Some definitions from the Dictionary

ADONScan 1E.  [Have done.] Leave off.

I am told on good authority that when a Sussex damsel says ‘Oh! do adone,’ she means you to go on; but when she says ‘Adone-do’ you must leave off immediately.

AMPERY. Beginning to decay, especially applied to cheese.

AVISED.  Aware of. To know for a certainty.

I’m well avised that John spent all his wages at the Barley-mow.

BACKSTAYS or BACKSTERS. Wide flat pieces of board, made like snow shoes, which are strapped on the feet and used by the fishermen in walking over the loose beach or soft mud on the seashore.

BANNICK.  To beat.

I’ll give him a good bannicking if I catch him.

BEAT THE DEVIL ROUND THE GOOSEBERRY-BUSH.   To tell a long rigmarole story without much point.

An old man at Rye said he did not think the new curate was much of a hand in the pulpit, he did beat the devil round the gooseberry-bush so.

BEEVER.  Eleven o’clock luncheon.

BISHOP BARNABY.  The lady-bird.

In some parts of Sussex, the lady-bird is called the lady-bug ; in others, fly-golding, or God’s almighty cow, by which singular name it is also known in Spanish (Vaca de Dios). 

BITTLE.  A wooden milk bowl.

BITTLE-BATTLE. The game of stool-ball

There is a tradition that this game was originally played by the milk-maids with their milking stools, which they used for bats; but this word makes it more probable that the stool was the wicket, and that it was defended with the bittle, which would be called the bittle-bat; hence the word bittle-battle.

BOUGH-HOUSE.  A private house allowed to be open at fairs for the sale of liquor.

An old person describing the glories of Selmeston fair … said ‘There was all manner of booths and bough-houses.’

BUNCH.  A swelling.

It came out in bunches all over me.


In the village of Selmeston the blacksmith’s shop is next door to the public-house. I have met numbers of people going up to the forge, but never one going to the Barley-mow.

CULVER.  A pigeon or dove. This name is retained in the name of a field at Selmeston, which is called the culver ake (pigeon’s oak).

DALLOP.  A parcel of tea packed for smuggling, weighing from six to sixteen pounds.

DUMBLEDORE. The humble bee.

FARISEES.  Fairies.

By an unfortunate use of the reduplicated plural, the Sussex country people confuse the ideas of fairies and Pharisees in a most hopeless manner.

FOREIGNER.  A stranger; a person who comes from another county but Sussex.

At Rye, in East Sussex, that part of the parish which lies out of the boundary of the corporation, is called the Foreign of Rye.

FORNICATE.  To dawdle; to waste time.

FRENCHY.   A foreigner of any country who cannot speak English, the nationality being added or not, as the case seems to require; thus an old fisherman, giving an account of a Swedish vessel that was wrecked on the coast a year or two ago, finished by saying that he thought the French Frenchys, take ’em all in all, were better than the Swedish Frenchys, for he could make out what they were driving at, but he was all at sea with the others.

GAPE SEED.  Something to stare at.

A person staring out of the window is said to be sowing gape seed.

GIFTS.  White specks which appear on the finger nails, supposed to indicate the arrival of a present.

GRANDFATHER.  A daddy-long-legs.

HANSEL. The first money received in the morning for the sale of goods.

The market women have a custom of kissing the first coin, spitting on it, and putting it in a pocket by itself for luck.

HEAD-ACHE.  The corn poppy.

HOCK-MONDAY. The second Monday after Easter, kept as a festival in remembrance of the defeat of the Danes in King Ethelred’s time.

HUCKLE-BONE.  The small bone found in the knee of a sheep, used by children for playing the game of dibs.

HUSSER-AND-SQUENCHER. A pot of beer with a dram of gin in it.

JOHNNY. ‘Old Johnny’ is one of the numerous names given to the ague.

A spider is considered a useful insect for the cure of the ague. If taken internally, it should be rolled up in a cobweb and swallowed like a pill. If applied externally, it should be placed in a nutshell and hung round the neck in a bag of silk. The ague generally hangs about the Sussex people a long time.

KIME. A weazel (sic).

A lady who had been giving a lesson to a Sunday school class upon Pharoah’s dreams, was startled to find that all the boys supposed that the fat and lean kine  were weazels.

LAWYER. A long bramble full of thorns, so called because

‘When once they gets holt on ye, ye doant easy get shut of ’em.’

LIBBET. A stick used to knock down fruit from the trees.

When throwing at cocks was a fashionable sport, the stick which was thrown had lead let in at the end, and was called a libbet.

The old custom of throwing at cocks on Shrove Tuesday is said to date from the fact of the crowing of a cock having prevented our Saxon ancestors from massacring their conquerors, another part of our ancestors, the Danes, on the morning of Shrove Tuesday, when they were asleep in their beds.     (Brand’s Popular Antiquities).

MEECE. Mice.

The meece just have terrified my peas.

Among other Sussex remedies it is said that a mouse roasted alive is good for the whooping-cough. Whether it is really good for the whooping-cough or not I cannot say, but I am sure that it must be bad for the mouse.

NOTCH. A run at cricket; so called from the custom in the country districts of reckoning the runs by notches cut in a stick.

ORE. Seaweeds washed on shore by the tides.

PAINFUL. Painstaking. There is an inscription on a brass in Selmeston Church, dated 1639, which begins thus:

The body of Henry Rogers,
A painfull preacher in this church
Two and thirty yeers.

PHARISEES. Great uncertainty exists in Sussex as to the definition of this word according to its acceptation in the minds of country people, who always connect it with the fairieses, their plural of fairy.

A Sussex man was once asked, ‘What is a Pharisee?’ and answered with much deliberation and confidence, ‘A little creature rather bigger than a squirrel, and not quite so large as a fox,’ and I believe he expressed a general opinion.

POOK-HALE. Puck’s Hall; the fairy cottage.

A cottage at Selmeston goes by this name, and one of our numerous ghosts is still said to frequent the spot. There are many farms and closes in Sussex which owe their names to having been the reputed haunt of fairies. 

PRIMED.  Half tipsy; overcharged with drink and ready to explode into any kind of mischief.

ROMNEY-MARSH.  There is a saying in East Sussex that the world is divided into five parts – Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney-marsh.

SNOB. A travelling shoemaker; a cobbler.

In the neighbourhood of Burwash it is considered a most unfavourable description of a stranger to say that he is ‘a broken down snob from Kent.’

SOW-WAPS. The queen wasp.

In some parts of the county a reward of sixpence is offered for each sow-wasp killed in the spring.

STOOL-BALL. An old Sussex game similar in many respects to cricket, played by females … The rules are printed, and are as keenly discussed and implicitly obeyed as those of the Marylebone Club.

SWANKY. Small beer.


A boy, who recently stated as a valid reason for not attending evening school that he was afraid that the pharisees would interrupt him on his way home, was excused by his mother on the ground that he was ‘that timmersome that he couldn’t abear to go out after dark.”‘

TOP-OF-THE-HOUSE. A person who has lost his temper is said to be up-a-top-of-the-house.

VIVERS.  [Viviers, French] Fish ponds

WEST-COUNTRY-PARSON. The hake, so called from the black streak on the back, and abundance of the fish along the western coast.

YEASTY. Gusty; stormy.


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