Can You Tell Us the Meaning of These Old-Timey Words Without Asking Your Grandparents?


By: Teresa McGlothlin

5 Min Quiz

Image: IngredientsPhoto/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Let's take a trip back in time! While we're there, let's examine some of the words your grandparents or your great-grandparents would have used. We think you might be surprised by how many of them you actually know, but the only way to find out is to challenge yourself with this old-timey word quiz. 

As we open up the books to the past, we are going to challenge your knowledge of old-fashioned words like never before. While we're sure you will fly through this challenge without much of a problem, you might find yourself learning a few new words to add to your own vocabulary. Imagine the look on your sweetheart's face when you ask them for a buss! 

If you've ever heard your grandparents use strange words, imagine how they feel listening to your newfangled vernacular. For this quiz, put yourself in their shoes and see how many words from their time you can figure out. You might feel slightly challenged, but you'll walk away with a lot of insight about your elders' vocabulary. 

If you're ready to time travel with us, we're ready to see how many old-time words you know. Will get as many right as you think you will? 

What sort of person was a slugabed?

If you've ever known a teenager who prefers to stay in bed, you have known a slugabed. Slugabeds are lazy people who stay in bed doing nothing.


What is a rapscallion?

Everyone has a rapscallion friend. They simply cannot help themselves from being mischievous and causing chaos.


What is another word for a pickpocket?

Rather than using the word pickpockets, people used the word cutpurses. A cutpurse is another word for a skilled pickpocket or thief.


Which word means over there?

When someone told you to go over yonder, you would have been going over there. Yonder is a word used to describe a different location.


If you are going to a hootenanny, where are you going?

Back in the day, you might have gone to a shindig or a hootenanny. These days, we boringly refer to the gatherings as parties.


How much money equals a doit?

Although two cents was worth more back then than it is now, a small amount of money was referred to as a doit. Even though it wasn't much, having a doit was better than being broke!


What kind of animal is a camelopard?

The next time you want to impress your friends at a party, refer to a giraffe as a camelopard. Until the late 19th century, it was common to call giraffes camelopards.


What is a mooncalf?

The next time your best friend is making foolish decisions, call them a mooncalf. Once you explain that it means foolish person, they might not be as offended.


What would you have called an ornamental object?

In addition to being ornamental, fandangles also had no real purpose. A fandangle is an ornament with no other use than to look pretty.


What does a fishwife do?

When purchasing dinner from the local fish market, you were likely to buy from a fishwife. Fishwife was a term used to describe women who sold fish.


What did a bibliopole sell?

Decades ago, you couldn't mail order books from Amazon. Instead, you took a trip to your local bibliopole to purchase your reading materials.


What term was used to describe someone who was born with low social standing?

Those who were not lucky enough to be born into royalty or wealth were considered baseborn. Baseborn people were those born with a lower social standing.


Which word means a wagon or a cart?

When you took your wagon or cart to the market, you were towing your wain behind your carriage. A wain is another way to refer to something that was towed behind a buggy or tractor.


What would you have called a bartender many years ago?

The people pouring your pints back in the early days were known as tapsters. Much like the craft beer craze, tapsters were experts at tapping kegs and getting just the right head on your beer.


Which word refers to an old woman?

Although it's always dangerous to mention a woman's age, being called a beldam was a term of distinction. Being a beldam meant that you were an older and more respected woman.


Which word also means kiss?

The next time your sweetheart wants a kiss, offer them a buss and see how it goes over. A term rarely used these day, buss mean to kiss.


Which old-fashioned word means farmer?

Instead of simply being called farmers, men who ran farms were called husbandmen. A husbandman's livelihood depended upon the yearly crops and livestock.


Which old-timey word means that you are a full-fledged citizen of your town?

Instead of just saying where you live back in the day, you exclaimed that you are a burgess of your town or province. If you are a burgess, you are a fully committed citizen of the place you live.


What does asunder mean?

You might recognize the term asunder from wedding ceremonies. Asunder is another word for apart. As in, "Let no man pull it asunder."


How long is a sennight?

If you were to come back in a sennight and retake this quiz, you might get even more of them right. A week can do a lot for the brain!


Which old-fashioned word means frozen?

According to old-timey words, when you open your freezer the contents are frore. Frore is another way of saying frozen or frosty.


What is another word for melodist?

Instead of being blanket labeled as a singer, decades ago you would have been a melodist. Melodists are those who are brave enough to open their mouths and sing in public.


Which word refers to a large, alcoholic drink?

When you were served an oversized alcoholic drink back in your grandparents' time, you would have been served a bumper. Many tapsters served bumpers to keep their clients coming back.


Which word refers to a garden or a yard?

Showing off your beautiful yard or garden meant that you were showing off your garth. Folks were quite proud of the upkeep of their garth, and they loved showing them off.


What is the term used for a conceited man?

Everyone knows a coxcomb. A coxcomb is an overly conceited man. Despite a coxcomb's bravado, they are also known to be quite cowardly.


What might you call a coward?

Back in the day, cowardly folks were called poltroons. However, the term was reserved for those who possessed the most cowardice.


Which word means a ball of thread?

During our grandparent's time, people were resourceful enough to make their own clothing. You might find several clews, or balls of thread, around any old-timey household.


How would you define the word doxy?

Before the sexual revolution, having a mistress or a lover was taboo. If you did engage is such activity, you were involved with a doxy.


What kind of bird is a popinjay?

Your grandparents may have called parrots popinjays, but popinjay also has another meaning. It can also be used to refer to a vain and extravagant person.


Which word also means forest?

Centuries ago, lush, foliage-laden forests were called greenwoods. Greenwoods were well-known hangouts for outlaws like Robin Hood and his Merry Men.


What is another word for a prayer?

The devoutly religious used to call written prayers orisons. Orisons were a way for people to pray in unison without having to make up words.


What is an old-timey word for candle?

How many glims were on your last birthday cake? No matter how many candles were on your cake, you surely have less than your grandparents.


What is another word for Christmas carolers?

Opening your door to a bunch of Christmas carolers meant that you were listening to waits sing. Spreading cheer everywhere they went, being a wait used to be a much more popular tradition.


What is another word for an alarm?

Hearing an alarm or a signal back in your grandparents' day meant that you were hearing a tocsin. Tocsin is defined as an alarm, siren or bell that is used to grab attention.


Where could you find a posy?

When you really wanted to show your love for someone, you would give them a ring with a posy inside. A posy is an inscription found inside a ring.


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