From Byron's Don Juan:

That drinks and still is dry. At last they perish'd --
His second son was levell'd by a shot;
His third was sabred; and the fourth, most cherish'd
Of all the five, on bayonets met his lot;
The fifth, who, by a Christian mother nourish'd,
Had been neglected, ill-used, and what not,
Because deform'd, yet died all game and bottom,
To save a sire who blush'd that he begot him.

What is the meaning of "all game and bottom", especially of "bottom"? "All game" means "quite willing to meet his death", I think. What does "bottom" mean (or "all bottom")?

I looked in the dictionaries, but haven't found any suitable meaning. My only guess is quite weak - that he fell "bottom-most" and all the others fell upon him, or maybe that those who killed him fell upon him. But that is apparently not the case.

1 Answer 1


My OED (1st edition) gives under sense 14 for "bottom" the following:

Physical resources, 'staying power', power of endurance; said esp. of pugilists, wrestlers, race-horses, etc.

It gives five citations of this sense, dating from 1774 through 1852, including one to this passage in DJ. Others: "Though the Savages held out and, as the phrase is, had better bottoms, yet for a spurt the Englishmen were more nimble and speedy." "They ... have their manes and tails cropped ... under the supposition that it adds to their strength and bottom" and "For solidity, bottom, and a courage that never wavers, they [British troops] are incomparable".

  • I should have looked in better dictionaries.. Hm.. Maybe in the Century Dictionary, it seems to have some old meanings for many words. Thank you! Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 5:24
  • 2
    Let me say, if you translate a lot (as you seem to do, and reading your questions is always fun) you should get a paper copy of the OED (there is a 2 volume small print version of the 1st edition, which comes with magnifying glass) or pay for online access to the OED. For this kind of question the OED is vastly better than the next best dictionaries. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 14:11
  • I don't think it's entirely archaic; at the start of the original UK version of House Of Cards, the protagonist refers to a potential PM as “the people's favourite — a well-meaning fool.  No background, and no bottom.”, clearly using this meaning.
    – gidds
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 23:49
  • @gidds You might be right. Are these words in Michael Dobb's original novel? Does he, as an author, affect archaic diction? Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 1:21

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