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Vocabulary in Pride and Prejudice

Vocabulary Examples in Pride and Prejudice:

Chapter I

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"poor nerves.”..."   (Chapter I)

Having “poor nerves” in this case suggests that Mrs. Bennet is inclined to have panic attacks; however, she clearly uses her nervousness to control other people. If things do not go her way, she becomes something of a hypochondriac who suffers from more than just anxiety: “‘Ah,” as she says to Mr. Bennet, “‘you do not know what I suffer!’” To her, nervousness is almost a sort of illness. She uses this “illness” to manipulate others because she expects them to do whatever it takes to make her feel better.

"abuse..."   (Chapter I)

“Abuse” in this case means speaking against or putting down as opposed to physical abuse. Of course, Mrs. Bennet is being hypocritical; though Mr. Bennet has openly favored Elizabeth over his other daughters, Mrs. Bennet has just done the same thing by favoring Jane and Lydia.

"Netherfield Park..."   (Chapter I)

Netherfield Park is a fictional estate located in Hertfordshire, a county just north of London. “Nether” means “lower” or “lower in position,” so it’s a strange choice for a wealthy man like Mr. Bingley.

"caprice..."   (Chapter I)

“Caprice” means an unpredictable or inconsistent change of mood, behavior, or opinion. Mr. Bennet is capricious because his feelings and thoughts tend to change without apparent reason, sometimes on a whim.

"chaise-and-four..."   (Chapter I)

A “chaise-and-four” is a carriage (or chaise) that is drawn by four horses. It was a standard mode of transportation for families that were well-off, though not extraordinarily wealthy. The fact that Mr. Bingley owns a chaise-and-four indicates that he is both financially stable and socially respectable.

"mean understanding..."   (Chapter I)

The word “mean” is being used here to describe something average, mediocre, or unremarkable. Though the word is not always negative, it is clearly being used to disparage Mrs. Bennet: she is small-minded and unable to understand anything particularly complicated. Interestingly, she does seem to understand that her daughters will be financially destitute if they do not marry men like Mr. Bingley (men who are respectable and well-off).

"she times them ill..."   (Chapter II)

“Ill” is being used to mean “poorly”; Mr. Bennet is saying that Kitty is bad at timing her coughs. This is another classic example of Mr. Bennet’s sarcasm: this time, he is teasing Mrs. Bennet for scolding Kitty as though Kitty is coughing intentionally.

"trimming a hat..."   (Chapter II)

In Austen’s day, it was common for middle and upper-class women to trim (add decorations to) hats in order to keep them in fashion—and avoid having to spend money on a new hat every season. Aside from being economical, trimming hats was a distinctly lady-like pastime, one of several feminine “accomplishments” that Austen highlights in Pride and Prejudice.

"amiable..."   (Chapter III)

“Amiable” seems to mean more than just “pleasant” and “friendly.” For Austen, it encompasses more comprehensive character traits like trustworthiness and good-heartedness. Mr. Bingley’s amiability extends beyond mere actions (which can be artificial): he is truly a gentleman.

"second-hand intelligence..."   (Chapter III)

Intelligence means “information” here. Mrs. Bennet and her daughters must rely on Lady Lucas for a description of Mr. Bingley because Mr. Bennet refuses to describe him. Lady Lucas’s report may not be trustworthy because she could be trying to secure Mr. Bingley for one of her own daughters.

"merely looked the gentleman..."   (Chapter III)

The definition of “gentleman” had been actively reworked by the time Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice. The title used to refer to men who came from old, wealthy, and aristocratic families. However, rich and entitled gentlemen started earning a reputation for being rude, arrogant, lazy, and greedy. People thought that a real “gentleman” should be gracious, humble, hardworking, and charitable. This meant that riches and status had nothing to do with it: a man could technically be a true gentleman regardless of social status.

"Affectation of candor..."   (Chapter IV)

“Affectation of candor” means pretending to be open (honest), kind, and sweet. While there is a lot of pretending going on in Pride and Prejudice, Jane is genuine: she means everything she says, and her sweetness is not an act. Being genuine, however, isn’t always a good thing: people might take advantage of you if they know you are truly kind and honest.

"Vanity and pride are different things..."   (Chapter V)

Vanity and pride are also gendered terms, meaning that they are associated with either femininity or masculinity. In Austen’s time, vanity was associated with women and generally involved being absorbed in one’s own beauty and frivolous accomplishments (such as stitching or painting). Pride was associated with men and often related to wealth and “meaningful” accomplishments like entrepreneurial success. Pride could also involve being overly boastful of one’s ancestry.

"complacency..."   (Chapter VI)

“Complacency” means being tranquilly pleased with someone or something. Mr. Darcy doesn’t seem to care that Elizabeth is intentionally offending him—he still finds her appealing. His “complacency” suggests that he is starting to develop romantic feelings for her.

"But if he does it any more, I shall certainly let him know that I see what he is about. He has a very satirical eye, and if I do not begin by being impertinent myself, I shall soon grow afraid of him...."   (Chapter VI)

Being “satirical” here means having a critical or mocking attitude towards people or situations perceived as foolish or immoral. Mr. Darcy has a “satirical eye” because he is very critical of his social inferiors. Elizabeth thinks she must be equally rude, otherwise he will always have the advantage.

