Glossary: Terms Found in Rural Diaries

Students in HIST3480, “Workplace Learning: Rural Diary Archive” are currently creating this glossary of terms which they feel might be unfamiliar to readers and transcribers.  The glossary will continue to grow thanks to their support.

&c: n. Symbol used to replace spelling etcetera, or etc. 

Aft.: Shorthand for “afternoon.” 

Alsike: n. (pron. al-sahyk) A type of European clover with pink flowers, grown for forage in areas of poorly drained soil. 

Axletree: n. A bar, fixed crosswise under an animal drawn vehicle, with a rounded spindle at each end upon which a wheel rotates. 

Barley: n. A tall cereal grass with long, straight bristles extending from the stem. The plant’s grain is used to make stock feed and brew beer and whiskey. 

Barrow: A castrated male pig. 

Basswood: Large deciduous trees with a soft colour, usually used to make crates and in carving. 

Batiste: Fine cloth from cotton or linen, often used as a lining or handkerchiefs. 

B. Church: n. Short form for Baptist Church. 

Beauty of Hebron: n. A type of potato that is oval in shape with rose, or pink, coloured skin and white flesh. 

Bee: n. Community gathering surrounding labour or leisure with the expectation of mutual benefits. Essentially a form of reciprocal labour exchange within a neighbourhood which helps to create social ties. 

Berkshire: n. A rare breed of pig originating from the County of Berkshire in the south of England.  Almost entirely black, short legged; a relatively large breed maturing at approx. 600 lbs. 

Bible Society: A Bible society is a non-profit organization — usually representing a number of Churches — devoted to translating, publishing, and distributing the Bible at affordable costs and advocating its credibility and trustworthiness in contemporary cultural life. 

Bind: vb. Labour-intensive agricultural activity in which grain, commonly oat, is cut and tied. This can be done by hand or with a machine. 

Blackleading: Polishing metal (or cast iron) with graphite. 

Blue weed: A plant/weed that was introduced to North America from Europe. Also known as viper’s bugloss. 

Bolts: Pieces of a log which have been cut to lengths generally less than 8 feet.  They were further split and used for shingles, clapboards, pegs and sometimes firewood (fuel). 

Bran bolt: A device used to sift bran flour. 

Brot.: Shorthand for “brought”. 

Bruit: verb - To spread a rumour. noun - a report or rumour. 

Bu.: Abrv. for bushel. 

Buggy: A smaller horse-drawn carriage for one to two people. 

Bushel: A unit of measurement for the volume of dry agricultural goods such as wheat, equalling 8 gallons or roughly 36.3 litres. 

Camas: Plant from asparagus family. 

Camp meeting: A form of Protestant Christian religious service as an evangelical event during communion season. 

Caponizing Instruments: Surgical tools used to neuter chickens. 

Carding: A process of disentangling fibres such as wool before weaving. 

Cars: n. Refers to train cars. Ex. “Took the Cars to Toronto.” 

Chaff: n. The dry casing of a seed or other harvested good, similar to a husk. Commonly used to feed livestock, or to be mixed with manure for ploughing. 

Chas: Abrv. for Charles. 

Chloroform: A colourless, volatile, sweet-smelling liquid used as a solvent and formerly as a general anesthetic, originating in the mid-nineteenth century.  

Chop: n. Refers to chopped up harvested goods; mainly varieties of grain and vegetables. Form of feed for livestock, mainly cattle. 

Chromo: n. Short form for chromolithograph; a type of decorative painting commonly found in middle-class homes dating back to the 1840s in North America. 

Churn: n. A container where butter is made through the stirring of milk or cream. 

Cistern: A tank for storing water, used commonly for supplying tap water or toilets.

Clearing: A tract of land, as in a forest, that contains no trees or bushes.  

Clevis: A u-shaped connector. 

Cotswolds: A type of sheep. 

Cottonade: A coarse fabric made of different materials resembling wool; used as work clothes.  

Corn fodder: Maize plants that is typically used for feeding stock; specifically for feeding cattle. 

Crockery store: A store that sells plates, dishes, cups and other items. 

Crokinole: A board game popular in Canada where players take turns shooting discs across the circular playing surface, with their goal of having their discs land in the higher-scoring regions of the board, while also attempting to knock away opposing discs. Best described as table-top curling. 

Culls: Any inferior product, i.e. inferior potatoes, damaged by disease, (both in field and storage), bruising, adverse environmental conditions, unacceptable size and lack of markets. They are separated from the good potatoes and thrown into “cull piles”.

