Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

by Jerome K. Jerome

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What are some new words from Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome? What do they mean? What are some synonyms?

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Great question! This novel is a good one for learning more vocabulary.

Whether or not every word on a particular vocabulary list will be "new," though, will depend on each individual student. For example, maybe you already know the word "malady," but your classmates don't.

So, I'll suggest 40 good words from the novel that are likely to be new to most students--but they'll all be useful and worth knowing!

For the definitions, I referred to the Oxford English Dictionary. In most cases, the definitions themselves suggest the synonyms. When they didn't, I referred to for synonyms.

In each entry below, you'll see the word followed by the sentence from the story, a definition from the OED, and finally the synonyms.

1. Malady

"A victim to one hundred and seven fatal maladies."

A specific kind of illness; an ailment, a disease.

Illness. Disease.

2. Seedy

"We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it."

Shabby, ill-looking.

Shabby. Haggard.

3. Giddiness

"Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing."

The condition of being giddy or dizzy, vertigo or swimming in the head, dizziness.

Dizziness. Vertigo.

4. Impel

"It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form."

To drive, force, or constrain (a person) to some action, or to do something, by acting upon his mind or feelings; to urge on, incite.

Force. Incite.

5. Virulent

"It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form."

Of diseases, etc.: Characterized by extreme malignancy or violence.

Malignant. Violent.

6. Indolent

"I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally."

Of persons, their disposition, action, etc.: Averse to toil or exertion; slothful, lazy, idle.

Lazy. Idle.

7. Devastating

"I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into—some fearful, devastating scourge, I know—and, before I had glanced half down the list of 'premonitory symptoms,' it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it."

Very effective or upsetting; astounding, overwhelming, ‘stunning’.

Overwhelming. Upsetting.

8. Scourge

"I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into—some fearful, devastating scourge, I know—and, before I had glanced half down the list of 'premonitory symptoms,' it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it."

A cause of (usually, widespread) calamity. Applied, e.g. to a cruel tyrant, a warrior, a war, a disease that destroys many lives.

Disaster. Calamity.

9. Acute

"...I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight."

Of a disease, symptom, etc.: coming quickly to a crisis or conclusion; of rapid onset and short duration; of recent or sudden onset

Sudden. Rapid.

10. Conscientiously

"I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee."

In a conscientious manner; in accordance with one's conscience or one's sense of duty; on grounds of conscience; well and thoroughly; scrupulously.

Carefully. Thoroughly.

11. Invidious

"Why this invidious reservation?"

Fitted to excite ill feeling or envy against the possessor.

Hateful. Slighting.

12. Prevail

"After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed."

To succeed in persuading, inducing, or influencing.

Win. Overcome.

13. Malignant

"Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood."

Originally (of a disease): potentially fatal; extremely severe; exceptionally contagious or infectious; incurable. Now chiefly (of a neoplasm): having the property of uncontrolled growth, with loss of differentiation, invasion and destruction of local tissue, and (often) metastasis to distant sites.

Spreading. Fatal.

14. Ponder

"I sat and pondered."

To weigh (a matter, words, etc.) mentally, esp. before making a decision or reaching a conclusion; to think over, consider, or reflect on; to wonder about.

Consider. Reflect.

15. Acquisition

"I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class!"

A thing which (or occas. person who) is or has been acquired; a new or additional attainment, accomplishment, or possession.

Possession. Attainment.

16. Induce

"I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it."

To lead (a person), by persuasion or some influence or motive that acts upon the will, to some action, condition, belief, etc.; to lead on, move, influence, prevail upon (any one) to do something.

Persuade. Influence.

17. Decrepit

"I crawled out a decrepit wreck."

Wasted or worn out with old age, decayed and enfeebled with infirmities; old and feeble.

Wasted. Enfeebled.

18. Oblige

"'If I was a co-operative stores and family hotel combined, I might be able to oblige you.'"

To gratify with or by doing something; to perform a service or kindness for, confer a favor on.

Gratify. Assist.

19. Hamper

"'Being only a chemist hampers me.'"

To obstruct the free movement of.

Obstruct. Fetter.

20. Disinclination

"In the present instance, going back to the liver-pill circular, I had the symptoms, beyond all mistake, the chief among them being 'a general disinclination to work of any kind.'"

Want of inclination or liking (usually implying an inclination towards the opposite); slight dislike or aversion; indisposition, unwillingness.

Unwillingness. Dislike.

21. Martyr

"From my earliest infancy I have been a martyr to it."

In extended (esp. non-religious) contexts: a person who undergoes death or great suffering for a faith, belief, or cause, or (usu. with to; also with of, for) through devotion to some object.

Sufferer. Saint.

22. Skulking

"Why, you skulking little devil, you."

