Vocabulary in The Cherry Orchard

Vocabulary Examples in The Cherry Orchard:

Act I 10

"married an advocate..."   (Act I)

Modern readers may make the connection between the term “advocate” and the more common name “lawyer.” In the original Russian, this expression (замуж за присяжного поверенного) can also be translated as her marrying a lawyer or a sworn attorney.

"Stand off, do; you smell of poultry...."   (Act I)

Likely meant as another humorous comment by Gaev, this line could also be translated as “Move away, dear, you stink of chicken.” (Отойди, любезный, от тебя курицей пахнет.)

"little mother..."   (Act I)

The adjective “little” here does not relate to size. In Russian, the word for “mother” (мать or мама) can have a suffix appended to it, which creates an affectionate, diminutive form that is used as a term of endearment.

"It's not necessary...."   (Act I)

In the Russian, Charlotta says “ne nada” (не надо) here, which can translate into English as it does here, even though the phrasing is awkward. Since Madame Ranevsky and Lopakhin ask for a trick, Charlotta’s response could more easily be translated as simply “No, I don’t need to do that.” This refusal likely indicates that she considers having to do tasks, like perform a trick, whenever the upper class wants is no longer something she feels obligated to do.

"GAEV: Who does? ..."   (Act I)

Throughout the play, Gaev makes exclamations that in the original Russian are simply “kavo” (кого), which can translate as either “whom,” “what,” or even “Really!” when used to convey emphasis. The purpose of these short exclamations, here translated as “Who does?”, are meant to illustrate Gaev’s character: he is older, doesn’t listen to others, and often fantasizes about playing pool rather than focus on the reality of the situation.

"Gormandizer! [All laugh.]..."   (Act I)

The noun “gormandizer” is an insult for someone who eats too much, often in a short amount of time. The group finds Pischin’s consumption of Lubov’s pills to be humorous rather than cause for concern, reflecting the darkly comedic nature of the play.

"Oh, you little cucumber!..."   (Act I)

This expression, "little cucumber" (огурчик) is a term of endearment. Here, it reveals that Yasha finally recognizes who Dunyasha is. That he leaves quickly suggests that such a sudden display of affection was shocking and perhaps somewhat inappropriate, especially considering that the difference in their gender.

"I'd tramp and tramp...."   (Act I)

Varya states that if Anya were to be married to a rich man, then Varya would happily make a pilgrimage from holy place to holy place. The verb “tramp” here means to hike or walk.

"an old abbé..."   (Act I)

An abbé is a French term for an abbot or cleric, a Catholic clergyman.

"A room which is still called the nursery..."   (Act I)

The adverb “still” conveys a sense of persistence despite something to the contrary. In this case, the room continues to be called a nursery even though that name or purpose no longer applies. This establishes notion of persistence or of holding on to something from the past, despite it not being the reality in the present.

"samovar..."   (Act II)

The noun “samovar” refers to a metal container able to heat water, often used to brew tea. Like teapots, samovars whistle when their water boils, which is why Fiers suggests that the sound of breaking string may be a samovar.

"créches..."   (Act II)

The noun “crèche” refers to a nursery where children are cared for while their parents work. Because Trofimov claims that crèches don’t exist outside of fiction, he’s implying that Russian intellectuals, though they preach about the goodness of work, don’t actually work all that hard.

"They call themselves intellectuals, but they use "thou" and "thee" to their servants, they treat the peasants like animals..."   (Act II)

Trofimov attempts to provide insight into how “the human race progresses” in this passage. Here he points out the failure of intellectuals to actually do anything of value. By saying that they use “thou” and “thee,” Trofimov makes a distinct point that is present in Russian grammar, but not so much in English. These forms represent archaic English pronouns used to address someone with familiarity. When these were in use, they contrasted with “you,” which was used to address multiple people or show respect to someone of a higher status. In Russian today, as in many languages around the world, the distinction remains. Trofimov is therefore saying that these “so-called” intellectuals will use familiar terms with their servants, but they will not truly treat them as equals.

"Talking to the waiters about decadents!..."   (Act II)

When used as a noun, “decadent” can refer to someone of unrefined or degraded taste and behavior. In the original Russian, Madame Ranevsky admonishes Gaev in the line by stating that he is talking about sexual things with the waiters—something that polite society would have viewed as very inappropriate.

"salto mortale..."   (Act II)

This Italian expression refers to a dangerous jump (salto, meaning “jump” or “leap”) that could result in a lethal outcome (mortale, meaning “deadly”). Since Charlotta performed this feat with her family when they would “go round fairs,” it’s possible that she and her family performed in a kind of circus troupe.

"shrine..."   (Act II)

The original Russian word Chekhov used here is часовенка, which translates to something more like a small chapel. Since a “shrine” can suggest something much smaller, readers should know that the scene takes place in a field where an old chapel and graveyard are located.

"Decayed gentleman!..."   (Act III)

In the original Russian, Varya exclaims “Облезлый барин!” The adjective “облезлый” can translate to the English adjective “shabby.” In this line, Varya calls Trofimov a shabby (or decayed) gentleman to refer to his actions as contemptible or dishonorable. Since Varya knows of the family’s financial troubles, she is angry that the musicians have been hired because there is barely enough money to be spent on such things.

" demi-saison overcoat..."   (Act III)

This is a light coat worn in the warmer spring/fall months, designed more for fashion than for warmth or practicality.

"Guter Mensch aber schlechter Musikant...."   (Act III)

From the German, this line roughly translates to “a good man, but a bad musician.” This line shows Charlotta’s rejecting the advances of Pishchin, who seems impressed by her talents for card-tricks and ventriloquism.

"Ein, zwei, drei! ..."   (Act III)

These words mean “One, two, three!” in German. Charlotta counts while performing a card-trick for Pischin.

""Grand rond, balancez:" and "Les cavaliers à genou et remerciez vos dames!" ..."   (Act III)

Two French lines are used here: “Grand rond, balancez” translates to “the great ring dance, get set”; “Les cavaliers à genou et remerciez vos dames!” translates to “Gentlemen, on your knees and thank your ladies.”

""Promenade a une paire!" ..."   (Act III)

This French expression translates to “walk as a pair.” In this context, however, it is more likely to mean to enter and dance with your partner. Following Pischin’s instructions, the couples begin to enter the reception-room.

"In the drawing-room the grand rond is being danced...."   (Act III)

The grand rond (or ronde) is a couples dance performed in a large circle. Chekov borrows from French when using dance terminology. By beginning the third act with a large spectacle, Chekov deliberately begins to build energy and tension towards the impending climax of the play.