Cutter: n. Lightweight, horse-drawn sleigh; usually only holds two people. 

Daily Globe: Former name of the famous Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail. The paper began in 1844 as the Globe then between 1861 to 1911 it switched its name to the Daily Globe. In 1911 it officially became the Globe and Mail. 

Democrat: A horse-drawn buggy or carriage that has a rear seat. 

Discing: v. The breaking down of large lumps and clods of soil with a disc harrow. The action cuts and loosens the soil for planting. 

Dipper: A ladle or scoop. 

Diphtheria: n. A serious bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium diphteriae. It is a contagious infection that affects the mucous membranes of the throat and nose. 

Dooryard: An open area in the center of the farmstead surrounded by farm buildings and shade trees.  It should not be confused with the barnyard where livestock exercised and were watered.  In the dooryard, the family and neighbours might tie their team of horses, lay out long tables for the feast following a barn raising, get drinks from a well, repair machinery, or build a dog house. The farmer’s bedroom often looked out over the dooryard and the back kitchen door opened onto the dooryard. 

Dredging: Removing material from water beds, typically with the use of specialized machines. 

Drill: An agriculture tool typically used for making a hole so that you can plant seeds and sow them. 

Dung: Primarily animal manure or feces but sometimes mixed with dirt. Refer to Manure in the Glossary. 

Emery: An abrasive paper used to clean up surfaces. 

Euchre: n. A trick-taking card game commonly played with four people, working in pairs, and a deck of 24 or 52 standard cards. 

Evg: Abbreviation for evening. 

Ewe: A female sheep.

Fanning mill: A farm machine used to winnow grain (separate the grain from the chaff).

Farrier: A craftsman who trims and shoes horses' hooves. 

Firkin: Small wooden cask used for liquids, butter, salt, and sometimes fish which was usually equal to one-quarter of a regular-sized barrel. 

Flail: n. A tool consisting of a wooden (or metal) staff with a short heavy stick swinging from it. The instrument is predominantly used for threshing grains beating the grain from the straw. 

Foaled: v. The birthing of a foal (baby horse) by a mare. 

Fodder: Food, especially dried hay or feed, for cattle and other livestock.  

Forenoon: n. Before noon; the morning. 

Furrow: n. A plowed trench in the ground that is long and narrow. Farmers make them for seeding and irrigation. 

Gangplough: n. A plow designed to turn multiple furrows at one time. 

Girdled: v. To cut away the bark and cambium in a ring around a tree, branch, etc. For example, mice will girdle an apple tree. 

Glebe: A piece of land with an ecclesiastical parish used to support the parish priest. 

Glutton: An excessively greedy eater. 

Good Templars: A.k.a. International (or Independent) Order of Good Templars, a temperance society based on the practice of total abstinence from intoxicating drinks. Founded in 1851 in Utica NY, the brotherhood spread to England in 1868 and then to Canada and worldwide. 

Granary: n. A room (usually in a barn), where threshed grain and animal feed is stored. 

Gravel Pit: An open pit mine where gravel is dug out of the ground. 

Grenadine: Thin, loosely woven fabric made of silk, cotton or wool. 

Grippe: A virus disease like or the same as influenza. 

Grist: n. Grain that has been separated from its chaff (protective coating) revealing the small plant material within. This is a common preparation when processing grain into meal or flour. 

Grubbing Stumps: The process of removing stumps from the ground with the intent to plant crops in that location. The trunk and branches are already removed. Special axes, teams of horses and sometimes chemicals are used to loosen and remove roots. 

GT Train: Grand Trunk Train, a train system in Ontario in operation until 1923.

Gudgeons: Socket-like fitting which allows rotation of rotating shaft. 

Guineas Fowl (sometimes called Guineas): n. An omnivorous bird with black or greyish feathers with white spots and a featherless head. Farmers raise them for their meat, eggs, and feathers. 

Harper’s Illustrated Weekly: Name of an American magazine that went on to be known as Harper’s Magazine. Began publication in 1857. 

Harrow:  An implement consisting of a heavy frame set with teeth or tines that is dragged over plowed land to break up clods, remove weeds, and cover seed.  

Hauling: To pull or drag with effort or force. Commonly used when discussing pulling (or hauling) hay. 

Haymow: Part of barn where hay is stored. 

Hay rack: Structures made of wood upon which fodder for animals is dried. 

Headland: Land on the coast that ends in a cliff. 

Heifer: n. Young female cow. 

Hemlock: n. A coniferous tree of the pine family. It typically grows 30-50 metres tall and downward facing branches. 

