Irving's Alhambra - W. Irving



battlements: Notched walls on the top of buildings, originally used only on fortifications.
freebooters: Robbers, highwaymen.
blunderbuss: A short gun of large bore, capable of discharging many bullets, and intended to do much execution without accurate aim.
stiletto: A small, round, pointed dagger.
banditti: Robbers, a band of outlaws.
gentlemen of the road: Highwaymen.
rib-roasting: A hard beating.
valet: A gentleman's personal servant.
saws: Wise sayings.
wiseacre: A pretender to wisdom.
grandiloquence: High-sounding language.
señors: Sirs, gentlemen.
castanet: An instrument of hard wood or ivory, shaped like a pair of chestnuts attached by a string. It is fastened to the thumb, held inside the hand, and beaten with the middle finger as an accompaniment to dances and to the guitar, used particularly by the Moors and Spaniards.
amateur: One who is a lover of any pursuit, art, or science, but is not engaged in it professionally.
Orpheus: A famous ancient poet of Thrace, who was said by the Greeks to have enchanted wild beasts, and also trees and rocks, by the music of his lyre, a stringed instrument resembling the harp.
fandango: A favorite and lively dance of the Spaniards.
buxom: Gay, lively.
dragoon: A soldier taught and armed to fight on horseback or on foot, as circumstances may require.
siesta: A, short nap taken about the middle of the day, or after dinner.
sombrero: A broad-brimmed hat.
cockade: A knot of ribbon worn on the hat, generally as a military badge.
mantilla: Head-covering for women, made of silk, lace, or other stuff.
basquina: Upper petticoat worn by Spanish women.
heterogeneous: Dissimilar, differing in kind.
hidalgo: A Spanish nobleman of the lower class.
curate: Parish priest.
notary: An officer authorized to attest writings of any kind.
Boabdil: The last of the Moorish kings of Spain. See also note 1.
orison: Prayer.
dramatis personae: The Latin for persons represented in the play.
sabre: Cavalry sword.
Don: Mr., Sir, a Spanish title.
guerilla exploits: Petty or irregular warfare.
Vega: The great plain of Granada, over a hundred miles in circumference and surrounded by lofty mountains. This was so carefully cultivated that the whole territory appeared like a vast garden. Here the Moors made their last stand against their conquerors.


Moslems: Followers of the prophet Mahomet or Mohammed. See note 4.
royal demesne: Property under the immediate control of the crown.
parochial: belonging to a parish.
varlet: rascal or rogue.
cicerone: A guide who shows strangers places of interest, and explains them in a loquacious manner.
Phœnicians: natives of Phœnicia, a country of Asia, on the coast of Syria. At a very early time they excelled in the fine arts. They were regarded by the Greeks as the inventors of the alphabet, and much knowledge of arts and science is ascribed to them. Their voyages and colonies extended to the coasts of Africa and Spain, and even to Great Britain.
barbican: Watch-tower at the entrance of a castle or on the walls of a town.
jousts and tournaments: Sports or exercises, common in the Middle Ages, in which a number of combatants, or knights, engaged for the purpose of exhibiting their courage and skill at arms.
esplanade: A level ground within a fortified place used for exercise, etc.
Dolores: "The Sorrowful".
escutcheon: A shield adorned with coat of arms. See note 6.
cipher: A secret character or mark, invented for a special purpose.
Cufic: A species of characters anciently used in the sacred books of the Mohammedans.
alabaster: A white stone used for ornamental purposes.
arcade: A series of arches supported on pillars.
filigree work: Delicately wrought ornamental work.
fretwork: A sort of ornamental raised work formed of small interlaced bands or fillets.
cavalier: knight, horseman.
wicket: A small door made in a gate.
cuirass: A piece of armor, covering the body from neck to thighs, before and behind.
cimeter: A short sword with curved point.
poniard: A small pointed dagger for stabbing.
apocryphal: Of doubtful authority.
Orientalist: A native or inhabitant of the East.
parterres: A system of flower beds of different shapes and sizes, with walks of gravel or turf between.
ardent: Hot, burning.


