The Sandman

The Sandman Glossary


A barometer is an instrument measuring atmospheric pressure, used especially in forecasting the weather and determining altitude.

"As Franz Moor begged Daniel"

Franz Moor is a character in the German drama Die Raüber (English: The Robbers) by Friedrich Schiller. Franz is a coldhearted young man attempting to steal his older brother's inheritance; Daniel is their father's servant.


To impel is to drive, force, or urge someone to do something.


A pretext is a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason for that course of action.


Fingering, as it is used in the story, means touching with one's fingers.


Fiendish means extremely cruel or unpleasant, because fiend itself means an evil spirit, demon, or devil.

Bogy Man

Also written 'bogeyman', this term refers to an imaginary evil spirit, referred to typically to frighten children. It can also more broadly mean a person or thing that is widely regarded as an object of fear.


A brood, when used as a noun, means a family of young animals, especially of birds.


Spectral means of or like a ghost.


Perdition, in Christian theology, refers to a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unpenitent person passes after death.


Temporal means of or relating to time. Hoffmann builds contrast by also using the word "eternal," an antonym.


Unlike its typical use, meaning a break (either from school or governmental or legal proceedings), in this case recess means a small space created by building part of a wall further back from the rest.


Convulsion means a sudden, violent, irregular movement of a limb or of the body, caused by involuntary contraction of muscles and associated especially with brain disorders such as epilepsy.


Ghastly means causing great horror or fear (related to "aghast," meaning filled with horror or shock).


To snivel is to cry and sniffle - the term is usually used to describe someone crying or whining pathetically.


Lament, used as a noun, describes a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. As a verb, to lament means to mourn or express sorrow.


Piedmont is a region of Italy; Piedmontese refers to one who hails from this area.


To squander is to waste something, especially money or time, in a reckless and foolish manner.


Delusive means giving a false or misleading impression.


A premonition is a strong feeling that something is about to happen, especially something unpleasant.


Perturbation (or to be perturbed) means anxiety or mental uneasiness.

"Cagliostro as he is depicted by Chodowiecki"

Daniel Niklaus Chodowiecki was a Polish-German painter. Count Alessandro di Cagliostro was the alias of the occultist Giuseppe Balsamo an Italian adventurer. Codowiecki once painted a portrait of Cagliostro, which is what Hoffmann references here in describing Professor Spalanzani.


A portent is a sign or warning that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen.

Medias in res

"Medias in res," or more commonly "in medias res," is Latin for "into the middle of things." It is a technique for beginning a story in the middle, usually at a crucial moment of action.


Salomon van Ruysdael lived 1602-1670 and was a Dutch Golden Age landscape painter. Hoffmann refers specifically to his paintings of lakes.


Though today discrimination usually refers to unfair treatment, especially in response to race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, its etymology and basic definition is mere judgment. In this older sense, being discriminating actually refers to having good judgement.


Taciturn means reserved or uncommunicative in speech; saying little.


Malevolent means having or showing a wish to do evil to others.


Estranged means no longer close or affectionate to someone; alienated. This term is mostly used to refer to family members and very close friends.


An automaton is a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being. The term was used before the term "robot" was popularized, but is also specific to mimicking humans, whereas "robot" can be used more broadly.


A cox comb, also spelled 'cockscomb', is a vain and conceited man.


A philistine is a person uninterested in intellectual pursuits and arts.


An apothecary was a person who prepared and sold medicines and drug; the modern equivalent is a pharmacist, though pharmacists have less of a hand in the creation of the medicines themselves.


A spyglass is a small handheld telescope.


Ardent means enthusiastic or passionate.

Bravura aria

An aria is a song performed by a singer, usually by one voice and without orchestra accompaniment. Types of operatic aria became are written and referred to according to the character that would perform them - an aria di bravura is sung by a heroine.


A roulade, when used as a musical term, refers to an elaborate embellishment of several notes sung to one syllable, a technique often used in opera.


A cadenza is a musical passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end.


Banal means lacking in originality; obvious and boring.


Rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well. It is especially used when describing amicable conversation.

"Sonnets, ballades, and canzoni"

A sonnet is a poetic form which originated in Italy (also used much by Shakespeare in an adapted style); a ballade was one of the principal forms of music and poetry in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century France; and a canzone is an Italian song or ballad.


Condign is used, when referring to punishment, to mean 'fitting and deserved'.


Adroit means clever or skillful in using the hands or mind.


Habitué means a resident of or frequent visitor to a particular place.

Sapienti sat

Sapienti sat, in Latin, means "a word is enough to the wise." The phrase indicates that something can be understood without any need for explanation, as long as the listener has enough wisdom or common sense.


A parapet is a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony.