Anne Lister's Dictionary

Jane KendallPublished on 23 February, 2021 · Last updated on  26 Feb, 2024
 Cover photo: ActionVance

Miss Lister's peculiar vocabulary

Anne Lister's lexicon is a fascinating amalgamation shaped by the era in which she lived, as well as her extensive literary pursuits and  unwavering commitment to self-improvement. Readers of her journals frequently encounter an words that have either fallen out of common usage, possess an air of obscurity, or have been uniquely adapted by Anne for her own convenience.. 

More often than not, these intriguing terms are employed without clear contextual cues, leaving new readers puzzled or bemused by her turns of phrase. Compounding the challenge, Anne sometimes seamlessly sometimes transitions between languages mid-sentence, further adding to the intricacy of her linguistic expression.

Whether hastily penned in her travel journals or agonizingly chosen for an impassioned love letter, Anne Lister exhibited a deliberate approach to word selection.  She prioritized the precise conveyance of her intended meanings, and in certain instances, employed intriguing usages or even forged new linguistic creations, which might elicit consternation from purists. However, more often than not, her utilization of such language finds apt and valid application. 

Embark on an exploration of Anne Lister's linguistic prowess and witness how she adeptly molds language to serve her purposes.

The Yorkshire Historical Dictionary is a dictionary with over 4,000 historic Yorkshire terms!

This incredible resource allows you to search for specific terms, see which words are connected to specific places, and gives you access to many other resources. 

Ever wondered if that strange word Anne seems to love is used around Halifax?  Now you can find out.

To learn more about Anne's 'Listerisms' in a fun way, try your skills in this game hosted by Jane Kendall for the Anne Lister Research Summit. 

You may think you've heard these words before, but do you know what they mean? Prove your prowess, or be schooled by Anne and leave a more interesting conversationalist.

Or participate by adding to the tracker below!

English, Greek, Latin... Franglais?

The spreadsheet below is a collaborative effort to assemble a selection of distinctive terms and Listerisms found within Anne Lister's journals and papers. 

The objective of this project is to comprehensively gather Anne Lister's idiosyncratic word choices and usage, thereby enabling both casual readers and diligent researchers to gain deeper insights into her perspectives through her journals, letters, notes, and accounts. By delving into the rich tapestry of her linguistic expressions, this initiative seeks to enhance our understanding of Anne Lister and the intricate nuances of her journals.

Reference: Anne Lister's dictionary


This project is made possible through ongoing contributions from the following people:

How to contribute to this project

You can contribute by adding new terms that come up as you transcribe and read the journals and letters, or you can help expand on the definitions and information explaining the terms already identified.

Getting access

If you are already contributing to other projects, simply open the spreadsheet and start editing. You already have editorial access. 

If this is your first time contributing:

Data entry conventions