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Vocabulary in Madame Bovary

Vocabulary Examples in Madame Bovary:

Part I - Chapter One

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"materia medica..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

The phrase materia medica refers to the study of different substances and how they affect the body.

"loco parentis..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

The Latin phrase loco parentis means "in place of a parent" and describes when someone takes a child under their supervision.

"viaticum..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

The word "viaticum" refers to the Catholic practice of giving the communion to someone who is dying in hopes they will bond with God.

"calico..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

"Calico" is a type of cotton fabric. Charles Denis Bartolome is a wannabe dandy, and he cares more about his dress than about his work in the farm.

"a wag..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

The word "wag" archaically refers to a joker or "smart aleck." It is the reason perhaps why the children felt free to laugh, because the teacher was like a bully.

"sealskin cap..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

A "sealskin cap" is a hat made out of the underfur of a seal, which is worn in colder climates.

"shako..."   (Part I - Chapter One)

The word "shako" refers to a high military hat, often with a plume, or feather, on the side.

"harridan..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

A word taken from the French term haridelle, a "harridan" is the equivalent of calling someone an old horse. It is also an adjective used to describe a very mean woman.

"colza..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

Colza oil is used as an herbicide. Apparently this young man was able to use sales of the oil to pay his debtors.

"assizes..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

The word "assizes" are parts of a court session or a hearing. The word has different meanings and it has been historically used from England to Jerusalem in different context. However, it mainly refers to a small part of a trial.

"meagre..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

The word "meagre" means deficient or lacking in quality. It refers to anything that does not exemplify finesse nor beauty; something that lacks appeal and does not meet a standard.

"chignon..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

Chignon is French for "at the nape of the neck." It is a classical hair style donned by young women of Emma's generation.

"laths..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

The word "laths" refers to pieces of wood put together as a backbone to a roof, or other part of a house.

"dunghill..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

A "dunghill" is a heap of animal excrement. Remember Flaubert is a Realist, with a penchant for Naturalism; this means that his descriptions are often shocking to the senses and even grotesque to some readers.

"poultices..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

"Poultices" are mashed herbs that are combined in order to make a concoction that is then warmed and applied to scars or other parts of the body with the intention of healing.

"parleyed..."   (Part I - Chapter Two)

The word "parleyed" is a Gallicism from the French word parler,  which means to talk or speak. The word is used in the English language in its blended form from a French root.

"giddiness..."   (Part I - Chapter Three)

The word "giddiness" means unsteadiness which can be caused by something good or bad, depending on the situation.

"pell-mell..."   (Part I - Chapter Four)

The word "pell-mell" is a colloquial term that means confusion and disorganization.

"mairie..."   (Part I - Chapter Four)

The French word mairie refers to a place that serves as a town hall, or a convention center for townspeople. It would be the "headquarters" of the town; the meeting place used for different community events.

"cuirasses..."   (Part I - Chapter Four)

A "cuirasse" is a breast plate that would cover the neck to the waist like an armor.

"rubicund..."   (Part I - Chapter Four)

The word "rubicund" means of a ruddy, or reddish, complexion. The idea that the author wants to convey is that these are hefty, healthy, earthy farm girls. This is another way to move us away from the sophisticated ideal of a model-type bridesmaid that Emma would have seen in her imagination.

"pelerines..."   (Part I - Chapter Four)

A "pelerine" is a waist-length hood or cape that women wore for outings. It was made of fur or cloth.

"arrondissement..."   (Part I - Chapter Seven)

The French word arrondissement means administrative district.

"anodyne..."   (Part I - Chapter Seven)

The word "anodyne" refers to medicinal (and alternative) therapy to alleviate pain and aid with circulation.

"finger-glasses..."   (Part I - Chapter Seven)

Widely used in the 19th century, finger-glasses are small liqueur glasses used for after dinner drinks.

"barege..."   (Part I - Chapter Eight)

Originally from Barèges, France, "barege" is a loose piece of silk that could be worn as a veil, around the shoulders, across the chest, or however the lady wished.

"phlebotomy..."   (Part II - Chapter One)

The word "phlebotomy" refers to blood-letting, or bleeding someone with the intention of making them heal. As far back as the Middle Ages, it was understood that the human body was run by "humors" and that bleeding out excess blood would repair the body's natural balance of humors. Leeches were often used since they feed off impurities that naturally occur in the blood.

"carabineer..."   (Part II - Chapter One)

He refers to the tax collector as a former Cavalry solder or "carabineer," whose job was to hold the carbine, which is an arm gun or musket that is slightly shorter than a rifle.

"amadou..."   (Part II - Chapter One)

"Amadou" is a spongy substance that forms from fungi and the chemical reactions that occur with it. Another example of Flaubert's raw depictions characteristic of Naturalism/Realism.

"coryza..."   (Part II - Chapter Two)

The word "coryza" refers to when the mucous membrane becomes inflamed as it happens with colds.

"scrofula..."   (Part II - Chapter Two)

Known in the middle ages as "The King's Evil," "scrofula" is the swelling of lymph nodes in the neck as a result of the same bacteria that causes tuberculosis. It was thought that French and English kings had a god-given power to heal scrofula and that they could touch people and cure them. 

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