Words from the woods

Overgrown by the moss of time or languishing in the deep forest of obscurity, these sylvan words deserve another chance to emerge blinking into daylight

The Way Things Were,  Ruth Allen/blueeggsandtea.com

The Way Things Were, Ruth Allen/blueeggsandtea.com


This rather sinister-sounding word has rarely been used for over 100 years. It describes someone with a fondness for the forest; a haunter of the woods. It originates from the 19th century and derives from the Greek words nemos meaning grove and philos meaning affection.


A Norse word to describe a sparse area of scrubland at the edge of a forest. In its modern form it becomes frith, hence Chapel-en-le-Frith – the Chapel in the woodland. Frith developed to‘thrift’,as inThriftWood in Croydon. Frith is also the name of the Sun God in Watership Down.


From the Old English sceaga – a word for copse or thicket – it also describes a strip of woodland forming the border of a field and bears relation to the North Frisian word skage, meaning the farthest edge of cultivated land. We of course know it as a popular surname today. 


A term to describe the luminescent green glow emitted by decaying fungi, sometimes visible at night in forests. It was described by Pliny the Elder as an ‘Agaricke (fungus) that grows on trees and shines at night.’In folklore it is said to indicate the places where fairies gather for their nightly revels.


Depicted in medieval folklore, the woodwose is the mythical hairy wild man of the woods. It derives from the Anglo-Saxon wuduwasa (man of the wood).Ted Hughes wrote a poem entitled Wodwo about a half-man,half- animal creature musing on its existence while wandering through a forest. 

Words: Brian Chapman. Originally published in issue 4 of Ernest Journal.

Issue 4
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