"Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott, Chapters 1–11

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March are sisters whose personalities couldn't be more different. They share joy and heartbreak growing up in the shadow of the Civil War. Read the full text here.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–11, Chapters 12–23, Chapters 24–35, Chapters 36–47

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. impertinent
    improperly forward or bold
    "I don't believe any of you suffer as I do," cried Amy, "for you don't have to go to school with impertinent girls, who plague you if you don't know your lessons, and laugh at your dresses, and label your father if he isn't rich, and insult you when your nose isn't nice."
  2. pensive
    deeply or seriously thoughtful
    Amy chirped like a cricket, and Jo wandered through the airs at her own sweet will, always coming out at the wrong place with a croak or a quaver that spoiled the most pensive tune.
  3. trifle
    something of small importance
    There was a good deal of rustling and whispering behind the curtain, a trifle of lamp smoke, and an occasional giggle from Amy, who was apt to get hysterical in the excitement of the moment.
  4. apparition
    a ghostly appearing figure
    Another chant from Hagar produced another apparition, not a lovely one, for with a bang an ugly black imp appeared and, having croaked a reply, tossed a dark bottle at Hugo and disappeared with a mocking laugh.
  5. warble
    sing or play with trills
    Having warbled his thanks and put the potions in his boots, Hugo departed, and Hagar informed the audience that as he had killed a few of her friends in times past, she had cursed him, and intends to thwart his plans, and be revenged on him.
  6. serenade
    a song played outside the house of a woman
    Kneeling at the foot of the tower, he sang a serenade in melting tones.
  7. mar
    cause to become imperfect
    This was a truly thrilling scene, though some persons might have thought that the sudden tumbling down of a quantity of long red hair rather marred the effect of the villain's death.
  8. gesticulate
    show, express, or direct through movement
    They shout and gesticulate tremendously but cannot agree, and Rodrigo is about to bear away the exhausted Zara, when the timid servant enters with a letter and a bag from Hagar, who has mysteriously disappeared.
  9. bequeath
    leave or give, especially by will after one's death
    The latter informs the party that she bequeaths untold wealth to the young pair and an awful doom to Don Pedro, if he doesn't make them happy.
  10. rapturous
    feeling great delight
    This was a surprise even to the actors, and when they saw the table, they looked at one another in rapturous amazement.
  11. blithely
    in a joyous, carefree, or unconcerned manner
    So Meg went away to 'accept with thanks', look over her dress, and sing blithely as she did up her one real lace frill, while Jo finished her story, her four apples, and had a game of romps with Scrabble.
  12. jovial
    full of or showing high-spirited merriment
    Half a dozen jovial lads were talking about skates in another part of the room, and she longed to go and join them, for skating was one of the joys of her life.
  13. irascible
    quickly aroused to anger
    This did not suit Jo at all, but she accepted the place since nothing better appeared and, to every one's surprise, got on remarkably well with her irascible relative.
  14. ambition
    a strong drive for success
    Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid.
  15. forlorn
    marked by or showing hopelessness
    One forlorn fragment of dollanity had belonged to Jo and, having led a tempestuous life, was left a wreck in the rag bag, from which dreary poorhouse it was rescued by Beth and taken to her refuge.
  16. deportment
    the way a person behaves toward other people
    She got through her lessons as well as she could, and managed to escape reprimands by being a model of deportment.
  17. plaintive
    expressing sorrow
    She had a plaintive way of saying, "When Papa was rich we did so-and-so," which was very touching, and her long words were considered 'perfectly elegant' by the girls.
  18. frivolous
    not serious in content or attitude or behavior
    Aunt woke up and, being more good-natured after her nap, told me to read a bit and show what frivolous work I preferred to the worthy and instructive Belsham.
  19. diligent
    characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks
    (Here the listeners stole sly looks at one another, and began to sew diligently.)
  20. cunning
    crafty artfulness, especially in deception
    "Now, Marmee, that is very cunning of you to turn our own stories against us, and give us a sermon instead of a romance!" cried Meg.
  21. morsel
    a small quantity of anything
    'Tink ob yer marcies!'" added Jo, who could not, for the life of her, help getting a morsel of fun out of the little sermon, though she took it to heart as much as any of them.
  22. benefactor
    a person who helps people or institutions
    But, after a while, they found that he considered them the benefactors, and could not do enough to show how grateful he was for Mrs. March's motherly welcome, their cheerful society, and the comfort he took in that humble home of theirs.
  23. indolent
    disinclined to work or exertion
    Never having known mother or sisters, he was quick to feel the influences they brought about him, and their busy, lively ways made him ashamed of the indolent life he led.
  24. inexorable
    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    All flashed indignant or appealing glances at the inexorable Davis, and one passionate lime lover burst into tears.
  25. ignominious
    deserving or bringing disgrace or shame
    A bitter sense of wrong and the thought of Jenny Snow helped her to bear it, and, taking the ignominious place, she fixed her eyes on the stove funnel above what now seemed a sea of faces, and stood there, so motionless and white that the girls found it hard to study with that pathetic figure before them.
  26. pacify
    fight violence and try to establish peace in
    Meg flew to rescue Amy, and Beth to pacify Jo, but Jo was quite beside herself, and with a parting box on her sister's ear, she rushed out of the room up to the old sofa in the garret, and finished her fight alone.
  27. irksome
    tedious or irritating
    But she begged so hard, and Sallie had promised to take good care of her, and a little pleasure seemed so delightful after a winter of irksome work that the mother yielded, and the daughter went to take her first taste of fashionable life.
  28. bereavement
    state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one
  29. manifest
    reveal its presence or make an appearance
    "All in favor of this motion please to manifest it by saying, 'Aye'."
  30. rogue
    a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
    "You rogue! You traitor! Jo, how could you?"

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