bivouac: A military term meaning to pass the night in the open air, without encamping, ready for action. Here it means to sleep without a regular bed.
perquisite: Something received in addition to, or in place of, regular wages.
wight: Person, creature.
historiographic: Professing historical knowledge.
shopboard: A board or bench on which any work is done.


tatterdemalion: ragamuffin,
Scheherezade: The fictitious relater of the stories in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
bottle-nose: A large, bottle-shaped nose.
cocked hat: A hat with the brim turned up at one or more sides.
marker of a fives-court: One who keeps the score for a game of ball called fives.
maravetdi: A small Spanish copper coin of less value than a cent; — now disused.
litigious: Fond of contending in lawsuits.
grandiose: Characterized by self-display; pompous.
bastion: A projecting mass of earth or masonry at the angles of a fortification.


stuccoed: Covered with decorations moulded in fine plaster.
Morisco: Moorish.
pensile: Hanging, pendent.
anomalous: Irregular, deviating from the regular rule.
Crescent: The figure of the new moon used for the symbol of Mohometanism, as the cross is that of the Christian religion.
fanes: Temples.
Allah: The Arabic name for God.


alchemy: An ancient science which aimed to turn baser metals into gold, to find a universal remedy for sickness, etc.
Hegira: The flight of Mahomet from Mecca; the epoch from which the Mahometan era is reckoned.
astrologer: A person who in former times studied the stars and pre-tended to foretell events by their aspects and situations.
horoscope: An observation of the stars made at the time of a person's birth, by which his future was foretold.
auspicious: Favorable.
santon: A Moslem saint or hermit.
prognosticated: Predicted, foretold.
vassal: One who holds his possessions subject to the will of a superior or lord.
feudal tenure: The right which a vassal had in the Middle Ages to land or they property, by the payment of some tax or service to his superior lord or sovereign.
Cortes: The assembly of the states or legislative body of Spain.
prowess: Bravery.


damask: Cloth made of a mixture of silk and flax, and woven with flowers or figures. It was originally brought from Damascus.
fresco: A method of painting upon walls covered with a freshly laid coat of plaster, into which the colors sink and become durable.
belvedere: A small building on the top of an edifice, open on one or more sides. It means literally beautiful view, and is constructed as an outlook over some fine prospect.
pristine: Former.
mope and mow: To make mouths, wry faces.
colonnade: A range or row of columns placed at regular intervals.
pavilion: A small insulated building.
parapet: A wall, breast high, to prevent people from falling over.


environs: Places which surround or lie in the neighborhood of an-other place.
rendezvous: A place for meeting.
grange: A farm with its house, stables, etc.
regent: One who governs a kingdom in the minority, absence or disability of the sovereign.
van: The front of an army.


panvier: A wicker basket for carrying fruit and vegetables on a horse or mule.
matin bell: The bell for morning prayer.
vesper bell: The bell for evening prayer.
votive: given by vow.


cadaverous: Pale, ghastly, having the appearance of a dead body.
matins: Morning prayers.
curmudgeon: A miserly, churlish fellow.
ducat: A coin of gold or silver, of several countries of Europe, issued in the dominions of a duke.


phantasmagoria: An exhibition of shadows thrown upon a flat surface by a magic lantern; hence an illusive image or fancy.
armorial ensigns: Flags bearing coats of arms. See note 7.
pageant: A pompous show or spectacle of entertainment.
Te Deum: An ancient and celebrated Christian hymn, often sung on occasions of special thanksgiving.
turban: The usual headdress of Orientals. It consists of a close-fitting cap, with a scarf or shawl wound about it.
stanza: A number of lines or verses regularly adjusted to each other, and properly ending in a full point or pause.
couplet: Two lines that rhyme.
Pacha: (Also Pasha) A Moslem governor of a province.
lineage: Descent in a line from a common ancestor.
crusader: One who took part in the military expeditions sent out by the different Christian nations, during the Middle Ages, for the purpose of rescuing the Holy Land, Palestine, from its Mohammedan possessors.


charm: Enchantment.
amulet: An object supposed to protect its possessor from evil.
occult: Secret, hidden.
talisman: A charm; something that produces extraordinary effects.
effigy: An image or figure of a person.


faquir: A Mohammedan begging monk.
Mosque: A Mohammedan temple or place of worship.


