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Sharpe's Lexicon

The Sharpe Compendium Lexicon

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A to M A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N to Z

Note: (Fr) indicates words that are or were used by the French.
Note: (BS) indicates British Army slang terms.
Note: (Nav) indicates Naval terms.

Characters: A


Abatis: Barricade of logs. (Fr)
Able Seaman: Knowledgeable sailor. (Nav)
Abram: To sham Abram was to pretend illness. (BS)
Afore: To the front of the vessel.(Nav)
Aft: To the rear of the vessel.(Nav)
Aide de Camp: Assistant to senior officer. (FR)
Aloft: High in the masts or rigging.(Nav)
Amalgame: System that mixed experienced, regular troops with conscripts in France's revolutionary armies. (Fr)
Amidships: In the middle of the vessel. (Nav)
Astern: Behind. (Nav)
Ataman: Cossack senior officer. (Fr)
Atiradore: Portuguese sharpshooter. (Fr)

Characters: B

Bacon Bolters: Grenadiers. (BS)
Bad Bargain: A useless soldier. (BS)
Baggage: Women and children (BS)
Bang Up: Very fine (BS)
Banquette: A parapet's firing step. (Fr)
Bar: Shallow water in entrance to harbour. (Nav)
Barker/Barking Iron: A pistol (BS)
Barrelled Sash: A hussar's girdle with lace barrels.
Barque: Three-masted ship. (Nav)
Bar-shot: A tin container, designed to split apart when fired from a cannon, filled with an iron bar packed in with musket balls.
Bat: Baggage, provisions, possessions (BS)
Battalion Company: Centre company in a battalion.
Battery: Six or eight-gun emplacements.
Beam: Width of ship. (Nav)
Bear Away: Change direction to sail before the wind. (Nav)
Belch: Beer. (BS)
Belemite: Malingerer. (BS)
Bilges: Bottom compartment of ship, usually filled with waste water. (Nav)
Bishop: Mixture of wine and water. (BS)
Bitch Booby: Country wench. (BS)
Black Book: Regimental punishment book. (BS)
Blackening Ball: Nugget-like substance to blacken equipment.
Black Guard: Low person. (BS)
Black Hole: Guardhouse or prison. (BS)
Blackjack: Half-pint tin mug. (BS)
Bleeders: Spurs. (BS)
Bloody Back: A soldier. (BS)
Blue Plum: A bullet. (BS)
Boarding Nets: Nets strung out from ship's side to stop boarding. (Nav)
Bog Land: Ireland. (BS)
Boots: Youngest officer in a mess. (BS)
Bowlines: Ropes attached to sails to pull them forward. (Nav)
Bowsprit: Spar at the front of a ship. (Nav)
Box Haul: Sharp turning of a ship. (Nav)
Brace: Rope used to hold direction of a sail. (Nav)
Breastwork: A parapet.
Brigantine: Two-masted ship. (Nav)
Brimstone/Brim: A deserted woman. (BS)
Bring To: Slowing a ship so that it almost stops by heading it into the wind. (Nav)
Briquet: Infantry sabre. (Fr)
Brown Bess: Common name for British Long Land Pattern muskets.
Brown George: An army loaf or an unpowdered wig. (BS)
Buffs: Soldiers' belts. (BS)
Bulldog: A pistol. (BS)
Bulkhead: Internal partitions of ships.(Nav)
Bumbo: Brandy, water and sugar. (BS)
Bumper: A full glass. (BS)
Butcher's Bill: Casualty list. (BS)

