A Glossary of Cambridge

Last updated: 5-Apr-1999

With acknowledgement to Jonathan.Bowen@comlab.ox.ac.uk for The Other Place's Glossary which inspired this. Links to appropriate sections of the above are included.

This is not intended to be exhaustive: for a far more complete and detailed glossary see the excellent Bedders, Bulldogs and Bedells by Frank Stubbings.

[A |B |C |D |E |F |G |H |I |J |K |L |M |N |O |P |Q |R |S |T |U |V |W |X |Y |Z ]
Academical (Academic) Dress
For most purposes this just means putting on a gown but for very formal occasions such as Senate meetings bands, hoods and black velvet bonnets (for Doctors) are worn, along with appropriate suits, ties, etc. The style is essentially still the medieval one, deriving from clerical dress.
The Amateur Dramatic Club, opened in 1855. The Theatre is one of the three main ones in the City (the Mumford and the Arts being the others).
The Arts
The Arts Theatre and the Arts Cinema are run by the Cambridge Arts Theatre Trust, which was founded in 1936 by John Maynard Keynes (economist and Bursar of King's College).

The Backs
The Backs of the riverside Colleges, where the river runs between the college buildings and Queen's Road.
B.A. degree
-> B.A.
The famous tobacconists which used to be a the corner of Rose Crescent and Market Hill. The poet Charles Stuart Calverley (of Christ's College) wrote Ode To Tobacco in honour of Bacon's in 1862. It can still be seen on the wall of the premises.
Bait's Bite
The lock at the down-river end of the rowing section of the Cam.
Barnwell Priory
Bedmakers in colleges. These days they just clean the rooms. Before modern plumbing and heating they had many more duties.
-> Scout
Full, half and quarter Blues are awarded upon representing Cambridge University against the Other Place at first team level in a sport. Traditional major sports such as soccer and swimming earn Full Blues.
-> Blue
The Boat Race
A Bump
-> A Bump
The Bumps
There are four sets of Bumps races each year: University Fairbairns, Lents, and Mays, and the Town ones in late July/early August. The races are run from Bait's Bite to near the Pike and Eel pub, with most spectators watching from the towpath.
Bulldogs (Bullers)
Assistants or constables to the Proctors.
-> Bulldog
Bumps Supper
-> Bump supper
College butlers serve the senior members, e.g. at High Table.
Byron's Pool
The pool below a weir on the Cam, up river of Grantchester. As far as one can go just punting up the Cam (you would have to carry the punt past the weir to continue). The pool has been popular with many writers: Chaucer used it as the setting for the Reeve's Tale.

The river is really the Granta but the town's name of Grantabrycge mutated into Cambridge by Elizabethan times, so by back-formation the river became the Cam.
Cambridge Blue
Pale blue - reminiscent of the big blue skies of East Anglia?
In practice there are two shades in common use:
  1. Pale blue, such as used on Cambridge University publications
  2. A greener pale blue, used for the scarf and blazer of sporting Blues, appoximated by the background colour for this page.
In 1997 C.U. standardized the colour, which seems to have been a spur-of-the-moment choice just before the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1836. Light is "pantone 284", dark "pantone 286".
-> Oxford Blue
The Cambridge Phenomenon
The Cambridge Phenomenon 1985 by Segal Quince & Partners.
Sinclair Research and Acorn Computers are probably the most famous companies involved and the Science Park was a crucial factor.
-> Microsoft Research Centre
Of Cambridge (short for catabrigiensis, from Cantabrigia, the Latin form of Cambridge); also the nickname of the City's Rugby Union club and sometime a student Arts newspaper/magazine(?).
-> Cantab,
Caput Senatus
A late fourteenth century addition to University governance: it was a relatively small representative body which prepared the agenda for congregations of the University.
(Pronounced see'cat or c.c.a.t.)
Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology is now part of Anglia Ruskin University
The rowing club still participates in the University Bumps as CCAT.
Chancellor of Cambridge University
Currently HRH Prince Philip. Prince Albert was also Chancellor.
-> Chancellor
Christ's Pieces
The public park between Christ's College, Drummer Street, Emmanuel Road and King Street.
Colleges in the University of Cambridge and at The Other Place.
College Bars
Some are operated by the College (sometimes called the Buttery), some by the College Student Union (the JCR Bar or MCR Bar).
Come up
Combination Room
Attached to the High Table end of the largely unheated medieval college halls, this was a warm place for Fellows to gather before and after meals.
Now known as the Senior Combination Room to distinguish it from the JCR and MCR.
Corpus Christi College
Council of the Senate
Elected by the Regent House and chaired by the Vice-Chancellor. It approves Graces for submission to the Regent House and for most practical purposes decides University policy. From the early 1990s simply the Council.
Most colleges are organised in a series of courts (courtyards), most containing staircases of rooms for students and Fellows.
-> Quad
Chris Curry
Founder of Acorn Computers along with Herman Hauser. Previously he ran Science of Cambridge with Sir Clive Sinclair.

Dead Man's Corner
The very deep bend in the River Cam as one emerges, punting up-river, from the section with wooded banks to Grantchester Meadows.
The Dorothy
The very popular cafe and dance hall in the City centre, closed in 1972. Subsequently partly occupied by Dillons (above ground) and Henekey Tavern and then Chicago Rock Cafe in the basement. Partly revived in 1991-1992 as The Old Dot jazz club and The Bun Shop pub. In 1997 the space was completely occupied up by Dillons, partly for their relocated restaurant.

Easter Term
-> Trinity

The Bumps races at the end of the Michaelmas Term for novices.
Senior members of Colleges: generally either teaching Fellows or Research Fellows. Some Colleges also have schemes such as Fellow Commoners for old members to return on sabbatical from their careers for a project, such as to write a book. That term arose in the days when noble undergraduates were permitted to eat with the Fellows - commons meaning food or rations.
-> Fellow
A first
Formal Hall
Most Colleges have a formal evening meal on most evenings. Members must wear the College gown but otherwise there is no dress requirement. Senior members sit at the High Table.
Full Term
Eight and a half weeks (starts on a Tuesday, ends on a Friday), the period during which a student must be resident in Cambridge. The Easter Term is a week shorter.

The Garden House (Hotel) Riot
General Admission
A session of the Senate in which Graces for awarding degrees are presented. The main ceremony is towards the end of June (a Friday & Saturday), mainly for BA degrees and there are ones in January and May, mainly for MA degrees. Candidates march in a column from their Colleges and are presented in batches to the Vice-Chancellor or deputy to receive their degrees. The older term Commencement dropped out of use by 1953.
General Board of the Faculties
Presides over the Faculties (groupings of Departments) and determines academic policy.
Go down
All formal decisions are presented as Graces to the Regent House or, exceptionally, to Senate, becoming Acts of the University on being passed. Also each individual degree awarded is actually a Grace, presented to become an Act. If, upon presentation, a Grace receives a cry of non placet from a member, a vote has to be taken. A Grace can amend the Statutes with the approval of the Privy Council.
Townie jargon for a (University) Student.
A Townie sport - see Town & Gown.
The proper name for the river, Cam deriving from the Latin, Anglo-Saxon and Norman forms of the place name.
In practice only used now, sometimes, for the Upper River.
Also a Nineteenth-Twentieth Century student literary magazine, now a high-profile international quarterly.
Great St Mary's
The church for Cambridge University, oppsite the Senate House on King's Parade. The chimes were copied for the clock in the Houses of Parliament (loosely known as Big Ben).
Green Bike Scheme
A personal servant to College residents. Each gyp typically worked for all the occupants of a staircase. The institution has long since died out. However the term gyp-room remains for mini-kitchens shared by students.

Head of the River
Heads of Houses
The Heads (Masters, Provosts, Presidents...) of the Colleges of the University.
High Table
Hobson's Conduit
The Holford Report, 1950
There are different hoods for each degree. They are never actually worn over the head - just loose on the shoulders. As with gowns, they reflect medieval academical dress.

Junior Combination Room. A College's Undergraduate Student Union.
-> JCR
Operated by College JCRs.