Hen House: Or Chicken coop is a place where you would keep your chickens in, very often in the winter time. It is an efficient way of cultivating eggs. They can easily become very warm because of the heat generated by the chickens. 

Hived a swarm of bees: A shelter constructed for housing a group of bees. 

Hoed: A tool (usually for agriculture) used to dig up surface on the ground or thin out plants. 

Home Ice: an ice box or shed where chunks of ice were stored in sawdust to keep produce, etc. cool. “Picking ice” is the process of cutting the ice out of a frozen body of water. 

Humbug: a hard candy, usually striped in two different colours and available since the 1820s.   

Husking: Removing husks, especially those of corn. 

I.O.G.: Independent Order of Good Templars; a fraternal organisation based around the principles of temperance, founded in 1851 and now known as the International Organisation of Good Templars (see definition of Good Templars above).

Jas: n. Short form for the name James. 

Johnnycake: A cornmeal flatbread originating from the native inhabitants of North America. It is alternatively called: jonnycake, johnny cake, journey cake, shawnee cake or johnny bread. 

Jon: Alternative spelling for the name ‘John.’ 

Lucerne: A variety of alfalfa crop. 

Mangelwurzel: n. Root vegetable; variety of beet. Most commonly used to feed livestock although people can consume them. A.k.a. mangels. 

Manse: The residence of a minister (of a Presbyterian church). 

Manure: n. Animal feces that is applied to the ground as fertilizer to enhance agricultural growth. 

Measles: An infectious disease that can form rash like and feverish symptoms on the skin. Common during childhood.

Melodeon: n. A small reed organ; a kind of accordion. 

Mensuration: n. The branch of geometry that deals with the measurement of length, area or volume/the act or process of measuring. 

Middling: Bulk goods of medium grade, esp. flour of medium fineness. 

Miſs: Term meaning miss; the third letter is a long “s” which occurs in the beginning or end of a word. It was slowly being phased out during the 1800’s. Example: dreſs.   

Mizzle: A light rain or drizzle. 

Morn.: Shorthand for “morning.” 

Mortiser: n. An instrument used to cut square or rectangular holes in a piece of lumber. 

Mouldboard: n. The curved metal blade in a plow that turns the earth over. 

Mucilage: n. A viscous or gelatinous solution derived from plant roots, seeds, etc., and used in medicines and adhesives. 

Northern Spy: n. A variant of apples. 

Neuralgia: n. Intense pain to the head caused by pain in the nerves. 

O.C.: When occurring after a number, it is an abbreviation for “o’clock” Example: 8 O.C. 

Oilcake: The solid remaining after pressing a substance for its oil (also press cake). 

Orchard: n. An area of land dedicated to cultivating fruit trees, nut trees, sugar trees, and shrubs. 

Organdy: a fine translucent cotton or silk fabric that is usually stiffened for women’s clothing. 

Pailing or paling: n. A fence made from pointed wooden or metal stakes; a picket for a fence. 

Pansy books: Isabella Macdonald Alden was an American author who wrote under the pseudonym of Pansy. 

Pare: verb, to pare. Trimming the hooves of livestock. 

Paris Green: n. A toxic emerald green-coloured substance often used as a dye, wood preservative, and insecticide. 

Pasture: Land that is covered with grass that is used to feed animals, especially cattle and sheep. 

Patriotic Concert: During the World War I these were often fundraisers to help fund the war in Europe. They would often play music and show some propaganda. 

Patrons of Industry: A rural political association dedicated to upholding and encouraging the moral, social, intellectual, political and financial situation of farmers and to preserve the way of life that existed in farming communities in the late nineteenth century against encroaching industrialization. It cooperated with the urban labour movement to address the political frustrations of both groups with big business. 

Patty pans: A cupcake tray. 

Pea Stock: the vessel that contains the seeds of a plant (not the seeds themselves). Usually referred to as a pea pod. 

Peck: n. An imperial unit of dry measure (wheat, peas, beans) equivalent to ¼ of a bushel, 2 gallons, or 16 pints. 

Pedigree: record of descent of an animal that provides its genealogy. 

Pew-renting:  The practice of renting church pews for exclusive use; charging or paying rent for exclusive use of pews. 

Phaeton: A light, open, four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage. 

Pillow block: Used to house gudgeons and mounted as support for a rotating shaft. 

Pinion: Small gears engaging with larger gear, common in steam-powered equipment 

Pit wheel: Part of a mill. Mounted on the opposite end of the axle to the waterwheel. 

