Hrad – Medieval Tomboy

In the twelfth century what phrase could you use for tomboy for a girl?

The word was hrad, yes, and similar to how we use the word rad today as short for radical by which we mean original, spunky, questioning authority. The Eleanor Code series draws on words of the time and the dying Occitan language.

You won’t find the term hrad on the Internet or any standard dictionary. (Well I suppose this article is on the web now.) The word hrad comes to us from at least 700 AD spelled many ways, first as HRAED, meaning a person who is quick, speedy, hasty, active, prompt, ready; eager, elated.

An aside to writers: Etymology, the derivation and usage of words is a powerful key that unlocks both meaning and history. Consider spending some time with the great reference tool, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It lists not only the meanings of words, but the actual citations of their usage over time.

Below is a partial citation from the OED for this word.

rad, a.1 and adv. Obs. exc. dial.


Forms: 1 hrad, hræd, 1–3 ræd, 3–6 rade, 5–6 radde, 3–6 (9 dial.) rad.

[OE. hrad, hræd = OHG. hrad, hrat, ON. hrað-r (MSw. radh).]

A.A adj. Quick, hasty, speedy; active, prompt, ready; eager, elated.

   a 700 Epinal Gloss. 742 Percitus, hraed [Erfurt hrad].    c 888 K. Ælfred Boeth. iv, Þu þe on hrædum færelde þone heofon ymbhweorfest.    c 897 ― Gregory’s Past. xxxviii. 280 Sie æᴁhwelc mon swiðe hræd & swiðe ᴁeornfull to ᴁehieranne.    c 1000 Ags. Gosp. Matt. xxvi. 41 Se gast is hræd [Hatton MS. ræd], þæt flæsc ys untrum.    c 1205 Lay. 12318 Þer fore wes þe king glad & þiderward wes swiðe ræd.    c 1250 Gen. & Ex. 2730 Ðu art of dede and o word to rad.    a 1310 in Wright Lyric P. 45 Wymmen‥beoth to rad upon huere red, To love [etc.].    c 1400 Destr. Troy 917 The freike‥raght to his Ryng in a rad haste.    c 1425 Seven Sag. (P.) 1290 The tormentours wer ful rade To do tha[t] the Emperour bade.    c 1470 Henry Wallace vii. 526 Cast we doun all, we mycht be demyt our rad.    1570 Levins Manip. 7/41 Radde, agilis, promptus.    1876 Whitby Gloss. s.v., ‘Either too rad or too sad’, as a variable person, over-elated or, otherwise, depressed.    1887 S. Chesh. Gloss., Rad, quick, ready.

© Oxford University Press 2009.