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Canterbury Tales Vocabulary

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"Five husbands . . . at the church door"
In Chaucer's time, a wedding was performed at the church door and not inside the church or chapel.
Abominable
hateful; horrid; awful
Acquiesce
to agree; to consent
Acquittal
the act of freeing from a charge or accusation
Amiss
wrong; awry
Arbitrate
to act as judge, to decide disputes
Argus . . . pull his beard
a mythological giant with a hundred eyes whose duty was to guard a mortal (Io) whom Zeus loved. By Chaucer's time the word referred to any observant, vigilant person or guardian.
Array
splendid attire; finery; dress
Arrears
an unpaid, overdue debt
Avail
usefulness
Avarice
greed; a passion for wealth
Avicenna
an Arabian physician (980-1037) who wrote a work on medicines that includes a chapter on poisons.
Avouches
to declare the provable truth or validity of; affirm
Benefice
a church office endowed with fixed capital assets that provide a living
Benign
of a kind and gentle disposition
Bequeath
to leave material goods in a will
Beseech
to make an earnest request
Blithely
lightheartedly; festively; merrily
Buffoon
a person given to clowning and joking
Burgess
a citizen of an Engligh borough (town)
Caprices
whims
Carouses
to behave riotously; to revel
Cheapside and Fish Streets
streets in London that were known for the sale of strong spirits.
Chide
to criticize for a fault or offense
Chivalry
the medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood
Constancy
faithfulness; fidelity
Contrive
to plan
Conundrum
a mystery; a puzzle
Coy
reserved, shy or modest
Dais
a raised platform
Daunted
deprived of courage as a result of fear, anxiety, or disgust
Deferred
postponed; delayed
Demure
reserved in manner; shy; modest
Derision
mockery; ridicule
Diligence
steady attention and effort
Dirk
a dagger
Discreet
having or showing careful judgment in speech and action; prudent; tactful
Disdain
the act of treating with contempt or scorn
Dunmow Fliatcah
a prize awarded to the married couple in Essex who had no quarrels, no regrets, and, if the opportunity presented itself, would remarry each other. The Wife is still establishing the right of more than one marriage.
Duress
constraint by threat
Ecclesiasticus
Ecclesiaste,See xxv: 29.
Eminent
of high rank, distinguished
Engendering
the process of bringing into existence
Enthralled
enchanted; fascinated
Eschew
to stay away from
Estimable
deserving of esteem; admirable
Excommunication
the act of depriving one of the right of church membership by ecclesiastical authority
Exhortation
speech that incites
Extort
to obtain from another by intimidation or blackmail
Feigned
artificial; counterfeited; faked
Felicity
great happiness; bliss
Flinch
to betray pain with an involuntary gesture
Frugal
thrifty
Frugality
thriftiness (the act of being thrifty)
Glib
performed with a natural, offhand ease
Gluttony
the vice of continually overeating
Inciting
stirring to action
Insinuations
innuendoes; indirect hints; implications
Ire
anger
Jousted
a combat between two mounted knights using lances
King Demetrius
The book that relates this and the previous incident is the Policraticus of twelfth-century writer John of Salisbury.
Languishing
lacking energy or strength
Lemuel
See Proverbs 31:4-7.
Lepe
a town in Spain noted for its strong wines.
Lot
Lot's daughters got their father drunk and then seduced him (from the Book of Genesis in the Bible); the Pardoner's point is that Lot never would have committed incest if he had not been drunk.
Malady
an illness; a trouble
Mantle
a loose, sleeveless coat worn over outer garments, a cloak
Mark can tell
The miracle of the loaves and fishes and the barley bread is actually John, not Mark (see John VI:9), but this is a slight error for a woman of the Middle Ages to make.
Mercenary
one who serves or works merely for money
Obscure
not readily noticed or seen; unknown
Obstinate
difficult to manage or control
Palfrey
a woman's saddle horse
Pallor
extreme paleness
Pelf
loot; goods seized unlawfully
Prating
chattering, jabbering
Predestination
belief that one's fate is already decided
Prelate
a high-ranking member of the clergy
Prevarication
the act of evading the truth; lying
Prodigious
of extraordinary size and/or power
Proffering
to put before another for acceptance
Ptolemy . . . almagest
Ptolemy was a second century A.D. astronomer whose chief work was the Almagest. The Wife of Bath's quote shows that she is familiar with such a famous person.
Quoniam
a vulgar designation for the female pudendum, or vulva.
Radix malorum est cupiditas
Greed is the root of evil
Redressed
to get revenge for
Relics
objects esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or martyr; here, the Pardoner's relics are false.
Render
to give what is due or owed
Renown
widespread acclaim; fame
Repined
complained
Repletion
full to or beyond satisfaction
Reprehensible
deserving condemnation; despicable
Requite
to repay
Retinue
group of attendants or followers
Samson
the biblical "strong man." He revealed the secret of his strength to Solome, who then betrayed him to his enemies.
Sanguine
of a healthy, reddish color
Scurrility
vulgar or abusive language
Sedately
dignified in character or manner
Shrive
absolve from sins
Shriving
the act of obtaining absolution for sins
Solicitous
expressing care or concern
St. Helen
the mother of Constantine the Great, believed to have found the True Cross.
Subtle
not immediately obvious, operating in a hidden way
Sundry
various; miscellaneous
Superfluities
things that are not necessary
Supple
easily bent; pliant
Three Misfortunes
Thinges Three,reference to Proverbs xxx, 21-23.
Trenchant
sharp
Unanimously
being in complete harmony or accord
Usury
the act or practice of lending money and charging outrageously high interest
Valerie and Theofraste
a work attributed to Walter Map, a minor satirist who disparaged marriage. All the writers the Wife of Bath quotes have written something either antifeminist, satiric, or unpleasant about marriage.
Valerius
writers who espoused that gentility comes from within and not from outward appearances.
Valiantly
bravely
Venerien . . . Marcien
astrological terms.
Verily
even; indeed
Verity
the quality of being true, factual, or real
Victuals
food fit for human consumption
Wanton
unrestrainedly excessive; luxuriant; frolicsome; playful
Wimpled
wrinkled
Woe
a cause of suffering or harm