Category Archives: medieval words

The Medieval root of Pothole

You know what a pothole is. But did you know where the term actually originated from? It’s an interesting little thing.

The term “pothole” comes out of the middle ages. and it really is related to pots.

a medieval pipkin

Cooking pots in the middle ages were made out of clay. Well, they still are being made that way. The drawing I have here shows a pretty standard type of cooking pot called a pipkin. It had a round bottom so heat would be distributed evenly. And it had three legs so you could stand it up right in a fire.

Clay is heavy and a potter wanted to spend his or her time making pots not lugging clay long distances. So….

So if a potter found a rich vein of clay in the road or on the side of the road he would dig it right up! And leave a hole behind, right in the road or along the side of the road.

That clay would be turned into a pot.

And hence the term “pothole”.

It’s a hole in the road that a potter dug up so he could make a pot.

I love this kind of thing!

Now I have a question for you. Do you know where the term “undermine” originated from? Or how about “The Daily Grind”?

Stay tuned to my blog and I will fill you in on these.

New Medieval Word for you

I received an email from a french translator who is working on a translation of some documents (French to English). She was looking for the english word for the person who walks around the castle or town  either lighting candles or putting them out. Well.. I am disappointed in myself for not knowing it. The best I could come up with is “Lamplighter”.

A lamplighter was a person who went around city streets (most notably in the Victorian era) lighting gas lamps.  They sometimes had ladders and they sometimes had a very long pole with a lit torch on the end of it. Kind of a neat and quirky thing from the past.

Well, she got back to me with the word. It is “Chandler”.

A chandler was a candle maker.  But, a chandler often also had the responsibility to take care of the various candles in castles, keeps and wealthy  homes. Make the candles, light them, put them out, replace them as needed.
Now there’s a quirky little job from the past.

Oh and the word “Chandelier” comes from this job. In those days a chandelier had candles in it.