Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century

Home > Database > Glossary


The advertisements contain many words peculiar to the eighteenth-century, here is a list of the trickiest words, as well as some general definitions.

This list can also be downloaded from here

  • A seeton (health)
    A seton is a thread, piece of tape or similar in a small wound to prevent it healing and allow for drainage.
  • A three years protection in his pocket (item)
    Most likely some kind of document given to the enslaved man by his master authorising him to hire himself out for wages, negotiating salary and then paying an agreed amount to his master.
  • Apprentice (occupation)
    A boy or man being trained in a skilled trade (for example shoe-making, carpentry, etc.).
  • Baker Kneed (health)
    See "In-kneed".
  • Banyon [banyan] (clothing item)
    A banyan was a loose, informal robe to be worn instead of a coat.
  • Bavarian coat (clothing item)
    A coat based on the Bavarian style.
  • Bays (clothing material)
    Coarse English worsted and woolen fabric.
  • Black (racial descriptor)
    British-used designation for a person from any dark-skinned group of peoples, especially sub-Saharan African.
  • Blackamore/Blackmore/Blackamoor (racial descriptor)
    British-used designation for a person from any dark-skinned group of peoples, especially sub-Saharan African.
  • Bonnet (clothing item)
    A hat, usually tied under the chin and often framing the face
  • Breeches (clothing item)
    Precursor to trousers, stopped just below the knee.
  • Burdet (clothing material)
    Cotton fabric.
  • Camblet (clothing material)
    Plain woven or twilled fabric.
  • Cast (referring to eyes) (health)
    A squint.
  • Chymist (occupation)
    A chemist.
  • Cloaths (clothing item)
    A variant spelling of clothes.
  • Cockade (clothing item)
    A rosette or knot of ribbon, usually worn on the hat as part of a uniform, as a badge of office, or similar.
  • Collar (term)
    A brass, copper or silver collar worn around the enslaved person's neck; to inhibit escape, or as conspicuous display of wealth.
  • Cordwainers (occupation)
    A shoemaker, or worker in leather.
  • Cornfactor (occupation)
    A trader in grains.
  • Country Marks (term)
    Ritual scarring of face, arms or torso received while in Africa.
  • Couper (occupation)
    Maker of barrels and hogsheads for transporting goods, often liquids.
  • Creole (racial descriptor)
    A descendant of Africans, Europeans, or both, born in the Caribbean or American colonies.
  • Cupp'd [cupped] (health)
    Cupping is the process of placing a glass upside down onto the skin, in which a partial vacuum is formed by heating from the outside. Was thought to extract illnesses etc., and can leave substantial bruising.
  • Curgee [culgee] handkerchief (clothing item)
    Culgee is a richly decorated silk (from India).
  • Cut Glass Cruets (item)
    Glass bottles, usually for holding vinegar, oil, etc.
  • Dimity (clothing material)
    A stout cotton fabric made with warp cords and dyed in the piece or printed; used for draper.
  • Dropsy (health)
    A swelling caused by accumulation of abnormally large amounts of fluid. Caused by kidney disease or congestive heart failure.
  • Drugget, druggit (clothing material)
    A coarse wool, or a mixture of wool and silk or wool and linen, also used for covering floors and tables.
  • East Indies (place)
    Ostensibly refers to South and Southeast Asia, but typically India.
  • Ebo/Ibo (place)
    From Igboland, which is now Southeastern Nigera.
  • Fife (musical instrument)
    A high-pitched transverse flute used commonly in military and marching musical groups.
  • Frise/frize (clothing material)
    Very high grade of linen made in Holland; very strong, stout, grained and well bleached.
  • Frock (clothing item)
    A dress.
  • Fustian (clothing material)
    A printed fabric, made with linen warp and cotton tilling.
  • Gaol/Goal (term)
  • Gold Coast (place)
    Now Ghana.
  • Guinea/Guiney (place)
    Name for the region of the African coast of West Africa which lies along the Gulf of Guinea.
  • Haberdasher (occupation)
    A dealer in drapery goods of various types.
  • Hair Camblet (clothing item)
    A camblet made with hair.
  • Hosier (occupation)
    Seller of hosiery, such as socks, stockings, gloves etc.
  • Indentured (occupation)
    Someone bound by a signed contract to work as apprentice for a certain number of years.
  • In-kneed, inknee'd (health)
    When the knees bend inward, towards each other.
  • Instant, Inst. (term)
    Referring to the current month of the date mentioned.
  • Kersey (clothing material)
    Stout, heavy and pliable twilled all-wool or cotton warp fabric.
  • Kevenhuller hat [Khevenhuller] (clothing item)
    Hat with a deep front, fronted turned up of the brim with small pinch, peaks at the sides, small turned up at back.
  • Knock-kneed (health)
    See "In-kneed".
  • Lindsey [linsey] (clothing material)
    A coarse linen fabric.
  • Livery (clothing item)
    A uniform worn by servants.
  • Lusty (health)
  • Maltser (occupation)
    A person who makes or deals in malt.
  • Manchester Velvet (clothing material)
