Important Vocabulary Words in The Giver

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In 'The Giver' by Lois Lowry, Jonas lives in a futuristic society with a culture of Sameness. In this lesson, we will learn some of the important vocabulary that is unique to Jonas' community.

Unique Culture

Every community establishes a culture that is unique to its citizens. Jonas' community in The Giver by Lois Lowry has exclusive rules, roles, and customs. In this lesson, we will learn more about the common vocabulary that distinguishes Jonas' community from others.


The following is a list of words that are used in The Giver to describe customary practices of the community.

Assignment: When a child becomes a Twelve, he or she is assigned to their future career so that training may begin.

Birthmother: Birthmother is not considered a respectable job, as it requires very little training. However, it is important to the community. For three years, Birthmothers have children, who are then raised by Nurturers and later assigned to other families. During their birthing years, Birthmothers are well-cared for. After their birthing years, a Birthmother is assigned to be a Laborer, which is another job that does not need much training.

Capacity to See Beyond: In the community, sensory experiences have been genetically altered by scientists so that everyone will be the same. There are a few people, generally those with 'light eyes', who are born with the ability to see past the limitations that are in place. People with this ability may be considered for the Receiver of Memory role. In Jonas, his ability to see beyond is manifested in his aptitude to see color.

Caretaker of the Old: Jonas' favorite female friend, Fiona, is assigned to be a Caretaker of the Old. Jonas thinks this is a great job for Fiona as she loves the elderly and has a nurturing nature. He is surprised to find out later that disciplining the elderly and releasing them is also part of her role.

Ceremony of Loss: In the rare occasion that a citizen dies unexpectedly, the community comes together and chants the person's name softer and softer until it is no longer audible. The Ceremony of Loss symbolizes removing the person from memory, therefore, bypassing grief.

Climate Control: In the community, everything stays the same all the time, including the weather. Sunshine, snow, and rain are not part of Jonas' world.

Collection Crew: After each meal, a group of Laborers goes from door to door to collect all of the leftovers that are left on the front porch. If a citizen who is not part of the Collection Crew takes the leftovers, it is considered stealing food from the community.

comfort object: Comfort objects are typically stuffed animals that are given to young children. The comfort object is taken away when the child becomes an Eight. The community has no memories of animals; therefore, they are unaware that there is or ever was such a thing as a real elephant or bear.

December Ceremony: Everyone in the community gathers as all of the children who were born in the same year are promoted and given a new set of standards. For example, when Elevens become Twelves, they are considered citizens in training and given job assignments. Each age has a special set of privileges.

Elsewhere: No one really knows what Elsewhere is. When a person is released, they go Elsewhere. The assumption is that it is another community, but it may refer to the afterlife.

Food Delivery people: Food is delivered to everyone in the community three times a day. This is considered to be a low-level Laborer position.

The Giver: The Giver has been the Receiver of Memory for the community for many years. He holds all of the memories of the world, therefore is an important advisor to leaders. Upon his retirement, he must pass all of the memories he has been holding to the new receiver, Jonas.

Hall of Closed Records: Everything that happens in the community is recorded, but things like Release Ceremonies, are not available to all citizens. As the Receiver of Memory, Jonas has access to the videos and documents that are stored in Hall of Closed Records.

Hall of Open Records: The events in the community that all citizens have access to are stored in the Hall of Open Records.

House of the Old: When people in the community become old, they live in the House of the Old where they are taken care of, but treated like children, until they are released. Fiona and Jonas obtain volunteer hours by bathing the elderly in the House of the Old. Fiona is given an adult work assignment there.

Murmur-of-Replacement Ceremony: If a family unit loses a child unexpectedly, that child is replaced with another child with the same name. The community chants the new child's name softly, then becoming louder and louder until the memory of the lost child is replaced with the new one.

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