Talk Of The Ton

12 Bridgerton Vocab Words To Work Into Your Everyday Convos

Your group chat is about to get a lot more sophisticated.

Netflix's Bridgerton Season 1 was set in 1813, and Season 2 takes place a year later, in 1814. Although the series updates the romance stories for modern audiences, 200+ years is still long ago. Plus, not to get all 11th grade lit teacher on you, but English is a living language that constantly changes and morphs, with slang terms rising up and then falling out of favor. This Bridgerton glossary will help viewers track some of the show's language and explain what the Regency vocab words actaully mean.

Warning: Spoilers for Bridgerton Season 2 follow. Bridgerton Season 1 introduced several words that readers of Regency romance easily recognize, but modern TV viewers might not. The biggest one was "the ton," which most first-time viewers assumed was people saying "the town," but with a funny accent. In actuality, “ton” comes from the French phrase "le bon ton," literally meaning "good manners." The implication was that these were the well-mannered people of society.

The word "ton" came into use at the beginning of the Regency era and was considered the official slang term for Britain's high society by the end of the late Regency period (the end of the 1810s) and the reign of George IV that followed. Later, it was adopted by other groups who wanted to be seen as the “upper classes,” including late 19th-century New York society. But in practice today, it is usually meant to mean anyone from the peerage, landed gentry, and/or London's wealthy merchants and banker class.

Here’s what other words to learn from Bridgerton:

01

Anon

Liam Daniels/Netflix

If you think this is a Shakespearean word, you’re not wrong. “Anon,” meaning “soon,” is mainly used nowadays in Shakespearean English. But fans hear Anthony use it to his buds in the opening episode at Lady Danbury’s ball. It was still a formal word at that point — a bit haughty, but not weird to use.

02

Being “Ruined”

The idea that a young lady could be “ruined” is one of the standard tropes of Regency romances. But although most people take it to mean “caught making out with a man,” it was a far broader term at the time. Part of this was due to the rising middle class, who felt the need to prove themselves as pure as their upper-class brethren and therefore translated “ruination” as strictly as possible.

03

Coming Out/Debuting

Bridgerton focused on this heavily in Season 1 with Daphne, but both Eloise and Edwina are part of the group of girls who are “coming out” in Season 2. The “debutante” as a significant stage in life for women began in the 1780s and ran until WWI in 1914. The ritual that Bridgerton shows of girls in white dresses with feathers being presented to their monarch for inspection and acceptance was a specifically British ritual to have an excuse in post-Reformation society to let girls out under very strict rules to find themselves husbands.

04

“Diamond of the First Water”

Liam Daniels/Netflix

This idiom means “a woman of exceptional virtue and purity,” because a diamond is the most exceptional gem and “first water” means “fine quality.”

Bridgerton has turned this phrase into a title to be bestowed on the most desirable young lady of the season, but this really wasn’t a thing in the world of debutantes in the Regency era. Diamonds, for one thing, didn’t gain the status they have today until the late Victorian era. And the debutante season was a lot less about the monarch than it was about making matches among moneyed families.

05

Modiste

Another French word adopted by English society, “modiste” simply means “a female dressmaker,” implying this is a person who makes the most fashionable clothing of the moment. It’s why Genevieve puts on a French accent around her customers, because everything French was cooler in England.

06

Promenade

From the French “to walk,” to promenade is to take a walk someplace where you will see and be seen. In the 1810s in London, that was almost always Regent's Park and Hyde Park, the two areas most frequented by the ton.

07

Rake

Liam Daniels/Netflix

A rake is a player, the 1810s slang term for f*ckboi, because terrible men who need therapy are universal and timeless. The word is derived from the 17th-century word “rakehell,” which meant “debauchee, libertine” about a man, and was popularized by the 18th century series of paintings by Hogarth entitled Rake’s Progress.

08

Regency Period

The Regency period, separate from the Regency era, began in 1811 when King George III was declared unfit to rule, and his son, George, Prince of Wales, governed the country as “Regent.” It officially ended on Jan. 29, 1820, upon the passing of the monarch and George’s ascension to the throne as George IV.

09

Regency Era

The formal Regency period lasted from 1811 to 1820. However, the Regency era, which the Bridgerton books cover, was actually from 1795 to 1837, as culture and fashion changed and modernized under George II, George IV, and William IV. It is considered to have ended upon Victoria’s ascension to the throne.

10

Snuff

Liam Daniels/Netflix

Snuff is snortable tobacco, like coke, but more 1770s than 1970s. Queen Charlotte is seen snorting it regularly, denoting her as a party girl.

11

The Social Season

Everybody talks about “the season” on Bridgerton, and the term, like the “ton,” is one that romance novels use regularly. Bridgerton seems to portray it as an endless summertime in London. But in reality, the “season” coincided with the sitting of Parliament (late January to late June) as duty called all the titled landowners and MPs into London to govern the country. Their wives and daughters would follow around the end of March when it got warm enough, and the parties and balls usually occurred from mid-April to the end of June.

12

Trousseau

Yet another word from the French, “trousseau” is a fancy word for underwear, although most understand it to cover any lacy things a lady might wear.

Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix.