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Vocabulary in Farewell Address

Vocabulary Examples in Farewell Address:

Text of Washington's Address

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"spirit of party..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

One of the various definitions of the noun “spirit” is a drive that animates individuals or groups of people. By associating the term “party” with this spirit, Washington claims that people and society are naturally disposed to form factions.

"alloy..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

An alloy is a substance composed of two or more items, typically metals. In this context, Washington uses the word “alloy” to describe when two things of different qualities are mixed to create something impure. By stating that he looks forward to retirement, he does so “without alloy,” or without a taint from an undesirable quality.

"who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

A “progenitor” is a forebearer. By using this term as well as the metaphor of soil, Washington speaks to a universal and timeless desire for a free, democratic nation. He claims that this “natural” desire stems within the “native soil” of the American people, stretching as far back as several generations.

"beseech..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The verb “to beseech” means to beg or implore someone for something. Here, Washington reiterates one of his main ideas on morality and religion and the importance of the two for progress. He begs the “Almighty,” or God, to protect and guide the nation.

"insidious wiles..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

This combination of words speaks to Washington’s belief that foreign influence will harm the United States. The word “insidious” means treacherous or seductive, and the word “wiles” describes a cunning trick. By stating that countries abroad pose “insidious wiles,” Washington warns that foreign nations might undermine or play a deceitful trick on the United States.

"depositories..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The noun “depositories” describes a place where things are safely kept. Washington uses this word to describe how checks and balances among the three branches of governments are similar to placing and safeguarding things inside depositories. Without this regulation, Washington fears democracy might transform into autocracy.

"rankness..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this passage, Washington admits that forming divisions in “its greatest rankness”—meaning in an orderly, hierarchical fashion—is an innate human desire. He argues that Americans ought to recognize and dismantle this instinct to form parties, especially at the federal level.

"specious..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The word “specious” describes something that is seemingly sound but is actually misleading or fallacious. Here, Washington warns against the specious, superficial politician who promises one thing but actually provides another.

"mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The compound “ill-concerted” combines two words. The former describes someone or something that is morally evil while the latter means coordinated or organized. The word “incongruous” describes something that is discordant. With the use of this vocabulary, Washington highlights the potential downfall of dividing the people according to party politics. Forming parties, he writes, is akin to forming factions. He advocates instead for an “organ of consistent and wholesome plans” established through a single organized and united government.

"united mass..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The noun “mass” describes an aggregate of different parts that makes up a single entity. He sees the United States as a “united mass”—despite the differences among its four quadrants, each part works hand-in-hand to create a stronger, more secure nation and to ward off dangerous foreign entanglements.

"The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The etymology of the word “intercourse” stems as far back as the 16th century, when it was first used to describe communication and trade between countries or localities. More recently, it has taken on other meanings including social communication or discourse. Here, Washington uses the term to describe how different regions of the United States—the North, South, East, and West—work together economically and geographically. For example, the South profits from the manufacturing capabilities of the North and the West profits from supplies provided by the East.

"Palladium ..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The word “palladium” describes something that provides security. The term originates from Greek and Roman mythology, in which the statue of “Pallas,” the goddess of wisdom often known as Athena or Minerva, was believed to be a safeguard for the cities of Troy and Rome. Here, Washington refers to a prosperous and safe nation as a Palladium—a safeguard for its inhabitants.

"Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts,..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

With this metaphor, Washington suggests that the love of liberty is “interwoven” with the “ligaments,” or the connective tissue that connects joints and cartilage. He likens liberty to the fibres that run through the American people’s hearts and which tie the nation together.

"liberty..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The word “liberty” is defined as freedom from bondage, imprisonment, or autocratic, often foreign, rule. Multiple times throughout the speech, Washington enforces liberty as one of the main tenets of the United States. He often personifies liberty by describing it is a spirit that oversees the wellbeing of the nation.

"Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The word “liberty” is defined as freedom from bondage, imprisonment, or autocratic, often foreign, rule. Multiple times throughout the speech, Washington enforces liberty as one of the main tenets of the United States. He often personifies liberty by describing it is a spirit that oversees the wellbeing of the nation.

