Dance-relevant Definitions in John Florio's 1611 Italian-English Dictionary

[ This article appeared in volume 4 of the Letter of Dance. ]

By Miklós Sándorfia Copyright 1996 Andrew Draskóy

Dance reconstructors have many questions to answer. Among these are:

  1. How close is my modern reading of the text to the original intention of the writer, given that word meanings change over time?
  2. How did dancers of one country perceive the national character of another country or region?
  3. Is there additional descriptive information for a particular dance form in other literature of the period?

Period foreign-language dictionaries provide insight into these questions. For English speakers working on Italian sources, John Florio's(1) dictionary(2) is of particular interest(3). Several editions were published. The 1611 version called Queen Anna's New World of Words is perhaps the most useful for Renaissance dance research, due to its comprehensiveness, the era it reflects, and the wide availability of a facsimile edition. As well as the dictionary, it includes a comprehensive Italian grammar, complete with many now-archaic alternate spellings and verb conjugations which you will find in primary sources but not in modern dictionaries.

Below are some definitions that have relevance to dance reconstruction, divided into categories. Words have been placed into a category if they are parts of phrases or longer descriptions fitting into that category, or contain references that would illuminate items in that category.

The only changes made in the transcription are the addition of a missing period, and modification of consonantal "u" and "i" to "v" and "j".

Qualities of Movement

Aèreo, airy, of the nature of aire.

Aeróso, airie, full of aire. Also cheerefull in aspect, full of countenance.

Áere, the aire. Also an aspect, a countenance, a cheere, a looke or apparance in the face of man or woman. Also a tune or aire of a song or ditty. Also a kind of wood good to make oares with.

Agilitáre, to make easie or nimble.

Agilità, agility, nimblenesse, facilitie, dexterity.

Ágile, agile, easie, nimble, light.

Aíère, as Áère or Ária.

Aièróso, airy, as Áèreoso.

Ária, as Áère, the Aire.

Campeggiáre, to encampe, to beleagre or lie in the field with an army of men. Also to dwell among or frequent the fields. Also to sute, to square with, to become well and seemly as any faine cocke upon or in any field, shield, or banner.

Fantásma, a ghost, a hag, a spirit, a hobgoblin, a robin-good-fellow. Also the night-mare or riding hag.

Fáre la ruóta del pavóne, to play the proud peacocke, to make shew of all one hath.

Humáno, humane. Also civill, affable, courteous, milde, gentle.

Maniéra, manner, fashion, guise, use, custome, stile or course. Used also for a kind or sort. Also for qualitie. Also for mannerlinesse and civilitie.

Misúra, a measure, a rule, a proportion, a meane, a temper.

Misuráre, to measure, to proportion. Also to ponder, to consider, to proportion.

Ombreggiáre, to shade, or cast a shadow. Also to figure, to pourtray, or lineate as Painters.

Ónde, undie, waves, billowes, surges.

Ondeggiaménto, a waving, a billowing.

Ondeggiáre, to wave, to undie, to billow.

Ondeggiatóre di ciambelótto, as Pavoneggiatóre.(4)

Pavoneggiatóre, a fond gazer or proud courtier and wantonizer of himselfe.

Pavoneggiáre, to gaze fondly, or like a Peacocke proudly to court and wantonize with himselfe.

Phantásma, a vaine vision, or image of things conceived in the minde, an appearance in a dreame, a false representation.

Pórgere, pórgo, pórsi, porgiúto, or pórto, to reach or yeeld forth, to bring or afford, to lend or give helpe, to offer with ones hand, to stretch, reach or spread out, to jettie, to jut or but forth as some parts of building.

Soáve, sweet or pleasant in taste, smelling or hearing, delicious, soote. Also soft or smooth in touching. Also curteous and milde in behaviour. Used also adverbially, sweetly, gently, softly, smoothlie.

Suáve, as Soáve, sweet, pleasant.

Surgènte, rising, springing or growing up. Also riding at anchor as a ship.

Types of Dancing

Àlto, high, eminent, lofty. Also a treble voice in musike.

Álto, used for broad, Panno álto, broad cloath.

Attegatóre, a dancer on ropes. Also a tumbler, an active man or teacher of nimblenesse.

Bássa, any bottom, vally or low dale.

Bassáre, to abase, to stoope, to descend.

Baldósa, bolde, saucie. Also a kind of croud or country fiddle. Also a certain country dance.

Balláre, to dance, to hop, to skip.

Bállo, a ball or any kind of dance.

Bállo della bótte, a Christmas game.

Ballaríno, a dancer, or teacher to dance.

Ballónchio, a hand-ball or a foote-ball. Also a country hopping round or morice dance.

Ballonciuólo, a merry skipping dance.

Brándo, a sword. Also a gad of steele. Also a french dance called a bransel or braule.

Bríga, a brable, a braule, a contention.(5)

Cáccia, all maner of hunting or chasing. Also a chace at tennis, or blot at tables.

Canárij, a kind of people so called because they feed on dogs. Also Canarians.

Canário, a sacrifice of a red dog, used of ancient to pacifie the dog star.

Caroláre, to caroll, to sing, to revell. Also to dance and be mery.

