"Gulliver's Travels," Vocabulary from Part Three

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

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. jabber
    talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner
    He knew us by our countenances to be Englishmen, and jabbering to us in his own language, swore we should be tied back to back, and thrown into the sea.
  2. vehemence
    intensity or forcefulness of expression
    This inflamed his rage; he repeated his threatenings, and turning to his companions, spoke with great vehemence, in the Japanese language, as I suppose, often using the word Christianos.
  3. heathen
    not acknowledging the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam
    I made the Captain a very low bow, and then turning to the Dutchman, said, I was sorry to find more mercy in a heathen, than in a brother Christian.
  4. longitude
    the angular distance from the prime meridian at Greenwich
    About an hour before we saw the pirates, I had taken an observation, and found we were in the latitude of 46 N. and of longitude 183.
    Compare with the vocabulary word "latitude" (in the list for Part One).
  5. parched
    dried out by heat or excessive exposure to sunlight
    I gathered plenty of eggs upon the rocks, and got a quantity of dry seaweed and parched grass, which I designed to kindle the next day, and roast my eggs as well as I could.
  6. phenomenon
    any state or process known through the senses
    But not being at that time in a disposition to philosophise upon this phenomenon, I rather chose to observe what course the island would take, because it seemed for a while to stand still.
  7. supplicate
    make a humble, earnest petition
    I then put myself into the most supplicating postures, and spoke in the humblest accent, but received no answer.
  8. disquietude
    feelings of anxiety that make you tense and irritable
    The inhabitants subject to fear and disquietudes.
  9. singular
    unusual or striking
    They beheld me with all the marks and circumstances of wonder; neither indeed was I much in their debt, having never till then seen a race of mortals so singular in their shapes, habits, and countenances.
  10. discourse
    an extended communication dealing with some particular topic
    The whole discourse was written with great acuteness, containing many observations both curious and useful for politicians, but as I conceived not altogether complete.
  11. manifest
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    This flapper is likewise employed diligently to attend his master in his walks, and upon occasion to give him a soft flap on his eyes, because he is always so wrapped up in cogitation, that he is in manifest danger of falling down every precipice, and bouncing his head against every post, and in the streets, of jostling others, or being jostled himself into the kennel.
  12. insight
    a feeling of understanding
    And thus in a few days, by the help of a very faithful memory, I got some insight into their language.
  13. etymology
    a history of a word
    The word, which I interpret the Flying or Floating Island, is in the original Laputa, whereof I could never learn the true etymology.
    Studying the etymology of a word can sometimes help you memorize its meaning. It also helps to associate other words which are etymologically related to it.
  14. obsolete
    no longer in use
    Lap in the old obsolete language signifies high, and untuh, a governor, from which they say by corruption was derived Laputa, from Lapuntuh.
  15. defect
    an imperfection in an object or machine
    Their houses are very ill built, the walls bevel without one right angle in any apartment, and this defect arises from the contempt they bear to practical geometry, which they despise as vulgar and mechanic, those instructions they give being too refined for the intellectuals of their workmen, which occasions perpetual mistakes.
    The sample sentence here exposes those intellectuals that shun practical knowledge for more esoteric (albeit, less useful) knowledge.
  16. fancy
    imagination held to be more casual than true imagination
    Imagination, fancy, and invention, they are wholly strangers to, nor have any words in their language by which those ideas can be expressed; the whole compass of their thoughts and mind being shut up within the two forementioned sciences.
  17. analogy
    drawing a comparison in order to show a similarity
    I have indeed observed the same disposition among most of the mathematicians I have known in Europe, although I could never discover the least analogy between the two sciences; unless those people suppose, that because the smallest circle hath as many degrees as the largest, therefore the regulation and management of the world require no more abilities than the handling and turning of a globe.
  18. conceited
    having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
    But I rather take this quality to spring from a very common infirmity of human nature, inclining us to be more curious and conceited in matters where we have least concern, and for which we are least adapted either by study or nature.
  19. impending
    close in time; about to occur
    They are so perpetually alarmed with the apprehensions of these and the like impending dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their beds, nor have any relish for the common pleasures or amusements of life.
  20. implement
    a piece of equipment or a tool used for a specific purpose
    Among these the ladies choose their gallants: but the vexation is, that they act with too much ease and security, for the husband is always so rapt in speculation, that the mistress and lover may proceed to the greatest familiarities before his face, if he be but provided with paper and implements, and without his flapper at his side.
  21. proficiency
    skillfulness in the command of fundamentals
    In about a month's time I had made a tolerable proficiency in their language, and was able to answer most of the King's questions, when I had the honor to attend him.
