"Little Women," Vocabulary from Part 1: Chapters 12-23

The March sisters, the protagonists of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," are some of the most beloved characters in all of literature. Precocious, humorous and dramatic all at once, the sisters and their adventures are the stuff of great literature (etext found here).

Learn these word lists for the classic novel: Part 1: Chapters 1-11, Part 1: Chapters 12-23, Part 2: Chapters 24-35, Part 2: Chapters 36-47

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. complacently
    in a self-satisfied manner
    It will be delicious, I'm sure," said Meg complacently.
  2. rummage
    search haphazardly
    Beth began by rummaging everything out of the big closet where her family resided, but getting tired before half done, she left her establishment topsy-turvy and went to her music, rejoicing that she had no dishes to wash.
  3. ennui
    the feeling of being bored by something tedious
    "If one could have a fine house, full of nice girls, or go traveling, the summer would be delightful, but to stay at home with three selfish sisters and a grown-up boy was enough to try the patience of a Boaz," complained Miss Malaprop, after several days devoted to pleasure, fretting, and ennui.
  4. palatable
    acceptable to the taste or mind
    "Poor little souls, they will have a hard time, I'm afraid, but they won't suffer, and it will do them good," she said, producing the more palatable viands with which she had provided herself, and disposing of the bad breakfast, so that their feelings might not be hurt, a motherly little deception for which they were grateful.
  5. vigorous
    characterized by forceful and energetic action or activity
    "Here's a sweet prospect!" muttered Jo, slamming the stove door open, and poking vigorously among the cinders.
  6. meager
    deficient in amount or quality or extent
    The lobster was a scarlet mystery to her, but she hammered and poked till it was unshelled and its meager proportions concealed in a grove of lettuce leaves.
  7. epitaph
    an inscription in memory of a buried person
    Laurie dug a grave under the ferns in the grove, little Pip was laid in, with many tears by his tender-hearted mistress, and covered with moss, while a wreath of violets and chickweed was hung on the stone which bore his epitaph, composed by Jo while she struggled with the dinner.
  8. assuage
    provide physical relief, as from pain
    At the conclusion of the ceremonies, Beth retired to her room, overcome with emotion and lobster, but there was no place of repose, for the beds were not made, and she found her grief much assuaged by beating up the pillows and putting things in order.
  9. amiable
    diffusing warmth and friendliness
    While Hannah and I did your work, you got on pretty well, though I don't think you were very happy or amiable.
  10. fete
    an elaborate party, often outdoors
    Each had made such preparation for the fete as seemed necessary and proper.
  11. remonstrate
    censure severely or angrily
    You shall not make a guy of yourself," remonstrated Meg, as Jo tied down with a red ribbon the broad-brimmed, old-fashioned leghorn Laurie had sent for a joke.
  12. dexterity
    adroitness in using the hands
    Meg, in the other boat, was delightfully situated, face to face with the rowers, who both admired the prospect and feathered their oars with uncommon 'skill and dexterity'.
  13. aversion
    a feeling of intense dislike
    He never talked to her much, but he looked at her a good deal, and she felt sure that he did not regard her with aversion.
  14. ubiquitous
    being present everywhere at once
    Sallie Gardiner was absorbed in keeping her white pique dress clean and chattering with the ubiquitous Fred, who kept Beth in constant terror by his pranks.
  15. skirmish
    a minor short-term fight
    Jo and Fred had several skirmishes and once narrowly escaped high words.
  16. dyspeptic
    suffering from indigestion
    Jo announced that the coffee was ready, and everyone settled themselves to a hearty meal, for youth is seldom dyspeptic, and exercise develops wholesome appetites.
  17. venerable
    impressive by reason of age
    A very merry lunch it was, for everything seemed fresh and funny, and frequent peals of laughter startled a venerable horse who fed near by.
  18. lexicon
    a reference book containing an alphabetical list of words
    "A stunning blow from the big Greek lexicon, which an old fellow in a black gown fired at him," said Ned.
  19. prodigious
    great in size, force, extent, or degree
    Could swim like a duck, paddled round the castle till he came to a little door guarded by two stout fellows, knocked their heads together till they cracked like a couple of nuts, then, by a trifling exertion of his prodigious strength, he smashed in the door, went up a pair of stone steps covered with dust a foot thick, toads as big as your fist, and spiders that would frighten you into hysterics, Miss March.
  20. rigmarole
    a set of confused and meaningless statements
    What shall I say?" cried Sallie, as Fred ended his rigmarole, in which he had jumbled together pell-mell nautical phrases and facts out of one of his favorite books.
  21. fastidious
    giving careful attention to detail
    "My sister Beth is a very fastidious girl, when she likes to be," said Amy, well pleased at Beth's success.
  22. impromptu
    with little or no preparation or forethought
    An impromptu circus, fox and geese, and an amicable game of croquet finished the afternoon.
  23. lackadaisical
    idle or indolent especially in a dreamy way
    He looked at Meg with such a lackadaisical expression that she laughed outright and spoiled his song.
  24. despondent
    without or almost without hope
    Be patient, Jo, don't get despondent or do rash things, write to me often, and be my brave girl, ready to help and cheer all.
  25. panacea
    hypothetical remedy for all ills or diseases
    Poor Hannah was the first to recover, and with unconscious wisdom she set all the rest a good example, for with her, work was panacea for most afflictions.
  26. fervent
    characterized by intense emotion
    The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlet here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.
  27. serene
    not agitated
    All serene on the Rappahannock, troops in fine condition, commisary department well conducted, the Home Guard under Colonel Teddy always on duty, Commander in Chief General Laurence reviews the army daily, Quartermaster Mullet keeps order in camp, and Major Lion does picket duty at night.
  28. proxy
    a person authorized to act for another
    I'll do it by proxy, when your grandpa comes.
  29. docile
    willing to be taught or led or supervised or directed
    Finding the child more docile and amiable than her sister, the old lady felt it her duty to try and counteract, as far as possible, the bad effects of home freedom and indulgence.
  30. falter
    be or become weak, unsteady, or uncertain
    "It's like his writing," faltered Meg, comparing it with the note in her hand.
  31. incorrigible
    impervious to correction by punishment
    Amy being gone, Laurie was her only refuge, and much as she enjoyed his society, she rather dreaded him just then, for he was an incorrigible tease, and she feared he would coax the secret from her.
  32. cavalier
    given to haughty disregard of others
    Get up, and don't be a goose, Jo," was the cavalier reply to her petition.

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