Regency Era Lexicon – Continuing on to the Letter “S”

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 theroyalresidences/ stjamesspalace/ stjamesspalace.aspx

St. James Palace – the official residence (until 1837 when Queen Victoria moved the royal residence to Buckingham Palace); St. James’s Palace is the senior Palace of the Sovereign, with a long history as a Royal residence. As the home of several members of the Royal Family and their household offices, it is often in use for official functions and is not open to the public.

“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 XEP/A-US/SFL/Pages/ 1765-1820/USC-1765.htm

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 Columbus Avenue Hall Settle c.1902 Collection of Crab Tree Farm
Columbus Avenue Hall Settle c.1902 Collection of Crab Tree Farm

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

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 19th century-more of a Victorian term, rather than a Regency one)

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; A gentleman wearing shirt and breeches (only) is considered to be undressed. Though modestly covered by modern standards, by 18th Century standards he is considered to be in his ‘small clothes’ – his underwear.

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

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

snuffers – scissor-like 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

Fitzroy Stanhope was a designer of carriages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Several vehicles are associated with his name. http://www.caaonline. com/caa_content.asp?PageType=Dept&Key= 15&MCat=9

Fitzroy Stanhope was a designer of carriages in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Several vehicles are associated with his name. http://www.caaonline.

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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2 Responses to Regency Era Lexicon – Continuing on to the Letter “S”

  1. carolcork says:

    Regina, after reading Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, I wanted to know more about St. Giles and did some research which resulted in posting an article on my blog.

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