Oriel English Dictionary

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You might have noticed that when you were in Oxford for open days or your interview, we tend to speak a slightly different language.

Here we have translated them into normal English for you. Also included in the ‘dictionary’ are terms which you will be familiar with, present because we use them to delve into any greater detail which we think you should know.


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Before you arrive, you will have applied for a particular room grade. Room designation is not based on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, but is based upon the room grade you applied for. Therefore, those who apply for A grade rooms will have a greater chance of getting an A grade room etc. You’re likely to be living near to someone who is doing your course. You won’t know your room grade or number before you arrive, but no rooms for Freshers are shared. You will possibly share a bathroom with those of the same gender but don’t worry, this is a great ‘meet-and-greet’ experience!

[box type=”warning”]Please contact the academic registrar should you have any requirements (religious or medical) which may affect which room you should be given (for example, being on a lower floor, in an accessible room or one close to a kitchen).[/box]

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You are guaranteed a room from Oriel for your whole undergraduate career, but some people may choose to move out in their second year and beyond.

In subsequent years, rooms are given based upon a random ballot. Those with a higher score choose the room they want first.

This year, each staircase will have a number of ‘staircase reps’. They’ll be in charge of making sure you’re settling in, enjoying yourself and getting to know all the other Freshers (and other Orielenses too of course).





Battels are your termly bills.

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.

In your first set of battels at the start of Michaelmas, you’ll pay for your accommodation for Michaelmas term. On top of your first battels, you will be required to pay a £275 deposit when you arrive, which is reimbursed over the course of the year.

If you arrive before Thursday of 0th week or stay after the Saturday of 8th, you’ll pay extra for accommodation.

If you have taken out a student loan, the money goes directly to the university so you’ll never see it – unfortunate as it is! If you haven’t taken out a loan, your tuition fees will appear on your battels.


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



The Bodleian Library. This describes the central library in the middle of Oxford, holding a copy of every book ever published in the UK.

Different faculties have their own section of the Bodleian, but you will hear more details of library facilities for your subject at your subject’s introductory talks.


Bod Card

Your student ID card. You’ll get quite smug when you get back home and fancy getting 10% off at Topshop. However, in Oxford it’s useful for 3 things: food, clubbing and the library (though those aren’t necessarily in order of importance). You can charge your hall food and wine to your card, it’s required to get into clubs on student nights and you also need it to take books out from the library.

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Fancy dress night in the bar. Oriel is one of the few colleges to do this properly. We tend to get really into bop costumes and let our creative sides go wild. There’s always a theme and it’s located in the college bar. And when Jackson 5 gets played… well…. you’ll have to wait and see.





Pronounced char-well.

The name of the small river running through Christ Church Meadows (where you can punt in Trinity term), or alternatively the name of one of the Oxford student newspapers (not to be confused with the Oxford Student, an entirely different paper).


This refers to something that’s a cross between a lecture and a tutorial that Arts students do. They discuss books and stuff in them…


College mock exams at the beginning of term. These are used by your tutors to work out how well you’re doing in your subject and whether you’ve worked hard enough over the last term and vacation. They are important, but relatively informal. Classicists and theologians will have some collections when you arrive in Oxford – lucky you!

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Refers to your arrival in Oxford.


You’re a commoner following Matriculation and before you graduate, unless you’re an organ or choral scholar of course. It’s mainly defined by the particular type of gown you have to wear to exams and when you dine in hall. Mods or Prelims – both of which are exams – allow you to become a scholar where you get money and a fancier gown!


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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.

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Inter-collegiate competitions in sport/drama/arts/comedy/fruit-smashing…







The senior dean is a fellow of the college, whereas the other deans are usually post-graduates. The deans are responsible for supervising the conduct, discipline and welfare of students. Being ‘deaned’ is to be sent to the dean (this usually isn’t a good thing).

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Doll’s House

The big, timber-framed building in third quad, in which you can find the JCR on the ground floor.


A tutor, lecturer or fellow.


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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 2012.  Most people hire white tie.

For men: black or dark blue dress coat, matching trousers, stiff fronted cotton shirt, black shoes, white bow tie and white waistcoat. For women: Floor length dress.

Black Tie

Men: Dinner jacket or dark suit, with bow tie.

Women: Variable. At balls, gowns or cocktail dress. At cocktail parties, a cocktail or evening dress. At a formal dinner, any smart or vaguely formal get-up is acceptable.

