General: Steampunk Glossary



Actinic Rays—(i) UV/IR light
(ii) Dark light

Aegypt/Aegyptologist—Archaic spelling of Egypt/Egyptologist

Aegyptian Exploration Fund—Organization founded by Amelia Edwards (1831-1892) to fund and support the excavation of Aegypt and the Soudan

Aero Corps—In The Gilded Scarab, the air arm of the Britannic Imperium’s military with aerocraft of all sizes


Aerofighter—Small, biwinged fighter craft powered with aether/phlogiston/petroleum distillate engines operating either from a military aerodrome or from the decks of a dreadnought such as the Ark Royal

Aeronaut—Pilot, aviator

Aether (or Ether)—Classical physical element. In some versions of alchemy – and for the purposes of The Gilded Scarab – this was the fifth element in addition to air, earth, fire and water. In The Gilded Scarab, aether in its lightbearing (luminferous) form, is an inexhaustible power source. See Luminiferous Aether

Alembic—An apparatus consisting of two vessels connected by a tube, formerly used for distilling liquids. In Rafe’s coffeehouse, his slow-drip coffee machine uses alembics and has its own cold fusion furnace – it creates fine coffee overnight using cold water and coffee grounds

Analytical Engine— (i) Archaic; as conceived by Charles Babbage (1791-1871), a more advanced version of the Difference Engine (a mechanical device to compile mathematical tables). The analytical engine would perform any calculation
(ii) In Steampunk literature, any mechanical computer

Apothecary—A person who prepares and sells medicines and drugs

Artificer—Skilled worker; craftsperson; one that contrives, devises, or constructs something

Autocar—Passenger vehicle powered by aether/phlogiston/petroleum distillate mix. The driver in an exterior cab protected by transparent aluminum. Of various types:
Autophaeton : sporty vehicle for 2/3 passengers
Autolandau : Large, commodious vehicle for 5/6 passengers, guard stations on rear

Autohansom—A cab, plying the streets of Londinium for hire

Bandolier—Ammunition belt, worn over the shoulder, having loops or pockets for cartridges

Brimstone—(i) In The Gilded Scarab, a flashlight
(ii) Sulfur.

Britannic Aero Carriers—In The Gilded Scarab, the national aeroline (airline) carrying both goods and passengers

Britannic Imperium—Empire comprising  the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom: Canada, India/Pakistan/Burma, Australia, and a wide strip of Africa from Cairo to the Cape. The largest empire in history, the ‘empire on which the sun never sets’

Cadet—(i) A student at a military school who is training to be an officer
(ii) A younger son or brother

Cadet Branch—Of the Houses, a subsidiary branch descended from the younger sons of the patriarch/founder member

Chronometer—Clock or watch

Cigarillo—A thin cigar

Cold fusion—A hypothetical type of nuclear reaction that would occur at, or near, room temperature. In The Gilded Scarab, cold fusion components power things as diverse as a slow-drip coffee machine and Rafe’s small hideaway gun

Convocation House—One of the eight ruling Houses of the oligarchic Britannic Imperium, ruled by the Queen (God bless her). The Convocation Houses hold all political power and divide government departments between them, staffing them with their own House members and those of their allied Minor Houses. See Minor Houses

Cowens Flash Box—Electric flash lamp igniting flash powder to produce a burst of intense light (photographer’s flash)

Crank—A device for transmitting rotary motion, consisting of a handle or arm attached at right angles to a shaft


Datareader—A small, portable type of analytical engine used for storing and reading electronic texts of books and pamphlets

Datascope—An analytical engine (computer) with a screen to access the data. May be portable or desk-sized

Decoction—An extraction or essence of something, obtained by boiling it down

Discharge— (i) Release of stored energy in a capacitor by the flow of current between its terminals
(ii) Conversion of chemical energy to electric energy in a storage battery
(iii) A flow of electricity in a dielectric (an electrical insulator that can be polarized by an applied electric field), especially in a rarefied gas—in The Gilded Scarab, the means by which phlogiston enhances an aether tube in a weapon
(iv) Elimination of net electric charge from a charged body


Dreadnought—A carrier ship in Her Britannic Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps. Rafe Lancaster served as a squadron leader on the dreadnought the Arc Royal. Dreadnoughts acted as carriers with squadrons of small, biwinged fighters. Smaller ships—aerofrigates, aerocorvettes, etc.—also existed

Emissarium—Exhaust pipe

Ether—See Aether. Also, an anesthetic

Flechette—Pointed steel projectile, with a vaned tail for stable flight. In The Gilded Scarab, the flechette carries a warhead filled with a luminiferous aether/phlogiston/petroleum distillate mixture. Fired from laser-guided cannons

Fusillade—A discharge from a number of firearms, fired simultaneously or in rapid succession. May also be used in a literary sense, of any rapidly repeated noise, etc.

