister.”

surtout – a man’s overcoat, very much like a frock coat

swallowtail coat – a man’s coat, which had long tails that tapered down the gentleman’s back

sweetbread – the thymus gland or pancreas of a young animal, especially a calf or lamb, used for food

sweetmeat – a candy, such as a candied fruit

swing glass – a mirror similar to a cheval glass

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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3 Responses to Regency Era Lexicon – Continues with the Letter “S”

  1. carolcork says:

    St Giles features in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series.

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