Aqua naphae - Aquatint

Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820. Originally published by University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, 2007.

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Aqua naphae

[aq. naphae]

A rare and obsolete name for ORANGE FLOWER WATER, used according to the 1600 quotation in the OED to cause the 'malignitie of the plague to breake foorth by sweates'.

OED earliest date of use: 1600

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Aqua odorata


An article of TOILETRY, probably a Latin synonym for BOUQUET WATER or for PERFUMED WATERs generally.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as a SIMPLE WATER
Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Aqua orgeat


This headword is derived from a somewhat doubtful reading of a single entry among a list of medicinal WATERS. It is possible that 'horg: regin:' [Inventories (1730)] is a version of ORGEAT. The ultimate derivation of the term is from the Latin HORDEUM.

Sources: Inventories (late).

Aqua peoniae

[aq. peoniae]

The Latin name suggests a medicinal preparation, but the WATER was not in the eighteenth-century Pharmacopoeia, nor was the plant itself in the Materia Medica, although the water itself had formerly been approved under 'the pompous title of aqua epileptica' [Pemberton (1746)]. Culpeper claimed that a DISTILLED WATER made from the flowers of the peony was effective against the 'falling sickness' and for 'such as in their sleep are troubled with Night-mare', though less so than preparations of the roots or seeds [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)]. By the mid-eighteenth century, the College of Physicians thought little of this view and declared that 'no one at this time expects any such mighty effects from it, yet it was still prescribed as a vehicle, more, perhaps, than any other, though it has nothing farther to recommend it, than its being less loaded with ingredients than most of the rest ...' [Pemberton (1746)].

Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.), Pemberton (1746).

Aqua raphani

[raphan; aqua raphani; aq.raphini comp't]

A medicinal COMPOUND WATER, called Aqua raphani after its main active component, the HORSERADISH, whose Latin name in the eighteenth-century Materia Medica was still Raphanus rusticanus. Other ingredients included SCURVY GRASS, a close relative, the rind of the SEVILLE ORANGE and NUTMEG [Pemberton (1746)].

Not found in the OED

Found described by COMPOSITA
Found in units of LB, OZ

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Aqua regia

A term applied by the alchemists to a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids, so called because it can dissolve GOLD, which neither of the two component acids could do on their own. Although it has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive, it was available at least from the early seventeenth century. It was made by adding either SALT or (in Italy) SAL AMONIAC to AQUAFORTIS and re-distilling [Singer et al. (1957)]; [Tomlinson (1854)].

OED earliest date of use: 1620

References: Singer et al. (1957), Tomlinson (1854).

Aqua scordium

[aq. scord]

The Latin name indicates that this was a medicinal preparation. It is found in the Dictionary Archive as a COMPOUND WATER in which SCORDIUM was the active ingredient. This was an alternative name for the WATER GERMANDER, in Latin Teucrium scordium, a plant formerly in use in medicine to encourage sweating, and as an antidote for poisons, etc.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as COMPOUND
Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Aqua seminum anisi composita

As its Latin name suggests, this was a medicinal preparation in the form of what was called in the eighteenth-century Pharmacopoeia one of the 'Aquae stillatitiae spiritosae', that is an alcoholic distillation in which the principal ingredients were ANISEED and ANGELICA seed [Recipes (Pemberton)]; [Pemberton (1746)].

Sources: Recipes.
References: Pemberton (1746).

Aqua styptica

[aq stiptu']

An old name for a medicinal preparation made from BLUE VITRIOL, ALUM and OIL OF VITRIOL, subsequently called AQUA vitriolica caerulea [Pemberton (1746)]. It was probably the same as, or very similar to, AQUA COELESTIS in the second meaning of that term, and like that, probably used to treat eye complaints.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).
References: Pemberton (1746).

Aqua theriacalis

[aqua theriaralis; aqua theorical; aq: theriacal; aq. thericalis; aq. theriacalis]


Earliest date of use in the OED online: 1657 under Compassable, as Aqua theriacal

Found in units of LB, OZ, POUND

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late).