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Lounge Suit / Semi-formal

Men: Lounge suit, blazer and tie.

Women: Anything that is vaguely formal.


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Men: Shirt and tie

Women: Office/evening wear.


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Smart casual

Basically a veritable contradiction. It means ‘no jeans’, but anything vaguely smart-ish will do. Just remember that you’re not going to Park End…






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An abbreviation of ‘entertainments’, referring to the JCR Entz Representatives: Markian, Molly and Jared


Not to be confused with an exhibitionist. A student who has come close to achieving a distinction in their mods or prelims. They get to wear a scholar’s gown and get some financial reward from college.





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.



And consequently Finalists.

Finals are the exams which count towards your degree and they are usually taken at the end of your course. Finalists are normally either third, fourth, fifth or sixth years. They are often very stressed due to looming examinations.


The most dreaded word that any university student shall hear. However, we do go to one of the more generous universities in the country.

Details of Oriel’s guide to finance can be found here, on the Oriel website. Click on finance help from Oriel on the left hand side to see the financial help that is offered to undergraduates.

Similarly, the University also offers some financial assistance to particular students. To find out more details, click here.


The little grey thingy-me-bob on your keys. It allows you to open various mysterious doors around college, including the O’Brien Gate to the Island Site. After midnight, you cannot use this gate and must enter college through the Porter’s Lodge.


You’re officially a ‘Fresher’ until you matriculate. It basically means you’re new, but the name normally sticks for a year.




Governing Body

Consists of the fellows of the college, with officers such as the bursar. The JCR President also has a non-voting seat. It is headed by the Provost and is the centre of all decisions made within the college.





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Think Harry Potter. But yes, this is the place we go to eat. It’s a great idea to use this to boast to your friends. Whilst they’re tucking into their Morrisons chicken bites with Asda frozen chips, you’ll be feasting on pheasant and guinea fowl whilst sitting under the world’s largest official portrait of the Queen. Who says that Oxford is elitist? But with a full 3 course formal meal for £5, it’s quite tempting to go every night! It is highly unusual to go to formal every night, but some people do and it usually depends upon your preference.



Breakfast – £2.70 (cooked) or continental (£2). (Also individually priced cereals, fruit juice and fruit).

Lunch – 2 to three choices of meal, £3.10 for main and dessert. Individually priced sandwiches are available.

Dinner – Informal, is placed in the middle of the table for you to help yourself, cost is £5. Formal, 3 course meal. You must wear a suit/dress and gown: £5.50

Brunch – Served from 11am on a Sunday. Consists of a huge fry-up, with some interesting Brunchy foods like pasties and pizza. Literally pile-plate-high type stuff, but really helps you to wake up on a Sunday morning! £3.25

Note, for Dinners and Brunch you must book using the meal booking system. All meals are charged to battels, up-to-date prices can be found in the Memorandum. The charges for guests are considerably more, as college doesn’t subsidise their meals. 

To book online, consult the meal booking system. To access, click on the circle with the dinner plate on the top right of the JCR website.

Meal times can be found in the Memorandum which you will be given on your first day at Oriel.


The name of the second term at Oxford University. It begins in January.




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 used for rowing.

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The Island Site

The college accommodation premises on the other side of Oriel Street. It used to be part of the High Street, and can be accessed through the O’Brien Gate until midnight, or through the underground tunnel after midnight.





The Junior Common Room, both a place (sofas, TV, Wii) and the undergraduate student body of the college.

The JCR committee are voted in by the JCR, they help to pass students concerns to the college at large. With the JCR’s backing, we get important and beneficial changes around college.

There is an established constitution, and meetings to discuss concerns and formulate opinions and decisions. JCR Open Meetings are where you get your chance to have a say as to how JCR business is conducted. You can ask for money to be spent on specific things, and for representation of your views to particular bodies.

Anyone can propose a motion, but it must be seconded by another member of the JCR. Email the vice president, Simon Dungate, with your motion before a meeting.

JCR meetings occur 4 times a term, on alternate Sundays at 8.30pm. They are informal, with pizza and prizes provided, and are generally fun and interesting.

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James Mellon Hall. The largest building at the Rectory Road College Annex (see the map), but also tends to lend its name to the site as a whole. Most third years ‘live at JMH’.






