104 Great Old School Words (and Insults!) for Fantasy Games & RPGs

On January 13, 2020, Posted by , In Resources, With No Comments

Personally, I dislike using “modern” words in Fantasy Role Playing games like D&D and Pathfinder. It ruins the verisimilitude of the game to hear a fighter say, “That’s so cool!” in character. It feels more immersive to use “period correct” terms from antiquity. Here are some old words from history which can help your game sound less modern and more High Fantasy! Give us some suggestions in the comments.

Modern Measurements vs Period Correct

These are not Vocabulary but another item that’s not “period correct” is measurements.

  • Meters/Yards/Feet = Paces
  • Centimeters/Inches = Hand-span or finger-lengths
  • Hours = Sun/Moon Movement Amounts.
    Ex: Less than a half day. Halfway between breakfast and lunch.
    Ex: When the sun is at at X degrees.
  • Minutes = time taken to do similar task
  • Seconds = heartbeats/moments
  • Weight/Pounds/Kilograms = the nearest animal or object of commonly-known heft
  • Projectiles are Loosed/Thrown/Catapulted not “fired”

Scroll down to see Alternative Phrases for Sickness, Disease and Germs…

Words & Phrases for your Fantasy or D&D Game / RPG

  1. Spire / By the Spire
  2. By the gods
    • Most Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, D20 and other RPG environments are polytheistic, so instead of saying “By God” like a modern day monotheist, I like to use “by the gods” as someone in a D&D game might exclaim, evoking all the pantheon.
  3. Wisenheimer
    • Smug Woman in Argument Over 40
    • If you smugly thought you were just a little bit smarter than everybody else during the 1900s, you might have had this insult hurled at you—which, to our modern ears, sounds an awful lot like a hot dog brand.
  4. Gadabout
    • A habitual pleasure-seeker.
    • A woman/man who has many physical relationships.
    • A person who travels often or to many different places, especially for pleasure.
  5. Gadfly
    • An annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism.
  6. Knuckle sandwich
    • Woman boxing
    • We’re sure this ’40s-era slang—an expressive way of describing a fist that’s prepared to punch you right in the face—is intended to be intimidating. But it’s always just struck us as adorable. Sorry for not trembling in fear at the mental image of your fist between two slices of bread. And for more ways to optimize your slang knowledge, see The Fascinating Origins of These 30 Common Slang Terms.
  7. Arf’arf’an’arf
    • Drunk Man
    • When loosely translated, this British term gives us another word for being embarrassingly intoxicated. And, when used correctly, represents the exact moment your drunk brain has had enough—and when the English language is no longer accessible.
  8. Ducky shincracker
    • Maybe we live in the wrong era, but when we think of cracking shins, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t “they must be a good dancer.”
  9. Khaki wacky
    • Soldier in fatigues
    • In 2018, supporting veterans means thanking them for their service. But there was a time when having an admiration for the military meant that you were really impressed by their khaki uniforms. You might even say you were wacky for it. And for more ways to stay cool, check out the 100 Slang Terms From the 20th Century No One Uses Anymore.
  10. Sockdollager
    • boss, cool, awesome
    • Somebody who is particularly remarkable and special, or at least thinks they are. Like Kanye West, for instance. How many times have you said to your friends, “That Kanye West is such a sockdollager?” Probably never, right?
  11. Applesauce
    • Back in the ’20s, the term for mocking someone who was full of baloney was applesauce. If you were full of applesauce, it’s not because you just had a delicious snack.
  12. Gasper
    • Another word for a cigarette. To be honest, we kinda like this one. Talk about on the nose.
  13. Zozzled
    • Words like “drunk” and “inebriated” are so cold. If you’re going to describe how you consumed way too many adult beverages and then made a fool of yourself, why not do it with some flair? Tell your friends, “I got so zozzled last night,” and they’ll start wondering whether you’ve been hanging out with Elton John.
  14. Flutterbum
    • If you called somebody a flutterbum during the ’50s, they’d think you were complimenting their appearance. Probably not safe to try that today, as it kind of sounds like you’re tossing out an insult.
  15. Giggle water
    • Yes, we get it, liquor can break down inhibitions and make you giggle sometimes. But this is just a creepy and weird way of talking about alcohol. Don’t believe us? Next time you host a dinner party, ask your guests if they’d like some giggle water with their meal. See how that goes.
