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Introduction to
The Alphabetary Heraldic

A genealogical glossary published in its entirety on this web site.

Glosses of Words Obscure
Millennial Heraldry
Lexical Foundations
Index Entries Alphabetical
The Articles of Definition
The Notary Heraldic
Nominæ Sacræ
Vocabulary Selections

Glosses of Words Obscure

A glossary is a selection of obscure words, designed to illustrate special meanings and uses. The glosses of an art or science are those terms and expressions that compose the nomenclature for the craft. Thus, in order to generate a glossary, one must elect a number of words and sayings that adequately and fairly represent the chosen discipline.

This happens to be a genealogical glossary, with unique parameters and peculiar designs. In a single list of words, the editor has striven to combine several points of view, and several sources of vocabulary items. He has aimed to provide the reader with terminology that pertains to modern genealogy, as well as the obscure meanings and translations which a student will sometimes encounter in historiography. [top of page]

Millennial Heraldry

A herald pronounces. He apprehends the circumstances of our world, and then articulates a description of the same, by using his collected knowledge of words and actions of our past.

The herald is at once a teller of truth, and a trickster of brevity. As a messenger with limited time, and limited purpose, the herald finds an expedient means to deliver his message to the faithful. He delivers orders and warnings, and brings challenges and offers of peace. It is the mission of a herald to aid people in apprehending his message, and therefore he may not always speak or pronounce directly. The herald often uses symbols and trickery to impress his hearers with what he wants them to perceive. [top of page]

Lexical Foundations

Our Basic Nomenclatures: English and Latin

The incidence of Latin words in English is so great and pervasive as to make annotation impractical. The reader may assume that italicized terms and expressions are Latin, unless otherwise identified, or alternatively used to show emphasis, or an English variant. After Greek entries, the editor has attempted to show both English and Latin equivalents, but has often suspended such comparisons when the English words happen to be based on Latin precedents.

Thus, our basic lexicon shall mainly consist of italicized Latin terms juxtaposed with non-italic English terms. For purposes of reference and comparison, we shall add to this foundation a wide variety of terms, phrases, and abbreviations in Greek, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Japanese, and Chinese.

Saxon and German

The Germans, through their inventive use of precise and exhaustive nomenclatures, have succeeded in making their language indispensable to engineers and scientists throughout the world. Genealogy as well has been considerably affected by German scholars, because the development and popularization of the ubiquitous Ahnentafel occurred in Germany during the early twentieth century.

The Germans remain flexible in their methods for identifying ancestors and descendants with prefixes, numbers, or degrees. In contrast to the simplistic naming conventions of English or French speakers, the Germans have developed clever and complex systems for uniquely identifying each generation and naming each member.

Our Britannic Vortex: London, England, 1755

As a fundament for our glossary, we shall employ a monumental work that remains today one of the greatest achievements in English literature, namely A Dictionary of the English Language, by Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). With the aid of patrons and amanuenses, Johnson compiled the work between 1747 and 1755, so it provides us with a contemporary slice of English and colonial life directly prior to the American Revolution.

Science and innovation continue to create new words and expressions for biological and social life, so the progressive elements of our vocabulary may date quite late, and might even have been coined in the year of this edition. Over the past two centuries, our English language has endured many changes and transformations, in grammar, as well as in our choices and preferments of words. As we examine the spellings and selections of Dr. Johnson, we shall often see how large numbers of words have fallen into disuse, and how alternative expressions and affixes have risen to replace the obsolete.

Our linguistic investigation shall not be limited in time or space, for we shall examine some words and terms created in remote antiquity. Nonetheless, we shall concentrate upon English history, and upon the Roman and Greek civilizations that rose and centuries before the English age.

Our American Vortex: New Haven, Connecticut, 1806

As our guide to the English of the early United States, we have followed A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, published in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1806.

Genderism and Sexism

Whether the reader deems himself progressive or conservative, he should find here a myriad words to suit his interests.

On one hand, The Alphabetary Heraldic aims to present a wide range of modern terms that reflect the libertarian sentiments and feminist sensibilities of modern times. On the other hand, this work endeavors to make plain and understandable all of the repugnant and barbaric words frequently used in medieval and colonial societies. [top of page]

Index Entries Alphabetical

Index Entries Alphabetical

The editor has used an isolated colon ( : ) to separate an index entry from the definition that follows it. For example,

    avola : [It] grandfather.