"blowzy..."   (Chapter VIII)

“Blowzy” means disheveled. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley continue to criticize Elizabeth because her hair is wind-swept and her complexion is flushed; she does not appear orderly, proper, or ladylike.

"hug..."   (Chapter XI)

In Austen's day, to "hug" oneself simply means to congratulate oneself for being superior: getting the best of someone, winning an argument—winning in general.

"propitious..."   (Chapter XII)

Propitious here means "promising" or "favorable." Mrs. Bennet is loathe to allow Elizabeth and Jane (particularly Jane) to return home because she wants Mr. Bingley to fall deeply in love with her. Elizabeth, however, wants very much to return home.

"Saturday sennight..."   (Chapter XIII)

"Sennight" (also spelled "se'nnight," "se'ennight," or "sev'nnight") is an archaic term meaning one week, or seven days and nights. The word was archaic during the time in which Pride and Prejudice was set; Mr. Collins's use of the word further underscores his stuffiness and arrogance.

"vouchsafed..."   (Chapter XIV)

"Vouchsafe" means to grant or bestow a favor or gift upon a person. Though Mr. Collins hasn't seen "anything but affability" in her, Lady Catherine is clearly being patronizing. She intrudes (rather rudely) on him to make personal suggestions about marriage and even household decorations.

"tete-a-tete..."   (Chapter XV)

"Tete-a-tete" is a French word that means "head-to-head" or "one-on-one." Mr. Collins meets with Mrs. Bennet privately to hint at his intentions to marry one of her daughters—Jane, specifically, because she is the loveliest. He (arrogantly) believes that he is doing the Bennet family a charitable favor, though his preference for the prettiest daughter hardly qualifies as charity.

"warmly..."   (Chapter XVI)

"Warmly" here means "angrily" or "with temper." Elizabeth, who is already predisposed to dislike Mr. Darcy, is happy to accept Mr. Wickham's account as the truth.

"performance..."   (Chapter XVIII)

"Performance" here refers to Elizabeth's sketching of characters. Mr. Darcy suspects that, if Elizabeth "sketches" his character based on conflicting accounts from others, she will not form an accurate (or positive) judgment of his character.

"teased..."   (Chapter XVIII)

"Teased" here means "irritated" or "annoyed." Elizabeth is annoyed because Mr. Collins is completely oblivious to social decorum, and he continues to pressure her to dance with him.

"beaux..."   (Chapter XXI)

The term "beaux," which means suitors, was fairly outdated during the time of Pride and Prejudice. Miss Bingley might be patronizing Jane by using the word because it implies that Jane is unfashionable and provincial—and therefore not equal to (or worthy of) the Bingleys.

"peevish..."   (Chapter XXI)

"Peevish" in this setting probably means "foolish" as well as "obstinate" and "capricious." Mrs. Bennet is resentful and childish; she won't speak to Elizabeth unless it is to punish her for refusing to marry Mr. Collins.

"assiduous..."   (Chapter XXI)

"Assiduous" here means "constantly endeavoring to please." Mr. Collins immediately transferred his attentions to Miss Lucas, almost as quickly as he transferred his interest to Elizabeth when he learned that Jane (his first choice) was likely to be married to Mr. Bingley.

"solicitude..."   (Chapter XXIV)

"Solicitude" means uneasiness of mind, or to be anxious or concerned. Elizabeth doesn't believe that Jane can easily forget Mr. BIngley, or that "we shall all be as we were before," as though the romance never took place. She is concerned that Jane is heartbroken.

" makes love to us all...."   (Chapter LIII)

During the time in which Pride and Prejudice was written, "making love" meant wooing, flirting, or flattering another person (usually directed at a woman by a man). Mr. Bennet is joking that Mr. Wickham is going to great lengths to ingratiate himself with the family.

"superexcellent..."   (Chapter LV)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, "superexcellent" means "exceptionally excellent." Elizabeth predicts that married life will be very happy for Mr. Bingley and Jane simply because Jane is so exceptionally agreeable and beautiful.

"missish..."   (Chapter LVII)

"Missish" means to behave "like a miss"; coy, prim, squeamish, and sentimental. Mr. Bennet is teasing Elizabeth about being uncomfortable with Mr. Collins's report that Mr. Darcy is in love with Elizabeth.

"bore with philosophy..."   (Chapter LXI)

To do anything "with philosophy" means to adopt the attitude or habit of a philosopher; that is, approaching a situation with calmness and resignation. Mr. Wickham has accepted that Elizabeth probably knows "whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her." However, given that he is "not wholly without hope" that Mr. Darcy will give him money, it is likely that Mr. Wickham simply doesn't care what Elizabeth thinks.

"arrear of civility..."   (Chapter LXI)

An "arrear" is "that wherein one has fallen behind," as in a debt that remains unpaid. Miss Bingley has wrongfully mistreated Elizabeth for quite a long time, so she "pa[ys] off every arrear of civility" that she owes her.

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