The English Patient

The English Patient Glossary


The Bedouins are a tribe of Nomads that save Almasy when he falls into the desert from the burning plane. They treat his wounds and take care of him, with the understanding that he'll help them regain a treasury of guns they've recently discovered.


Almasy calls the indentation at the base of Katharine's throat the "Bosphorus." It is his favorite part of her body - the part he remembers the most.


In British intelligence, Cicero was the code name for a spy.


Almasy uses the word "disassembled" a few times, suggesting that his love for Katharine took him apart, so that he no longer recognized himself. He felt off balance, lost, consumed.


A dove-cot is a large house-like structure that is sacred, and similar to a church. Hana's father dies in a dove-cot, and she takes comfort in the fact that he died in a sacred structure.

El Taj

El Taj is the city in the Libyan Desert where Almasy is ultimately captured by British forces.


A harmattan is a type of desert wind that blows across the Sahara. It is filled with red dust that coagulates in the locks of rifles.


Morphine is a strong injectible painkiller. It is used by the English patient to keep his pain at bay, and by Caravaggio to keep his emotions at bay. Ultimately Caravaggio injects the English patient to learn more about the man's true identity.

pencil bombs

Pencil bombs are sliver-like bombs that can be put anywhere - in books, in musical instruments, etc. Kip comes to the villa when he hears Hana playing the piano because he believes there must be one in the piano, and is coming to save her.


A sapper is part of the British military unit. Kirpal Singh is a sapper dedicated to defusing bombs and mines.

tannic acid

Tannic acid is a corrosive substance that upon contact with skin turns it into a shell over raw skin. The plane that nearly killed the English patient exploded into a lava of tannic acid that burned his body.

Villa San Girolamo

The Villa San Girolamo is the small villa in Italy that Hana comes to occupy with the English patient. Ultimately, Kip and Caravaggio come to stay here as well. The villa is surrounded with mines that Kip has to defuse.


Zerzura is the name of the lost oasis that Madox, Clifton, Almasy, and the other people on the expedition are searching for. They're also seeking to map the desert on the way.