    All-cotton velvet made in England with plain weave back.
  • Mark’d under each Ear with having an Issue (health)
    Issue is a minor surgical incision to drain pus or fluid.
  • Marled (adjective)
    Mottled or streaked.
  • Milliner (occupation)
    A hat maker or seller.
  • Mourning Buckle (in shoe) (clothing item)
    A shoe buckle that commemorated the death of a loved one.
  • Mourning Frock (clothing item)
    Varied, but was usually a dark, plain garment in the style of those worn in the aftermath of a spouse's death.
  • Mullato/Mulato/Mollato/Mellato (racial descriptor)
    The term used to describe a person of mixed race.
  • Muslin (clothing material)
    Plain woven, bleached or gray, soft finished cotton fabric, the quality of which could vary greatly.
  • Nankeen (clothing material)
    An all-cotton, very stout, plain , woven fabric, dyed in the yarn and made in solid colors, stripes, with equal number of threads in the warp and weft in a square inch; named for Nanking, China.
  • Negro (racial descriptor)
    British-used designation for a person from any dark-skinned group of peoples, especially sub-Saharan African.
  • Of a low stature (term)
    Short in height.
  • Osnaburg, ozenburgh, osenbrig (clothing material)
    Plain woven, strong cotton fabric, made in blue and white or brown and white stripes and checks or solid colors.
  • Oylman (occupation)
    A seller of oil.
  • Packer (occupation)
    A packer of goods; pedlar who carried a pack.
  • Perriwig [periwig] (clothing item)
    A wig.
  • Peruke Maker (occupation)
    A wig maker.
  • Plantation Marks (term)
    Scars from injuries imposed by masters or their agents including brand marks and the scars left by whip marks.
  • Pock freted/freten (health)
    Visible scars leftover from suffering from the small pox.
  • Poplin (clothing material)
    Fabrics having fine, cross ribs irrespective of the material they are made of. The better grades are dyed in the yarn; used for coats, dresses, etc.
  • Postillion (occupation)
    A postillion guided horse-drawn coaches.
  • Postillion Jacket (clothing item)
    A postillion's jacket reached the waist only, sometimes decorated with gold lace and gilt buttons.
  • Poulterer (occupation)
    A dealer in poultry and game.
  • Ratteen [ratine] (clothing material)
    All-wool or cotton warp overcoating, the heavy fleecy nap, formed by the weft, is rubbed into nubs in the finishing process.
  • Rude (health)
    Healthy; fit; in particularly good health.
  • Sadler (occupation)
    Someone who makes or repairs saddles.
  • Sagathy (clothing material)
    A woolen cloth.
  • Scrophules (health)
    Symptoms of scrofula, primary tuberculosis of the lymphatic gland, especially those of the neck.
  • Sea-clothes (clothing item)
    A sailor's outfit.
  • Seasucker [seersucker] (clothing material)
    A lightweight wash fabric made of silk or cotton in plain weave showing crinkled warp stripes. This effect is produced by dressing that part of the warp very slack. Originally an imported fabric from India.
  • Se'ennight (term)
    Shortening of 'seven night'; a week.
  • Serge/sarge (clothing material)
    A twilled worsted or woolen fabric used especially for clothing; cotton, rayon, or silk in a twill weave.
  • Shag (clothing material)
    A stout, hairy cloth made of coarse wool, originally in the Orkney Islands.
  • Shalloon (clothing material)
    All-worsted fabric in England and France, made with single warp and twilled.
  • Shipwright (occupation)
    Someone who made or repaired wooden ships.
  • Snuff (term)
    Pulverized tobacco that was inhaled through the nose, chewed, or placed against the gums.
  • Spatterdashes (clothing item)
    Similar to leggings, these covered the leg from the mid-shin to the top of the foot.
  • Strum Strum (musical instrument)
    An African musical instrument, perhaps similar to a guitar.
  • Surat (clothing material)
    East Indian cotton, often with a stained but strong staple of dull white color; contained lots of leaves.
  • Surtout Coat (clothing item)
    A close-fitting overcoat for men, especially a frock coat.
  • Tawny/Tawney (racial descriptor)
    A term denoting brown or light brown skin.
  • The Evil in her neck (health)
    See Scrophules.
  • Tinker (occupation)
    Someone who fixed pots, pans and other metal items.
  • Trepan (term)
    To catch or ensnare.
  • Trews (clothing item)
    A close-fitting set of tartan trousers, sometimes worn by certain Scottish regiments.
  • Trowsers, trowzers (clothing item)
    Variant spellings of trousers.
  • Ultimo/ult. (term)
    Referring to the previous month of the date mentioned.
  • Victualler (occupation)
    The owner of an eating house, inn or public house providing food and drink.
  • Visage (term)
    The face.
  • Warfinger [wharfinger] (occupation)
    An owner or keeper of a wharf.
  • Wen (health)
    An abnormal growth or a cyst protruding from a surface especially of the skin.
  • Worsted (clothing material)
    A large variety of fabrics made of long, combed wool.


'Prescot', Liverpool General Advertiser, or the Commercial Register,
2nd September 1768
Image © The British Library Board.
All Rights Reserved.