OBSOLETE WORDS IN THE
By Robert A. Joyner
Imagine what it would be like to talk to someone in the 1600s. They had never heard of electricity. It would be hard to make them understand when you try to talk to them about television, computers, microwave ovens, laser beams, jet planes and rockets to Mars. This is the kind of problem we have trying to read old outdated English today.
This chapter is a continuation of the previous chapter. We are discussing archaic words in the KJV.
COMPEL is used incorrectly several times in the KJV. King Saul’s servants did not “compel” him to eat but they “urged” him. (I Sam. 28:23) The KJV translators used “urge” or “press” for the same Hebrew word in other places. Paul, before his conversion, did not “compel” the early Christians to blaspheme. He tried to make them do so. (Acts 26:11) Both the NIV and the NASB say, “I tried to force them to blaspheme.” This makes more sense of course, because one cannot force a Christian to blaspheme. One can only try.
CONFECTION, CONFECTIONARY are words which now refer to candy and sweet things, which taste good to eat because of their sugar content. In the KJV, these words refer to things that smell good, like perfume or incense. An example is I Samuel 8:13. Here the people were told the king would take their daughters to be “confectionaries.” The word means “perfumers,” not sweet things.
CONVERSATION in the KJV always refers to conduct, behavior, or the way you live. In 1611 it was never used in the sense that we use it today; meaning talk back and forth. This outdated word misleads the reader in many places.
COUSIN in the KJV simply means a relative or kinsman, and not a “cousin” as we use the word today. The angel told Mary that her “cousin” Elizabeth had conceived a son. The Greek word means “kinswoman.” When Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, it was her neighbors and “kinsfolk” that rejoiced with her, not her neighbors and “cousins,” as the KJV says in Luke 1:58. Also, the Greek word that describes Mark’s relation to Barnabas does not mean “sister’s son”, as the KJV says but it means “cousin.” (Col. 4:10) The KJV has the word “cousin” where it shouldn’t be and where it should be “cousin” they put the wrong word.
CREATURE sometimes means the whole created universe or it can mean anything created, in the KJV. To use “creature” this way is now obsolete. (Romans 8:19-21,39) In II Cor. 5:17 where it says we are a “new creature,” it really means a “new creation.”
CURIOUS once meant made with care and skill. The “curious girdle of the ephod” was a “skillfully woven band to gird it on.”(Ex. 28:8) “Curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth” is better translated “skillfully wrought” or “woven together.” (Psalm 139:15) This same Hebrew word is sometimes translated “embroidered.” Of course, the word curious does not have that meaning today.
In the New Testament “curious” is used in Acts 19:19. It says, “Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them.” The NASB says, “And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began to burn them.” We do not use the word “curious” to describe the occult or magic today.
DELICACY and DELICIOUSLY are used in Revelation 18 in the archaic sense of sensual luxury. In this chapter, God is judging “Babylon the great” for the abundance of her “delicacies.”(vs.3) But the word does not refer to an abundant supply of dainties but to the “wealth of her sensual luxury.” The kings who “lived deliciously with her” were indulging their lust and greed. (vs. 9) So we see that “delicacy” and “deliciously” do not accurately convey the meaning of the Greek.
DEMAND means to ask with authority or to request something as a right or request urgently. However, as used in the KJV, it does not have the stronger connotations. It simply means to “ask.” “Demand” in the KJV does not mean the same as it means to us today.
DEPUTY today means a person appointed to act for another, or one elected to represent a constituency. The word “deputy” should be “governor” or “proconsul” about 25 times in the KJV. The NASB and the NIV make the necessary changes in these passages.
DESCRY means to get sight of, investigate or spy on. It is used in Judges 1:23, “the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel.” When I saw this word for the first time in this passage, I had no idea what it meant. The NIV says, ‘they sent men to spy out Bethel.” That I can understand.
DISANNUL means annul, abolish or cancel. The NIV and the NASB simply delete the prefix “dis.” Annul is easier for the modern reader.
DIVERS and DIVERSE were originally two spellings of the same word. But each word developed it’s own pronunciation and meaning. “Diverse” meant “different in character or quality.” “Divers” meant “various, sundry, more than one,” I believe the word “diverse” is used 8 times and the word “divers” is used about 36 times in the KJV. Of course, we seldom use these words today.
EAR and plow once had the same meanings. Today “ear” does not mean to prepare the soil for sowing, as plowing does. The KJV, in many places, uses the word “ear” meaning getting the ground ready for seeding. Genesis 45:6 says, “There shall neither be earing nor harvest.” Exodus 34:21 says, “in earing time and in harvest.” I Samuel 8:12 says, “to ear his ground.” The NASB and the NIV do not use the word “ear,” because it has a different meaning today.
EMERODS is an old word for hemorrhoids or piles. These three words were used inter-changeably until the seventeenth century but only the word “emerods” is used in the KJV. All but one of the appearances of this word are in the account of the plague which smote the Philistines when they had captured the ark of the LORD. (I Samuel 5-6). There is no good reason to translate the Hebrew word by “emerods.” To do so is complicated by the fact the Philistines made imitations of the emerods. I would imagine it would be hard to make a likeness of hemorrhoids. Everything is clearer if you translate the word as “tumors,” as the NASB does.
FAST means close or near in the KJV. This is an inaccurate meaning today. Ruth 2:8 says, “abide here fast by my maidens.” Ruth 2:21,23 says, “Thou shalt keep fast by my young men.” “So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz.” The NASB says, “stay close” instead of “fast.” This translation is easier to understand for the modern reader.
GENERATION today means the whole body of individuals born about the same time period; also the time covered by the lives of these. The KJV gives “generation” a different meaning in Matthew 1:1, “The generation of Jesus Christ.” There the Greek word is “genesis,” a different word from the one usually translated “generation.” The KJV translates a totally different Greek word in I Peter 2:9 as, “a chosen generation.” In Greek this word means a chosen race. When John the Baptist and Jesus said, “generation of vipers” that is yet another Greek word. This word means, “offspring or brood of vipers.” The reader of the KJV would do well to check another source to find the true meaning in the verses containing “generation.”
GOODMAN is a husband or the male head of a household. The word is now archaic. In Proverbs 7:19, a harlot tells her prospect, “the goodman is not at home.” The NIV says, “My husband is not at home.” Five times in the Gospels it speaks of the “Goodman of the house.”
HAPLY is used about 6 times in the KJV, I believe. It is an outdated word that meant “perchance” or “perhaps.”
LIST means to desire or wish. The KJV says, “the wind bloweth where it listeth.” (John 3:8) “Whatsoever they listed.” (Matt. 17:12) I believe “list” is used four times. It is now archaic.
MINISH is old English for become less. Pharaoh tells the Hebrews in Exodus 5:19, “Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.” Psalm 107:39 says, “they are minished and brought low.” The NASB says, “they are diminished and bowed down.”
NAUGHT means “bad” in the KJV. Proverbs 20:14 says, “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer.” “The water is naught.” (II Kings 2:19) The NASB and the NIV say “bad” or “no good.”
NEESING is an obsolete word for sneezing. In Job 41:18 it says, “By his neesing a light doth shine.”
RUDE once meant unskilled. When Paul said, “I be rude in speech.” (II Cor.11:6) He meant he was not an expert, not a professional orator.
SEETHE, SOD, SODDEN is old English meaning to cook food by boiling or stewing. Sod and sodden are the past tense of “seethe.” For an example, see 1 Samuel 2:13,15. Of course we do not use these words today.
SHAMBLES means “meat market’ in the KJV. Today “shambles’ would be used to describe a place that was wrecked, such as a room full of broken things in disarray.
