The Oriel English Dictionary

In Oxford we tend to speak a different language. Whilst our MCR includes members from countries across the world, not even proficiency in English is enough! Oxford students use many unique and interesting phrases. We’ve put the translations below for you. Study them hard – there will be a test…





Your termly bill from College, which can include rent, bar bills for drinks, dining bills from Hall, MCR Guest Dinner charges etc.

You receive 4 of these per year: one at the start of each term and a final one at the end of Trinity term. Each set of battels contains your charge for your accommodation for the coming term and anything you spent on food and wine last term. Be wary, buying wine on battels can be very, very dangerous.

Can also be used as a verb eg “Do you want to battel that drink or pay cash?”


A derogatory term used to describe people who are (obsessively) involved in the rowing lifestyle.


An award for competing in Varsity sports against Cambridge university. Sports differ as to whether they award full blues or half blues, and whether for only competing or for competing and achieving a certain standard.

Bod / Bodleian

(“Bod-lee-un”) The main University research libraries found on Radcliffe Square and comprising the Old Bod, Radcliffe Camera (Rad Cam) and Weston Library.

Different faculties also have their own section of the Bodleian.

Bod Card

Your University photographic ID card (student card), so called because it allows you access to the University’s Bodleian library. It is also used for entry into Oriel, the MCR and certain faculties.

It may be needed for ID to certain college events (e.g. bops), will entitle you to student discounts in certain shops and may be needed to gain entry to clubs.


A party held in College with music, drinks etc. These are often themed and people may wear fancy dress. Some bops are graduate-only, held at other colleges. Oriel JCR organise three bops per term and are held in the College Bar.

Bumps (Racing)

The style of rowing race used in Oxford for the Torpids and Summer Eights boat races because the river is too narrow to allow multiple boats to race side-by-side.

It involves one boat crashing (bumping) into another and usually also involves copious amounts of Pimms.


The College accounts and administrative offices, found in 3rd quad.



(“Char-well”) The river that runs under Magdalen Bridge and later joins the Isis. Good for punting.


A brief interview with the Provost and/or Tutor for Graduates to talk about your progress. It can also refer to the undergrad college exams at the start of each term.

Coming Up

To arrive at Oxford as a student at the start of term or the beginning of a degree. See also Going Down and Sent Down.


You’re a commoner following Matriculation and before you graduate, unless you’re an organ or choral scholar. It’s mainly defined by the particular type of gown you have to wear to exams and when you dine in hall.

Crew Date

An interesting form of social interaction, most commonly involving wine. A sports team or group go for a meal, then often on to a club, with a crew of a different gender who are normally from a different college. We have a number of ‘interesting’ crews and sports teams at Oriel, all ready for crew-dating.



College Fellow and his/her team responsible for supervising the conduct and discipline of the students of the College. Being ‘deaned’ is to be sent to the dean (this usually isn’t a good thing, trust me on this).


Whatever you may have heard about Oxford, we wear casual clothes for the vast majority of the time. However, there is a higher than average number of formal events, for which there is usually a dress code. Here is a bit of a guide as to what each term means!

White Tie – Is only used once a year really, at the end of year balls. Oriel’s ball is only once every three years, the last one being 2018. Most people hire white tie. Black or dark blue dress coat, matching trousers, stiff fronted cotton shirt, black shoes, white bow tie and white waistcoat. Women customarily wear a floor length dress.

Black Tie – Dinner jacket with bow tie. For women a gown, cocktail dress or evening dress.

Lounge Suit / Semi-formal – Lounge suit / blazer and tie, or anything that is vaguely formal.

Smart – Shirt and tie, office/evening wear.

Smart casual – A veritable contradiction. It essentially means ‘no jeans’, but anything vaguely smart-ish will do.



Eights (Summer 8s)

Four days of inter-collegiate bumps races for rowing in Trinity term. So called because the boats have a crew of eight people rowing (plus a cox).


(“En-see-nee-a”) Ceremony at the end of Trinity term when honorary degrees are awarded.




Senior members of the college. There is at least one from each subject and they may be your senior tutor. All fellows sit on the governing body of college.


You. A first year (graduate or undergraduate) student of the college.

Freshers’ Fair

Large event at the beginning of Michaelmas term each year, held by the student union (OUSU) where new students can learn about and sign up for university societies.

There is often enough free stationery to last you at least an entire DPhil.

Full Term

The three eight-week periods that make up the Oxford academic year.



Governing Body

The committee of Fellows that makes all the major decisions about running the college. The MCR President has a none-voting seat at GB meetings to raise issues which are important to graduates.


Piece of loose black academic clothing worn for formal occasions (required at formal hall), and worn as part of subfusc. Differs for different qualifications; graduate gowns are longer than undergraduate gowns.




Think Harry Potter. This is the Dining hall in College. Also refers to the evening meal: either Informal Hall (informal meal) or Formal Hall (served meal with gowns).

Head of the River

Winning crew or college in Torpids or Eights Week, currently Oriel! Also the name of the next pub up the river from the finishing line at Folly Bridge.

(The) High

Colloquial name for the High Street, running between Carfax Tower and Magdalen Bridge.

High Table

The raised table in Hall where Fellows dine. The food at High Table is better than at Low Table where the students sit. Graduate MCR members may join them once per term.


The second (Spring) term of the Oxford academic year: January – March.



The Isis

The name of the River Thames as it passes through Oxford. It is the only time that the River Thames officially changes its name throughout its course.

It is the location of all major inter-collegiate regattas and bumps races.

The Island Site

The part of Oriel College next to the main site, accessed either through the O’Brien Gate on Oriel Street, or through the tunnel from third quad.

The MCR is located on the island site.



Junior Common Room

Refers to both the undergraduate student body and the common room for undergraduates. Often abbreviated to ‘JCR’.

All MCR members are automatically JCR members as well.

James Mellon Hall

JMH. This is the Oriel College annexe on Rectory Rd (just off Cowley Rd), where most Oriel graduates live.

Note, JMH is actually just one of the buildings on the Rectory Road site but the name is used by many to refer to all the buildings collectively.

John Radcliffe Hospital

This is the main Oxford hospital found in Headington, up a hill from the city centre.

You’ll find accident and emergency department here, along with many of the MCR’s medical students!





Whilst many arts students imagine that labs will be full of interesting bubbling chemicals, most scientists know that actually the reality is plenty of hours of solid work and intense concentration, hoping that your experiment that week works and doesn’t defy the laws of science.*

* You can probably guess that this definition wasn’t written by an arts student.

Lodge (or Porters’ Lodge)

The first port of call, where you will pick up your keys and mail. The lodge contains notice boards, pigeonholes and is staffed by a team of Porters (see Porters).




(“Maud-lin”) A college, a bridge, tower and a street.


The compulsory ceremony in the Sheldonian, held near the beginning of Michaelmas term in which you formally register as a member of the University. Subfusc is worn.

May Day

A traditionally English celebration day that is still kept in Oxford. It is tradition to stay up all night and watch Magdalen College Choir singing from the top of Magdalen College tower at 6am.

Middle Common Room

MCR. Refers to both the graduate student body and the common room reserved for graduates located on the Island Site.


The college rule book. It’s useful to find out bits of information, rules that you may have already broken and to find out your rights as a student.


(“Mickel-muss”) The term when you will arrive. It encompasses Freshers Week, Halloween and Oxmas.




A part of the Island Site accommodation accessed through a wallpapered tunnel.


Your Oxford email account. It gives you an Oxford email address that you can access anywhere through your internet browser. Check it regularly as it’s the main way members of College and the University will contact with you (along with the MCR committee).

Noughth Week

0th Week. The week of each term which is before Full Term begins.




(“Ow-zhu”) Oxford University Student Union, responsible for representing student views in the University and NUS.


Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Note that Oxford is mentioned first, which is quite right.


Relating to Oxford, particularly the University of Oxford. From the Latin name for Oxford, Oxonia.


Because terms are so short, yuletide festivities in Oxford have to be brought forward. You’d best get used to celebrating Oxmas: mince pies, mulled wine and carolling at the end of November.




The art of dropping a penny into someones drink whilst it is in their hand. You must have a drink yourself, and if you break one of the many rules it is classed as a ‘mis-penny’ and evokes a forfeit. Often occurs at an event where drinking is taking place.

Some people have mastered the art of pennying. Others, well, haven’t.


Your pigeon hold in the Porters’ Lodge. Your post arrives here, along with any parcels. You are informed about parcel deliveries via email.

Your address whilst staying in College will be: Oriel College, Oriel Square, Oxford, OX1 4EW.


The porters work at the Porters’ Lodge, direct visitors, sort mail, answer questions, and give out keys and codes for college rooms. They should be your first port(er) of call should you have any issues.

The first lesson you should learn at Oxford is that the Porters essentially run College. The second lesson is that they will definitely remember anything stupid you do.


Some students bring their own printers, however the vast majority use the multifunctional print and scan devices located in the library, Narnia and JMH.

You can use this by going to and using your Bod card.


Head of Oriel College. Currently Lord Mendoza of Kings Reach (a.k.a Neil). The heads of other Colleges can have other titles such as Master or Principal.


Oxford likes its water-sports. Whilst rowing attracts those who don’t mind getting up at 5am in the morning, punting is more generally practiced.

A punt is a flat-bottomed boat propelled by pushing a pole. Highly recommended for warm leisurely days in Trinity Term. The MCR offers a punt scheme where members can get unlimited access to a College punt for a nominal fee.




Short for quadrangle, these are the grassy spaces many colleges are organised around. In most colleges you are not allowed to walk on grass in the Quad, except for special times and occasions.

At Oriel, you may go on 3rd quad in Trinity term.



Rad Cam

The Radcliffe Camera, a landmark library on Radcliffe Square.


