"Gulliver's Travels," Vocabulary from Part One

In Jonathan Swift's satirical "Gulliver's Travels," we meet all kinds of exotic peoples whose behavior holds a funhouse mirror up to segments of English society in the 18th century (etext found here).

Learn these word lists: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

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definitions & notes only words
  1. conscience
    conformity to one's own sense of right conduct
    But, my good master Bates dying in two years after, and I having few friends, my business began to fail; for my conscience would not suffer me to imitate the bad practice of too many among my brethren.
  2. passage
    a journey usually by ship
    It would not be proper, for some reasons, to trouble the reader with the particulars of our adventures in those seas: let it suffice to inform him, that in our passage from thence to the East Indies, we were driven by a violent storm to the northwest of Van Diemen's Land.
  3. latitude
    an imaginary line around the Earth parallel to the equator
    By an observation, we found ourselves in the latitude of 30 degrees 2 minutes south.
    Compare with "longitude" (in the list for Part Three).
  4. tide
    the periodic rise and fall of the sea level
    For my own part, I swam as fortune directed me, and was pushed forward by wind and tide.
  5. abate
    become less in amount or intensity
    I often let my legs drop, and could feel no bottom: but when I was almost gone, and able to struggle no longer, I found myself within my depth; and by this time the storm was much abated.
  6. diminutive
    very small
    However, in my thoughts I could not sufficiently wonder at the intrepidity of these diminutive mortals, who dare venture to mount and walk upon my body, while one of my hands was at liberty, without trembling at the very sight of so prodigious a creature as I must appear to them.
  7. prodigious
    great in size, force, extent, or degree
    However, in my thoughts I could not sufficiently wonder at the intrepidity of these diminutive mortals, who dare venture to mount and walk upon my body, while one of my hands was at liberty, without trembling at the very sight of so prodigious a creature as I must appear to them.
  8. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    Upon this the Hurgo and his train withdrew with much civility and cheerful countenances.
  9. victuals
    any substance that can be used as food
    These circumstances, added to the refreshment I had received by their victuals and drink, which were very nourishing, disposed me to sleep.
  10. proclamation
    a formal public statement
    But a proclamation was soon issued to forbid it upon pain of death.
    Jonathan Swift uses numerous situations where the governments that he encounters issue orders and draw up documents that are parallel with those he knew of in Europe. Compare with the other vocabulary words in this list: subsidy, edict, and levy.
  11. expedient
    a means to an end
    The best expedient I could think of, was to creep into my house, which I accordingly did; and shutting the gate after me, I went as far as the length of my chain would suffer, and discharged my body of that uneasy load.
  12. candid
    openly straightforward and direct without secretiveness
    But this was the only time I was ever guilty of so uncleanly an action; for which I cannot but hope the candid reader will give some allowance, after he has maturely and impartially considered my case, and the distress I was in.
  13. momentous
    of very great significance
    I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance, that perhaps at first sight may appear not very momentous, if I had not thought it necessary to justify my character in point of cleanliness to the world; which I am told some of my maligners have been pleased, upon this and other occasions, to call in question.
  14. inured
    made tough by habitual exposure
    By the same computation they provided me with sheets, blankets, and coverlets, tolerable enough for one who had been so long inured to hardships as I.
  15. debate
    think about carefully; weigh
    In the meantime, the Emperor held frequent councils to debate what course should be taken with me; and I was afterwards assured by a particular friend, a person of great quality, who was looked upon to be as much in the secret as any, that the court was under many difficulties concerning me.
  16. subsidy
    a grant paid by a government to an enterprise
    For this prince lives chiefly upon his own demesnes, seldom, except upon great occasions, raising any subsidies upon his subjects, who are bound to attend him in his wars at their own expense.
  17. incessant
    uninterrupted in time and indefinitely long continuing
    He put this engine to our ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a water-mill...
  18. latter
    the second of two or the second mentioned of two
    ...and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships; but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did anything without consulting it: he called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.
    Even though this word is often used with more than two things mentioned, it should only be used with two. Likewise this rule applies to its opposite word, "former" (which means the first mentioned of two).
  19. contrived
    showing effects of planning or manipulation
    From the left fob he took out a net almost large enough for a fisherman, but contrived to open and shut like a purse, and serve him for the same use: we found therein several massy pieces of yellow metal, which, if they be real gold, must be of immense value.
  20. ponderous
    having great mass and weight and unwieldiness
    In one of these cells were several globes or balls of a most ponderous metal, about the bigness of our heads, and requiring a strong hand to lift them: the other cell contained a heap of certain black grains, but of no great bulk or weight, for we could hold above fifty of them in the palms of our hands.
  21. auspicious
    auguring favorable circumstances and good luck
    Signed and sealed on the fourth day of the eighty-ninth moon of your Majesty's auspicious reign.
  22. daunt
    cause to lose courage
    His Majesty, who is a most magnanimous prince, was less daunted than I could expect; he ordered me to return it into the scabbard, and cast it on the ground as gently as I could, about six foot from the end of my chain.
  23. divert
    occupy in an agreeable, entertaining or pleasant fashion
    The Author diverts the emperor and his nobility of both sexes in a very uncommon manner.
  24. apprehensive
    in fear or dread of possible evil or harm
    The natives came by degrees to be less apprehensive of any danger from me.
  25. contend
    compete for something
    But the danger is much greater when the ministers themselves are commanded to show their dexterity; for by contending to excell themselves and their fellows, they strain so far, that there is hardly one of them who has not received a fall, and some of them two or three.
  26. provocation
    unfriendly behavior that causes anger or resentment
    I had sent so many memorials and petitions for my liberty, that his Majesty at length mentioned the matter, first in the cabinet, and then in a full council; where it was opposed by none, except Skyresh Bolgolam, who was pleased, without any provocation, to be my mortal enemy.
