Study Help Full Glossary for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


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.

balm of Gilead anything healing or soothing.

Barlow knife a single blade knife that cost 12 cents.

Big Missouri the name often applied to the Missouri River; also the name of a large steam ship often seen in Hannibal, Missouri.

bully taw An excellent marble. A taw is a fancy marble used to shoot with in playing marbles.

caitiff a mean, evil, or cowardly person.

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.

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.

Evening Southern and Southwestern for afternoon.

ferule a flat stick or ruler used for punishing children.

hogshead a large barrel or cask holding from 63 to 140 gallons (238 to 530 liters).

hove heaved or threw.

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

inveterate to be addicted to or to become a habit.

knucks, ring-taw, and keeps types of games played with marbles.

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.

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.

lugubrious very sad or mournful, especially in a way that seems exaggerated or ridiculous.

Murrell's gang a band of robbers that roved a part of the frontier and gained only minor recognition.

'NUFF A type of contraction for "enough" meaning that the defeated party has had enough of the fight and concedes victory.

Old Scratch Another name for the devil.

orgies Tom misuses the word to mean having a big Indian-type "pow-wow" or celebration.

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.

pinchbug a type of relatively harmless beetle.

roundabout a short, tight jacket or coat formerly worn by men and boys.

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.

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

slathers a large amount. Tom wants to be a clown in the circus because a clown earn "slathers of money."

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).

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

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.

tackle it again try to learn the lesson again.

white Alley An alley is a fine marble used as the shooter in playing marbles.

whitewash a mixture of lime, whiting, size, water, etc., for whitening walls and other surfaces.

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.

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.

zephyr a soft, gentle breeze.

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