20 April 2011


No, not "queen." Quean.

You'll see this word pop up from time to time in the language of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. A quean is a disreputable, upstart, boisterous, impudent woman. The term is also synonymous with "prostitute."

Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time by Bronzino, c. 1546
A true quean always knows how to stir up maximum trouble. Even if she's a nun.

From Holbein's Danse Macabre, "The Nun"
To be a quean is to be brazen. It's a derogatory term, but there have always been women who managed to wear it well.


joanne lee said...

You learn something new every day!

Crystal Collier said...

I have a book of old rude and obnoxious English. I bet this word is in there. =)

Luanne G. Smith said...

Don't forget she's a Big Bag of Trouble. :P

Elizabeth Twist said...

I sense a punk song waiting to be written, L.G.

Elizabeth Twist said...

@Joanne: I hope so!

@Crystal: I bet it is. That book would be an awesome basis for the A-Z blogfest.

jkraus8464 said...

So to be queanly is not necessarily a royal attribute. Just change one letter and the queen becomes obscene. Interesting.

Trisha said...

Having not read any Shakespeare, I've missed this until now! :)

KM Nalle said...

I learned another new word today! I'm enjoying all the Q posts!

Dafeenah said...

A new Q word. I am certain if I would have seen this I would have just thought it a typo or something. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

Bronzino corretto una volta / Bronzino corregido una vez