"Great Expectations," Vocabulary from Volume 2

"Great Expectations," the classic novel by Charles Dickens, is the life story of Pip -- his struggles with poverty, his adventures, and the loves of his life (etext found here).

Learn these word lists for the novel: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3

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definitions & notes only words
  1. ravel
    tangle or complicate
    It was a little past mid-day when the four-horse stage-coach by which I was a passenger, got into the ravel of traffic frayed out about the Cross Keys, Wood-street, Cheapside, London.
    "Ravel" can also have the opposite meaning ("disentangle"), but that would not apply here to the description of horse-drawn London traffic that is so crowded that it might get tangled up and frayed out ("worn away by rubbing"), which could lead to frays ("noisy fight").
  2. dismal
    causing dejection
    Mr Jaggers's room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically patched like a broken head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down at me through it.
  3. detrimental
    causing harm or injury
    I wondered how many other clerks there were up-stairs, and whether they all claimed to have the same detrimental mastery of their fellow-creatures.
  4. supplicant
    one praying humbly for something
    My guardian threw his supplicant off with supreme indifference, and left him dancing on the pavement as if it were red-hot.
  5. irate
    feeling or showing extreme anger
    Mr Jaggers suddenly became most irate. 'Now, I warned you before,' said he, throwing his forefinger at the terrified client, 'that if you ever presumed to talk in that way here, I'd make an example of you. You infernal scoundrel, how dare you tell ME that?'
  6. depreciation
    a communication that belittles somebody or something
    There was an air of toleration or depreciation about his utterance of these words, that rather depressed me; and I was still looking sideways at his block of a face in search of any encouraging note to the text, when he said here we were at Barnard's Inn.
    "Depreciation" is an antonym of "appreciation" and a near-synonym for another word with almost the same spelling, "deprecation" ("the act of expressing disapproval, especially of yourself"). Pip is depressed at the man's depreciation, because it is directed at his tutor, who is supposed to help him gain appreciation ("a favorable judgment" and "an increase in price or value").
  7. magnanimous
    noble and generous in spirit
    'Well!' said the pale young gentleman, reaching out his hand good-humouredly, 'it's all over now, I hope, and it will be magnanimous in you if you'll forgive me for having knocked you about so.'
  8. imbue
    fill or soak totally
    There was something wonderfully hopeful about his general air, and something that at the same time whispered to me he would never be very successful or rich. I don't know how this was. I became imbued with the notion on that first occasion before we sat down to dinner, but I cannot define by what means.
    This notion that Pip is imbued with shows a lot about his perspective on society--although Dickens does not have Pip directly make the observation here, he is suggesting that people can only become very rich and successful if they are willing to do secret and mean things. Herbert Pocket does not have that underhanded nature, but Pip's road to riches is paved with secrecy and meanness. These qualities do not originate with Pip but he soon becomes imbued with them.
  9. languor
    a feeling of lack of interest or energy
    He was still a pale young gentleman, and had a certain conquered languor about him in the midst of his spirits and briskness, that did not seem indicative of natural strength.
  10. ample
    fairly large
    'Miss Havisham was now an heiress, and you may suppose was looked after as a great match. Her half-brother had now ample means again, but what with debts and what with new madness wasted them most fearfully again.
  11. susceptibility
    the state of being easily affected
    Well! This man pursued Miss Havisham closely, and professed to be devoted to her. I believe she had not shown much susceptibility up to that time; but all the susceptibility she possessed, certainly came out then, and she passionately loved him.
  12. induce
    cause to act in a specified manner
    He practised on her affection in that systematic way, that he got great sums of money from her, and he induced her to buy her brother out of a share in the brewery (which had been weakly left him by his father) at an immense price, on the plea that when he was her husband he must hold and manage it all.
  13. inveterate
    in a habitual and longstanding manner
    I thought of her having said, 'Matthew will come and see me at last when I am laid dead upon that table;' and I asked Herbert whether his father was so inveterate against her?