foray: Any irregular incursion for warfare or spoils.
invest: To surround with troops so as to prevent succor or escape.
hieroglyphic: The picture-writing of the ancient Egyptian priests.
magic: Enchantment; a pretended science of Eastern nations, by which it is claimed that the power of spirits is brought into action.
cabalistic: Having a hidden meaning or possessing secret powers.
ecstasy: Excessive joy; delight.
mummy: A dead body preserved from putrefaction, especially by the Egyptian art of embalming.
labyrinth: A passage full of intricate turnings and windings, out of which one would find it exceedingly difficult to extricate himself.
genii: (pl. of genius) good or evil spirits, supposed to have charge over particular places or things.
belabor: To beat soundly.
hermitage: The dwelling-place of a hermit, or one who lives apart from his fellows.
ottoman: A stuffed seat without a back, originally used in Turkey.
divan: A cushioned seat or couch, especially one fixed to its place, and not movable.
garish: gaudy; glaring.
sorceress: A woman who is supposed to exercise magical powers by the aid of evil spirits.
Koran: The Mohammedan Bible.
dervise: The name of a class of religious persons among the Mohammedans, who affect great austerity, living partly in monasteries, and partly leading a solitary life.
incantation: A form of words used in connection with certain ceremonies for the purpose of enchantment.
palfrey: A gentle horse for ladies.
juggle: To play tricks upon.
primeval: Of the earliest ages.
elysium: Any place exquisitely pleasant.


amorous: Fond; affectionate.
sage: A learned and venerable philosopher.
abstruse lore: Learning that is difficult to acquire.
rapine and carnage: Plundering and slaughter.
votary: One who is consecrated to any object by vow or promise.
topography: The exact and minute knowledge of any place or region.
elopement: Secret or unauthorized flight.
specter: An apparition, a ghost.
palmistry: The pretended art of telling fortunes by the lines in the palm of the hand.
mentor: A wise and faithful monitor or guide.
soothsayer: One who undertakes to foretell events.
conjurer: One who practises magical arts.
black art: A name given in the Middle Ages to magic, or the performance of difficult acts, by the supposed aid of evil spirits or supernatural power.
a bird of parts: A bird possessing great talents.
sinecure: An office or position without active service.
erudition: Learning.
savant: A learned person.
antiquarian: Pertaining to ancient things.
metaphysics: A science exclusively occupied with mind, as contrasted with physics, which is the science of nature or of natural objects.
bon-mot: A witty reply, a jest.
casement: A window opening on hinges like a door.
ambassador: A representative of the highest rank, sent by one prince or government to another for the management of affairs.
coronet: An inferior crown worn by noble lords and ladies.
to enter the lists: The ground or field inclosed for combat between knights was called the lists. To enter the lists is to accept a challenge or engage in a contest.
arbitrament of arms: A decision arrived at by a personal combat between candidates for honors or special favors.
tourney: Tournament, a public combat between knights.
buckler: A kind of shield anciently used in warfare.
pastoral reed: Shepherd's pipe, a musical instrument made from the joint of a reed.
harbinger: Forerunner.
oracle: One whose opinion is considered to be of great authority.
caparison: The decorative harness or trappings of a horse.
punctilio: Most careful observance of nice points of etiquette, or ceremony.


esplanade: A clear space between a citadel or fortress and the nearest houses of the town.
bandy-legged: Having crooked legs.
aids de camp: A military term signifying an officer selected by a general to carry orders. Here it means merely an assistant.
slattern: A woman who is negligent of her dress or house.
sandal-wood: The highly perfumed yellowish heart-wood of an East Indian and Polynesian, tree.
cadence: A rhythmical modulation of the voice or of any sound.
provender: Provisions.
quidnunc: Latin, what now? One who is curious to know all that is going on.
insignia: Mark or sign; badge of authority.
parchment: The skin of a lamb, calf, or other animal prepared for writing on.
scroll: A roll of parchment or paper.
egregious: Extraordinary, surpassing, usually joined with words of a bad sense, as an egregious rascal.
incantation: The act or process of using certain formulas for the purpose of raising spirits or producing enchantments.
myrrh, frankincense, storax: Fragrant, aromatic gums, burned as incense in religious or other rites.
aigrette: A plume or tuft for the head, composed of feathers or gems.
coffer: A casket or chest, especially one used for holding money or jewels.