A series of words and expressions that explain or explicate the index entry constitute a simple definition. The elements and phrases in a simple definition are separated by commas (,). A complex definition, or a definition of some new meaning that differs basically from what precedes it, is offset by semi-colons (;), and uses commas as subdivisional marks for lists and phrases.

Correlatives: Abbreviations, Synonyms, and Translations of Similar Spelling

When a series of equivalent words, synonyms, or translations follow the index entry, the equivalents as well are separated by isolated colons, and interpolated between the main entry and the definition. [top of page]

    avo : avola [It] : grandfather.

The Articles of Definition

Vocabularies are never universal. The meanings and uses of words happen to change with every age and application, and therefore it is doubtful that an explanation written in the context of one science can be fully apprehended and appreciated by someone uninitiated in that science.

Because nomenclatures are so specialized and unique to their contexts, we find glossaries helpful, because the lexical selection of a glossary assists the reader in learning the connective comparatives and opposite terms that outline a science.

Nature versus Supernature

The word ‘nature’ provides us with a convenient demonstration of relevance and pertinence. In and of itself, religion is superstition, because it imposes upon real life a number of supernatural supports, or the faiths and beliefs that constitute dogma and doctrine. Therefore, it is convenient for philosophers to perceive a dichotomy between the natural and supernatural, or between things in nature, and things ceremonial or sacramental that are always contrary to nature, and artificial.

Traditionally, the church always believed it was beneficial to equate the sacraments with an outward expression of matters spiritual and unseen. Thus, it became customary for Christians to distinguish religious life from secular and base life by identifying religious matters as supernatural mysteries, and by contradistinguishing these unseen principles, with the seen and visible properties of nature.

The Christians eventually made a distinction between children legitimate and children natural, or the products of sanctified unions, versus the unlicensed products of unwedded pairs. This distinction of legitimate versus natural has endured since ad 496, serving the Roman and Anglican churches extremely effectively as a means for political control.

In colloquial speech, however, we commonly place nature in opposition to whatever is unnatural, and we often interpret unnatural as something unwholesome or bad. The Roman church was quick to recognize this colloquialism, and soon adopted the natural versus unnatural duality as a dogmatic instrument. Thus, regardless of their earlier definition of natural as ‘illegitimate,’ the church fathers reversed the meaning altogether, and began branding various doctrines and lifestyles as natural or ‘Christian’ versus unnatural or ‘anti-Christian.’

Therefore, we have in the single word ‘nature’ two entirely different, opposite meanings, both of which the church freely used for its own propagandistic purposes.


An annotation within a definition will normally appear at the beginning of that definition, and directly precede the synonyms, translations, and explanations that constitute the definition.


When attached to an isolated word, and shown as some correlative or equivalent to an index entry, an annotation of the language will normally follow the word.

    avola : [It] grandfather; avo [Lt].

Thus, annotations precedent are annotations-at-large that generally apply to the entire definition. Annotations subsequent are specific explanations of the sample’s source.

When they appear, the annotations most frequently identify major languages, and major dialects of languages, but usually ignore the details of etymology. The editor has made no attempt to subdivide English into Old English, Middle English, et cetera, thinking that the reader can investigate etymologies in detail in some other work better suited to that purpose.

Places Political

The annotations sometimes identify regions instead of languages, for it is more convenient to say European Community [EC] rather than list all the languages and regions in Europe.

A reference to Switzerland [Sz] should stand as an obvious denotation of the place, rather than language, because French, German, and Italian each enjoy equal status in that country. Belgium [Be] as well refers to the place, for her language is French.

