The Dungeon Master's Dictionary Master List
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Want to torment your players with some genuine medieval terminology? Here's a list of the coolest words we've encountered.
Adumbrated Arms: (noun, heraldry) a blackened shape or outlined shape on a coat-of-arms, indicating lost honor or pedigree. Perfect for a quest to restore honor and capture the Avatar, or whatever your D&D equivalent is.
Anhaga: (noun, Old English) the solitary one, the loner. The anhaga was the exile written about in The Wanderer, an Old English elegy.
Beot: (noun, Old English) a boast or brag. A beot was a proclamation given before battle or deed, telling one's audience (your troops and the enemy's) just exactly how you will kill them. Individuals may be named as targets, or specific feats, such as slaying 100 men, or only using a particular sword or none at all.
Benight: (verb, Early Modern English) to be surrounded in darkness; alternatively, to be in a woefully pitiful state due to lack of opportunity.
Beldam: (noun, Early Modern English) an old woman, usually derogatory.
Byrnie: (noun, Middle English) a chainmail shirt
Cantred: (noun, Old Irish) originally meaning a plot of land, this word developed into a term for a group of men, like the Old Norse 'hundred.'
Capadoce: (noun, Middle English, from French) a chainmail hood that covers the head and neck
Cenél: (noun, Middle Irish) generally meaning family, kin, or tribe, this word can be used as a name, and may be a linguistic connection to the modern 'clan.'
Computus: (noun) the calculation made to find Easter Sunday; later used for any time reckoning.
Croft: (noun) any outdoor area; specifically, an enclosed field of a tenant farmer. See also garth.
Dinnseanchas: (noun, Old Irish) meaning 'place-wisdom' or 'place-lore,' this term refers to the story behind a location's place-name, such as a river, rock, homestead, or hill where a significant event occurred.
Draugr: (noun, Old Norse) a revenant; a member of the dead who comes back to life, usually to finish a mission, deliver a message, or let kin know they have died.
Dumbledore: (noun, Early Modern English) a bee.
Fair assent: (phrase, Middle English) a consecrated, lawful common law marriage (a marriage established without the use of a priest).
Fir flatha: (noun, Old Irish) meaning 'king's wisdom,' this term refers to the supernatural knowledge a rightful king of Ireland was supposed to possess (and prove) upon his ascension of the throne.
Garth: (noun, Old Norse) another word meaning a yard or field. See also croft.
Gársecg: (noun, Old English) The Old English word for "sea," this term is actually a kenning literally meaning "spear-man." We're not sure from where the kenning came or to what it refers, but it should inspire some fascinating terminology for sailors!
Geis: (noun, Old Irish) alternatively spelt geas, this term refers to an invocation which places an obligation onto an individual. Similar to a curse, a geis can be used to declare an intent toward someone or require something to pass in that individual's life.
Gleed: (noun, Early Modern English) a hot coal.
Harrow: (noun) a farm tool used to help plow fields. Used as a makeshift shield in the Tournament of Tottenham. Could be used as an improvised weapon in a bandit raid!
Hollybob: (noun, English) a branch of holy. Symbolizes peace or truce.
Hue and Cry: (phrase) an early English law by which an alarm was raised when a crime had been committed such as robbery or murder.
Hundred, Long Hundred: (noun, Old Norse) originally referring to a plot of land, this term came to refer to a 100 people. A 'long' hundred is 120, counted between the fingers.
Hydromel: (noun, Old English borrowed from Latin) a fermented drink of honey and water; a precursor to mead.
Ides: (noun, Latin) the fifteenth day of the month, eight days after the nones.
Kalens: (noun, Latin) a calendar month.
Kenning: (noun, Old Norse) a poetic metaphor used in Old English and Old Norse poetry; formed by creating increasingly complex and indirect ways for a simple word. Ex: word-hoard for mouth, or whale-road for ocean.
Leechcynne: (noun, Old English) literally "leech-kin," this word is another term for doctor!
Murdrum: (noun, Early Modern English) a term for the killing of an unknown man; differentiated from murder by its secrecy and status of the man as unknown
Nones: (noun, Latin) the seventh or ninth day of the month.
Poitrel: (noun, French) a breastplate for a horse
Powdering: (verb, heraldry) to powder something in heraldry was to display it all over the coat-of-arms. Finland's coat-of-arms (right) has white powdered flowers across it.
Reeve: (noun, title) a reeve was a local official of a town, or in some cases, a larger estate. A great individual to receive a low-level quest from!
Riastrad: (noun, Old Irish) the Irish term for Cu Chulainn's battle-frenzy, often translated as Torque or Warp-spasm.
Shaping: (noun, used in Old Icelandic) a magical animal skin which allows the wearer to shape-shift into the animal form from which the skin was made.
Sigelhearwan: (noun, Old English) Tolkien's reconstructed Old English term for "sun-people," this term originally referred to Ethiopians, but can be used for any race or culture you like as your world building needs.
Stadia: (noun, Latin) depending on whether you're using the original Greek, the Latinized version, or the Anglicized version, the singular form of "stadia" could be "stadion," "stadium," or "stade." This unit of measurement varies greatly and is inconsistent even within single texts, which makes it a perfect unit to use in your game as needed.
Travail: (verb, Middle English) to work laboriously; alternatively, to be in labor, bearing a child.
Wark: (noun, Old English) a wark is another word for an ache, such as a tooth-wark.
Ween: (verb, Middle English) to know, to think
Woodwo: (noun, Middle English) a woodsman, a wild man, someone who lives alone in the wilds. Might be supernatural.
We do our best to accurately research, source, and cite the works we use, and make them available to you, too! Each episode has a corresponding blog post which includes further breakdowns of the big ideas in each text as well as cites our sources and references. We also have the Maniculum Library, which actively collects resources and recommendations for writers, scholars, and geeks alike! We update our collection of Master Lists after each new episode, so be sure subscribe and stay updated!
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