A Prayer Book Glossary

A Prayer Book Glossary

A partial list of some potentially confusing words from regularly-used services in the Book of Common Prayer 

The Glossary displayed on this page is also available in the form of a card, which is designed to be used as a bookmark and can be downloaded here: Prayer Book Glossary card

For a single printed copy of the card, please send a stamped addressed standard-sized DL (220 mm x 110 mm) envelope, clearly marked 'GLOSSARY', to the Prayer Book Society office. For larger quantities for distribution to church congregations, confirmation classes, study groups etc., please contact the Prayer Book Society. See 'Contact us' for contact details.

Brethren- an inclusive term to denote all those present in a service. e.g. “Dearly beloved brethren...”

Comfort; Comfortable- from the late Latin confortare, to strengthen, to make strong; to be strengthened. e.g. “Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith.”

Concord- agreement between people.

Convenient- appropriate. e.g. “It is convenient that the new married persons should receive Holy Communion.”

Conversation- public conduct or behaviour. e.g. “examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God’s commandments.”

Curate- any priest who has ‘cure’ of souls in a particular place, normally a parish. e.g. “as the Curate by his discretion shall appoint.”

Eschew- abstain from.

Froward- perverse, contrary. e.g. Ps 18.26, Ps 101.5

Ghost; Ghostly- from Old English gāst (German, Geist) Spirit; spiritual. e.g. “...together with ghostly counsel and advice.”

Graven- carved, hand-made. e.g. “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image.”

Holpen- past tense of ‘to help’. e.g. “He remembering his mercy hath holpen His servant Israel.”

Indifferently- impartially.

Intolerable- from Latin intolerabilis, cannot be borne.

Lively- living. e.g. “a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto thee.”

Magnify- to glorify, to praise greatly. e.g. “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”

Man/Men- an inclusive term for all human beings. e.g. “Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven...”

Meet- appropriate, fitting. e.g. “It is meet and right so to do.”

Militant- the Church on earth, those still ‘fighting the good fight of faith’ (from the Latin militans) as opposed to the Church Triumphant in Heaven. e.g. “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in earth.”

Miserable- pitiable, in needing of mercy. e.g. “But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.”

Oblation- from the late Latin oblatio, (from offerre, oblatum, to offer), offering. e.g. “alms and oblations”, “his one oblation of himself once offered.”

Only- often means ‘alone’. e.g. “Almighty God...of whose only gift it cometh...” (Collect for Trinity XIII.)

Prevent- go before. e.g. “Prevent us O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour.”

Profession- a declaration of belief in something. e.g. “Baptism representeth unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ.”

Propitiate; Propitiation- to win or gain the favour of; a sacrifice which turns aside God’s wrath e.g. “he is the propitiation for our sins.”

Quick; Quicken- living; to make alive. e.g. “the quick and the dead.”

Regenerate- born again spiritually. e.g. “Grant that we being regenerate...”

Remission- forgiveness and absolution. e.g. “Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we…may obtain of thee the God of all mercy, perfect remission…”

Sabaoth- in Hebrew, “hosts” or “armies.” e.g. “To thee Cherubim and Seraphim : continually do cry, Holy, Holy, Holy : Lord God of Sabaoth.”

Satisfaction- fulfilling an obligation incurred. e.g. “ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution and satisfaction”, “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

Suffer- (1) to endure pain. (2) to tolerate or allow. e.g. “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”

Suffrages- intercessory petitions made by the priest, followed by the responses of the congregation e.g. “The Suffrages next after the Creed.”

Supplication- humble and earnest petition. e.g. “Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee...”

Tempt; Temptation- test; testing. e.g. “when your fathers tempted me”, “lead us not into temptation.”

Travail- painful or laborious effort; to endure such. e.g. “Come unto me all ye that travail...”

Very- true. e.g. “Very God of very God.”

Vouchsafe- to grant readily, to show gracious willingness. e.g. “Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.”

Vulgar- easily understandable. e.g. “in the vulgar tongue.”

Worthily- with due devotion or reverence, deservedly or appropriately. e.g. “we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness...”