  16. Mutton shunter
    • bad puns
    • This 1883 slang term for a policeman leaves us with a lot of questions. Do they mean mutton as in the meat, or the sideburns style? And how is it being shunted?
  17. Dog soup
    • Yeah, yeah, we get it. Dogs drink water, so offering a person a glass of water in the 1930s meant you were essentially offering them dog soup. Except… don’t people drink water to? So when water was served to dogs, did they call it Man Soup?
  18. Hotsy-totsy
    • Something was not so good, but now it’s great. “Yeah, we are arguing for a while, but everything is hotsy-totsy now.” You know, you don’t just have to rhyme two random words to make a gibberish word to explain an emotional state that’s basically just “It’s all fine now.”
  19. Meathook
    • Your hands. As in, “get yer meathooks off me!” Presumably from a time when more people had hooks coming out of their arms than actual flesh-and-blood hands. It was a rough time to be alive, my friend.
  20. Row-de-row
    • Not to be confused with the competitive sport of cattle herding, a row-de-row is a play on the word “rowdy,” or when a simple altercation turns into a full-blown fight.
  21. Hornswoggler
    • Not, as you probably guessed, the name of one of the houses at Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school. This is actually a slang word for somebody you suspect of cheating or swindling you in some way. As in, “Don’t open that email, it’s just spam sent from a hornswoggler!”
  22. Berries
    • First used in the 1908 book Sorrows of a Showgirl, it became popular during the 1920s as a way of describing something that’s pleasurable or fun. If it’s berries, then it must be the best. And for more ways to keep up to date on slang, don’t miss the 40 Everyday Slang Words That Were Invented Online.
  23. Jollocks
    • An unkind slang for an overweight person. Or at least it used to be. We’re pretty sure nobody would feel fat-shamed today if you called them jollocks.
  24. Nose bagger
    • According to the 1909 book Passing English of the Victorian Era, a nose bagger is defined as “someone who takes a day trip to the beach. He brings his own provisions and doesn’t contribute at all to the resort that he’s visiting.” Umm… okay. That’s quite the sick burn… we guess.
  25. Pine overcoat
    • A coffin. Yeah, sorry, we don’t care how you dress it up, you’re not going to make a coffin sound appealing by calling it an overcoat. Not working, sneaky funeral directors!
  26. Zorros
    • If you got a bad case of the zorros, you’re feeling anxious or nervous. At least you were during the ’50s, when apparently everybody stopped remembering that Zorro was also the name of a masked vigilante popular in books and movies.
  27. Unmentionables
    • We can’t stop laughing about this one. If you lived during a time when underwear seemed so scandalous that they should never be mentioned, giving them a name like “unmentionables” is not helping your case. It’s just making the rest of us giggle even louder. (And no, we haven’t been drinking any giggle juice.)
  28. Foozler
    • An affectionate term for someone who’s clumsy or incompetent. Because obviously, if you can’t handle your fooz, then you’re nothing but a gosh darn foozler.
  29. Pigeon-livered
    • Victorian-era slang for someone who behaves cowardly. We’re not exactly sure why accusing somebody of having the liver of a pigeon means they possess no bravery. Do pigeons just produce bile in ways that make them avoid conflict? Why are we bringing livers into this at all? It’s such a random insult, like saying, “He’s poodle-gallbladder-ed”?
  30. Gigglemug
    • Someone who can’t or won’t stop smiling. Hey, we can think of a way to wipe that smile off their face. Just called them a gigglemug and see their expression fade from happy to quizzical.
  31. Pumblechook
    • The slang is derived from Uncle Pumblechook, a character described as the “basest of swindlers” in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. So basically, not something you call a friend, unless you consider him a greedy swindler, or just a big Charles Dickens fan.
  32. Gas pipes
    • An evocative term for gentlemen with long legs who wore especially tight trousers. Which we guess was something that happened a lot in the Victorian era. So there you go, definitive proof that hipsters have been around for centuries.
  33. Abercrombie
    • Another term for a know-it-all, this word from the 1930s may have just inspired a whole chain of shirtless models, booming loud music, and spray-tanned cashiers at every mall in America. And for more language hacks, see the 40 Slang Terms No One Over 40 Should Ever Use.
  34. Muffin-walloper
