Glossary of Eton Expressions
indicates a term generally used by boys (but occasionally by adults too)
indicates a historical term (but still sometimes encountered)
The abracadabra is Eton’s basic academic timetable, determining who does what when; it is shown at the back of the Calendar and in Fixtures and boys and masters receive a personalised version showing their timetable.
A check to see whether any boys are absent without leave. House masters conduct regular absences within their houses, and there is a grand formal absence on the Fourth of June when the Head Master and a team of other masters ‘read’ Absence in School Yard and its vicinity.
The western half of a huge expanse of playing fields beyond Pococks Lane.
A group of classrooms housing the English department (along with Caxton Schools).
An outline diary for the current term and outline dates for the coming terms, published online.
An alternative to Chapel.
A master, i.e. teacher, whether male or female.
Bekynton provides breakfast, lunch, and supper for about half of the houses, contains a Masters’ Common Room, and caters for visiting teams and other groups.
If a boy misbehaves, he may be placed ‘On the Bill’, which means that the Head Master or Lower Master will see him and rebuke or punish him appropriately.
The school is divided into five blocks, F–B: a new boy joins F, moves into E after one year, and so on, until he finally arrives in B.
A member of a particular block: F-blocker, E-blocker, and so on.
They clean the boys’ rooms and oversee boys’ tea.
An iron lamp-post conveniently positioned right in the centre of Eton and hence often used as a meeting point.
A booklet published each half containing a complete list of masters, a complete block-by-block list of boys giving details of each one, a complete list of divisions and the Abracadabra.
Cannon Yard Schools
A group of classrooms housing the geography department.
The courtyard opposite School Library, so named because it contains a large cannon captured during the Crimean War.
Acknowledging a master when passing him out of doors. Boys would raise a finger and masters would respond in the same way. It is said that this gesture originates from the era when boys wore top hats and would raise them on meeting a master. Died out during the 1990s
Captain of the Oppidans
The top Oppidan: selected from among the academically most distinguished Oppidans, he ranks immediately below the Captain of the School.
Captain of the School
The top Colleger: he is constitutionally the top boy in the whole school, but for most purposes the president of Pop has more power.
A group of classrooms housing the English department (along with Alington Schools).
The Combined Cadet Force, known colloquially as the Corps, provides military and adventurous training for volunteers in C and B.
A mid-morning break of 25 minutes when boys return to their houses for a snack, and masters gather together, normally in Upper School. The final ten minutes provide boys with a convenient opportunity to buttonhole individual masters.
A magazine edited by senior boys that comes out every few weeks (there is also a Junior Chronicle).
Classical Tutor (H)
A classical master responsible for the work of his pupils and to some extent for their general conduct. A boy was normally looked after by the same classical tutor until he specialized in some non-classical subject.
1. The building in which the King’s Scholars live.
2. The body of King’s Scholars.
One of the seventy King’s Scholars: Collegers have KS after their surname in school lists.
Although the founder Henry VI intended College Chapel to be much larger, it is still large enough to accommodate all the senior boys.
An outstanding library whose scholarly facilities are made available to all members of the school community and to visiting academics.
Colours Test (H)
A test once taken by new boys after a few weeks in the school to ensure that they had learnt their way around.
A card issued to non-specialists once or twice a half on which they and their division masters comment on their academic progress. It forms the basis of a regular academic review between a boy and his tutor and house master
The senior chaplain.
A colloquial term for the CCF.
Chapel services are in the morning on C Sundays.
The dame assists the house master in running his house; she has particular responsibility for the health of the boys and the administration of domestic affairs.
The sub-prefects in an oppidan house.
Masters take it in turns to be ‘in desk’. The masters in desk attend the principal College Chapel services and Assemblies, and have some other disciplinary duties.
Incorrect term for a lesson, which is properly called a "school": "I was late for div this morning".
A set or form of boys taught together in any subject, e.g. "are you in Mr Smith's division for French?"
The teacher of a group of boys for a particular subject.
A group of studios housing the art department.
Cricketers. Sometimes used of any non-rowing sportsman. Largely historical.
The eastern half of a huge expanse of playing fields beyond Pococks Lane.
Early School (H)
A lesson before breakfast, phased out during the sixties and seventies.
A group of classrooms housing the economics department.
Prep, work set by a division master to be done out of school: usually abbreviated to EW.
