Glossary of Medieval Terms

I will add to this glossary over time.

If there are any words that you would like to have defined, please put them in the comment box below and I’ll do my best to find a definition.


Bailey – The enclosure within an outer castle wall.

Cheat – Bread made from whole wheat from which the bran had been removed.

Christmas – 25th December. One of four quarter days.

Demesne – The land used by the lord of the manor for his own provisions. It was exploited by the lord and farmed by his own serfs. It was separate from the land leased to tenants.

Fletcher – Maker of bows or arrows.

Franciscan – A member of a specific mendicant order.

Friar – A member of a mendicant order.

Garderobe – Lavatory.

Gauntlet – An armoured glove.

Hall – The main room in a house or castle.

Hovel – A small building, usually of a very simple construction.

Indenture – Contract between a soldier and his commander detailing the terms of his service.

Lady Day – Feast of the Annunciation – 25th March. One of four quarter days. This was the beginning of the year.

Manorial Court – Court held to manage legal issues arising on a manor.

Maslin – Bread eaten by most people. It was made from wheat and rye flour mixed together.

Michaelmas – The feast of St Michael and all Angels-  29th September. One of four quarter days. It was the beginning of the agricultural year.

Midsummer – 24th June. One of four quarter days.

Motte – Raised mound on which a defensive tower was built, forming a basic castle.


Pandemain – High-quality white bread made from finely ground and sifted wheat flour.

Patis – Extortion money paid to mercenaries to prevent them attacking towns or villages.

Pattens – Raised wooden shoes for wearing over indoor slippers when walking outside.

Paynemain – See Pandemain.

Reeve – Villein responsible to the lord of the manor for his village.

Reredos – Screen covering the wall behind an altar in a church.


Sabaton – Armoured boot, protecting the upper part of the foot.

Simony – The buying and selling of ecclesiastical positions. Named after Simon Magus who offered the apostles money to receive the Holy Spirit – Acts 8:9-24.

Solar -The room occupied by the lord of a house or a castle. The lord slept and conducted his business affairs in the room. It was the room to which the lord, his family and important guests withdrew in order to be away from the more public hall.  Sometimes it had a viewing window into the hall, allowing the lord to see what was happening there. Named from the French ‘seul’ (alone).

Tourte – Bread made from husk and flour. It was probably used for trenchers

Trencher – A slice of coarse bread onto which food was put during a meal.


Villein – An unfree peasant (serf) who occupied land belonging to the lord of the manor.

Wastel – Fine white bread.

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