  27. prostrate
    lie face downward, as in submission
    I made my acknowledgments by prostrating myself at his Majesty's feet: but he commanded me to rise; and after many gracious expressions, which, to avoid the censure of vanity, I shall not repeat, he added, that he hoped I should prove a useful servant, and well deserve all the favors he had already conferred upon me, or might do for the future.
  28. stipulate
    make an express demand or provision in an agreement
    The reader may please to observe, that in the last article for the recovery of my liberty the Emperor stipulates to allow me a quantity of meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1,728 Lilliputians.
  29. encompass
    include in scope
    The wall which encompassed it is two feet and a half high, and at least eleven inches broad, so that a coach and horses may be driven very safely round it; and it is flanked with strong towers at ten feet distance.
  30. solicitation
    an entreaty addressed to someone of superior status
    He ordered his coach to wait at a distance, and desired I would give him an hour's audience; which I readily consented to, on account of his quality and personal merits, as well as the many good offices he had done me during my solicitations at court.
  31. philosopher
    a specialist in the investigation of existence and knowledge
    For as to what we have heard you affirm, that there are other kingdoms and states in the world inhabited by human creatures as large as yourself, our philosophers are in much doubt, and would rather conjecture that you dropped from the moon, or one of the stars; because it is certain, that a hundred mortals of your bulk would, in a short time, destroy all the fruits and cattle of his Majesty's dominions.
    Philosophy (and philosopher) is mentioned a few times in Gulliver's Travels, and it is especially treated in the third part of the book. Jonathan Swift used his satire to make social commentary, and the shortcomings of intellectuals was one of his chief targets.
  32. edict
    a formal or authoritative proclamation
    Whereupon the Emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs.
  33. foment
    try to stir up
    These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire.
  34. quell
    suppress or crush completely
    These civil commotions were constantly fomented by the monarchs of Blefuscu; and when they were quelled, the exiles always fled for refuge to that empire.
  35. schism
    the formal separation of a church into two churches
    During the course of these troubles, the Emperors of Blefuscu did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Blundecral (which is their however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text: for the words are these...
    When Swift uses this word, he is usually referring to the many divisions of the church, and it is also a source for his social commentary.
  36. embargo
    a government order imposing a trade barrier
    ... all intercourse between the two empires having been strictly forbidden during the war, upon pain of death, and an embargo laid by our Emperor upon all vessels whatsoever.
  37. prow
    the front part of a vessel
    I then took my tackling, and fastening a hook to a hole at the prow of each, I tied all the cords together at the end.
  38. encomium
    a formal expression of praise
    This great prince received me at my landing with all possible encomiums, and created me a Nardac upon the spot, which is the highest title of honor among them.
  39. grandeur
    the quality of being magnificent or splendid
    There were six ambassadors, with a train of about five hundred persons, and their entry was very magnificent, suitable to the grandeur of their master, and the importance of their business.
  40. lilliputian
    a very small person
    It is to be observed, that these ambassadors spoke to me by an interpreter, the languages of both empires differing as much from each other as any two in Europe, and each nation priding itself upon the antiquity, beauty, and energy of their own tongues, with an avowed contempt for that of their neighbor; yet our Emperor, standing upon the advantage he had got by the seizure of their fleet, obliged them to deliver their credentials, and make their speech in the Lilliputian tongue.
    Jonathan Swift coined this term. The word we use for a small thing or person comes from this book.
  41. treatise
    a formal exposition
    Although I intend to leave the description of this empire to a particular treatise, yet in the meantime I am content to gratify the curious reader with some general ideas.
    Gulliver's Travels is part adventure and part exposition of unknown places. Although they are fantastical places that serve as metaphors for types of people and societies Jonathan Swift was familiar with, he approaches their descriptions as if he were writing entries in an encyclopedia. Often, you'll find words that refer to a philosophical perspective, simultaneously hinting at (and ridiculing) those perspectives. "Treatise" is one of those words.
  42. deficient
    inadequate in amount or degree
    Or, if that fund be deficient, it is largely supplied by the Crown.
  43. maxim
    a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits
    Although we usually call reward and punishment the two hinges upon which all government turns, yet I could never observe this maxim to be put in practice by any nation except that of Lilliput.
    This word is another reference to philosophical or mathematical consideration.
  44. levy
    impose and collect
    The pension from each family for the education and entertainment of a child, upon failure of due payment, is levied by the Emperor's officers.
  45. husbandry
    the practice of cultivating the land or raising stock
    As to persons of quality, they give security to appropriate a certain sum for each child, suitable to their condition; and these funds are always managed with good husbandry, and the most exact justice.
  46. extenuate
    lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of
    In the several debates upon this impeachment, it must be confessed that his Majesty gave many marks of his great lenity, often urging the services you had done him, and endeavoring to extenuate your crimes.
  47. impediment
    something immaterial that interferes with action or progress
    That the loss of your eyes would be no impediment to your bodily strength, by which you might still be useful to his Majesty.
  48. peruse
    examine or consider with attention and in detail
    But having in my life perused many state trials, which I ever observed to terminate as the judges thought fit to direct, I dared not rely on so dangerous a decision, in so critical a juncture, and against such powerful enemies.
    This word is often misused to mean almost the opposite of its actual meaning.
  49. descry
    catch sight of
    Having thus prepared all things as well as I was able, I set sail on the twenty-fourth day of September, 1701, at six in the morning; and when I had gone about four leagues to the northward, the wind being at southeast, at six in the evening I descried a small island about half a league to the northwest.
  50. insatiable
    impossible to satisfy
    I stayed but two months with my wife and family; for my insatiable desire of seeing foreign countries would suffer me to continue no longer.

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