Aqua tilia

[aq. tillia]

Both the Latin name and the unit of measure (the LB) indicate a medicinal WATER, in which the flowers of the LIME tree, Tilia europaea, were the principal active ingredient. Lime flowers were in the eighteenth-century Materia Medica [Pemberton (1746)], but were not a commonly used ingredient. Culpeper suggested that the flowers distilled together with what he called 'lilly convally' (Lily of the valley) were 'good against the falling sickness' [Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.)].

Not found in the OED online

Found in units of LB

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).
References: Culpeper (1653, new ed. n.d.), Pemberton (1746).

Aqua vitae

[aquevity; aquavity; aquavitt; aquavite; aqua-vitae; aquavitae; aqua-vita; aquavita; aquavit'; aquauata; aqua vite; aq:vitae; aq vita; acaviti]

The Mediaeval Latin term stands for WATER OF LIFE. It was used then to denote a unrectified or impure alcohol, which had been subjected only to a single distillation. This bald definition of the term given by the OED conveys nothing of the impact the discovery had on the mediaeval world of how to distil wine. It became known in the later Middle Ages, but knowledge of it spread only slowly through works like William Phillip's Book of Secrets published in 1593. The mysterious change that took place during distillation to produce a fiery liquor, quite unlike the kindly wine from which it came, seemed to some comparable with the effects produced by the mythical Philosopher's Stone. It was no wonder that the new product was called the elixir or water of life [Dillon (2002, pb 2003)].

Aqua vitae was traditionally made from WINE and wine LEES, or from ALE specially made for the purpose. As these became too dear, Flemish immigrant producers in London began to distil cheaper spirits of poor quality from any base material such as the dregs from brewing hitherto used only to feed pigs. Alderman Anthony Ratcliffe, in a report for Lord Burleigh written in 1593, roundly condemned these practices. In response, the government attempted to regulate the trade by granting Richard Drake a patent of monopoly for making aqua vitae from ale. This did not improve standards and was highly unpopular, being abolished in the general attack on monopolies in 1601 [Thirsk (1978)].

During the seventeenth century the production and consumption of aqua vitae rose rapidly, so that by 1734 upwards of five million GALLON of raw spirits were distilled in London every year. Most was turned into GIN, but there were many other spirits sometimes subsumed under the label of aqua vitae, not least BRANDY and WHISKY, as well as innumerable COMPOUND WATERS like AQUA COELESTIS and CINNAMON WATER [Dillon (2002, pb 2003)]. John Nott included a complicated recipe for making a version of aqua vitae more akin to some of the ancient medicinal recipes than to the popular beverage [Recipes (Nott)].

Aqua vitae was not simply marketed as a drink, it was also sold as a medicinal preparation, prescribed by apothecaries and physicians. The claims made for its beneficent effect were boundless, and in keeping with its name. One doctor, writing just before the outbreak of Plague in 1665, advised that 'this water ... must be kept as your life, and above all earthly treasure ... All the Plague time ... trust to this; for there was never man, woman, or child that failed of their expectation in taking it' [de Mayerne (1652), 96, quoted in Dillon (2002, pb 2003)]. It was prescribed as a form of pain relief generally and more specifically to the aged 'in times of sudden qualms and pangs to help their old and decayed stomachs' [Thirsk (1978)]. One entry in John Houghton illustrates how aqua vitae was used medicinally by adding it to a SIMPLE WATER, in this case of the bark of ELM, presumably to make it more palatable and to make it keep better [Houghton]. Sarah Fell noted in her accounts for 1674 the purchase of some aqua vitae 'for sist'r Low'rs breasts' at the cost of 4d, though it is not clear how it was used [Diaries (Fell)].

The name of aqua vitae died out to a large extent in England during the eighteenth century, though the product under more specific names like brandy and gin continued unabated. In Scotland, the name aqua vitae was transmogrified into the Gaelic USQUEBAUGH, and then into English as WHISKY.