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Characters: C

Cabinet: Napoleon Bonaparte's personal entourage. (Fr)
Cable: Heavy rope. (Nav)
Cable (length): 240 yards. (Nav)
Cacadore: Portuguese rifleman.
Cadnettes: Plaits dangling from the temples of cavalrymen. (Fr)
Cagg: Abstain from alcohol.(BS)
Calfskin: A drum. (BS)
Calfskin Fiddler : A drummer. (BS)
Caisson: An artillery ammunition wagon.
Candlestick: A bayonet. (BS)
Canister: Close-range, anti-personnel ammunition for artillery. Made up of a tin container filled with musket balls, canister was designed to break apart on leaving the cannon's muzzle.
Cantoniere: Female canteen keeper accompanying army.(Fr)
Cap: A shako, or military head-dress. (BS)
Capstan: Large cylindrical device that sailors inserted poles into to help haul up cables. (Nav)
Carabinier: A heavily armed cavalry trooper. (Fr)
Carbine: A short cavalry musket.
Carcass: Incendiary to illuminate dark areas. (BS)
Cartouche: Cartridge box. (Fr)
Careen: Lying a ship on its side to allow its hull to be cleaned. (Nav)
Cascabel: Knob at touch-hole end of a cannon.
Case-shot: Similar artillery ammunition to canister.
Caterpillar: A soldier. (BS)
Caulking: System of using unpicked rope and pitch to seal gaps in planks. (Nav)
Charoual: Mameluke trousers. (Fr)
Chasseur: Light troops (hunters). (Fr)
Chasseurs-a-Cheval: Light cavalry. (Fr)
Chasseurs-a-Pied: Light infantry. (Fr)
Cheveux-Legers: Light cavalry including lancers, chasseurs and hussars. (Fr)
Chosen Man: Corporal in the 95th Rifles.
Clash Pans: Cymbals. (BS)
Close-Hauled: Rigging a ship to sail directly into the wind. (Nav)
Club: A short powdered queue of hair at back of head.
Cockade: National colours worn on hats.
Colours: Large regimental or King's flags used by British regiments.
Column of Divisions: Two-company wide attack formation for battalions.
Commissaries: Officials who organised supplies of food and equipment for armies.
Conscription: System where able-bodied men between certain ages were called up for military service.
Cuckoo: A French eagle. (BS)
Cool Lady: Woman who sells alcohol. (BS)
Cornet: Cavalry equivalent of an ensign or second-lieutenant.(Fr)
Corps d'Armee: A balanced miniature army that contained its own infantry, cavalry and artillery. (Fr)
Corps d'Observation: A body of troops split from a main army to cover an opposing army. (Fr)
Cossack: Fierce Russian irregular cavalry.
Cracker: Ammunition. (BS)
Crapaud: Derogatory British word for French troops (Toads, Frogs).
Croaker: A moaner. (BS)
Crocus: A surgeon. (BS)
Cutter: Single-masted small ship. (Nav)
Czapka: Square-topped cavalry hat, mainly used by lancers.

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Characters: D

Dead Man: An empty bottle. (BS)
Degen: German straight-bladed infantry sword.
Demi-Brigade: A three-battalion formation that replaced regiments in the French revolutionary army. In 1803 they were reverted to regiments.
Dents de Loup: Wolf-teeth cloth edgings to a shabraque.
Division: Infantry or cavalry body that included several thousand men.
Divisional Column: A battalion-wide column of attack.
Dolman: A short, tail-less jacket.
Dolphin: Lifting handle on cannon.
Dragoons: Medium cavalry capable of fighting on foot with carbines.

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Characters: E

Eagle: French army unit symbol.
Eclaireurs-a-Cheval: Mounted scouts. The French had three regiments. (Fr)
Embrasure: Opening in defensive wall to fire cannons through.
Enciente: Stronghold's walls.(Fr)
Enfilade: Flanking fire that can hit anything within an enemy position.
En Flute: A warship without some, or all, of its cannons. (Nav)
Ensign: Infantry second-lieutenant.

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Characters: F

Facings: Colours worn on collars, cuffs and turnbacks to identify various regiments.
Fascine: Wood bundles used as cover in defensive lines.
Faggot: Man hired to appear for soldier at roster call. (BS)
Fermelet: Mameluke waistcoat. (Fr)
Flag Officer: Admiral. (Nav)
Fixed Ammunition: Artillery shell with wooden sabot still attached.
Flank company: Grenadier or light company of a battalion.
Flanquers: Light infantry, usually of the Middle Guard. (Fr)
Fleche: Arrow-head shaped earthworks.
Foot Wobbler: Cavalry term for infantry. (BS)
Fore: Front of a ship. (Nav)
Forecastle: Small deck at front of ship. (Nav)
Forlorn Hope: Volunteers to conduct first attack on fortifications.
Frog: Looped leather belt through which a sword scabbard is hung.
Fusil: Light musket. (Fr)
Fusiliers: General infantryman.

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Characters: G

Gabion: Dirt-filled cane basket used for defence works.
Gaff: Yard supporting top of a sail. (Nav)
Gasket: Platted rope holding sails to yards. (Nav)
Gendarmerie: Paramilitary police. (Fr)
Gendarmerie d'elite: Napoleon Bonaparte's bodyguard. (Fr)
Glacis: Slope up to a fortification.
Goddams: Nickname given to British troops by the French.(Fr)
Gorget: Small, metal crescent worn by officers around their necks.
Grand-Quartier-General: General Headquarters. (Fr)
Grapeshot: Another close-range artillery shot made of a bag filled with large metal balls.
Grasshoppers: French nickname for the green-uniformed British riflemen.
Grenadier: Elite infantryman.
Grenadier-a-Cheval: Heavy cavalry trooper in the Guard Cavalry. (Fr)
Grog: A mixture of rum and water. (BS)
Grognard: Affectionate term for "grumblers" of the Guard infantry. (Fr)
Gros-Bottes: Nickname for the Grenadiers-a-Cheval (Big Boots). (Fr)
Guides: Bodyguards for Revolutionary generals.(Fr)
Guidons: Standards used by cavalry units.

