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100 Words Encountered in

Classic Literature

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chronological
Events are listed in chronological order.
chronological = arranged according to time
Word Statistics
Library1 uses in 10 avg bks
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domestic
as in:
domestic happiness
We share the domestic chores.
domestic = household (relating to home or family)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of domestic means:
relating to a home or family
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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anxiety
She suffers from more than the usual pre-test anxiety.
anxiety = nervousness or worry
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Library22 uses in 10 avg bks
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elegant
as in:
an elegant gown
She was an elegant bride.
elegant = refined and tasteful in appearance, behavior or style
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Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
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medieval
The story takes place during medieval times.
medieval = relating to or belonging to the Middle Ages
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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trifle with
as in:
a trifling matter
Don't waste my time with trifling matters.
trifling = things of little importance
DefinitionGenerally this sense of trifling means:
something of small importance; or a small quantity
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Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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theme
as in:
theme of the novel
The party had a 1950's theme.
theme = an idea that is unifying or recurrent
DefinitionGenerally this sense of theme means:
a basic idea that underlies what is being said or done — especially in a literary or artistic work
Word Statistics
Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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irony
as in:
verbal irony
She was being ironic when she said she couldn't wait to see you again.
ironic = saying one thing, while meaning the opposite or something else — usually as humor or sarcasm
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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acquire
Children acquire language at an amazing rate.
acquire = obtain (come into the possession of something)
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Library17 uses in 10 avg bks
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epic
I think Game of Thrones is the most epic fantasy written since The Rings Trilogy.
epic = an outstanding literary work that is long and heroic
DefinitionGenerally epic means:
something that is outstanding — especially a literary work that is long and heroic
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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disposition
as in:
a kind disposition
She has a cheerful disposition.
disposition = normal mood, personality, or inclination
DefinitionGenerally this sense of disposition means:
someone's normal mood, personality, or inclination
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Library2 uses in 10 avg bks
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allegory
In Plato's allegory, the prisoners in the cave represent people living in ignorance.
allegory = a fictional story whose characters, items, or events are symbolic to express a deeper meaning
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Monsieur
Monsieur and Madame Curie studied radium.
Monsieur = Mr. (in French)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of Monsieur means:
French equivalent to Mr. in English

or:

French equivalent to sir in English (a polite way to address a male)
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Library4 uses in 10 avg bks
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solemn
He took a solemn oath.
solemn = very serious
DefinitionGenerally solemn means:
very serious—and often dignified
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Library22 uses in 10 avg bks
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countenance
2 meanings
as in:
a pleasant countenance
She has a pleasant countenance.
countenance = facial expression; or face
DefinitionGenerally this sense of countenance means:
facial expression; or face; or composure
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
giving countenance
We will not countenance torture.
countenance = to tolerate or approve
DefinitionGenerally this sense of countenance means:
to tolerate, approve, or show favor or support
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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endeavor
I endeavored to get both sides to agree to a compromise.
endeavored = tried or attempted
DefinitionGenerally endeavor means:
to attempt; or a project or activity attempted
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reconcile
as in:
reconciled herself to
After the accident, she had to reconcile herself to life without loving parents.
reconcile = to come to terms with
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essential
The essential feature of the pen is that it writes so consistently.
essential = absolutely necessary; or of greatest importance
DefinitionGenerally essential means:
absolutely necessary; or of the greatest importance

or:

the defining or most important aspect of something
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Library20 uses in 10 avg bks
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render
as in:
rendered her unconscious
Her verbal attack rendered me speechless.
rendered = made (caused to become)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of render means:
to make or cause to become
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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prevail
as in:
she prevailed upon him
The lobbyist prevailed upon the president to sign the legislation.
prevailed = persuaded
DefinitionGenerally this sense of prevail means:
use persuasion — especially successfully
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Library3 uses in 10 avg bks
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earnest
Both sides were deeply in earnest, even passionate.
earnest = sincere or serious
DefinitionGenerally earnest means:
characterized by sincere belief

or:

intensely or excessively serious
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Library20 uses in 10 avg bks
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sultry
as in:
a sultry afternoon
It was a sultry afternoon. I could barely breath.
sultry = hot and humid
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inquire
Students should contact our office to inquire about scholarship opportunities.
inquire = ask about or look into
DefinitionGenerally inquire means:
to ask about or look into something
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Library21 uses in 10 avg bks
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despair
Don't despair—help is on the way!
despair = give up hope
DefinitionGenerally despair means:
hopelessness
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Library27 uses in 10 avg bks
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dwell
2 meanings
as in:
Don't dwell on it.
Don't dwell on the past.
dwell = think or talk about something longer than seems appropriate
DefinitionGenerally this sense of dwell means:
to think, communicate, or let attention stay on (or return to) something for a prolonged period
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
It dwells in the forest.
The creature dwells in the forest.
dwells = lives in
DefinitionGenerally this sense of dwell means:
make one's home in; or to live in; or to stay (in a place)
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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perish
...government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln  --  Gettysburg Address
perish = be destroyed or cease to exist
DefinitionGenerally perish means:
to die — especially in an unnatural way

or:

to be destroyed or cease to exist
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Library8 uses in 10 avg bks
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cease
They signed a cease-fire agreement.
cease = to stop or discontinue (in this case, to stop firing weapons at each other)
DefinitionGenerally cease means:
to stop or discontinue
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Library25 uses in 10 avg bks
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wretch
Pity the poor wretch.
wretch = someone  you feel sorry for
DefinitionGenerally wretch means:
someone  you feel sorry for

or:

a person of bad character
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accompany
The nurse accompanied the old woman everywhere.
accompanied = traveled along with
DefinitionGenerally accompany means:
to travel along with; or to be present with at the same time and/or location

or:

to perform with
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Library31 uses in 10 avg bks
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inclined
as in:
I'm inclined to
I'm inclined to believe him.
inclined = have a tendency; or an attitude or mood that favors something
DefinitionGenerally this sense of inclined means:
a tendency; in the mood; or an attitude that favors something
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Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
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frontier
as in:
the frontier of Tibet
Indian soldiers and technicians assisted in staffing some of the checkposts on the frontier with Tibet.
frontier = an international boundary or a wilderness at the edge of a settled area
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precipitate