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*.

The amount of time spent in labs varies on your degree (English students don’t use them) and the year of your course – first year medics use them once a week, but will be there 9 to 5 at the end of year two. Physicists may spend a whole day in labs.

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


You’ll receive a lecture list when you arrive. For the sciences, lectures tend to be obligatory and essential. For humanities, attending lectures tends to be more down to personal choice (however they are still very useful).






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The ceremony that marks your official acceptance into the University of Oxford. It takes place a week or so into Michaelmas term. It involves fire, lions and juggling (and the all important sub-fusc).



The Middle Common Room, comprising the graduate student body ie. those who already have degrees. Fourth year undergraduate students are also granted MCR membership. They have their own physical common room situated on the island site.


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

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The term when you will arrive. It encompasses Freshers Week, Halloween and Oxmas.


Or Honour Moderations

These are the exams which mark the end of the first year of your course (unless you’re doing Classics). They can happen in Hilary of first year, Trinity of first year or Hilary of second year depending upon your course. They tend not to count towards your degree, but are vital examinations if you wish to remain at the university.




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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 your tutors will communicate with you.





Pronounced Ow!-ds

Acronym for the Oxford University Drama Society.


Pronounced Ow-zoo

The Oxford University Student Union, of which all students are automatically a member of. It is not to be confused with the Oxford Union, and is a body designed to represent the rights and views of university students. It provides a number of publications and services.


We leave college well before Christmas, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the festivities. Get ready for Christmas Cocktails, Secret Santa, carol services, tree decorating and a festive filled Bop!




Park End

The commonly used name for the club Lava Ignite – but never, ever call it that – on Park End Street. Home to a cheese floor which many attend religiously on a Wednesday night, although others avoid like the plague. Contrary to popular belief, this is not in fact a floor made of cheese, but the venue of uninterrupted cheese music all night and an arguably amusing DJ who relishes playing the Pokémon theme tune at midnight and ‘Call me maybe’ up to five times in one night – as well as many of ‘The Oriel’ keenly awaiting the inevitable Jackson 5.

Also home to other floors such as R&B which pale into significance when compared to the almighty cheese floor, although it should be said this is written by a Park End cheese floor fanatic…


The art of dropping a 1p coin 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’. This 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.


I would imagine that most of you know what a photocopier is. Just to note, there is a photocopier in the library next to the sliding stacks (big sliding bookshelves) in the modern language section of the library , which is just off the first landing of the library stairs. You can purchase a photocopying card from the lodge.


Situated in the lodge, this is your pigeon hole which receives post and parcels from within and outside of college. If you get a parcel, you’ll receive a little note. Give it to the porters and you’ll get a key to delve into the parcel cupboard to find your delivery. It is advisable to check your pidge often, as tutors will often leave work there. Remember, if your friends wish to send you post or you want something delivered to college the address would be: YOUR NAME, Oriel College, Oriel Square, Oxford, OX1 4EW. 

Pigeon Post

Items can be sent for free anywhere within the university, just address it, give it to the Porters and they’ll see that it gets where it should be.

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The Porters are some of the loveliest people you are ever likely to meet. They are an essential part of college life. If you need help or there’s a problem, they are often your first port(er) of call. You will find that you get to know them over the course of the first few weeks and years of university life, but just remember they are likely to remember anything silly you do in your first few weeks…

The maintenance book within the lodge is where you can report any problems with your room, staircase or other locations within college.


Shortened form of Preliminary Examinations.

These are the same as Mods, except that you’ll be examined on at least some of the same subjects, but in greater detail, for your finals. They don’t, however, count towards your finals. They occur during Hilary or Trinity of first year, varying based upon subject.


Like photocopying, you may know what a printer is. Some students bring their own, but a greater majority buy a printing card from the lodge and use the computers and printer in the JCR to print. Simply press print on the computer, insert your card into the slot by the printer and select your document to print. Printing facilities are due to be upgraded at the end of Michaelmas term, so this situation is likely to change.


Currently Neil Mendoza and you’ll meet him at the Fresher’s Dinner. He’s ‘the big dog of Oriel’ and you’ll meet him for ‘Provost’s collections’ at some point. These are where you sit down with the Provost and discuss how you are faring academically and socially within the college.




