"Chains," Vocabulary from Chapters 12-22

The question of who gets to be free is addressed in "Chains" by Laurie Halse Anderson. A thirteen year old girl, Isobel, sees that Freedom is all anyone can talk about during the Revolutionary War. Isobel realizes, however, that as a slave girl she will be denied freedom no matter who wins the war. So she decides to do something about it.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-11, Chapters 12-22, Chapters 23-33, Chapters 34-45

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. ponder
    reflect deeply on a subject
    She tapped her forefinger on the table as she pondered, her rings flashing in the light.
  2. nourished
    being provided with adequate nourishment
    "You can’t run errands for me unless properly nourished.”
    "Nourish" comes from the Old French "norrir" which comes from the Latin "nutrire" which means "to feed" which one needs to do to one's body in order to be healthy enough to work.
  3. ruckus
    the act of making a noisy disturbance
    When I went back inside, there came a ruckus and much shouting from the second floor.
  4. negotiate
    discuss the terms of an arrangement
    Becky brought back peas, greens, and gossip from the marketplace: the British fleet was in the harbor, no, the fleet had sailed for Jamaica, no, the Congress had negotiated a peace, no, the British planned to kill us all while we slept.
  5. barrack
    a building or group of buildings to house military personnel
    The pump was set in a little shed at the edge of the Common, a big gathering place ringed by army barracks, the poorhouse, and the jail.
  6. kin
    related by blood
    It made me feel kin to the old man, and I smiled and curtsied polite whenever I saw him.
  7. doff
    “You don’t want to sail anywhere, not now,” he said, doffing his hat and bowing to three officers passing on horseback.
  8. fervent
    characterized by intense emotion
    I fervently hoped Becky would chop off their heads and strip off their skins.
  9. refined
    cultivated and genteel
    Madam knocked on the door with a not terribly refined fist.
  10. distinguished
    standing above others in character or attainment
    Madam tried to look beyond him to the distinguished guest but could not see through the thick form of her husband.
  11. queue
    a braid of hair at the back of the head
    His own hair was dark, pulled back into a neat queue, and tied with string.
  12. prattle
    idle or foolish and irrelevant talk
    This was not idle prattle about Congress.
    Compare with "natter" in the list for Chapters 1-11--although "prattle" is used here as a noun, in its use as a verb, the two words are synonymous, with the difference that "natter" is mostly used by British speakers.
  13. avert
    prevent the occurrence of; prevent from happening
    “War will be averted and countless lives saved."
  14. tranquility
    a state of peace and quiet
    "Our world will return to the former state of tranquility we enjoyed before all this nonsense.”
  15. treason
    a crime that undermines the offender's government
    “All of the American leaders have committed treason against the King."
    Compare with "sedition" in this list--both are crimes against the government, but "treason" often involves betrayal of one's country to an enemy.
  16. ailment
    an often persistent bodily disorder or disease
    “She is not suffering her particular ailment, is she?”
  17. address
    speak to
    He bade Madam to sit on the chair she had nearly broke over my head, took a seat himself, and addressed me gravely.
    Here, "address" does not mean an actual location or the directions for finding a location (but the sense of direction is suggested in the preposition "to"). Used as a verb, it is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable instead of the first.
  18. intently
    with strained or eager attention
    I dove behind a log barricade just as two soldiers turned the corner, talking intently to each other and sweeping the street with their eyes.
  19. sentry
    a person employed to keep watch for some anticipated event
    As I neared the gate, a sentry stepped out and blocked my way.
  20. smolder
    burn slowly and without a flame
    I followed him inside, past a room of men sleeping on the floor, along a hall to a small room where a low fire smoldered in the hearth, a chair drawn up before it.
  21. ember
    a hot, smoldering fragment of wood left from a fire
    He walked to the hearth and looked at the glowing embers.
  22. portend
    indicate by signs
    Becky brought back tales of sea monsters chasing the British fleet and a two-headed calf born outside Philadelphia that portended all manner of disaster.
  23. askew
    turned or twisted to one side
    Instead of wearing a hat or coat, he had a long cloak draped over his head, and his wig sat askew.
  24. conspirator
    a member of a plot to carry out some harmful or illegal act
    Conspirators who plotted against the American cause had been arrested all over the city and in several close-by villages.
    In Latin, the word sounds more innocent, because "com" means "together" and "spirare" means "to breathe" so conspirators are people who breathe together. But this sense of closeness often connects to secrecy, which is usually needed for some harmful or illegal plot.
  25. gallows
    an instrument from which a person is executed by hanging
    Perhaps he would provide an escort for Ruth and me direct from the gallows to the wharf.
  26. astride
    with one leg on each side
    I could pick out General Washington astride his big gray horse at the center of the line.
  27. sedition
    an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority
    “Thomas Hickey, you have been court-martialed and found guilty of the capital crimes of mutiny and sedition, of holding a treacherous correspondence with, and receiving pay from, the enemy for the most horrid and detestable purposes, and you have been sentenced to hang from the neck until dead."
    Compare with "treason" in this list--the description of Hickey's crimes includes both sedition and treason (implied by the "treacherous correspondence" with the enemy). "Treason" usually refers to an individual's direct action, while "sedition" includes any speech or action that might provoke others to actions against their government.
  28. unsightly
    unpleasant to look at
    Ruth’s fingers drifted to her nose for some unsightly digging.
  29. sanctuary
    a shelter from danger or hardship
    Could we slip away to sanctuary in the commotion?
  30. militia
    civilians trained as soldiers, not part of the regular army
    Militia units from the surrounding colonies piled into the city.
  31. stench
    a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant
    The stench cooked under the midsummer sun.
  32. elixir
    a substance believed to cure all ills
    Within the pouch lay a green flask filled with a calming elixir prescribed by the doctor.
  33. gilt
    a coating of gold or of something that looks like gold
    The King was not made of gold, but of soft lead, covered with gilt paint.
  34. propriety
    correct behavior
    “Even during time of war, we must follow the rules of propriety and civilization.”
  35. indisposed
    somewhat ill or prone to illness
    “Becky is indisposed, sir,” Madam answered.

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