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Vocabulary in Jane Eyre

Vocabulary Examples in Jane Eyre:

Chapter II

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"Abigail..."   (Chapter II)

An “Abigail” is another term for a maid. It originates from the biblical story of Abigail, who interceded on behalf of her husband with King David. This is a marker of the Reed’s higher social status, as it is economically feasible for them to employ workers in their household.

"Babel clamor of tongues..."   (Chapter V)

According to the Bible, God punished the people of Babel for trying to build a tower to heaven by confusing their language abilities and scattering them across the Earth. This is one of the many biblical allusions in Jane Eyre, contributing to the theme of religion and Jane’s changing relationship with faith.

"Rubicon..."   (Chapter VII)

Julius Caesar famously crossed the Rubicon River, initiating a civil war. Passing the Rubicon is understood as passing the point of no return. Up to this point, Jane has been hesitant to commit to her situation or her beliefs, as shown by her fascination with birds and her identification with Felix. Her confrontation with Brocklehurst is imminent, and the idea of a fixed event that she cannot turn back or escape from terrifies her.

"starved..."   (Chapter VII)

The word "starved" could be interpreted two ways. Considering that this part of the novel takes place in the winter, to be “starved” could mean, as per the archaic British definition, to suffer greatly from the cold. However, considering the Lowood students’ poor living conditions, “starved” could also be taken as a comment on how malnourished the girls are. Either way, Brontë emphasizes that the Lowood experience is not a pleasant one.

"Barmecide supper..."   (Chapter VIII)

In Arabian Nights, a wealthy Barmecide invites a beggar to an imaginary feast, and this phrase has come to mean anything that represents an illusion of abundance. Jane uses her imagination to satisfy her “inward cravings” for escape from the terrible conditions at Lowood.

"Resurgam..."   (Chapter IX)

Resurgam is Latin for “I shall rise again.” Helen’s death, as well as this inscription, further contributes to her characterization as a Christ-like figure, as Christ died but came back to life again before ascending to heaven.

"“Mesdames, vous êtes servies!” adding; “j'ai bien faim, moi!”..."   (Chapter XI)

The following is one translation for this French passage: "'Madams, your dinner has been served!' adding; 'I'm famished!'"

"Qu’ avez vous donc? lui dit un deces rats; parlez!..."   (Chapter XI)

The following is one translation for this French sentence: “What is it that you have, then? one of the rats says; ‘Speak!'”

"La Ligue des Rats: fable de La Fontaine..."   (Chapter XI)

In English, the work is called The Plot of the Rats: a Fable by Jean de la Fontaine.

"Mais oui, certainement...."   (Chapter XI)

This is French for, “But yes, certainly.”

"C'est là ma gouverante?..."   (Chapter XI)

This phrase is French for “Is this my governess?” It was assumed that educated people throughout Europe could understand French, so Brontë did not bother translating these passages. As a well-educated woman, she learned French in school and wrote in French in many of her novels.

"and again my raiment underwent scrutiny..."   (Chapter XII)

"Raiment" is an archaic term that refers to clothing. Jane is underdressed for her occupation, and this sort of discrepancy between Jane’s appearance and her identity occurs throughout the novel. Jane’s small stature and plain dress often lead others to misjudge her.

"par parenthese..."   (Chapter XII)

Par parenthese here means “by the way,” again using French in the context of the narrative.

"Revenez bientôt ma bonne amie, ma chere Mdlle. Jeannette..."   (Chapter XII)

The following is one translation for this French passage: "Hurry back, my good friend, my dear Miss Jane."

"Where did you see Latmos?..."   (Chapter XIII)

Latmos (Latmus) is a mountain in modern-day Turkey, with significance in Greek mythology as the resting place of Endymion. Jane is the perpetual dreamer, always wanting to be in any location but her current one. Her drawings are perhaps a subconscious projection of this desire.

"“N'est-ce pas, monsieur, qu'il y a un cadeau pour Mademoiselle Eyre, dans votre petit coffre?”..."   (Chapter XIII)

The following is one translation for this French sentence: “Isn't there a gift for Miss Eyre in your trunk, Sir?”

