absinthe green, bitter, toxic liqueur made with wormwood oil and anise: now illegal in most countries.
albumen water-soluble protein.
alchemist person who practices alchemy, a seemingly miraculous power or process of changing a thing into something better.
anarchist a person who promotes anarchy, or political disorder, as by flouting or ignoring rules, duties, or accepted standards of conduct.
angleworm an earthworm: so called because it is used for fishing bait.
arbitration the settlement of a dispute by a person or persons chosen to hear both sides and come to a decision.
automaton a person or animal acting in an automatic or mechanical way.
bawdyhouse a house of prostitution.
benignant kindly or gracious, sometimes in a patronizing way.
besiege to close in on; crowd around.
besom a broom, especially one made of twigs tied to a handle.
bigamist a person who marries a second time while a previous marriage is still legally in effect.
billet a long, rectangular or cylindrical unfinished bar of iron or steel, usually smaller than 36 inches.
Black Maria a patrol wagon.
blacklist a list of persons who have been censured and who are being discriminated against or refused employment.
blandishments flattering or ingratiating acts or remarks, meant to persuade.
bog wet spongy ground, characterized by decaying mosses that form peat; a small marsh or swamp.
brass check refers to the style of time clock used during this period.
bullocks young bulls.
camaraderie loyalty and a warm, friendly feeling among comrades.
caper to skip or jump about in a playful manner.
catchpenny made merely to sell; cheap and flashy.
catechism a formal series of questions; close questioning.
chafing being or becoming vexed, irritated, or impatient.
charnel a building or place where corpses or bones are deposited.
chicanery the use of clever but tricky talk or action to deceive or evade, as in legal dealings.
chloroform to kill with chloroform, a toxic, cancer-causing, colorless, volatile liquid that has a sweet taste.
clangor a continued clanging.
colloquy a conversation, especially a formal discussion.
confidence men swindlers who try to gain the confidence of victims in order to defraud.
consumption a disease causing the wasting away of the body, especially, formerly, tuberculosis of the lungs.
cur a dog of mixed breed; a mongrel.
Dante born Durante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet famous for The Divine Comedy where he describes the stages of hell.
debauchery extreme indulgence of one's appetites, especially for sensual pleasure.
deshabille the state of being only partially dressed.
dray a low, sturdily built cart with detachable sides, for carrying heavy loads.
drover a person who herds droves of animals, especially to market.
eloquent vividly expressive.
Faust the hero of several medieval legends and later literary and operatic works, a philosopher who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power; here, and in several places throughout The Jungle, Sinclair inserts literary allusions that are not compatible with the educational level of the character, a stylistic shortcoming.
felicitous used or expressed in a way suitable to the occasion; appropriate.
fetid having a bad smell, as of decay.
firebrand a person who stirs up others to revolt or strife.
freebooter a plunderer.
furies in Greek and Roman mythology, the three terrible female spirits with snaky hair who punish the doers of unavenged crimes.
garret the space, room, or rooms just below the roof of a house; attic.
glutted fed to excess.
grandes dames women, especially older ones, of great dignity or prestige.
hack a carriage or coach for hire.
haggard having a wild, wasted, worn look, as from sleeplessness, grief, or illness.
helter-skelter in a disorderly, hurried manner.
hogshead a large barrel or cask holding from 63 to 140 gallons.
imprecation a curse.
impropriety improper action or behavior.
impunity freedom or exemption from punishment, penalty, or harm.
incandescent very bright; shining brilliantly.
incarnation any person or thing serving as the type or embodiment of a quality or concept.
inexorably relentlessly; unalterable.
ingot a mass of metal cast into a bar or other convenient shape.
injunction writ or order from a court prohibiting a person or group from carrying out a given action.
insouciance state of calm; the quality or state of being untroubled and carefree.
isinglass a form of gelatin made from the internal membranes of fish bladders: used as a clarifying agent and adhesive.
itinerant traveling from place to place or on a circuit.
Joliet referring to a prison located in the town of the same name in northeast Illinois.
kimono a loose dressing gown.
knave a dishonest, deceitful person; a tricky rascal.
labyrinthine having an intricate network of winding passages hard to follow without losing one's way.
lager a type of beer stored at a low temperature for aging after it has been brewed.
laissez faire the policy of letting the owners of industry and business fix the rules of competition, the conditions of labor, etc., as they please, without governmental regulation or control.
leviathan something huge or very powerful.
livery an identifying uniform such as was formerly worn by feudal retainers or is now worn by servants or those in some particular group or trade.
lose all caste to lose social status or position.
Malthus Thomas Malthus (1766-1834); an English economist who held the theory that the world population tends to increase faster than the food supply with inevitable disastrous results unless natural restriction, such as war, famine, and disease reduce the population or the increase is checked by moral restraint.
Marseillaise the national anthem of France, composed in 1792 during the French Revolution.
melee a noisy, confused fight or hand-to-hand struggle among a number of people.
menagerie a collection of wild or strange animals kept in cages or enclosures for exhibition.
mendicant person who begs for money, food, clothes, etc., given to the poor.
monopoly exclusive control of a commodity or service in a given market, or control that makes possible the fixing of prices and the virtual elimination of free competition.
naïvely in an unaffectedly, or sometimes foolishly, simple manner; artlessly.
obdurate not easily moved to pity or sympathy; hardhearted.
