Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet A. Jacobs Study Help Full Glossary for Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

abolitionists people who fought to end slavery.

Anglo-Saxon a member of the Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) that invaded England (5th-6th centuries A.D.) and were there at the time of the Norman Conquest.

antiquaries people who collect or study relics and ancient works of art.

Anti-Slavery Society an organization dedicated to abolishing slavery.

aperture an opening; hole; gap.

ardor emotional warmth; passion.

bloodhounds any of a breed of large dogs with a smooth coat, wrinkled face, drooping ears, and a keen sense of smell; bloodhounds are used in tracking escaped prisoners, fugitives, etc. Bloodhounds were often trained to track and sometimes kill runaway slaves.

boon 1. [Archaic] a request or the favor requested. 2. a welcome benefit; blessing.

chattel 1. a movable item of personal property, as a piece of furniture, an automobile, or a head of livestock (in full chattel personal) 2. [Archaic] a slave.

consternation great fear or shock that makes one feel helpless or bewildered.

cotton gin a machine for separating cotton fibers from the seeds.

countenance 1. the look on a person's face that shows one's nature or feelings 2. the face; facial features; visage.

cupidity strong desire, esp. for wealth; avarice; greed.

defray to pay or furnish the money for (the cost or expenses).

depredations acts or instances of robbing, plundering, or laying waste.

despotic of or like a despot, or tyrant; autocratic; tyrannical.

dissipation indulgence in pleasure to the point of harming oneself; intemperance; dissoluteness.

dower that part of a man's property which his widow inherits for life.

eighth commandment "Thou shalt not steal."

epicure a person who enjoys and has a discriminating taste for fine foods and drinks.

expostulations earnest reasoning with a person, objecting to that person's actions or intentions; remonstration.

factotum a person hired to do all sorts of work; handyman. Here, the term refers to a slave, not an employee.

festoons wreaths or garlands of flowers, leaves, paper, and so on hanging in a loop or curve.

fetters shackles or chains for the feet.

forbearance 1. the act of forbearing, or controlling oneself under provocation. 2. the quality of being forbearing; self-control; patient restraint.

fortnight [Chiefly British] a period of two weeks.

Free States states in which slavery was not permitted.

freshet a stream or rush of fresh water flowing into the sea.

from pillar to post from one problem to another.

Fugitive Slave Law This law, passed in 1850, dictated that even slaves who had reached sanctuary in the Free States were subject to the possibility of being returned to slavery. Linda discusses the impact of this law in Chapter 40.

garret the space, room, or rooms just below the roof of a house, especially a sloping roof; attic.

gimlet a small boring tool with a handle at right angles to a shaft having at the other end a spiral, pointed cutting edge.

hackman the driver of a hack or carriage for hire.

hoary-headed miscreant white-haired (old) troublemaker.

imprecations curses.

incarnate endowed with a body, especially a human body; in bodily form.

iniquitous showing iniquity; wicked; unjust.

Inquisition 1. a) a former general tribunal established in the 13th century for the discovery and suppression of heresy and the punishment of heretics. b) the activities of this tribunal. 2. a) any harsh or arbitrary suppression or punishment of dissidents or nonconformists. b) any severe or intensive questioning.

insurrection a rising up against established authority; rebellion; revolt.

intimated [Archaic] made known formally; announced.

Johnkannaus a West African fertility ritual associated with the yam harvest and revolving around a cast of colorfully-costumed dancers.

joist any of the parallel planks or beams that hold up the planks of a floor or the laths (strips of wood used as a foundation for plaster) of a ceiling.

licentiousness moral unrestraint, esp. in sexual activity; lasciviousness.

lineaments any of the features of the body, usually of the face, especially with regard to its outline.

linsey-woolsey a coarse cloth made of linen and wool or cotton and wool.

loquacious very talkative; fond of talking.

malediction 1. a calling down of evil on someone; curse 2. evil talk about someone; slander.

manumit to free from slavery; liberate (a slave, serf, etc.).

Methodist shout a lively church service marked by loud singing and call-and-response sermons (shouts).

mortify to cause to feel shame, humiliation, chagrin, etc.

mortifying [Now Rare] causing (body tissue) to decay or become gangrenous.

mulattoes 1. persons who have one black parent and one white parent. 2. technically, any persons with mixed black and white ancestry.

muster to assemble or summon (troops, etc.), as for inspection, roll call, or service.

oakum loose, stringy hemp fiber gotten by taking apart old ropes and treated as with tar, used as a caulking material.

overseer one who watches over and directs the work of others; supervisor; here a person who supervised the work of slaves on a plantation.

palsied afflicted with palsy, or paralysis of any voluntary muscle as a result of some disorder in the nervous system, which is sometimes accompanied with involuntary tremors.

paramour a lover or mistress; especially, the illicit sexual partner of a married man or woman.

peculiar institution a euphemism for the institution of slavery.

pecuniary of or involving money.

peeled and pickled [Informal or Slang] whipped and washed in brine.

perfidy the deliberate breaking of faith; betrayal of trust; treachery.

piazza [New England and Southern U.S.] a large, covered porch.

politic having practical wisdom; prudent; shrewd; diplomatic.

profligate immoral and shameless.

Prostrate lying flat, prone (face downward), or supine (face upward).

reprobate an unprincipled or totally bad person.

sanguine cheerful and confident; optimistic; hopeful.

scourge 1. to whip or flog 2. to punish, chastise, or afflict severely.

shoal a large group; mass; crowd.

smote [Now Rare] hit or struck hard; defeated, punished, destroyed, or killed.

spectre a ghost; apparition.

subjoin to add (something) at the end of what has been stated; append.

tarpaulin waterproof material; specifically, canvas coated with a waterproofing compound.

trepidation fearful uncertainty, anxiety, etc.; apprehension.

veracity accordance with truth; accuracy of statement; that which is true; truth.

verily [Archaic] in very (genuine or absolute) truth; truly.

vitiated morally weakened; debased; perverted.

vituperations abusive language.

wormwood any of a number of strong-smelling plants (genus Artemisia) of the composite family, with white or yellow flowers; especially, a Eurasian perennial (A. absinthium) that yields a bitter, dark-green oil (wormwood oil) formerly used in making absinthe (a poisonous alcoholic drink having a flavor somewhat like that of licorice).

wounded Samaritans This is a reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:33).

Yoke a wooden frame or bar with loops or bows at either end, fitted around the necks of a pair of oxen, etc. for harnessing them together; any mark or symbol of bondage or servitude.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After Linda escapes from Mr. Flint's plantation, her relatives advise her to do what?




Quiz