List 36

"The Great Gatsby," Chapter 1 Vocabulary

F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic "The Great Gatsby" is a glittering parade of parties and excess, but at its heart it is about identity and whether being wealthy in America can help you change who you really are. Here is a list of 100 great vocabulary words from the opening chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1926 novel "The Great Gatsby."

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definitions & notes
only words

  1. vulnerable

    susceptible to criticism or persuasion or temptation
    In my younger and more
    vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
  2. criticize

    point out real or perceived flaws
    "Whenever you feel like
    criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
  3. advantage

    benefit resulting from some event or action
    "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the
    advantages that you've had."
  4. communicative

    able or tending to transmit a message
    He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually
    communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that.
  5. reserved

    marked by self-restraint and reticence
    He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a
    reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that.
  6. privy

    informed about something secret or not generally known
    The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was
    privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.
  7. grief

    intense sorrow caused by loss of a loved one
    The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret
    griefs of wild, unknown men.
  8. intimate

    marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity
    Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an
    intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the
    intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  9. revelation

    an enlightening or astonishing disclosure
    Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate
    revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate
    revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  10. marred

    blemished by injury or rough wear
    Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and
    marred by obvious suppressions.
  11. suppression

    the conscious exclusion of unacceptable thoughts or desires
    Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious
    suppressions.
  12. infinite

    having no limits or boundaries in time or space
    Reserving judgments is a matter of
    infinite hope.
  13. parcel

    divide into parts
    I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat a sense of the fundamental decencies is
    parcelled out unequally at birth.
  14. boast

    talk about oneself with excessive pride or self-regard
    And, after
    boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit.
  15. tolerance

    willingness to respect the beliefs or practices of others
    And, after boasting this way of my
    tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit.
  16. marsh

    low-lying wet land with grassy vegetation
    Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet
    marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on.
  17. excursion

    a journey taken for pleasure
    When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous
    excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.
  18. privileged

    not subject to usual rules or penalties
    When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with
    privileged glimpses into the human heart.
  19. glimpse

    a brief or incomplete view
    When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged
    glimpses into the human heart.
  20. exempt

    grant relief from a rule or requirement to
    Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was
    exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.
  21. scorn

    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected
    scorn.
  22. series

    similar things placed in order or one after another
    If personality is an unbroken
    series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
  23. gesture

    something done as an indication of intention
    If personality is an unbroken series of successful
    gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
  24. gorgeous

    dazzlingly beautiful
    If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something
    gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
  25. sensitivity

    responsiveness to external stimuli
    If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened
    sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
  26. intricate

    having many complexly arranged elements; elaborate
    If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those
    intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
  27. register

    be aware of
    If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that
    register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.
  28. dignified

    formal or stately in bearing or appearance
    This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is
    dignified under the name of the "creative temperament"--it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.
  29. temperament

    your usual mood
    This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative
    temperament"--it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.
  30. romantic

    not sensible about practical matters
    This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative temperament"--it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a
    romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.
  31. prey

    hunt for
    No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what
    preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
  32. foul

    disgustingly dirty; filled or smeared with offensive matter
    No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what
    foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
  33. wake

    stop sleeping
    No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the
    wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
  34. abortive

    failing to accomplish an intended result
    No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the
    abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
  35. elation

    a feeling of joy and pride
    No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded
    elations of men.
  36. prominent

    conspicuous in position or importance
    My family have been
    prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations.
  37. generation

    group of genetically related organisms in a line of descent
    My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three
    generations.
  38. descend

    come from
    The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we're
    descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather's brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today.
  39. founder

    a person who establishes some institution
    The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we're descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual
    founder of my line was my grandfather's brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today.
  40. grave

    requiring serious thought
    All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said, "Why--ye-es" with very
    grave, hesitant faces.
  41. confer

    present
    He had casually
    conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
  42. security

    property that your creditor can claim in case of default
    I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment
    securities and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew.
  43. solemn

    dignified and somber in manner or character
    I was rather literary in college--one year I wrote a series of very
    solemn and obvious editorials for the "Yale News"--and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded man."
  44. epigram

    a witty saying
    This isn't just an
    epigram--life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
  45. domesticated

    converted or adapted to use in the home
    Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most
    domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound.
  46. perpetual

    continuing forever or indefinitely
    They are not perfect ovals--like the egg in the Columbus story they are both crushed flat at the contact end--but their physical resemblance must be a source of
    perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly overhead.
  47. phenomenon

    any state or process known through the senses
    To the wingless a more arresting
    phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.
  48. bizarre

    conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
    I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the
    bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them.
  49. sinister

    wicked, evil, or dishonorable
    I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little
    sinister contrast between them.
  50. colossal

    so great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe
    The one on my right was a
    colossal affair by any standard--it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.
  51. console

    give moral or emotional strength to
    My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn, and the
    consoling proximity of millionaires--all for eighty dollars a month.
  52. proximity

    the property of being close together
    My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn, and the consoling
    proximity of millionaires--all for eighty dollars a month.
  53. reproach

    a mild rebuke or criticism
    His family were enormously wealthy--even in college his freedom with money was a matter for
    reproach--but now he'd left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.
  54. turbulence

    a state of violent disturbance and disorder
    This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn't believe it--I had no sight into Daisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic
    turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.
  55. momentum

    an impelling force or strength
    The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens--finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the
    momentum of its run.
  56. supercilious

    having or showing arrogant disdain or haughtiness
    Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a
    supercilious manner.
  57. dominance

    the state when one person or group has power over another
    Two shining, arrogant eyes had established
    dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.
  58. effeminate

    having unsuitable feminine qualities
    Not even the
    effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body--he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat.
  59. contempt

    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    There was a touch of paternal
    contempt in it, even toward people he liked--and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.
  60. vista

    the visual percept of a region
    Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the front
    vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.
  61. pungent

    strong and sharp to the sense of taste or smell
    Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep
    pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.
  62. conscientious

    characterized by extreme care and great effort
    The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise--she leaned slightly forward with a
    conscientious expression--then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.
  63. irrelevant

    having no bearing on or connection with the subject at issue
    (I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an
    irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)
  64. compulsion

    an urge to do something that might be better left undone
    Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth--but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing
    compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.
  65. hover

    hang, as of something threatening, dark, or menacing
    Tom Buchanan who had been
    hovering restlessly about the room stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.
  66. desolate

    crushed by grief
    "The whole town is
    desolate.
  67. mourning

    state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one
    All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a
    mourning wreath and there's a persistent wail all night along the North Shore."
  68. wail

    a cry of sorrow and grief
    All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath and there's a persistent
    wail all night along the North Shore."
  69. utter

    express audibly
    At this point Miss Baker said "Absolutely!" with such suddenness that I started--it was the first word she
    uttered since I came into the room.
  70. deft

    skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
    Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid,
    deft movements stood up into the room.
  71. retort

    answer back
    "Don't look at me," Daisy
    retorted.
  72. incredulously

    in a disbelieving manner
    Her host looked at her
    incredulously.
  73. accentuate

    stress or single out as important
    She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she
    accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.
  74. bantering

    cleverly amusing in tone
    Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a
    bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire.
  75. pessimist

    a person who expects the worst
    "I've gotten to be a terrible
    pessimist about things.
  76. dominant

    exercising influence or control
    It's up to us who are the
    dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things."
  77. fervent

    extremely hot
    "We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the
    fervent sun.
  78. infinitesimal

    immeasurably small
    I am, and you are and you are and----" After an
    infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod and she winked at me again. "--and we've produced all the things that go to make civilization--oh, science and art and all that.
  79. complacency

    the feeling you have when you are satisfied with yourself
    There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his
    complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more.
  80. affection

    a positive feeling of liking
    For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic
    affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
  81. linger

    leave slowly and hesitantly
    For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with
    lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
  82. regret

    sadness associated with some wrong or disappointment
    For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering
    regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
  83. devoid

    completely wanting or lacking
    Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously
    devoid of meaning.
  84. audible

    heard or perceptible by the ear
    A subdued impassioned murmur was
    audible in the room beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear.
  85. skepticism

    doubt about the truth of something
    I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy
    skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth guest's shrill metallic urgency out of mind.
  86. vigil

    a purposeful surveillance to guard or observe
    Tom and Miss Baker, with several feet of twilight between them strolled back into the library, as if to a
    vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front.
  87. tangible

    perceptible by the senses, especially the sense of touch
    Tom and Miss Baker, with several feet of twilight between them strolled back into the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly
    tangible body, while trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front.
  88. turbulent

    characterized by unrest or disorder or insubordination
    I saw that
    turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.
  89. sedative

    tending to soothe or tranquilize
    I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some
    sedative questions about her little girl.
  90. cynical

    believing the worst of human nature and motives
    "Well, I've had a very bad time, Nick, and I'm pretty
    cynical about everything."
  91. smirk

    a smile expressing smugness or scorn instead of pleasure
    I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute
    smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
  92. crimson

    a deep and vivid red color
    Inside, the
    crimson room bloomed with light.
  93. corroborate

    establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts
    "That's right,"
    corroborated Tom kindly.
  94. libel

    a false and malicious publication
    "It's
    libel.
  95. egotism

    an exaggerated opinion of your own importance
    Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical
    egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
  96. nourish

    give sustenance to
    Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer
    nourished his peremptory heart.
  97. peremptory

    not allowing contradiction or refusal
    Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his
    peremptory heart.
  98. bellow

    a very loud utterance
    The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full
    bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life.
  99. silhouette

    an outline of a solid object as cast by its shadow
    The
    silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone--fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.
  100. intimation

    a slight suggestion or vague understanding
    But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden
    intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling.
Created on March 19, 2012
(updated August 11, 2014)

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