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Characters: H

Halberd: Axe-headed polearm used by soldiers protecting the Colours.
Half-pay: Unemployed officers (including naval lieutenants or above) were entitled to half-pay allowances despite not being on active service.
Halyards: Ropes to raise or lower sails. (Nav)
Haul Off: Move away. (Nav)
Heave To: Stopping a ship by heading it into the wind. (Nav)
Hetman: A cossack commander.
Horse Artillery: Mobile, horse-drawn cannons.
Humbugged: Surprised or confounded by the enemy. (BS)

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Characters: I

Imperial Guard: Napoleon Bonaparte's elite infantry. Later split into the Young, Middle and Old Guard.
Inexpressibles: Breeches. (BS)

Characters: J

Jib: Triangular sail at prow of ship. (Nav)
Johnny Newcombe: New recruit. (BS)
Jolly: A marine. (BS)
Jonathan: An American. (BS)

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Characters: K

Kurtka: A Polish lancer jacket. (Fr)
Knock-Me-Down: Strong ale. (BS)

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Characters: L

Lancers: Lance-carrying, light cavalry.
Landwehr: German conscript troops. (Fr)
Landsman: Inexperienced sailor. (Nav)
Larboard: Port. (Nav)
Lateen sail: A triangular sail. (Nav)
Leeward: Same direction as the wind. (Nav)
Leg Bail: Leave without paying debts. (BS)
Levee-en-Masse: Conscription. (Fr)
Light Bobs: British nickname for light infantrymen. (BS)
Light Infantry: Units trained for harassing duties and skirmishing.
Limber: Used to move artillery pieces.
Line Infantry: Regular infantry that made up the bulk of an army.
Line of Communication: An army's link to its supply base, including the route reinforcements and commissaries would travel to join with the army.
Line of March: Direction an army is marching.
Line of Operations: Direction an army is marching in enemy territory.
Line of Retreat: An army's direction of retreat, preferably on its Line of Communication.
Log-line: A knotted rope and piece of wood that measures a ship's speed. (Nav)
Luff: Turn a ship closer to wind. (Nav)
Lug sail: A four-sided sail. (Nav)
Lying To: Position a ship is in after being brought to. (Nav)

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Characters: M

Mamelukes: Turkey's elite cavalry.
March Off: To die of wounds received, to die in battle. (BS)
Masse de Decision: Reserve troops kept out of battle until the decisive moment of the fight. (Fr)
Masse de Manouevre: French force used to outflank enemy army. (Fr)
Mast: Vertical spar from which sails and spars are attached. (Nav)
Midshipmen: Junior-ranking officers who would assist in the control of the crew. (Nav)
Mirliton: Hussar cap with flying wing. (Fr)
Mizzen: Rear of a ship. (Nav)
Moustachios: Veterans of Napoleon's Old Guard. (BS)
Muff Cap: A hussar's fur busby. (BS)

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Characters: N

Necessaries: Personal kit issued by army. (BS)
Nightingale: A soldier who cried out during a flogging. (BS)

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Characters: O

Old Trousers: British nickname for French drumbeat the Pas-de-Charge. (BS)
Opolchenie: Russian militia. (Fr)
Ordenanca: Portuguese militia.
Ordre Mixte: Flexible attack formation mixing units in column and in line. (Fr)
Ordinary Seaman: Sailor with limited experience. (Nav)
Orlop deck: The lowest deck on a vessel. (Nav)