When we read the word “shambles” we think we know the meaning. However, the word has changed meaning over the years. This is the worst thing about obsolete words. In many instances you think you know the meaning, so you do not look for another. Thus, the words are misleading. We think we understand but we do not. This happens over and over when reading the KJV today. I know. It has happened to me many times.
SORE in the KJV means severe, intense or very great. The word is used almost a hundred times. Examples are: “sore war”, “the battle was sore”, “sore wounded”, “sore afraid.” We do not speak this way today.
SOTTISH meant foolish or stupid in 1611. Jeremiah 4:22 says, “they are sottish children.” We do not use that word today.
TIRE has nothing to do with fatigue, or with wheels, as used in the KJV. It is a shortened form of “attire.” Ezekiel 24:17 says, “bind the tire of thine head upon thee.” The NASB says, “bind on your turban.” The same Hebrew word is translated by the KJV as “bonnet”, “beauty” and “ornaments.” We do not use the word “tire” today in this outdated sense.
TUTOR means “guardian” in the KJV. Today it means “teacher.” Galations 4:2 says that the heir is “under tutors and governors.” The NASB says he is “under guardians and managers.” Actually the word “tutors” and the word “governor” are obsolete as used in the KJV.
VISAGE meant “face” in 1611. When the KJV says Nebuchadnezzar’s visage was changed, it means his face was changed. (Daniel 3:19) In Isaiah 52:14 the suffering Saviour’s “visage was so marred.” The NASB says, “His appearance was marred.” I don’t think we use “visage” today.
WAKE is used in the KJV for “awake.” Psalm 127:1 says, “the watchman waketh but in vain.” The NASB says, “The watchman keeps awake in vain.” “Wake” today means watch over the dead or staying up with the dead. We use the word “wake” today but not as a substitute for “awake” as the KJV does.
WHICH is used in the KJV for persons as well as for things. Examples are: “Lot also, which went with Abram.”(Gen. 13:5) “ a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.”(Exodus 1:8) “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory.” (I Cor.15:57) “Which” is used about 177 times and refers to persons about 37 times. Of course this is bad grammar today. The KJV contains much bad grammar besides the use of “which.” The words “who” and “whom” are used in the KJV many times. But even in the Lord’s prayer it says, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Of course the NASB says, “Our Father who art in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9)
WHILES, WHILST are old English words for “while.” The KJV uses the word “whiles” about 10 times and “whilst” about 9 times, but “while” is used about 200 times. There is no difference in the meaning of these three terms. Of course we do not use the first two words today.
WIT, WIST, WOT once meant to know or to find out. “Wot” is present tense and “wist” is past tense. Exodus 2:4 gives an example of “wit.” “His sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.” “Wist” is used in Luke 2:49, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business.” “Wot” is used in Gen. 21:26. “I wot not who hath done this thing.”
The expression “to wit” has been inserted in the KJV about 16 times, without any corresponding Hebrew or Greek words. This was to try to make the meaning clearer.
WITHAL is an obsolete form of “with.” A typical passage is Job 2:8, “he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal.” This means he took a potsherd to scrape himself with.
There is another word that is used 8 times in the KJV, but I cannot print it here. It was a good word in 1611 but has taken on a vulgar meaning today. The NIV translates it “urine” or “male.” The reader can check out these references if he is interested:
II Kings 18:27; Isaiah 36:12; I Samuel 25:22,34; I Kings 14:10; II Kings 9:8; 16:11; 21:21
I have given some samples of archaic and obsolete words found in the KJV. This is by no means all of them. Some scholars have listed over 800 outdated words. If you multiply the number of archaic words by the number of times each one is used, you have an astronomical number of words that can mislead the reader or make it hard or impossible to understand what God actually said. The whole purpose of a translation is to make the Word of God clear. The KJV translators believed this. I firmly believe, if they were alive today, they would be among the first to recommend updating the old KJV.
The worst problem with Archaic words is, that they are misleading because the word has changed it’s meaning over the years. So you read it and come away with a different message than what God actually said. Examples are: nephew, shipping, against, admire, prevent, replenish, etc.
