"Matilda" by Roald Dahl, Chapters 1–7

Brilliant Matilda Wormwood finds clever ways to get the best of her ignorant parents and the cruel headmistress of her school.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–7, Chapters 8–10, Chapters 11–14, Chapters 15–21

Here are links to our lists for other works by Roald Dahl: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Boy: Tales of Childhood
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definitions & notes only words
  1. doting
    extravagantly or foolishly loving and indulgent
    If I were a teacher I would cook up some real scorchers for the children of doting parents.
  2. periodical
    happening or recurring at regular intervals
    I might even delve deeper into natural history and say, “The periodical cicada spends six years as a grub underground, and no more than six days as a free creature of sunlight and air. Your son Wilfred has spent six years as a grub in this school and we are still waiting for him to emerge from the chrysalis."
  3. cicada
    stout-bodied insect with large membranous wings
    I might even delve deeper into natural history and say, “The periodical cicada spends six years as a grub underground, and no more than six days as a free creature of sunlight and air. Your son Wilfred has spent six years as a grub in this school and we are still waiting for him to emerge from the chrysalis."
  4. chrysalis
    pupa of a moth or butterfly enclosed in a cocoon
    I might even delve deeper into natural history and say, “The periodical cicada spends six years as a grub underground, and no more than six days as a free creature of sunlight and air. Your son Wilfred has spent six years as a grub in this school and we are still waiting for him to emerge from the chrysalis."
  5. nimble
    mentally quick
    Her mind was so nimble and she was so quick to learn that her ability should have been obvious even to the most half-witted of parents.
  6. hanker
    desire strongly or persistently
    At the age of four, she could read fast and well and she naturally began hankering after books.
  7. enlightened
    having knowledge and spiritual insight
    The only book in the whole of this enlightened household was something called Easy Cooking belonging to her mother, and when she had read this from cover to cover and had learnt all the recipes by heart, she decided she wanted something more interesting.
  8. aback
    by surprise
    Mrs Phelps, slightly taken aback at the arrival of such a tiny girl unaccompanied by a parent, nevertheless told her she was very welcome.
  9. instinctive
    unthinking
    Her first thought was to pick a young teenager's romance of the kind that is written for fifteen-year-old schoolgirls, but for some reason she found herself instinctively walking past that particular shelf.
  10. formidable
    extremely impressive in strength or excellence
    It was a formidable list and by now Mrs Phelps was filled with wonder and excitement, but it was probably a good thing that she did not allow herself to be completely carried away by it all.
  11. resent
    feel bitter or indignant about
    She resented being told constantly that she was ignorant and stupid when she knew she wasn't.
  12. rakish
    marked by up-to-dateness in dress and manners
    He thought it gave him a rakish daring look, especially when he wore it at an angle with his loud checked jacket and green tie.
  13. skulk
    move stealthily
    And later on, as she watched her skinny little husband skulking around the bedroom in his purple-striped pyjamas with a pork-pie hat on his head, she thought how stupid he looked.
  14. chasten
    correct by punishment or discipline
    The experience had clearly chastened Mr Wormwood and he seemed temporarily to have lost his taste for boasting and bullying.
  15. subtle
    able to make fine distinctions
    Matilda's wonderfully subtle mind was already at work devising yet another suitable punishment for the poisonous parent.
  16. brandish
    exhibit aggressively
    "Come on!" Matilda cried and she burst into the room, brandishing her knife.
  17. sheer
    complete and without restriction
    For sheer cleverness she could run rings around them all.
  18. asinine
    devoid of intelligence
    But the fact remained that any five-year-old girl in any family was always obliged to do as she was told, however asinine the orders might be.
  19. goggle
    look with amazement
    “You mean you did it in your head, dad?" the son asked, goggling.
  20. tonic
    a medicine that strengthens and invigorates
    She carefully left enough of her father's original hair tonic in the bottle so that when she gave it a good shake the whole thing still looked reasonably purple.
  21. lavatory
    a toilet that is cleaned of waste by the flow of water through it
    "Peroxide is a very powerful chemical. It's what they put down the lavatory to disinfect the pan only they give it another name."
  22. bleak
    offering little or no hope
    The village school for younger children was a bleak brick building called Crunchem Hall Primary School.
  23. bewilderment
    confusion resulting from failure to understand
    She seemed to understand totally the bewilderment and fear that so often overwhelms young children who for the first time in their lives are herded into a classroom and told to obey orders.
  24. tangible
    perceptible by the senses, especially the sense of touch
    Some curious warmth that was almost tangible shone out of Miss Honey's face when she spoke to a confused and homesick newcomer to the class.
  25. tyrannical
    marked by unjust severity or arbitrary behavior
    She was a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of the pupils and teachers alike.
  26. aura
    distinctive but intangible quality around a person or thing
    There was an aura of menace about her even at a distance, and when she came up close you could almost feel the dangerous heat radiating from her as from a red-hot rod of metal.
  27. recital
    a detailed statement giving facts and figures
    She had been listening slightly spellbound to this smooth recital, and now she said, "How far can you go?"
  28. facility
    skillful performance or ability without difficulty
    She had never come across a five-year-old before, or indeed a ten-year-old, who could multiply with such facility.
  29. solemn
    dignified and somber in manner or character
    She looked again at the small girl with bright eyes standing beside her desk so sensible and solemn.
  30. prodigy
    an unusually gifted or intelligent person
    There was no doubt in her mind that she had met a truly extraordinary mathematical brain, and words like child-genius and prodigy went flitting through her head.
  31. flit
    move along rapidly and lightly; skim or dart
    There was no doubt in her mind that she had met a truly extraordinary mathematical brain, and words like child-genius and prodigy went flitting through her head.
  32. understatement
    something said in a restrained way for ironic contrast
    "That really is very good indeed," Miss Honey said, making the understatement of her life.
  33. epicure
    a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment
    Smoothly, without a pause and at a nice speed, Matilda began to read:
    "An epicure dining at Crewe
    Found a rather large mouse in his stew.
    Cried the waiter, "Don't shout
    And wave it about
    Or the rest will be wanting one too."
  34. dainty
    affectedly refined
    "It is someone who is dainty with his eating," Matilda said.
  35. limerick
    a humorous rhymed verse form of five lines
    "It's called a limerick," Matilda said.

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