One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A soldier belonging to a British militia which could be called up only for service on home soil.
- ‘During the Napoleonic wars, the militia was supplemented by various ‘fencibles’, and after 1859 by the Rifle Volunteers.’
- ‘A cockney by birth, he had been apprenticed to an engraver and had only become a soldier as a volunteer in the Warwickshire fencibles (reserve cavalry) in the invasion scare of 1800.’
- ‘During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars the British regular army remained fairly small, but home defence forces such as yeomanry, volunteers, and fencibles proliferated.’
Middle English (in the sense ‘fit or suitable for defence’): shortening of defensible. Compare with fence, fend.
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