Trousers - Trussing bed


University of Wolverhampton



Nancy Cox and Karin Dannehl

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'Trousers - Trussing bed', Dictionary of Traded Goods and Commodities, 1550-1820 (2007). URL: Date accessed: 19 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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[trowses; trowsers; trowse; trowcers; trousses; trouses]

The OED has three separate headwords - trews, trouse (in the plural trouses), and trousers. The first has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive, the other two seem to have been applied randomly and it is not always possible to distinguish the meaning of one from the other. What seem to have distinguished trouse/trouses and trews was that they were close fitting and generally worn with STOCKINGS attached to them at the bottom, whereas trousers were looser and generally stretched from the waist to the ankles. Randle Holme understood trousers to be a garment of the close fitting type, describing 'Spanish Breeches' as 'those that are stret and close to the Thigh, and are buttoned up the sides from the Knee with about ten or twelve buttons: anciently called Trowses' [Holme (2000)]. Clearly he thought that the term, if not the garment, was obsolete by the mid-seventeenth century.

Originally trousers were sufficiently loose so as to be worn over close-fitting BREECHES, as in an advertisement posted in the London Gazette in 1681, describing 'a stout Man, _ in ... a pair of Buck skin Leather Breeches ... (sometimes wearing Trousers over his Breeches) rid away on a Grey Gelding' [London Gazette no. 1661/4, quoted in the OED online]. Trousers in the modern sense were worn by sailors, and later by soldiers, but not by civilians much, if at all, before the nineteenth century.

In the Dictionary Archive, trousers or trouses were common in shops during the four last decades of the seventeenth century. They were generally found in outlets selling other small items of APPAREL, and were cheap - typically valued at between 1s and 3s a PAIR, though a few where the fabric used was specified were dearer as the '1 pr Stript dimity Trowser' at 4s 6d and the '5 pr fustian Trowers' at 2s 8d apiece noted together in one shop [Inventories (1676)]. Although only once so described [Inventories (1669)], most trousers were probably made of LINEN. Linked with FROCKs in two examples as in 'ffrocks & Trousers' [Inventories (1683)], and 'Six frocks six pair of Trousers' [Inventories (1686)] may indicate they were intended as rough working men's clothes. After 1700, these READY MADE articles of apparel inexplicably disappear from the shops entirely, and the eighteenth century was almost devoid of trousers in the Dictionary Archive. Advertisements for a 'sea-faring man escaped from prison' who 'had on a blue Jacket and Trowsers' [Newspapers (1780)], and a 'deserter' who was wearing 'a light Drab great coat and Leather Breeches or brown cloth Trowsers' [Newspapers (1794)], do no more than confirm that sailors and soldiers sometimes wore trousers, and say nothing of the shape. The only other reference was to trousers as worn by the Scottish Highlanders, which were prohibited, except for by the military, after the rebellion of 1745 [Acts (1748)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1568 as Trews; 1306 as Trouse; 1718 as Trousers

Found described as BLACK, BROWN, STRIPED Found made of CLOTH, DIMITY, FUSTIAN, LINEN
Found in units of PAIR

Sources: Acts, Inventories (mid-period), Newspapers.
References: Holme (2000).


A well-known freshwater FISH of the same genus (Salmo) as SALMON, inhabiting most rivers and lakes of the temperate or colder parts of the northern hemisphere. It is distinguished by numerous spots of red and black on it sides and head. Trout was used for sport and for culinary purposes [Davidson (1980)]; [Davidson (1999)]. It was obviously popular, receiving attention from most cookery writer, for instance [Nott (1726, facs. 1980)]; [Carter (1730, facs. 1984)] and [Washington (1749-99, 1981 ed.)].

OED earliest date of use: c1050

Simone Clarke

Sources: Acts.
References: Carter (1730, 1984 ed.), Davidson (1980), Davidson (1999), Nott (1726, 1980 ed.), Washington (1749-99, 1981 ed.).



This is also a common variant spelling of TROUGH and dealt thereunder in these senses.

A name for various kinds of BOAT or barge, with distinct features in different regions. For example, in southern Scotland and northern England a trow was a double canoe or boat used in spearing SALMON by torch-light; and on the southern coast of England, a small flat-bottomed boat used in HERRING fishing. In the Dictionary Archive, the term has been noted only in the form found on the River Severn, where it was applied to a large flat-bottomed sailing vessel. Trows could vary enormously in valuation. For example one owner had four trows valued in all at £32, but another described as OLD was worth only £2 [Inventories (1586)]. Some trows noted in other sources were valued even more highly; for example Andrew Dodson of Benthall had one valued at £80 when he died in 1708 [Trinder and Cox (2000)]. Newspapers occasionally recorded accidents, which may give information on goods carried and river conditions [Newspapers (1758)]; [Newspapers (1798)].

