Bleak House

Bleak House Glossary

"Makes a leg"

A Victorian term meaning to bow with one's leg forward. Usually slightly derisive in nature


Bent, or folded. The phrase is usually "arms akimbo", meaning with elbows out or hands on hips.


A person employed to perform handwriting for another person. Someone who takes dictation.


Having the qualities of impending or recent stroke; the symptoms of a blocked blood vessel or an organ blocked by blood. Mr. Turveydrop is apopleptic. It can also be used to describe a temperament indicative of high blood pressure.


A mythical creature of Greek mythology having one hundred eyes. It is a metaphor for the quality of all-seeing.

Bag wig

A wig often worn by those in the English legal profession, consisting of the back hair enclosed by a bag.


A man of the lowest eschelon of English hereditary titled nobility. Baronets are addressed as "Sir Christian Name Surname". Sir Leicester Dedlock is a baronet. Baronets have the title Sir, and sometimes the abbreviation Bart. after their name, usually to distinguish them from knights. They are not members of the peerage (which includes barons, viscounts, earls, marquesses, and dukes), but they are considered aristocracy, and are often landed. They are different from knights, who are also called "Sir Christian name Surname", but are knighted by the Crown, but only retain their title for life and do not pass it on to their heirs. The wife of a baronet is called "Lady Surname".


An action or words which are meant to flatter, coax, or entice.


A division of law in England, concerning equity, which is defined as deciding points of law on the basis of fairness, rather than mechanical application of the law. In Bleak House the cases "In Chancery" are usually involving property, wills, and wards of the court.


The qualities of posture, attitude, and air necessary in dancing, and also affected by people who wish to appear refined in society.


An oven used for baking bricks after they are formed. A large, hot furnace.


Holding stubbornly to a purpose or course of action. Obstinancy.


A person who rides the left horse of the leading or only pair of horses drawing a carriage.


An archaic past-tense form of "quoted". It means, simply, "said".


A woman's small drawstring handbag.


A yard used for storing and cutting lumber and boards.


A church official, usually employed with burying the dead, and sometimes ringing bells.


A slang term for parchment, the kind of paper many legal documents were written on, which was made from the skins of sheep.


A kind of tobacco used in the 19th century by sniffing up the nose rather than smoking. By Dickens time it had become slightly old-fashioned, and was generally only used by older men such as Mr. Tulkinghorn or Mr. Turveydrop.


A large mug-shaped cup, usually of heavy pottery or pewter, with a handle and a hinged lid. Usually used for drinking ale or beer.


An archaic past tense of "thrived".


Someone who slanders or speaks maliciously of another.


A wafer is a legal document's seal, a disc of red paper affixed to the document. Dickens uses this word to describe how Miss Flite has attached her prints of barristers to the wall of her a room. It is another example of Miss Flite's legal mania.


A person, usually a minor, legally placed under the care of a legal guardian or a court.

Wolf at the door

A euphemism for hunger.