The King's Ditch
The King's Mill
Originally built by Sheriff Picot. This and the Bishop's (of Ely) Mill used to be on Laundress Green, across the road from The Mill pub, being fed by the Upper River, with outflow into the Mill Pond. Demolished in 1927.
The Kite

Lady Margaret Boat Club
Rev. Lancaster
As Head of Chemistry at Kimbolton School he founded Kimbolton Fireworks as a project for Chemistry Sixth-Formers. For many years Kimbolton provided one of the two annual public fireworks display in Cambridge, Jack Lang providing the other. The Rev. was featured in the 5-Nov-1995 Channel 4 Equinox documentary on fireworks and was responsible for the V-E Day fireworks in London.
Charles Lang
With his brother Jack, a major figure in the Cambridge Phenomenon. He founded Shape Data in 1974 after being one of the founders of the CAD Centre in 1965.
Jack Lang
One of the founders of Topexpress and has a sideline as a fireworks manufacturer. See also his brother Charles.
Lent Term
January to March.
-> Hilary
The Bumps races at the end of the Lent Term.
Leper Chapel
Lion Yard
Long Vac
Long Vac Term
The period from about mid-July to the end of August during which some students come up for extra studying, perhaps because they're changing Tripos. (Officially known as the Long Vac period of residence.)

-> M.A
-> Manciple
A mathematician. The slang term arose about 1982/3.
The formal process of registering with the University for study. In some colleges this just involves signing a register, in others there's a ceremony and/or feast.
-> Matriculation
May Balls
-> Balls
May Week
The first fortnight in June, coinciding with the Mays (first week) and May Balls (second week).
The Bumps races at the end of the Easter Term, in May Week. The races were in May till 1882, when the examination timetable was changed.
Middle Combination Room. A College's Postgraduate Student Union.
-> MCR
Operated by College MCRs.
Michaelmas Term
-> Michaelmas
Midsummer Fair
-> Midsummer Common
Mill Pond or Pit
The pond overlooked by what was Sweeney Todds restaurant in the late 1970s to the mid-1990s (the building was formerly a mill - the mill wheel and race were still working) and The Granta.
Mill Pool
A pool in the river overlooked by Darwin College, Silver Street Bridge, The Anchor and Laundress Green. The river fed through the King's Mill into the pool.
The Mill of Mill Road
-> The Playhouse

Natural Sciences
Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology and other physical sciences.
NatSci ("Nat'skee")
Someone studying Natural Sciences. The slang term arose about 1982/3 as a term of abuse roughly equivalent to the term anorak in general use. Before then, Natural Sciences as a subject was in high esteem but for some reason became untrendy and associated with wimps then. Engineering seemed to displace it in status.

The Other Place
What we call each other. (The two Houses of Parliament do much the same: Another Place.)

The Pink Floyd
-> The Pink Floyd in Cambridge
Porter's lodge
-> Proctors
-> Punt
-> Oxford Punting

Queen's Road
Named for Queen Victoria's Jubilee, rather than Queens' College, hence the difference in apostrophe.
The Quadrivium

Rag Week
-> Rag Week
Regent House
Reformed in 1926 to be a representative body for the University, composed of the teaching staff and senior support staff. However the real management is performed by Council of the Senate. Graces can be challenged by a petition, forcing a ballot to be held. In extreme cases, if at least 50 members appeal, a matter can be referred to the Senate. The term arose from the early (1350s at least) division of the university into houses of Regents (those actively teaching) and non-Regents; together they formed the Senate.
Reality Checkpoint
The ornate lamppost in the middle of Parker's Piece.
Residence requirement
Most Cambridge University degrees have a requirement for residence as well as the academic requirements. Undergraduates must complete nine Terms of residence, defined as living in approved accommodation either within two and a half miles (?) of Great St Mary's or one mile (?) of Girton Church.
River Cam or Granta
Granta is its proper name.
The section between the Mill Pond through Bait's Bite to Clayhithe and Bottisham Lock is maintained by the Cam Conservators, a statutory body (The River Cam Navigation Act 1851 et al.).
See also the Upper River.