OED earliest date of use: c1330 as a general label for boat

Sources: Inventories (early), Newspapers.
References: Trinder and Cox (2000).


[trowell; trouel; trewill; trewell]

A TOOL consisting of a flat (or, less commonly, rounded) plate of METAL or WOOD, of various shapes, though usually triangular, attached to a short handle. It was and is used by masons, bricklayers, plasterers, and others for spreading, moulding, or smoothing mortar, cement, and the like. Randle Holme is informative about the various types of trowel and their uses, for example, in agriculture [Holme (2000)], in gardening as 'Trowells, of seuerall sorts, long & short' [Holme (2000)], and in the building trade [Holme (2000)]. The patents of invention show that it attracted the attentions of innovators [Patents (1793)]. Trowels could also be small, decorative utensils found in the shops or home, as the 'Fish Trowels & Skewers' listed under PLATED - STEEL [Tradecards (19c.)].

OED earliest date of use: 1344

Sources: Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Patents, Tradecards.
References: Holme (2000).

Trump bowl

[trumpe bowle]

This is a term not found in the dictionaries, and only once in the Dictionary Archive [Inventories (1583)]. In the single example it is found 'in the vergys house' (VERJUICE house) along with '6 Gallons of vergys in an olde hogghed'. 'Trump' as a substantive means a thing of little value. Although not given as an adjective in the OED, TRUMPERY has been noted so used in the Dictionary Archive. Therefore a 'trump bowle' probably was no more than a BOWL of little value.

Sources: Inventories (early).


The name said by John Houghton to be given to a type of whale, less desirable than the Bearded or Grand Bay that were caught off NEWFOUNDLAND. Although producing no WHALE FIN, the Trumpa was the source of some SPERMACETTI and AMBERGRIS and about 40 HOGSHEAD of WHALE OIL [Houghton].

Not found in the OED

Sources: Houghton.


[trump'y; trumpry; trumperye; trumperie; trumper]

Something that is worth less than it seems, hence things of little or no value. In probate inventories, the type of document in which the term is invariably found in the Dictionary Archive, it was applied to items the appraisers decided were not worth appraising, as in a bottle maker's 'Implements troff and trumpry not worth pressing' valued together at 2s 6d [Inventories (1622)]. Although not always the case, trumpery seems most often to have been applied to WOODEN items, as in 'bords shilfes wheeles fuell & all such like trumpery' [Inventories (1637)], and 'one table & all the wooden vessels & other trumpery there' [Inventories (1666)]. There are however exceptions to this, like the 'parsell of glases Earthen ware and other Trumpery' valued at £5 [Inventories (1682)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1531

Found described as OLD Found describing BUCKLE, GOODS

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



A musical wind instrument (or one of a class of such) producing bright, powerful and penetrating tones, used for military and other signals, but also in an orchestra. It consists of a cylindrical or conical tube, usually of BRASS, though anciently of HORN or WOOD, originally straight, but later curved or bent back on itself, with a flaring bell and a cup shaped mouthpiece, which were sold separately in an advertisement for '3 mouth peices for Trumpets' [Inventories (1733)]. The natural tones and the harmonics are produced by varying the force of breath. The introduction of 'crooks' in the eighteenth century increased the range of keys in which the instrument could be played, but not the number of notes within each key.

Although it played an important part in instrumental music in the sixteenth century - 14 out of 42 musicians attached to the court of Henry VII were trumpet players - the use of the trumpet was increasingly constrained by the instrument's limitations. Much of the repertoire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was intended for the virtuoso performer. In orchestras the trumpet tended to become a less melodic instrument and became the 'bosom companion' of the KETTLE DRUM playing a similar number of notes, hence one advertisement for 'Trumpetts and Kettle Drums' [Tradecards (18c.)]. The use of valves was a development of the early nineteenth-century, and freed the trumpet from its earlier constraints [Scholes (1956)].

The trumpet was a favourite TOY for children, hence WOODEN TRUMPETs. Those made of TIN were also probably for children. The typical shape of a trumpet with its flared end made it ideal for transmitting and magnifying sound, hence the SPEAKING TRUMPET. 'Trumpet' was also used to describe the ends of one type of BIT [Houghton], and the decorative SHELL of the mollusc BUCCINUM resembling a whelk [Tradecards (18c.)].

