Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Glossary of Geographical Terms from the Middle Ages

Good day! Winter has been mild lately and it has encouraged me to get out for longer walks with my dog. As I wandered into new areas of my neighborhood, it occurred to me that I should post something about land area terms used in the middle ages. Here is a glossary of old terms which include some that are still in use today as they were centuries ago. I tried to use some of these terms in my writings so as to give an old world feel to my stories. Perhaps you can use some of these in your next historical novel or story. I welcome any other words I may have left out of this list to include in my own notes. Please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Barrow - Middle English bergh - noun - First Known Use: before 12th century
:  mountain, mound —used only in the names of hills in England
:  a large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead :  tumulus

Bower - Middle English bour - noun - First Known Use: before 12th century
: a space surrounded by foliage.
: an inner or private chamber, dwelling or retreat 
:  a shelter (as in a garden) made with tree boughs or vines twined together :  arbor

Brake - Middle English thikket - noun - First Known Use: 14th century
: rough or marshy land overgrown usually with one kind of plant

Coppice - Middle English copies - noun - First Known Use: 1534
:  a thicket, grove, or growth of small trees
:  forest originating mainly from shoots or root suckers rather than seed

Coomb/Combe - Middle English cumbe - noun - First Known Use:before the 12 century
:British :  a deep narrow valley
: British :  a valley or basin on the flank of a hill

Dale - Middle English - noun - First Known Use: before the 12th century
: a valley or vale
 Dell- Middle English delle - noun - First Known Use: 13th century
: a small valley with trees and grass growing in it

Dingle - Middle English - noun - First Known Use: 13th century
: a deep hollow
: a small wooded valley :  dell

Eaves - Middle English eves - noun - First Known Use: before 12th century
:  the fringe of a forest; also used figuratively for the edges of a mountain range.
:  a projecting edge (as of a hill) —usually used in plural

Fallow - Middle English falow - noun - First Known Use: before 12th cent.
: Land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season.
: obsolete - plowed land
: verb to plow, harrow, and break up (land) without seeding to destroy weeds and conserve soil moisture. 

Glebe - Latin - noun -First Known Use: 14th century
: archaic -  land; specifically :  a plot of cultivated land
: land belonging or yielding revenue to a parish church or ecclesiastical benefice

Heath - Middle English heth - noun - First Known Use: before the 12th century
: an area of land that is covered with grass and small shrubs
a :  a tract of wasteland
b :  an extensive area of rather level open uncultivated land usually with poor coarse soil, inferior drainage, and a surface rich in peat or peaty humus

Hollow - Middle English holw - noun - First Known Use:before 12th century
: a place or area (especially on the ground) that is lower than the area around it: valley or basin
: an empty space inside of something

Hummock - Origin Unknown? - noun - First Known Use: 1555
: a small hill or knoll
: a ridge of ice
Knoll - Middle English knol - noun - First Known Use: before the 12th century
: a small round hill or mound

Marsh - Middle English mersh - noun - First Known Use: before the 12th century
: a tract of soft wet land usually characterized by monocotyledons (as grasses or cattails)
Synonyms: bog, fen, swamp, marshland, mire, moor, morass, muskeg, slough (also slew or slue), swampland, wash, wetland

Mead - Middle English mede - noun - First Known Use: before the 12th century
: meadow
: a fermented drink

Moor - Middle English mor - noun -First Known Use: 12th century
:chiefly British :  an expanse of open rolling infertile land
:  a boggy area; especially :  one that is peaty and dominated by grasses and sedges

Spinney - Anglo-French - noun - First Known Use: 1594
: chiefly british - A group of trees or small wood

Strand - Middle English - noun - First Known Use: 12th century
:  the land bordering a body of water :  shore, beach

Swath - Middle English - noun - First Known Use: 14th century
: a long, wide strip of land
: an area of grass or grain that has been cut or mowed
:  a row of cut grain or grass left by a scythe or mowing machine 

Thicket - Middle English thikket - noun - First Known Use: ?
:  a dense growth of shrubbery or small trees :  coppice or brake
:  something resembling a thicket in density or impenetrability :  tangle <a political thicket> <a thicket of reporters> 

 Tilth - Middle English - noun - First Known Use: Before 12th century
:  cultivated land :  tillage
:  the state of aggregation of a soil especially in relation to its suitability for crop growth.

Vale - Middle English - noun - First Known Use: before the 14th century
: the valley of a river
: world
Synonyms: dale, dene [British], hollow, valley

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fantasy World Calendars

Now that the holidays are behind me, I am eager to get back to blogging and working on my next book. I hope you all had a good holiday season and are looking to 2015 for a year of many possibilities and challenges.

Though I wasn't blogging much here, I did have to walk my dog to keep the sugary pounds off, and as we walked twice a day I took that time to listen to some audio books. Most were Christmas romances with a bit of paranormal thrown in. During these walks it occurred to me to consider what my imaginary world would be like during Christmas and New Years.  Tiaera doesn't have Christmas, but it does have a seasonal celebration called Wynterfest and it's mostly celebrated in the snowy countries of Snowfury and Wynterlande. This year, I hope to add more to my fantasy world by adding week days, months and a few holidays.

Since Tiaera is loosely based on Earth during the Middle Ages, I decided to look up New Years at a few websites. Did you know that New Years was abolished during the Middle Ages?

According to Infoplease (
"Middle Ages: January 1st Abolished
In medieval Europe, however, the celebrations accompanying the new year were considered pagan and unchristian like, and in 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter."

And at (
"Celebration of New Year's Day in January fell out of practice during the Middle Ages, and even those who strictly adhered to the Julian calendar did not observe the New Year exactly on January 1. The reason for the latter was that Caesar and Sosigenes failed to calculate the correct value for the solar year as 365.242199 days, not 365.25 days. Thus, an 11-minute-a-year error added seven days by the year 1000, and 10 days by the mid-15th century."

Fortunately, such problems as rulers, religions and politics will not have to concern those of us who want to enhance our fictional worlds. Anyone who enjoys building worlds either for stories or gaming or just as a hobby should think about such holidays. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to look into what's out there for authors, gamers and world-builders who want to add holidays, calendars and seasons to add to their worlds. There are a few good articles and forum threads regarding fantasy calendars. Just Google "Fantasy world calendars" for a list of links. It seems simply enough to get started once you know what to call the weekdays and months, then it's just a matter of either using an app or program to formulate a believable calendar for your world.

Here are a few places that you might find useful:
Donjon: Fantasy Calendar
Masterplan-Adventure Design Studio
Campaign Calendar

Masterplan is free and it does much more than just make you a calendar. I may have to give this program a try and post some feedback on it. 

If you happen to know of any good sites you can recommend, feel free to comment. I am sure others would be happy to get any further help on how to create a fantasy world calendar.