WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mort

Mort (noun)

woman or wench; also a yeoman’s daughter; when used by itself, denotes a girl or woman of loose morals; canting jargon of unknown origin from at least 1560s

I think it’s fascinating that according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “mort” originally meant a note sounded on a horn at the death of the quarry in a hunt, c 1500, from the French mort, meaning dead, and Latin mortem, meaning death.  How did a word evoking death become co-opted to mean a woman?

1802. British Vessels Described for the Use of Country Gentlemen.

1802. British Vessels Described for the Use of Country Gentlemen.









Just as we discovered with cove for gentlemen, when you add the right adjective, the character of the mort becomes more apparent:

autem mort (a married woman; also a female beggar who hired or borrowed children for larger gain)

bingo mort (a female dram drinker; one who spirituous liquors in small amounts)

bleached mort (a fair complexioned wench)

dimber mort (a pretty wench)

filching mort (a woman thief)

gentry mort (a gentlewoman)

kinchin mort (a young girl, usually an orphan, trained as a thief)

nazy mort (a drunken woman)

queer mort (a diseased strumpet; also queere mort)

rome or rum mort (a queen or great lady)

strolling mort (beggar or peddler pretending to be a widow)

mort wap-apace (a woman of experience, or very expert at the sport of copulation)

try this lacy





See if you can work in a little of the vulgar tongue into your vocabulary this week!

“She’s a dimber mort when dressed in her Sunday finest.”

“She’s nothing but a nazy mort since she decided to spend every weekend at a frat house party.”


All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.