Great Expectations Vocabulary

Instructor: Melissa Rohen

Melissa has taught college English and has a master's degree in English and Composition.

In this lesson we will explore some of the more challenging vocabulary used in Charles Dickens' novel ''Great Expectations'' so we can better understand and enjoy the story.

Lots of Big Words

Great Expectations, the classic tale by Charles Dickens about a young orphan and the adventures and struggles he has growing up, is an exciting story full of passion, crime, redemption, and adventure. However, reading it can be a little challenging because of the language and vocabulary Dickens used. Let's look at some of the words Dickens throws at us in this book, their definitions, and how they are used today.

Great Expectations
Great Expectations First Page



'I said I could manage it... and he was very pleased by my acquiescence'

To acquiesce means to agree with or agree to do something. In this example, Pip is saying he will go for a walk with Wemmick.

If you agree to go for coffee, you are expressing acquiescence.


'...he was making the legs of the old gentlemen who presided, quite his denunciations of his conduct as the representative of British law…'

Denunciation is the act of discrediting something. Mr. Jagger is saying the people in the courtroom can't be trusted.

The media may denounce the credibility of a politician if he is caught lying.


'As I was loitering along the High-street, looking disconsolately at the shop windows…'

Disconsolate means sad or grief-stricken; unable to be consoled. When Pip walked the streets while living in poverty, he would look at all the things he can't have and feel sad.

A child whose parents' won't let him have ice cream may cry disconsolately.


'...Startop took him in hand...and exhorted him to be a little more agreeable.'

Exhort means to encourage or cheer someone on. Startop is encouraging Drummle to be a bit nicer.

Cheerleaders exhort football players to get another touchdown.


'My state of mind regarding the pilfering from which I had been so unexpectedly exonerated did not impel me to frank disclosure…'

Exonerate means to forgive someone of specific criminal charges. In this example, Pip was found not guilty of stealing things.

You might be exonerated from a parking ticket if you can prove the meter was broken.


'And I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from behind...and having my face ignominiously shoved against the kitchen wall.'

Ignominiously describes an action done to cause shame or disgrace. When his sister smashes his face into the wall, she does so in a way that he feels disgraced and ashamed.

Someone might throw an ignominious tantrum if he breaks his cell phone.


'I was imbued with the notion on that first occasion…'

Imbue means to soak something completely. Here Pip describes being filled with the idea that Herbert Pocket would never be rich.

We can also imbue physical things. To make tea, imbue a tea bag with water.


'But for the indelible picture that my remembrance now holds before me…'

Indelible describes something that can't be erased or removed. Pip describes some of his memories, such as this one, as indelible - things he will never forget.

Permanent markers have indelible ink.


'...Drummle showed his morose depreciation of the rest of us...until he became downright intolerable.'

Morose means sad or grumpy. Here, Drummle was so sad and grumpy no one wanted to be around him.

You might be morose if your favorite character is killed in a movie or TV show.


'He may have been married already, and her cruel mortification may have been a part of her half-brother's scheme.'

Mortification means extreme embarrassment. Miss Havisham was beyond embarrassed to find out the man she loved may have already been married.

If you have a dream that you go to school in your underwear, you might feel a level of embarrassment approaching mortification.


'...he ate the bread ravenously.'

If you are ravenous, you are extremely hungry. Here, Pip is describing the convict in the graveyard as he eats his stolen bread - by saying 'ravenous' we know he is very hungry.

A dog might ravenously devour his food as though he hadn't eaten in days.

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