'The Odyssey' Vocabulary

'The Odyssey' Vocabulary

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Understanding the vocabulary of The Odyssey is essential to understanding the epic poem as a whole. This list includes a wide variety of words that connect to poem's narrative in meaningful ways. (All vocabulary words have been selected from the modern translation of The Odyssey by Robert Fagles.)

01of 16


Definition: the food of the gods in Greek mythology

Example: “And the goddess drew a table up beside him, / heaped with ambrosia, mixed him deep-red nectar.”

02of 16


Definition: the framework of a bed

Example: “Come, Eurycleia, / move the sturdy bedstead out of our bridal chamber.”

03of 16


Definition: the quality of jutting out, overhanging, or looming

Example: "But just as he came abreast of Malea's beetling cape / a hurricane snatched him up… ”

04of 16


Definition: clever, tricky; able to obtain something through trickery or deceit

Example: “It's not the suitors here who deserve the blame / it's your own dear mother, the matchless queen of cunning.”

05of 16


Definition: a strong wind

Example: “Poseidon has struck their well-rigged ship on the open sea with gale winds and crushing walls of waves… "

06of 16


Definition: something honored as holy

Example: “The sun sank as they reached the hallowed grove, / sacred to Athena, where Odysseus stopped and sat / and said a prayer… ”

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Definition: hasty, careless

Example: “Prayers said, the scattering barley strewn, / suddenly Nestor's son impetuous Thrasymedes / strode up close and struck… ”

08of 16


Definition: inventive, skillful

Example: “You terrible man, / foxy, ingenious, never tired of twists and tricks… ”

09of 16


Definition: shiny, illuminated

Example: “Calypso, lustrous goddess, knew him at once… ”

10of 16


Definition: an offering to a deity in the form of a drink

Example: “… they set up bowls and brimmed them high with wine / and poured libations out to the everlasting gods… ”

11of 16


Definition: arrogant, overly proud

Example: “But there in her upper rooms she lay, Penelope / lost in thought, fasting, shunning food and drink, / brooding now… would her fine son escape his death / or go down at her overweening suitors' hands?"

12of 16


Definition: a large pile of material for burning

Example: “… once you return to Ithaca you will slaughter / a barren heifer in your halls, the best you have, / and load a pyre with treasures-and to Tiresias, / alone, apart, you will offer a sleek black ram, / the pride of all your herds.”

13of 16


Definition: reddish-brown color

Example: “I will shrivel the supple skin on your lithe limbs, strip the russet curls from your head and deck you out in rags.”

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Definition: to move in a fast, straight line

Example: “He has no way to voyage home to his own native land, / no trim ships in reach, no crew to ply the oars / and send him scudding over the sea's broad back.”

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Definition: to make; or to give or present something

Example: “… journey home and render noble offerings up / to the deathless gods who rule the vaulting skies, / to all the gods in order."

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Definition: a person making a humble plea to someone in a position of power

Example: “I have suffered greatly. Pity me, lord, / your suppliant cries for help!”