Castagnétte, little shels used of those that dance the canaries to clacke or snap with their fingers. Also fips or flips with the fingers ends.

Chiarintána, a kinde of Caroll or song full of leapings like a Scotish gigge, some take it for the Almaine-leape.

Chiarintanáre, to dance Chiarantána.

Chirintána, as Chiarantána;

Chiranzána, as Chiarantána;

Chiaramèlla, a kind of bag-pipe.

Corrènte, running, currant.

Corrènte, a current, a streame, a tide, or channell of a river.

Dánza, a daunce, a ball.

Danzáre, to daunce.

Danzaríno, a dauncer.

Danzatóre, a dauncer.

Furióso, furious, outragious, franticke, mad, enraged, bedlam, raging.

Gagliárda, a dance called a galliard.

Gagliardézza, as Gagliardía.

Gagliardía, lustinesse, galliardise, force, strength or nimblenesse of body.

Mattacináre, to play or daunce the Mattachíno.

Mattacíni, as Atteláni, a kinde of antique moresco or mattacino dance.

Menár la dánza, to leade the dance.

Morésca, a Morice, or Antique dance.

Paganína, a kinde of Moris-dance in Italie.

Pavána, a dance called a Paven.

Píva, any kind of pipe or bag-pipe. Also a Piot, a Pie, or Jay. Also a Butterflie. Used also for a mans privy members.

Piantóne, any plant or tree to be set. Also a stocke of a tree to graffe upon. Also any great stake or pile driven in the ground. Also a suddaine slip given to one, a cunning cheating tricke.

Pásso mèzzo, a cinque-pace, a pace-measure.

Rídda, any kind of round Country dance as our Hay dance.

Riddáre, to dance round.

Róta, any kind of wheele. Also a grinding stone, a Millstone. Also any wheeling, turne, or turning round. Also the turne or wheeling of a horse. Also the full spreading of a Peacockes taile. Also a round roule or rowling. Also a kinde of monstrous great fish. Also a kind of torture.

Ruóta, as Róta, a wheele.

Stampíta, as Stampináta. Also wearinesse.

Stampináta, a fit of mirth or fidling. Also a kind of country dancing, singing or fidling anciently used in Italie.

Tordiglióne, a kind of dance in Spaine.

Tripudiáre, to dance or trip on the toes.

Tripúdij, dancings or trippings on the toes.

Tripúdio, a kind of tripping dance.

Trótto, a trot, or trotting pace.

Villanáta, any kinde of Country song, gigge, or dance. Also a Country tricke or clownish part. Also a kind of Country water grewell for the poore.

Villanèlla, a pretty Country-lasse, a handsome or yongue Country-wench, a yongue Sheepheardesse, a Milkemaide. Also any Country dance, gig, roundelay, song, ballad, dance or hornpipe, such as Country wenches sing.

Particular Movements

Alzáta, a raising, an advancing, a heaving or lifting up.

Alzare, to advance, to raise, to hoise, to heave, to rere, to elevate, or lift up.

Balzíre, to bound, to jumpe, to skip, to hop.

Bótta, a blowe, a stroke. Also a time. Also a toad. Also the working or surging of the sea. Also a fish called a Gull or Millers thumb.

Cambiáre, to exchange, to change.

Cámbio, a change, an exchange, a stead.

Continènte, continent, chaste, Also the continent or maine firme land.

Continénza, continencie, chastitie.

, as Féde. Also as Féce, he did or made.(6)

Féde, faith, trust, truth, religion, honestie. Also a ring made with hand in hand. Also a passport, a warrant, a certificate, an assurance.(7)

Fráppa, a brag, a boast, a vaunt, a crack. Also a cheating, a cunnicatching, or cozening trick. Also the tongue, the lappat or latchet of any thing. Also a jagge, a cut, or snip in any garment. Also a tearing. Also a beating.

Frappáre, to brag, to boast, to crake, to vaunt. Also to cheate, to cunnicatch, or beguile with overprating. Also to jagge, to snip or cut garments. Also to hale, to tug or drag along the ground. Also to beate, or bang.

Moviménto, a mooving, a stirring.

Passétti, little steps or paces. Also little round buttons or bosses of mettall.

Pássi, paces, steps, streds.

Pizzicáre, to pinch, to twing, to itch, to smart, to pricke, to snip, to claw or to tetter. Also to hucke, to palter, to dodge, or wrangle.

Pósa, a pause, a ceasing, an intermission, a repose, a giving over. Also an abode, a dwelling or resting place.

Posáda, as Pósa.

Riprésa, a reproving, a reprehension. Also a takeing or receiving againe. Also a reprisall. Also an answer in musike to begin when another leaves off.

Saltarèllo, any little leape. Looke Salto.

Saltétto, as Saltícchio.

Saltícchio, a hop, a skip, a friske, a leap, a jump, a tumbling cast, a sault.

Scambiaménto, a changing, a trucking.

Scambiétti, bartrings, truckings, coarcings or changings of ware for ware. Also friskes, leapings or nimble skippings, tumbling trickes or changings in dancing and tumblings. Also mammockes, scraps, or broken pieces of meat. Also cibols or yongue cives.