A fag performed tasks for a senior boy: the practice was abolished in the seventies.
The Provost and Fellows constitute the school’s governing body.
A field bordering the Thames from which the Procession of Boats may be viewed.
1. A football field between the Slough Road and the Indoor Pool (referred to as Sixpenny in the summer).
2. The top field game team.
The Field Game
The field game is Eton’s special version of football (a far more ancient version than association football), and is played by boys of all ages in the spring term.
A booklet containing a diary for the half and a great deal of other information.
An alternative to School Dress allowed or required on certain occasions, consisting of a jacket and smart trousers (or a suit), along with appropriate shirt, shoes, etc.
Fourth Form (H)
The name at one time of a year of boys: Fourth Form was senior only to third form, the most junior group in the school.
Fourth of June
A gala day as near as practicable to the actual date when parents, friends, and relations are made welcome. Alongside a number of exhibitions and sporting events, the day features Speeches and the Procession of Boats.
A term: Michaelmas, Lent, Summer.
The same as School Dress, except that with a sports jacket instead of a tail coat and optionally without the waistcoat.
A day when there are no lessons after lunch (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday).
Head Man (B)
The Head Master.
The Head Master is Mr Tony Little.
The senior prefect in an Oppidan House.
The house master of an oppidan house stands in loco parentis for fifty or so boys.
A well-appointed 25m heated pool.
Appropriate casual clothes as determined by good taste and good judgement, for wear in and around Eton on informal occasions.
The school uniform at one time for boys under a certain height, abandoned in the mid-sixties. Top hats, once worn by boys of all heights, were abandoned some twenty years earlier.
A group of schoolrooms housing the classics department.
A stream running under the Slough Road and into the Thames.
A narrow pedestrian pathway providing a convenient short cut through the centre of the school.
Used to denote the Boy Officer in charge of an activity: Keeper of Fives, Keeper of the Choir, etc.
One of the seventy ‘poor scholars’ provided for in Henry VI’s original statutes. They are housed in College, and are hence generally referred to as Collegers.
The spring term.
1. The house prefects in an Oppidan House.
2. Their room in the house.
The time of day every evening when boys have to be back in their houses. After Lock-up boys may only leave for approved activities and must sign out.
1. The space in front of School Office.
2. The road from Windsor Castle to the equestrian statue of George III.
The annual cricket match against Harrow School, which has been held at Lord’s cricket ground for well over a hundred years.
A boy during his first two or three years in the school.
The chapel for the younger boys.
Lower Man (B)
The Lower Master.
He has particular responsibility for the younger boys.
For two hundred years, Eton’s only classroom.
A garden beside the Thames open to adult residents and senior boys.
The term (which rhymes with ‘am’) used by the boys to address their dame and female teachers: “I’ve got a terrible headache, Ma’am”, “I haven’t a clue, Ma’am”.
To make a list of absentees from lessons, lectures, etc.
A group of classrooms housing the history department (along with Warre Schools).
A teacher, whether male or female.
A field used for football in the winter, for cricket in the summer. Informally referred to as "Mespots".
The autumn term.
Music scholarships were instituted in the sixties when the Choir School was closed down; Music Scholars have MS after their surname in school lists.
Two buildings that house the music department.
A group of classrooms housing the mathematics department.
A day on which there was no regular work whatever.
Boys not yet in the sixth form, i.e. not yet embarked on A-level courses.
Any boy who is not a Colleger.
1. A building in which about 50 oppidans live (there are 24 oppidan houses).
2. The boys themselves, usually referred to by the initials of their house master.
An oppidan who has distinguished himself academically; Oppidan scholars receive no financial benefit, but have OS after their surname in school lists.
An order to a shop to supply a boy with specified goods; it may be signed by his house master or his dame, or by his parents.
Order Card (H)
A card issued to each boy in a division every two or three weeks by the division master, detailing how well the boy has been doing; the boy has the card signed by his house master and tutor and then returns it to the division master. Now replaced by Comment Cards.
The test in swimming which boys are required to pass before they are allowed on the river.
A road running east-west between the Slough Road and Datchet.
The school prefects, more properly known as The Eton Society.
A low wall bordering the Long Walk upon which supposedly only members of Pop are allowed to sit.
A primary school in Eton High Street.
Each week, two members of Sixth Form Select serve as praepostors, their principal task being to summon boys for the Bill.
The musician in charge of music in College Chapel: usually the same as the Director of Music.
