Analysis Pages

Vocabulary in Robinson Crusoe

Vocabulary Examples in Robinson Crusoe:

Chapter I - Start In Life

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"deep laden..."   (Chapter I - Start In Life)

In nautical terminology, “deep laden” means too heavy to float. This could suggest that the other two boats save themselves by cutting down the heavy mast and sails connected to the mast as soon as they begin to take on water. This desperate resolution to the problem highlights the danger that the storm poses to these sailors.

"As my new patron, or master..."   (Chapter II - Slavery And Escape)

The word “patron” refers to someone who performs a role of oversight, protection, or sponsorship to another. It generally has neutral or even positive connotations. The word “master” is associated more closely with slave owners. Crusoe uses the more positive word first, which reveals his 18th century European perspective on slavery: proponents of the slave trade believed that slaves were subservient to their masters because they need such patrons to protect them and provide them with support.

"as will appear in the sequel of this story..."   (Chapter II - Slavery And Escape)

By “sequel,” Crusoe doesn’t mean the next novel in a series of tales; rather, he is referring to the next adventure that will happen to him after he escapes slavery.

"the Moors...."   (Chapter II - Slavery And Escape)

The term “Moor” originally referred to someone from ancient Mauretania, a large area in North Africa that corresponds to parts of Morocco and Algeria. The word “Moor” later came to refer to Muslim people of mixed Berber and Arabic descent, a people who conquered Spain in the 8th century.

"a Turkish rover of Sallee..."   (Chapter II - Slavery And Escape)

In this context, the term “rover” refers to a pirate vessel. The word “Sallee” refers to a particular group of pirates known as the Sallee Rovers who were notorious raiders during the 17th century. Notably, piracy was a common issue for trade ships of all kinds during this century. Even groups of pirates from different nations joined forces to persecute others: for example, the Anglo-Barbary, or Anglo-Turkish, pirates, who targeted Catholic shipping vessels.

"even to the line itself..."   (Chapter II - Slavery And Escape)

Since Crusoe includes the context clue of “15 degrees north,” this indicates that “the line” is the equator.

"curlews..."   (Chapter II - Slavery And Escape)

The word "curlew" refers to large birds with long legs and long bills found in Europe and North America. 

"assientos..."   (Chapter III - Wrecked On A Desert Island)

The word "assientos" refers to the profitable contracts for the African slave trade between Spain and Portugal.

"five or six gallons of rack..."   (Chapter IV - First Weeks On The Island)

The word "rack" is slang for "arrack," a powerful, intoxicating liquor made by natives often using coconut and/or pine sap. 

"Providence ..."   (Chapter V - Builds A House - The Journal)

The noun “Providence” in this context refers to the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.

"flags..."   (Chapter V - Builds A House - The Journal)

Here, the word "flags" refers to plants with sword-shaped leaves used to construct thatched roofs. 

"ague..."   (Chapter VI - Ill And Conscience-stricken)

The word "ague" refers to a malaria-like illness marked by high fever that alternates between bouts of sweating and chills. 

"gave me the vapours again to the highest degree..."   (Chapter XI - Finds Print Of Man's Foot On The Sand)

The “vapours” was a historical term for a variety of illnesses, most of them mental. It was thought that mental illnesses originated from mists given off by a person’s internal organs, causing distress and anxiety when they built up inside the body. Crusoe is describing his mindset as supremely troubled, as though he has contracted a debilitating disease.

"viz..."   (Chapter XI - Finds Print Of Man's Foot On The Sand)

This is an abbreviation for the word “videlicet,” which means “that is to say” or “namely.”

"bower, as I called it..."   (Chapter XI - Finds Print Of Man's Foot On The Sand)

A “bower” is a desirable building or place in which to live. Crusoe is being both sarcastic and sincere in calling his dwelling pleasant to look at; while it’s certainly better than a bundle of sticks, it wouldn’t compare to an English mansion.

"mulatto-like..."   (Chapter XI - Finds Print Of Man's Foot On The Sand)

A now-offensive term for a person with one-white parent and one-black parent. Crusoe is trying to explain how his skin has darkened due to constant sun exposure.

"made a Stoic smile..."   (Chapter XI - Finds Print Of Man's Foot On The Sand)

A Stoic practices the ancient Greek philosophy Stoicism, which values self-control over displaying emotion. Crusoe is making a joke that he and his group of animals are so absurd that one can’t help but be amused by them.

"wildfire..."   (Chapter XII - A Cave Retreat)

In this context, the noun “wildfire” refers to a gunpowder that is extremely dangerous and flammable.

"I could not satisfy myself in my station..."   (Chapter XIV - A Dream Realised)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the noun “station” primarily referred to social place or rank. Imperialism made some new forms of social mobility available in Europe even as it depended on the lack of mobility for colonized people of the empires. While Crusoe’s journey—from sailor to plantation owner to island dweller—demonstrates social mobility to an extent, it’s more likely that Robinson Crusoe suggests that excessive mobility is not always in an individual’s best interest.

"I also ordered him to bury the horrid remains of their barbarous feast, which I could not think of doing myself;..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

Although Crusoe is no stranger to violence, he is unable to bury the remains of the person the cannibals ate. Friday, on the other hand, has little trouble cleaning up the place. Note the word choice “effaced,” to rub out or obliterate. Crusoe wants to erase evidence of the cannibals in much the same way English imperialists sought to eradicate all signs of things they deemed “savage.”

"Papist..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

A derogatory term for a Roman Catholic, referencing their religious figurehead, the pope.

"Pagan..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

A derogatory term for anyone who held non-Christian religious beliefs. Later, the definition would signify anyone who didn’t believe in any of the major world religions.

"perspective glass..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

This was an early version of the telescope.

"contrivances..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

This word means “devices,” leaving vague the details of Crusoe’s failed boat-making.

"shoulder-of-mutton sail,..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

Also known as a “leg-of-mutton sail,” this type of sail was shaped like a triangle, supposedly similar looking to a cut of meat.

"fustic..."   (Chapter XVI - Rescue Of Prisoners From Cannibals)

The word "fustic" refers to a tropical tree, commonly found in America, that is used to produce a yellow dye. 

""Will they give us quarter, then?" ..."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

To give a prisoner of war “quarter” means to keep them alive, giving them food or housing (“quarter”) instead of outright killing them for assisting the enemy side. At this point, the various sailor-mutineers are concerned with whether Crusoe will kill them or not.

"parley..."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

In military conflicts, two sides discuss rules of combat or terms of surrender in a safe meeting called a “parley.”

"ambuscade..."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

This is another word for an ambush.

"yield, or he was a dead man...."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

“Yield” in this context refers to surrendering one’s weapons and independence to a victor in a conflict. In this case, since Crusoe and the others outnumber the single mutineer, fighting back would likely result in the mutineer’s death. Again, Crusoe is asserting control over those who attempt to set up camp on his island.

"boatswain..."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

A boatswain’s job is to take care of a boat’s physical components, including a ship’s structure, cables, and various equipment. Typically, a boatswain is a high-ranking member of the crew. That the captain’s boatswain has betrayed him is a grave offence.

"make a waft with her ensign..."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

This phrase means “raise the ship’s flag” as a signal to its crew. “Ensign” refers to the flag, while “made a waft” refers to raising the flag into the air.

"round-house..."   (Chapter XVIII - The Ship Recovered)

The word "round-house" refers to a cabin directly below the poop deck, near the rear of the ship.

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