Plough: n. Old English and Canadian way of spelling plow. A farming implement used to overturn soil to aid in soil fertility before planting seed. 

Ploughshares: The main cutting blade of a plow, behind the coulter. 

Pock-pitted: Marked with small divots. Pockmarked. 

Polled: Livestock without horns i.e. a polled Angus heifer. 

Poverty Stick: Another name for a flail.

Pr bus: abbreviation for per bushel.

Probate: v. Judicial process that occurs upon the death of a person in order to administer their estate. This legal process involves a will that has to be ‘proved’ in court and accepted as valid documentation of a deceased person’s last testament. 

Pulper: A machine designed to remove pulp from agricultural produce. 

Quadrille:  n. A square dance for four couples, consisting of five parts or movements, each complete in itself. 

Quince: n. Pome fruit that comes from a deciduous tree.  It looks like a pear and is golden-yellow when ripe. 

Quinine: A medicine used to treat forms of malaria; made from cinchona bark. 

Quintette: n. A composition for five voices or five instrumentalists; a group of five singers or five instruments. 

Quorum: The minimum number of members in a democratic assembly needed to conduct business. 

Reaper: n. this refers to a person that typically uses a sickle to harvest wheat, rye, and other grains. 

Rec’d: Received. Often in reference to a letter. Example: “I rec'd a letter from John.” 

Reeve: The president of a village or town council. 

Ridging: v. Plowing alternate strips of land in ridges to protect plants from flooding and to give certain plants such as potatoes more room to grow. 

Rig: n. A term that refers to a horse-drawn carriage. 

Robt: Abrv. for “Robert” 

Root House: n. A wing of a building used for the storage of foodstuffs or other related goods. 

Russets: Type of apple that have a rough, brownish skin.

Sabbath: A day of rest and worship, commanded by God. Activities may include: praying, meditating, studying the scriptures, attending church, writing letters to family members and friends.

Saleratus: Pron. “sal-uh-rey-tuhs” - sodium bicarbonate used in cookery; baking soda. 

Salsify: Pron. “sal-suh-fee” - a purple-flowered, composite plant, Tragopogon porrifolius, whose root has an oyster-like flavor and is used as a culinary vegetable. 

Sawlog: A felled tree trunk suitable for timber. 

Scantling: n. A timber of slight width and thickness used as a stud or rafter in a house frame. 

Scarlet Fever: n. A bacterial infection in the throat. Symptoms include sore throat, headaches, enlarged tonsils, fevers, skin rashes, and chills. It mostly affects children. 

Screenings: Refuse taken away after the grain-cleaning process. 

Screwjack: n. is a type of jack that is operated by turning a leadscrew. Also known as a “jackscre”.  Commonly used to support heavy loads, such as the foundations of houses, or large vehicles.

Scrutineer: Person who oversees polling (especially in elections) to prevent the occurrence of corruption or genuine mistakes. 

Scuffler: Similar to horse drawn plough. Used to uproot weeds growing between the ridges in which turnips etc. have been planted. The width of the scuffler can be altered to fit the space between the rows. 

Scythe: A long handheld tool used to cut grass, harvest grain. Wood handle, metal blade. 

Sec. pres: Secretary present. 

Serge: A type of strong woollen cloth used to make clothes. 

Shearling: n. The skin of a recently sheared sheep. One side contains sheep wool, whereas the other contains tanned, suede surface. In the 19th century Shearlings were often made into stylish jackets and boots.

Sheaves: Bundles in which cereal plants, such as wheat, rye, etc., are bound after reaping. 

Shingles: Also known as herpes zoster, a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters. 

Shocked: Arranging cut grain into cone-shaped piles prior to collection and threshing. 

Shod: verb. Past tense of shoe, usually in regards to placing horseshoes onto horses. 

Short clothes: a clothing style for babies, usually worn around the times that children began to walk or crawl. Prior to this they would wear longer swaddling clothes, appropriately called “long clothes.” 

Shorthorns: Beef cattle.

Social: n. A gathering, usually organised by religious groups or clubs. 

Soft Day: A partly misty and drizzly day. 

Sons of Temperance: A brotherhood of men throughout the United States and Canada who promoted and supported the temperance movement. 

Sow: n. A fully grown female pig. 

Sow: vb. Agricultural activity where seed is placed on, or planted in the earth. 

Spile: A small wooden peg or spigot for stopping a cask. 

Spudding: to dig up, especially weeds. 

SS: Abrv. Sunday School. Similar abbreviation is “S School” 

Stable: A building set up and adapted for keeping horses. 

