Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest Glossary


(noun) a boil or other swelling or growth on the skin, especially a sebaceous cyst.

ex. "I am debating whether to risk scratching the right side of my jaw, where there is a wen" (4).


(verb) state or assert to be the case

ex. "Uncle Charles is saying that though he can anticipate that the Deans might be predisposed to weigh what he avers as coming from his possible appearance as a kind of cheerleader for E.T.A...." (4)


(adjective) (of language) engraved on or suitable for engraving on stone and therefore elegant and concise

ex. "Dir. of Comp.: ‘I made in my assessment deliberate use of lapidary and effete'" (7).


(adjective) hairy

ex. "The patch itself he describes as horrific: darkly green, glossy, vaguely hirsute, speckled with parasitic fungal points of yellow, orange, red" (10).


(adjective) of or resembling a lion or lions

ex. "And who could not love that special and leonine roar of a public toilet?" (15)


(noun) inflammation of the pleurae, which impairs their lubricating function and causes pain when breathing.

ex. "And the dope often gave him a painful case of pleurisy if he smoked it for more than two straight days of heavy continuous smoking in front of the InterLace viewer in his bedroom" (22).


(noun) decay and crumbling of a tooth or bone

ex. "Dr. Zegarelli says that’s one reason for all the caries, is that I have low salivary output" (27).


(noun) a diplomatic minister, especially one below the rank of ambassador, and their staff

ex. "The legation finds the promotional subsidy of the North American calendar hilariously vulgar" (33).


(noun) a person on the staff of an ambassador, typically with a specialized area of responsibility

ex. "The attaché’s medical practice being normally divided between Montreal and the Rub’ al Khali, it is his first trip back to U.S.A. soil since completing his residency eight years ago" (33).

ad valorem

(adverb, adjective) (of the levying of tax or customs duties) in proportion to the estimated value of the goods or transaction concerned.

ex. "...the medical attaché is known among the shrinking upper classes of petro-Arab nations as the DeBakey of maxillofacial yeast, his staggering fee-scale as wholly ad valorem" (33).


(noun) a state or attack of uneasiness or unreasonableness

ex. "There’d been parts of metro Boston near the Bay he’d refused to go to, as a child. Roaches give him the howling fantods" (45).


(adjective) in the fashion of an intense, typically intermittent pain along the course of a nerve, especially in the head or face

ex. "...the brisk voiceover gave capsule histories of first paranoid schizophrenia and then P.E.T. With Orin lying there slit-eyed, wet and neuralgic with A.M. dread..." (48).


(noun) energy, style, and enthusiasm

ex. "As an active drug addict, Gately was distinguished by his ferocious and jolly élan" (55).


(adjective) little known; abstruse

ex. "[He] devoted his unimpaired hours almost exclusively to the production of documentaries, technically recondite art films, and mordantly obscure and obsessive dramatic cartridges..." (64).


(noun) a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar

ex. "Cornell University Press announced plans for a festschrift" (65).


(noun) an arrangement of five objects with four at the corners of a square or rectangle and the fifth at its center, used for the five on dice or playing cards, and in planting trees

ex. "Mario enjoy[ed] the smells of the calliopsis alongside the grounds’ quincunx paths, the sweetish pines and the briers’ yeasty musk coming up from the hillside’s slopes" (80).


(adjective) reddish yellow; tawney

ex. "To the east, dimmed by the fulvous cloud the hamsters send up, is the vivid verdant ragged outline of the annularly overfertilized forests of what used to be central Maine" (93).


(noun) (in ancient Greece) a young man of 18 - 20 years undergoing military training; more broadly, a young trainee

ex. "The savvier Big Buddies don’t get too overly close with their L.B. ephebes" (98).


(noun) the person in charge of a gaming table, gathering in and paying out money or tokens

ex. "Jaysus I’m thinking, sweet Jaysus what am I getting into with these kids that speak the lingo like veteran Jersey-shore croupiers" (117).


(adjective) occurring after lunch or dinner

ex. "In mid-October Y.D.A.U., Hal had invited Mario for a post-prandial stroll, and they were strolling the E.T.A. grounds" (121).


(adjective) relating to or denoting mental images having unusual vividness and detail, as if actually visible

ex. "Les Assassins’ M. Fortier and M. Broullîme and some others of his comrades-on-wheels believed Rémy Marathe to be eidetic, near-perfect in recall and detail" (127).


