Study Help Full Glossary for Uncle Tom's Cabin


arabesque a complex and elaborate decorative design of intertwined lines suggesting flowers, foliage, animals, etc.

au fait acquainted with the facts; well-informed.

bagging cloth for making bags; George's factory apparently manufactured cloth made from hemp.

bark a small sailing boat; figuratively, Eva's life.

barrens places that do not produce useful crops or fruits; places with poor soil; here, "pine barrens" are woods whose plants are chiefly or overwhelmingly pine trees.

beaver a man's high silk hat, originally made of beaver fur.

bombazin bombazine; a heavy, twilled silk cloth, often dyed black.

brochetelle brocatelle; a heavy, figured cloth like brocade, usually of silk and linen, often used for upholstery.

Bryant i.e., William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), U.S. poet and journalist.

buffalo a robe or throw made of buffalo skin.

"But as for me . . . I have put my trust in the Lord God" Psalms 73: 2–28.

calaboose [Old Slang] a prison; jail; here, a whipping-establishment or specific place for punishment of slaves.

camphire i.e., camphor, a chemical compound with a strong characteristic odor; as spirits of camphor, often used as a stimulant.

canaille (French) the mob, rabble; a term of contempt for the common people.

cestus in ancient times, a woman's belt or waist-band.

Chateaubriand (Vicomte) Francois Rene de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), French statesman and man of letters; he traveled in North America and wrote about his experiences.

Cicero (Marcus Tullius) (106–43 B.C.) Roman statesman, orator, and philosopher, writer of a classic text on rhetoric.

ciphers things of no importance; nonentities.

class people grouped together because of certain likenesses or common traits; in referring to "men of [Loker's] class," the narrator does not mean social or economic class but "men of Loker's type or temperament."

Coeur de Lion Richard I (1157–99), king of England (1189–99), called "Richard Coeur de Lion," or Richard the Lion-Hearted.

colonizationist one who supported the abolition of slavery with concurrent colonization of Africa by freed American slaves.

"Come unto ME, all ye . . . ." Matthew 11: 28: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. / Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. / For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

"constitutional relations" that is, obligations to the law.

convent i.e., convent school; a boarding school for girls run by Catholic nuns.

"cost and come to" i.e., outgo and income; budgeting.

"Cursed be Canaan . . . ." Genesis IX, 25: "[H]e [Noah] said: 'Cursed be Canaan; meanest of slaves shall he be to his brethren'"; Noah is cursing his son Ham's child Canaan because Ham looked at his father lying naked and drunk in his tent. One of the justifications cited for slavery was that "Hamites" (supposedly the black African race, a mistaken identification) shared in their ancestor's curse.

curveting making leaps, as in equestrian exhibitions (a curvet is a movement where the horse rears, then lifts both back legs into the air just before the front legs come down); here, the implication is that the horses and riders are anxious to be off on the hunt.

daguerreotype a photograph made by an early method on a plate of chemically treated metal.

"The dark places of the earth . . . ." Psalms 74: 20, 21: "Have regard for thy covenant; / for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence. / Let not the downtrodden be put to shame; / let the poor and needy praise thy name."

dies irae (Latin) day of wrath; Judgment Day, or, by extension, any solemn day of reckoning.

distingue (French) having an air of distinction; distinguished.

"The earth shall be dissolved . . . . / Than when we first begun" These are verses from the hymn "Amazing Grace."

Elysium in Greek mythology, the dwelling place of virtuous people after death; by extension, any place or condition of ideal bliss or complete happiness; paradise.

en passant (French) in passing, by the way.

Eternal Rock i.e., Christ, the "Rock of Ages" (see, for example, I Corinthians 10: 4: "[A]nd all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ").

exactions demands, specific requirements.

exquisite a person who makes a show of being refined and fastidious in matters of taste, etc.; a dandy.

"far dogs" Sam's dialectal version of "fair" dogs, meaning not great dogs, but pretty good ones. Stowe's rendering of various dialects has been praised but is sometimes difficult to interpret.

the Fates in Greek and Roman mythology, the three goddesses who control human destiny and life.

"Fear not! for I have redeemed thee . . . ." Isaiah 43: 1: "But now thus says the Lord, / he who created you, O Jacob, / he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; / I have called you by name, you are mine.'"

flambeaux (French) lighted torches.

gin-house an outbuilding sheltering the cotton gin, a machine for separating cotton fibers from the seeds.

