"The Hobbit," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-4

The prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" introduces the reader to creatures great and small and opens the door to a magical world where good and evil are in constant battle.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-8, Chapters 9-11, Chapters 12-14, Chapters 15-19
Read more...

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. fluster
    behave in a confused manner
    It was not the correct thing to say, but "they have begun to arrive" had flustered him badly.
    Compare with the alliterative "flummox" in this list--both are used to describe Bilbo when thirteen dwarves and a wizard show up at his house. But as flustered, flummoxed, and even angry that the hobbit gets, he still does his duties as a good host by providing his guests with foods, drinks, and beds.
  2. throng
    a large gathering of people
    "Dwalin and Balin here already, I see," said Kili. "Let us join the throng!"
  3. depredation
    an act of plundering and pillaging and marauding
    the four dwarves sat around the table, and talked about mines and gold and troubles with the goblins, and the depredations of dragons, and lots of other things which he did not understand, and did not want to, for they sounded much too adventurous
    Compare with "plunder" in this list and "maraud" in the list for Chapters 9-11. The Latin "praedari" means "to plunder" and "praeda" means "booty"--both roots are also seen in "predator" which describes a dragon that lives by preying on people (especially maidens) and by plundering and marauding for his own gain.
  4. bewildered
    perplexed by many conflicting situations or statements
    Bilbo rushed along the passage, very angry, and altogether bewildered and bewuthered--this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered.
    "Bewuthered" is a word Tolkien made up: it could connect to the British word "wuther" which means "to blow with a dull roaring sound" which can describe the sound of Bilbo rushing about his house; but the alliteration of the phrase "bewildered and bewuthered" suggests the adjectives are synonymous. Compare with the verbs "fluster" and "flummox" in this list--all four words describe Bilbo's confused state of mind.
  5. haughty
    having or showing arrogant superiority
    Thorin indeed was very haughty, and said nothing about service; but poor Mr. Baggins said he was sorry so many times, that at last he grunted "pray don't mention it," and stopped frowning.
  6. flummox
    be a mystery or bewildering to
    "Seems to know as much about the inside of my larders as I do myself!" thought Mr. Baggins, who was feeling positively flummoxed, and was beginning to wonder whether a most wretched adventure had not come right into his house.
  7. ire
    belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong
    The dragon's ire more fierce than fire
    Laid low their towers and houses frail.
    Compare with "wrath" in the list for Chapters 12-14--the two nouns are synonyms and both example sentences focus on a dragon's anger. But "ire" is used only once in the novel (here in a song to rhyme with "fire") while "wrath" is also used to describe the anger of people, elves, a king of the dwarves, and a skin-changer.
  8. audacious
    disposed to venture or take risks
    He paused for breath and for a polite remark from the hobbit, but the compliments were quite lost on poor Bilbo Baggins, who was wagging his mouth in protest at being called audacious and worst of all fellow conspirator, though no noise came out, he was so flummoxed.
  9. fierce
    marked by extreme intensity of emotions or convictions
    Will he do, do you think? It is all very well for Gandalf to talk about this hobbit being fierce, but one shriek like that in a moment of excitement would be enough to wake the dragon and all his relatives, and kill the lot of us.
  10. expedition
    an organized group of people undertaking a journey
    You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose Mr. Baggins.
  11. devour
    eat greedily
    'Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast' say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale.
  12. prudent
    marked by sound judgment
    "All the same, I should like it all plain and clear," said he obstinately, putting on his business manner (usually reserved for people who tried to borrow money off him), and doing his best to appear wise and prudent and professional and live up to Gandalf's recommendation.
    An obstinate person is "marked by tenacious unwillingness to yield"--this sounds like the opposite of someone who's trying to appear prudent, but Bilbo is stubbornly asking again for more details about the expedition so that he could make a wise and sound judgment about whether to join it. Ironically, Bilbo's prudent decision to stay home away from dragons is later undone by a pushy Gandalf.
  13. reverence
    a feeling of profound respect for someone or something
    Anyway they grew immensely rich and famous, and my grandfather was King under the Mountain again and treated with great reverence by the mortal men, who lived to the South, and were gradually spreading up the Running River as far as the valley overshadowed by the Mountain.
