- Middle Ages
- Historical term used in all Western languages to des-ignate the thousand-year period from the disintegration of the ancient Roman political and social system in the fourth and fifth centuries to the beginning of the Renaissance. The term was totally unknown to medieval people themselves, who conceived themselves as still liv-ing at the latter end of the ancient Roman world. It was coined in the 14th and 15th centuries by the humanists of the Renaissance, begin-ning with the most famous early humanist, Petrarch, to characterize an age of decay, barbarism, and inferior civilization lying between two happy ages of high civilization, the ancient classical world and the new world of cultural rebirth (the "Renaissance") which they thought they were bringing into being in their own time. Although the pejorative implication of the term (implying an inferior age lying be-tween two good ones) is totally unjust to the creative and dynamic so-ciety of the actual Middle Ages, the term itself has endured, now used mainly as a neutral label for the whole period of history but still oc-casionally used with pejorative implications in popular discourse.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.