Renaissance Faire Language
When you step through the front gate of a Renaissance faire and backward into history, you step into a new and different world, full of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and experiences. One of the things that is new is the language. It’s English, right enough, but it is an English seasoned with words and phrases that are alien to the modern ear and tongue.
Part of the fun of the faire is the way that it draws you into the story—and if you’re going to be part of the story, you’re going to want to speak the language.
Have no fear, my sweet lord or lady. Help is on the way from the heart of the Renaissance. For your education and delight, I now present to you 14 terms to know at a Renaissance faire.
14 Terms for the Renaissance Faire
- My lord/My lady: My lord means "Mister," and my lady means "Miss" or "Mrs." For instance, your brother Jason becomes "my lord Jason," and your cousin Ashley is "my lady Ashley."
- Master/Mistress: another set of terms for "Mister" and "Miss" or "Mrs."
- Good day/Good morrow: means “hello,” as in “Good day, my lady Ashley.”
- Fare thee well: means “goodbye,” as in “Fare thee well, my lord Jason.”
- Huzzah: means “Hurrah!” Used at jousts, shows, and the high points in court. (During court, only shout "huzzah" when invited to do so by officials of the court, as in “Three cheers for Lady Isabella,” or when everyone else is cheering.)
- Thou/Thee: The words “thou” and “thee” both mean “you.” They’re just used differently. “Thou” is the subject of a sentence (the word that’s doing things), and “thee” is the object (the word that’s acted upon). For instance, “Thou art the man who will stand in line for turkey legs,” and “This turkey leg is for thee.”
- Art: means “are.” “You are stuffing your face” becomes “Thou art feasting most enthusiastically.”
- Aye: means “yes,” as in “Aye, that is indeed a man juggling cabbages…”
- Nay: means “no,” as in “Nay, I hath no idea why he would want to do such manner of thing…”
- Privy: the most common term used for the bathrooms. (Other terms that have at times been used include “the peasant potty” and “the royal flush.”)
- Prithee: means “please.” (Do not confuse this word with “privy.”)
- Gramercy/I thank thee: means “thank you.”
- Wench: A wench is a particular type of woman, usually of the friendly or cuddly variety. Queens, princesses, and nuns are not wenches.
- Bawdy: Bawdy is a term describing entertainment for a more adult audience. Songs or stories that are bawdy are suggestive but not usually blatant or raunchy, falling between a PG-13 and R rating at the movies. Bawdy shows may not be suited for children, although the better ones will probably go right over a child’s head.
Renaissance Lingo: Terms of Address
And now for the bonus round—if you’d like to score serious style points, here are the official terms that are used to address people of rank. Remember and use these, and you are a true Renaissance scholar.
- Your Majesty is the proper term when speaking to a king or queen. For instance, “Good day, your majesty…”
- Your Highness is the form of address that is used when addressing a prince or princess, as in “Very well, Prince John.”
- Sir is the term used to speak to or about a knight, as in “Sir Bedevere is hot in pursuit of the Questing Beast.”
All other people may be referred to as my lord or my lady.
Please remember that you certainly don’t have to know all of these terms at all to have a good time at a Renaissance faire. You can have a good time at a faire without “speaking fore-soothly” at all; however, knowing even a few of these terms and using them can add to the fun of the day and help you blend into the Renaissance culture.
It's up to you whether you want to learn a few faire words or not and if you choose to use them once you do so. It's easier than you think though, and even if you only learn one word or two, you'll find that it's fun to speak like a citizen of the faire.
If you so choose, call your friend my lord or my lady, shout huzzah when the knights' lances clash, and have a great time with the language of the faire. Most of all, though, do what makes the faire fun for you; and if that includes the language of the faire, so much the better.
Catherine Kane (author) on April 22, 2012:
I thank thee for the kind words and kinder sentiments. As a scrivener, it is a joy to have ones efforts appreciated by those who peruse them in passing.
"Your Grace" might serve in uncertain situations, however it is sometimes used specifically in regards to those of the clergy, therefore I danced about it.
And Her Majesty might indeed enjoy vulgar jests if witty, however many times , we are not as witty as we think ourselves to be, and it is good to err on the side of caution with someone who can throw thee in the Tower or have thine head lopped off...
I wish thee as much joy or more with mine other essays, both currently extaunt and those yet to come
Carol Ryan on April 22, 2012:
'Tis a splendid essay! Yet would I contend that using "Your Grace" is also acceptable, most notably when one knows not the exact rank of the noble one wishes to address.
Also, while one while none might address Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth I in terms used for wenches, 'tis likewise true that she much enjoyed vulgar jests so long as they were witty! (She was her father's daughter, after all, and we've all heard about Henry VIII...)
Shalt seek out thine other essays forthwith!
Catherine Kane (author) on April 18, 2012:
I'd absolutely agree with that, Jama. My objective was more to help folks who weren't at that point yet ( including those who won't ever be so).
You can have good fun at the faire, even if all you know is how to shout "Huzzah!"
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 18, 2012:
Gramercy, my lady Catherine! (That's about the extent of my ability to *speak* Faire, although I understand every word spoken in such a manner by another.) That said, I think having more than a passing acquaintance with the phrasing and cadence of the writings of The Bard is immensely helpful in understanding what performers and vendors are saying in FaireSpeak. ;D
Catherine Kane (author) on April 15, 2012:
Gramercy, my lady Carmen!
I am gratified that my offering hath found favor in your eyes, and I wish thee great fun upon thy next visit to the renaissance.
(If it is of interest, I currently have three other hubs currently extant on ren faire life ( with children, with food limitations, and on shopping in the renaissance), with more on the way. If these are of interest, I invite you to read them as well and share them w/ those who may likewise be interested.)
Carmen Beth on April 15, 2012:
My dear lady Catherine, thou has just compiled a useful list of words I intend to care to walk high in a renaissance faire. Gramercy!
Simply an interesting hub, useful for classic lovers and those new to the renaissance world. Voted up, useful, and interesting, and definitely sharing this.