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Vocabulary in The Were-Wolf

Throughout the text, Housman chooses to capitalize various words that are not typically capitalized—Death, Were-Wolf, and Thing, to name a few. Her choice to capitalize these words suggests that they are representative of otherworldly power, beyond the typical scope of human perception or ability.

Vocabulary Examples in The Were-Wolf:

The Were-Wolf

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"dolorous..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The adjective “dolorous” suggests feeling great pain or distress.

"palsy..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “palsy” refers to a condition that renders someone helpless or paralyzes the body. It can be physical or brought on by extreme shock.

"he had entertained a germ of hope, that grew apace, rained upon by his brother's blood...."   (The Were-Wolf)

The metaphor used here is of a growing seedling. A “germ” is a small, living substance capable of becoming a full organism while “apace” is an adverb that means “quickly.” Hope begins to rise in Sweyn that White Fell might still be alive due to Christian’s blood, which suggests that she may have been able to kill him.

"ravens..."   (The Were-Wolf)

Though the bird is more well known, the verb “to raven” is an old word that means to hunt or devour prey.

"mere..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “mere” refers to a body of water, usually a lake or pond.

"prodigality..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “prodigality” refers to wasteful spending. Here, Sweyn runs too fast too quickly and is out of breath long before he should be.

"vouchsafed..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The verb “vouchsafe” can mean to reply or grant a privilege. Surprisingly, White Fell does not acknowledge the pack of wolves.

"temerity..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “temerity” is another word for confidence or boldness, a trait Christian has previously been lacking.

"Superadded..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The verb “to superadd” means to add to something in a way that increases an effect. In this case, Sweyn’s unhappiness with his brother makes the fear and apprehension Christian feels all that much worse.

""Like a beaten dog!" he said to himself, rallying contempt to withstand compunction...."   (The Were-Wolf)

Sweyn values strength above all else; to see his brother beaten down is not a cause for concern but one for scorn. Sweyn is not entirely coldhearted in his actions since he does have to battle feelings of guilt—another word for “compunction”—over Christian’s condition.

"fell Thing..."   (The Were-Wolf)

Notice that Christian’s use of “fell” is different from that which White Fell uses; while her name suggests a white animal skin, the adjective “fell” is another word for evil or deadly.

"Sweyn had turned to allay the scared excitement half by imperious mastery, half by explanation and argument, that showed painful disregard of brotherly consideration. ..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The verb “to allay” means to relieve or diminish and the adjective “imperious” means assuming authority without justification. Because Sweyn is arrogant, he assumes that he can calm the chaos simply be exerting the influence that has always been his. Christian believes he is not being taken seriously by his brother, which pains him greatly.

"so hideous and terrible a thing as might crack the brain, or curdle the heart stone dead...."   (The Were-Wolf)

Here, Christian considers what might happen if White Fell turns into a wolf in the midst of his homestead. She may be so frightening to look at that madness or a heart attack could result from seeing her.

"to the far-away church, where salvation lay in the holy-water stoup at the door...."   (The Were-Wolf)

Christian has traveled to claim some holy water. In the Christian tradition, holy water is water that has been blessed by a priest. Used in a variety of sacramental rites, holy water is also said to ward off evil—and, according to Sweyn and Trella, kill werewolves, which is why Christian desires some so badly. The noun “stoup” refers to the container the water resides in, which is a basin along the church’s wall.

"Thing..."   (The Were-Wolf)

Notice that “Thing” is capitalized. Because of its capitalization, the word takes on a mystical significance, perhaps suggesting that whatever White Fell is, she is not part of the normal human realm of existence.

"expostulation..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “expostulation” refers to an attempt to reason with someone in an attempt to change their mind. At this point, Sweyn has given up on trying to convince Christian that White Fell is not a werewolf.

"coxcombery..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “coxcombery” (more commonly spelled “coxcombry”) means a self-centered arrogance. Christian easily forgives Sweyn for his vanity because Sweyn, he believes, has good reason to be vain.

"knave..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “knave” is an insult meant to accuse the recipient of being dishonest or worthless. In this case, Sweyn says that Christian may be lying about believing White Fell is a werewolf because she isn’t attracted to Christian.

"dint..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “dint” refers to an impression or hollow made in a surface. In this case, Christian is referring to the wolf tracks as dints.

""they call me 'White Fell.'"..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The noun “fell” is an archaic word for a furred animal skin. The white fur she wears has gifted White Fell with her name.

"wraith..."   (The Were-Wolf)

A “wraith” can refer to different types of ghostly apparitions: specters, shadows, and even columns of vapor or smoke. Here it is used in the general sense to refer to any supernatural, evil spirit.

"Perhaps she essayed to silence thus her own misgivings and forebodings...."   (The Were-Wolf)

The verb “to essay” means “to attempt,” while misgivings and forebodings refer to feelings of doubt or dread. Thus, through scolding the girl, who has been talking about unethical or unimportant matters, the woman hopes to avoid attracting any further evil to their home.

"effaced..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The verb “to efface” means to make oneself appear small or insignificant, which Rol does to try and deflect some of the irritation directed his way.

"incontinently..."   (The Were-Wolf)

The adverb “incontinently” suggests that an action occurred quickly, without consideration for its effects. As very young children often do, Rol acts before considering his course of action.

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