45 Vocabulary Words for Chapters 1-4 of The Scarlet Letter CHAPTER ONE 1. THRONG: a great number of persons crowded together. Context: The novel begins with a description of “a throng of bearded men” (55). 2. EDIFICE: a large, usually impressive building. Context: The throng of bearded men is gathered outside a “wooden edifice” (55). 3. UTOPIA: a place or state of political or social perfection. The word comes from a novel by Sir Thomas Moore about a perfect society. Context: The narrator discusses the buildings that are needed in a new society (one being a prison), even if people wanted a Utopia (55). 4. ALLOT: to divide or distribute in shares. Context: The narrator describes how a new society must “allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery” (55). 5. SEPULCHRES: a burial vault or grave built of stone. Context: The narrator describes the sepulchers in the “churchyard of King's Chapel” (55). 6. INAUSPICIOUS: not prosperous, unfavorable. Context: The prison door is referred to as “inauspicious” because of the negative connotation connected to it (56). 7. PORTAL: a door or opening. Context: The prison door is referred to as an “inauspicious portal” (56). CHAPTER TWO 8. PHYSIOGNOMIES: the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their arrangement or expression. Context: The narrator comments that the harsh “physiognomies” of the people in the throng by the prison door was because of their Puritan character, ready to judge almost anything (57). 9. TRIBUNAL: a court of forum of justice. Context: The narrator judges the Puritan crowd and hints that it looks as though people were ready to witness a public execution that was sentenced by a tribunal (57). 10. INFERENCE: Making logical conclusions from premises assumed to be true. Context: While still judging the Puritan crowd, the narrator describes that people would make an inference that this angrylooking group of Puritans were waiting for an execution, but that inference would be incorrect because they were just waiting for a prisoner to appear (57). 11. ANTINOMIAN: one who rejects a socially established morality. These people would have believed that salvation is possible through faith alone. The word itself means “against the law.” Context: The formality of the narrator’s diction showcases the formality of the Puritans’ belief in their morality. The throng of people could have been outside the prison door to shame an Antinomian (57). 12. HETERODOX: holding unorthodox, or unofficial opinions or doctrines. Context: The narrator discusses that the Puritan people would have criticized someone who held heterodox beliefs, or beliefs that were against the official beliefs (57). 13. SCOURGED: to subject to severe criticism Context: The narrator lists people who the Puritans would have “scourged out of the town” (57). 14. MAGISTRATE: a local official exercising administrative and often judicial functions. Context: Mistress Hibbins, who is the widow of a magistrate, is the subject of a great deal of the town’s anger. Rumors are that she is a witch (57). 15. GALLOWS: the wooden frame used for the punishment of hanging. Context: The crowd of Bostonians gathered, and the narrator suggests that they would also be there if Mistress Hibbins were to be sentenced to death by hanging on the gallows one day (58). 16. VENERABLE: made sacred especially by religious or historical association. Context: The narrator comments that because “religion and law” are virtually the same for the Puritans, public punishments were both “venerable and awful” (58). 17. Meager/MEAGRE: lacking desirable qualities; a small quantity. Context: A person who violates the rules of the Puritan society would receive sympathy that was meager (58). 18. TRANSGRESSOR: violator. Context: A transgressor in the Puritan society would be subjected to public punishment and ridicule (58). 19. SCAFFOLD: an elevated platform. Context: A scaffold would be almost like a stage for public punishments for the Puritans (58). 20. INFAMY: evil reputation brought about by something criminal or shocking. Context: The narrator indicates that what we might ridicule and find to make someone infamous in today’s culture, might be punishable by death in the colonial times (58). 