Abbreviations of Languages and Places Political

[Ar] Arabic.
[Ba] Babylonian.
[Be] Belgium, where French prevails.
[Ce] Celtic
[Ch] Chinese.
[Dn] Danish.
[Du] Dutch.
[Eg] Egyptian.
[En] English.
[EU] European Community.
[Fi] Finnish.
[Fr] French.
[Ga] Gaelic, an ancient Celtic language that partly survives in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, as well as in Cornwall and Devon, England, and Brittany, France.
[Gk] Greek
[Hd] Hindu
[Ic] Icelandic
[Ir] Irish
[Jp] Japanese
[Lt] Latin
[NL] New Latin, a new vocabulary item created from genuine Latin bases and stems.
[Ns] Norse; northern; any of the Scandinavian group of languages, such as Norwegian and Swedish.
[Nw] Norwegian.
[Pt] Portugal.
[Rs] Russian.
[Sc] Scottish, Scots; Gaelic.
[SJ] Sino-Japanese onyomi.
[Sk] Sanskrit
[Sp] Spanish
[Sx] Saxon.
[Sz] Switzerland, where French, German, and Italian share equal status
[Tk] Turkish.
[Ug] Ugaritic cuneiform.
[We] Welsh

Archaic Languages

[Az] Aztec.
[Dahomey] Africa.
[Doric] Doric.
[Empire] Roman Empire.
[Homeric Gk]
[Ma] Mayan.
[Ogham Q-Celtic]
[Omaha and Ponca]
[Otaheite] Tahitian.
[Provençal] French of Provençe.
[Sumer] Sumerian.
[Teutonic] Teutonic.
[Tironian note]
[west Af] west African.

New Languages and Protocols

[MS] Microsoft jibberish.
[HTML] HyperText Markup Language.
[SGML] Standard Generalized Markup Language.

Archival and Documentary Sources

Annotations which consist mainly of uppercase or capital letters often refer to standard reference works, government archives, church records, and the like that are readily available for the consultation of genealogist, such as the International Genealogical Index [IGI], National Archives and Records Administration [NA], Daughters of the American Revolution [DAR], Church of the Latter Day Saints [LDS], et cetera. There are many symbols, abbreviations, and special terms that are used exclusively or parochially by individual authors and organizations, so the need has arisen to identify such particular usages, for the convenience and benefit of the reader.

[DAR] Daughters of the American Revolution
[IGI] International Genealogical Index
[LDS] Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
[NA] National Archives and Records Administration

Cross References

Cf. confer, compare.
Opp. oppositus, opposite; contra, antonym.


When dates of usage are known or estimated, and might provide some historiographical assistance to the reader or writer, then the year-dates are noted within brackets. The sixteenth century commenced in 1501 and ended in 1600, and therefore any estimated date connected with an entire century is likely to be marked by the final year-date of the century, in round numbers, and in this manner: 1500 for the fifteenth century, 1600 for the sixteenth, 1700 for the seventeenth, et cetera. Incremental year-dates in round numbers, such as 1550 or 1650, may sometimes indicate approximate dates, rather than actual.

Additional Annotations

Clarity and ease of use depends upon brevity and economy of expression. Therefore, the editor has avoided the interpolation of too many technical abbreviations.

[always plural] sub habuit liberos.
[epistolary address]
[formal address]
[new meaning]
[original meaning]
[polite address]
[present meaning]
[pronominal] before the name.


For each index entry, we aim to present first a concise definition.


Many terms require additional explication, and therefore we shall record second any supplemental notes that further explain and illustrate the usage of the index entry.

Comparisons and Opposites

Wherever it seems appropriate, we shall set forth one or more terms that should be compared to the index entry, after the abbreviation Cf. meaning confer ‘compare.’ Finally, we may sometimes show one or more terms that stand in opposition to the entry, after the abbreviation Opp. meaning oppositus ‘opposite’ or contra ‘antonym.’ [top of page]

The Notary Heraldic

Symbols, Ages, and Passages

We shall append to the lexicon certain special sections, some of which are organized not by alphabetical order, but arranged instead according to symbols and numbers.

We shall review the Six Ages of a Lifetime and the Ages of Passage. We shall examine a number of symbols typically used in the International Genealogical Index, by lineage societies, and others. Both of these lists are organized by the ordinal numbers of years a human subject has lived.

The Six Ages of a Lifetime

A replete lifetime consists of Six Ages, namely Infancy, Childhood, Minority, Majority, Retirement, and Reclusion.

