Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Castle - And Other Castellar Words

Peñafiel Castle, Castile-Leon, Spain
(photo by Pedro Fernandez Photography)


Noun. Late Old English.
[Anglo-Norman, Old Northern French castel variant of chastel (modern château) from Latin castellum diminutive of castrum fortified place.
In branch II rendering late Latin (Vulgate) castellum village, Latin castra camp.]

1(a) A (usually large) fortified building or set of buildings;
a stronghold (literally & figuratively);
(especially in proper names) a mansion that was once such.
Also (in proper names), a site of ancient earthworks. LOE

1(b) A model or representation of such a building or buildings. ME

2 A tower mounted on an elephant's back;
a movable tower formerly used in warfare. ME

3 An elevated structure on the deck of a ship. obsolete except in FORECASTLE. ME

4 A large ship, especially of war. literary. L16

5 CHESS = ROOK noun. M17

6 In biblical translations and allusions: a village. LOE-M16

7 singular & (usually) in plural. A camp. ME-L15

I love castles! I always have, ever since I was a wee nipper running around their ruins with a toy sword, picking off imaginary vikings from the arrowslits, tipping back the scaling ladders with a wooden fork, before finally charging up to the top of the ramparts to give those rotters on the battering ram a healthy dose of boiling lead to the head. Phrwoah! Bam! Brilliant! I rather think if I had a toy sword in front of me now, I might just pop a saucepan on my head and charge around the kitchen for a bit. Huzzah! Considering the important place that castles have had in British (and European) history, it doesn't seem too surprising that there are quite a few castle-words in English. Therefore, in honour of all the saucepan-sounding, wooden sword swinging, battlecry bounding little boys out there, I present you with a selection of English's finest castellar words:

Noun. Also castellane (obsolete). LME
The governor of a castle (or, in layman's terms, 'the king of the castle', as opposed to 'the dirty rascal'.)

Adjective. L18
Pertaining to or of the nature of a castle. 

Verb. Rare. M19
To take the form of a castle, or to build like a castle (with battlements, etc).

Adjective. L17
1) Built like a castle, or 2) Dotted with castles.

Noun. E19
The building of castles or battlements.

Noun. Obsolete except Historical. L17
A castle's territory or jurisdiction.

Noun. Obsolete except Historical. L16
A member of a castle's garrison, or a person living in a castle.

Noun. M16
A small castle."Aww! Bless!" isn't really the desired response from your enemy when they first
catch sight of your castlet walls, but at least there'll be no clearly-compensating-for-something jokes.

What's the difference between a castle, a palace and a fort, anyway?

While we're on the subject of all words castellar, if you've ever wondered about the exact difference between a castle, a palace and a fort, you may be frustrated to learn that it's not set in stone (brilliant pun). However, speaking generally, a palace is an unfortified royal residence, or the residence of some other high-ranking dignitary, and they're not built to withstand attack. A castle, on the hand, is also a residence, but is specifically designed with fortification in mind, and thus they have many common features, such a thick walls, defensive positions, moats, drawbridges, arrowslits, etc. Finally, a fort is a purely military structure, built as a defensive position or one from which offensive operations can be conducted. Oh, and a fort is the only one that can be made out of your Mum's duvet.

Do you like castles?

Do you have a favourite castle or castellar word?

Do please rampart your knowledge and make a moat point by commenting in the box below.


  1. Bouillon Castle is not only named after a sort of gravy, but in WW2 it was successfully defended with a single machine gun. Or so they told us when we visited it.

    1. Next time I'm passing through Bouillon, I shall be sure to give the tour guide a thorough quizzing on the subject.


    And I like all those other words as well.

    1. Yeah me too. 'Castlet' nearly qualified for an entry of its own, but I had to remind myself: "Ed! C'mon! Let's get this project done before you're 50 ..."

  3. I got the blame for building a castle once but it wasn't my fort.


    1. Unlike bad puns, which clearly are your fort ... boom boom!

  4. I'm another castle lover. Especially those with moats and drawbridges, as in the old fairy tales!
    And I would love to see some of the stairwells - I read somewhere they always turned clockwise!
    Ah, how I would love to see a real castle!

    And yes, a great explanation Ed! Ta!

    1. Yes, that's (generally) true - it would mean a right-handed attacker, pushing a defender back into the tower, would be at a serious disadvantage as his sword would keep hitting the wall. However, I have been to one castle in Ireland (Ashford Castle in Cong) where there is a watchtower that had the staircase running the other way. I tried to express my bemusement at this oversight to the group I was with, but no one listened. Perhaps the defending garrison was a bunch of southpaws.