Tiffany - Tlilxochitl

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

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[typhany; tiffinie; tiffiney; tiffeny; tiffenie; tiffeney; tiffanies; tefeny]

Tiffany was in the first instance an alternative name for the period in the church calendar called Epiphany, though it was rarely used thus in English and has not so been noted in the Dictionary Archive. Much more important was a completely different meaning, whose relationship with the first is obscure. In this, the term is found only in English, and appears to have arisen in about 1600. It is usually taken to be short for 'Epiphany SILK' or 'Epiphany MUSLIN'; but as to the reason of the name no evidence has been found. (Perhaps it was a fanciful name, with allusion to the sense 'manifestation' or 'revealing'.)

As found in the Dictionary Archive, tiffany was most commonly a TEXTILE in the form of a thin transparent SILK CLOTH, listed among SILK WARE or among HABERDASHERY, for example [Inventories (1647)]. However, it has been noted occasionally as a transparent GAUZE - MUSLIN, or COBWEB LAWN and hence was sometimes included among LINEN CLOTH. For example, in [Inventories (1613)] tiffany was included among the LACE and valued by the YARD at 10d but also along with COBWEB LAWN at 11d. Tiffanies appear to have become less fashionable after 1700 with very few examples in INVLATE. Although with more than just a hint of defensiveness, the Times newspaper seemed determined to assert tiffany's continued fashionablity by claiming in 1787 that 'Crapes and tiffanies, we are pleased to add, still retain their pre-eminence with ladies of fashion' [Newspapers (1787)]. The patents, too, indicate that tiffany was a suitable candidate for innovation in methods of production. For example, in [Patents (1768)] the patentee claimed to be able to produce a silk stuff equal to tiffany while [Patents (1779)] described methods of stamping and painting silk tiffany. Throughout the period, BLACK was the most common descriptor for tiffany, but the reason for this was only once made apparent when it was included along with CRAPE in a piece of promotional literature among funeral goods [Tradecards (1760)].

Trying to interpret the valuations by appraisers of tiffany proved fruitless as the variation is too great, ranging from 5d to 4s 6d the YARD. This apparent random variation was no doubt partly due to the fact that tiffany was a fashion fabric, and its colouring and ornamentation could go out of fashion as quickly as it could come in. It is therefore one of the fabrics to which the descriptor OLD FASHIONED is attached. Like many other textiles, the term 'tiffany' came to used elliptically for articles made with it. This is the only rational explanation for entries like, 'Silk wrought viz Tiffanies of the manufacture of Italy ... the pound containing 16 ounces' [Rates (1784)]. Like TAFFETA, with which tiffany had several affinities, a SILK THREAD from which the fabric itself could be woven is only identifiable as such from the units of measure, POUND and OUNCE in this case. In NARROW widths, tiffany would have merged into the silk RIBBONs and so was measured, like many ribbons, by the DOZEN, for example [Inventories (1621)]. Yet another use for Tiffany was, in the form of a fine GAUZE to make SIEVEs and SEARCHes as in [Inventories (1781)] in which it was found with the MEAL - CHEST. Two elliptical entries defy definition; the 'tiffeny and a cabinet and a board' [Inventories (1703)], and the 'new Stormont tiffany for ornament' [Newspapers (1787)].

OED earliest date of use: 1601

Found described as BEAUTIFUL, BLACK, COLOURED, dyed of any colour', in gold or silver or colours', of the manufacture of ITALY, ITALIAN, SILVER, made of THREAD, WHITE Found used to make BOTTOM, HOOD, SEARCE, SET HOOD, SIEVE
Found included among SILK WARE Found in units of DOZEN, OUNCE, PIECE, POUND, YARD

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

Tile pin

[tyle pynn; tyle pyne; tilepinn; tilepine; tile pinne; pegs for tyling]

A 'pin' or peg made of HARDWOOD, probably OAK [Houghton], used to fasten TILEs to the LATHs of a roof. They were used in huge numbers. A quotation dated 1825 in the OED online suggested that a 'square of plain tiling will require a bundle of laths, ... two bushels of lime, one bushel of sand, and a peck of tile-pins'.

OED online earliest date of use: 1338 under Tile-pin

Found in units of BUSHEL, QUARTER

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

Tilt of vinegar

[tylt of vinegar]

The OED suggests under Tilt that the term was used for a barrel or similar container tilted to make easier access to the last bit. Hence 'i tylt of vinegar with the hogshead ijs' [Inventories (1587)].