    The definition suggested here is connected to the Middle English usage of the word: "obstinate" ("marked by tenacious unwillingness to yield")--while Matthew's absence can be described as habitual and longstanding (ever since Miss Havisham had ordered him out of her house 25 years ago), Pip is using the adjective to question whether Herbert's father can be so stubborn that he would refuse to see Miss Havisham even when she's on her deathbed.
  14. mortification
    strong feelings of embarrassment
    'He may have been married already, and her cruel mortification may have been a part of her half-brother's scheme,' said Herbert.
  15. incipient
    only partly in existence; imperfectly formed
    It appeared to me that the eggs from which young Insurers were hatched, were incubated in dust and heat, like the eggs of ostriches, judging from the places to which those incipient giants repaired on a Monday morning.
  16. venerate
    regard with feelings of respect and reverence
    When Herbert came, we went and had lunch at a celebrated house which I then quite venerated, but now believe to have been the most abject superstition in Europe, and where I could not help noticing, even then, that there was much more gravy on the tablecloths and knives and waiters' clothes, than in the steaks.
  17. ludicrous
    inviting ridicule
    He was a young-looking man, in spite of his perplexities and his very grey hair, and his manner seemed quite natural. I use the word natural, in the sense of its being unaffected; there was something comic in his distraught way, as though it would have been downright ludicrous but for his own perception that it was very near being so.
  18. condescension
    affability to your inferiors
    She then smiled upon me in an absent state of mind, and asked me if I liked the taste of orange-flower water? As the question had no bearing, near or remote, on any foregone or subsequent transaction, I consider it to have been thrown out, like her previous approaches, in general conversational condescension.
    The example sentences describe Mrs. Pocket, who had received Pip "with an appearance of amiable dignity"--"affability" and "amiability" are synonyms that mean "a disposition to be friendly and approachable" and they are qualities not usually associated with condescension, whose focus on social rank often results in arrogance or disrespect. But Mrs. Pocket is the daughter of a knight who had eloped with a man with no title.
  19. judicious
    marked by the exercise of good judgment in practical matters
    So successful a watch and ward had been established over the young lady by this judicious parent, that she had grown up highly ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless.
    This judicious parent had guarded the young Mrs. Pocket from the "acquisition of plebeian domestic knowledge." "Judicious" mocks the knight, since raising a daughter to be perfectly helpless and useless would not be an exercise in good judgment. "Plebeian" ("associated with the great masses of people") sounds like it would be an insult the knight would use, but it actually describes useful domestic knowledge.
  20. remonstrate
    censure severely or angrily
    'Belinda,' remonstrated Mr Pocket, from the other end of the table, 'how can you be so unreasonable? Jane only interfered for the protection of baby.'
  21. irrepressible
    impossible to control
    A pause succeeded, during which the honest and irrepressible baby made a series of leaps and crows at little Jane, who appeared to me to be the only member of the family (irrespective of servants) with whom it had any decided acquaintance.
  22. adept
    someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field
    I was pretty good at most exercises in which country-boys are adepts, but, as I was conscious of wanting elegance of style for the Thames--not to say for other waters--I at once engaged to place myself under the tuition of the winner of a prize-wherry who plied at our stairs, and to whom I was introduced by my new allies.
  23. rudiment
    the elementary stage of any subject
    He advised my attending certain places in London, for the acquisition of such mere rudiments as I wanted, and my investing him with the functions of explainer and director of all my studies.
  24. denunciation
    a public act of denouncing
    Which side he was on, I couldn't make out, for he seemed to me to be grinding the whole place in a mill; I only know that when I stole out on tiptoe, he was not on the side of the bench; for, he was making the legs of the old gentleman who presided, quite convulsive under the table, by his denunciations of his conduct as the representative of British law and justice in that chair that day.