Stanchion: A sturdy upright fixture that provides support for standing cattle or livestock by enclosing around their neck. 

Stone boat: A type of sled that was often was often drawn to carry heavy objects rather than to plough fields. 

Stone pinions: A nut mounted on the millstone spindle. 

Stook: n. Also known as shock or stack. A stook is a bundle of grain stalks such as wheat, oats, and barley that are arranged to prevent the tops from touching the ground while still in the field. This occurs before the collection of the stook for further processing.  

Straw Stack: A pile of straw (dry stalk of cereal plants) that will be turned into bales. 

Stubble: Residue left after a crop has been harvested, in particular the stems. 

Sulky Rake: A horse-drawn hay rake that had a seat for the operator. 

Summerfallow: A portion of farmland that is purposely not used during a growing cycle to allow the soil to build up nutrients and moisture to produce a more bountiful yield the next season. 

Supt. abs.: n. Short form for superintendent absent. 

Supt. pres: Superintendent present.

Surfeits: An excessive amount of something. 

Tallow: fatty substance made from animal fat. 

Temperance: to abstain from consuming alcohol, either against intoxication or consumption entirely. The movement was widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries in Canada and the United States, and was often associated with religious organizations.

Ther: abbreviation for thermometer.

Thos: Abbreviation for “Thomas.

Thinning: Removing some plants in a field or crop-like turnips to make room for other plants. 

Threshing: vb. The act of separating grain from the chaff of a plant. Threshing is often conducted via a Flail (see Flail) or with a threshing machine.  It was often pronounced as “thrashing” and thus, often appears in the diaries spelled that way. 

Timothy Seed: A variety of grass seed that produces fibrous and shallow rooted grass that is used for pasturing livestock and hay production. 

To bind wheat: The act of gathering together wheat. 

Toweling: A thick absorbent fabric used for towels. 

Transmutation: The action of changing or the state of being changed into another form. 

Truss: A strap wrapped around one’s waist to support the abdominal muscles when lifting heavy objects or to support a hernia. 

Tidy: A tidy is a small container that can be used for small items, such as sewing materials, hair accessories, etc. 

Tincture of arnica: n. Topical oils that were used to treat muscle soreness, bruises and repetitive strain injuries. The oil is usually mixed with water in a solution.

Trough:  A long, narrow, open container from which animals can eat or drink. 

Turnips: A type of root vegetable often planted after your main crop like wheat or barley. This makes it so that you can have more use out of the soil

Turnpiking: The process of creating a ditch on the side of a road in order to carry water, also known as a portage trail. 

Turpentine: n. A fluid obtained from pine trees. Since ancient times it has been used medicinally as a topical or internal home remedy. 

Twp: Short form for Township. 

Ult: Short form derived from the Latin word “ultimo” meaning “last;” in or of the month preceding the present one. 

Underwaist: Blouse worn under clothes to which other garments can be pinned. 

Valise: A small travelling bag or suitcase. 

Vapour Bath: The act of bathing in vapour, formerly believed to have medicinal benefits. 

Vestry (noun 1): n. A committee of elected members for the Christian church. They are responsible for conducting congregation missions and managing the church’s resources and finances. 

Vestry (noun 2): n. A room in a church where vestments are changed and parishioners conduct meetings. 

Viz: adverb This is an abbreviation of the Latin word videlicet, meaning ‘namely,’ ‘as follows,’ or ‘that is to say.’ Most commonly it is a word used to further explain a point or introduce an example. 

W.C.T.U: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. One of the first organizations of women devoted to social reform integrating the religious and the secular. Through education and example the WCTU hoped to obtain pledges of total abstinence from alcohol, and later other drugs. Excessive use of alcohol was seen as an explanation for violence in the home. The WCTU formed in Canada in 1874 in Owen Sound. 

Whd.: Shorthand for “weighed.” 

Whiffletree: n. A crossbar, pivoted at the middle, to which the traces of a harness are fastened for pulling a cart, carriage or plow. Also called a whippletree, singletree or swingletree. 

Wringer: A device with two rollers to squeeze water out of anything wet. 

Wm: Abbreviation for the name “William.” 

Yearling: An animal (especially a sheep, calf, or foal) a year old, or in its second year. 

Yoke of Oxen: n. A yoke for oxen was a wooden beam that was placed between two oxen to allow them to pull heavy loads. However, other animals such as horses, donkeys, mules, and water buffalo were also able to be yoked.  A team of two oxen was commonly known as a “yoke of oxen.”