Apparently, the term "psychopath" was coined in 1888, and at that point, it might not have even been used by the laypeople. So, I*m wondering about a word used for people that display psychopathic characteristics that was used in the 1850s. In the book im writing, the main character is from Birmingham, UK, so the word will have to have been common around those parts. The word can be of posh language or street language, either is fine because the main character is familiar with both sociolects.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Nov 26, 2020 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


As user121863 said, in the 1850s the general understanding of mental disorders lacked nuance. So there weren't many "posh words", as you put it, and Hot Licks has them covered.

The following are synonyms for 'mad person'. I'm not sure if they would all be deemed slang:

hatchet-man from 1876
nasty man 1863-
cutter 1568–1734
frantic (noun!) 1574-1758
crack-brain c1570-1831
madbrain c1570-1616 + 1876
shatter-brain 1719 -
maniac 1763 -
dement 1857 -

berserker: The adjective 'berserk' is still used to mean crazy, but according to Etymonline, the noun 'berserker' (from the Old Norse 'berserkr', meaning "raging warrior of superhuman strength") is the oldest form of the word in its revival in Modern English (1822). 'Berserk' appeared some twenty years later.

And perhaps your readers would believe these killers, from Old English) were still on the loose in Birmingham in the 1850s:

bane (from 'bana')
slaga - hence faederslaga (father-slayer)
queller (from 'cwellere') - hence boyqueller (boy-killer), which was even used in 1606!
morþ (morth)
  • You're missing the most obvious ones: madman, maniac and lunatic. (And since the comments have been moved to chat now, you should probably add them.) Aug 19, 2021 at 11:20

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