Scambio, a change, an exchange. Also liew, place, or stead.

Scórrere, córro, córsi, córso, to runne over, to runne heere and there, to gad or wander to and fro. Also to peruse over slightly. Also to slide or glide upon the Ise.

Scórsa, a running. Also as scorriría.

Scóssa, a shaking, a tottring, a tumbling, a rumbling, a trembling.

Scósso, shaken, tossed, totred, rumbled.

Scossóre, to shake, to tosse, to totter. Also to brandish in the aire.

Trascórsa, a running over, thorow, beyond or from, a running or questing to and fro. Also a passing over slightly or quickly.

Trascórso, overrun, run thorow or beyond, outrun. Also perused over a book. Look Trascórre.

Movement Qualifiers

Anguíno, snake kind, snake wise.

Ángue, a snake, or an adder.

Anguettáre, to wriggle as a snake.

Anguílla, an Eele or Eelepond.

Arrostáre, to rost or to tost. Also to make wind with some boughs. Also to turne round.

Caláta, an abating, a descending, &c. Also a falling note. Also a trap dore. Also a fit of mirth.

Dimòra, a demur, a stay, a delay, a lingring, a pause. Also an abiding, or remaining, an habitation, or dwelling.

Farsétto, a trusse that they weave that have ruptures and are bursten. Also a trusse or sleevelesse thin doublet without skirtes used in Italy in Sommer.

Gallóne, a mans thigh, hip, or hanch.

Gallóppo, a gallop, or galloping pace.

Gíta, a going, a departing away.

Gíttamato, a casting. Also a sounding.

Inánzi, before, sooner, rather, eare, liever. Also foremost, beforehand, foreward.

Inánzi, sost. Those that be or stand foremost, that be of the vantgard.

Inchíno, enclined, bended, stooped.

Inchíno, a louting, a reverence, a cursie.

Módo, manner, fashion, guise, meane, forme, size, rule, measure, way, power, abilitie. Also a Moode of a Verbe.

Móto, a motion, a mooving, or cause of stirring. Also dumbe, mute, or silent.

Passáre, to passe, to passeover, to surpasse, to out-goe, to exceed, to goe beyond. Also to decease or leave this life. Used also for Passeggiáre.

Passeggiáre, to walke or pace for pleasure.

Passéggio, a walke, an allie, a walking place, a turne in walking. Also the noise made in walking.

Sciólto, loose, free, at liberty, untide, untangled, unsnared. Also quit, absolved or discharged. Also quick, nimble and full of agility. Also a kind of verse used among the Italians, a loose verse, a blancke verse.

Spína di pésce, the chine-bone of a Fish.

Spína pésce, a kind of tacke, tache, claspe or tenter-hooke.

Striáto, bewitched. Also screeched. Also chamfred, chaneled, or wrought inward with a winding.

Strisciáre, to streake or draw out in lines or streakes. Also to sleeke or make smooth. Also to slide or glide upon ice. Also to drag, to traile, to creepe or craule along the ground. Also to currie, to rub, or smooth a horse. Also to make a trampling noise with ones feet as Canarie dancers use. Also to lay a counterfeit colour on any thing or paint as women doe their faces.


Florio, John, Queen Anna's New World of Words, printed by Melch. Bradwood, for Edw. Blount and William Barret, London:1611. Facsimile edition by The Scolar Press Limited, Menston (England) 1968. Electronic transcription of dance-relevant terms:

Cotgrave, Randle, A dictionarie of the French and English tongues, 1611. London, Islip, 1611. Facsimilie of 1st edition Scolar Press, Menston, (Yorks.), 1968.

Desainlains, Claude, A dictionarie French and English London, 1593. Facsimilie of 1st edition Scolar Press, Menston, (Yorks.), 1970.

Battaglia, Salvatore,Grande dizionario della lingua italiana. [Torina] Unione tipograficoeditrice torinese [1961] Not yet complete, this multi-volume dictionary is the Italian counterpart of the OED.

Huguet, Edouard, Dictionnaire de la langue française du seizième siècle.[Paris] Libraire Ancienne Èdouard Champion [1925-1967].

Nicot, Jean: Thresor de la langue françose, tant ancienne que moderne. Paris, David Douceur, 1606. Electronic copy:

About the Author: Miklós Sándorfia lives in Ar n-Eilean-ne, a shire of the East Kingdom. Andrew Draskóy is a choreographer living in St. John's, Newfoundland. Email:, web:


1 Florio (1553?-1625) describes himself as a "Reader of the Italian unto the Soveraigne Majestie of Anna, Crowned Queene..."

2 Florio, John: Queen Anna's New World of Words, 1611.

3 Other important references are listed in the bibliography.

4 Florio defines "ciamèllòtto" as "the weaved stuffe Chamblet", which was an expensive cloth.

5 Part of the term "brigamania" encountered in Ebreo's description of Chirintana.

6 Part of the phrase "toccando la fè" encountered in Caroso.

7 Part of the phrase "toccando la fè" encountered in Caroso.

Webbed by Gregory Blount of Isenfir (Greg Lindahl) (