    The use of the word "denunciation" shows a lot about Mr. Jaggers' character because he is speaking out against a judge and condemning him of being disgraceful. In addition to making judges shiver, Mr. Jaggers' power as a lawyer awes witnesses and intimidates criminals. This is not a comfort to Pip who depends on Mr. Jaggers as his guardian and distributor of funds.
  25. niggardly
    petty or reluctant in giving or spending
    Bentley Drummle, who was so sulky a fellow that he even took up a book as if its writer had done him an injury, did not take up an acquaintance in a more agreeable spirit. Heavy in figure, movement, and comprehension--in the sluggish complexion of his face, and in the large awkward tongue that seemed to loll about in his mouth as he himself lolled about in a room--he was idle, proud, niggardly, reserved, and suspicious.
    All the adjectives describing Drummle are negative, including "sulky" ("sullen or moody"), "sluggish" ("moving slowly") in both body and mind, and "idle" which is similar to the verb "loll" ("be lazy or idle" and "hang loosely or laxly"). Despite this, when asked whether he has three pals, Pip positively counts Drummle with Herbert and Startop.
  26. inveigle
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    Mr Pip, there are about seven hundred thieves in this town who know all about that watch; there's not a man, a woman, or a child, among them, who wouldn't identify the smallest link in that chain, and drop it as if it was red-hot, if inveigled into touching it.'
  27. dolefully
    with sadness; in a sorrowful manner
    He conducted us to Gerrard-street, Soho, to a house on the south side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows.
  28. reticent
    temperamentally disinclined to talk
    He immediately began to talk to Drummle: not at all deterred by his replying in his heavy reticent way, but apparently led on by it to screw discourse out of him.
  29. morose
    showing a brooding ill humor
    If his object in singling out Drummle were to bring him out still more, it perfectly succeeded. In a sulky triumph, Drummle showed his morose depreciation of the rest of us, in a more and more offensive degree until he became downright intolerable.
  30. exhort
    spur on or encourage especially by cheers and shouts
    Drummle laughed outright, and sat laughing in our faces, with his hands in his pockets and his round shoulders raised: plainly signifying that it was quite true, and that he despised us, as asses all.
    Hereupon Startop took him in hand, though with a much better grace than I had shown, and exhorted him to be a little more agreeable.
  31. ungainly
    lacking grace in movement or posture
    The great numbers on their backs, as if they were street doors; their coarse mangy ungainly outer surface, as if they were lower animals; their ironed legs, apologetically garlanded with pocket-handkerchiefs; and the way in which all present looked at them and kept from them; made them (as Herbert had said) a most disagreeable and degraded spectacle.
  32. choleric
    characterized by anger
    Hereupon, a choleric gentleman, who had taken the fourth place on that seat, flew into a most violent passion, and said that it was a breach of contract to mix him up with such villainous company, and that it was poisonous and pernicious and infamous and shameful, and I don't know what else.
    In the old days (before Charles Dickens' time), there was the belief that humans were composed of four basic fluids (called bodily humors), and your personality was influenced by them depending on the proportions of these elements. The root for choleric derives from choler (which means bile), and if you had higher proportions of this, you were irritable. Compare with "sanguine."
  33. slovenly
    negligent of neatness especially in dress and person
    The whole had a slovenly confined and sleepy look, like a cage for a human dormouse: while he, looming dark and heavy in the shadow of a corner by the window, looked like the human dormouse for whom it was fitted up--as indeed he was.
  34. disparity
    inequality or difference in some respect
    I fancied, as I looked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and common boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that came upon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her!
  35. discrepancy
    a difference between conflicting facts or claims or opinions
    There was no discrepancy of years between us, to remove her far from me; we were of nearly the same age, though of course the age told for more in her case than in mine; but the air of inaccessibility which her beauty and her manner gave her, tormented me in the midst of my delight, and at the height of the assurance I felt that our patroness had chosen us for one another.
