"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Monday, 28 January 2013


 Young maid in a doorway by Otto Plitz
In the 16th century a dowsabel was a sweet young maid. Dowsabell can be spelled with one or two ‘l’s but either way it is pronounced DOW-suh-bell

Dowsabell is the daughter of Cassamen, a knight of Arden, who fell in love with a shepherd.   In ‘Dowsabell’ - a ballad by Michael Drayton (1563 – 1631)  the two make love with Arcadian simplicity, and vow eternal fidelity.

    With that she bent her snow-white knee,
    Down by the shepherd kneeléd she,
    And him she sweetly kist.
    With that the shepherd whooped for joy
    Quoth he, `There's never shepherd boy
    That ever was so blist.'

By the 17th century it had also come to be used as a forename (first known use said to be 1652 but one suspects it may have been earlier and followed its use by Drayton).  It’s origins may have been in the Latin name Dulcibella – sweet and beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. While Dowsabel has a dowdy ring to it, Dulcibella certainly sounds both sweet and beautiful!