Phrases and Vocabulary for the Renaissance Faire
When you step through the front gate of a renaissance faire and backwards into history, you step into a new and different world, full of unfamiliar sights and sound 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 fourteen terms to know at a renaissance faire.
Renaissance Faire Language
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.
Advanced Studies: 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.
Learn Only What You Want, So...
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 bettter...