21. IMPROPRIETY: the quality or state of being improper. Context: The women in the crowd, even though they wore such feminine clothing as “petticoat and farthingale,” did not find it improper to butt their way to the front of the crowd to watch a public punishment (58). 22. HEATHENISH: not religious, uncivilized. Context: The narrator mentions that a brooch or a pin would have been considered as a “heathenish adornment” to the Puritans (59). 23. BEADLE: a minor a church official who attends to the minister and keeps order. Context: The beadle escorts the prisoner out of jail (60). 24. GENTILITY: the members of the upper class. Context: Prisoner Hester Prynne had features that the narrator describes as being of the gentility (60). 25. EVANESCENT: tending to vanish like vapor. Context: The narrator mentions that a thin, evanescent woman is now thought to be feminine, but in the Puritan times, dignity was feminine (61). 26. IGNOMINY: disgraceful or dishonorable conduct, quality, or action. Context: Hester Prynne has a glow about her that does not match her ignominy or sin (61). 27. BRAZEN: marked by contemptuous boldness. Context: One of the women in the crowd refers to Hester as a “brazen hussy” (61). 28. VISAGE: appearance. Context: “Visage” appears three times in this chapter. The narrator describes the women as “iron-visaged” and “unkindlyvisaged” and will later describe someone as having a “scholarlike visage” (62). 29. FLAGRANT: Conspicuously bad, offensive, or reprehensible Context: The narrator describes that it is a flagrant outrage to not let people cover their face in shame (62). 30. MIEN: appearance; aspect. Context: The narrator suggests that if someone were Catholic in the crowd, he would think that Hester with her proud demeanor holding her baby would think she looks like the Virgin Mary (63). 31. COUNTENANCES: looks; expressions. Context: Hester Prynne looks at the “rigid countenances” of people judging her (63). 32. MERRIMENT: lighthearted fun making. Context: Hester seems to see that people look at her with “scornful merriment,” as though they enjoy judging her (64). 33. PRETERNATURAL: exceeding what is natural or regular. Context: Hester’s memory is “preternaturally active” (65). 34. CLOISTER: away in a monastery, place of secluded study. Context: The strange looking man is comfortable in the “study and the cloister” (65). CHAPTER THREE 35. FURROWED: wrinkled. Context: The strange man from the crowd had a “furrowed visage,” or a wrinkle appearance (67). 36. HETEROGENEOUS: different in kind. Context: The strange man had “heterogeneous garb” because he had on both colonial clothing and Native American clothing (67). 37. SOJOURN: a temporary stay. Context: A townsperson describes the mysterious stranger’s “sojourn in the wilderness" when he lived with Native Americans (68). 38. BETWIXT: between. Context: The narrator describes that Hester would prefer to have a large number f people “betwixt” the mysterious stranger and her (70). 39. FERVOR: intensity of feeling or expression. Context: Reverend Dimmesdale became successful due to his “eloquence and religious fervor” (72). CHAPTER FOUR 40. AMENABLE: willing to yield or submit; agreeable. Context: The visitor tells the jailer that Hester will be more “amenable” to “authority” after he speaks with her” (76). 41. ALCHEMY: the pseudoscientific predecessor of chemistry that sought a method of transmuting base metals into gold, an elixir to prolong life indefinitely, a panacea or universal remedy, and an alkahest or universal solvent. Context: The visitor mentions that he used to study alchemy (76). This shows the how he was a scholar. 42. AVENGE: to exact satisfaction for a wrong by punishing the wrongdoer. Context: Hester asks the visitor if he would avenge himself on an “innocent babe” (77). 43. INQUEST: inquiry, investigation. Context: The visitor says that his inquest will be to “seek this man” who fathered Hester’s baby (80). 44. AUGHT: nothing. Context: While concealing the name of her lover, Hester says, “Neither do thou imagine that I shall contrive aught against his life; no, nor against his fame; if, as I judge, he be a man of fair repute. Let him live!” (80). She will say aught to hurt him. 45. PARAMOUR: an illicit lover, often one in an adulterous relationship Context: The visitor talks to Hester and says that she has kept her paramour’s secret (his name), and the visitor asks Hester to keep his secret as well (80).