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The Yorkshire Historical Dictionary brings lost words to life

A new volume of a historical dictionary revealing thousands of Yorkshire words which had been lost for centuries was launched earlier this month on Yorkshire Day (1 August).

The dictionary has been edited by Alexandra Medcalf from the University of York’s Borthwick Institute. The publication of more than 4,000 terms, dating from 1100 to c.1750, marks a lifetime’s work by local historian, Dr George Redmonds who died in 2018.


Over a sixty-year career, Dr Redmonds collected and defined words found in the course of his archival research in Yorkshire. Some had never previously been recorded. Other words were already known, but found to be in much earlier use than historians had thought.

Dr Redmonds found a reference to ‘cricket’ in use in 1559 to mean foot-stool. And the dictionary contains a full explanation of the word pudding – which meant entrails such as black pudding from 1556 – but has since evolved into having sweeter connotations.


“The Yorkshire Historical Dictionary is a fascinating record of Yorkshire’s past, to be enjoyed by everyone,” explains Alexandra Medcalf. “It also makes a major contribution to the study of dialect vocabulary in Britain – and it is an important tool for anyone working on Yorkshire history.”

The University works in partnership with the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society to produce the dictionary.

Included in the dictionary are agricultural, industrial and coal-mining terms; words for landscape features, animals and plants; and the names of domestic objects, clothing and textiles. Some medieval examples include:

Bain – the regional spelling of ‘bone’. Dating back to 1279

Endlang – Lengthwise, at full length, along. Dating back to 1417

Packman – A man who makes a living by selling goods from a pack which he carries from place to place, a pedlar. Dating back to 1160


The Yorkshire Historical Dictionary is published by Boydell and Brewer. Click here for more details.

You can also visit the Yorkshire Historical Dictionary website

Top Image: Archives used by Dr Redmonds in his research. Credit: Borthwick Institute, University of York


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