The homily is frequently considered by scholars to be a printed address which acted as a substitute sermon in post-Reformation England. This essay provides an important corrective to this view by examining five singly issued homilies in English which were not intended for use in the pulpit and which were published c. 1544–c. 1635. It argues that, as a byword for popery but with recognised longstanding roots in patristic ritual, the term ‘homily’ was contentious in this period. The works investigated within this study reveal how the marginalised homily was transformed into a distinctive genre in its own right.