Words of the 19th Century

May 24, 2022

I've recently been rereading the collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. These stories are among my favorites, though it's been quite some time since I read them last. One of the fun things about reading these classic stories has been discovering words that I am unfamiliar with. As I have read, I've been keeping a log of these puzzling words, though I only started logging about one third of the way through the first volume. There are likely several words I've left out as a result.

Here are the esoteric words I've come across so far. See how many you know:

  • vesta (noun): A short match with a shank of wax-coated threads
  • distrait (adjective): apprehensively divided or withdrawn in attention; distracted
  • wideawake (noun): a soft felt hat with a low crown and a wide brim
  • presentiment (noun): a feeling that something will or is about to happen
  • St. Vitus' dance (noun): a movement disorder marked by involuntary spasmodic movements especially of the limbs and facial muscles and typically symptomatic of neurological dysfunction;
  • meretricious (adjective): tawdrily and falsely attractive; also, superficially significant
  • atavism (noun): recurrence in an organism of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination
  • chevy (verb): to chase; run after
  • betokened (verb): to give evidence of
  • asperity (noun): roughness of manner or of temper : harshness of behavior or speech that expresses bitterness or anger
  • inanition (noun): the exhausted condition that results from lack of food and water

As I go through the second volume (which I have yet to start), I'll keep a similar log and may make a second post with additional words from the past.

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