Little House in the Big Woods Vocabulary

Instructor: Christine Quist

Christine has taught 4th-5th grade, has worked as a Paraprofessional for Adult Learners, and has a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Elementary Education.

~'Little House in the Big Woods~' is the first of a 9-book series that follows a little girl named Laura written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This lesson will go over the words from the book that are not used as much anymore but were a part of Laura's life.

Little House in the Big Woods

'One night her father picked her up out of bed and carried her to the window so that she might see the wolves. There were two of them sitting in front of the house. They looked like shaggy dogs. They pointed their noses at the big, bright moon, and howled.'

Can you imagine living in a place where wolves and bears and other wild animals could be seen right outside your door? Not only that but Laura's family had to grow their own food, sew their own clothes, and even chop firewood to heat the house in the winter.

Historical Terms

Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 when America was beginning to stretch out and take over more land. This meant families would move into unsettled territories and have to build a house and bring everything they were going to need because they were so far from stores. This section will go over the words that stand for things they used back then.

  • Trundle bed: a bed that rolls on wheels and is short enough that it can be rolled under another bed to save space. 'Then Ma pushed the trundle bed into its place under the big bed.'
  • Brine: very salty water. 'The hams and the shoulders were put to pickle in brine.'

A trundle bed

  • Headcheese: the meat from the head of the hog. 'There was the heart and the liver and the tongue, and the head to be made into headcheese, and the dish-pan full of bits to be made into sausage.'
  • Patty pan: a small pie pan. 'They might have a bit of cookie dough, too, to make little cookies, and once Laura even made a pie in her patty-pan.'
  • Pokeberries: dark purple berries used to make red dye, also called inkberries. 'A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth were red with the ink made from pokeberries.'


  • Delaine: a very nice dress made of wool from Delaine sheep. 'It showed how important a dance was, if Ma was going to wear the beautiful delaine dress.'
  • Galluses: suspenders or elastic bands to hold up pants that go over the shoulders and clip at the waist of men's pants. 'Then Pa got for himself a pair of galluses and some tobacco to smoke in his pipe.'

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