Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 163

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….


Grose goes back to Norfolk with this definition, which is “having a hard impenetrable head; hulver, in the Norfolk dialect, signifying holly, a hard and solid wood”. The word ‘hulver’ did indeed mean holly, although also an evergreen shrub or tree and it’s likely how Hulver in Suffolk got its name. So, the term ‘hulver-headed’ is quite a beautiful one in many ways, meaning muddled or having an addled brain. The phrase was in use from at least the seventeenth century, but started to fall out of usage by the middle of the nineteenth century.