Today, we commonly think that a person comes of age when licensed to drive at 16 years, or permitted to vote at 18 years, or legally recognized as adult in every respect at 21 years. Thus, we tend to think of life as consisting of only three ages: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

0 : infancy and childhood.
16 : minority, adolescence.
21 : majority, adulthood.

In feudal times, it was thought that people could responsibly marry, or be contracted to marry, at younger ages, and that seniority deserved greater respect, so the table of ages was divided into six periods of shorter duration.

0 : [0-7 years] infancy.
7 : [1 x 7 years] childhood.
14 : [2 x 7 years] minority, puberty.
28 : [4 x 7 years] majority.
49 : [7 x 7 years] retirement, menopause.
77 : [11 x 7 years] reclusion.

The Ages of Passage

The section on ages should remove a tremendous impediment, for it provides a compendium of facts about ages that cannot be readily had in any other reference work. Ages of passage and maturation have been differently classified and celebrated by several cultures throughout history, and therefore a reader may often be perplexed by a seemingly random series of ages, differently identified, and differently associated with other ages.

The editor has attempted to remedy the problem of ages by systematically presenting and explaining all of the ages as they were recognized and named by the Romans, Anglo-Americans, the churches, and the civil authorities.

In this convenient list have been included the ages of maturation and culpability, the ages that qualify one for driving, military service, graduation, or drinking, the age of parentage, minority, majority, perfect majority, seniority, retirement age, and reclusion.

Roman Numerals

The table of Roman numerals consists of a simple list of Arabic numbers, showing the corresponding Roman numerals, together their cardinal and ordinal equivalents in Latin.

Ethnic Identites

The countries of Latin America were founded through the conquest of the Aztec and Inca empires. Consequently, Spanish speakers have developed a long list of terms to denote various admixtures of Spanish, native, and black bloods. Several of the names for the mixed bloods might impress the English reader as somewhat derogatory and ethnocentric, but the list is nonetheless well established, and it may prove useful in Hispanic genealogy.

Native populations in Canada and the United States were surprisingly small in colonial times, and we estimate that the total number of natives living north of the Rio Grande might have been as few a one-half million or million. In contrast, the Aztec population in central Mexico might have been as large as ten million natives when Cortez arrived. Thus, the Mexican population represents a cross-breed race, roughly mestizo, or a mixture of Spanish and native bloods. It has been estimated that Mexican families must be approximately sixty percent (60%) Aztec, and perhaps forty percent (40%) Spanish.


Symbols are especially irksome, because different disciplines have adopted and developed divergent sets of symbols. European genealogists use a set of symbols for the rites of passage that happens to remain quite alien to Americans.

Various types of charts and pedigrees have been devised to show consanguinity, but these forms of notation happen to fall into three categories, and each of the categories uses unique symbols. Anthropological pedigrees are called kinship diagrams, and tend to use triangles (∆) to symbolize males. Medical and genetic pedigrees are called genograms, and often use squares to symbolize males.

Genealogical pedigrees are drawn in several ways, and tend to show individual names and dates rather then symbols. The charts genealogical are roughly divisible into two major types, namely the Ahnentafel and the descendancy pedigree. Modern computer programs are designed to present individual data inside neat squares or rectangles for both sexes, but the heralds of old sometimes elected to use shields for males and lozenges for females. Especially intricate pedigrees, typical of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, often showed heraldic achievements for individuals.

The Mormons maintain a gigantic database called the International Genealogical Index (IGI), and it employs several symbols, used as abbreviations.

Given all of this diversity, it would perhaps be impossible to provide the reader with a comprehensive compendium of symbols used to diagram and record affinal and consanguinal relationships. However, the list provided in this work should equip the reader with a number of symbolic principles, sufficient for the purposes of a novice. [top of page]

Nominæ Sacræ

It was customary in Hebrew to write the word for God, namely Yahweh or Jehovah, with no vowel marks, for the Jews believed that no one should pronounce, nor even know how to pronounce, the real name of the deity. The variant spellings Yahweh and Jehovah merely represent approximations of how the consonants might be pronounced in conjunction with vowels, but no record has ever been discovered showing the real spelling. Greek translators followed the Hebrew example, and thereby popularized the practice of representing sacred names with similar contractions. Roman Christians adopted Latin equivalents for the five Sacred Names, or Nominæ Sacræ, around ad 300. At times of persecution, Christians often used such abbreviations to leave symbols of their religion in caves and catacombs, or to mark the way to some secret meeting place. With the passage of time, the Sacred Names formed the basis for all kinds of contractions used in manuscripts.