    Compare with "venerable" in this list. "Reverence" can be both a noun and verb, while "venerable" is only an adjective. In the example sentences, both refer to the deep respect for a king of the dwarves, which seems partly based on his wealth (a venerable person can be respected simply because of his age).
  14. plunder
    goods or money obtained illegally
    Dragons steal gold and jewels, you know, from men and elves and dwarves, wherever they can find them; and they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically forever, unless they are killed), and never enjoy a brass ring of it.
  15. scarce
    deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand
    There were lots of dragons in the North in those days, and gold was probably getting scarce up there, with the dwarves flying south or getting killed, and all the general waste and destruction that dragons make going from bad to worse.
  16. outlandish
    conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
    "Don't be a fool, Bilbo Baggins!" he said to himself, "thinking of dragons and all that outlandish nonsense at your age!"
  17. defray
    bear the expenses of
    Terms: cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); all traveling expenses guaranteed in any event; funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for.
  18. repose
    freedom from activity
    Thinking it unnecessary to disturb your esteemed repose, we have proceeded in advance to make requisite preparations, and shall await your respected person at the Green Dragon Inn, Bywater, at II a.m. sharp.
  19. purloin
    make off with belongings of others
    A really first-class and legendary burglar would at this point have picked the trolls' pockets--it is nearly always worthwhile if you can manage it--, pinched the very mutton off the spits, purloined the beer, and walked off without their noticing him.
  20. mince
    cut into small pieces
    They were nearly suffocated, and very annoyed: they had not at all enjoyed lying there listening to the trolls making plans for roasting them and squashing them and mincing them.
  21. replenish
    fill something that had previously been emptied
    Also I was anxious about replenishing our small stock of provisions.
  22. solemn
    dignified and somber in manner or character
    "Is that The Mountain?" asked Bilbo in a solemn voice, looking at it with round eyes. He had never seen a thing that looked so big before.
    "Somber" means "grave or even gloomy in character"--Bilbo is more somber than dignified in his question about the mountain. Upon hearing that the biggest thing he's ever seen is only the beginning of the Misty Mountains and pretty far away from their destination of the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo is even more solemn and wishing he were back home again.
  23. palpitate
    shake with fast, tremulous movements
    Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.
  24. venerable
    profoundly honored
    He was as noble and as fair in face as an elf-lord, as strong as a warrior, as wise as a wizard, as venerable as a king of dwarves, and as kind as summer.
  25. hoard
    a secret store of valuables or money
    They must have come from a dragon's hoard or goblin plunder, for dragons and goblins destroyed that city many ages ago.
  26. cleave
    separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument
    "I will keep this sword in honour," he said. "May it soon cleave goblins once again!"
    "Cleave" is a contranym, which means it can be its own antonym: it can also mean "come or be in close contact with." In his words, Thorin shows that he does not fear goblins that want to cleave to him, because he will cleave them with a sword called the Goblin-cleaver.
  27. shirk
    avoid one's assigned duties
    Swish, smack! Whip crack!
    Batter and beat! Yammer and bleat!
    Work, work! Nor dare to shirk,
    While Goblins quaff, and Goblins laugh,
    Round and round far underground
    Below, my lad!
  28. rummage
    search haphazardly
    The ponies were already there huddled in a corner; and there were all the baggages and packages lying broken open, and being rummaged by goblins, and smelt by goblins, and fingered by goblins, and quarreled over by goblins.
  29. ingenious
    showing inventiveness and skill
    It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.
    The Latin "ingenium" means "inborn talent" (synonymous with "genius") and "ingenious" is usually a positive adjective. But the tone of the word in the example sentence is sarcastic, since the devices being described are those that trouble the world by killing large numbers of people; this negative tone is supported by the connection to goblins and by the questioning of the use of the word "advanced" to describe their deadly skills.
  30. wretched
    very unhappy; full of misery
    "Why, O why did I ever bring a wretched little hobbit on a treasure hunt!" said poor Bombur, who was fat, and staggered along with the sweat dripping down his nose in his heat and terror.
    The chosen definition fits Bilbo's feelings more than Bombur's. The meaning the dwarf intends is closer to "miserable" as an insult for a hobbit he doesn't like or respect; Bilbo uses this same meaning to refer to adventures. Throughout the novel, "wretched" is also used to mean "characterized by physical misery" (dwarves in trouble), "of very poor condition or quality" (most of Gollum's possessions), and "morally reprehensible" (treasure).

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.