St John's Innovation Centre
On the other side of Milton Road from the Science Park, on the northern edge of Cambridge.
Science Park
Trinity Science Park, the first science park in the country, founded by Trinity College in 1970 and largely the initiative of Trinity's bursar, Dr. John Bradfield.
-> The Cambridge Phenomenon
A second
Theoretically the governing body of the University, though power has shifted elsewhere. Composed of all living M.A. holders. However, occasionally contentious issues are referred to the Senate.
Senate House
Sent down
Silicon Fen
The high-technology industry in the Cambridge area led to this comparison with Silicon Valley.
-> The Cambridge Phenomenon
-> Microsoft Research Centre
-> Silicon Fen directory
Sir Clive Sinclair
-> Sinclair in Cambridge
-> The Sinclair Building
Poor students who supported themselves by working in College, e.g. waiting on the Fellows.
The extra portions a Fellow might buy from the Buttery, in addition to his free commons (rations).
Snowy Farr MBE
Snowy is a much-loved character around the City centre who has raised more than 40,000 for the charity Guide Dogs for the Blind, receiving the MBE in November 1995 for that. He is instantly recognisable for his long white beard, unusual clothes and the tame animals who travel with him as he walks or cycles around.
Soc Fair
Societies' Fair
-> Freshers' Fair
The Soft Boys
-> A Robyn Hitchcock Chronology
Sporting the oak
The traditional "academic" square hat with tassle, now rarely worn (it died out in WWII). Tradition or regulation says that undergraduates may not wear the tassle dangling down. An undergraduate in academical dress must either wear a square or be bare-headed.
-> Mortar-board
Strawberry Fair
Stourbridge Fair (Sturbridge Fair)
-> Stourbridge Common
The (University) student here is the second-lowest form of life after the (teenage) foreign language student, unlike The Other Place
"Student", as opposed to "undergrad" or "postgrad", wasn't generally used until the egalitarian 1960s.
The key feature of undergraduate teaching at Cambridge University is the supervision group of 2-4 undergraduates and a supervisor, who is usually a research student or a Don. In a Tripos with multiple subjects such as Natural Sciences there are separate groups for each subject. Generally a student's Director of Studies organises the groups, though in some cases it is a University Department.
-> Tutor

The Tech
The Cambridge Campus of Anglia Ruskin University.
A period of 80 days (70 for Easter Term) during which student may be resident. Within the period (three-quarters of it) is Full Term.
Michaelmas - Lent - Easter - Long Vac. The pattern of terms and vacations reflects medieval life, for instance the need during July-September for harvesting.
A third
A University examination leading to a B.A. Honours degree.
From the three-legged stool used during the medieval form of examination - an oral debate to defend a proposition.
The Trivium
Still the most common word for referring to Cambridge, presumably partly because it only became a City in 1951 but probably mainly because it's entrenched in common phrases such as Town and Gown and Townie.
-> Town
Town and Gown
-> Town and Gown
A Cambridge resident as opposed to a member of Cambridge University. One who supposedly looks down on students as part of the Town and Gown rivalry.
-> Townee
The senior member of a student's college responsible for his overall welfare. Known as a Moral Tutor at the Other Place. It derives from an original Latin term meaning guardian.

The University Library, one of the five U.K. copyright libraries. The 1935 building was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. The tower should remind you of the classic red telephone box - he designed that too. Just before the Library he designed Battersea Power Station, which possibly relates to King George V's description whilst opening the Library as "a powerhouse and testing station of education activities."
The Union
Universities with a base in Cambridge
The University of Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin University The Open University, The University of the Third Age.
University Orator
A ceremonial post. The orator gives addresses (speeches) in Latin such as to introduce recipients of honorary degrees.
Upper River
The part of the River Cam above the Mill Pond, maintained mainly by the Environment Agency (successor to the National Rivers Authority).
-> Some pictures

Slang for "the University" and the name of the student newspaper
-> Varsity
In 1994/5 the post became a full-time fixed-term one and subject to the normal job application process. Previously the Heads of Houses had two-years terms in rotation.
-> Vice-Chancellor
The Visitor

The Whim

This page was begun on 12th June 1995
Cambridge : Reference