Books 1–7

In this epic poem, clever Odysseus attempts to find his way home after the end of the Trojan War. Learn these words from the translation by Robert Fitzgerald.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. valor
    courage when facing danger
    But not by will nor valor could he save them, for their own recklessness destroyed them all
  2. affliction
    a cause of great suffering and distress
    My word, how mortals take the gods to task! All their afflictions come from us, we hear.
  3. baleful
    threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
    But my own heart is broken for Odysseus, the master mind of war, so long a castaway upon an island in the running sea; a wooded island, in the sea’s middle, and there’s a goddess in the place, the daughter of one whose baleful mind knows all the deeps of the blue sea
  4. din
    a loud, harsh, or strident noise
    To be amid the din, the suitors’ riot, would ruin his guest’s appetite, he thought, and he wished privacy to ask for news about his father, gone for years.
  5. glutton
    a person who is devoted to eating and drinking to excess
    How arrogant they seem, these gluttons, making free here in your house!
  6. rapine
    the act of despoiling a country in warfare
    If you choose to slaughter one man’s livestock and pay nothing, this is rapine
  7. eligible
    qualified for or allowed or worthy of being chosen
    “Telemakhos, no doubt the gods themselves are teaching you this high and mighty manner. Zeus forbid you should be king in Ithaka, though you are eligible as your father’s son.”
  8. havoc
    violent and needless disturbance
    But keep your property, and rule your house, and let no man, against your will, make havoc of your possessions, while there’s life on Ithaka.
  9. lavish
    bestow or expend profusely
    Athena lavished on him a sunlit grace that held the eye of the multitude.
  10. audacity
    aggressive or outright boldness
    A wave of sympathy ran through the crowd, all hushed; and no one there had the audacity to answer harshly except Antmoos, who said: “What high and mighty talk, Telemakhos! No holding you!"
  11. wield
    handle effectively
    Now Zeus who views the wide world sent a sign to him, launching a pair of eagles from a mountain crest in gliding flight down the soft blowing wind, wing-tip to wing-tip quivering taut, companions, till high above the assembly of many voices they wheeled, their dense wings beating, and in havoc dropped on the heads of the crowd—a deathly omen— wielding their talons, tearing cheeks and throats
  12. virtuous
    morally excellent
    Let no man holding scepter as a king be thoughtful, mild, kindly, or virtuous; let him be cruel, and practice evil ways; it is so clear that no one here remembers how like a gentle father Odysseus ruled you.
  13. lucid
    transparently clear; easily understandable
    Athena was nearby and came to him, putting on Mentor’s figure and his tone, the warm voice in a lucid flight of words
  14. prudence
    discretion in practical affairs
    The son is rare who measures with his father, and one in a thousand is a better man, but you will have the sap and wit and prudence—for you get that from Odysseus—to give you a fair chance of winning through.
  15. libation
    the act of pouring a liquid offering as a religious ceremony
    Now they made all secure in the fast black ship, and, setting out the winebowls all a-brim, they made libation to the gods, the undying, the ever-new, most of all to the grey-eyed daughter of Zeus.
  16. interrogate
    pose a series of questions to
    I have no practice in elaborate speeches, and for a young man to interrogate an old man seems disrespectful
  17. precedence
    status established in order of importance or urgency
    Athena liked his manners, and the equity that gave her precedence with the cup of gold
  18. harangue
    address forcefully
    Menelaos harangued them to get organized—time to ride home on the sea’s broad back, he said; but Agamemnon wouldn’t hear of it.
  19. insidious
    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way
    I’d be revenged for outrage on my insidious and brazen enemies.
  20. pauper
    a person who is very poor
    Now Zeus forbid, and the other gods as well, that you should spend the night on board, and leave me as though I were some pauper without a stitch, no blankets in his house, no piles of rugs, no sleeping soft for host or guest!
  21. scion
    a descendent or heir
    And that day, too, he brought Alektor’s daughter to marry his tall scion, Megapenthes, born of a slave girl during the long war
  22. desolation
    sadness resulting from being forsaken or abandoned
    You must have heard your fathers tell my story, whoever your fathers are; you must know of my life, the anguish I once had, and the great house full of my treasure, left in desolation.
  23. maleficent
    harmful or evil in intent or effect
    It had been supplied her by Polydamna, mistress of Lord Thon, in Egypt, where the rich plantations grow herbs of all kinds, maleficent and healthful; and no one else knows medicine as they do, Egyptian heirs of Paian, the healing god.
  24. infallible
    incapable of failure or error
    let me tell you what the Ancient of the Sea, who is infallible, said to me—every word.
  25. bestial
    resembling a beast; showing lack of human sensibility
    But here the nymph, again, came to our rescue, dabbing ambrosia under each man’s nose—a perfume drowning out the bestial odor.
  26. feign
    give a false appearance of
    Old one, you know the reason—why feign not to know?
  27. promontory
    a natural elevation
    One is alive, a castaway at sea; the other, Aias, perished with all hands—though first Poseidon landed him on Gyrai promontory, and saved him from the ocean.
  28. ruffian
    a cruel and brutal fellow
    I would be seen among those ruffians, hateful as they are. I might well say a word, then, to my son, for his own good—tell him to shun that crowd
  29. chastise
    censure severely
    And show more grace in your obedience, or be chastised by Zeus.
  30. versatile
    changeable or inconstant
    Son of Laertes, versatile Odysseus, after these years with me, you still desire your old home?
  31. malignant
    dangerous to health
    What a dear welcome thing life seems to children whose father, in the extremity, recovers after some weakening and malignant illness
  32. derelict
    worn and broken down by hard use
    O hear me, lord of the stream: how sorely I depend upon your mercy! derelict as I am by the sea’s anger.
  33. succumb
    be fatally overwhelmed
    In vigil through the night here by the river how can I not succumb, being weak and sick, to the night’s damp and hoarfrost of the morning?
  34. remiss
    failing in what duty requires
    How so remiss, and yet thy mother’s daughter? leaving thy clothes uncared for, Nausikaa, when soon thou must have store of marriage linen
  35. buffet
    strike against forcefully
    so came out rustling, like a mountain lion, rain-drenched, wind-buffeted, but in his might at ease, with burning eyes
  36. averse
    strongly opposed
    The Olympian gods cannot be all averse to this man’s coming here among our islanders. Uncouth he seemed, I thought so, too, before; but now he looks like one of heaven’s people.
  37. aloof
    remote in manner
    O listen to me now—thou so aloof while the Earthshaker wrecked and battered me.
  38. deference
    courteous regard for people's feelings
    He prayed for that, and Pallas Athena heard him—although in deference to her father’s brother she would not show her true form to Odysseus,
    at whom Poseidon smoldered on until the kingly man came home to his own shore.
  39. auspicious
    indicating favorable circumstances and good luck
    But cliffs and rock shoals made that place forbidding, so I turned back, swimming off shore, and came in the end to a river, to auspicious water, with smooth beach and a rise that broke the wind.
  40. provender
    a stock or supply of foods
    But she gave me good provender and good red wine, a river bath, and finally this clothing.
Created on September 15, 2014 (updated April 8, 2019)

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