Gilt—A thin layer of gold or something simulating gold that is applied in gilding

Harquebus— (i) In the Gilded Scarab, a long firearm, like a rifle, powered with an aether/phlogiston mix. Capable of also firing a neural disruptor beam which, while unpleasant, is not fatal
(ii) historical: A firearm with match holder, trigger, and tumbler, made in the second half of the 15th century. The barrel was about forty inches long

Havey-cavey—Irregular, unsavory, (possibly criminal)

Hermetic—Completely sealed, especially against the escape or entry of air

House—Oligarchic political unit, based on familial bonds. See Convocation House, Minor House

Humors—One of the basic principles of medieval medicine was that of the four humors of which a human body was composed. The balance between these four (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) was essential for the well-being of a person


Ionic Exchange Ice Box—a refrigerator, powered by the exchange of negatively charged ions. See Ion Exchange

Ion exchange—exchange of ions between two electrolytes. In The Gilded Scarab, the exchange leaches out heat, producing a form of refrigeration – hence ionic exchange ice box

Ionic Gas Discharge Lamps—Fluorescent lamps

Journeyman—One who has fully served an apprenticeship in a trade or craft and is a qualified worker in another’s employ

Kinetoscope Camera—In The Gilded Scarab, a visual recording/monitoring camera used for surveillance

Laudanum—An opiate, freely available in an apothecary’s. Pain reliever. Addictive

Lucifer—Match with a sulphur head, for striking a light

Luminiferous—Light bearing

Luminiferous Aether—In 19th century physics, a postulated medium that would propagate light, since disproved by quantum physics and relativity theories. In The Gilded Scarab, the fifth element, an energy source for engines and weapons of all kinds

Marconi—Device for communication through the air, a radio/receiver


Minor House—One of the 60-plus subsidiary Houses, allied to the 8 Convocation Houses that rule the Britannic Imperium. The Minor Houses owe their wealth and position to their Convocation House ally, dependant on the Convocation House for posts within government that can provide careers/profit

Neophyte—A beginner, a convert and learner

Nobel’s Blasting Powder—Dynamite

Ocular—The eyepiece of an optical instrument, as of a telescope or microscope

Pantechnicon—(i) A depository or place where all sorts of manufactured articles are collected for sale
(ii) A van, especially a large removal van. Originally pantechnicon van

Petroleum Distillate—Petrol

Philtre—A love potion. In The Gilded Scarab, Philtre Coffee is the fanciful, punning name of a chain of coffeehouses.

Phlogiston—A particle that determines the combustibility of materials. According to that theory, wood had a good amount of them, oil was saturated with them, and rocks had none. (Now debunked). In The Gilded Scarab, phlogiston particles, when combined with luminiferous aether, enhance the energy output (discharge) of an engine or weapon

Phlogiston Particle Projector—A (fictional) machine or component that produces a plasma bolt. In Gilded Scarab, an essential component powering weapons, particularly harquebuses and pistols

Photic— (i) adj. Of or relating to light
(ii) adj. Penetrated by or receiving light

Photon Globe—Lamp; either domestic or large scale on posts in the streets

Plasma—One of the four fundamental states of matter, the others being solid, liquid, and gas

Plasma bolt—A bolt, stream or pulse of plasma (that is, very hot, very energetic excited matter) from a aether/phlogiston-powered pistol or harquebus.

Pneumatic—(i) adj. Of or relating to air or other gases
(ii) adj. Of or relating to pneumatics
(iii) adj. Powered by, or filled with compressed air

Security Net—In The Gilded Scarab, a form of wireless Internet used principally by House Guards to store data. Not in general use

Submersible—Small naval submarine

Tincture—(i) A trace or vestige
(ii) alcohol solution of a nonvolatile medicine: tincture of iodine

Transparent Aluminum—Clear, strong metal used for see-through aeroship canopies and autocar windscreens



Vaporium—Steam pipe

Vulcanized Rubber—natural rubber or related polymer converted to a more durable material via the addition of sulfur or other equivalent curatives

Water Closet—Lavatory. A toilet

Wireless Transmitter—Device for communication through the air, radio/receiver. See Marconi

Wireless Power Transmitter—Device designed to deliver electrical current to distant devices through the air; i.e., a Tesla coil

Wireless telegraph—Radio and receiver


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