Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Sat Jan 2 01:59:17 UTC 2010

> Off the top of my noggin, look to "swordplay" for the root of the
> "gun play" formation. M-W dates swordplay to 1602. But the first
> sense of "play" in MW is "swordplay".
> OED cites "lindplegan" in Beowulf and "sweord [p]legan" in Waldere as
> instances of sense 1b of "play" [n]: "The action of lightly and
> briskly wielding or plying a weapon in fencing or combat. Freq. as
> the second element in compounds" BUT then there's nothing until 1647.


> I can't recall if George Silver uses "sword play" or "play" in this
> sense in his two manuals c. 1590, but I can take a look.
> ---Amy West

LEME (Lexicon of Early Modern English --
http://leme.library.utoronto.ca/search ) provides a positive wealth of
examples, mostly glossing the Latin "Gladiator" and "Lanista", from 1538 to

The entry [below] in Thomas Cooper, _Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et
Britannicae_ (1584), on "Ludus", seems to provide the fullest unfolding of
the link between play, Roman games, and Gladiators, leading to the English
"sword play" and "sword players".

Robin Hamilton


[I used the search terms <sword* pl*> to find "sword play(er)(s)" as two
separate words, and <sword*pl*> to find the single word form(s).]

            Thomas Elyot, _The Dictionary of Sir Thomas Elyot_ (1538)

Lanista, he that had the reule ouer sworde players, and caused them to be
taught, and after solde them. Also that ordayned byrdes to fyghte.

Munus, neris a gyft, acharge, a duetie or offyce. Munera, commune playes and
gaye fightes for the peple to behold, to reioice them, prepared by officers
of cities. As in Rome, sondry playes, sworde players, called Gladiatores,
huntyng of wyld beastes. Also now in the citie of London, the watches &
fyghtes on midsomer nightes.

Mirmillones, were sworde players, where the one prouoked the other to

Rudis, a rodde or yerde, whiche was gyuen to sworde players, whan they came
to. lx. yeres olde, in token that they were sette at libertie. sometyme
lybertie frome labour.

Spartacus, was a famouse sworde player, whiche gathered an host of slaues, &
made battayle agaynste the Romayns, and was vanquyshed by Crassus

Bustuarij, sworde players, whiche went before the ded corpsis whan they were
borne to be burned.

            Richard Huloet, _Abecedarium Anglico Latinum_ (1552)

Ruler ouer swordplaiers. Lanista. æ

Sword players. Bustiarij, Murmillones

            John Withals, _A Short Dictionary for Young Beginners_ (1556)

A sworde plaier, Gladiator, ris. Vnde gladiatura ipsa ars gladiatorum.
Lanista dicitur, qui ad gladiatoriam homines instituit, quo eos facilius

            John Baret, _An Alveary or Triple Dictionary, in English, Latin,
and French_ (1574)

Company:   societie, fellowship.
Magna frequentia concessuque effertur. A companie, or schoole of sworde
players. Gladia¬ torum familia. Cic. With whom if they keepe companie much,
or come after in their companie, it will giue men oc¬ casion to thinke or
suspect that they are as euill as themselues.

to Discharge or disburden.
To be discharged of attendance in warres. Rude donari. To discharge and
acquite of all accusation. Reum eximere. Vlp. To be discharged of
attendaunce in sworde playing or in the warres. Rudem accipere. Cic. They
were exempt, discharged and free from &c. Vacui, expertes, soluti, ac liberi
fuerunt ab omni sumptu, molestia, munere.

a Sworde.
Gladius, dij. Ensis, sis, m.g. Cic. Vne espee.& Gladiator, ris, m.g. Cic. A
sword plaier: a master of fence. Escrimeur. Gladiatórius, a, um. vt, Ludus
gladiatorius. Cic. Pertayning to the figh¬ ting of sworde players. And
Gladiatura, ræ, f.g. Tacit. Escrimeie. And Gladíolus, li, m.g. Plin. A litle
sworde : a woodknife : any hearbe hauing leaues like a sworde or gladen.
Coustelet. 1032 * A maister in feates of armes, which teacheth to play with
the sword. Lanista, tæ, com. g. Maistre en fait d'armes, qui apprend à iouer
de l'escrime.  .