"The grass withereth — the flower fadeth" Isaiah 40: 6–8: "A voice says, 'Cry!' / And I said, 'What shall I cry?' / All flesh is grass, / and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. / The grass withers, the flower fades, / when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; / surely the people is grass. / The grass withers, the flower fades; / but the word of our God will stand for ever."

Hagar a woman in the Old Testament, concubine of Abraham and slave of Abraham's wife Sarah; the mother of Ishmael. Hagar's slavery and other specific mentions of slavery in the Bible were sometimes cited as evidence that God approved of the institution.

hartshorn ammonium carbonate, used in smelling salts, so called because formerly made from deer antlers.

"He that dwelleth in love . . . ." 1 John 4:16: "So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

Huguenot any French Protestant of the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries.

"I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star" Revelation 22:16: "'I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.'"

"In the midst of life we are in death" line from the Burial of the Dead in the Book of Common Prayer.

inkhorn a small container, formerly used to hold ink.

inly i.e., inwardly, within one's mind or spirit.

"instrument of torture" i.e., the Cross.

"Into thy hands I commend my spirit!" Jesus' dying words on the cross; see Luke 23: 46: "Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last."

"it biteth like a serpent . . . ." Proverbs 23:31, 32: "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder."

Jim Crow a generic name formerly used by Southern whites for African and African-American people, especially boys or young men; used slightingly.

John Bunyan (1628–88) English writer and preacher who wrote Pilgrim's Progress, an allegory of the soul striving for salvation.

Joseph in Egypt the biblical Joseph (Genesis 37–50), sold as a slave into Egypt, became Pharaoh's trusted servant.

"a land of darkness and the shadow of death" Job 10: 20–22: "Are not the days of my life few? / Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort / before I go whence I shall not return, / to the land of gloom and deep darkness, / the land of gloom and chaos, / where light is as darkness."

"Let not your heart be troubled . . . ." John XIV, 1–2: "Let not your heart be troubled. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."

limb i.e., "limb of Satan," a phrase meaning "imp" or "devil" (metaphorically, an arm or leg of Satan, doing the devil's work), commonly used as a euphemism.

literary cabinet i.e., a bookcase, and, by extension, its contents; Tom's "only literary cabinet" is his Bible.

"the long, sacred rest . . . beloved'" See Psalms 127: 2: "It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, / eating the bread of anxious toil; / for he gives to his beloved sleep."

"Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief" Mark 9: 24.

lot one's portion in life; fortune; fate (in the sense of its being decided by chance).

Magna Charta or Magna Carta; literally great charter, which King John of England was forced to grant, guaranteeing certain civil and political liberties to his barons, in 1215; here "Magna Charta times" means medieval days, days of lords and serfs.

Mericky Chloe calls the baby girl "Mericky," perhaps short for "America"; in a later chapter, she will call the child "Polly."

meum tuum (Latin) mine and yours; Adolph is said to be confusing what property is his and what is St. Clare's.

Moore, Byron, Goethe Thomas Moore (1779–1852), Irish poet; George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788–1824), British poet; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), German poet and dramatist; here, these three are examples of writers who understood religious feeling although they were popularly supposed not to be religious.

morocco a fine, soft leather, made originally in Morocco.

Muses in Greek mythology, the goddesses that sponsored the arts and artists; "domestic Muses" would be the (humorously imagined) goddesses who oversee household arts like cooking.

necromancy black magic; sorcery.

non sequitur (Latin) a conclusion or inference which does not follow from the premises from which it is drawn; a remark that has no bearing on what has just been said.

olla podrida (Spanish) a stew; or, by extension, any assortment or medley.

"one who had 'learned in whatsoever state . . . .'" Philippians 4: 11: "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

opera-glass a small binocular telescope.

own to acknowledge; George says he does not own the laws his pursuers refer to, meaning he does not accept them as his own.

pallaise a pallet, or thin mattress.

palmetto a hat woven of palmetto leaves.

palm-leaf a hat woven of palm-leaves or similar material.

parchment a document written or printed on parchment.

peach-blow peach blossom.

peck a unit of dry measure, equal to a quarter of a bushel or 8 dry quarts.

pike a highway or main road.

"Pray for them that 'spitefully use you" Matthew V, 44: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Christ's words, from the Sermon on the Mount).

punch a mixture of alcoholic spirits with water or fruit juice and sugar, often heated.

quadroon a person of mixed race whose ancestry includes one grandparent of African descent and three of European. (Quadroon, octoroon, and similar terms were used to make distinctions in a complex system of social and legal status developed in some Caribbean societies. In the United States, they were apparently used less exactly; Stowe uses mulatto throughout the novel to refer to people of mixed race, and quadroon to refer to African-American people very light in complexion, even when the person's exact ancestry is not known.)