To rusticate is to leave the university for a set period of time. It’s either the decision of the individual student when personal reasons may be affecting their studies or the decision of college, if a student is performing badly.




Short for Examination Schools. Building located on the High Street where exams take place and theses are submitted. Out of exam times, Exam Schools is used for lectures.


A member of the college house-keeping staff. Every weekday they take out your rubbish and once weekly they will hoover your room and clean your sink/bathroom. If you don’t want to be disturbed – trust me, it happens! – leave your bin outside your door. Your scout must enter your room once every 3 days to make sure you’re alive/haven’t made too much of a mess.

On alternate weekdays your scout will collect your blue recycling bin instead of your waste bin.

It is usual to give your scout a small ‘thank-you-for-putting-up-with-me’ gift at the end of each term.

Senior Common Room

SCR. The collective body of Fellows, tutors and college officers.

Second Desserts

Cakes, port, wine and cheese served in the MCR after Sunday Formal Hall, a treat for Orielenses and ideal for catching up with social life after a week of academic work.

Sending Down

Expulsion from the college and university.


The online library catalogue. When you attend your library induction you will be taught how to use SOLO to search for your subject specific texts.


Usually sports kit, but basically the kit associated with any team/club/society/committee. Obviously the height of fashion and the more you wear, the better.

Sub Fusc

The formal clothing of the university. It is worn for Matriculation and exams. You also wear the gown only for Formal Hall.

The official university definition of Sub Fusc is now:

You should wear the appropriate gown (a graduate commoners gown), a mortar board or soft-cap, and your preferred sub fusc from the following list:

One of:
Dark suit with dark socks, or Dark skirt with black tights or stockings, or Dark trousers with dark socks
Dark coat if required
Black shoes
Plain white collared shirt or blouse
White bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie, or black ribbon

Dress should be such as might be appropriate for formal occasions. Candidates serving in HM Forces are permitted to wear uniform together with a gown. The uniform cap is worn in the street and carried when indoors.

Both wear smart black shoes and commoners gown, and must carry their mortar board.

Mortar boards, bow tie/ribbon and gowns can be purchased from a number of shops on the High Street in Oxford. You have plenty of time to purchase these in Oxford before they are required. Shepherd and Woodward (High Street), Ede & Ravenscroft (High St), Walters and Co. (Turl Street) all provide Sub Fusc, usually for under £30. Alternatively, there is normally a second-hand stall at the OUSU Freshers’ Fair which all Oriel students may attend.

For exams you will also wear a carnation due to a quirky Oxford tradition. Your college parents will give you these. A white one is for your first exam, pink for the exams in-between and a red for your final exam.


An academic assigned to you by the University or by your department who is responsible for planning with you your course of study and for keeping an eye on your overall progress, as well as for giving supervision on different aspects of the course.




A member of Cambridge University (from Cantab. – the equivalent of Oxon.), often used as a derogatory term.

We invite the tabs from Clare College over for an exchange dinner once a year.

Term Card

List of the term’s events for any society, including the MCR. The MCR term card is published at the start of each term.


Oxford has three terms: Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. Full term lasts eight weeks, numbered 1 to 8. Week 0 is for arrival, paperwork and (for undergrads) collections.


The intercollegiate bumps rowing competition in Hilary term.


This occurs when students finish their examinations. Their friends go to meet them as they leave their final exam and give them presents, balloons, garlands and fizzy wine.


The third and final (summer) term in the Oxford academic year: late April – late June.


Mostly for undergrads, in Oxford these tend to be one-on-one meetings with a tutor. They can also be called supervisions.



The Union

The Oxford Union. A private members club and debating society. It has famous speakers and a cheap bar. It also organises various social events including themed balls which you can attend even if you’re not a member, but at a higher cost. Membership is very expensive (£150+) but is cheaper if you sign up during the first few weeks of Michaelmas.

Students’ views on the union vary. Some state it is a waste of money, although many others enjoy going to see speakers and going to debates.

University Offices

Administrative centre of university located in Wellington Square.




The vacation. Vacations are when undergraduates vacate college. They are similarly the time of the ‘summer school invasion’ where most Oxford colleges, and the city itself, become host to a number of international summer schools.


Refers to sport matches, debates etc. between Oxford and Cambridge University. Winning at your sport can, in certain cases, lead to a Blue being awarded.


Short for ‘Viva Voce’. Oral exam taken as part of a DPhil or if you are a borderline case in an assessment (pass/fail or pass/distinction).




This is the college/university intranet. Some subjects use this for e-learning, lecture notes and keeping students up to date with news and information.

The college page is available here. You must be logged in as an Oriel student with your Oxford Single Sign On to access.


Each term is divided into 8 weeks. The two weeks before are known as -1st and 0th week. The undergraduates usually arrive at the start of 0th week (noughth), for their Collections which occur from Thursday of 0th onwards.

Each week begins on a Sunday.

Graduates are usually around out of term and therefore rarely use the ‘week’ system as much!