How's Your Pilgrim English?


Mayflower Compact

About Our Society
NC Officers

- Eligibility
- Application Fees

Proof of Lineage

- Frequently Asked

The Ship - Mayflower

Pilgrim Trivia

Pilgrim English

Colonial Medicine

Test Your Pilgrim

All the Pilgrims spoke English, but words and phrases they used were so different, 400 years ago, from the language used and known today.  Today's descendants might have a very hard time understanding exactly what their ancestors meant.

The Pilgrims lived in the midst of the most exciting period in the history of the English language.  It was a time when 12,000 words were added to the language.  It was also a time of considerable change in the language structure.  The Pilgrims ere among the first generation to use the "s" form of verbs, such as "has" rather than "hath," and "runs" rather than "runneth," etc.  Also, the pronouns "thee" and "thou" were dying out at the same time.  If the Pilgrims had come twenty-five years earlier, these terms might have been preserved in our common English of today.

It also seems possible that some of the Pilgrim families spoke different dialects since they came from many towns and cities in different parts of England. Even if the word was heard correctly could today's descendants define it?

For fun, see how many of the nouns listed below, words commonly used in the Sixteen hundreds, can be matched with the correct definition.


1.  Bacalao A. A bread or un-sweetened cake cooked
on hot stones.
2.  Bannock B. A wooden plate for food.  
3.  Chemise C. An open boat, usually for 2 oarsmen, or
a two-masted fishing boat.
4.  Cog D. A cask for liquor or a measure of weight.  
5.  Firkin E. A spicy, salted fish stew.  
6.  Grog F. A woman's undershirt.  
7.  Keep G. A small bed, truck or cart on wheels.  
8.  Pottage H. A strong drink or the vessel to hold it.  
9.  Shallop I. A thick vegetable soup.  
10.  Trencher J. An alcoholic drink.  
11.  Trundle K. A wooden vessel for food, such as lard or
butter of 1/4 of a barrel.
12.  Tun L. A fortress, barricade or castle.  

Answers to How's Your Pilgrim English?

1-E; 2-A; 3-F; 4-H; 5-K; 6-J; 7-L; 8-I; 9-C; 10-B; 11-G; 12-D.

(Green Mountain Pilgrim - Burlington, VT  October 2000)

Last Revised:  August 26, 2015