Middle Ages Words & Vocabulary

Here are some of the most common words and middle ages vocabulary:


These were local lords at the bottom of the lordship hierarchy. They served the superior lords in a military position.


This term was used to describe an estate that would range between a few acres to many acres. This estate would include both the lord’s land and that of the peasants who toiled the land.


A knight was one of the most prestigious warriors in the middle ages. They were an important part of the battles fought across Europe during this time.


The knights used this term to symbolize brevity and loyalty when their enemies confronted them.


These were custodians of art in the middle ages vocabulary. They composed poetry and love songs focused on the fragility of women and the love that they deserve. These poets moved from place to place.


These were also known as peasants or serfs. They were bound to working for their lords and even though they were not slaves, they were not categorized as free men either.


This was a community of nuns or monks lived in a monastery. An Abbess (female) or Abbot (male) ruled the abbey. Most of the time the monks and nuns owed allegiance to the lords and the church and were required to perform their obligatory duties with regard to their masters.


This was a common Arabic term that meant slave and was used in combination with another name such as Abd Allah, which means a slave of God. Later on the term was used to mean a black slave while the white slaves were given the name mamluk .


Monks worked from these rooms. From the scriptoria, monks would copy the Bible into scripts that would be distributed to the local population. They would also copy, by hand, literature compiled by Latin authors.


This was a financial fine imposed by the king or his council when one committed petty offences. The offender was perceived to be at the mercy of the king, thus the term amercement was used to symbolize a small fee to absolve one of his offenses.

Benefit Of Clergy

The middle ages clergy enjoyed a privilege that placed them beyond the rule of the secular courts. If one was accused of a sin, all they had to do is to read a verse in Latin and if done correctly their case would be forwarded to the bishop. It was assumed that the bishop and king would punish the offender by death if he committed an act of felony.

Magna Carta

This document stipulated the relationship between the king and the lower level lords.

Books Of Hours

This was a common prayer book carried around by ordinary medieval women. The women decorated the book and carried it with them almost everywhere.


This Anglo-Saxon word denotes a town that is planned and developed as a military haven and the center of political influence.


This was a tax imposed on the people by the state or local lords and is equivalent to a relief, or rent.


These pit latrines were dug up to supplement the public latrines that proved to be inadequate for the population in the towns. Cesspits were thus dug behind houses and at other times under the house floorboards and lined with wickers. The content would be dumped into a nearby river or used as manure in the small house gardens.


This was part of the lord’s manor that was kept separate from the peasant land. The peasants would work on this piece of land for about three times each week. The demense were either dotted among the peasants’ land or were separate from the land allocated to peasants.


This is a term derived from the Ottoman Turks who used the term to describe the levy imposed on young Christian males picked up for training and to be recruited to the Janissaries.


This middle age vocabulary was used to describe the right of a lord to take away the property of any tenant if the free tenant is found  guilty of committing an act of felony.


Spelt in Latin as Iter, this terms denotes the right accorded to the king to inspect any lower lords or vassals. This visitation and inspection was done randomly and local officials would find themselves fired and subjected to amercement.

Frank Pledge

This is the oath that males over twelve years old, of a tithing group took to ensure that other members behaved responsibly. The members of the tithing group would be subjected to amercement if one of their members did not demonstrate proper conduct.


This term, mainly used in medieval Islamic society was used to denote a young male slave. Later the term was used to means a young bodyguard, or a servant who bound to his lord.


This term was used to describe the associations that middle ages merchants formed. These associations were formed to streamline and regulate merchant trade and negotiations between traders and local rulers. Other guilds began to emerge such as craft guilds as the manufacturing sector became robust.


This is an Arabic term that mean that which is forbidden or taboo. It used to described acts and tangible things such as foods that do not comply with Islamic law. The term was also used to denote a place where women stayed or women’s quarters within a house.

King’s Peace

This term denoted an area around the king’s residence that was protected and that would attract punishment in the event that someone violated it. Offenders would be found guilty of a felony if they violated this zone.


This was the basic amount of money paid for a piece of land located in the towns. This fee would be payable regardless of whether a house was built on the land. The number of buildings in the town determined this amount and not how the houses were used. This payment was also known as hawgable.

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