(noun) a sensation like insects crawling over the skin

ex. "Did I experience yes some formication in detox? I did" (177).


(verb) elevate to, or as if to, the rank of a god

ex. "...he’d pretend to be his own dad apotheosizing some sort of thick-necked historic athletic figure the dad’d admired..." (182).


(adjective) (of a person, especially an elderly one) strong and healthy

ex. "The plants are incredibly lush and hale and sometimes threaten to block off the whole easement from dining to living room, and the rope-handled Brazilian machete C.T. had mounted on the wall by the tremulous china-case has stopped really being a joke" (189).


(noun) the spreading of light beyond its proper boundaries to form a fog around the edges of a bright image in a photograph or on a television screen

ex. "An alcohol hangover was definitely no frolic in the psychic glade, all thirsty and sick and your eyes bulging and receding with your pulse, but after a night of involved hallucinogens Hal said the dawn seemed to confer on his psyche a kind of pale sweet aura, a luminescence. Halation, Axford observed" (218).


(noun) the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions, e.g., through the viewfinder and the lens of a camera

ex. "...the oncoming taxi under[went] a sort of parallax as it bore down over tumbleweed streets" (225).


(adjective) producing an unintentional effect of anticlimax

ex. "She represses all bathetic this-will-be-the-last-thing-I-smell thought-patterns" (235).


(verb) win or regain the favor of a god, spirit, or person by doing something that pleases them

ex. "You start to get like a superstitious native. What’s the word propitiate the divine spell" (243).


(adj) having abnormal alignment of the eyes

ex. "Orin had developed a horrible schoolboy-grade crush, complete with dilated pupils and weak knees, for a certain big-haired sophomore baton-twirler he watched twirl and strut from a distance through the diffracted spectrum of the plumed sprinklers, all the way across the field’s dewy turf, a twirler who’d attended a few of the All-Athletic-Team mixers Orin and his strabismic B.U. doubles partner had gone to, and who danced the same way she twirled and invoked mass Pep..." (289).


(noun) an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts

ex. "An object of some weird attracto-repulsive gestalt for Charles Tavis, Mario treats C.T. with the quiet deference he can feel his possible half-uncle wanting, and stays out of his way as much as possible, for Tavis’s sake" (316).


(adjective) flashing; sparkling

ex. "'It is this meaning only, this freedom from constraint and forced duress.' Marathe over Steeply’s shoulder suddenly could realize why the skies above the coruscating city were themselves erased of stars" (320).


(verb) steal [something]

ex. "[Orin was] pushing a rolling double-shelf stainless steel food cart purloined from St. John of God Hospital" (328).

eminence grise

(noun) a person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position

ex. "Pemulis’s chairlegs shriek and make red-skin peanuts spill out in a kind of cornucopic cone-shape and he’s up in his capacity as sort of eminence grise of Eschaton and ranging up and down just outside the theater’s chainlink fencing, giving J. J. Penn the very roughest imaginable side of his tongue" (333).


(noun) a concise saying or maxim; an aphorism

ex. "They just all smiled coy smiles and said to Keep Coming, an apothegm Gately found just as trite as ‘Easy Does It!’ ‘Live and Let Live!’" (357-358).


(noun) a headdress consisting of a white egret's feather or other decoration such as a spray of gems

ex. "Pemulis wears the complex yachting cap and naval braid, and pale and blotchy Struck a toque with a kind of flitty aigrette" (380).


(noun) a person's nickname

ex. "So hence the sobriquet Lateral Alice Moore" (510).


(noun) military weapons, ammunition, and equipment used in connection with them

ex. "Last night’s emergency surgery was remedial, not extractive, because the big pistol’s ordnance had apparently fragmented on impacting and passed through the meters of muscle that surrounded Gately’s Humorous ball and Scalpula socket" (814).


(noun) a heart-shaped curve traced by a point on the circumference of a circle as it rolls around another identical circle

ex. "E.T.A. is laid out as a cardioid, with the four main inward-facing bldgs. convexly rounded at the back and sides to yield a cardioid’s curve" (983).


(noun) rapid involuntary movements of the eyes

ex. "The nystagmus makes the eye-rolling lurider" (1018).