Appendix:English 19th Century idioms

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

This is a glossary of idioms that were recognizable to literate English-speaking people in the late 19th century - and have become unfamiliar since. The often obscure references or shared values that lie behind idioms will themselves lose applicability over time, although the surviving literature of the period relies on their currency for full understanding.









  • Hectic Fever – a fever connected with tuberculosis, and showing itself by a bright pink flush on the cheeks.
  • Horn Gate – the gate of dreams which come true, as distinct from the Ivory Gate, through which the visions seen are shadowy and unreal.



  • Jack Brag – a pretender who ingratiates himself with people above him.


  • The Open Secret – the secret that lies open to all, but is seen into and understood by only few, applied especially to the mystery of the life, the spiritual life, which is the possession of all (Thomas Carlyle).


  • Passing-bell – a bell tolled at the moment of the death of a person to invite his neighbours to pray for the safe passing of his soul.
  • Penny wedding – a wedding at which the guests pay part of the charges of the festival.
  • Persiflage – a light, quizzing mockery, or scoffing, specially on serious subjects, out of a cool, callous contempt for them.
  • Peter Bell – a simple rustic (Wordsworth).
  • Petite Nature – a French loanword applied to pictures containing figures less than life-size, but with the effect of life-size.
  • Pot-wallopers – a class of electors in a borough who claimed the right to vote on the ground of boiling a pot within its limits for six months.
  • Pourparler – a diplomatic conference towards the framing of a treaty.
  • Punic Faith – a promise that one can put no trust in.