You are here: Archive Home > The Gondoliers > Glossary

The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   The Gondoliers Glossary
Contributed to the Archive by Tim Riley

Plaza-Toro From plaza de toros, Spanish for bull-ring.

Grand Inquisitor The head of an institution within the Roman Catholic church charged with suppressing heresy and promoting orthodoxy.

Gondoliers Those who own and row the traditional flat-bottomed passenger-boats of Venice.

Contadine Peasant women.

Piazzetta The open space between the top of St Mark’s Square and the waterfront.

The Ducal Palace on the right The traditional staging with the view of S. Giorgio Maggiore as the backdrop means that ‘on the right’ indicates stage right – on the viewer’s left.

The pink… The finest example

…and flower Ditto.

Dolce far niente ‘Sweet doing nothing’ – enjoyably wasting time on nothing very much.

Contradicente Speaking against.

The emerald sea The Adriatic, which Venice fronts, noted for its green appearance (though in the same song Antonio also calls it ‘shimmering blue’).

Ben venuti Welcome.

Buon’ giorno signorine Good day, young ladies.

Gondolieri carissimi Dearest gondoliers.

Siamo contadine We are peasant girls.

Servitori umilissimi Your humble servants.

Per chi questi fiori bellissimi For whom are these most lovely flowers?

Per voi bei signori For you, good sirs.

Eccellentissimi Most excellent.

O ciel! O heaven?

Buon’ giorno cavalieri Good day, gentlemen.

Siamo gondolieri We are gondoliers.

Signorina io t’amo Lady, I love you.

Poveri gondolieri Poor gondoliers.

Vagary Eccentric or extravagant notion.

Short-coated In children’s clothes.

Vespers Evening church service.

Vigil Devotional watch, especially on the eve of a festival or holy day.

Viva Hurrah.

Castilian hidalgo Nobleman from Castile, a traditional region of Spain.

Halberdiers Soldiers bearing long spears with axe-heads at the end.

Cornet-à-piston Small valve-trumpet.

Grazier One who grazes or feeds cattle or sheep for the market.

His Grace Traditional form of address to a British duke.

Count Matadoro, Baron Picadoro Adapted from the titles of grades of bull-fighters, matador and picador.

By proxy By an agent acting on another’s behalf.

Barataria An island invented by Cervantes for Don Quixote.

Wesleyan Methodist A member of one of the Protestant branches of the Christian church.

Allotment Initial sale of the shares in the company.

Liquidation Disposal of a company’s assets to pay off its debts.

Wind him up A limited company that fails is subject to a ‘winding-up’ order, disposing of its assets.

Doughty Brave.

Paladin A knight renowned for heroism and chivalry.

Jimp Attractive, slim, graceful.

Timoneer Helmsman, steersman.

Cordova English rendering of Córdoba, a city in Spain.

Canker Decay, rot, ulceration.

Hands across and down the middle Traditional movement in nineteenth century dancing at country balls etc.

Undertaker Funeral director.

Grand Canal The main thoroughfare of Venice.

Rialto Location of Venice’s market and of the oldest (and for many years the only) bridge across the Grand Canal.

Ween Opine, believe.

Bear away the bell Carry off the prize (possibly deriving from a gold or silver bell sometimes given as the prize in races and other contests).

Ebullition Bubbling up.

The Chancellor in his peruke A peruke is a wig – the Lord Chancellor traditionally wore a full-bottomed wig until the 21st century.

The Earl the Marquis and the Dook Earl, marquis (or marquess) and duke are the three highest ranks of the peerage.

Coutts Small and exclusive bank, founded in 1692.

On the box The box of a coach is where the coachman sits.

In the stocks A method of punishment whereby offenders were secured by the ankles, leaving them immobilised in a public place exposed to verbal and sometimes physical abuse.

Xebeque More commonly spelt xebec: a small three masted Mediterranean vessel.

Cup and ball Game of dexterity, in which the aim is to propel a ball upwards and then catch it in a cup to which it is attached by a string – other names for the game include balero and biloche.

‘Morra’ etc. Ancient game in which two players each throw out a hand displaying one to four fingers and simultaneously guess how many fingers the other player will display.

Beau ideal Example of perfection.