Not found as such in the OED online

Sources: Inventories (early).


It is an interesting example of a term used heavily in one source but appearing not at all in others, where the products themselves were present but differently labelled. Timberstuff was a common item of cargo in the Gloucester Coastal Port Books, with entries dating from 1666 to 1765. It was probably used there to mean WOODEN WARE of the rougher sort, such as TIMBER not yet barked or only roughly cut into lengths or into PLANKs. In the Dictionary Archive TIMBER was probably substituted for timber stuff, while WOODEN WARE seems to have been applied here to finished products made of WOOD such as TREEN WARE and possibly wooden FURNITURE. Entries like 'wooden stuffe & timber' suggest the two were seen as distinct.

Not found in the OED

References: Gloucester Coastal Port Books (1998).

Tin tack

A TACK or short light IRON NAIL thinly coated with TIN to discourage rusting.

OED earliest date of use: 1840

Found in units of THOUSAND

Sources: Inventories (late).

Tinder box

[tynder box; tinder-boxe; tinder-box; tinderbox; tinder boxe; tender boxes; tender box; boxes tinder]

A BOX in which TINDER was kept, also usually the FLINT and STEEL with which the spark was struck, and sometimes the brimstone MATCH with which the flame was raised. A tinder box was an essential implement whereever fire was needed. It was for this reason that one firm purveying KITCHEN equipment included a tinder box among their advertised set of KITCHEN FURNITURE, which they guarenteed to replace annually [Newspapers (1788)].

OED earliest date of use: 1530

Found described as PISTOL, Slight, Spring, Strong Found made of BRASS, COPPER, IRON, TIN
Found in units of DOZEN Found imported by the DOZEN Found rated by the GROSS of 12 DOZEN

See also STEEL MILL.
Sources: Houghton, Inventories (early), Inventories (mid-period), Inventories (late), Rates, Tradecards.

Tire chain

The OED indicates that the spellings 'tyre' and 'tire' were used indifferently from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, at which time 'tire' became the regular form, with 'tyre' being revived in Britain for the pneumatic rubber wheel covering of modern vehicles. The only meaning of tire chain given (under Tire) is for the metal chain designed to be attached to the tyre of a motor vehicle to prevent skidding on snow or ice. The only example in the Dictionary Archive appears in an advertisement for goods sold by an 'Iron and Steel Warehouse' as 'Waggon Arms Tire Chains & Nails Of All Sorts, Cable Chains And Iron Work In General' [Tradecards (19c.)]. Possibly a tire CHAIN was intended to fit tightly round the rim of a WHEEL in place of a tire or in place of STRAKEs.

Not usefully found in the OED

Sources: Tradecards.


Tirantelles was given in the 1582 Book of Rates as an alternative name for GREEN DORNICK [Rates (1582)]. The nearest TEXTILE term is 'tiretaine', which was applied to a cloth woven of WOOL mixed with LINEN or COTTON, 'worne ordinarily by the French peasants' [attributed by OED to Cotgrave with no detail of precise source]. According to Florence Montgomery it was an alternative name for LINSEY-WOOLSEY [Montgomery (1984)]. This could fit the first meaning of DORNICK, although green dornick almost certainly applied to the second that is, a fabric made wholly of linen.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Rates.
References: Montgomery (1984).

Tithe corn

[tyth corne]

CORN set aside to pay the tithe, a tax of one tenth on produce due to the church. In some circumstances, the collection from the whole area could amount to a rather large quantities, and hence the magnificent tithe barns dotted about the country.

Not found as such in the OED under Tithe

Sources: Inventories (mid-period).


Red COLOURING matter, perhaps a red PIGMENT, made from MADDER root [General Heathenism (online)], or an early name for RED LEAD (see the OED's quotations dated a1100 and a1200) or a RED OCHRE used for marking SHEEP (see the OED's quotations dated 1792, 1863, 1875). It does not seem commonly to have been used in either painting or dyeing, judging by the fact that neither [Bristow (1996)] nor [Harley (1970)], two twentieth-century authorities on paints and colours, refer to it.

OED earliest date of use: 975

See also RADDLE.
Sources: Tradecards.
References: General Heathenism (online).


The Amerindian name for the SPICE - VANILLA [Houghton]. Although few of such names came into use in this country, which is hardly surprisingly given their awkwardness to European ears and tongues, tlilxochitl was known to John Houghton, even if the Spanish name of vanilla was adopted very quickly.

Not found in the OED

Sources: Houghton.