    • Get ready for the sickest burn you ever heard in your life. An old or unmarried woman who enjoys gossiping with her friends, usually while sipping on tea and nibbling cakes, can be described as a muffin walloper. You know, because of how hard they’re walloping that muffin.
  35. Dewdropper
    • If Gen-Xers had come of age in the 1890s rather than the 1990s, they would have called themselves dewdroppers, a slang expression for slackers. Unless you think all generational slang is stupid, then we can just forget the whole thing.
  36. Handcuff
    • Another way to say engagement ring. Or more honestly, another way to say, “I am in no way ready for marriage. This whole thing is freaking me out!”
  37. Cake-eater
    • During the 1920s, calling someone a cake eater was a slightly nicer way of calling them a ladies man. Today, calling someone a cake eater is a slightly nicer way of calling them a guy who may be eating too many pastries. Seriously, dude, you need to slow it down with the cakes or you’re going to become a jollocks.
  38. Phonus balonus
    • A variation on phony-baloney, but with a pseudo-Latin theme. If one is full of baloney, or balonus, they are not to be trusted and anything they say is preemptively dismissed as fake news.
  39. Bags o’ mystery
    • This centuries-old slang for sausage isn’t just fun to say, it’s harrowingly accurate. The next time you’re getting ready to bite down into a hot dog, say “This is one delicious bag o’ mystery,” and it’s like you have the devil-may-care culinary attitude of your grandfather.
  40. Pitching woo
    • Something about this slang makes us think it’s talking about baseball players falling in love. But no, it’s just old-timey speak for seduction. How people in the ’30s used to talk dirty without really talking dirty.
  41. Daddy-O
    • If you call anybody your Daddy-O and you’re not wearing a zoot suit and they’re not a trumpet player in your swing band, be prepared for them to stare back at you like you’ve lost your ever-loving mind.
  42. Hoosegow
    • A slang term offend attributed to 19th-century cowboys of the Wild West, it means jail, as on “You varmints are headin’ straight for the hoosegow.” It doesn’t sound all that bad to us, really. More like a family-friendly restaurant with crazy memorabilia on the wall then a place with bars on the windows.
  43. Spifflicated
    • A fancier way of saying inebriated which, ironically, is almost impossible to pronounce while inebriated. And for more ways to maximize your slang knowledge, see the 20 Slang Terms From the 1990s No One Uses Anymore.
  44. Ankle-biter
    • A child, who apparently in olden times had a bad tendency to bite the ankles of adults. Either that or grown-ups were confusing them with dogs.
  45. Frosted
    • This is another vintage slang word that fills us with so much joy. When you’re “frosted,” you’re seriously peeved. But come on, imagine actually saying that to somebody. “I am so mad at you right now, I’m downright frosted!” All it takes is one ridiculous word for all the negative energy to leave the room.
  46. Whooperup
    • A singer who isn’t doing an especially good job at hitting all the notes. If you’ve attended a party where karaoke was performed, you’ve witnessed one or two horrifying examples of a whooperup in action.
  47. Juggins-hunting
    • When you’re looking for a man who can be conned into paying for your liquor. How exactly this is accomplished, well, only the juggins-hunter knows for sure.
  48. Malmsey nose
    • An allusion to malmsey wine, which, when consumed with a bit too much enthusiasm and frequency, can lead to a red and unsightly nose. Say this to somebody in 2018 and they’ll be like, “Wait, what is that? Malm- something wine? What are you saying exactly?”
  49. Church bell
    • An overly talkative woman. Yeah, ’cause if you’re going to be wildly sexist, you might as well do it using slang that references 19th-century churches.
  50. Fly rink
    • A bald head, which could hypothetically be frozen and used as a skating rink for flies. It’s such a weirdly over-complicated insult, we’re not sure whether to be offended or impressed.
  51. Sewer
    • 1950s slang for someone who can’t keep a secret. This makes us wonder less about gossip during the mid-20th century than about exactly what was going on with their sewers. Were there sanitation systems… not able to keep… secrets? Never mind, never mind, we don’t want to know.
  52. Pretzel-bender
    • According to the 1967 Dictionary of American Slang, a pretzel-bender could be a peculiar person, or someone who plays the French horn, a wrestler, or even an alcoholic. We’re not sure either what any of those things have to do with pretzels.
  53. Sauce-box
    • Your mouth. As in, the place you put sauces. We guess so anyway, though we’re still not sure why a mouth could be considered a box. Wouldn’t that be like calling your ears “Symphony trash cans”?
