A Short Glossary of Obsolete Words in the King James New Testament


The translators of the King James text of the Bible had a profoundly reverent attitude toward the inspired subject matter with which they worked. They also had a literary dignity and beauty of style that have never been surpassed by translators of more recent translations. For these and other reasons, the Authorized King James Version is the Bible preferred by English-speaking Latter-day Saints.

Notwithstanding the merits of the King James Bible, however, it contains many words and phrases that have become obsolete since its first publication in 1611. The following are definitions of some New Testament expressions that have either fallen out of popular usage or else have undergone in some or all contexts significant change of meaning.

adjure To bind by oath or solemnly entreat. “But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matt. 26:63.)

aforehand Beforehand. “She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” (Mark 14:8.)

anon Immediately, at once. “But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.” (Mark 1:30.)

apt Fit, adapted, qualified. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” (2 Tim. 2:24.) This word can also mean “having an inclination or tendency; likely.”

assay To attempt, try. “After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” (Acts 16:7.) This term can also mean “to analyze and judge significance of.”

attendance Attention, application. “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Tim. 4:13.)

barbarian A foreigner, one who speaks a different language. “Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.” (1 Cor. 14:11.)

bewray To point out, expose, make evident. “And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.” (Matt. 26:73.)

bid Invite. “Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.” (Matt. 22:9.)

bowels Compassion, feelings. “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” (Philip. 1:8.)

broid To braid. “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.” (1 Tim. 2:9.)

careful To be anxious, full of care. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philip. 4:6.)

carriage Baggage, luggage. “And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.” (Acts 21:15.)

chambering Lewdness, immorality, filthy living. “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.” (Rom. 13:13.)

chargeable Burdensome. “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” (1 Thes. 2:9.) This term carries the connotation of being “accountable.”

charger A large platter. “And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.” (Matt. 14:8.)

charity Bible lexicons define charity as love (Greek: agape), and the Book of Mormon explains that the love that Christ has for the human family is charity. (Ether 12:34.) The Book of Mormon explanation thus permits us to refine the definition of the lexicons and identify charity as Christlike love. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Cor. 13:1.)

coast Border, side, outskirts, region. “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matt. 16:13.)

commune To converse, consult. “And it came that, to pass, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.” (Luke 24:15.)

conclude To shut up or enclose. (A second meaning is to decide.) “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Gal. 3:22.)

convenient Suitable, becoming, proper. “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:4.)

conversation Behavior, deportment, citizenship. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philip. 3:20.)

damnation Condemnation. “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” (Mark 3:29.) A form of this word can also be used to mean “prevented from.”

disciple A student, follower, learner. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6:66–67.)

divers Diverse, different, various. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the father by the prophets.” (Heb. 1:1.)

earnest A pledge or security. “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 5:5.)

ensample Example. “Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” (2 Thes. 3:9.)

ensue To follow after and overtake. “Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.” (1 Pet. 3:11.)

entertain Extend hospitality. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:2.)

ere Before. “The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.” (John 4:49.)

espouse To promise in marriage. “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:27.)

exchanger Money changer, banker. “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.” (Matt. 25:27.)

execute Perform, carry out. “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all.” (Jude 1:14–15.)

express Precise, exact. “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3.)

fain Willingly, gladly. “And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” (Luke 15:16.)

faint To be discouraged, lose confidence. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1.)

flux Dysentery. “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.” (Acts 28:8.)

foreship The bow of a ship. “And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship.” (Acts 27:30.)

furlong About one-eighth of a mile or 220 yards. “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.” (Luke 24:13.)

gainsay To speak against, contradict, resist. “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” (Luke 21:15.)

graff To graft. “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.” (Rom. 11:23.)

guilty of death Deserving of death. “What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” (Matt. 26:66.)

hale To pull or drag. “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.” (Luke 12:58.)

halt Lame, crippled. “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” (Mark 9:45.)

haply Perchance, perhaps. “Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting.” (2 Cor. 9:4.)

husbandman A farmer. “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.” (Matt. 21:33.) The connotation of this term implies taking care of items for which one is responsible.

implead To indict, accuse, sue in a court of law. “Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.” (Acts 19:38.)

incontinent Unrestrained, intemperate. “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good.” (2 Tim. 3:3.)

instant Urgent, persistent. “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:2.)

instantly Urgently, persistently. “Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” (Acts 26:7.)

let Hinder, impede, prevent (and other meanings). “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” (Rom. 1:13.)

filthy lucre Money or gain obtained by base, sordid, or wicked means. “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.” (Titus 1:7.)

mean Common, lowly. “But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.” (Acts 21:39.)

meat Food (not necessarily flesh food). “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” (Luke 24:41–43.)

meet Appropriate, suitable, fitting. “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” (Matt. 3:8.)

overcharge Overburden. “But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.” (2 Cor. 2:5.)

peculiar Owned, one’s very own, special, treasure; different from all of the rest. The apostle Paul explains that members of Christ’s Church are owned by the Lord and not by themselves. Having accepted (through baptism) the purchase price of the atonement, they have deeded their lives over to God and belong to Him completely. (1 Cor. 6:19–20.) It is probably in this sense that the apostle Peter said to the saints of his day, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” (1 Pet. 2:9.)

peradventure Maybe, perhaps, by chance. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” (Rom. 5:7.)

prick A goad or sharp instrument used to prod reluctant oxen, also a thorn. “And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 26:14.)

quicken To bring to life. “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:” (1 Cor. 15:36.)

scrip A wallet or small bag used by shepherds and travelers. “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” (Matt. 10:10.)

severally Separately. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (1 Cor. 12:11.)

shambles Slaughterhouse, butcher’s stall. “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake.” (1 Cor. 10:25.)

strait As a noun it is a pass or narrow place, as the Straits of Gibraltar; as an adjective it means narrow, rigid, strict. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matt. 7:13.)

study Try earnestly, make a serious effort. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15.)

suffer Apart from the present-day meaning of experiencing affliction, it frequently is used to mean permit or allow. Jesus was using it in the latter sense when he said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:14.)

trow To think, believe, suppose. “Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.” (Luke 17:9.)

twain Two. “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matt. 19:5.)

usury Interest. Today it carries the connotation of excessive interest. “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.” (Matt. 25:27.)

untoward Perverse, intractable, crooked. “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:40.)

without Outside. On one occasion Paul rebuked the Corinthian saints for not taking Church action against a member of the branch who was guilty of gross misconduct. In the course of his reprimand, Paul observed that he was not in the business of judging the actions of those “without,” meaning those outside the Church, but that saints were obliged to evaluate adherence to gospel standards of those “within,” meaning those inside the Church. “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?” (1 Cor. 5:12.) This term is sometimes used to mean “devoid of.”

wont Accustomed. “And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.” (Mark 10:1.)

wot To know. “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” (Acts 3:17.)

Sources Used

Elliot, Melvin E., The Language of the King James Bible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1967. 227 pp.

Morris, William, editor, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. 1975. 1550 pp.

Weigle, Luther A., The Living Word. New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1956. 72 pp.

Wright, Waldis, The Bible Word Book. 2d edition. London: Macmillan and Co., 1884. 680 pp.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch