The Scarlet Letter Vocabulary Words  

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Page numbers are for the Signet Classic book



Utopia, 55 - (y-tp-) n 1. a. An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects.  b. A work of fiction describing a utopia. 2. An impractical, idealistic scheme for social and political reform.


physiognomy, 57 (fz-gn-m, -n-m) n.   pl. phys·i·og·no·mies   1. a. The art of judging human character from facial features. b. Divination based on facial features. 2. a. Facial features, especially when regarded as revealing character. b. Aspect and character of an inanimate or abstract entity: the physiognomy of New England.


tribunal, 57 (tr-bynl, tr-) n. 1. Law  a. A seat or court of justice. b. The bench on which a judge or other presiding officer sits in court. 2. A committee or board appointed to adjudicate in a particular matter.

3. Something that has the power to determine or judge: the tribunal of public opinion.


venerable, 58 (vnr--bl) adj. 1. Commanding respect by virtue of age, dignity, character, or position.

2. Worthy of reverence, especially by religious or historical association: venerable relics.


ignominy, 62 (gn-mn, -m-n) n.  pl. ig·no·min·ies 1. Great personal dishonor or humiliation.

2. Shameful or disgraceful action, conduct, or character.


mien, 63 (mn) n. 1. Bearing or manner, especially as it reveals an inner state of mind: "He was a Vietnam veteran with a haunted mien" James Traub.  2. An appearance or aspect.


preternatural, 64 (prtr-nchr-l, -nchrl) adj.  1. Out of or being beyond the normal course of nature; differing from the natural. 2. Surpassing the normal or usual; extraordinary: "Below his preternatural affability there is some acid and steel" George F. Will.  3. Transcending the natural or material order; supernatural.

preter·natu·ral·ism n.                       preter·natu·ral·ly adv.      preter·natu·ral·ness n.


phantasmagoria, 65 (fn-tzm-gôr-, -gr-) also phan·tas·ma·go·ry n. pl. phan·tas·ma·go·ri·as also phan·tas·ma·go·ries 1. a. A fantastic sequence of haphazardly associative imagery, as seen in dreams or fever. b. A constantly changing scene composed of numerous elements.2. Fantastic imagery as represented in art.

phan·tasma·goric (-gôrk, -gr-) adj.                          phan·tasma·gori·cal·ly adv.


iniquity, 68 (-nkw-t) n.  pl. in·iq·ui·ties  1. Gross immorality or injustice; wickedness.  2. A grossly immoral act; a sin


sage, 70 (sj) n. One venerated for experience, judgment, and wisdom.

adj. sag·er, sag·est  1. Having or exhibiting wisdom and calm judgment.

2. Proceeding from or marked by wisdom and calm judgment: sage advice.


exhort, 72 (g-zôrt) v.  ex·hort·ed, ex·hort·ing, ex·horts To urge by strong, often stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal: exhorted the troops to hold the line.


lurid, 75 (lrd) adj.   1. Causing shock or horror; gruesome.  2. Marked by sensationalism: a lurid account of the crime. 3. Glowing or shining with the glare of fire through a haze: lurid flames. 4. Sallow or pallid in color.

lurid·ly adv.                         lurid·ness n.


paramour, 80 (pr-mr) n.  A lover, especially one in an adulterous relationship.


infamy, 82 (nf-m) n. pl. in·fa·mies  1. Evil fame or reputation. 2. The condition of being infamous.

3. An evil or criminal act that is publicly known.




progenitor, 85 (pr-jn-tr) n. 1. A direct ancestor. 2. An originator of a line of descent; a precursor.

3. An originator; a founder: progenitors of the new music.


plebeian, 86 (pl-bn) adj. 1. Of or relating to the common people of ancient Rome: a plebeian magistrate.2. Of, belonging to, or characteristic of commoners. 3. Unrefined or coarse in nature or manner; common or vulgar: plebeian tastes. n. 1. One of the common people of ancient Rome. 2. A member of the lower classes. 3. A vulgar or coarse person.


alchemy, 88 (lk-m) n. 1. A medieval chemical philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of the panacea, and the preparation of the elixir of longevity. 2. A seemingly magical power or process of transmuting: "He wondered by what alchemy it was changed, so that what sickened him one hour, maddened him with hunger the next" Marjorie K. Rawlings.

al·chemi·cal (l-km-kl),              al·chemic adj.                      al·chemi·cal·ly adv.


martyr, 88 (märtr) n. 1. One who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce religious principles.

2. One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.

3. a. One who endures great suffering: a martyr to arthritis.  b. One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy.

tr.v. mar·tyred, mar·tyr·ing, mar·tyrs 1. To make a martyr of, especially to put to death for devotion to religious beliefs.  2. To inflict great pain on; torment.


talisman, 90 (tls-mn, -z-) n. pl. tal·is·mans   1. An object marked with magic signs and believed to confer on its bearer supernatural powers or protection.   2. Something that apparently has magic power.


aver, 91 (-vûr) tr.v. a·verred, a·ver·ring, a·vers

1. To affirm positively; declare. 2. Law a. To assert formally as a fact. b. To justify or prove.


mutable, 93 (myt-bl) adj. 1. a. Capable of or subject to change or alteration. b. Prone to frequent change; inconstant: mutable weather patterns.  2. Tending to undergo genetic mutation: a mutable organism; a mutable gene.

muta·bili·ty n.                     muta·bly adv.


caprice, 96 (k-prs) n. 1. a. An impulsive change of mind. b. An inclination to change one's mind impulsively. c. A sudden, unpredictable action, change, or series of actions or changes: A hailstorm in July is a caprice of nature. 2. Music A capriccio.

enmity, 96 (nm-t) n. pl. en·mi·ties  Deep-seated, often mutual hatred.


dearth, 97 (dûrth) n. 1. A scarce supply; a lack: "the dearth of uncensored, firsthand information about the war" Richard Zoglin. 2. Shortage of food; famine.


imp, 99 (mp) n. 1. A mischievous child. 2. A small demon. 3. Obsolete A graft.

tr.v. imped, imp·ing, imps 1. To graft (new feathers) onto the wing of a trained falcon or hawk to repair damage or increase flying capacity. 2. To furnish with wings.


panoply, 106 (pn-pl) n. pl. pan·o·plies 1. A splendid or striking array: a panoply of colorful flags.

2. Ceremonial attire with all accessories: a portrait of the general in full panoply.

3. Something that covers and protects: a porcupine's panoply of quills.

4. The complete arms and armor of a warrior.


latent, 136 (ltnt) adj. 1. Present or potential but not evident or active: latent talent.

2. Pathology In a dormant or hidden stage: a latent infection. 3. Biology Undeveloped but capable of normal growth under the proper conditions: a latent bud. 4. Psychology Present and accessible in the unconscious mind but not consciously expressed.

n. A fingerprint that is not apparent to the eye but can be made sufficiently visible, as by dusting or fuming, for use in identification.

latent·ly adv.


antipathy, 137 (n-tp-th) n. pl. an·tip·a·thies 1. A strong feeling of aversion or repugnance.

2. An object of aversion.




presentiment, 137 (pr-znt-mnt)

n. A sense that something is about to occur; a premonition.

pre·senti·mental (-mntl) adj.


dissemble, 142 (d-smbl) v. dis·sem·bled, dis·sem·bling, dis·sem·bles 1. To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance. 2. To make a false show of; feign.

v.intr. To disguise or conceal one's real nature, motives, or feelings behind a false appearance.

dis·semblance n. dis·sembler n.                     dis·sembling·ly adv.


somnambulism, 143 (sm-nmby-lzm)

n. sleepwalking

som·nambu·list n.                               som·nambu·listic adj.


zenith, 151 (znth) n. 1. The point on the celestial sphere that is directly above the observer.

2. The upper region of the sky. 3. The highest point above the observer's horizon attained by a celestial body. 4. The point of culmination; the peak: the zenith of her career.


erudite, 152 (ry-dt, r-) adj. Characterized by erudition; learned.

eru·ditely adv.                    eru·diteness n.


bane, 167 (bn) n. 1. Fatal injury or ruin: "Hath some fond lover tic'd thee to thy bane?" George Herbert.

2. a. A cause of harm, ruin, or death: "Obedience,/Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,/Makes slaves of men" Percy Bysshe Shelley. b. A source of persistent annoyance or exasperation: "The spellings of foreign names are often the bane of busy copy editors" Norm Goldstein. 3. A deadly poison.


sportive, 175 (spôrtv, spr-) adj. 1. Playful; frolicsome. 2. Relating to or interested in sports.

3. Archaic Amorous or wanton.

sportive·ly adv.                   sportive·ness n.


recompense, 211 (rkm-pns) tr.v. rec·om·pensed, rec·om·pens·ing, rec·om·pens·es

1. To award compensation to: recompensed the victims of the accident.

2. To award compensation for; make a return for: recompensed their injuries.

n. 1. Amends made, as for damage or loss. 2. Payment in return for something, such as a service.


necromancy, 225 (nkr-mns) n. 1. The practice of supposedly communicating with the spirits of the dead in order to predict the future. 2. Black magic; sorcery. 3. Magic qualities.

necro·mancer n.                necro·mantic (-mntk) adj.


apotheosis, 233 (-pth-ss, p-th-ss) n. pl. a·poth·e·o·ses (-sz)

1. Exaltation to divine rank or stature; deification. 2. Elevation to a preeminent or transcendent position; glorification: "Many observers have tried to attribute Warhol's current apotheosis to the subversive power of artistic vision" Michiko Kakutani. 3. An exalted or glorified example: Their leader was the apotheosis of courage.


stigma, 238 (stgm) n. pl. stig·ma·ta (stg-mät, -mt, stgm-) or stig·mas

1. A mark or token of infamy, disgrace, or reproach: "Party affiliation has never been more casual . . . The stigmata of decay are everywhere" Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

2. A small mark; a scar or birthmark. 3. Medicine A mark or characteristic indicative of a history of a disease or abnormality. 4. Psychology A mark or spot on the skin that bleeds as a symptom of hysteria.

5. stigmata Bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain corresponding in location to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, usually occurring during states of religious ecstasy or hysteria.

6. Biology A small mark, spot, or pore, such as the respiratory spiracle of an insect or an eyespot in certain algae. 7. Botany The receptive apex of the pistil of a flower, on which pollen is deposited at pollination. 8. Archaic A mark burned into the skin of a criminal or slave; a brand.

stigmal adj.