- Paul Anthony Jones
(n.) extra time spent in bed on Sundays
One of the most popular Word of the Day posts for a while on HH was frowst, which we tweeted a few Sundays ago:
And we thought you might like to know a bit more about it.
As a slang term, frowst (which rhymes with “soused”, incidentally, not “ghost”) first emerged in the jargon used by students at Harrow School, one of the oldest and most prestigious independent schools in England. The word’s earliest written record comes from an account of one former pupils’ school days, Hugh Russell at Harrow: A Sketch of School Life, published in 1880.
In “a glossary of some of the words and uses of words peculiar to Harrow” included as an appendix to Russell’s Sketch, the word froust-with-a-U was defined as “extra time in bed on Sundays, saints’ days, and whole holidays.” The same glossary also helpfully recorded that an armchair was known as a frouster.
As for where the word itself comes from, well, frowst the noun comes from frowsty the adjective, which has been used to mean “fusty”, “stale”, or “musty” since the early nineteenth century. Frowsty in turn is probably related to a host of earlier and similar words like frowzy (“ill-ventilated”) and froughty (“stale”, “spoiled”), both of which date back to the mid 1500s, and whose origins before then are unknown.
In any case, it’s presumably the warm, fusty air trapped beneath a heavy quilt, or the thick, stale air trapped by an unopened bedroom door, that is the origin of the word frowst in this lazy, idling, early Sunday morning context.