"Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll

This poem is one of the most celebrated bits of nonsense in the English language. Carroll was a master at devising things that sound like words but aren't, and in creating joy from the sheer sound of these "words" (etext found here).
Read more...

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. gyre
    a round shape formed by a series of concentric circles
    ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    The given definition is for "gyre" as a noun, but the example sentence is using it as a verb, which could connect to "gyrate" ("to wind or move in a spiral course"--often in a dance).
  2. beware
    be on one's guard; be cautious or wary about; be alert to
    Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  3. claw
    sharp curved horny process on the toe of some animals
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
  4. shun
    avoid and stay away from deliberately
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!
  5. foe
    a personal enemy
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
  6. flame
    be on fire
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!
  7. through
    over the whole distance
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!
  8. burble
    flow in an irregular current with a bubbling noise
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
    Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!
    "Burble" also means "babble" (which is possible because many of the animals that Alice encounters through the looking glass can talk) and "gurgle" (which is also possible because Alice found the poem in a book on the other side of the looking glass, where things often look or are backwards, so a scary monster that gurgles like a baby would not be out of place).
  9. snicker
    a disrespectful laugh
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
    Although the phrase "snicker-snack" sounds more onomatopoeic than meaningful, it could suggest the image of the boy laughing disrespectfully while his blade made snicker-snacking sounds through the Jabberwock's body.
  10. galumph
    move around heavily and clumsily
    He went galumphing back.
  11. slay
    kill intentionally and with premeditation
    “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
  12. beamish
    smiling with happiness or optimism
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
  13. chortle
    laugh quietly or with restraint
    He chortled in his joy.
  14. gambol
    play or run boisterously
    ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
    The made-up word "gimble" sounds like the real word "gambol"--the definition fits the overall happy mood of this stanza that starts and ends a poem about the successful killing of a monster. But according to Carroll's Humpty Dumpty, "gimble" means "to make holes like a gimlet" (a gimlet is similar to a corkscrew, which the toves look like).

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.