  54. Pang-wangle
    • When you’re pang-wangling, you’re managing to find the bright side of life even when it gets difficult. When the world hands you lemons, you make lemonade. By pang-wangling it. We think anyway. Isn’t that how you make lemonade, by wangling some pangs?
  55. Bunbury
    • noun
    • An imaginary person whose name is used as an excuse to some purpose, especially to visit a place.
    • Use: “Jack the magic giant was my bunbury whenever things got difficult at home.”
  56. Scurrilous
    • adjective
    • Something said or done unfairly to give people a bad opinion of someone.
    • Use: “Marjorie had been spreading scurrilous gossip about Amanda in the office.”
  57. Gallimaufry
    • noun
    • A hodge-podge, or jumbled medley (can also refer to an edible dish).
    • Use: “The amateur musical was a gallimaufry of tuneless harmonies, costume malfunctions and awkward scene changes, but to the childrens’ parents, it was like Broadway.”
  58. Thrice
    • adverb
    • Three times.
    • Use: “She went, not twice but thrice to check whether he was awake yet.”
  59. Blithering
    • adjective
    • Talking utterly and completely foolishly, OR used to describe a foolish person.
    • Use: “Nervous during her interview, the girl was blithering on about her experience with poodle grooming.”
  60. Pluviophile
    • noun
    • A person who takes great joy and comfort in rainy days.
    • Use: “Penelope was a classic pluviophile; curling up with a blanket, herbal tea and a good book whenever it poured rain outside, delighting in the cosiness.”
  61. Librocubularist
    • noun
    • One who reads in bed.
    • Use: “George was a devoted librocubularist. He always felt that books were best read in the comfort of his bed, by torchlight if possible.”
  62. Febricula
    • noun
    • A slight and transient fever.
    • Use: “The young boy had a febricula and was sent home from school with his mother.”
  63. Starrify
    • verb
    • To decorate with stars.
    • Use: “The wedding planner will starrify the venue in preparation for the wedding reception.”
  64. Sophronise
    • verb
    • To imbue with sound moral principles or self-control.
    • Use: “Is it the job of parents or teachers to sophronise children these days?”
  65. Mullock
    • noun
    • Rubbish, nonsense, or waste matter.
    • Use: “What is this mullock you’re blithering on about?” (See what we did there?)
  66. Uglyography
    • noun
    • Poor handwriting, and bad spelling.
    • Use: “Uglyography must be a course in medical degrees. Why else would doctors have such bad handwriting?”
  67. Namelings
    • plural noun
    • Those bearing the same name.
    • Use: “Not only were the three girls best friends, they were all named Cath. People often got the namelings mixed up.”
  68. Ultracrepidarianism
    • noun
    • The habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge.
    • Use: “Ultracrepidarianism is rife among those who have never had children, yet still try to give parental advice.”
  69. Pannychis
    • noun
    • An all-night feast or ceremony.
    • Use: “The seven-day wedding festival ended with a rowdy pannychis.”
  70. Guttle
    • verb
    • To gobble greedily; to cram food into one’s gut.
    • Use: “The school boys ran out of the lolly shop, guttling the candy before the owner could catch them.”
  71. Snollyguster
      • noun
      • A person, especially a politician, who is guided by personal advantage rather than by consistent, respectable principles.
      • Use: “The man running for mayor was a definite snollyguster; only seeking his own fame and fortune.”
  72. Welkin
    • noun
    • The upper sky; “vault” of heaven.
    • Use: “Icarus would have passed through the welkin on his legendary flight.”
  73. Barbigerous
    • adjective
    • Characterised by having a beard.
    • Use: “He was tall, solid and barbigerous, and wore clothing that was dusty and frayed.”
  74. Eventide
    • noun
    • The end of the day, just as evening approaches.
    • Use: “The most perfect part of a day is eventide, as the sun sinks sleepily below a heavy horizon.”
  75. Trigon (“back and forth”, ping-pong or tennis)
    • game
    • back and forth
    • Trigon was a ball game played by the ancient Romans. It was a type of juggling game, probably involved three players standing in a triangle (hence the name) and passing a hard ball back and forth, catching with the right and throwing with the left hand. Besides the three players, called trigonali, there were also assistants called pilecripi, who kept score and retrieved runaway balls.
    • User: “She was tired of the verbal trigon (back and forth).”
  76. Rakefire