"“Et cela doit signifier,” said she, “qu'il y aura le dedans un cadeau pour moi, et peutêtre pour vous aussi, mademoiselle. Monsieur a parlé de vous il m'a demandé le nom-de ma gouvernaute, et si elle n’était pas une petité personne, assez mince et un peu pàle. J'ai dit qu'oui: car c'est vrai, n'est-ce pas, mademoiselle?”..."   (Chapter XIII)

The following is one translation for this French passage: “This means there must be a present inside just for me, and perhaps there is one for you also, Miss. Mr. Rochester asked me about you: He asked the name of my new governess, and if she was not a short person, also thin and rather pale. I said yes: because that's the truth, isn't it, Miss?”

"“Monsieur, je vous remercie mille fois de votre bonté;” then rising, she added, “C'est comme cela que maman faisait, n'est-ce pas, monsieur?”..."   (Chapter XIV)

The following is one translation for Adele's French: "Sir, I thank you innumerable times for being so generous. This is how my mother did it, right, sir?"

"“Est-ce que ma robe va bien?” cried she, bounding forward; “et mes souliers? et mes bas? Tenez, je croix que je vais danser!”..."   (Chapter XIV)

“Is my dress not nice?" asks Adele, "and my shoes? and stockings? Watch, I think I shall dance!”

"Il faut que je l'essaie,’ cried she; ‘et à l'instant meme!’..."   (Chapter XIV)

Adele's French exclamation translates to "I must try it on this instant!"

"et j'y tiens..."   (Chapter XIV)

In English, this expression translates to “and I care.”

"nonnette..."   (Chapter XIV)

"Nonnette" is a French diminutive for “nun,” implying youth and inexperience.

"tê-te-à-tête..."   (Chapter XIV)

In French, this literally means “head-to-head”; it has evolved into an English expression describing a focused interaction or conversation.

"Oh ciel! Que c'est beau!..."   (Chapter XIV)

The following is one translation for this French sentence: "Oh, heaven! Isn't it beautiful?"

"tiens-toi tranquille, enfant; comprends-tu?..."   (Chapter XIV)

The following is one translation for this French passage: "keep quiet, child; do you understand?"

"Ma boîte! ma boîte!..."   (Chapter XIV)

French for “My box! my box!”

"petit coffre..."   (Chapter XIV)

French for the “small chest.”

"beauté mâle..."   (Chapter XV)

"Beauté mâle" translates directly from French to “male beauty.” Rather than simply referring to a pretty or attractive man, the phrase carries specific connotations of strength and masculinity.

"roué of a vicomte..."   (Chapter XV)

This literally translates to “wheel of a nobleman”, but roué has a more subtle meaning. It refers to someone who lives a debauched lifestyle.

"Mon ange..."   (Chapter XV)

"Mon ange" is French for “My angel.”

"inamorata..."   (Chapter XV)

"Inamorata" is Italian for “lover.”

"voiture..."   (Chapter XV)

Though in modern French "voiture" is most commonly used to mean "car," it can refer more generally to "vehicle." Here, it refers to the horse-drawn carriage Rochester has just recognized.

"croquant..."   (Chapter XV)

Croquant here refers to "eating," or more specifically "crunching." It is a very colloquial use of the word.

"taille d'athléte..."   (Chapter XV)

Taille d'athléte translates from French to “athletic build.”

"ignis-fatuus-like..."   (Chapter XVI)

This Latin phrase roughly translates to “will-o’-the-wisp,” referring to something that is deceptive or deluding. Jane compares it to loving Rochester, who is outside of her social class and is her employer. Victorian societal norms would not deem them a good marital match, so she believes loving him would only be a waste of time. She cannot imagine marrying Rochester, so she tries to remain rational, renouncing her true feelings.

"Vos doigts tremblent comme la feuille, et vos joues sont rouges: mais, rouges comme des cerises!..."   (Chapter XVI)

An English translation for this passage reads, “Your fingers tremble like a leaf, and your cheeks are red: as red as cherries!”

"Qu'avez-vous, mademoiselle?..."   (Chapter XVI)

An English translation reads, “What's wrong, Miss?”

"sago..."   (Chapter XVI)

"Sago" is a starch harvested from the trunks of palm trees. It is native to the West Indies, and is popular in Caribbean cuisine as well. While it is eaten in Europe, it is not a popular ingredient. It is unusual, almost suspicious, that Grace Poole would eat sago.

"la belle passion..."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “the beautiful passion”; love.

"the parson in the pip..."   (Chapter XVII)

This phrase has many possible interpretations. It may simply be nonsense invented when the Ingrams were children; however, an archaic meaning for “pip” is “ill humored,” which could also be a possibility based on their opinion of Mr. Vining. “Pip” also suggests something insignificant or small. Whatever the meaning, it shows the Ingrams’ lack of respect for those from lower social classes.

"pére noble de théâtre...."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “a father of the theatre.”

"Bon jour, mesdames...."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “Good day, ladies.”

"“minois chiffoné”..."   (Chapter XVII)

The phrase "minois chiffoné" is a French term of endearment for one who is attractive in an unusual way, whose imperfections lend to their beauty. It literally translates to “crumpled little face”.

"Est-ce que je ne puis pas prendre une seule de ces fleurs magnifiques, mademoiselle? Seulement pour completer ma toilette...."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “These are magnificent flowers, may I take one, Miss? It would make my outfit complete.”

"et alors quel dommage!..."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “and then what a pity!”

"Mais oui, mademoiselle: voilà cinq ou six heures que nous n'avons pas mangé...."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “Of course, Miss: but we have not had anything to eat in five or six hours.”

"Chez maman,” said she, “quand il y avait du monde, je le suivais partout, au salon et à leurs chambres; souvent je regardais les femmes de chambre coiffer et habiller les dames, et c’était si amusant: comme cela on apprend...."   (Chapter XVII)

French for: “When we had company at my mom's house, I followed the guests everywhere, from the drawing room to their bedrooms; frequently I watched the maids assisting the ladies with their hair or their clothes, and it was very amusing; I learned to mimic them.”

"Elles changent de toilettes..."   (Chapter XVII)

French for “They are changing their clothes.”

"Mother Bunches..."   (Chapter XVIII)

A “Mother Bunch” is a strong ale and can also be used in reference to a messy and untidy-looking woman who serves it. The term has a slightly derogatory connotation and reveals the upper class’s negative view of Romani people (“gypsies”) or any culture outside of their own.

"Voilà, Monsieur Rochester, qui revient!..."   (Chapter XVIII)

French for “Look, Mr. Rochester has returned!”

"Bridewell..."   (Chapter XVIII)

Bridewell was formerly a prison in London as well as a slang term for any police station or prison. This scene may suggest that Rochester feels imprisoned by some dark secrets he may be harboring.

"pantomime of a marriage..."   (Chapter XVIII)

Jane’s choice of words here reveals what she thinks about Rochester and Blanche Ingram’s relationship. “[P]antomime” works as a sort of double entendre. The party is playing charades, but she also believes that their good relationship is only a performance, mere pretend. They only have give the appearance of being a good couple because of their social standing when it is really Jane who would be a better match for Rochester.

"volatile salts..."   (Chapter XX)

Volatile salts are a type a smelling salt used to keep one from fainting or to arouse consciousness. Note Rochester's urgent tone and the tense atmosphere that calls for the use of salts.

"Carthage..."   (Chapter XX)

Carthage is an ancient city located along Africa’s northern shore, now the capital of modern day Tunisia. Jane assumes Rochester is talking about Blanche Ingram, but note how his description only vaguely resembles Blanche. Blanche has an “olive complexion” and “dark features," but she definitely doesn’t look to be of African descent, making Rochester’s statement suspicious.

"prête à croquer sa petite maman Anglaise..."   (Chapter XXII)

French for “about to feast on her petite English mother."

"bon soir..."   (Chapter XXII)

French for "good evening."

"pour me donner une countenance..."   (Chapter XXIV)

French for “to give myself fresh air."

"du reste, il n'y avait pas de fées, et quand même il y en avait..."   (Chapter XXIV)

French for “besides, no fairies were included, and if there were."

"Contes de fée..."   (Chapter XXIV)

French for “fairy tales.”

"un-vrai menteur..."   (Chapter XXIV)

French for “a true liar.”

"Oh, qu’ elle y sera mal—peu comfortable!..."   (Chapter XXIV)

French for “Oh, things will be very unpleasant and uncomfortable for her there!”

"hypochondriac..."   (Chapter XXV)

“Hypochondriac” relates to the condition in which people are convinced they are ill and in need of medical attention, even if they are not actually ill. Oftentimes, people with hypochondria suffer from actual symptoms, even if the illness is not actually present.

