One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A post set up as a mark in tilting with a lance, typically with a sandbag attached that would swing around and strike an unsuccessful tilter.
- ‘The object of the exercise was to strike the quintain hard enough to knock it all the way over, beyond its projecting braces, onto its shield backs.’
- ‘Among the myriad of skills to be mastered, was tilting at the quintain.’
- ‘The medieval mood prevails throughout Friday and Saturday, with carols in the old Yarn Market, craft stalls in the castle grounds and a piggyback quintain tournament at 7.30 pm on Saturday - tots for knights, dads for steeds.’
- 1.1the quintain The medieval military exercise of tilting at a quintain.
Late Middle English: from Old French quintaine, perhaps based on Latin quintana, a street in a Roman camp separating the fifth and sixth maniples, where military exercises were performed (from quintus ‘fifth’).
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