adj as in: a precipitate decision
I had planned to ask her, but she made a precipitate departure.
precipitate = sudden
DefinitionGenerally this sense of precipitate means:
acting with great haste — often without adequate thought
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precipitant
The precipitant drug is interfering with the object drug.†
precipitant = something that causes something else — such as causing precipitation or a drug interaction
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oblige
3 meanings
as in:
I am obliged by law.
The law obliges doctors to report suspected child abuse.
obliges = requires
DefinitionGenerally this sense of oblige means:
require (obligate) to do something
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
I obliged her every request.
She asked for help and we obliged her.
obliged = granted a favor to someone
DefinitionGenerally this sense of oblige means:
grant a favor to someone
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Library5 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
I'm much obliged for your kindness
I am much obliged to you for your help.
obliged = grateful or indebted
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indulgent
Indulgent parents risk spoiling their children.
indulgent = treating with extra kindness or leniency (in this case, not demanding enough of the children)
DefinitionGenerally indulgent means:
to treat with extra kindness or tolerance
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Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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contrary
5 meanings
as in:
a contrary idea
The facts point to a contrary conclusion.
contrary = different (perhaps opposite or mutually exclusive)
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as in:
a contrary personality
She has a contrary personality.
contrary = disagreeable
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contrary means:
disagreeable — typically in reference to someone's personality
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as in:
contrary to
Contrary to popular belief, the largest pyramid is in Mexico—not Egypt.
contrary to = in opposition to
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as in:
on the contrary
She was not smiling. On the contrary, she frowned.
on the contrary = an expression used to intensify denial of an idea
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as in:
to the contrary
What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.
to the contrary = with an opposite or different effect
DefinitionGenerally this sense of to the contrary means:
with an opposite or different effect; or something with an opposite or different effect
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placid
a ribbon of sand between the angry sea and the placid bay
placid = pleasantly calm
DefinitionGenerally placid means:
calm and not easily excited
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Shakespeare
As Shakespeare said, "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose."
Shakespeare = author widely regarded as the greatest in the English language and whose works include Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet
DefinitionGenerally this sense of Shakespeare means:
English dramatist and poet frequently cited as the greatest writer in the English language and who wrote such words as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet (1564-1616)
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Library9 uses in 10 avg bks
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sedate
as in:
she is sedate
a quiet sedate nature
sedate = calm and dignified
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composure
After I regained my composure, I thanked her for telling me about the problem.
composure = calm (control of emotions)
DefinitionGenerally composure means:
calm and in control of emotions
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Library7 uses in 10 avg bks
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inseparable
They are inseparable companions.†
inseparable = not separable; i.e., not capable of being separated
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endure
as in:
endured the pain
I endured insult and injury without complaint.
endured = suffered through (or to put up with something difficult or unpleasant)
DefinitionGenerally this sense of endure means:
to suffer through (or put up with something difficult or unpleasant)
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Library18 uses in 10 avg bks
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repentance
Prisoners who show repentance are more likely to be released on parole.
repentance = regret for having done wrong with a desire to be a better person in the future
DefinitionGenerally repentance means:
the feeling or expression of regret for having done something wrong with a firm decision to be a better person in the future
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Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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contempt
2 meanings
as in:
feels contempt towards her
Familiarity breeds contempt.
contempt = lack of respect
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contempt means:
lack of respect — often accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike or disgust
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Library11 uses in 10 avg bks
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as in:
held in contempt of court
The judge held her in contempt.
contempt = the crime of disrespect for the authority of a court
DefinitionGenerally this sense of contempt means:
the crime of willful disobedience to or disrespect for the authority of a court or legislative body
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indifferent
About a third are in favor of the change, a third are opposed, and a third are indifferent.
indifferent = without interest
DefinitionGenerally indifferent means:
without interest
in various senses, including:
  • unconcerned — as in "She is indifferent to what is served to eat."
  • unsympathetic — as in "She is indifferent to his needs."
  • not of good quality (which may imply average or poor quality depending upon context) — as in "an indifferent performance"
  • impartial — as in "We need a judge who is indifferent."
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divine
as in:
to forgive is divine
Her pies are divine.
divine = wonderful
DefinitionGenerally this sense of divine means:
wonderful; or god-like or coming from God
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Library6 uses in 10 avg bks
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profound
as in:
profound sadness
Her apology was heartfelt—expressing profound sorrow and regret.
profound = of greatest intensity or emotional depth
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indignant
She was indignant, but agreed to be searched when they accused her of shoplifting.
indignant = angered or annoyed at something unjust or wrong
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comprehend
I don't think she comprehends how dangerous this has become.
comprehends = fully understands
DefinitionGenerally comprehend means:
to understand something — especially to understand it completely
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Library19 uses in 10 avg bks
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compel
Does our DNA compel us to act as we do?
compel = force
DefinitionGenerally compel means:
to force someone to do something

or more rarely:

to convince someone to do something
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Library10 uses in 10 avg bks
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summon
I was summoned to the principal's office.
summoned = called to come
DefinitionGenerally summon means:
to call forth
The exact meaning of summon can depend upon its context. For example:
  • "summon to court" — officially demand that someone appear in court (call them to court)
  • "summon the team to a meeting" — call upon the team members to attend a meeting
  • "summon help" — call others to come and help
  • "summon her courage" — call forth her courage from within
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mockery
I will not permit the defendant to make a mockery of this trial.
mockery = something that is ridiculous
DefinitionGenerally mockery means:
ridicule (to make fun of)

or:

something so inadequate it is ridiculous (silly)
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Library30 uses in 10 avg bks
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prejudice
The group works to eliminate racial prejudice.
prejudice = unreasonable and unfair belief or feeling
DefinitionGenerally prejudice means:
to have unreasonable belief — especially when unfair to members of a race, religion, or other group

or more generally:

to have (or create in others) an unreasonable belief that prevents objective (unbiased) consideration of an issue or situation
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Henry James
Henry James was the brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James.†
Henry James = member of the famous James family who was born in the US, but lived in England and wrote novels depicting the intersection of America and Europe (1843-1916)
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Walter Scott
Many consider Walter Scott to be the inventor of the historical novel.
Walter Scott = Scottish poet and author of historical novels such as Ivanhoe, and Rob Roy (1771-1832)
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unrequited
It's a sad song about the heartbreak of unrequited love.
unrequited = unreturned
DefinitionGenerally unrequited means:
not returned in kind
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protagonist
the famous protagonist, Harry Potter†
protagonist = the principal character in a work of fiction

or more rarely:

an important supporter of someone or something
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mortal
as in:
mortal body
Don't expect perfection of a mere mortal.
mortal = human (especially merely human); or subject to death
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utopia
We thought we could create a utopia, but we failed because we overestimated human nature.
utopia = an imaginary place considered to be perfect or ideal
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critique
Please critique this performance†
critique = an examination and judgment of something
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metaphor
He was speaking metaphorically when he referred to being mugged by reality.
metaphorically = with a figure of speech in which a word is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity — as when Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage."
DefinitionGenerally metaphor means:
a figure of speech in which a similarity between two things is highlighted by using a word to refer to something that it does not literally denote

For example, Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." Shakespeare is not saying the world is really a stage and all people are actors, but there are similarities he wants us to recognize.
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simile
When she said he was "as subtle as a sledgehammer," she was using ironic simile.
simile = a phrase expressing a similarity between things of different kinds
DefinitionGenerally simile means:
a phrase expressing a similarity between things of different kinds — usually formed with "like" or "as"

as in "It's like looking for a needle in a haystack," or "She is as quiet as a mouse."
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Paradise Lost
In Paradise Lost, Milton condemns reverence for physical objects—however well intentioned.
Paradise Lost = admired Milton epic poem of original sin (1667)
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Achilles
In the film, Troy (2004), Brad Pitt played the character of Achilles.†
Achilles = mythical Greek hero of the Iliad; central character and foremost Greek warrior at the siege of Troy
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Apollo
NASA's program to land a man on the moon was named for Apollo.†
Apollo = Greek and Roman mythology:  god of light (the sun)
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Cupid
She must have been struck by one of Cupid's arrows.
Cupid = Roman mythology:  god of love; a small, winged boy whose arrows make those struck fall in love
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Horace
When in Italy, some pilgrimage to visit Horace's farm.†
Horace = Roman lyric poet said to have influenced English poetry (65-8 BC)
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Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy tried to work through the grief of losing his first wife by writing poetry.†
Thomas Hardy = English poet and author of such novels as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1840-1928)
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George Eliot
George Eliot said she used the male pen name so her works would be taken seriously.†
George Eliot = British writer of novels characterized by realistic analysis of provincial Victorian society and psychology (1819-1880)
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Middlemarch
Many authors consider Eliot's Middlemarch to be among the best books ever written.†
Middlemarch = George Eliot novel that portrays a web of social interaction and is described by many as one of the greatest novels of all time (1871)
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descry
She tries to descry purpose in the disasters of a purposeless world.†
descry = catch sight of
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Mark Twain
Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered by many to be among the greatest U.S. novels.
Mark Twain = U.S. writer and humorist best known for his novels about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
DefinitionGenerally Mark Twain means:
U.S. writer and humorist best known for his novels about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (1835-1910)
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Jack London
Jack London was one of the first writers to become world famous and earn a large fortune from writing.
Jack London = U.S. writer of novels best remembered for his novella, The Call of the Wild.
DefinitionGenerally Jack London means:
U.S. writer of novels based on experiences in the Klondike gold rush and is best remembered for his novella, The Call of the Wild (1876-1916)
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Aeneid
The hero of Aeneid, Aeneas, was a character in the Iliad.†
Aeneid = an epic in Latin by Virgil; tells the adventures of Aeneas after the Trojan War and describes him as the ancestor to the Romans; provides an illustrious historical background for the Roman Empire
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Narcissus
like Narcissus gazing in a pool†
Narcissus = Greek mythology:  a handsome young man who fell in love with his own reflection
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Hercules
Heracles is the Greek mythological equivalent of the Roman Hercules.
Hercules = mythological Roman hero famous for his strength and for performing 12 immense labors to gain immortality
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T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot was twenty-five when he moved from the United States to England.†
T.S. Eliot = U.S. born British poet and playwright remembered for such poems as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1888-1965)
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Ph.D
She is a research scientist who earned her Ph.D in physics.
Ph.D = a research doctorate usually based on at least 3 years graduate study and a dissertation; the highest degree awarded in universities in many fields of study
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Romeo and Juliet
The movie is another remake of Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet = Shakespeare's best known work; a tragedy of forbidden love (c. 1596)
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Charles Dickens
At the age of 12 when his father was in prison for unpaid debts, Charles Dickens worked in a factory where he affixed labels to bottles of boot polish.
Charles Dickens = English writer who depicted and criticized social injustice in such stories as Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol
DefinitionGenerally Charles Dickens means:
arguably one of the English language's best writers and the foremost writer of the Victorian Era whose novels depicted and criticized social injustice (1812-1870)
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Great Expectations
As in other Dickens novels, a central theme of Great Expectations is people living as social outcasts.
Great Expectations = Charles Dickens novel that traces the life of an impoverished young boy with great expectations for self-improvement, who experiences conflict between his desires to be a good person and to advance in social class
DefinitionGenerally this sense of Great Expectations means:
Charles Dickens novel that traces the life of Pip, an impoverished young boy with great expectations for self-improvement, who experiences conflict between his desires to be a good person and to advance in social class (1861)
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Aphrodite
In Roman mythology, Venus is the counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite.
Aphrodite = Greek mythology:  goddess of love and beauty
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blandish
She is blunt, uninterested in small talk, and irritated by blandishment.†
blandishment = to praise to achieve an end
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exeunt
Exeunt all except Hamlet.
exeunt = stage direction:  characters exit from stage
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necromancy
suspected of necromancy
necromancy = conjuring up the dead, especially for prophesying
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Zeus
Jupiter is the Roman counterpart to the Greek Zeus.
Zeus = Greek mythology:  the most supreme of the gods
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Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope suffered health problems and never grew beyond 4 feet 6 inches in height.†
Alexander Pope = English poet and satirist (1688-1744)
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Medusa
The fashion company, Versace, uses the image of Medusa as a trademark.
Medusa = Greek mythology:  a woman with snakes for hair and the ability to turn people to stone if they looked at her
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William Wordsworth
Some consider The Prelude to be William Wordsworth's masterpiece.†
William Wordsworth = poet who helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature (1770-1850)
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Guy de Maupassant
Guy de Maupassant is known for economy of style and clever plotting.†
Guy de Maupassant = French writer noted especially for his short stories (1850-1893)
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Aeschylus
Aeschylus' epitaph noted his participation in the Greek victory at Marathon.†
Aeschylus = ancient Greek writer of tragic drama often referred to as the father of tragedy (525-456 BC)
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† 
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