Study Help Full Glossary for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


Agravain of the Hard Hand (à la dure main) Gawain's younger brother, also a knight. Gawain and Agravain are the sons of Arthur's sister (usually identified as Anna) and, thus, Arthur's nephews.

Anglesey an island off the northwestern coast of Wales; several small islands are associated with the main island.

ashes The city of Troy was burned by the victorious Greek army.

baldric a strap worn across one shoulder and fastened under the opposite arm, usually to support a sword or shield.

Bishop Baldwin Baldwin is Arthur's bishop in The Carl of Carlisle. A "Bedwini" is named as Arthur's bishop in two legends from the Welsh Mabinogion.

cap-à-dos probably a short cape covering the neck, shoulders, and chest. The only occurrence of the word is in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

caparison an ornamental drape covering the saddle or harness.

corbies' fee a scrap left for the scavenging birds. Either ravens or carrion crows were known as corbies.

crupper a strap running from the back of the saddle and under the horse's tailthat keeps the saddle from slipping forward.

Danish ax a type of battle-ax having an especially long blade.

David, Bathsheba David, the greatest king of Israel, saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing and fell in love with her. They became lovers, and David arranged to have her husband killed by sending him to the front lines of battle. David then married her, although God took the life of their first child in retribution for David's sin. Their second child was Solomon. (See II Samuel 11–12.)

ermine fur from a type of weasel with a white coat and black-tipped tail. Ermine was traditionally reserved only for the highest of the nobility.

evensong also called vespers, one of the seven canonical hours. Vespers takes place at sunset.

Greece The poet's phrase is "the gayest into Greece," meaning there is no finer armor than Gawain's from here to Greece (that is, very far away). A similar phrase appears in Pearl.

Gringolet (or Gryngolet) the name of Gawain's horse, who according to legend could run ten miles without tiring.

gules in heraldry, the term for the color red.

hauberk a long tunic of chain mail.

Hector From the Iliad, a prince of Troy famous for his skill as a warrior.

Holy Head possibly Holy Head in Anglesey; may also be Holywell on the Welsh coast, where according to legend, the virgin St. Winifred was beheaded for refusing the advances of a local prince; St. Beuno restored her head and raised her from the dead.

Logres Arthurian name for the kingdom of Britain.

Matins one of the seven "canonical hours" or prayer services that marked time during the medieval day. Matins was the service at midnight.

numbles edible parts of the deer entrails.

palisade a barrier formed of large sharpened stakes set into the ground, sometimes used as a defense around castles.

Pater, Ave, and Creed the "Pater Noster" or Lord's Prayer (Latin for "Our Father"), the "Ave Maria," ("Hail Mary") a prayer to the Virgin, and the Apostles' Creed, a statement of Christian belief.

prime Prime was the first canonical hour of the day, or approximately 6 a.m.

Prince of Paradise Jesus Christ.

reynard Traditional medieval name for a fox.

Romulus, Ticius, Langobard In Roman myth, Romulus was the legendary founder of Rome. Ticius and Langobard are inventions of Arthurian mythology. Based on some fanciful etymology of their names, Ticius and Langobard were said to have founded Tuscany and Lombardy, regions of Italy.

rood The cross of Christ. "By the rood" was a common mild oath.

Samson, Delilah The Israelite hero Samson received his great strength from his long hair. He was betrayed by his lover, Delilah, who had his hair cut off while he was asleep and turned him over to his enemies. (See Judges 16:4–20.)

scythe an agricultural tool for harvesting or mowing, consisting of a long single-edged blade set at an angle on a handle. The personified figure of Death is often shown carrying a scythe, so it is appropriate for Gawain to imagine that the sound he hears is a scythe blade being sharpened.

Solomon one of the Kings of Israel, famed for his wisdom. Medieval popular belief held that Solomon's wisdom included knowledge of magic.

Solomon Solomon had many wives, and his devotion to foreign women caused the downfall of his kingdom. (See I Kings 11:1–13.)

Tintagel Tintagel, said to be Arthur's birthplace, is a real place in Cornwall, in the west of England. Arthur's mother, Ygraine, bore Morgan to her first husband, Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall.

Toulouse, Turkestan The French city Toulouse was famous for the production of luxury fabrics. Tharsia, or Turkestan, in central Asia, was famous for its rugs and tapestries.

Uther Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father.

Wirral a region in northern Wales, famous in the Gawain-poet's day as the haunt of criminals.

Yule another name for Christmas or the Christmas season.

Yvain, Eric, Dodinal de Sauvage, Duke of Clarence, Lancelot, Lionel, Lucan, Bors, Bedivere, Mador de la Porte famous knights of Arthurian legend. The listing of knights' names is a typical device of Arthurian romance.

Yvain, Urien Urien, King of Rheged, was the father of Yvain or Ywain, a famous knight. Yvain is the main character in Chrètien de Troyes's tale Yvain (The Knight of the Lion).

Zephyrus in Greek mythology, the god of the west wind (and thus representing the warm breezes of spring).