A legal fiction An assertion accepted as true (though not literally so) to achieve an agreed legal purpose.

Interim order Temporary order of a court of law, effective until a question is decided substantively.

Levee A formal reception of visitors or guests.

Or ratify some Acts of Parliament Acts of the British parliament become law only when the monarch has granted formal assent to them.

‘Shalloo humps’ and ‘shalloo hoops’ Parody of parade ground shouts of command.

Regalia and the Coronation Plate Crown jewels.

Titivating Smartening, sprucing.

With the Garter or the Thistle or the Bath The three highest orders of UK chivalry, founded in 1348, 1687 and 1725 respectively.

In semi-state Dressed for everyday ceremonial occasions, without robes or crowns.

Passed the Rubicon Passed the point of no return (from Julius Caesar’s unauthorised crossing of the river Rubicon which brought him into a state of rebellion against the Senate of Rome).

Livery Traditional uniform provided for and worn by an employee of a king, nobleman etc.

Cachucha, fandango, bolero Names of three lively Spanish dances.

Xeres Xeres – a town in Andalusia famous for its fortified wine, known in English-speaking countries as sherry.

Manzanilla A pale, dry sherry.

Montero An inexpensive fortified wine, popular in nineteenth century England.

The Lord Chamberlain’s office The lord chamberlain is the senior official of the royal household.

Tuppenny Head – convoluted derivative of rhyming slang: head = loaf of bread, abbreviated to loaf, whence tuppenny (two-penny) loaf, abbreviated to tuppenny.

Rhenish wine German wine from the Rhine valley – the finest specimens were highly regarded in the late 19th century.

Junket Feast or banquet.

Jink Lively or boisterous sport.

Toddy Diluted rum or other spirit, usually served hot.

Shoddy Woollen yarn made by recycling wool from old fabric.

Sprats Small sea-fish common on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and among the cheapest fish on sale.

Shovel hat A hat, worn by bishops until the mid 20th century, with stiff broad brims turned up at the sides projecting with a shovel-like curve at the front and back.

Field-Marshal The highest rank in the British army.

Small beer Weak beer; hence, figuratively, trifling matters.

Lord-Lieutenant The official representative of the monarch in each British county formerly an important part of the defence of the realm, but since 1871 largely a ceremonial role.

Ipso facto By that very fact (Latin).

Tartar Originally a member of the eastern Tatars or Tartars, of whom Genghis Khan was the most famous – later applied to signify any ferocious person.

Progenitor An ancestor or a parent.

Double-shotted guns Guns loaded with twice the usual amount of shot.

Colours nailed unto the mast Ships’ flags (known as colours) were lowered as a mark of surrender; in battle nailing your colours to the mast signified that nothing would make you surrender.

Ninety-five quarterings Quartering is the dividing of a coat of arms into quarters to denote the joining of two noble houses by marriage; this process can be repeated at subsequent alliances.

Floated at a premium Referring to shares issued in a new company which are so sought after that they command a greater price than their nominal value.

He was applied for over and over again The earlier applicants being, presumably, creditors, bailiffs etc.

The Limited Liability Act The Limited Liability Act, 1855 first allowed limited liability for corporations in the U.K, giving shareholders a measure of immunity from debt in the event of the failure of the company.

Recorders Senior lawyers who sit as part-time judges.

MPs baronetted Members of Parliament given baronetcies (hereditable knighthoods).

Gazetted Being the subject of an pronouncement in the government’s official journal, The London Gazette – in this context having a military appointment promulgated.

Aldermen Senior tier of local government representatives.

Double-barrel Hyphenated and, to some, impressively grand surname.

Companies bubble Speculative and unreliable commercial enterprises.

Écarté Card game for two players, popular in London and Parisian society in the 19th century.

Five guineas Five pounds and five shillings, or £5.25 in decimal currency; five guineas in 1889 was equal to about £500 in current values.

Soupçon A small quantity or slight trace.

Clarion Trumpet.

‘Prème’, ‘stali’ Gondoliers’ technical terms in the Venetian dialect: ‘prème’ (push!) And ‘stali’ (tack!). (The libretto prints the first term as ‘premé’.)

Archive Home |  The Gondoliers

    Page modified 27 August, 2011 Copyright © 2009 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.