Billet - Encyclopedia


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BILLET. (I) (Like the Fr. billet, a diminutive of bille, a writing), a small paper or "note," commonly used in the 18th and early 19th centuries as a "billet of invitation." A particular use of the word in this sense is to denote an order issued to a soldier entitling him to quarters with a certain person (see Billeting). From meaning the official order, the word billet came to be loosely used of the quarters thus obtained, giving rise to such colloquial expressions as "a good billet." Hence arises the sense of "billet" as the destination allotted to anything, for example in the saying of William III. "every - bullet has its billet." Another special sense of the word is that of a voting-paper, found in the 17th century, especially with reference to the Act of Billets passed by the Scottish parliament in 1662.

(2) (From the diminutive billette or billot of the Fr. bille, the trunk of a tree), a piece of wood roughly cylindrical, cut for use as fuel. In medieval England it was used of the club or bludgeon which was the weapon proper to the serf (Du Cange, s. Billus). The name has been transferred to various objects of a similar shape: to ingots of gold, for example, or bars of iron; and in heraldry, to a bearing of rectangular shape. The term is applied in architecture to a form of ornamental moulding much used in Norman and sometimes in Early English work. It bears a resemblance to small billets of wood arranged at regular intervals in a sunk moulding. In French architecture it is found in early work and there, sometimes, forms the decoration of a string-course under the gutter, with two or three rows of billets.

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