"Gulliver's Travels," Vocabulary from Part Two

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. gale
    a strong wind moving 45-90 knots
    We had a very prosperous gale till we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, where we landed for fresh water, but discovering a leak we unshipped our goods and wintered there; for the Captain falling sick of an ague, we could not leave the Cape till the end of March.
  2. monsoon
    any wind that changes direction with the seasons
    But he, being a man well experienced in the navigation of those seas, bid us all prepare against a storm, which accordingly happened the day following: for a southern wind, called the southern monsoon, began to set in.
  3. rational
    consistent with or based on or using reason
    The farmer by this time was convinced I must be a rational creature.
  4. unintelligible
    not clearly understood or expressed
    I answered as loud as I could, in several languages, and he often laid his ear within two yards of me, but all in vain, for we were wholly unintelligible to each other.
  5. vexation
    anger produced by some annoying irritation
    I was that day shown to twelve sets of company, and as often forced to go over again with the same fopperies, till I was half dead with weariness and vexation.
  6. rivulet
    a small stream
    We passed over five or six rivers many degrees broader and deeper than the Nile or the Ganges; and there was hardly a rivulet so small as the Thames at London Bridge.
  7. austere
    severely simple
    His Majesty, a prince of much gravity, and austere countenance, not well observing my shape at first view, asked the Queen after a cold manner, how long it was since she grew fond of a splacknuck; for such it seems he took me to be, as I lay upon my breast in her Majesty's right hand.
  8. scourge
    something causing misery or death
    And thus he continued on, while my color came and went several times with indignation to hear our noble country, the mistress of arts and arms, the scourge of France, the arbitress of Europe, the seat of virtue, piety, honor and truth, the pride and envy of the world, contemptuously treated.
  9. scald
    burn with a hot liquid or steam
    But, as princes seldom get their meat hot, my legs were not scalded, only my stockings and breeches in a sad condition.
  10. piecemeal
    a little bit at a time
    Some of them seized my cake, and carried it piecemeal away, others flew about my head and face, confounding me with the noise, and putting me in the utmost terror of their stings.
  11. complaisant
    showing a cheerful willingness to do favors for others
    The people who had often heard of me, were very curious to crowd about the sedan, and the girl was complaisant enough to make the bearers stop, and to take me in her hand that I might be more conveniently seen.
  12. niche
    an enclosure that is set back or indented
    For the walls are near a hundred feet thick, built of hewn stone, whereof each is about forty feet square, and adorned on all sides with statues of gods and emperors cut in marble larger than the life, placed in their several niches.
  13. illustrious
    widely known and esteemed
    I then spoke at large upon the constitution of an English Parliament, partly made up of an illustrious body called the House of Peers, persons of the noblest blood, and of the most ancient and ample patrimonies.
  14. abhor
    find repugnant
    Glumdalclitch was prevailed on to be of the company, very much against her inclination, for she was naturally tender-hearted; and as for myself, although I abhorred such kind of spectacles, yet my curiosity tempted me to see something that I thought must be extraordinary.
  15. malefactor
    someone who has been legally convicted of a crime
    The malefactor was fixed in a chair upon a scaffold erected for the purpose, and his head cut off at a blow with a sword of about forty foot long.
  16. legislature
    an assembly that makes, amends, or repeals laws
    I described that extraordinary care always taken of their education in arts and arms, to qualify them for being counselors born to the king and kingdom, to have a share in the legislature, to be members of the highest Court of Judicature, from whence there could be no appeal, and to be champions always ready for the defense of their prince and country, by their valor, conduct, and fidelity.
    The sample sentence for this word and for "sanctity," "cull", and "sage" are good examples of Jonathan Swift's explanations of his country's government. He describes them as if defending them but allowing shortcomings to come through. These shortcomings are what his gigantic hosts will criticize afterward.
  17. sanctity
    the quality of being holy
    These were searched and sought out through the whole nation, by the prince and his wisest counselors, among such of the priesthood as were most deservedly distinguished by the sanctity of their lives, and the depth of their erudition; who were indeed the spiritual fathers of the clergy and the people.
  18. cull
    look for and gather
    That the other part of the Parliament consisted of an assembly called the House of Commons, who were all principal gentlemen, freely picked and culled out by the people themselves, for their great abilities and love of their country, to represent the wisdom of the whole nation.
  19. sage
    a mentor in spiritual and philosophical topics
    I then descended to the Courts of justice, over which the judges, those venerable sages and interpreters of the law, presided, for determining the disputed rights and properties of men, as well as for the punishment of vice, and protection of innocence.
  20. vice
    a specific form of evildoing
    As for yourself (continued the King) who have spent the greatest part of your life in traveling, I am well disposed to hope you may hitherto have escaped many vices of your country.
  21. sect
    a subdivision of a larger religious group
    I computed the number of our people, by reckoning how many millions there might be of each religious sect, or political party among us.
  22. pastime
    a diversion that occupies one's time and thoughts
    I did not omit even our sports and pastimes, or any other particular which I thought might redound to the honor of my country.
  23. query
    an instance of questioning
    When I had put an end to these long discourses, his Majesty in a sixth audience, consulting his notes, proposed many doubts, queries, and objections, upon every article.
  24. strain
    an intense or violent exertion
    How it came to pass, that people were so violently bent upon getting into this assembly, which I allowed to be a great trouble and expense, often to the ruin of their families, without any salary or pension: because this appeared such an exalted strain of virtue and public spirit, that his Majesty seemed to doubt it might possibly not be always sincere...
  25. decree
    decide with authority
    Upon what I said in relation to our Courts of Justice, his Majesty desired to be satisfied in several points: and this I was the better able to do, having been formerly almost ruined by a long suit in chancery, which was decreed for me with costs.
  26. mercenary
    profit oriented
    About all, he was amazed to hear me talk of a mercenary standing army in the midst of peace, and among a free people.
  27. hypocrisy
    pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not have
    He was perfectly astonished with the historical account I gave him of our affairs during the last century, protesting it was only a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, or ambition could produce.
    This is an interesting word in relation to Swift because it was one of those flawed societal traits he tried to expose in his satires.
  28. legislator
    someone who makes or enacts laws
    My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness, and vice, may be sometimes the only ingredients for qualifying a legislator; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them.
    Do not confuse with "legislature": This word is the person and the other is the group as a body of government.
  29. pernicious
    exceedingly harmful
    But by what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains wringed and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.
  30. ingratiate
    gain favor with somebody by deliberate efforts
    In hopes to ingratiate myself farther into his Majesty's favor, I told him of an invention discovered between three and four hundred years ago, to make a certain powder, into a heap of which the smallest spark of fire falling, would kindle the whole in a moment, although it were as big as a mountain, and make it all fly up in the air together, with a noise and agitation greater than thunder.
  31. desolation
    an event that results in total destruction
    He was amazed how so impotent and grovelling an insect as I (these were his expressions) could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation, which I had painted as the common effects of those destructive machines, whereof he said some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first contriver.
  32. entity
    that which is perceived to have its own distinct existence
    And as to ideas, entities, abstractions, and transcendentals, I could never drive the least conception into their heads.
  33. florid
    elaborately or excessively ornamented
    Their style is clear, masculine, and smooth, but not florid, for they avoid nothing more than multiplying unnecessary words, or using various expressions.
  34. foresight
    providence by virtue of planning prudently for the future
    This writer went through all the usual topics of European showing how diminutive, contemptible, and helpless an animal was man in his own nature; how unable to defend himself from the inclemencies of the air, or the fury of wild beasts; how much he was excelled by one creature in strength, by another in speed, by a third in foresight, by a fourth in industry.
  35. wistful
    showing pensive sadness
    I ordered him to set me down, and lifting up one of my sashes, cast many a wistful melancholy look towards the sea.
  36. cleft
    a long narrow opening
    I soon fell asleep, and all I can conjecture is, that while I slept, the page, thinking no danger could happen, went among the rocks to look for birds' eggs, having before observed him from my window searching about, and picking up one or two in the clefts.
  37. cataract
    a large waterfall; violent rush of water over a precipice
    My fall was stopped by a terrible squash, that sounded louder to my ears than the cataract of Niagara; after which I was quite in the dark for another minute, and then my box began to rise so high that I could see light from the tops of my windows.
  38. lament
    express grief verbally
    And I may say with truth, that in the midst of my own misfortunes I could not forbear lamenting my poor nurse, the grief she would suffer for my loss, the displeasure of the Queen, and the ruin of her fortune.
  39. candor
    ability to make judgments free from dishonesty
    And as truth always forces its way into rational minds, so this honest worthy gentleman, who had some tincture of learning, and very good sense, was immediately convinced of my candor and veracity.
    This word is related to the vocabulary word, "candid" (in the list for Part One), but here it means something slightly different.
  40. hereafter
    in a subsequent part of this document or statement
    In a little time I and my family and friends came to a right understanding: but my wife protested I should never go to sea any more; although my evil destiny so ordered that she had not power to hinder me, as the reader may know hereafter.

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