"Creole..."   (Chapter XXVI)

In the Caribbean, “Creole” refers to someone of European and African descent. This culture is rooted in a history of European colonization and African enslavement, and Bertha represents this. Rochester reinforces colonial cruelty when he marries her and brings her back to Europe, treating a real person like the natural resources colonists extracted from the land.

"pass through a fair scene to the scaffold..."   (Chapter XXVII)

In this context, “scaffold” refers to a platform where criminals stand while they await execution. Despite the beauty that surrounds Jane at Thornfield as she covertly escapes, Jane’s mind is occupied by the great pain she faces leaving Rochester, the man she loves. Again, Jane is uninterested in what is physically beautiful while more important matters present themselves.

"Ich wage die Gedanken in der Schale meines Zornes und die Werke mit dem Gewichte meines Grimms...."   (Chapter XXVIII)

German for “As I weigh my thoughts on a scale, I realize that my temper and my behavior are weighted as heavily as my outburst.”

"Da trat hervor Einer, anzusehen wie die Sternen Nacht...."   (Chapter XXVIII)

German for “There was only one individual who came forward, to be observed like a crystal clear night.”

"Marsh End..."   (Chapter XXIX)

Brontë continues to give significance to place names. A marsh is soft, waterlogged land that can be difficult to traverse. “Marsh End” suggests Jane will find herself on firmer footing here, just as the ground at the end of a marsh would be more solid; it marks the symbolic end of Jane’s journey.

"stern allusions to Calvinistic doctrines..."   (Chapter XXX)

Calvinism is a stricter form of Protestantism than Jane’s Evangelicalism because it emphasizes the word of God above all else. Jane is lax about her religious beliefs, merely seeking to live a good life rather than follow specific principles. Though they can bond over religion, the differences in how devout Jane and St. John are have the potential to cause friction between them.

"Peri..."   (Chapter XXXI)

A peri is a Persian mythological creature, similar to a fairy and known for its beauty. Peris can either be benevolent or agents of evil. Rochester often referred to Jane as a sort of sprite or fairy, but Rosamond and Jane are not necessarily similar characters. Calling Rosamond a “peri” references her beauty, which Jane has just described in detail, but also implies a potential for great evil.

"Lot's wife..."   (Chapter XXXI)

This is an allusion to the biblical story of the city of Sodom, which was destroyed by God for its sinfulness. While Lot’s family was fleeing the city, the angel guiding them warned them not to look back. Lot’s wife disobeyed and turned into a pillar of salt. With this biblical story, St. John advises Jane to have faith in God despite her doubts. It’s also significant that Lot’s wife is unnamed. She is defined by her relationship to a man, dependent on him for an identity. This is exactly what Jane has been avoiding, so St. John’s comparison shows a disconnect between their understandings and expectations of a woman's role.

"the 5th of November..."   (Chapter XXXII)

The 5th of November is known as Guy Fawkes Day. In Chapter 3, one of the maids at Gateshead likened Jane to an “infantine Guy Fawkes” for her rebellious behavior. As this Bildungsroman nears its end, this serves as a small reminder of Jane’s troubled beginnings and how much she’s grown over the course of the novel. Once hot-tempered and living in poor conditions, Jane is now more level-headed, independent, and has a space to call her own.

"lusus naturæ..."   (Chapter XXXII)

Latin for “freak of nature."

"“Come over and help us!”..."   (Chapter XXXIV)

Jane alludes to a section from the New Testament that refers to the apostle Paul’s passage through Macedonia. He was one of the most prolific of the apostles, spreading Christianity as a missionary throughout the East and West. Jane suggests that St. John is a Paul-like figure whose stringent dedication to his faith Jane can’t match. It is not that Jane’s faith is wavering, but that she approaches Christianity with a more laissez-faire attitude.

"paysannes and Bauerinnen..."   (Chapter XXXIV)

“Paysannes” is French and "Bäuerinnen" is German for "peasant woman." It is unclear if Jane is well travelled enough to have actually been to France and Germany to meet these women, or if she is simply exercising her mastery of several languages.

"bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh..."   (Chapter XXXVIII)

This comes from Genesis 2:23, which explains God’s creation of woman from the rib of Adam. Jane’s allusion suggests that her harmonious marriage with Rochester is heaven-sent and ordained by God. It is also a reference to how Rochester’s physical condition allows them to recognize each other as equals.

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