That skulks or hides; sneaking, lurking.

Sneaking. Lurking.

23. Efficacious

"You know, it often is so—those simple, old-fashioned remedies are sometimes more efficacious than all the dispensary stuff."

That produces, or is certain to produce, the intended or appropriate effect; effective. (Said of instruments, methods, or actions; not, in prose, of personal agents.)

Effective. Helpful.

24. Illustrative

"I explained to George and William Harris how I felt when I got up in the morning, and William Harris told us how he felt when he went to bed; and George stood on the hearth-rug, and gave us a clever and powerful piece of acting, illustrative of how he felt in the night."

Serving or tending to illustrate, make clear or elucidate; explanatory, elucidatory; affording an illustration or example; exemplificatory.

Clarifying. Explanatory.

25. Unanimous

"What it was that was actually the matter with us, we none of us could be sure of; but the unanimous opinion was that it—whatever it was—had been brought on by overwork."

Of persons: Of one mind or opinion; agreed.

Agreed. Accepted.

26. Equilibrium

"Change of scene, and absence of the necessity for thought, will restore the mental equilibrium."

Well-balanced condition of mind or feeling.

Balance. Well-being.

27. Eyrie

"I agreed with George, and suggested that we should seek out some retired and old-world spot, far from the madding crowd, and dream away a sunny week among its drowsy lanes—some half-forgotten nook, hidden away by the fairies, out of reach of the noisy world—some quaint-perched eyrie on the cliffs of Time, from whence the surging waves of the nineteenth century would sound far-off and faint."

A human residence or retreat occupying an elevated position; a high vantage point.

Nest. Retreat.

28. Implant

"You start on Monday with the idea implanted in your bosom that you are going to enjoy yourself."

To fix or instil (a principle, desire, opinion, etc.) in one. Chiefly pass.: To be firmly fixed or inherent in.

Fix. Instill.

29. Bilious

"It was offered round the town at a tremendous reduction, so I am told; and was eventually sold for eighteenpence to a bilious-looking youth who had just been advised by his medical men to go to the sea-side, and take exercise."

Choleric, wrathful, peevish, ill-tempered.

Peevish. Ill-tempered.

30. Gorge

"...but, towards Saturday, he got uppish, and went in for weak tea and dry toast, and on Monday he was gorging himself on chicken broth."

To fill the gorge of; to stuff with food; to glut, satiate.

Stuff. Glut.

31. Anecdote

"Then he told us anecdotes of how he had gone across the Channel when it was so rough that the passengers had to be tied into their berths..."

The narrative of a detached incident, or of a single event, told as being in itself interesting or striking.

Narrative. Story.

32. Enigma

"If most men were like a fellow I saw on the Yarmouth boat one day, I could account for the seeming enigma easily enough."

Something as puzzling as an enigma; an unsolved problem.

Puzzle. Conundrum.

33. Imply

"...and we said it in a tone that seemed to somehow imply that we were surprised that George should have come out so sensible."

To express indirectly; to insinuate, hint at.

Insinuate. Hint.

34. Patriarchal

"We said it would be so wild and free, so patriarchal like."

Relating to, characteristic of, or designating a society or culture in which men tend to be in positions of authority and cultural values and norms are seen as favoring men.

Powerful. Authoritative.

35. Plaintive

"Silent, like sorrowing children, the birds have ceased their song, and only the moorhen’s plaintive cry and the harsh croak of the corncrake stirs the awed hush around the couch of waters, where the dying day breathes out her last."

Having the character of a lament; expressive of sorrow; mournful, sad.

Mournful. Sorrowful.

36. Prattle

"...while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years..."

To utter in an idle, garrulous, or childish manner; to tell (something) as gossip; to speak (a language, words, etc.,) in a foolish, inconsequential, or incomprehensible way.

Ramble. Chatter.

37. Fret

"...young and sweet as she used to be ere the centuries of fret and care had furrowed her fair face..."

Agitation of mind; a ruffled condition of temper; irritation, passion, vexation; also, querulous or peevish utterance.

Agitation. Irritation.

38. Unattainable

"There is no poetry about Harris—no wild yearning for the unattainable."

That cannot be attained or reached.

Unreachable. Elusive.

39. Herculean

"It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather: in wet, the task becomes herculean."

Of a labour or task: Difficult or hard to accomplish as Hercules' labours were; requiring the strength of a Hercules; excessive, immense.

Strenuous. Difficult.

40. Inebriate

"Luckily you have a bottle of the stuff that cheers and inebriates, if taken in proper quantity, and this restores to you sufficient interest in life to induce you to go to bed."

To intoxicate in mind or feeling; to excite or stupefy, as with liquor.

Intoxicate. Stupefy.

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