General: Steampunk Glossary

Actinic Rays—(i) UV/IR light. (ii) dark light.

Aegypt/Aegyptologist—archaic spelling of Egypt/Egyptologist.

Aegyptian Exploration Fund—the organization founded by Amelia Edwards (1831–1892) to fund and support the exploration of ancient sites in Aegypt and the Soudan.

Aero Corps—the air arm of the Britannic Imperium’s military, with aerocraft of all sizes.


Aerodreadnought—a large military aeroship, a carrier ship in Her Britannic Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps (nb. Rafe Lancaster served as a squadron leader on the dreadnought the Ark Royal). Dreadnoughts act as carriers with squadrons of small, bi-winged fighters. Smaller ships—aerofrigates, aerocorvettes, etc.—are also in service.

Aerofighter—a small, bi-winged fighter craft powered with aether/ phlogiston/petroleum distillate engines operating either from a military aerodrome or from the decks of an aerodreadnought such as the Ark Royal.

Aeroship—generic name for aircraft, but most particularly applied to commercial and privately owned passenger and freight transports.

Aeronaut—pilot, aviator.

Aether (or Ether)—a classical physical element. In some versions of alchemy (and for the purposes of the Lancaster’s Luck world) aether is the fifth element in addition to air, earth, fire, and water. In Lancaster’s Luck, aether, in its light-bearing (luminiferous) 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 slowdrip coffee machine uses alembics and has its own cold-fusion furnace; it creates fine coffee overnight using cold water and coffee grounds.

Analytical Engine—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. In Steampunk literature, any mechanical computer.

Apothecary—a person who prepares and sells medicines and drugs.

Artificer—skilled worker; craftsperson; one who contrives, devises, or constructs something.

Autocar—a passenger vehicle powered by an aether/phlogiston/petroleum distillate mix, with the driver in an exterior cab protected by transparent aluminum. Of various types, including:

  • 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.

Birefringence—formally defined as the double refraction of light in a transparent, molecularly ordered material. In the world of Lancaster’s Luck, this double refraction allows aether rays to pass through hemimorphite crystals (a mineral whose doubly terminated crystals have two differently shaped ends) and fracture into two linear rays, creating an electromagnetic field. Used primarily in security fences—a breach of the field triggers an electric impulse to power alarms or deliver a shock to an intruder that causes neural disruption.

Brimstone—a flashlight.

Britannic Aero Carriers—the national aeroline (airline) carrying both goods and passengers.

Britannic Imperium—the 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, on which the sun never sets. Ruled by the King or Queen of the United Kingdom.

Brunel—the engineering and technology company founded by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859). One of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution, Brunel was the inventive, creative brain behind much of the aether-powered technology upon which the Imperium built its power and influence. Brunel was the first to harness aether to power machines, and can be considered the founding father of modern society. His work was carried on by his sons after his premature death.

Brunel Sky King—a large aeroship designed and built by Henry Marc Brunel (1842–1903), Isambard’s second son who carried on his father’s inventive approach to mechanical engineering. The Sky King, built for private clients, is a large, unarmed aircraft powered by aether/ phlogiston/petroleum distillate engines. It can carry thirty passengers with ease, and is fitted with a small, two-seater aerocraft.

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 Imperium’s oligarchic 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 world of Lancaster’s Luck, cold-fusion components power artifacts 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. 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—an 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 (computer) 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.

Datascreen—device to read data on a datascope or analytical engine, consisting of a flat surface displaying text and/or images generated by tightly focused aether rays lighting up tiny receptors on the back of the screen.

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 Lancaster’s Luck world, the means by which phlogiston enhances an aether tube in a weapon. (iv) elimination of net electric charge from a charged body.


Emissarium—exhaust pipe.

Ether—see Aether. Also, an anesthetic.

First Heir—the eldest son of a House Princeps, who will inherit the title and influence when his father dies. A system of male primogeniture. Women may not be First Heirs and may not lead Houses.

Fléchette—a pointed steel projectile with a vaned tail for stable flight, the fléchette carries a warhead filled with a luminiferous aether/phlogiston 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 for any rapidly repeated noise, etc.

Gilt—a thin layer of gold or simulated gold applied to another material. Applied by gilding.

Harquebus—a long firearm, like a rifle, powered with a mix of aether and phlogiston. Capable of also firing a neural disruptor beam which, while unpleasant, is not fatal.

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.

House Dress—formal clothing based heavily on British Court Dress, which has changed very little since the Regency. While ladies’ dresses are no longer the hooped and panniered gowns of the mid-eighteenth century, elaborate ball gowns, tiaras, and feathers are required at Court events. Gentlemen are expected to don military-style jackets heavy with goldwork embroidery, cream pantaloons, stockings, and court shoes, and also carry ornately decorative cavalry swords. For daywear, the embroidered jackets are less elaborate, and boots may be worn instead of stockings.

House Lineage Annals—a formal record maintained by the Lord Chancellor’s Office, outlining each House’s members, marriages, births, and deaths.

Humors—one of the basic principles of medieval medicine was that the human body is composed of four humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile). The balance between these four humors 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. The exchange leaches out heat, producing a form of refrigeration, hence the 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—a visual recording camera used for surveillance and monitoring.

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

Lucifer—match with a sulfur head, used to strike a light.


Luminiferous Aether—in nineteenth century physics, a postulated medium that would propagate light (since disproved by quantum physics and relativity theories). In the world of Lancaster’s Luck, it is the fifth element, an energy source for machines, engines, and weapons of all kinds.

Marconi—device for communication through the air, a radio receiver.


Minor House—one of the sixty-plus subsidiary Houses, allied to the eight Convocation Houses that rule the Britannic Imperium. The Minor Houses owe their wealth and position to their Convocation House ally and are dependent on the Convocation House for posts within the government that can provide careers and profit.

Neophyte—beginner, convert, 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 has a good amount of them, oil is saturated with them, and rocks have none. Phlogiston particles, when combined with luminiferous aether, enhance the energy output (discharge) of an engine or weapon.

Phlogiston Particle Projector—a machine or component that produces a plasma bolt, the essential component powering weapons, particularly harquebuses and pistols.

Photic— (i) of or relating to light. (ii) 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 an aether/phlogiston-powered pistol or harquebus.

Pneumatic— (i) of or relating to air or other gases. (ii) of or relating to pneumatics. (iii) powered by or filled with compressed air.

Princeps—(plural, Principes) leader and patriarch of a House, whose word is law to House members. Referred to and addressed by their House names, as with British titles. For example, the Gallowglass House Princeps is named Henry Winter but referred to as “the Gallowglass” and addressed as “Gallowglass.” Women may not be Principes.

Security Fence—a system of alarms and intruder detection based upon the controlled passage of luminiferous aether through hemimorphite crystals to cause birefringence. See Birefringence.

Security Net—a form of wireless internet used principally by House guards to store data. Not in general use.

Submersible—small naval submarine.

Tincture—alcohol solution of a nonvolatile medicine, e.g., tincture of iodine.

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

Trevithick’s Catch Me Who Can—historically, one of the earliest locomotives, created by Richard Trevithick, an inventor and mining engineer, in 1808. In the Lancaster’s Luck universe, the name given to a fairground ride where drivers of small steam locomotives on a flat track try to “bump” other drivers out of the way—a precursor to later “dodgem” rides.



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—a device for sending or broadcasting communications through the air. Communications are received by a radio (receiver) device. See Marconi.

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

Wireless Telegraph—sends and receives communication through the air.  Transmitter and receiver.

One comment

Comments are closed.