"Death of a Salesman," Vocabulary from Act I

Arthur Miller's expertly made drama "Death of a Salesman" is a fight against the futility of an average life and a struggle for dignity and respect.

As you read Arthur Miller's 1949 Pulitzer prize-winning play, learn these word lists: Act I and Act II.
definitions & notes only words
  1. dormer
    a gabled extension built out from a sloping roof
    Two beds are dimly seen, and at the back of the room a dormer window.
  2. jovial
    full of or showing high-spirited merriment
    Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior — she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end.
  3. mercurial
    liable to sudden unpredictable change
    Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior — she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end.
  4. turbulent
    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior — she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him, longings which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end.
  5. crestfallen
    brought low in spirit
    Linda: He was crestfallen, Willy.
  6. bashful
    self-consciously timid
    Biff: I bet you forgot how bashful you used to be.
  7. idealist
    someone not guided by practical considerations
    You’re a — you’re an idealist!
    Biff: No, I’m mixed up very bad.
  8. enthralled
    filled with wonder and delight
    Biff (with vast affection): Sure, we’d be known all over the counties!
    Happy ( enthralled): That’s what I dream about, Biff.
  9. pompous
    puffed up with vanity
    Happy: I gotta show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade.
  10. insinuate
    introduce or insert in a subtle manner
    Music insinuates itself as the leaves appear.
  11. approbation
    official approval
    (He pauses, then nods in approbation for a few seconds, then looks upward.)
  12. incipient
    only partly in existence; imperfectly formed
    Happy: I told you he wouldn’t like it!
    Biff (angrily): Well, I’m bringing it back!
    Willy (stopping the incipient argument, to Happy): Sure, he’s gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesn’t he?
  13. regulation
    an authoritative rule
    Willy (stopping the incipient argument, to Happy): Sure, he’s gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesn’t he?
    In this case, "regulation" refers to a ball that is being played and hence is in an "authoritative" state. For example, in the NBA, a ball that is "regulation" is one that is currently being "played."
  14. sensation
    a general feeling of excitement and heightened interest
    What a sensation!
  15. anemic
    lacking vigor or energy
    What’re you lookin’ so anemic about, Bernard?
    In this case, "anemic" means someone who is a "pest" or someone who is seen as being a "bother" to another.
  16. regent
    acting or functioning as a ruler
    He’s got Regents next week.
    In this context, "Regents" refers to New York state exams given to high school students.
  17. subside
    sink to a lower level or form a depression
    (He talks through The Woman’s subsiding laughter; The Woman primps at the “mirror.”)
  18. primp
    dress or groom with elaborate care
    (He talks through The Woman’s subsiding laughter; The Woman primps at the “mirror.”)
  19. incarnate
    make concrete and real
    That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate!
  20. laconic
    brief and to the point
    He is a large man, slow of speech, laconic, immovable.
  21. dispel
    force to go away
    Fine specimen of a lady, Mother.
    willy (to Charley): Heh?
    ben: I’d hoped to see the old girl.
    charley: Who died?

    Willy (as though to dispel his confusion he angrily stops Charley’s hand): That’s my build!
  22. ignoramus
    an ignorant person
    Willy (slamming the door after him): Ignoramus!
  23. gallantly
    in a heroic or brave manner
    Ben ( gallantly): How do you do, my dear.
  24. poised
    marked by balance or equilibrium and readiness for action
    (Suddenly comes in, trips Biff, and stands over him, the point of his umbrella poised over Biff’s eye.)
    Linda: Look out, Biff!
  25. audacity
    aggressive boldness or unmitigated effrontery
    Ben (giving great weight to each word, and with a certain vicious audacity): William, when I walked into the jungle, I was seventeen.
  26. imbue
    spread or diffuse through
    That’s just the spirit I want to imbue them with!
  27. leeway
    a permissible difference
    You’ve got to make up your mind now, darling, there’s no leeway any more.
  28. remiss
    failing in what duty requires
    I’ve been remiss.
  29. subdued
    in a softened tone
    Linda (her voice subdued): What’d you have to start that for?
  30. monotonous
    tediously repetitious or lacking in variety
    He is horrified and turns his head toward Willy’s room, still dimly lit, from which the strains of Linda’s desperate but monotonous humming rise.