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Harlot

is said to be derived from Harlotta, the mother of William the Conqueror, but it is more likely to be a corruption of horlet (a little hireling), “hore” being the past participle of hyran (to hire). It was once applied to males as well as females. Hence Chaucer speaks of “a sturdy harlot … . that was her hostes man.” The word varlet is another form of it.

“He was gentil harlot, and a kinde;

A bettre felaw shulde man no wher finde.”


Chaucer: Canterbury Tales, prol. 649.


“The harlot king is quite beyond mine arm.”


Shakespeare: Winter’s Tale, ii. 3.

⁂ Proverbial names for a harlot are Aholibah and Aholah (Ezek. xxiii. 4), probably symbolic characters; Petrowna (of Russia), and Messalina (of Rome).

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Hare-brained, or Hair-brained
Harefoot
Hare-lip
Hare-stone = Hour-stone
Hare and the Tortoise (The)
Hares shift their Sex
Haricot Mutton
Harĭkĭrĭ. [Happy despatch.]
Hark Back (To)
Harlequin
Harlot
Harlowe (Clarissa)
Harm
Harmless as a Dove
Harmonia’s Necklace
Harmonia’s Robe
Harness
Harness Cask
Harness Prize (University of Cambridge)
Haro
Harold the Dauntless

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Aholibah (Ezek. xxiii. 4, 11, etc.)