Mark Twain Glossary

All the old graves were sunken in. A reference to the fact that a mound over the grave meant that a new coffin has just been buried and the displaced soil mounded up over the coffin. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

allycumpain elecampane, a tall, hairy perennial plant of the composite family, having flower heads with many slender, yellow rays. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

balm of Gilead anything healing or soothing. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

Barlow knife a jackknife with one blade. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

bars a thing that blocks the way or prevents entrance or further movement, as in a sandbar. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Big Missouri the name often applied to the Missouri River; also the name of a large steam ship often seen in Hannibal, Missouri. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

bilgewater water that collects in the bilge of a ship, slang for worthless or silly talk. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

black slouch a felt hat with a broad, floppy rim. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

blame a milder slang alternative for "damned." (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

bowie a steel knife about fifteen inches long, with a single edge, usually carried in a sheath. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

buckle to paddle hard. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

bully taw An excellent marble. A taw is a fancy marble used to shoot with in playing marbles. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

bullyragged scolded, chastised. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Cairo city in southern Illinois, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

caitiff a mean, evil, or cowardly person. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

calico a printed cotton fabric. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

camp-meeting here, a religious revival. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Capet Hugh Capet, king of France (987-996); here, the duke's reference to the king. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

carpet-bag an old-fashioned type of traveling bag, made of carpeting. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Congress-water mineral water from Saratoga said to have medicinal properities. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

consumption tuberculosis. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

corn-pone corn meal. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

cravats neckerchiefs or scarves. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

curry-comb a metal comb. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

dauphin the eldest son of the king of France, a title used from 1349 to 1830. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

David and Goliath The story of David slaying the giant Goliath and saving the kingdom comes from the Old Testament. David and Goliath precede the disciples by around 1,500 years. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

delirium tremens involuntary muscle spasm usually associate with drinking alcohol and characterized by sweating, anxiety, and hallucinations. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

dog-fennel any of several weeds or wildflowers of the composite family, having daisylike flower heads. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

doggery a saloon. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

dog-irons iron braces used to hold firewood. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Doré Bible an expensively illustrated Bible by the famous French illustrator, Gustave Doré (1833nd1883) whose most famous works include illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

down in de bills predestined, foreordained by divine decree or intent. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

doxolojer the doxology; a hymn of praise to God. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

erysipelas an acute infectious disease of the skin or mucous membranes caused by a streptococcus and characterized by local inflammation and fever. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Evening Southern and Southwestern for afternoon. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

fan-tods the nervous fidgets. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

ferule a flat stick or ruler used for punishing children. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

five-center piece monetary equivalent of a nickel. Nickels were not minted until after the Civil War. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

foreordination predestination. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

forty-rod cheap whisky. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

fox-fire the luminescence of decaying wood and plant remains, caused by various fungi. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

gabble to talk rapidly and incoherently; jabber; chatter. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

galoot [Slang] a person, esp. an awkward, ungainly person. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

gar needlefish. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

gingham a yarn-dyed cotton cloth, usually woven in stripes, checks, or plaids. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

habob aristocratic member of the community. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

harrow a frame with spikes or sharp-edged disks, drawn by a horse or tractor and used for breaking up and leveling plowed ground, covering seeds, rooting up weeds, etc. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

harrow-teeth wood or metal spikes used to plow land. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

high-toned aristocratic or snobbish. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

hived robbed. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

hogshead a large barrel or cask holding from 63 to 140 gallons (238 to 530 liters). (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

hove heaved or threw. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

hy'roglyphics a picture or symbol representing a word, syllable, or sound, used by the ancient Egyptians and others instead of alphabetical letters. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

inveterate to be addicted to or to become a habit. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

irish potato the common white potato; so called because extensively cultivated in Ireland. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

jackstaff an iron rod or wooden bar on a ship to which the sails are fastened. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

jimpson weed jimson weed; a poisonous annual weed (Datura stramonium) of the nightshade family, with foul-smelling leaves, prickly fruit, and white or purplish, trumpet-shaped flowers. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

juice harp jew's harp, a small musical instrument consisting of a lyre-shaped metal frame held between the teeth and played by plucking a projecting bent piece with the finger. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

knucks, ring-taw, and keeps types of games played with marbles. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

labboard and stabboard Ben Rogers means to say "larboard," the left-hand side of a ship as one faces forward (port) and "starboard," the right-hand side of a ship as one faces forward. His mis-usage suggests his ignorance of the steamboat. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

Langudoc Languedoc, historical region of southern France. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

lay in ambuscade hide in ambush. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

liberty-pole a tall flagstaff planted in the ground. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

lucifer matches These were the then newly invented friction matches with the standard phosphorus compound on top which could light by striking it on some solid material. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

lugubrious very sad or mournful, especially in a way that seems exaggerated or ridiculous. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

melodeum melodeon; a small keyboard organ. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

mesmerism hypnotism. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Methusalem Methuselah, one of the biblical patriarchs who was said to live 969 years. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

mud-cat a catfish. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Muddy the Mississippi River. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

muggins a fool. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

mulatter mulatto, a person who has one black parent and one white parent. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

mullen stalks stalks of the mullein, a tall plant of the figwort family, with spikes of yellow, lavender, or white flowers. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Murrell's gang a band of robbers that roved a part of the frontier and gained only minor recognition. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

mushmelon a cantaloupe or other moderate sized melon. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

the nation slang for "damnation." (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Navarre historical region and former kingdom in northeast Spain and southwest France. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Nebokoodneezer Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, and deported many Jews into Babylonia (586 bc). (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

niggers niggar, originally a dialectal variant of Negro, the term is a derogatory and vulgar racial slur directed primarily toward African Americans. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

nip and tuck so close that the outcome is uncertain. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

