Injecting Life into Archaic Words for My Fantasy Novel

McGyver-ScatteredStonesFRONTI love finding new words that describe what I’m trying to say perfectly, especially if they are not common words. I often find these words have fallen out of use and are labelled archaic.

Using them and introducing them to readers who have never before seen them is a treat. I love sprinkling these little gems throughout my story.

I’ve had a lot of fun finding new words for Scattered Stones. They are—of course—archaic because Ath-o’Lea is in the past, long ago before electricity and engines and words like trailer.

I’ve decided to create a small glossary in the back of the book for readers who want to know the exact meaning of the words.

Here is my short list with a few of the sentences they appeared in.

aught: anything at all

byrgels: ancient word for burial ceremony

clothier: a person or company that makes, sells, or deals in clothes or cloth.

Halfway to the castle, he looked down Fletcher Street where his sisters operated their dress shop Sew in Style Clothier.

gamphrell: fool; presumptuous, forward person

“Don’t make a gamphrell of yourself.” Tam guided the horse forward. “The lady and lord of Wyvern are not your tavern horde.”

gravid: pregnant

jade: disreputable woman; a flirtatious girl

malapert: impudent person

“Suppose I believe this story.” Orenda glared down at the elf. “What then? Shall we part as friends and continue our search for the malapert? Or shall we join alliances and kill Elspeth together?”

mooncalf: foolish person

nigh: left

It will darken enough to blind you, Somerled had said, but if your feet keep on the nigh, you’ll find your way. Upon approach to the dungeon, the torch light seeping through the cracks in the wall will illuminate your target.

pizzle: to flog with a dried bull’s penis

To add insult to his rejection, she forced him to strip to his shorts and carry his possessions while he walked through the castle and the small settlement to the village gates. Along the way, the inhabitants pizzled him and taunted him with words, testing his self-control to remain calm.

quean: an impudent or ill-behaved girl or woman.

strumpet: a female prostitute or a promiscuous woman

termagant: a harsh-tempered or overbearing woman

“Rhiannon, I’m sorry Kellyn dumped you here. I’m sorry she hurt you. She can be such an inconsiderate termagant.”

Do you look for special words to use in your stories?

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16 thoughts on “Injecting Life into Archaic Words for My Fantasy Novel

    • Tracy, I made a note of this. I’ve often heard readers say they like a list of characters to refer to. This is more important in fantasy than many other genres because we tend to have a large cast. This book has around 65 named individuals. I keep a list of who is in each book to keep track of what they are doing.

      I began to create a list at my author’s site ( but so far I have only 34 listed. I’ll work on completing that. And I will take a serious look at including the character list at least in the eBook version.

      Thanks for reminding me about this. Sometimes I think of things, but other things get in the way of following through.


    • Thanks, Diana. My long-time word friend who has twice the size vocabulary as me didn’t know it either. So I added to her immense word knowledge.

      It does sound awful. I don’t ever want to be pizzled.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll admit, when I first read the meaning to pizzle, my mouth dropped, and I went, “oh!” Then I thought, how can I use that in a story? And then I thought of the women warriors at Tigh Na Mare. They would do this to a male who they thought was a nuisance. Before I found pizzle, they had poked Bronwyn with sticks, but him being pizzled is better and more degrading.

      Thanks, Annabelle, for leaving a comment. Slang of all eras is certainly interesting.


  1. These are all great words. The British still use some of them. I have heard my Yorkshire father-in-law use aught, nigh, clothier and strumpet. I love the word termagant and will add it to my vocabulary! I like to add a few unfamiliar words in my books for kids as I think it is good for them to think beyond the regular vocabulary.


    • My favourite new word I learned in the past dozen years is spindrift. It’s that fine spray off the top of a wave or the fine spray of snow swept off snowbanks. I haven’t used it in any of my novels yet, but one day I will. One I learned recently that has me wanting to use is apricity. It means the warmth of the sun in winter. I’ve basked in apricity many times.

      Because of my British, Scottish, Irish and German heritage, I often look for words from these places in Europe to decorate my writing. It’s like learning words my ancestors would have used.

      I think it’s great that you introduce kids to new words in your book. Some may not appreciate them, but some will be overjoyed to discover a new word.

      Thanks for visiting, Darlene, and for leaving a comment.


    • I’ve always had a fascination and love for old words. Archaic words and castles go hand-and-hand. They are like old friends that should get together often.

      I have made a up a few of my own words, but I much prefer using old ones that few people have heard of; it’s almost like I’ve made them up, but they are rooted deep in history.

      Thanks for visiting, Ernesto.


  2. In the UK,nigh is still in use. The meanings are Near or Almost. You’re likely to hear someone say, “It’s nigh on midnight.” Quean is I think an old Scottish word and one I still like to use in Scrabble.
    My favourite board game is Balderdash which is full of archaic words and their meanings the board game version of Call My Bluff.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


    • David, thank you for visiting. I used to play Scrabble a lot. My youngest child would try to get away with so many made-up words. His favourite one was ‘swack’. That’s a cross between a slap and whack. We still giggle at that and joke, “I’m going to swack you.”

      I saw that ‘nigh’ also meant near. I should use both meanings since I don’t know what will come out of Jack Somerled’s mouth in the next book. He’s the only one who uses it; it’s a word from his homeland.

      The word is not used in Canada, at least I’ve never heard anyone use it. Quean is an old Scottish words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


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