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The three squares (quadrangles) with grass in the middle of them. Like the childhood game where you have to avoid falling into the lava, you are not allowed to step on the grass without the most painful of deaths. The exception is in Trinity term, when for some reason the lawn in third quad becomes safe to have picnics and play croquet on.




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The Radcliffe Camera forms part of the Bodleian libraries and houses English, History and Theology texts. It’s the big round building and has featured in Jack Wills adverts…


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.





Someone who achieves a distinction in their Mods or Prelims. They wear a special gown, get a financial reward from college and get a better position in the room ballot.


The building on the High Street called The Examination Schools. Most students take their Finals here and some take their examinations throughout the years here too. It also houses some arts lectures and the University Fresher’s Fair.


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 however must enter your room once every 3 days to make sure you’re alive/haven’t made too much of a mess/haven’t died.

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


The Senior Common Room is the body of fellows and college lecturers, but also the physical room in 2nd quad. You will often be invited here once a year/term by your tutor for subject drinks/meal. You’re not allowed to sit on the benches outside of the SCR.

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.


International students are the only people allowed to use storage rooms within college. For everyone else, everything (apart from your fridge) must be removed from your room at the end of each term. People tend to become very adept packers!


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.

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Sub Fusc

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



The official university definition of Sub Fusc is now:

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


 1.       One of

a.       Dark suit with dark socks, or

b.      Dark skirt with black tights or stockings, or

c.       Dark trousers with dark socks

2.       Dark coat if required

3.       Black shoes

4.       Plain white collared shirt or blouse

5.       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.)

[image path=”http://www.orieljcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/456738_3758624617378_1357019067_o.jpg” width=”400″ height =”200″ alt=”” title=”” align=”alignright” frame=”yes” link=””]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 which is on the High Street, just outside Oriel, and Walters and Co. on Turl Street both provide Sub Fusc, usually for under £30. Alternatively, there is normally a second-hand stall at the OUSU Freshers’ Fair which all Oriel students 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. This means a red carnation quickly becomes your favourite flower ever.





A derogatory term for a Cambridge student.

[image path=”http://www.orieljcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Sub-Fusc-and-The-Pancake-Race.jpg” width=”400″ height =”200″ alt=”” title=”” align=”alignleft” frame=”yes” link=””]The Oriel Pancake Event

Takes place every year on Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day). It involves a flipping pancake race around 1st Quad with participants wearing full Sub Fusc. There are also plenty of pancakes for all!


The final term. Full of punting, croquet and fun times. Oh, and there’s usually some exams too.


This is slang for ‘tutorial’. Tutes are usually an hour long and range in size from being one on one with your tutor, to having a few tutorial partners. Usually you will either have handed in an essay or problem sheet beforehand, or during the tutorial. You then may work through the essay and discuss any problems you had or you’ll discuss something completely different. Usually there will be a discussion, arguments and explanations! You will be able to think independently and critically, and most students think they’re quite similar to the interview they had in December of the year before!

Tutes are generally strange to begin with, but almost everyone grows to enjoy them!

TV License

For most students at Oxford this isn’t required. Most of us don’t have our own televisions and there aren’t aerial points for them. We also don’t tend to have time to watch live TV either. We instead watch an awful lot of catchup programs!

The official line can be found at the TV Licensing website here, however two key points:

[list type=”check”]
[item]You don’t need a TV license to watch catchup programs on the internet – BBC iPlayer, 4OD etc.[/item]
[item]If your parents have a license, you’re covered by their license to watch live TV when you’re using a mobile device that isn’t plugged in. [/item]




[image path=”http://www.orieljcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/chamber.jpg” width=”400″ height =”200″ alt=”” title=”” align=”alignright” frame=”yes” link=””]The Union

This is 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.





Your vacation. This is cue for the Oriel phrase: ‘You don’t get holidays, you have vacations’. Vacations are officially when you vacate college and you’ll probably be set a variable amount of work to do whilst at home. ‘Long vac’ refers to the long summer break.


A generic name for any Oxford vs. Cambridge sporting event. Also refers to the annual Varsity Ski Trip.





This is the college intranet. Some subjects use this for e-learning and keeping students up to date with news and information. Many subjects also make their lectures accessible on WebLearn for printing.

The rest of the Freshers’ pack is available on weblearn here.

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. Most students arrive at the start of 0th week (noughth), for their Collections which occur from Thursday of 0th onwards.

Each week begins on a Sunday.