Victorian English dictionary
Thread poster: MartaFS

United Kingdom
Local time: 06:38
English to Spanish
Mar 6, 2018

Good morning,

I have not posted on a forum for a while. This would be a post for an English language forum, but I do not know how to select the specific forum, sorry.

I am translating an English classic into Spanish, it is a book written about 110 years ago (I am not going to post which one exactly). I wonder if any of you could share resources on Victorian English (ideally online).

There are some terms I very much would like to learn more of, particularly the old meaning of the word "confident", which I find extremely interesting.

Thanking you in advance for any answer

Kind regards,



Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:38
German to English
Trustful or confiding Mar 7, 2018

My Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary (actually an older version of the Random House Dictionary) offers "trustful or confiding" as obsolete usage for "confident".

My 1966 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology sheds no light on the matter.


Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:38
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Oxford English Dictionary (the big one) Mar 7, 2018

MartaFS wrote:
"I am translating an English classic into Spanish, it is a book written about 110 years ago (I am not going to post which one exactly). I wonder if any of you could share resources on Victorian English (ideally online)."

The perfect resource for that is the Oxford English Dictionary: you can search and filter (among other things) for terms by date, and see the evolution of each term.

A subscription is quite costly, but you can probably access it through your local library (I access it online through the Denver University Library... if you are affiliated with a college or university, that might work for you also).

Below is the "Confident" entry from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary... the full OED's is much longer, and provides more examples and meanings (unfortunately, it is still one of the entries that have not been fully updated after it was published in the 1891 volume of the OED):

confident ˈkɒnfɪd(ə)nt ♫ adjective & noun. l16.
A adjective.1† Trustful, confiding. l16–m17.
2 Having firm trust or expectation; fully assured, certain. (Foll. by of, in, that.) l16.
Shakes. Cymb. Confident I am Last night 'twas on mine arm. G. Vidal My father died, confident that death did not exist.

3 Self-reliant, bold; sure of oneself, one's course, etc.; having no fear of failure. l16.b Overbold; presumptuous, impudent. arch. l16.
c Assertive; dogmatic. e17.

S. Johnson His accusers were confident and loud. N. Algren He left with a confident, executive stride, a man who'd be rich in six weeks if not in five.b Henry Fielding A confident slut.c G. Berkeley Your confident and positive way of talking.

4† Trustworthy, dependable. e17–e18.
5 Confidential, entrusted with secrets. Now rare or obsolete. e17.

B noun. A person in whom another confides; a confidant. e17.

confidently adverb l16.

ORIGIN: In sense 1 from Latin confident- (see confidence); in later senses and as noun from French confident(e) from Italian confidente from Latin.

[Edited at 2018-03-07 16:04 GMT]


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:38
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Nelson's signal Mar 7, 2018

Admiral Lord Nelson's famous message to the fleet before the Battle of Trafalgar "England expects that every man will do his duty" was originally drafted as "England confides...", but there was no single flag for the word "confides", it would have to have been spelt out letter by letter, so "it was changed to "England expects..."


United Kingdom
Local time: 06:38
English to Spanish
Thank you very much indeed! Mar 7, 2018

Thank you all for the very helpful and interesting comments! I will see if I can access this Oxford dictionary via my library.

"Trustful" does go very well with the context of the sentence.

I also have "confidential" being used in three different occasions and, probably, with three different meanings. I am changing the examples a little. Once it could mean something along the lines of "at ease" -with oneself and/or those around- (eg. "he made them a cup of tea and they all felt happy and confidential"), another time it could mean indeed trustful ("she had become confidential about their plans and decided to tell him about them"), and a third time it could be maybe "a friend/intimate" ("A was less powerful than B, but A was more confidential", where A is not as close to the speaker as B is)

If these are indeed 3 meanings on the word "confidential", it is just terribly interesting that one same root relates all these meanings and the current ones. Language is a living thing isn't it?, infused with the wisdom of people and passing it on. Just think: "confidential" (now and then), "confident" v social media. Clearly not keeping anything to yourself is a sign of immaturity, and somehow these words are proof of it.

Anyway! Thank you!

Kind regards,


P.S.: sorry about any punctuation mistakes

[Edited at 2018-03-07 08:51 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-03-07 13:57 GMT]


Tony M
Local time: 07:38
French to English
+ ...
Related meanings from Latin root Mar 7, 2018

Con-fid-ent Latin 'cum' = 'with' + the stem 'fid-' = 'faith, trust'

So all the meanings are related by this notion of 'having trust / faith'

In the older uses you mention, one might imagine that the word could equally well have been the non-existent 'confidence-ful', bringing it closer to your 'trustful' — though in all the instances you cite, possibly 'trustng' would bring you closer — and likewise 'having confidence in'

Whence the extended modern meaning of 'something you only share with someone you have trust in'


United Kingdom
Local time: 06:38
English to Spanish
Cambridge Dictionary Mar 9, 2018


I wanted to recommend also the English Cambridge Dictionary (free, online). Advertisements pop up, but apart from that, it is great!

For example, here on the link, you can see how, the monolingual dictionary, as well as offering a thesaurus section, indicates "directly" is old-fashioned for "immediately":

I find their bilingual dictionaries very helpful too: with an English definition, the equivalent in another language, the possibility of clicking on an English term of the definition to go that term (all on the same page). It sometimes clarifies a use is old-fashioned, but not always, for example, not in the case of "directly".

Good translating!


[Edited at 2018-03-09 10:18 GMT]


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