  22. chasm
    a deep opening in the earth's surface
    At the centre of the island there is a chasm about fifty yards in diameter, from whence the astronomers descend into a large dome, which is therefore called Flandona Gagnole, or the Astronomer's Cave, situated at the depth of a hundred yards beneath the upper surface of the adamant.
  23. sextant
    an instrument for measuring angular distance
    The place is stored with great variety of sextants, quadrants, telescopes, astrolabes, and other astronomical instruments.
    In the days of Gulliver's Travels, this was used in navigating ships.
  24. concave
    curving inward
    In the middle of the concave side there is a groove twelve inches deep, in which the extremities of the axle are lodged, and turned round as there is occasion.
  25. attract
    exert a force on
    Upon placing the magnet erect with its attracting end towards the earth, the island descends; but when the repelling extremity points downwards, the island mounts directly upwards.
    Opposite of repel.
  26. repel
    cause to move back by force or influence
    Upon placing the magnet erect with its attracting end towards the earth, the island descends; but when the repelling extremity points downwards, the island mounts directly upwards.
    Opposite of attract.
  27. oblique
    slanting or inclined in direction or course or position
    When the position of the stone is oblique, the motion of the island is so too.
  28. dearth
    an acute insufficiency
    The first and the mildest course by keeping the island hovering over such a town, and the lands about it, whereby he can deprive them of the benefit of the sun and the rain, and consequently afflict the inhabitants with dearth and diseases.
  29. intercede
    act between parties with a view to reconciling differences
    I entreated this illustrious person to intercede in my behalf with his Majesty for leave to depart, which he accordingly did, as he was pleased to tell me, with regret: for indeed he had made me several offers very advantageous, which however I refused with expressions of the highest acknowledgment.
  30. diurnal
    having a daily cycle or occurring every day
    There was an astronomer who had undertaken to place a sundial upon the great weathercock on the townhouse, by adjusting the annual and diurnal motions of the earth and sun, so as to answer and coincide with all accidental turnings by the wind.
    This use of the word is not the opposite of nocturnal.
  31. theology
    the rational and systematic study of religion
    Everyone knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas by his contrivance the most ignorant person at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labor, may write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, law, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.
  32. chimera
    a grotesque product of the imagination
    These unhappy people were proposing schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favorites upon the score of their wisdom, capacity, and virtue; of teaching ministers to consult the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for employments persons qualified to exercise them; with many other wild impossible chimeras...
  33. lineament
    the characteristic parts of a person's face
    I was struck with a profound veneration at the sight of Brutus, and could easily discover the most consummate virtue, the greatest intrepidity and firmness of mind, the truest love of his country, and general benevolence for mankind in every lineament of his countenance.
    Compare this word with "countenance" (in the list in Part One), which is also used in this sample sentence.
  34. vortex
    the shape of something rotating rapidly
    This great philosopher freely acknowledged his own mistakes in natural philosophy, because he proceeded in many things upon conjecture, as all men must do; and he found, that Gassendi, who had made the doctrine of Epicurus as palatable as he could, and the vortices of Descartes, were equally exploded.
  35. sallow
    unhealthy looking
    How the pox under all its consequences and denominations had altered every lineament of an English countenance, shortened the size of bodies, unbraced the nerves, relaxed the sinews and muscles, introduced a sallow complexion, and rendered the flesh loose and rancid.
  36. shoal
    a sandbank in a stretch of water that is visible at low tide
    Two of them came on board in less than half an hour, by whom we were guided between certain shoals and rocks, which are very dangerous in the passage, to a large basin, where fleet may ride in safety within a cable's length of the town wall.
  37. plausible
    apparently reasonable and valid, and truthful
    I gave him a short account of some particulars, and made my story as plausible and consistent as I could; but I thought it necessary to disguise my country, and call myself an Hollander, because my intentions were for Japan, and I knew the Dutch were the only Europeans permitted to enter into that kingdom.
  38. appellation
    identifying words by which someone or something is called
    In talking they forget the common appellation of things, and the names of persons, even of those who are their nearest friends and relations.
  39. eloquent
    expressing yourself readily, clearly, effectively
    I answered, it was easy to be eloquent on so copious and delightful a subject, especially to me who have been often apt to amuse myself with visions of what I should do if I were a king, a general, or a great lord; and upon this very case I had frequently run over the whole system how I should employ myself and pass the time if I were sure to live for ever.
  40. covetous
    immoderately desirous of acquiring something
    They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but uncapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, which never descended below their grandchildren.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.