"Rachel weeping for her children . . . " Matthew II, 18: refers to Herod's killing the boy children as the fulfillment of this prophecy.

railroad a road made from rails; here, a "corduroy" road, a road made of logs laid crosswise.

rattan a cane or switch made from a branch of rattan (a kind of palm tree).

rusk sweet, raised bread or cake, sliced and toasted or baked a second time.

saloon any large room designed for entertainments, receptions, etc.

Sandwich Islands former name for the Hawaiian Islands.

sans culottes (French: literally, "without breeches") revolutionaries; a term of contempt applied by French aristocrats to the poorly equipped members of the French Revolutionary army, who substituted pantaloons for knee-breeches.

"Servants, obey your masters" Ephesians 6: 5: "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ . . . ."; (see also Titus 2: 9: "Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect . . . ."); these passages were frequently cited as New Testament authority for slavery.

"The sheeted dead . . . in the streets of Rome" William Shakespeare, Hamlet, I, 1: "In the most high and palmy state of Rome, / A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, / The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead / Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets."

sick-headache migraine (or any headache that causes nausea).

"sift ye as wheat" Luke 22: 31: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat . . . " (Jesus, speaking to his disciple Simon Peter, at the Last Supper.)

"Sisyphus or the Danaides" Greek mythological figures; Sisyphus is doomed in Hades to roll a heavy stone uphill, only to have it always roll down again; the Danaides are condemned in Hades to draw water forever with a sieve. These allusions are to anyone who must do an endless, pointless task.

Solomon biblical king of Israel: he was noted for his wisdom.

spirituelle (French: spirituel) showing a refined nature.

St. Domingo the present-day island of Hispaniola; a slave rebellion there resulted in the formation of the country of Haiti.

St. James palace in Westminster, London: the royal residence from 1697 to 1837.

"Stay me with flagons . . . ." The Song of Solomon, 2: 5: "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of [with] love."

stiletto a small dagger, having a slender, tapering blade; or, a small, sharp-pointed instrument for making holes in cloth, etc. (Cassy's stiletto might plausibly be either, but the second sense seems more likely.)

stock a former type of large, wide, stiff cravat (necktie); here, apparently, Legree uses the word to mean Tom's necktie or scarf.

Tartarus "informis, ingens, cui lumen ademptum" Latin: Hell, "misshapen, monstrous, devoid of light."

"that soft, insidious disease" i.e., tuberculosis.

"That undiscovered country . . . " Shakespeare, from Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1: "The undiscover'd country from whose bourn / No traveler returns . . . "; Hamlet's line refers to death as "the undiscovered country."

"This is the Last of Earth" allusion to John Quincy Adams (1767–1848), sixth president of the United States; reportedly his last words were "This is the last of Earth! . . . I am content."

toilet i.e., the process of dressing and grooming oneself.

trundle-bed a low bed on small wheels or casters, that can be rolled under another bed when not in use.

vertu or virtu; artistic objects, such as curios, antiques, etc.

vinaigrette a small, ornamental box or bottle with a perforated lid, for holding aromatic vinegar, smelling salts, etc.

"What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus . . . ?" Matthew 8: 29: "And behold, they cried out, 'What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?'" (The speakers are demons, whom Jesus is about to drive out of two men and into a herd of swine.)

"what's yer name" i.e., "what's-your-name," a belittling form of address directed at a person whose name the speaker does not (or pretends not to) know.

"When the Son of man . . . . As ye did it not to one of the least of these . . . ." Matthew 25: 31–46.

"When thou passest through the waters, . . . " Isaiah 43: 2, 3: "'When you pass through the waters I will be with you; / and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; / when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, / and the flame shall not consume you. / For I am the Lord your God, / the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'"

"When, in the course of human events, . . . " the opening phrase of the Declaration of Independence; St. Clare is parodying this document.

Whitney Eli Whitney (1765–1825), American inventor of the cotton gin, a machine for separating cotton fibers from the seeds.

Wilberforce William Wilberforce (1759–1833), English statesman and vigorous opponent of slavery.

"Woe unto the world . . . " See Luke, 17: 1, 2: "And he said to his disciples, 'Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.'"