How many of us have read Genesis 1:28, where God said, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth,” and we thought there must have been someone here before Adam and Eve because we know what “replenish” means. However, today the word has changed meaning and has nothing to do with renewing a diminished supply. It simply means to fill. This type thing happens over and over when you are reading obsolete words. The KJV is full of them.
MORE EXAMPLES OF OBSOLETE WORDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
I want to give another list of outdated words for those who might still be unconvinced that obsolete words are a problem in the KJV. I will give only one reference with each word.
Let me again warn the reader that sometimes the words you think you understand, are the most dangerous. The meaning of words you think you know has probably changed. The message it conveys today is different than the meaning it had when the KJV was written. Keep this in mind as you look over the list below.
Chambering. Rom. 13:13
Champaign. Deut. 11:30
Stomacher. Isaiah 3:4
Suretiship. Prov. 11:15
Amerce. Deut 22:19
Brigadine. Jere. 46:4
Withs. Judges 16:7
Wen. Lev. 22:22
Target. I Sam. 17:6
Strange women. I Kings 11:1
Leasing. Psalm 5:6
All to. Judges 9:53
Ark. Exodus 2:3
Assay. I Sam. 17:39
Astonied. Ezra 9:3
Audience. Gen. 23:10
Bestead. Isa. 8:21
Blain. Exodus 9:9
Bruit. Jere. 10:22
Canker. II Tim. 2:17
Chapt. Jere. 14:4
Clean. Josh. 4:11
Conceit. Prov. 26:5
Creek. Acts 27:39
Dayspring. Job 38:12
Decay. Job 14:11
Diet. Jere. 52:33-34
Discover. Lamentations 2:14
Doctor. Luke 2:46
Dure. Matt. 13:21
Ensample. I Cor 10:1
Fain. Luke 15:16
Familiar spirit. Lev. 20:27
Fashion. Exodus 26:20
Fetch about. II Sam. 14:20
Flood. Joshua 24:2
Flowers. Lev. 15:24
Flux. Acts 28:8
For to. Mark 3:10
Fray. Deut. 28:26
Fret. Lev. 13:51
Garnish. II Chron. 3:6
Gin. Psalm 140:5
Grudge. James 5:9
Hap. Ruth 2:3
Hereunto. I Peter 2:21
Hold. Judges 9:46
Holden. Prov. 5:22
Hough. Joshua 11:6
Howbeit. Judges 18:29
Implead. Acts 19:38
Intelligence. Dan. 11:30
Inward. Job 19:19
Knop. I Kings 6:18
Libertines. Acts 6:9
Lucre. I Sam. 8:3
Mean. Isa. 2:9
Meteyard. Lev. 19:35
Motions. Rom. 7:5
Munition. Isaiah 33:16
Occurrent. I Kings 5:4
Offend. Matt. 13:41
Ouches. Exodus 28:ll
Outlandish. Neh. 13:26
Paps. Luke 11:27
Peculiar. Titus 2:14
Post. II Chron. 30:6
Prey. Joshua 8:2
Privily. Matt. 1:19
Record. Deut. 30:19
Reins. Exodus 29:132
Require. Ezra 8:22
Shamefacedness. I Tim.2:9
Sincere. I Peter 2:2
Singular. Lev. 27:2
Sith. Ezek. 35:6
Sottish. Jere. 4:22
Stand Upon. I Sam. 1:9
Straiten. Jere. 19:9
Surfeiting. Luke 21:34
Tabering. Nahum 2:6-7
Taken with the manner. Num. 5:13
Tender eyed. Gen. 29:17
Trow. Luke 17:9
Unicorn. Job 39:9
Woe Worth. Ezek. 30:2
Waster. Prov. 18:9
Wealth. I Cor. 10:24
Whereabout. I Sam. 21:2
Whereinsoever. II Cor. 11:21
Will. Judges 1:14