            Thomas Cooper, _Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae_ (1584)

Bustum, busti. Cic.
A place where dead bodies haue bene burned: a sepulcher.
Bustuatij. Cic. Sworde players that fought at the burning or burying of one.
Bustuariæ mochæ. Martial. quæ in bustis & monumentis prostabant. Common

Committo, committis, commísi, penult prod commissum, committere.
Gladiatores committere. To set matches of sworde players togither. Pugnam
committere. Sil. Idem. Spectaculum committere. Liu Id&etilde;. Quod ludos

Ordo, compositio rerum aptis & accommodatis locis.
Compositiones gladiatorum. Ci. Matchings and settings togither of
swordeplayers to sight.

Familia, huius familiæ.
An housholde, family, or kinred: al the seruauntes of the house. ¶ Familia,
pro secta. Cic. Gladiatorum familia. Cic. A company or schoole of sworde
plaiers .

Gladiâtor, pen. prod. tôris, m. g. Ci.
One playing with a sworde. Gladiatores. Cic. Sworde players in Rome sette
togither in matches to fight before the people in common games therby to
accustome them not to be afraid of killing in warre. Familiæ gladiatorum.
Ci. Tompanies of sword players .

Gladiatorius, Adiectiuum.
Pertaining to the fighting of sword players. vt, Gladiatorius ludus. Cicero.
The place or schoole where sworde players were taught. Certamen
gladiatorium. Cic. Gladiatorius congressus. Pli. The meeting of sword
plaiers. Gladiatorius locus. Cic. Gladiatorium munus. Plin. Pugna
gladiatoria. Cic. Gladiatorium est, stomachari. Cicer. It is the propertie
of a swordplayer to be angrie.

... seruum, & eum ex ludo gladiatorio. Cicero. By one feruaunt, yea and he
taken out of a company of sword players. Et id maximè hy bernis temporibus.
Cic. Yea aud that especially in winter season. ...

Læmuschaton, ti, n. g. The reward gitten to him that vanquished at playing
or sighting with swords.

Lanista, lanistæ, m. g. Cic. A maister of sword players: he that taught
fighting birdes: a maister of fence.

        (The following, glossing "Ludus", I give in full.  RH)

Thomas Cooper, _Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae_ (1584)

Ludus, ludi, m, g. Cic.
Play in actes: mirth in wordes: sporte: game: pastime. Campestris ludus,
vide CAMPVS. Consimilis ludus. Terent. Alike pranke. Tempestinum pueris
concedere ludum. Hor. Dare alicui operam ludo. Plau. To play or pastime with
one. Ducere noctem ludo. Virg. To play al night long. Gaudens ludis. Hora.
Ludus genuit certamen & iram. Horat. Play bred content<*> on and anger.
Incidere ludum. Horat. To leaue off game or play. ¶ Ludus in singula<*>.
Ausconius. A schoole or place of exercise where any feate is learncd. Ludus
gladiatorius. Suet. A schoole of fence. Ludus grammatices. Cic. A grammer
schoole. Ludus literarum Plin. A schoole of learning. Ludus literarius,
Idem. Quint. Ludus discendi, non lusionis. Cic. A playe to learne and not to
play in. Ludus. & pueritiæ disciplina. Cicer. Trayning vp in studie, and
such learning as is meete for children and youth. Ludum aperire. Cic. To
beginne to keepe a schoole. Ludus est, illa perdiscere. Cic. It is a pastime
to learne, &c. ¶ Ludus, pro ioco accipitur quandoque. Terent. Iesting <*>t
wordes: sporte. -ludum, iocúmque Dices fuisse illum alterum, præut huius
rabies quæ dabit. Terentius. Thou wilt saye the other was but a sest and
sport, &c. -si imparatum in veris nuptijs Adortus esset, quos mihi ludos
redderet. Terent. What prankes or pageants would he haue played me: Vt ludos
facit. Terent. How he is disposed to mocke, ieste, or dallie. Ludos aliquem
facere. Plau. To dally and scoffe at one: to make a mocking stocke. Noui iam
ludum. Plaut. I perceiue now the pageant. Operam ludos facere. Plaut. To
leese his labour. Dare ludum amori. Horat. To passe the time in lone. Druso
ludus est suggerendus. Cic. We must play some preaty pranke or feate with
Drusus. ¶ Ludo, ablatiuus. Virg. In sporte or pastime. ¶ Ludi, in plurali.
Cic. Common games, fightes, or pageantes to delight the people. Celebres
ludi. Ouid. Viles ludi. Hora. ¶ Apparare ludos. Cicero. To make prouision
for games or sightes. Celebrare dies festos ludorum. Cic. Committere ludos.
Cic. To beginne the games or sightes. Conde corare ludos, Vide CONDECORO.
Edere ludos. Tacit. To setfoorth games or sightes. Facere ludos Plin. Facere
ludos Apollini. Cicero. To make games or solemne fightes to the honour of
Apollo. Instituere ludos. Quint. Ludi Circenses, Running with chariots in
the great compasfed place in Rome called Circus. Ludi compitalitij. Playes
made in highwaies to the honour of Bacchus. Ludi Florales. Abhominable
playes in Rome to the honour of their strumpetlike Goddesse Flora, in whiche
common women played naked, with wanton wordes and gestures. Ludi
gladiatorij. Games of swordplayers fighting wythout harnesse, and in the
sight of the people indenouring eche to kill other: a spectacle of crueltie
to harden the peoples hearts against killing in warre. Ludi gymnici.
Erercises of running, leaping, throwing the dart, and wrastling. Ludi
lupercales Games, wherein yong gentlemen naked and haning whips in their
handes, rame aboute laughing and beating al that they mette. Ludi
Megalenses. Playes made to the honour of the mother of the Gods.