The scholar who ventures to investigate lineages older than the sixteenth century will need to equip himself with an understanding of certain obsolete letters used in the Saxon language.

Tironian Shorthand

Shorthand notations had their origin in the time of Cicero, and they gradually gave rise to several sophisticated systems for abbreviation used by monks and scribes throughout Europe. The editor has provided a brief list of the earliest system, called Tironian notes, so that the reader may acquire a fundamental understanding of how abbreviations first appeared.

Educational institutions in America are notorious for their abject failure to equip the researcher with the literary tools he needs to perform historical research. Americans seldom acquire second languages, and seldom observe any rules of abbreviation. Consequently, Americans happen to be acutely disadvantaged when they attempt to read and transcribe European records. A sincere and conscientious scholar should recognize this deficiency, and aim to remedy the same, before ever attempting to read medieval and Renaissance texts.


A Latin or English contraction consists of a series of letters used to abbreviate a common word or common suffix. To be a contraction, the letter series must abbreviate a word or ending in (1) common use, and must show both the (2) first letter, and (3) last letter, or termination.

Superscription and Suprascription

A superscription is one small letter, or a series of small letters, written higher than the base line of the text. The familiar ordinal numbers are often written with superscription, e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd.

Today, we normally find superscription at the ends of abbreviated words. In the Middle Ages, superscription sometimes occurred in the middle of an abbreviation, to show some contraction of the full form: figuat = figurat.

Additionally, medieval writers used another form of notation called the suprascription, wherein the small letter was directly above the base letter. The reader will not find any genuine examples of suprascription in this glossary, for it is awkward and impractical to try and reproduce suprascription with a word processor. However, the editor has included a few selected examples of suprascription, by showing them as superscription, and by annotating the index entry as [suprascription].


Every reader should understand suspension as a method of abbreviation, for suspension is the most common and universal method. The abbreviations masc. for masculine and fem. for feminine are typical examples of suspension.

Prefixes and Suffixes

English is a hybrid language, made of many words constructed with distinctive prefixes and suffixes derived from Latin and Greek. An English speaker is likely to possess a broad knowledge of such prefixes and suffixes, but it is nonetheless helpful to periodically review and study a practical summary of these elements.

Provided herein are separate listings of Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes. The same elements have been listed in alphabetical order in the glossary proper. Admittedly, this double listing results in a redundant presentation of index items, but the editor believed it would be beneficial and utilitarian to have concise, segregated lists to assist the user in reading and writing.

We happen to have in English a number of peculiar words that stand as composites of both Latin and Greek elements. Thus, the scholar is likely to find these separate lists tremendously useful, for both the comprehension and composition of English. [top of page]

Vocabulary Selections

Euro-American lexicons customarily segregate proper names from common names and concepts. Thus, whenever we categorize spellings, or search for spellings, we use three kinds of reference works.

A standard dictionary serves as a general index rerum, or index of things, and normally excludes all proper names. A biographical dictionary serves as a specific index nominum, or index of personal names, exclusive of any place names and concepts. A geographical dictionary or gazetteer serves as a specialized index locorum, or index of places.

This lexicon departs from the conventional separation of names and words, and freely consolidates the three categories in one, convenient list

Personal Names

Included in this glossary are a number of personal names, and most of these selections show variant spellings, nicknames, and aliases commonly encountered in documents.

The editor has also attempted to include a selective listing of proper names that denote gods and goddesses, mythological characters, and historical characters who are especially pertinent to our study.

Place Names

The lexicon includes a number of abbreviations and variant spellings for key place names in Europe and America. The coverage of place names on the continent happens to be irregular and capricious. However, our treatment of place names in the British Isles is far more complete and comprehensive. Most of the major cities and political divisions in Britain have had several names, so the researcher needs to have some acquaintance with the variant spellings for each place in Saxon, Danish, Latin, and modern English. [top of page]


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