"auspices..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

By combing the word “auspices,” which means guidance or patronage, with the word “liberty,” Washington envisions liberty as a guiding, protective force over the American people.

"annals..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The word “annals” describes a year-by-year narrative of events. Here, Washington applauds the support of the American people over the years. He believes that this “constancy” is what has supported the young nation through difficult times and what will continue to sustain them in the future.

"admonishes..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The verb “admonish” means to warn someone. In his continuing appeal to ethos, Washington asserts his humility by claiming that his many years of service have warned him “more and more” that his retirement is impending. He believes now is the right time for him to return to his hometown.

"rejoice..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington writes to his audience with a mix of excitement and hesitancy. On one hand, he rejoices, or feels joyful, that his services are no longer needed; on the other hand, he explains that there are still myriad issues facing the United States, which he goes on to detail throughout the address. Nevertheless, he retains a sense of hope that his departure from office will not hinder the nation’s growth.

"deference..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

By employing the word “deference”—meaning respect for a superior’s wishes—Washington casts himself as inferior to the American people. He says that he is at the will of the nation’s “desire.” Despite his persistent yearnings to retire to his hometown of Mount Vernon, Virginia, he recognizes and voices the need for a strong leader during this time of factionalism and sectionalism, which was tearing at the seams of the nation.

"zeal ..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The noun “zeal” describes an eager desire to achieve something. In this paragraph, Washington assures his audience that his decision to retire is not the result of reduced zeal on his part regarding the course of the county. Although he is stepping down from office, he pledges to care for the nation’s future and remain grateful to the American people.

"apprize..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The now-antiquated term “apprize,” or “apprise,” comes from the French apprendre, which means “to teach.” In this context, Washington apprizes, or imparts, the lessons he has learned while holding office and justifies his decision to retire.

" since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington takes a strongly isolationist stance in this address, going so far as to say that the influence of other nations is “one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.” The word “baneful,” meaning “murderous,” suggests that the fate of the United States is at stake during negotiations about foreign policy. By using such life-and-death language, Washington appeals to his audience’s emotions in an effort to change their opinions toward policy.

"gilding..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

To “gild” something is to cover it with a thin layer of gold in order to give it the appearance of greater value and beauty. Washington accuses those “deluded citizens” who, serving the benefit of an allied nation, cover their “ambition, corruption, or infatuation” with “the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation.” This is the rhetorical gilding that Washington speaks of.

"odium..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this case, the noun “odium” refers to the condition of being hated. Washington uses it in contrast to its antonym—popularity—in order to illustrate the actions of citizens who act in the best interest of an allied nation rather than their home country.

"to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this case, the noun “umbrage” refers to doubt and suspicion. Washington warns Americans against falling into bitter relationships with other nations wherein both sides “lay hold of slight causes of umbrage,” moving readily into a stance of suspicion toward the other. The word derives from the Latin “umbra,” meaning shadow, and in fact shadow is the most basic definition of “umbrage.”

"inveterate..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The adjective “inveterate” means old or long-standing and derives from the same Latin root as “veteran.” Washington encourages Americans to set aside “inveterate antipathies”—that is, long-standing disputes—with other nations.

"public exigencies..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The noun “exigencies” refers to necessities and requirements. Thus, “public exigencies” refers to those public services, programs, and projects to which tax revenues are funneled.

"acquiescence in its measures..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this passage about taxes, Washington calls on the American people to summon up a “spirit of acquiescence” with regards to the dreaded practice. The noun “acquiescence” refers to the contented acceptance of something undesirable. By admitting that taxes are “more or less inconvenient and unpleasant,” Washington comes across as an honest, relatable, and credible figure whose ideas are realistic.

"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this paragraph about checks and balances in the federal government, Washington coins the colorful phrase “spirit of encroachment,” the latter noun referring to the act of wrongfully intruding on the territory, property, or rights of another. The president claims that this spirit tends toward despotism, motivating the various departments, politicians, and parties to seek to increasingly consolidate power. The solution to the entropic forces of encroachment is a proper system of federal checks and balances.

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