Characters: P

Packet: Small, fast ship for sending despatches and orders. (Nav)
Palisade: Wooden-stakes fencing.
Pallasch: German straight-bladed, heavy-cavalry sword. (Fr)
Parados: Rear-facing parapet. (Fr)
Parapet: Front-facing wall of fortification.
Parleyvous: Anything French. (BS)
Parole: Surrendering officer could give their word not to escape before being exchanged.
Patlander: An Irishman. (BS)
Petit-Quartier-General: Small group of key subordinates who would accompany Napoleon Bonaparte.(Fr)
Petty Officer: Included gunner's mates, quartermasters, master-at-arms, carpenter, bosun and cooper, the ship's master, chaplain and surgeon. (Nav)
Pickers: Wire implement to clear musket touch holes.
Picquets: Army outposts or patrols.
Piece: A cannon. (BS)
Pigtail: Tobacco plug. (BS)
Pinnace: A ship's boat. (Nav)
Plying: Turn to windward. (Nav)
Poker: A sword. (BS)
Pong: Bread. (BS)
Pontonniers: Engineers who could build, or improve, bridges.(Fr)
Pop: A pistol, or pawning something. (BS)
Punk: A female camp follower. (BS)

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Characters: N

Queue: A soldier's powdered and tightly tied pigtail.

Characters: N

Rag Carrier: Infantry ensign. (BS)
Rag Fair: Inspection of underclothes and necessaries. (BS)
Rammer: An arm. (BS)
Ratlines: Ropes attached to a ship's shrouds that are used as ladders. (Nav)
Raupenhelm: Bavarian crested helmet. (Fr)
Redoubt: Independent defensive position.
Red Rag: British uniform's red coat. (BS)
Redshank: A Highlander. (BS)
Reef: Lessen sail area by tying parts of it to the mast. (Nav)
Ripping Muslin: Volley of Fire. (BS)
Roller: Neck cloth. (BS)
Rot Gut: Vile-tasting strong drink. (BS)
Roundshot: A solid metal cannonball of varying sizes and weights.
Royals: Square sails sitting beneath the topgallants. (Nav)
Ruffler: A beggar. (BS)
Rumbo: Rum, sugar and water. (BS)

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Characters: S

Sabot: Wooden base for fixed ammunition.
Sabre: A curved cavalry sword.
Saddle Sick: Dislike of riding horses. (BS)
Saloop: Tea, milk and sugar. (BS)
Shabraque: Ornamental horse equipment.
Shako: Cylindrical head gear for most armies.
Shrapnel: Fused explosive shell filled with musketballs and pieces of metal that would rain down on troops when it burst in the air.
Sheets: Ropes attached to bottom corners of sails. (Nav)
Shrouds: Support ropes attached to the masts. (Nav)
Sheepskin Fiddler: A drummer. (BS)
Shifting Ballast: Naval term for soldiers transported by sea. (BS)
Skilly: Thin soup. (BS)
Smabble: Kill in battle. (BS)
Smalls: Waistcoats, breeches, shirts. (BS)
Smart Money: Paid to those who lost limbs. (BS)
Snapper: A pistol. (BS)
Snob: A shoemaker. (BS)
Spit: A sword. (BS)
Spontoon: A short, half-pike.
Square-Rigged: A ship rigged with square sails at its bow. (Nav)
Stays: Forwards and backwards support ropes for the masts. (Nav)
Steel: Frizzen.
Stick: A pistol. (BS)
Stingo: Strong drink. (BS)
Stirrabout: A stew. (BS)
Stovepipe: British shako without false front (Belgic).
Swad/Swaddy: A soldier. (BS)
Swizzle: Alcohol. (BS)

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Characters: T

Tack: Way of a ship zig-zagging into the wind or turning it by steering to winward. (Nav)
Tail: A sword. (BS)
Tattoo: Drum call for evening. (BS)
Teufels: Devils - Prussian infantry. (BS)
Tilter: A sword. (BS)
Time Beater: A drummer. (BS)
Tirailleur: A French sharpshooter. (Fr)
Triangle: A frame of lashed-together spontoons on which a flogging was carried out.
Tricolor: The French flag of blue, white and red.
Toad Eater: An ingratiating subordinate. (BS)
Toasting Iron: A sword. (BS)
Top: Platform around the mast. (Nav)
Topgallant: Highest of the three spars used to make a mast. (Nav)
Trull: A female camp follower. (BS)

Characters: U

Characters: V

Vedette: A cavalry scout. (Fr)
Velites: Trainee light infantry. (Fr)
Voltigeur: Elite French light infantry. (Fr)

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Characters: W

Walking Cornet: Cavalry description of an ensign. (BS)
Wear: Turn a ship by moving prow in direction of the wind. (Nav)
Windage: How far a ship is blown off course by the wind. (Nav)
Worn Out: A soldier unfit for active service. (BS)

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Characters: X


Characters: N

Yard: Horizontal spar that holds up the sails. (Nav)
Yardarm: Outer sections of the yard. (Nav)
Yeomanry: Volunteer British cavalry.

Characters: Z



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