bridgerton glossary

Bridgerton glossary: What do ‘rake’, ‘the ton’ and ‘leading strings’ actually mean?

The ton is nothing to do with town

Netflix’s Bridgerton is set in the early 1800s and whilst the attitudes and music renditions may be fairly modern, some of the language certainly is not.

The phrases “I burn for you” and “a man of any honour ensures his debts are paid”, aren’t exactly what we say to one another now, but at least they make sense.

However in the eight episodes there are some phrases which feel like they’re from a different planet. In fact I’ve frequently found myself Googling the meaning of “rake”, “modiste” and “leading strings”.

via Netflix

If you have been equally as confused as I, then here is your Bridgerton glossary to all the archaic phrases used in the Netflix show:

The Ton

No it actually doesn’t mean town, I know, I was shocked too. The Ton actually means “British high society” and not an episode of Bridgerton goes by without it being mentioned.

The phrase comes from the French phrase “le bon ton” which means etiquette or good manners. Ton society was extremely fixed in its social hierarchy.

The season

The season took place between January and July, and was a period in which members of the Ton could introduce their children to society in the hopes of procuring a suitable and profitable match.

via Netflix

But it was not just for match making, this time was also when parliament re-opened. Parties, dances, balls, theatre shows and military reviews all took place during the season.

Coming out

Unlike its modern meaning, in the regency era “coming out” refereed to the moment when a young lady formally entered the marriage market. It was also called “debuting” and “being out”.

There was no set age at which a girl could come out, the decision was down to her parents.

A ‘second’

Just before the Duke and Anthony’s duel, they both appoint a “second”. But what does this actually mean? Well a second’s role in a duel was to essentially there to make sure the duel was done properly.

via Netflix

They would prepare the weapons, make sure the rules were followed and ensure the opponent is not going to ambush them. A second is also responsible for trying to diffuse the tension before a duel, and ideally get an apology out of either party.

High in the instep

This phrase has been around since the 1500s and refers to someone who is conceited or arrogant.

It is thought to have come from the belief that members of the nobility had a higher foot arch or instep, than poor people did.


Literally nothing to do with skiing. This word is used when Benedict first meets Sir Henry Granville and insults him.

Skied refers to the regency tradition of when paintings where hung floor to ceiling, resulting in higher up paintings being more difficult to see. And this is what Benedict suggests should be done with one of Granville’s painting.


Simon is frequently referred to as a rake, particularly during the first half of Bridgerton. The term has been around since the 17th century and refers to a man who engages in immoral behaviours.

bridgerton glossary rake meaning

via Netflix

This can be womanising, drinking or gambling. They have usually had a lot of relationships and can be seen as a “loveable scoundrel”.

A woman’s honour or virtue

This is essentially a euphemism for virginity, and is used constantly throughout Bridgerton.

The marital act

Literally sex, there’s not much else to say really.


bridgerton glossary

via Netflix

It’s pretty obvious from the many scenes with the modiste that it means a dress maker.

Condition is catching

This phrase is said angrily by Mrs Featherington about Marina’s pregnancy. Condition is usually used to refer to pregnancy.

And then the catching part of it is about making sure her daughters do not become pregnant themselves by learning how sex works from Marina.

Leading strings

This phrase is used a few times in Bridgerton, most notably when Mrs Wilson says to Eloise: “I wiped your bottom when you were in leading strings and I do not appreciate your tone.”

Leading strings were essentially a harness for toddlers. Strips of fabric or string were sewn onto children’s clothes for their maids or parents to hold onto as they learned to walk. Basically they were reins to stop a child running away.

Bridgerton is out now on Netflix. For all the latest Netflix news, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.

Featured image credit: Netflix

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