Glossary

Terms used in our database:

  1. Breeches - short trousers fastened just below the knee, often worn for riding horses
  2. Brig - a two-masted ship with square sales
  3. Confidence man - a con artist gaining the trust or “confidence” of people with an identity other than their fugitive status
  4. Flippant - not showing a serious or respectful attitude
  5. Frock - a loose outer garment
  6. Fugitive - another word for a runaway
  7. Gaol - common spelling for the “jail”
  8. Grand marronage - when an enslaved individual or group of people absconded from slavery permanently, and often established an independent community outside of slaveholding societies
  9. Griffe - A person who has a black parent and a parent of American Indian blood; can also be used as an alternative designation for mulatto
  10. Harlot, hussie - a promiscuous woman or prostitute
  11. Indentured servant - an individual in a signed or a forced contact to work for a specific period of time for payment, punishment, or repayment of debt
  12. Indian - word commonly used in runaway ads for Native American slaves and servants
  13. Kersey - a kind of coarse, ribbed cloth with a short nap, woven from short-stapled wool
  14. Likely - suitable, able, fit for a position
  15. Lusty - active and healthy
  16. Maroon - a person who fled slavery and lived in rebellion outside of the community they escaped, often because they were geographically isolated from non-slaveholding societies
  17. Messirs/Messrs - used as a title to refer formally to more than one man simultaneously
  18. Middling - moderate, or average, in size
  19. Middling stature - Stature conveyed height, so a middling stature’d woman would be of average height during the time
  20. Mulatto - a person of mixed African and European parentage, often lighter-skinned or described as having a “yellow” complexion
  21. N.B. - the abbreviation of the Latin phrase "Nota Bene" which directly translates to "Note well" meaning "Take notice." This is often placed at the end of ads before warnings against harboring self emancipated slaves
  22. Negro - a person of African parentage, often darker-skinned
  23. Negro Fashion - assumed reference to the West African tradition of making markings on the skin using a sharp instrument
  24. Old Tenor - paper money issued by the Massachusetts Bay colony
  25. Petit marronage - when an enslaved individual or group of people absconded from slavery for a short amount of time, and returned after a while as a form of resistance or negotiation
  26. Pock-broken - Broken out, or marked, with smallpox
  27. Privateer - a pirate operating with the legal backing of a nation, usually attacking ships that were at war with the mother country
  28. Runaway - an individual whose escape from bondage constituted a breach of legal contract or sale
  29. Sabbath day - Sunday
  30. Scrofula - tuberculosis
  31. Self-emancipated - a phrase to describe resisting enslavement by running away, often seen as a more active description than “runaway”
  32. Servant - The word servant is used as a place-holder in many runaway advertisements because it is meant to soften the term that described these indentured people. Instead of using the word “slave”, people use the word servant, in order to sugar coat the message and appeal to the humanity of those reading
  33. Subscriber - a person paying to receive a magazine or newspaper, in runaway ads often referring to the master placing the ad
  34. Vessel - a ship
  35. Wench - a young woman                   
  36. Worsted - a woven fabric (wool) that is tightly knit, without any gaps

Reference Credit: http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/gos/gloss.html