Full Glossary for The Education of Henry Adams
abate to make less in amount or degree.
abet to incite, sanction, or help, especially in wrongdoing.
abject of the lowest degree; miserable; wretched.
abstruse hard to understand.
affiches (French) posters, placards.
âme damnée (French) stooge; a foil or underling.
anachronism anything out of its proper time in history, especially earlier than its time.
animus a feeling of hostility or hatred.
antinomy a contradiction or inconsistency between two laws, principles, and so on.
aperture an opening, hole, or gap.
assent agree; concur.
atrophy a wasting away, especially of body tissue, due to disuse or lack of nutrition.
audaciously boldly, fearlessly.
audacity bold courage, daring.
avatar incarnation of a god or of some quality in a person.
aver to declare to be true.
bêtise (French) blunder.
blackguard scoundrel, villain.
bouffée (French) puff, gust, bombast.
bourgeoisie (French) the middle class, often regarded as having conventional beliefs, attitudes, and so on.
brevet a military promotion to higher honorary rank but without higher pay.
bric-à-brac small, rare, or artistic objects placed about a room for decoration.
Cain Old Testament son of Adam & Eve; he killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4).
cant special words or phrases used by those in a particular occupation.
captious fond of catching others in mistakes; quick to find fault.
Cassini Count Arthur P. Cassini, Russian ambassador to the United States in 1903.
casuistry the application of general principles of ethics to specific issues.
Chose sublime! un Dieu qui croit en Dieu! What a sublime thing! a God who believes in God!
Civitas Dei, Civitas Romae (Latin) City of God, City of Rome; the former refers to Saint Augustine's (354-430) De civitate Dei; the later is a secular reference.
coercion an act of restraining or constraining by force of any kind.
collusion a secret agreement for fraudulent or illegal purpose; a conspiracy.
conclave a private or secret meeting.
conundrum a puzzling question or problem.
crank informal word for an eccentric person.
Cromwellian revolutionary; after Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), English political leader.
croupiers a person in charge of a gambling table.
culbute (French) somersault; downfall.
débâcle overwhelming defeat or total failure.
debauch to lead astray morally; to corrupt.
décousu (French) unconnected, disjointed.
deferentially in a courteous or respectful manner.
delirium tremens a violent reaction to alcohol or alcoholic withdrawal, characterized by sweating, trembling, anxiety, and frightening hallucinations.
demimonde (French) the class of women who have lost social standing due to sexual promiscuity; prostitutes.
derisive showing or provoking contempt or ridicule
desultory disconnected, random, lacking direct relevance.
desultory disconnected; passing from one thing to another in an aimless way.
diffidence lack of confidence in oneself.
disconcerted frustrated, confused, or embarrassed.
doctrinaire a person who dogmatically applies theory regardless of practical problems.
dynamometer an apparatus for measuring force or power.
Elbe and Spree rivers in Germany.
electric tram here, the basket or car of an overhead conveyor.
The Emancipation Proclamation Revealed by Lincoln to his Cabinet on September 22, 1862, and taking effect on January 1, 1863, it frees the slaves in all states and territories at war with the Union.
embêtement (French) nuisance, a bother.
enfant terrible (French) an unmanageable, mischievous child.
enigma a perplexing, usually ambiguous, statement; a riddle.
ennui boredom, as from inactivity.
fabulist a person who writes or tells fables.
fatuity stupidity, especially complacent stupidity.
fecund fruitful or fertile.
Fête Dieu (French) God's Festival; the Feast of Corpus Christi, a festival celebrated on the Thursday or Sunday after Trinity Sunday, in honor of the Eucharist.
fetish here, any object believed by superstitious people to have magical power.
fiat an order issued by legal authority.
filial suitable to a son or daughter.
fin-de-siècle (French) end of century, especially the 1890s.
florid flowery, ornate, showy.
flotsam or jetsam odds and ends.
folle (French) mad, insane, out of control.
Götterdämmerung (German) twilight of the Gods; the total, usually violent, collapse of a society, regime, or institution.
harrowing causing mental distress to; tormenting; vexing.
Haus-frauen (German) housewives.
hustings here, a political campaign.
idée fixe (French) a fixed idea, an obsession.
ignominy loss of one's reputation; shame and dishonor; infamy.
imbued permeated or inspired, as with emotions, ideas, and so on.
immolation sacrifice, destruction.
impervious incapable of being passed through or penetrated.
impunity free from punishment.
In hoc signo vinces! (Latin) In (or through) this sign, you will conquer! (Said of the Cross.)
indurate to make hard or callous.
inertia a tendency to remain in a fixed condition without change; disinclination to move or act.
ingenuous naïve, without guile.
iniquity wickedness; lack of righteousness or justice.
intelligible clear, comprehensible, understandable.
interregnum an interval between successive reigns; a period when a country has no leader.
Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) president of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865).
jobbery the carrying on of public or official business dishonestly for personal gain.
John Marshall (1755-1835) Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1801-1835), developing the court's role as interpreter of the Constitution.
kinder (German) children.
kinetic of or caused by motion.
