Animal Farm Vocabulary Words

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' uses some words and concepts that might be unfamiliar to some readers. Let's take a look at what some of this stuff means.

'All Animals are Equal'

Animal Farm is an allegory, a form of storytelling that uses fictional characters to refer to real-life events. C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia is another famous example of an allegory. Animal Farm uses the story of Napoleon and Snowball's takeover of the farm to tell the story of the rise of Stalin and Lenin in Russia.

Since it's set in England and deals with some pretty heavy concepts, a lot of the vocabulary that Orwell uses in the book might seem strange. Here's a chapter-by-chapter rundown of some of the trickier terms in Animal Farm.

Chapter 1

Abolish: ban, remove, forbid forever. Major tells the animals that overthrowing humans will abolish their problems with working too hard for not enough food.

Benevolent: kind, gentle. The opposite of malevolent, which just sounds evil. Major appears to be benevolent on the outside, but that gentle appearance hides his rage against the humans.

Dissentient: someone who dissents, or disagrees against the majority. When the animals vote to overthrow the farmer, the only dissentients -- 'no' votes -- are three dogs and a cat.

Enmity: aggression, hostility, bad feelings. Kind of sounds like 'enemy,' right? Major wants all the animals to remember that man is their enemy, that they should have enmity towards all men.

Chapter 2

Apathy: not caring, ignoring. Before the animals see their opportunity, they don't really care what the pigs as they attempt to spread Animalism -- the pigs' words are met with apathy.

Gambol: fancy word for running around joyously. Think frolicking, skipping, etc. The animals can't help but gambol around the farm after they take it over.

Preeminent: best, superior. Snowball and Napoleon are the two best pigs on the farm.

Tormentors: torturers, teasers, etc. People that do harm unto others. The animals' tormentors are the humans, and eventually the animals can't take it any more.

Chapter 3

Maxim: a simple, distilled truth or rule. The maxim of Animalism is 'Four legs good, two legs bad.'

Principle: similar to a maxim. It's a belief or idea behind a truth or movement. The principle behind 'Four legs good, two legs bad' is that animals should be the rulers and humans the slaves.

Chapter 4

Flogging: whipping, beating, usually as punishment. Humans punish animals caught singing The Beasts of England with flogging.

Ignominious: embarrassing, disgraceful, shameful. The humans' defeat and retreat at the hands of the farm animals is ignominious.

Irrepressible: undeniable, persistent, something that can't be repressed -- kept down or stamped out. The Beasts of England is irrepressible; the animals won't stop singing it, and the humans can't make them.

Tractable: docile, easygoing, compliant. Many of the animals were tractable, easy to deal with, before discovering Animalism.

Chapter 5

Articulate: eloquent, able to express oneself clearly. Some of the animals are dumbstruck when Napoleon starts weild more power on the farm, but a few pigs are more articulate and able to express their doubts.

Publican: a British term for a tax collector. The man who was meeting with Mollie (a horse) looked like a publican.

Chapter 6

Malignity: hatred, evil. Like malicious, it just sounds terrible and evil. Napoleon says Snowball was full of malignity after he chases him off the farm.

Solicitor: another British term, this time for a lawyer. The animals hire a lawyer to be their go-between for them to the outside world.

Toil: hard work. The animals are toiling under the rule of Napoleon, figuring it will eventually make their lives better.

Chapter 7

Capitulate: surrender, concede defeat. The hens form a resistance to Napoleon, but they eventually surrender when their food is cut off.

Incited: started, prompted, caused, provoke. The hens that started the resistance movement claimed that Snowball incited them in a dream.

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