Monthly Archives: July 2009

George Eliot and an Expanded Vocabulary

There’s nothing like an English book from the 19th century to get you reaching for a dictionary. This time it was George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and here’s the mighty list of humdingers:

coxcomb (n): a conceited, foolish dandy; pretentious fop.

hymeneal (adj): of or pertaining to marriage.

hymeneal (n): a wedding song or poem.

cicerone (n): a person who conducts sightseers; guide.

codicil (n): a supplement or appendix, especially of a will.

canker (n):

  1. ulceration of the mouth and lips.
  2. an inflammation or infection of the ear and auditory canal, especially in dogs and cats.
  3. a condition in horses similar to but more advanced than thrush.
  4. a source of spreading corruption or decay.

canker (v): to infect with corruption or decay.

jackanape (n):

  1. an impertinent, presumptuous person, esp. a young man; whippersnapper.
  2. (archaic) an ape or monkey.

distaff (n):

  1. a staff that holds on its cleft end the unspun flax, wool, or tow from which thread is drawn in spinning by hand, and an attachment for a spinning wheel that serves this purpose.
  2. work and concerns traditionally considered important to women.
  3. women considered as a group.

hoyden (adj): boisterous; rude (also used as noun).

dram (adj): a small quantity of anything, especially liquor.

chyle (n): a turbid, white or pale yellow fluid taken up by the lacteals from the intestine during digestion and carried by the lymphatic system via the thoracic duct into the circulation.

fetlock (n):

  1. the projection of the leg of a horse behind the joint between the cannon bone and great pastern bone, bearing a tuft of hair.
  2. the tuft of hair itself, or the name of the joint.

prevenient (adj):

  1. coming before; preceding.
  2. expectant; anticipatory.

pelisse (n):

  1. an outer garment lined or trimmed with fur.
  2. a woman’s long cloak with slits for the arms.

cupidity (n): eager or excessive desire, esp. to possess something; greed; avarice.

bruit (v): to voice abroad; rumor (used chiefly in the passive and often followed by about)

bruit (n):

  1. any generally abnormal sound or murmur heard on auscultation (auscultation = the act of listening, either directly or through a stethoscope or other instrument, to sounds within the body as a method of diagnosis).
  2. (archaic) rumor; report.
  3. (archaic) noise; din; clamor.

postillion (n): a person who rides the left horse of the leading or only pair of horses drawing a carriage. refluent (adj): flowing back; ebbing, as the waters of a tide.

misprision (n):

  1. maladministration of public office.
  2. neglect in preventing or reporting a felony or treason by one not an accessory.
  3. an act of sedition against a government or the courts.

mercer (n): a dealer in textile fabrics; dry-goods merchant.

margrave (n):

  1. the lord or military governor of a medieval German border province.
  2. used as a hereditary title for certain princes in the Holy Roman Empire.

leveret (n): a young hare.

sciolism (n): superficial knowledge.

accoucher (n): a person who assists during childbirth, esp. an obstetrician.

liege (n):

  1. a feudal lord entitled to allegiance and service.
  2. a feudal vassal or subject.

liege (adj):

  1. owing primary allegiance and service to a feudal lord.
  2. pertaining to the relation between a feudal vassal and lord.
  3. loyal; faithful: the liege adherents of a cause

energumen (n): one possessed by an evil spirit; a demoniac.

galligaskins (n): leggings or gaiters, usually of leather, or loose trousers in general.

burgess (n):

  1. a freeman or citizen of an English borough.
  2. a member of the English Parliament who once represented a town, borough, or university.
  3. a member of the lower house of the legislature of colonial Virginia or Maryland.