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.


  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.