Holes Vocabulary

Instructor: Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

In this lesson, we will look at some of the important vocabulary in 'Holes', by Louis Sachar. These words will help you to understand and enjoy Stanley Yelnats's story as he digs hole upon hole upon hole!


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dig through the earth, to the other side of the world? It sounds fun, right? Well, Stanley Yelnats and the other boys in the book Holes by Louis Sachar quickly lose the sense of fun while digging holes because they are forced to dig hole upon hole as punishment for their crimes. For Stanley, it was a crime he didn't even commit! Sachar has written a captivating story of Stanley's life as an innocent victim at a camp for juvenile delinquents. In this lesson, we'll look at some of the most important words that can help you understand his experiences.


  • Stifling: (adj.) feeling restrained; suffocating

The bus wasn't air-conditioned, and the hot, heavy air was almost as stifling as the handcuffs. (Ch. 3)

  • Desolate: (adj.) barren; empty

The land was barren and desolate. (Ch. 4)

The land was desolate, barren.

  • Wearily: (adv.) acting in an exhaustive, tired way

The boys glanced wearily at Stanley. (Ch. 5)

  • Testified: (v.) to speak as a witness in a trial

Clyde Livingston testified that they were his sneakers... (Ch. 6)

  • Despicable: (adj.) appalling; deserving hatred

The judge called Stanley's crime despicable. (Ch. 6)

  • Scowled: (v.) to frown

Squid scowled. (Ch. 9)

  • Presumably: (adv.) probably; likely true

Besides, the shovels were locked up at night, presumably so they couldn't be used as weapons. (Ch. 16)

  • Racial: (adj.) relating to a group of people sharing distinct features or characteristics

Stanley was thankful that there were no racial problems. (Ch. 19)

  • Condemned: (adj.) guilty; sentenced in court

Stanley wondered if this was how a condemned man felt on his way to the electric chair... (Ch. 20)

  • Recede: (v.) go away; diminish

For a second, Mr. Sir's pain seemed to recede. (Ch. 20)

  • Defiance: (n.) disobedience

For a second, he thought he saw a flash of defiance in Zero's eyes, but then it passed. (Ch. 22)

  • Remedy: (n.) treatment; medicine

Another was a remedy for arthritis. (Ch. 25)

  • Systematic: (adj.) methodical; orderly

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