The weekly session when a specialist tutor sees his pupils.
Procession of Boats
An event on the Fourth of June when the best oarsmen in the school of all ages, dressed in festive nineteenth-century naval uniform, row past the crowd of parents etc assembled on the bank and salute them by raising their oars and standing up (which sometimes results in their capsizing, to the huge delight of the crowd).
The chairman of Eton’s governing body.
Pupil Room (H)
1. The room, usually not a classroom, in which a tutor taught his pupils.
2. The work done or the time spent in pupil room.
An island owned by the College in the middle of the Thames four miles up river from Eton where rowers may refresh themselves; the facilities are available for hire.
The building housing the science and computing departments.
The principal school boathouse just by Windsor Bridge.
An occasion when the Head Master or Lower Master reads out end-of-term non-specialist examination results or an adjudication is given for a prize, often by an external examiner.
The name at one time of a year of boys: Remove was senior to fourth form, which was in turn senior to third form, the most junior group in the school.
If a boy does an extra bad piece of work, his division master may give him a ‘rip’: the boy has the piece of work signed by his house master and tutor.
A rowing course of olympic quality near Dorney.
A school-run shop selling food and non-alcoholic drinks.
If a division master is 15 minutes late, the boys can run to School Office and claim a free period.
St Andrew’s Day
An open day for parents in late November, its principal feature being the annual wall game match between the collegers and the oppidans.
Lessons or a particular lesson: ‘in school’, ‘3rd school’.
The school uniform, often referred to as ‘tails’.
A large hall used for assemblies, examinations, concerts, and other purposes.
A lending and reference library whose extensive facilities are available to all members of the school community.
The administrative hub of the day-to-day life of the school, run by the School Office Manager.
School of Mechanics (H)
A group of workshops housing the design department: nowadays officially termed the “Design Centre”.
A cobbled yard lying at the heart of the most ancient buildings.
Sent Up for Good
A boy whose work in a subject is outstandingly good may be ‘Sent Up for Good’; he shows the Head Master or Lower Master a sample of his work, which is then lodged in College Library.
If a boy does an extra good piece of work, his division master may give him a ‘show-up’; the boy has the work signed by his house master and tutor.
1. A cricket field between the Slough Road and the indoor pool (referred to as The Field in the winter).
2. Upper Sixpenny and Lower Sixpenny are the Under 16 and Under 15 cricket clubs.
Sixth Form Select
The academic élite of the school: the top ten collegers and top ten oppidans.
A place in a house where messages etc can be left, and where boys tend to congregate.
Slack Bobs (B)
Boys who neither row nor play cricket.
Sock (B) (H)
To give something, usually something to eat.
A field crossed by a public right of way but used nonetheless for football and thefield game.
An event on the Fourth of June when members of Sixth Form Select recite ‘speeches’: numerous parents and members of the community attend. There are also speeches in the winter terms, but these are less public affairs, attended normally by B or C block.
Excused school owing to illness.
A wing collar with white bow tie worn with School Dress by senior boys who have distinguished themselves in various specific ways (house captains are entitled to wear stick-ups, for instance).
The summer term.
The same as School Dress.
Unpunctual boys have to sign Tardy Book in School Office for a few days before breakfast.
Tap serves food and alcoholic drinks to C and B blocks.
Thames Valley Athletic Centre
An athletic facility owned by Eton but administered by the local authority, and used jointly by the school and local athletics clubs.
Third Form (H)
The name at one time of the most junior group in the school. First and second forms also existed in the nineteenth century, but the boys were considered too young and they were hived off into a preparatory school.
The under 14 cricket club.
A colleger; probably a corrupt reference to "toga" for the gowns worn by King's Scholars.
Every boy has a tutor in addition to a house master (in some cases, they are one and the same): the younger boys have a non-specialist tutor, the older ones a specialist tutor. The tutor sees his pupils at least once a week, and is responsible for their academic and to some extent other welfare.
The weekly session when a non-specialist tutor sees his pupils.
A cricket field.
The second classroom to be built, in the seventeenth century.
Taught by: “I’m up to Mr Newton for maths”.
The deputy chairman of the governing body, by whom he is elected; he is frequently a former master.
The wall against which the wall game is played.
The Wall Game
The wall game is played throughout the winter by boys of all ages. Goals are (slightly!) commoner than is popularly supposed.