Octopus reference to the novel The Octopus, written by Frank Norris, in which farmers fought against the railroad monopoly.
oligarchy form of government in which the ruling power belongs to a few persons.
outlawry disregard or defiance of the law.
pall an overspreading covering, as of dark clouds or black smoke, that cloaks or obscures in a gloomy, depressing way.
parley a talk or conference for the purpose of discussing a specific matter.
paternalism the principle or system of governing or controlling a country or group of employees in a manner suggesting a father's relationship with his children.
pathos the quality in something experienced or observed which arouses feelings of pity, sorrow, sympathy, or compassion.
pell-mell in a jumbled, confused mass or manner; without order or method.
penury lack of money, property, or necessities; extreme poverty.
pepsin an extract of gastric juice enzymes from the stomachs of calves, pigs, etc., formerly used as a digestive aid.
personage a person of importance or distinction.
pettifogger a lawyer who handles petty cases, especially one who uses unethical methods in conducting trumped-up cases.
philanthropist a person, especially a wealthy one, who is interested in the general human welfare, especially as shown in large-scale gifts to charities.
Plutocrat a person whose wealth is the source of control or great influence.
ponas Lithuanian word meaning master, gentleman.
portiere a curtain, usually heavy, hung in a doorway.
prestidigitator an expert at sleight of hand.
prodigy a person, thing, or act so extraordinary as to inspire wonder.
proletarian a member of the proletariat, the working class, especially the industrial working class.
Prometheus in Greek mythology, a Titan who steals fire from heaven for the benefit of mankind. To punish him, Zeus chains him to a rock where a vulture comes each day to eat his liver, which grows back each night.
ptarmigan a brownish bird with feathered legs and feet, usually having white plumage in the winter.
ptomaines substances, some of which are poisonous, formed in decaying animal matter.
purgatory a state or place in which, in Roman Catholicism and other Christian doctrine, those who have died in the grace of God expiate their sins by suffering.
quaff to drink deeply in a hearty or thirsty way.
rancid having the bad smell or taste of stale fats or oils; spoiled.
recalcitrant hard to handle or deal with.
reminiscences an account, written or spoken, of remembered experiences.
saltpeter potassium nitrate, which is a colorless, crystalline compound used in fertilizers, gunpowder, and preservatives, etc.
savant a learned person; eminent scholar.
scow large flat-bottomed boat with square ends, used for carrying coal, sand, etc., and often towed by a tug.
settlement an institution in a depressed and congested neighborhood offering social services and educational and recreational activities.
silk-stocking a member of the wealthy or aristocratic class.
silpnas Lithuanian word meaning weak, faint, delicate.
skylarking playing about boisterously.
smote to have struck or hit hard.
sordid squalid; depressingly wretched.
specter any object of fear or dread.
stygian dark or gloomy.
subjugate to bring under control or subjection; conquer.
superfluity a quantity or number beyond what is needed.
swain a young rustic lover.
tacit not expressed or declared openly, but implied or understood.
tempest a violent storm with high winds.
tenement a building divided into apartments, now specifically in the slums that is run-down and overcrowded.
tesselated paved in a mosaic pattern of small, square blocks.
the deuce the devil; a mild oath or exclamation of annoyance, surprise, or frustration.
Tolstoy Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian novelist whose most famous works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are examples of realistic fiction.
torpor dullness; apathy.
treason betrayal of trust or faith.
trichinae very small nematode worms found in insufficiently cooked pork that cause trichinosis, which is a disease characterized by fever, nausea, diarrhea, and muscular pains.
Trojan here alluding to the Greek legend of the Trojan horse, a huge, hollow wooden horse Greek soldiers hid in then left at the gates of Troy; the Trojans brought the horse into the city, and the soldiers crept out and opened the gates to the rest of the Greek army, which destroyed the city of Troy.
unregenerate not converted to a particular belief or viewpoint.
usurer a person who lends money at interest, here specifically at a rate of interest that is excessive or unlawfully high.
valise a piece of hand luggage.
verities principles, beliefs, etc., taken to be fundamentally and permanently true.
vermin various insects, bugs, or small animals regarded as pests because they are destructive or disease-carrying, such as flies, lice, rats, or weasels.
veselija the Lithuanian wedding celebration which includes but is not limited to traditional foods, dances, and behaviors.
viands food of various kinds; especially, choice dishes
vice evil or wicked conduct or behavior; depravity or corruption.
vista a comprehensive mental view of a series of remembered or anticipated events.
vitals organs necessary for human life, such as the heart, brain, and lungs, etc.
volubility an ability or tendency to talk much and easily.
wanderlust an impulse, longing, or urge to wander or travel.
wienerwurst a smoked sausage of beef or beef and pork, etc., enclosed in a membranous casing and made in cylindrical links a few inches long.
wrapper a loose garment wrapped around the body; especially, a woman's dressing gown.
zealot a person who is ardently devoted to a purpose; fanatic.
Zola Émile Zola (1840-1902); French novelist who founded the writing style of naturalism (also called Zolaism) emphasizing the harsh realities of the world.