  36. vehemence
    intensity or forcefulness of expression
    'Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces--and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper--love her, love her, love her!'
    Never had I seen such passionate eagerness as was joined to her utterance of these words. I could feel the muscles of the thin arm round my neck, swell with the vehemence that possessed her.
  37. culminate
    bring to a head or to the highest point
    The disgrace attendant on his immediately afterwards taking to crowing and pursuing me across the bridge with crows, as from an exceedingly dejected fowl who had known me when I was a blacksmith, culminated the disgrace with which I left the town, and was, so to speak, ejected by it into the open country.
  38. truncheon
    a short stout club used primarily by police officers
    The royal phantom also carried a ghostly manuscript round its truncheon, to which it had the appearance of occasionally referring and that, too, with an air of anxiety and a tendency to lose the place of reference which were suggestive of a state of mortality.
  39. contiguous
    connecting without a break
    It was likewise to be noted of this majestic spirit that whereas it always appeared with an air of having been out a long time and walked an immense distance, it perceptibly came from a closely contiguous wall.
  40. elocution
    an expert manner of speaking involving control of voice
    I laughed in spite of myself all the time, the whole thing was so droll; and yet I had a latent impression that there was something decidedly fine in Mr Wopsle's elocution--not for old associations' sake, I am afraid, but because it was very slow, very dreary, very up-hill and down-hill, and very unlike any way in which any man in any natural circumstances of life or death ever expressed himself about anything.
  41. affluent
    a person who is financially well off
    I had the happiness to know you in former times, and the Drama has ever had a claim which has ever been acknowledged, on the noble and the affluent.
  42. ascertain
    learn or determine by making an inquiry or other effort
    Muttering that I would make the inquiry whether I had time to walk with him, I went into the office, and ascertained from the clerk with the nicest precision and much to the trying of his temper, the earliest moment at which the coach could be expected--which I knew beforehand, quite as well as he.
  43. infallible
    incapable of failure or error
    So now, as an infallible way of making little ease great ease, I began to contract a quantity of debt.
  44. remunerative
    producing a sizeable profit
    I detested the chambers beyond expression at that period of repentance, and could not endure the sight of the Avenger's livery: which had a more expensive and a less remunerative appearance then, than at any other time in the four-and-twenty hours.
  45. copious
    large in number or quantity
    Dinner over, we produced a bundle of pens, a copious supply of ink, and a goodly show of writing and blotting paper.
  46. obsequious
    attentive in an ingratiating or servile manner
    Standing at this table, I became conscious of the servile Pumblechook in a black cloak and several yards of hatband, who was alternately stuffing himself, and making obsequious movements to catch my attention.
  47. vainglorious
    feeling self-importance
    My thoughts were further distracted by the excessive pride of Mr and Mrs Hubble, who were surpassingly conceited and vainglorious in being members of so distinguished a procession.
  48. inhospitable
    lacking cordiality and generosity toward guests or strangers
    I had asked him the question inhospitably enough, for I resented the sort of bright and gratified recognition that still shone in his face. I resented it, because it seemed to imply that he expected me to respond to it.
    "Hospitable" means "disposed to treat guests and strangers with generosity"--even though Pip had asked "Do you wish to come in?" he did it in an inhospitable tone, hoping that the man would say no so that he wouldn't have to show him any hospitality. What Pip does not realize is that this man he is resenting is the one who had made possible the hospitable ("favorable to life and growth") environments in his life.
  49. repugnance
    intense aversion
    If I had loved him instead of abhorring him; if I had been attracted to him by the strongest admiration and affection, instead of shrinking from him with the strongest repugnance; it could have been no worse.
  50. reiterate
    to say, state, or perform again
    Crowding up with these reflections came the reflection that I had seen him with my childish eyes to be a desperately violent man; that I had heard that other convict reiterate that he had tried to murder him; that I had seen him down in the ditch tearing and fighting like a wild beast.

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