Glossary of Terms
Abraham's tentGenesis 18. Abraham's tent is said in the Bible to be open to all visitors; it is a symbol of hospitality, contrasting with the San Dominick
Ashanteei.e. Ashanti; a people of southern Ghana
battledoredbeaten as though by battledores, which are like small tennis rackets with taut leather instead of strings.
berthplace to sleep on a ship
Black FriarsMonks of the order of Saint Dominick, who wore black robes.
CaffreA Black African; also spelled Kaffir or Kafir; considered offensive.
Canarya wine from the Canary Islands
Cape HornThe southernmost point of South America
Charles VHoly Roman Emperor, 1519-36; also King of Spain as Charles I, 1516-36. Retired to a monastery.
ChesterfieldianAssociated with Philip Stanhope (1694-1773), the fourth earl of Chesterfield, who declared that in governing the world's affairs the appearance of morality is more important than the fact of morality. The narrative here demonstrates Delano's simplicity, as "at once Christian and Chesterfieldian" is an oxymoron.
Christopher ColonChristopher Columbus (1451?-1506), the explorer who made landfall in the "New World" in 1492 under the flag of Castille. His original name and nation are unknown.
City of KingsLima, the Spanish colonial center of South America
custom houseAn official establishment in which vessels and their goods are recorded and cleared.
ebonpoeticization of ebony
Ezekial's Valley of Dry BonesA vision described in Ezekial 37:1-28.
fag-endBritish slang, refering to a cigarette butt; generally, anything that is an unwanted or useless end, in this case, the frayed end of a cable
FreemasonAssociated with the Free and Accepted Masons, a secret order with arcane rituals.
Gordian KnotsThe Gordian Knot is part of the mythology associated with Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.). Alexander is said to have visited Gordium, where there was a famous knot so complex that no one could untie it. As a response to the challenge posed by the knot, Alexander simply cut it with his sword. The Ammon were a Biblical people living along the Jordan river, closely related to the Israelites.
Guy-FawkishAssociated with Guy Fawkes, (1570-1606), who attemped to execute the Gunpowder Plot (1605) to blow up the English Parliament, thus hoping to incite a Catholic rebellion.
heaversshort wooden bars
hidalgomember of the lower Spanish aristocracy
huzzahuzzah, shout of joy
in speciein coin
intriguanteone who intrigues
James the First of England1566-1625, reigned Scotland 1567-1625. Famously squeamish.
Johnson and Byron...Barber and FletcherSamuel Johnson (1709-1784), critic, author, lexicographer, was one of the most important literary figures of England in the eighteenth century. He was famously attached to and generous towards his black servant, Francis Barber. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) is one of the most famous Romantic poets. He too was attached to his black servant, William Fletcher.
junkold, useless rope
malaccaan Asian palm
marlingspikespike used for spearing marlins
missala book containing what is said at Catholic mass on any given day
Mungo Park1771-1806. A Scottish explorer of the African continent.
NubianAn inhabitant of Nubia, a region associated with the ancient kingdom of the same name, which spread from southern Egypt to northern Sudan along the Nile.
oakumrope fibers loosely twisted and combined with tar to make caulk
parterresornamental gardens with walks between flower beds
poopan enclosed structure at the ship's back, above the main deck
Preston PansIn 1745 the English army was defeated by the Scottish (also known as the Highlanders) at the Battle of Preston Pans.
punctilioprecise observance of social niceties
ratlincommonly called a ratline; a horizontal rope used as a ladder for climbing aloft
reconnoitreto make a preliminary survey, especially for purposes of attack
RothschildA line of famous financiers of the nineteenth century were named Rothschild.
San DominickThe name of the ship refers to both the order of Saint Dominick, which was the monastic order in charge of the Spanish Inquisition, and to the island of Santo Dominigo, on which a slave rebellion took place in 1799 (also the time setting for "Benito Cereno").
saya-y-mantaSpanish; a woman's robe that reveals only her face
scullionscullery maid; does kitchen work
soundingsmeasurements of depth
sparsthe round wooden poles used to support rigging on a ship, such as masts, booms, etc.
stu'n'-sailstudding sails; extra triangular sails raised alongside the large rectangular sails, used to get the most out of light winds
tarsailor; short for tarpaulin
transomhorizontal boards in the stern of a ship
vice-regalrepresenting the king's authority
wenabnormal growth or cyst
whale-boatlong, narrow rowboat used for hunting whales
whiskerandoa facetious term for a Spanish old man
windlassa machine for hoisting or hauling
Benito Cereno Essays and Related Content
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- About Benito Cereno
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Section 1
- Summary and Analysis of Section 2
- Summary and Analysis of Section 3
- Summary and Analysis of Section 4
- American Slavery and "Benito Cereno"
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