A la disposicion de Usted! (Spanish) At your service!; At your disposal!
Lucius Seneca (4 BC-AD 65) Roman philosopher, dramatist, and statesman. Ordered to commit suicide by his former student and supposed friend, Nero Claudius.
lugubrious sad or mournful, especially in an exaggerated or ridiculous way.
lurid vivid in a harsh or shocking way.
mesure (French) moderation, decorum.
metaphysics the branch of philosophy that seeks to explain the nature of being or reality (ontology) and the origin and structure of the universe (cosmology); it is closely related to the study of the nature of knowledge (epistemology).
Mikado the emperor of Japan, a title no longer used.
naïf (French) naïve; unaffectedly, or sometimes foolishly, simple.
naïveté (French) the quality or state of being unaffected, simple, childlike, credulous.
Nero Claudius (AD 37-68) emperor of Rome (54-68), notoriously cruel and depraved.
neurosis any of various mental disorders including anxiety, compulsions, phobias, and depression.
oblivious here, unmindful; blithely unaware.
obtuse not sharp or pointed; blunt.
occult hidden, concealed, secret, esoteric.
ontologist one who studies ontology, the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being or reality.
opprobrium the disgrace or infamy attached to shameful conduct.
ordnance cannon or artillery.
orthodox conforming to the usual beliefs or established doctrines.
ostentatiously in a showy manner.
ostracism rejection or exclusion, as by society.
paradox a statement or situation that seems contradictory but may be true.
paroxysm a sudden attack, as of a disease or a sudden outburst, as of laughter.
parricide the act of murdering one's parent.
Patti Adelina Patti (1843-1919), a famous coloratura soprano.
pedagogy the art or science of teaching; teaching methods.
pedant here, a narrow-minded teacher who insists on exact adherence to arbitrary rules.
peremptory barring further action; final.
philistine a person regarded as smugly narrow and conventional in views and taste.
a posteriori (Latin) from effect to cause; based on observation rather than theory.
prattle to speak in a childish way; babble.
a priori (Latin) from cause to effect; from a generalization to particular instances.
prodigal exceedingly or recklessly wasteful; generous to a fault.
profligate immoral and shameless.
Pteraspis the first vertebrate, according to Lyell; a fish, existing 400 million years ago, related to the sturgeon, used by Adams as a symbol of sequence and continuity throughout the Education.
putative considered or deemed such; reputed.
Quant à moi, je crois en Dieu! (French) As for me, I believe in God!
Quantula . . . regitur! (Latin) With how little wisdom the world is regulated!
Que tu es beau aujourdhui, mon cher! (French) You're looking fine today, my dear!
Quel chien de pays! (French) What a dog of a country!
querulous inclined to find fault; complaining.
remonstrances protests, complaints, objections.
repine to feel or express unhappiness or discontent.
"The rest is silence." Hamlet's dying words (V, ii, 372) in William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1600-1601).
rococo a style of music, architecture or decorative art characterized by profuse and delicate ornamentation, reduced scale, lightness, and grace.
satiated filled, satisfied, having had enough or more than enough.
seneschal a steward or major-domo (chief steward) in the household of a medieval noble.
sententious expressing much in a few words.
simian of or like an ape or monkey.
singular unique, one of a kind.
skein here, a sequence or series of events.
State Street here, the financial district of Boston, with ties to southern pro-slavery interests.
stentorian very loud (after the Greek herald in the Iliad, with the voice of fifty men).
superannuated old-fashioned or obsolete.
superfluous excessive, more than is needed.
Teufelsdröckh (German) devil's dung. The central character in Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus (1836).
310 It was actually 313 AD when Roman Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity. The Nicene Creed, a confession of Christian faith, was adopted at the first Nicene Council in 325.
Thurlow Weed (1797-1882) publisher of the Albany Journal; a leading anti-slavery editor.
toilettes (French) here, dress or costume.
torpid dormant, sluggish.
torpor a state of being dormant or inactive.
tortuous full of twists and turns.
tour de force (French) feat of strength; an unusually skilled creation or performance.
troglodytic like prehistoric people who lived in caves; also, a person who prefers seclusion.
Turner Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), English painter.
turpitude depravity, baseness.
Unitarian a person who denies the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, maintaining that God is a single being.
vertigo a whirling sensation causing loss of balance; dizziness.
vestige a trace, mark, or sign of something that once existed but has disappeared.
vis a tergo (Latin) force from behind.
vis inertiae (Latin) the force of inertia, later simply referred to as "inertia," the tendency of matter to remain at rest if at rest or to stay in motion if in motion.
vis nova (Latin) new force.
viscosity the state or quality of having a cohesive and sticky fluid consistency.
Ça vous amuse, la vie? (French) So, does life amuse you? (Here, stated ironically.)
wanton undisciplined; unmanageable.
Warte nur! . . . du auch! (German) from Goethe's "Wanderer's Nightsong" (1780): "Only wait! before long / You too will rest."
woolsack a cushion stuffed with wool, on which the British Lord Chancellor sits in the House of Lords.