'NUFF A type of contraction for "enough" meaning that the defeated party has had enough of the fight and concedes victory. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

obsequies funeral rites or ceremonies. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Old Scratch Another name for the devil. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

orgies Tom misuses the word to mean having a big Indian-type "pow-wow" or celebration. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

palavering talking or idly chattering. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

pariah any person despised or rejected by others; outcast. In reality, Huck Finn does not fit this description, but is so viewed by the members of the town. To the other boys, he is the romantic outcast, someone to be envied. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

peart pert, lively, chipper, or smart. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Pilgrim's Progress a religious allegory by John Bunyan (1678). (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

pinchbug a type of relatively harmless beetle. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

plug er dog-leg a plug of cheap chewing tobacco. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

polly-voo franzy parlez-vous Francais, "Do you speak French?" (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

pow-wow to confer, to have an intense discussion; originally from a North American Indian word. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

predestination the theological doctrine that God foreordained everything that would happen. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

puncheon floor floor made of a heavy, broad piece of roughly dressed timber with one side hewed flat. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

pungle to pay. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

put in her shovel offered an opinion. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

the quality word used by the South to describe aristocracy, (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

reticule a small handbag or sewing bag, orginally made of needlework and usually having a drawstring. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

roundabout a short, tight jacket or coat formerly worn by men and boys. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

sand in my craw courage. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

sap-head a fool. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

scutcheon escutcheon a shield or shield-shaped surface on which a coat of arms is displayed. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

seneskal seneschal, a steward or major-domo in the household of a medieval noble. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

serape a brightly colored, wool blanket, used as an outer garment by men in Spanish-American countries. Here it is used by Injun Joe to disguise his identity. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

shekel a half-ounce gold or silver coin of the ancient Hebrews. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) Scottish poet and novelist, author of Ivanhoe. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Six Nations the five Indian nations (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onandagas, Cayugas, and Senecas as a group) of the Iroquois confederacy plus the Tuscaroras. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

skiff a flat-bottomed boat propelled by oars. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

slathers a large amount. Tom wants to be a clown in the circus because a clown earn "slathers of money." (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

slick up to polish. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

slough a place, as a hollow, full of soft, deep mud; a swamp, bog, or marsh, especially one that is part of an inlet or backwater. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

smokehouse a building, especially an outbuilding on a farm, where meats, fish, etc. are smoked in order to cure and flavor them. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

smouch steal. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

sold scammed, to be made a fool (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

soul-butter flattery. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Spanish Moss a plant often found growing in long, graceful strands from the branches of trees in the south eastern U.S. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Spare the rod, and spile the child. "Spile" is southwestern dialect for "spoil." The saying is attributed by Aunt Polly to the Bible, and the original can be found in Proverbs 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." The wording that Aunt Polly uses comes from the seventeenth-century satirist, Samuel Butler (1612nd1680). (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

spunk-water This could be a variation of "skunk-water," a rank smelling stagnant water found often in rotten vegetation and in tree stumps. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

stabbord starboard, the right side of a ship or boat or boat as one faces forward. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

stalactite an icicle-shaped mineral deposit, usually a calcium compound, that hangs from the roof of a cavern and is formed by the evaporation of dripping water that is full of minerals. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

sugar-hogshead a large barrel used to store sugar. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

sumter mule sumpter mule, a packhorse, mule, or other animal used for carrying baggage. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

tackle it again try to learn the lesson again. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

taller tallow, the nearly colorless solid fat extracted from the natural fat of cattle or sheep, used in making candles and soaps. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

tar and feather to cover a person with tar and feathers as in punishment by mob action. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

the texas a structure on the hurricane deck of a steamboat, containing the officers' quarters, etc. and having the pilothouse on top or in front. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

tick a cloth case covering that is filled with cotton, feathers, or hair to form a mattress or pillow. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

tow a rope made from strands of broken or coarse flax or hemp. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

tow-head sandbar with thick reeds. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

tract a propagandizing pamphlet, especially one on a religious or political subject. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

trot line a strong fishing line suspended ove the water, with short, baited lines hung at intervals. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

two bits 25 cents. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

white Alley An alley is a fine marble used as the shooter in playing marbles. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

whitewash a mixture of lime, whiting, size, water, etc., for whitening walls and other surfaces. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

witches and witch detecting Twain is making fun of the many ways by which a person can theoretically determine whether or not a person is a witch. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

yaller-boys gold coins. (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)

Yawl a small, two-masted sailing vessel usually manned by four to six oarsmen and used for duties for which a larger vessel could not maneuver. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)

zephyr a soft, gentle breeze. (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)