OED earliest date of use: 13--

Found described as for CHILDREN Found made of BRASS, TIN
As 'Trumpets for Children': Found rated by the GROSS

Sources: Houghton, Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Scholes (1956).


The term is found in the Dictionary Archive only as a piece of a plant, particularly of a tree; as such it is thinner than a branch and thicker than a twig. According to John Houghton this seems to have been the right size to make CHARCOAL, whether of ASH or OAK for FUEL [Houghton]; [Houghton], or of LIME for making GUNPOWDER [Houghton]. Truncheon was also the term he used for a piece of ALDER suitable for propagation by cuttings [Houghton].

OED earliest date of use: 1572 in the sense of a cutting; not found for the other meaning

Sources: Houghton.

Trunckle bed

[trunckle bedstd; trunckell bed]

A variant name for a TRUCKLE BED or TRUNDLE BED, presumably formed from a conflation of the two terms. Although not common, it has been noted from the late-sixteenth century to the mid eighteenth, and in the North, the Midlands and the South.

Not found in the OED

Found described as OLD
As BEDSTEAD: Found in units of PAIR

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



Part of a weaver's equipment. In the examples in the Dictionary Archive, all from eastern England, trundles were mostly associated with a STOOL [Inventories (1681)] and/or a SWIFT [Inventories (1711)], or with a pair of RICEs [Inventories (1711)]. The association with various types of REEL, that is the swift and the rice, suggests that the trundle in these contexts may have been some sort of turning device to activate the reel and to wind on the yarn, possibly a form of lantern wheel that engaged with cogs. Probably the stool was the stand on which the whole apparatus stood.

OED online earliest date of use in this sense: 1611

A trundle was also the label given to an embroiderer's QUILL of GOLD THREAD. In this form a pair was used in the arms of the Embroiders Company. A trundle in this sense has not been noted in the Dictionary Archive.

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

Trundle bed

[tundle bedstead; trunle bed; trundlested; trundlebedstead; trundlebedd; trundle-bed; trundle bedstid; trundle bedsteed; trundle bedstedle; trundle bede; trundle bedd; trundle bed sted; trundle bed stead; trundell steed; trundell bedsteede; trundell bedsted; trundell bedstead; trundell bedd; trundele bedsted; trundelbed; trunale bed; trondle bedde; trendle]

An alternative and common name for a TRUCKLE BED, designed to slide under a high bed or STANDING BED during the day; hence 'one standinge bed and a trundle bed' [Inventories (1596)]. Trundle beds were by their nature smaller and so needed their own-sized furnishings, hence 'Trundle ffeather Bed & Bedstid' [Inventories (1694)].

OED online earliest date of use: 1542

Found described as LITTLE, OLD

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


[trunke; truncke; trunck; trunc; tronce]

A chest, box, case, etc. (supposed to have been originally made out of a tree-trunk). By the fifteenth century the term was applied to a CHEST, COFFER or BOX generally. The Dictionary Archive suggests that trunks were frequently used in the same way for storage as these other containers, but that they were invariably distinguished from them in entries like '1 old trunck 1 chest and a cubbord' [Inventories (1629)]. Only infrequently was it made clear what was inside a trunk, though a good example may be found in the probate inventory of William Allen [Inventories (1604)]. Others show that a variety of items could be stored in them, thus not just APPAREL or LINEN, but also books and articles for sale in shops. In this form a trunk was sometimes stood on a STAND or frame, which indicates clearly that it was for storage in the home rather than for transportation, for example [Inventories (1697)]. An extension of the meaning came somewhat later, although the two are not easily distinguishable in texts. This is a box or chest used for transportation of personal possessions, with a rounded top to throw off the rain. It was usually lined with PAPER or LINEN, heavily decorated with TRUNK NAILs and reinforced with BRASS angled pieces at the corners and secured with a TRUNK LOCK. In this period trunks are normally covered with LEATHER and as often found as articles of trade among the possessions of leather workers as among those of trunk makers. According to a London coach maker writing in 1794, leather made from OX HIDE or HORSE HIDE was best, but the lighter SHEEP LEATHER would serve. Least satisfactory was BASIL LEATHER [Gloag (1952, revised 1991)].

