Certain words played a crucial role in the making of the European Renaissance, and still recur today in our shifting understanding of it. Discretion and grace, to take two examples studied here, express how individuals thought about themselves, each other and their experience of the world, yet they are as hard to define as they are ever-present in Renaissance discourse. In this collection of essays, scholars from across the Humanities offer new interpretations of these and other 'keywords', to adopt Raymond Williams's term, and investigate the vocabulary that not only accompanied, but also produced, the cultural transformations that made the Renaissance so distinctive. A keywords approach to Renaissance Europe provides a rich contextual framework for the exploration of its central ideas. It also highlights the need for fresh thinking on current histories of the age. Seven Renaissance Keywords engages with the ongoing debate about the term 'Renaissance' itself, perhaps more our keyword than theirs, and seeks alternative ways to understand a culture and society which produced conceptions of the self as much as it did art and science. The result is an exploration at the cutting edge of contemporary research. Ita Mac Carthy is Lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Birmingham.