Glossary of Terms
AmazonianReferring to the Amazons, a mythical group of female warriors who were said to live in the Scythia (located on the African Continent).
barrenUnable to produce offspring or fruit; in reference to land, it suggests a lack of growth or development.
BohemiansA group of people signifying their continued allegiance to a historical nation that existed within the borders of the present-day Czech Republic. The nation was independent until the fifteenth century, when it was absorbed into Hungary.
colicA disease suffered by lifestock characterized by pain and spasms in the abdomen.
distemperA disease which affects horses, dogs ands cats whose symptoms include fever and vomiting and which results in severe dehydration. Without treatment, this dehydration often leads to the death of the animal. At the time of the novel veterinary medicine was ineffective and inaccurately applied; consequently, distemper was a very serious affliction.
drouthAn archaic spelling for drought, a period of dry weather which results in a shortage of water for the necessities of life.
engravingAn art where a design is embedded on a block or plate in a way that allows ink to be applied and result in the replication of the design.
grain elevatorInvented in 1842 by a man named Joseph Dart, grain elevators distributed grain throughout silos (tall wooden buildings) to be stored in bins. When the grain was ready to be transported, it would be carried down to the loading area, even directly onto the train or wagon, by gravity alone.
habitableSomething which is suitable for supporting or encouraging life.
hammmockA sheet made of woven rope or string which can be strung between two trees or poles or hung for the ceiling creating a hanging bed.
homesteadA dwelling and piece of land acquired under the Homestead Act of 1862. The Act opened up the newly-acquired Western lands to settlement by making 160 acres of land free to anyone who could build and live in a dwelling and produce crops from the land for five years.
indolentlazy, resistant to work
magic lanternAn early form of a film projector, magic lanterns consist of an enclosed lamp with a small slit. Pictures were then placed in front of the slit, and the light behind them caused them to be enlarged and protected onto a sheet or wall.
mooringsropes or other bindings which secure a vehicle to a spot, such as a ship in harbor.
nightcapA cap worn to bed which was believed to protect the wearer against dangerous night drafts.
pioneerA word coined in the early 1500's from the french word for foot soldier, it refers to a person who is the first to enter a new territory, do something in a new way, or make headway against an apparently insurmountable problem.
prairieWhile prairie literally refers to an area of rolling hills with dense grassland and few trees, the term has taken on the larger meaning of certain areas of the western United States which eastern residents came to inhabit during the period of Western Expansion, spurred by the promise of cheap land.
ProvidenceWhen capitalized, usually a reference to God enacting his will; when uncapitalized, it refers to the guidance or vision of God, or sometimes the more secular luck or prudence.
sauerkrautA traditional Norwegian dish consisting of cabbage which has been salted and allowed to ferment.
scytheA long curving blade fastened to a long stick, used to cut grass and hay and perform other agricultural tasks.
skittishShy, with a tendency to start or panic.
slovenlySomething which is dirty and untidy in appearance or habit.
sod houseA house built of strips of sod. Sod was used usually because timber was scarce and sod provided good insulation against the cold winters.
sovereignrelating to a royal or divine authority
tablelandThis onomatopoeic term refers to a flat area which is elevated, such as a large, flat plain on the summit of a hill.
telegraph poleBefore the telephone became common or inexpensive, messages were sent by telegraph. Wires were strung between tall poles and people at certain spots along the line would tap out messages in code which would then be picked up at other spots. The poles were very tall to prevent vandalism, as the cutting of even one line would do tremendous damage to this communication system.
ulsterA man's overcoat, usually long and made of strong fabric, and meant to be worn in the colder months.
unsparingNot sparing, constant, either liberal or unmerciful.
vacillatingUnable to make a decision, indecisive.
O Pioneers Essays and Related Content
- O Pioneers: Major Themes
- O Pioneers: Essays
- O Pioneers: E-Text
- O Pioneers: Questions
- O Pioneers: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Willa Cather: Biography
- O Pioneers Summary
- About O Pioneers
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, chapters i - iii
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, chapters iv - v
- Summary and Analysis of Part II, chapters i - iv
- Summary and Analysis of Part II, chapters v-xii
- Summary and Analysis of Part III, chapter i - Part IV, chapter iv
- Summary and Analysis of Part IV, chapters v - viii
- Summary and Analysis of Part V, chapters i - iii
- Settling the American Frontier: The Homestead Act
- Related Links on O Pioneers
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources