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Thoreau's "Walden" Chapters 1-3

May 25, 2009
By Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Vocabulary from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden."

List created with VocabGrabber:
http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/
unmerchantable
The dead and for the most part unmerchantable wood behind my house, and the driftwood from the pond, have supplied the remainder of my fuel.
architectural ornament
Not that all architectural ornament is to be neglected even in the rudest periods; but let our houses first be lined with beauty, where they come in contact with our lives, like the tenement of the shellfish, and not overlaid with it.
bottleful
Leaven, which some deem the soul of bread, the spiritus which fills its cellular tissue, which is religiously preserved like the vestal fire--some precious bottleful, I suppose, first brought over in the Mayflower, did the business for America, and
bathing tub
They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of King Tchingthang to this effect: "Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again."
indweller
It was only how to put a core of truth within the ornaments, that every sugarplum, in fact, might have an almond or caraway seed in it--though I hold that almonds are most wholesome without the sugar--and not how the inhabitant, the indweller, migh
sand cherry
I have watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons.
woodchuck
As if one were to wear any sort of coat which the tailor might cut out for him, or, gradually leaving off palm-leaf hat or cap of woodchuck skin, complain of hard times because he could not afford to buy him a crown!
townsman
I should not obtrude my affairs so much on the notice of my readers if very particular inquiries had not been made by my townsmen concerning my mode of life, which some would call impertinent, though they do not appear to me at all impertinent, but, considering the circumstances, very natural and pertinent.
linen paper
My residence was more favorable, not only to thought, but to serious reading, than a university; and though I was beyond the range of the ordinary circulating library, I had more than ever come within the influence of those books which circulate round the world, whose sentences were first written on bark, and are now merely copied from time to time on to linen paper.
wild apple
I walked over each farmer's premises, tasted his wild apples, discoursed on husbandry with him, took his farm at his price, at any price, mortgaging it to him in my mind; even put a higher price on it--took everything but a deed of it--took his word for his deed, for I dearly love to talk--cultivated it, and him too to some extent, I trust, and withdrew when I had enjoyed it long enough, leaving him to carry it on.
encumbrance
The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.
wood thrush
I was not only nearer to some of those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, but to those smaller and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, or rarely, serenade a villager--the wood thrush, the veery, the scarlet tanager, the field sparrow, the whip-poor-will, and many others.
evitable
Still we live meanly, like ants; though the fable tells us that we were long ago changed into men; like pygmies we fight with cranes; it is error upon error, and clout upon clout, and our best virtue has for its occasion a superfluous and evitable wretchedness.
exogenous
We don garment after garment, as if we grew like exogenous plants by addition without.
alluvion
Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d'appui, bel...
deliquium
The result is dulness of sight, a stagnation of the vital circulations, and a general deliquium and sloughing off of all the intellectual faculties.
squalidness
Their condition only proves what squalidness may consist with civilization.
wigwam
In the Indian gazettes a wigwam was the symbol of a day's march, and a row of them cut or painted on the bark of a tree signified that so many times they had camped.
polestar
It is by a mathematical point only that we are wise, as the sailor or the fugitive slave keeps the polestar in his eye; but that is sufficient guidance for all our life.
auroral
To my imagination it retained throughout the day more or less of this auroral character, reminding me of a certain house on a mountain which I had visited a year before.
perchance
Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is.
Augean stables
How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot!
compost heap
It was of small dimensions, with a peaked cottage roof, and not much else to be seen, the dirt being raised five feet all around as if it were a compost heap.
sweet corn
I got twelve bushels of beans, and eighteen bushels of potatoes, beside some peas and sweet corn.
scarlet tanager
I was not only nearer to some of those which commonly frequent the garden and the orchard, but to those smaller and more thrilling songsters of the forest which never, or rarely, serenade a villager--the wood thrush, the veery, the scarlet tanager, the field sparrow, the whip-poor-will, and many others.
savoriness
I give the Latin on account of the savoriness of the trivial name.
aguish
It was dark, and had a dirt floor for the most part, dank, clammy, and aguish, only here a board and there a board which would not bear removal.
unrelaxed
With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses.
civilized
At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again.
shanty
To know this I should not need to look farther than to the shanties which everywhere border our railroads, that last improvement in civilization; where I see in my daily walks human beings living in sties, and all winter with an open door, for the sake of light, without any visible, often imaginable, wood-pile, and the forms of both old and young are permanently contracted by the long habit of shrinking from cold and misery, and the development of all their limbs and faculties is checked.
uninstructive
These statistics, however accidental and therefore uninstructive they may appear, as they have a certain completeness, have a certain value also.
improvable
That time which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, present, nor future.
sweet gum
The upright white hewn studs and freshly planed door and window casings gave it a clean and airy look, especially in the morning, when its timbers were saturated with dew, so that I fancied that by noon some sweet gum would exude from them.
red pine
I have watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons.
caviller
To meet the objections of some inveterate cavillers, I may as well state, that if I dined out occasionally, as I always had done, and I trust shall have opportunities to do again, it was frequently to the detriment of my domestic arrangements.
wheelbarrow
At the present day, and in this country, as I find by my own experience, a few implements, a knife, an axe, a spade, a wheelbarrow, etc., and for the studious, lamplight, stationery, and access to a few books, rank next to necessaries, and can all be obtained at a trifling cost.
radicle
The soil, it appears, is suited to the seed, for it has sent its radicle downward, and it may now send its shoot upward also with confidence.
draggle
The preacher, instead of vexing the ears of drowsy farmers on their day of rest at the end of the week--for Sunday is the fit conclusion of an ill-spent week, and not the fresh and brave beginning of a new one--with this one other draggle-tail of a sermon, should shout with thundering voice, "Pause!
herb tea
Those plants of whose greenness withered we make herb tea for the sick serve but a humble use, and are most employed by quacks.
garret
A man who has at length found something to do will not need to get a new suit to do it in; for him the old will do, that has lain dusty in the garret for an indeterminate period.
ear trumpet
Either is in such a predicament as the man who was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing to say.
purslane
I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on several accounts, simply off a dish of purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted.
red maple
The real attractions of the Hollowell farm, to me, were: its complete retirement, being, about two miles from the village, half a mile from the nearest neighbor, and separated from the highway by a broad field; its bounding on the river, which the owner said protected it by its fogs from frosts in the spring, though that was nothing to me; the gray color and ruinous state of the house and barn, and the dilapidated fences, which put such an interval between me and the last occupant; the hollo...
corrugation
All this they read with saucer eyes, and erect and primitive curiosity, and with unwearied gizzard, whose corrugations even yet need no sharpening, just as some little four-year-old bencher his two-cent gilt-covered edition of Cinderella--without any improvement, that I can see, in the pronunciation, or accent, or emphasis, or any more skill in extracting or inserting the moral.
doorsill
Doorsill there was none, but a perennial passage for the hens under the door board.
trumpery
If you are a seer, whenever you meet a man you will see all that he owns, ay, and much that he pretends to disown, behind him, even to his kitchen furniture and all the trumpery which he saves and will not burn, and he will appear to be harnessed to it and making what headway he can.
pantaloon
It would be easier for them to hobble to town with a broken leg than with a broken pantaloon.
cowbird
But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and unmusical notes.
ground rent
It were well, he said, to be there early, and anticipate certain indistinct but wholly unjust claims on the score of ground rent and fuel.
seed corn
The seed corn was given me.

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Sunday September 16th 2012, 12:13 PM
Comment by: jordan S.
nice list!

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