Making a trunk was a complicated process, requiring a frame of a durable wood like ELM [Houghton], covered with lighter boards, hence the leather seller (who also made trunks) who had 'Twelve hundred ffeet of Elme Boards A dozen of Deale Boards' among his stock [Inventories (1693)]. Another maker, who called himself a saddler had '120 truncks made & unmade up ... 17 frames of trunkes' and 'Deales & Elme bords' [Inventories (1669)]. The inventory of one London trunk maker shows what was on offer. He had trunks measuring from 16 INCH to two FOOT, trunks 'lined & Covered', and presumably plain ones, trunks with drawers, as well as two round trunks and one FRENCH TRUNK [Inventories (1672)]. The trunk could be decorated with TRUNK NAILs and secured with IRON BANDs [Inventories (1686)] and 'wth lock & key' [Inventories (1619)].

OED earliest date of use: 1462 for storage; 1609 for carriage

There are several other meanings for the term, some of which appear in the Dictionary Archive. Most, but not all are in the OED. In the plural, trunks were an abbreviation of trunk HOSE. These were an article of APPAREL fashionable in the sixteenth century and early seventeenth, consisting of full bag-like BREECHES covering the hips and upper thighs, and sometimes stuffed with wool or the like.

OED online earliest date of use: 1583

A trunk was also a plaything or a weapon in the form of a hollow tube from which a dart or pellet is shot by blowing; a blow-gun, a pea-shooter. Trunks in this sense have been noted in associations with weapons [Inventories (1671)], or described as 'shooting' [Inventories (1671)], while ARROWS FOR TRUNKS were imported and rated. A trunk of this type may also have been a CHILDRENS TOY, hence the 'halfe a dozen of trunks att 4d a peece' among the stock of one London retailer [Inventories (1671)]. Among 'Playes with Instruments' Randle Holme listed 'Shooting in a trunk staffer or spitter' [Holme (2000)]. It is possible that the '11 d's silver Trunkes at 2s p d's' noted in an Haberdasher's inventory come into this category [Inventories (1672)]. If so, these little SILVER toys would have been far removed from the weapon that shared the same name.

OED online earliest date of use in this sense: 1553

An obscure use of the term not found elsewhere appears in one probate inventory where the 'xv dosen of greene trunckes' valued at 12s 6d were listed among some 'plaine pots' and some 'plaine quartes' [Inventories (1606)]. This suggests that a trunk could be a vessel possibly for drinking, and probably made of EARTHENWARE. In this context trunk has been noted as a descriptor, presumably to indicate the rounded lid, as '2 blue edged Trunk Baskett & stand @ 1/6' [Inventories (1790)].

As a lidded container: Found described as BROKEN, with DRAWERS, EMPTY, GREAT, HAIR, LADIES, LEATHER, covered with LEATHER, LITTLE, OLD, ORDINARY, RED, ROUND, SMALL, SQUARE Found in units of NEST, PAIR
As an article of APPAREL: Found rated by the DOZEN
As a weapon or TOY: Found made of SILVER Found in units of DOZEN
As a vessel of EARTHENWARE: Found described as GREEN Found in units of DOZEN

Sources: Acts, Diaries, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Newspapers, Patents, Rates, Tradecards.
References: Gloag (1952, revised 1991), Holme (2000).

Trunk lock

[trunke locke; trunke lock]

A TRUNK, whether used for storing valuables or for transportation, needed a secure fastening in the form of a LOCK. Joseph Moxon listed the trunk lock among his various forms of lock withough describing it [Moxon (1703, facs. 1989)], whereas Randle Holme referred only to the PORTMANTEAU lock, which was probably similar and very like a PADLOCK [Holme (2000)]. From this it would seem likely that some trunk locks at least were not built into a trunk like modern ones normally are, but were used in conjuction with HASPs.

OED online earliest date of use: 1677 under Trunk

Sources: Inventories (mid-period), Tradecards.
References: Holme (2000), Moxon (1703, facs. 1989).

Trunk nail

The OED describes a trunk NAIL as 'a short nail with broad convex brass head used for ornamenting trunks and coffins'. Although most undoubtedly were of this type, a method was patented in the 1770s for making trunk nails, and many other types, from CAST IRON [Patents (1771)]. These would have been less decorative, but also cheaper.

No dated quotation in the OED

Sources: Patents.

Trunk sleeve

[truncke sleeve]

A full, puffed SLEEVE; in the only example in the Dictionary Archive, found listed as a separate article of APPAREL [Inventories (1617)]. One OED quotation, dated 1603, indicates that trunk sleeves were sometimes stiffened and enlarged by the use of WHALEBONE and WIRE.