... Munus. Suet. A common play or gay sight for the people to behold: as in
Rome were the matches of sworde players, or killing of wild beasts in open
sight or game.

... munuscula. Catul. Munerárius munerárij, m. g. Suet. He that letteth out
the sight of sworde players or other like games vnto the people.

... an emote, also a little blacke warte. Myrmicoleo. A little vermine
deuouring emotes. Myrmillones. Swordplayers prouoking eche other to fight.

Rudis, huius rudis, f. g. Cat. A rodde or yarde that was giuen sword
players, at 60. yeares of age, in taken that they were set at libertie.

Gladiatores, qui è seruitio Blæfierant. Tacit. The sworde players that were
Blæsus his bondmen.

Bacchius, A sworde player. Also a Corinthian, who maryed the danghter of
Clythius, the king of Megarence.

Bithus, The name of a swordplayer.

Pacideianus, The name of a certayne sword player.

Spartacus, Was a famous sworde player, whiche gathered an host of slaues,
and made warre against the Romaynes, and was vanquished by Crassus.

The sonne of Vespasian emperour of Rome, was from his youth earnestly bent
to the studie of honestie, learning, and noble prowes . <...>  And because
behelde sworde players, he called for one of their swordes, which vnder
pretence of feeling how sharpe it was, hee gaue firste to the one and then
to the other. In so much that euen they that purposed his death, shewed
themselues astonied at his manly constancie.

Tritanus, A notable wreastler or sword player.

            Thomas Thomas, _Dictionarium Linguae Latinae et Anglicanae_

Andabatæ, arum, They that vsed a kinde of game with swordes, winking.

Bustuarius, rij, m.g. A sword player, that fought at the burning or burying
of one, in honour of him. & Bustuariæ Moechæ, Mart. quæ in bustis &
monumentis prostabant

Gladimator, oris, m.g. A sword player, a master of fence: a cutthroate, a
cruell and bloodie man.

Gladiatorie, adverb. Lamprid. Like a swordplayer, cutthroatlike.

Gladiatorius, a, um. Pertaining to the fighting of swordplaiers.

Munerarius, a, um, Suet.
     He that setteth out the sight of sword players, or other like games
vnto the people.

Myrmillones,*     Sword players.

Rudis, is, f.g.
     A rod or yard that was giuen to sword players at threescore years of
age, in token that they were set at libertie or dischargd and released from
that ...

             John Florio  _A World of Words_  1598

Rude,    as Rozzo. Also a rod or yarde that was giuen to sworde players when
they were olde in signe that they were set at libertie, and so taken for a
discharge and libertie from labour.

             Henry Cockeram  _English Dictionary_  1623

Sword players.     Gladiators.

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