OED earliest date of use: 1471

Found used to scent old CASKs in brewing Found described as BEST, COARSE, DOUBLE PROOF, ENGLISH, IMPORTED, 'Mathioli', SPANISH Found describing BARREL Found made of BEER, URINE Found in units of BARREL, BOTTLE, FERKIN, GALLON, GLASS, HOGSHEAD, OZ, PINT, POT, POTTLE, QUART Found imported by CASK, PIECE, TUN Found rated by the BARREL, GALLON, HOGSHEAD

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Patents, Rates, Recipes.
References: Dillon (2002, pb 2003), Thirsk (1978).

Aqua vitae bottle

[aquavyte bottell; aquavitie bottle; aquavite bottle; aquavite botle; aqua vite bottle; aqua vite bottel; acaviti bottles]

A BOTTLE suitable for carrying AQUA VITAE. It has been noted as made of PEWTER rather than GLASS, suggesting it was probably flat in shape and of an appropriate size to carry in a pocket. Some of the quotations noted in the OED indicate the same.

OED online earliest date of use: 1654, under Vade mecum

Found made of PEWTER

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period).

Aqua vitae measure

Presumably a MEASURE for meting out AQUA VITAE, but why a special implement was needed is not clear. Aqua vitae as a form of SPIRITS would have been drunk in smaller units than BEER or WINE, and it may be a precise measure was used by some rather than relying on filling the glass to give fair measure. Regulations to ensure honest dealing were frequently enacted, for example the one requiring 'vintners or retailers of wines' to use 'measures made of pewter' [Acts (1688)]. Something similar may be intended in this single example in the Dictionary Archive for 'aqua vitae measures' where they were linked in one entry with LADLEs and found among the stock of a worker in PEWTER [Inventories (1614)].

OED earliest date of use: 1634

Sources: Inventories (early).


[aque fortis; aqua-fortis; aqua fortis; aqua ffortis; aq: fortis; aq. ffortis]

The Mediaeval Latin term means STRONG WATERS though it was rarely used in the sense. More particularly it was the early scientific, and still the popular, name of the nitric acid of commerce (dilute HNO/3). Although it does not affect GOLD, it is a powerful solvent and very corrosive, reacting with most metals; hence its use in etching. It was included among DYERS GOODS in ACTS 1704/C004, being used by dyers of SCARLET to dissolve the necessary TIN. SILVER (in the form of coins) was dissolved in aquafortis, and the result was used in the preparation of FURs from animal skins and as a primitive hairdye.

OED earliest date of use: 1594

Found described as for dyers use, FOREIGN Found in units of LB, OZ Found among the DRUGS rated by the GALLON, HUNDREDWEIGHT

Sources: Acts, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers, Rates, Recipes.

Aquafortis bottle

[aqua fortis bottle]

A LARGE - BOTTLE for carrying AQUAFORTIS, probably made of GREEN GLASS and protected by a wickerwork cage stuffed with straw. The corrosive characteristics of this acid make a good tight seal essential. Possibly, as in modern times, some substance like PITCH blend was used over a glass stopper, whereas CORK, for instance, would have been eaten away by the acid. [Acts (1720)] suggests that such bottles normally contained 4 GALLON, which means that the contents would have weighed about 56 LB. The Gloucester Coastal Port Books record large bottles, listing one as containing AQUAFORTIS and others being carried EMPTY. These may also have been Aquafortis bottles.

Not found in the OED online

Found described as EMPTY

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period).



A bluish green variety of the transparent PRECIOUS STONE, beryl, and its COLOUR.

OED earliest date of use: 1598

Found describing GLASS

Sources: Inventories (late).


For the form 'Aquarelle' the OED suggests that in the nineteenth century it was a kind of painting or illuminating with CHINESE INK, and thin transparent WATER COLOURs. The technique was used to represent flowers, small landscapes, etc. However, [Patents (1776)] suggests there may have been a slightly different meaning a century earlier, when it was being adopted to use in printing.

OED online earliest date of use: 1869 under Aquarelle

Sources: Patents.



A method of etching on COPPER using AQUAFORTIS, producing effects similar to those using INDIAN INK or WATER COLOUR; also a PRINT so produced.

OED online earliest date of use: 1782

Sources: Newspapers.