OED online earliest date of use: 1596

Sources: Inventories (early).


[trunnell; trunell]

An alternative name for TREENAIL, this is a cylindrical pin of HARDWOOD (usually heartwood of OAK) used in fastening timbers together, especially in shipbuilding and other work where the materials are exposed to the action of water. A quotation in the OED shows that they could be substantial, being up to 30 INCH long. This may explain why they were included in lists of TIMBER and TIMBER WARE [Acts (1720)]; [Rates (1784)].

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 1295 as Treenail; 1769 as Trunnel

There are two other entries in the Dictionary Archive, where the meaning is obscure but appears to be different from that given above. In the one, of 'two Kitts & trunnell' valued together at 2s 6d [Inventories (1723)] the trunnel may have been a stand for the two KITs, in the other the '9 Trunells' valued together at 9s are positioned between some CHISELs and '3 new broad Axes' suggesting TOOLs of some sort [Inventories (1698)].

As a treenail: Found rated by THOUSAND

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


[trussys; trusses; trusse]

A collection of things bound together, or packed into a receptacle. For HAY and STRAW, probably synonymous with BUNDLE. For some commodities deemed of especial importance, this vague term was clarified. For example there was an extensive market for hay and straw in LONDON, since virtually all had to be brought in to feed and bed the HORSEs that served the capital. In 1796, therefore, parliament specified the precise weight of hay and straw to be contained in a truss, and how many trusses there were to be to the LOAD [Acts (1796)]. Another important commodity, WOOL and its products, could suffer in transit, so an act of 1788 laid down that such 'packs or trusses' must be covered with 'Leather or Canvas commonly called Packcloths' [Acts (1788)].

The root meaning was extended in various ways, particularly with regard to TEXTILEs. A great variety of commodities were carried in trusses up and down the River Severn as recorded in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books. Probably so long as the goods were securely packaged in outer cases (as was required for wool products after 1788), the customs officials may not have been too concerned about the number or weight inside. In the few examples in the Dictionary Archive the term seems to have been used in the same way to denote no more than fabrics packed up in an outer wrapper as in '4 trusses and Remnants of Cloth and fustian' [Inventories (1613)]. However, the example 'four halfe trusses containing two hundred ninety seaven demipeeces of Isinghams' [Inventories (1670)] does suggest some accepted sense of size in that 'half truss' could be used meaningfully.

OED earliest date of use in this sense: 12--

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the meaning of the term was further extended, and it was applied both to a close fitting JACKET worn by men and women, and to a garment similar to BREECHES. It is not always straightforward to decide which was intended; for example, 'iiij dublet bodyes ij trussys and iijj pere of hose' [Inventories (1555)], or 'ij Jerkins a dublet A trusse ij paire of hose' [Inventories (1589)]. At about the same time the same label was given to a surgical appliance serving as support in cases of rupture, though it only became common in this sense rather later. This type of truss usually consisted of a pad with a belt or spring to produce equable pressure on the affected part. The treatment of rupture attracted the attention of those at the fringes of medicine, so that they were advertised in the newspapers, for example [Newspapers (1741)], and new versions were patented, for example [Patents (1771)].

OED earliest date of use: 1563 as a garment; 1543 as a surgical appliance

As a BUNDLE of HAY and STRAW: Found containing 56 LB (OLD hay) and 60 LB (new hay)
As hay: Found as load containing 36 Trusses
As a surgical appliance: Found described as ELASTIC, NEW, OLD, SPRING, STEEL

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

Truss swage

[truss swag]

A term not found in the dictionaries, and appearing only once in the Dictionary Archive. There it has been noted among the equipment of a blacksmith in the entry '2 p'r old bellows & frames & Truss swag' [Inventories (1724)]. None of the meanings for swage in the OED quite fits the context here.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Inventories (late).


[trussle; trussle; trussill; trussel]

A variant now obsolete of TRESTLE

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


A term not found in the dictionaries, and appearing only once in the Dictionary Archive in the entry 'Womens Hookes and Eyes & Mens Trussers [Inventories (1689)]. The context suggests a fastening similar to, but not identical with, HOOKS AND EYES.

Nor found in the OED

Found described as for MEN

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).

Trussing bed


A portable BED that can be trussed up. The term seems to have gone out of use very early, and neither in the OED nor in the Dictionary Archive has it been noted after 1600.

OED online earliest date of use: 1534 under Trussing

Sources: Inventories (early).

Treacle box - Trough
Tub - Tutty