Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Shilling ordinary

Q From Dominic Gittins: I’m doing a play set in Elizabethan times, but have come unravelled trying to find out the meaning of the phrase shilling ordinary. The context is ‘a message was brought to me while I was sitting in the shilling ordinary.’

A One of the many senses of ordinary was that of a meal in an eating-house or tavern. The term comes from a thing that is ordained, or set out as by rule or custom, in this case a set meal. So a shilling ordinary was one for that price. By extension, ordinary was also used for the place where it was served, and for the company who frequented such a meal. And it’s a note on the lack of inflation in earlier centuries that there are references to a “shilling ordinary” at the end of the eighteenth century. In fact, the word continued to be used into this century in Britain, particularly on market days in provincial towns, where a farmer’s ordinary was a filling but plain set meal at a reasonable price, usually the traditional “meat and two veg” followed by a substantial pudding.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 14 Nov. 1998

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-shi1.htm
Last modified: 14 November 1998.