The sport of flying hunting birds has been practiced all over the world for hundreds of years, but many of the historic phrases and words associated with falconry are still used in our modern language.
A hawk has eyesight about 10 times better than a human, so in falconry, when a bird is being trained, the handler covers its head with a little hood. Hoodwinking the bird stops it looking around and keeps it calms, though now we use the word to mean when someone is being tricked.
These days, when someone is cadging, they’re getting something for nothing. But back in the day, falcons used to be carried out onto the hunting field on a wooden frame called a cadge. The person who carried it was the cadger, and the birds were cadging a lift.
Hawks will only hunt when they are hungry. When it’s eaten its fill, it’s ‘fed-up’.
A ‘house’ or ‘bows’ is a hawk’s drinking bowl, ‘bowsing’ describes the way a bird drinks, and, given the chance, they’ll eat or drink to excess. The word has been re-spelt over the years and a ‘boozer’ is now someone who drinks to excess or the place in which to do it!
Under the thumb/wrapped around the finger
To stop the bird flying away, it is attached to a leash that is wrapped around the handler’s thumb or finger.
A haggard is the name given to a falcon that’s been caught in the wild as an adult. Often snared at the end of migration when they were thin and bedraggled, it’s now used to describe anyone who looks a bit worse for wear!
The gorge is another name for a bird’s throat which can be expanded to store food. When we gorge, we are simply stuffing OUR faces!
A mews is the name of a birdhouse designed as a home for birds of prey. The word comes from the French word meaning to moult. The Royal Mews in London was set up to house the monarch’s birds, and now it’s a name given to many short narrow streets.
When a bird has caught its prey it drops its wings over it to cover it, which is called mantling. So mantle means a cover and a mantelpiece covers a fireplace.
Did you have any idea where these words and phrases came from? Let us know!