MORE words in the King James Version that now mean something else


The first page of the Book of Genesis from the...

The first page of the Book of Genesis from the original 1611 printing of the King James Bible

Since my first list of such words has generated so much interest, here is a second:

furniture saddle, Gen 31:34. Pity the poor horse whose rider gets this one confused!

gin contraption, snare, Job 18:9; Pss 140:5; 141:9; Isa 8:44; Amos 3:5. Perhaps the reason we get “cotton gin” for “a machine used in harvesting cotton”?

halt lame Matt 18:8; Mark 9:45; Luke 14:21; John 5:3. halt(eth) (ed) (1) is (was) lame, Mic 4:6,7; Zeph 3:19. (2) limped, Gen 32:31. One can at least see the connection here . . .

harness armor, 1 Kgs 20:11; 22:34; 2 Chr 9:24; 18:33. harnessed armed, Exod 13:18. Pity the poor knight whose groom got this one confused!

imagination stubbornness, Deut 29:19; Jer 7:24; 9:14; 11:8; 13:10; 16:12; 18:12. Now I have known some children . . .

instrument weapon, Isa 54:16. “Here, you! Musician! Play this . . . never mind.”

let (1) loose, Exod 5:4. (2) hindered, Rom 1:13. (3) restrain, 2 Thess 2:7. As in several other cases in the longer list of 500 such words that have changed meaning since the KJV, this one seems to have several mutually contradictory meanings. The third of these seems to have survived in nominal form in the legalese phrases “without let or hindrance.” Not surprising, as our legal system derives from English common law, whose roots lie in medieval England.

lewd wicked, Acts 17:5. This word has come to denote pretty much what many modern folk think is the only sort of wickedness Christians care about; see Dorothy L. Sayers’s wonderful essay “The Other Six Deadly Sins,” reprinted recently in the book Letters to a Diminished Church (Thomas Nelson).

lewdness villainy, Acts 18:14. Now “villainy” is itself a good old-fashioned word. What other word can we use to describe the moustache-twirling cad of the classic film short: Villain: “You must pay the rent!” Helpless young woman: “I can’t pay the rent!” Villain (twirling moustache): “You must pay the rent!” Hero (arriving on scene and thrusting out chest):I’ll pay the rent!”

liquor juice, Num 6:3. Despite what Michael Jackson may have told you, these are not the same thing.

See here for even more of the same.

Source of terms (the commentary all my fault): Translation that Openeth the Window: Reflections on the History and Legacy of the King James Bible, ed. David G. Burke (Society of Biblical Literature, 2009), Appendix B. According to this source, KJVs printed by the American Bible Society have long contained the list from which these definitions, and those in the previous post, are taken.

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4 responses to “MORE words in the King James Version that now mean something else

  1. Pingback: Bible Translation Difficulties « Ramblings from Red Rose

  2. Pingback: MORE words in the King James Version that now mean something else | Grateful to the dead « Anglican, Plain

  3. A cotton gin is a snare for the seeds in the cotton boll. The fiber had to be seaprated from its clingy black seeds by hand up until Whitney invented that contration. What about “sith’? Have you mentioned that one? I didn’t realize that other people no longer used it until a young friend asked about it recently. The Star Wars connection had to be explained to me.

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