    • You’d think this term would mean you were kind of cool, right? Wrong. The BBC defines it as: “someone so uncool that they would outstay their welcome in someone’s house until long after the fire had burned down to just the last few embers.”
    • In other words, a rakefire is a houseguest from hell. It has the added benefit of sounding good, so you can label your brother-in-law a rakefire without him ever being the wiser.
  77. Pediculous
    • From the Latin pediculus (louse), it means lice-infested.
    • What you really don’t want in your home is a pediculous rakefire.
  78. Scobberlotcher
    • This one may come from scopperloit, an old English word for “a vacation or a break from work.”
    • Whatever its origins, it’s describes someone who avoids hard work at all costs. Everyone’s got that one person on the team who always seems to be missing when the hard stuff comes up. That’s your friendly office scobberlotcher.
  79. Gobermouch
    • Every office has also got a gobermouch–an ancient Irish term for a busybody. There’s something about gobermouch that captures the whole concept of the disgusting habit of gossip more vividly than “busybody” though, wouldn’t you agree?
  80. Fopdoodle
    • This is someone who doesn’t really matter much. There tend to be a few of those at the office, too, but remember not to let them get under your skin. If you find that difficult, try calling them a fopdoodle under your breath. It’ll do wonders.
  81. Klazomaniac
    • The most annoying person on any message board, this is an individual who ONLY SPEAKS BY SHOUTING. (It was also every parent when they first learned how to text. “HI HONEY HOW ARE YOU.I AMHEREWITHYOURMOTHER LOVE DAD”)
  82. Bedswerver
    • Don’t let its high-brown origins deceive you: Shakespeare made this one up, and it means exactly what it sounds like–a cheater. He may have been attempting to link “bed” with the Dutch words “zwerver,” which means “wanderer.”
  83. Raggabrash
    • You know that one person who is so totally disorganized and/or unkempt that it drives you nuts? S/he is raggabrash.
  84. Foozle
    • A modern term synonym is fuddy-duddy; this is “a conservative, out-of-date person, especially an old man.” But it can also be used to describe screwing up. For example: “Boy, you really foozled that PowerPoint presentation! Could it have been more raggabrash?”
  85. Furfuraceous
    • From the Latin furfur (bran, chaff), this means flaky or dandruff-covered.
  86. Whiffle-Whaffle
    • A whiffle-whaffle is just what it sounds like: someone who wastes time.
  87. Dorbel
    • That one person who annoyingly points out every little tiny mistake (it’s like they can’t help themselves). It comes from the surname of French scholar Nicolas d’Orbellis. Note that dorbels are often also fopdoodles.
  88. Lubberwort
    • In the 1500s, there was a plant that, if consumed, was said to cause stupidity or sluggishness. Like something out of Harry Potter, it wasn’t real, but that didn’t mean much in terms of its linguistic properties. It eventually became known as a term that described a hazy, lethargic kind of person.
  89. Slubberdegullion
    • A slovenly or worthless person.
    • A filthy, slobbering person; a sloven, a villain, a fiend, a louse. A worthless person.
  90. Caliginous
    • misty/dark, obscure
  91. Adumbrate
    • fore/overshadowing
  92. Veridical
    • truth-telling (adj.)
  93. Vecordious
    • insane
  94. Gyre
    • circle/spiral, whirling air/water
  95. Peccant
    • sinful (good for fancy insults!)
  96. Ramiform
    • branching/branch-shaped
  97. Tintinnabulation
    • sound of approaching Morris dancer or other bell-covered entity
  98. Kerf
    • carved groove, tool mark
  99. Kipper
    • to preserve by salting and smoking, a fish preserved by such method
  100. Skirr
    • to move with fast skimming flight or movement
  101. Skyr
    • kind of yogurt
  102. Maunder
    • to ramble
  103. Mire
    • deep mud, also ‘to get stuck in actual or metaphorical deep mud’
  104. Peedie
    • teeny-tiny, small (from Orcadian Norn dialect)

Alternative Phrases for Sickness/Disease/Germs/etc

  • Microbes, Bacteria, Germs: filth, rot, [demonic] influence, bad air
  • Become Gangrenous: take bad, turn sour
  • Epidemic: plague, pestilence, blight
  • Ergot poisoning: rye madness, bewitchment
  • Consumption: not exclusively tuberculosis, but often for other pulmonary diseases as well. Since if a patient (in the 19th century) showed an overlapping range of symptoms the doctors would just assume it was the same thing.
  • Psychology : wit-wisdom, insight, keen awareness
  • Psychopath: ice-minded, thin soul
  • [thing] addict: [thing] fiend
  • Depression: melancholy, saturated with the black bile, camel sickness
  • Sleep paralysis: hag-ridden
  • Epilepsy: falling sickness, bewitchment, attack by spirits