sinister: Disastrous, evil. The left being usually regarded as the unlucky side; the left hand is frequently called the sinister hand.
dexter hand: The right hand. This is generally the more skilful hand, hence dexterous, active or expert in the use of body and limbs.
duenna: An elderly woman who is appointed to keep guard over a younger one.
cogency: Conclusiveness, force.
to cast one's nativity: To find out and represent the position of the heavenly bodies at the time of one's birth. This was formerly practised by astrologers, or men who studied the stars, and pretended to foretell events by their positions. The same thing as to cast one's horoscope.
fates: Fabled beings who were supposed to control human destinies.
galley: A vessel propelled by oars, whether having sails or not.
jalousie: An inside window-blind with slats.
renegado: One faithless to principle or party, especially one who for-sakes one religious faith for another.
roundelay: A tune in which a simple strain is often repeated.
bastinado: To beat with a stick or cudgel, especially on the soles of the feet. An Eastern punishment.
sally-port: A back gate or door in the outer works of a fortification, reached by an underground passage.
bale fire: A signal or alarm fire.


eulogium: Highest praise.
Antinous: A youth of extraordinary beauty, who was the favorite companion of the Roman emperor Hadrian. He was drowned in the Nile, and the emperor enrolled him among the gods, and caused a temple to be erected to him at Mantinea.
ger-falcon: A large species of falcon, or hawk, a bird with a short-hooked beak, strong claws, and rapid flight. It was formerly trained to the pursuit of other birds and game, When at rest its eyes were kept covered by a hood, which was removed when it was let loose upon its quarry or prey.
tortoise-shell cat: A cat with markings and color resembling a tortoise shell.
bonnet: This name was formerly applied to a soft cap for men or boys.
prankling: Frolicsome; full of pranks.
hypochondriac: One affected with extreme melancholy.
megrims: Lowness of spirits; whims.
regicide: The crime of killing a king.
sconce: A fixed hanging or projecting candlestick.
lugubrious: Mournful.
Paganini: A famous Italian violinist.


doughty: Valiant; strong.
toledo: A sword made at Toledo in Spain, a city famous for the excellence of its weapons.
jurisdiction: The power or right of exercising authority.
sanctuary: A sacred spot; a place of refuge and protection.
virulent: Very bitter in enmity; actuated by a desire to injure.
beetling: Overhanging.
vicegerent: An officer who is deputed to exercise the powers of another.
connivance: Intentional failure or forbearance to discover a fault.
convoy: A guard or escort to protect provisions or other stores in their transit from one place to another.
posse: A throng.
impromptu: Off-hand; without previous thought.
to vapor: To bluster.
surrejoinder: A legal term, meaning to reply to a rejoinder, or reply.
acumen: Quickness of perception; acuteness.
akimbo: The arms are akimbo when the hands are on the hips, and the elbows turned outwards.
deposition: The testimony of a witness reduced to writing and signed, as given under oath before a judicial officer in answer to questioning and cross-questioning.


stigma: Slur or disgrace.
physiognomy: Face; countenance.


Grand Master of Alcántara: The head of one of the religious orders of Spanish knighthood, which was founded in 1156 as a military fraternity for defence against the Moors.
pennon: A flag or streamer.
zealot: One who is absorbed in devotion to any cause; an enthusiast.
Santiago: St. James.
arquebuse: A sort of hand gun used before the invention of the musket.
vicissitude: Irregular change; revolution.
indigence: Poverty.


helm: Helmet; a defensive covering for the head when knights were clothed in armor.
nuptials: Marriage.
ransom: The price paid for the redemption of a prisoner, or for goods captured by an enemy.
espousals: The marriage ceremony.
drawbridge: A bridge which could be drawn up or let down at pleasure before the gate of a town or castle.
viands: Food; provisions.
pilgrimage: A journey to some sacred place.
seneschal: An officer in the houses of princes and dignitaries in the Middle Ages, who had the charge of feasts and domestic ceremonies.


elysium: In Greek and Roman mythology, the place of happy souls' after death; any delightful place.
bosky: Woody.