Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Vocabulary Examples in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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"The cognomen of Crane..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “cognomen” comes from the Latin cognōmen, which refers to one’s third, or family, name. In English use, a cognomen can also refer to a distinguishing name or epithet of a person. Here, the narrator claims that Ichabod resembles his cognomen, or family name. He physically looks like a crane, a large bird, because he has long, spindly limbs like a crane’s legs. This description of Crane contributes to the more humorous way the author chooses to portray the hapless schoolteacher.

"to enter the lists against him..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The idiomatic phrase “to enter the lists” means to issue or accept a challenge.

"paling..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “paling” refers to one unit or board in a fence—a perfect place to tie up one’s horse.

"rantipole..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The adjective “rantipole” refers to a person who is wild and confrontational. Thus, though Brom is a hero, he is not without flaws.

"being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar...."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

Historically, the term “Tartar” referred to any of the nomadic peoples from the land of Tartary, which included present-day Siberia, Mongolia, and Manchuria, among other areas. They allied with the Mongol Empire, greatly expanding their territory in Asia. Because of the Tartars’ nomadic lifestyle, they were known to be excellent horseback riders.

"roystering blade..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

An old spelling of “roistering,” the verb “royster” refers to the act of celebrating loudly and boisterously. An archaic definition of “blade” is an energetic young man.

"knight-errant..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “knight-errant” refers to literary medieval knights who would wander in search of adventures in order to prove their chivalry. Typically, they sought either duels with other knights or courtly love, which necessitated noble and courteous behavior. Some popular examples are the Knight of the Round Table.

"andirons..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “andiron” refers to the metal supports that hold the wood in a fireplace.

"linsey-woolsey..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The compound noun “linsey-woolsey” refers to strong, coarse linen fabric used for clothing and blankets.

"the girths of the saddle gave way..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The “girth” is the leather strap that winds down around a horse’s belly to attach the saddle to it firmly. Crane’s saddle is inconveniently falling off, adding another dimension to the suspense of the chase.

"pedagogue's..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “pedagogue” refers to a teacher, particularly one who is strict. This definition fits with Crane’s previously outlined style of punishment.

"small shrewdness and simple credulity..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “shrewdness” describes the condition of having good judgment, while conversely the noun “credulity” means a tendency to quickly believe in something. Paradoxically, Crane is capable of good judgment but is often gullible, one of his greatest character flaws.

"tête-à-tête..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The expression “tête-à-tête” is French for “head-to-head” and refers to a one-on-one conversation. After the dance, Ichabod endeavors to further court Katrina on the hopes that their dance together was a sign of interest on her side. His true aim, of course, is not her but rather “the high road of success,” a visual metaphor that represents the opposite of the low depths of Sleepy Hollow.

"swains..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

A “swain” can generally refer to a young man, and additionally from this context it also refers to country or farm laborers. This rustic meaning is meant to separate the learned schoolmaster from the rural farm folk.

"over bush and brake..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The word “brake” derives from “bracken,” which refers to fern plants.

"There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller;..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

This passage heaps praise upon the traditional baking of the Dutch colonial farmers. In a play on words, “doughty” means “valiant” but also looks and sounds like the noun “dough.” The oly koek and cruller are Dutch variations on the doughnut.

"erudition..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “erudition” refers to the state of being learned and educated.

"gazette..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “gazette” refers to a periodic announcement publication that lists appointments and other public notices.

"with whom he was domiciliated..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The antiquated verb “to domicilate”—from the Latin domicilium, or home—means to reside somewhere.

"in the true style of a cavalier..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

A “cavalier” is a horseman, usually of military rank. In his 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language, Volume 1, lexicographer Samuel Johnson pointed out that the word has a connotation of stylishness, a cavalier being, in his words, “a gay sprightly military man.” Stylish and yet regal. Elegant and yet authoritative. All of the things Ichabod Crane will never be.

"a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

A “ferule” is a stalk of ferula, or fennel. In the Greek tradition, the ferule figures prominently in the thyrsus, a scepter comprised of a ferule topped with a pine cone. The thyrsus—a phallic symbol—was associated with Dionysus, a god of harvest, fertility, and ecstasy. Thus the ferule represents all that Ichabod strives for: the bountiful crops and harvests of the Van Tassel homestead, and the promise of Katrina’s hand in marriage.

"ready to give up the ghost..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

To “give up the ghost,” a phrase which originates from 14th-century Middle English translations of the Bible, means to die. The idea derives from medieval theology, according to which each individual is inhabited by the “ghost of life,” a spirit which, once released, leaves the body behind to die.

"psalmody..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “psalmody” refers to the act of singing religious hymns in public worship.

"for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The verb “dilate” means to make wider or expand. Thus, this is a humorous line that speaks to just how much food Crane can eat—far more than his lanky, skinny body should be able to, much like a snake.

"behooved..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The verb “to behoove” can mean to be physically of use, to have use for or need of, and to befit or to suit someone. This latter definition is what Irving uses here. Ichabod considers maintaining good relations with his students beneficial and suited to his needs since his salary is not large.

"peradventure..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The adverb “peradventure” is another word for “perhaps,” expressing a hypothetical or uncertain possibility. It is no longer in popular use.

"an eelpot..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

An eelpot is a trap used to catch eels. Due to its shape and construction, eels are easily able to enter the trap but cannot get out once they have entered—much like a burglar trapped inside Crane’s schoolhouse. This is an example of lighthearted, comedic description applied to Crane and his exploits.

"Ichabod..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The name Ichabod gives readers a little insight into his character. The name itself is of Hebrew origin and means “no glory,” or “inglorious.” The meaning behind the name suggests that Crane has an unassuming and somewhat cowardly nature.

"wight..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

An old definition of the noun “wight” is simply another word for human being. Its more modern definition refers to an undead creature. The latter definition foreshadows Crane’s ghostly encounters later in the story.

"Hessian..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The adjective “Hessian,” originally meaning a German inhabitant of the region of Hesse, came to refer also to any German mercenary soldier involved in the American Revolutionary War, typically employed by the British.

"sequestered glen..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “glen” refers to a narrow valley, often in the shape of a “U,” while the adjective “sequestered” is another word for isolated. “Hollow” is also another word for valley, making the town’s name all the more appropriate in light of its relaxation-inducing properties.

"stripling..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The noun “stripling” is a word for a young man, in particular a youth who has passed boyhood and is approaching adulthood.

"tavern..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

A tavern is a bar, pub, or watering-hole, a place where people come from near and far to gather, indulge in libations, and share the latest news, stories and ideas. Taverns also have a negative connotation, as people sometimes escape their problems by slipping into a world of alcohol and easy social graces.

"monteiro cap..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

A monteiro cap is a Spanish hat with ear-flaps, similar to a deerstalker or ushanka.

"mynheer..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

"Mynheer" is a polite form of address for an elderly Dutch male, similar to "sir."

"worthy wight..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

This expression means "worthy man"—wight comes from the Middle English word wiht, referring to a man or creature.

"the nightmare, with her whole ninefold..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The "nightmare" here refers to a female demon in the shape of a horse that runs away with the helpless sleeper.

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