Wondrous Words Wednesday: Charles Dickens (3)

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

My words for this week come again from Bleak House by Charles Dickens.


That houri, appearing, shakes him up in the usual manner.

houri: n. a beautiful young woman, especially one of the virgin companions of the faithful in the Muslim Paradise.

I think Dickens is being satirical again here…


He seems chary of putting his visitor to the trouble of repeating his late attentions.

chary: adj. cautiously or suspiciously reluctant


Mr Bucket stops for a moment at the corner and takes a lighted bull’s-eye from the constable on duty.

Bullseye: n.

  1.  (Individual Sports & Recreations / Archery) the small central disc of a target, usually the highest valued area
  2.  (Individual Sports & Recreations / Archery) a shot hitting this
  3. Informal something that exactly achieves its aim
  4. (Miscellaneous Technologies / Building) a small circular or oval window or opening
  5. (Transport / Nautical Terms) a thick disc of glass set into a ship’s deck, etc., to admit light
  6. (Clothing, Personal Arts & Crafts / Crafts) the glass boss at the centre of a sheet of blown glass
  7. (Physics / General Physics)

    a.  a small thick plano-convex lens used as a condenser
    b.  a lamp or lantern containing such a lens
  8.  (Cookery) a peppermint-flavoured, usually striped, boiled sweet
  9. (Transport / Nautical Terms) Nautical a circular or oval wooden block with a groove around it for the strop of a shroud and a hole at its centre for a line Compare deadeye
  10. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) Meteorol the eye or centre of a cyclone

*This definition comes from the Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged via TheFreeDictionary.com

These are all the meanings I could find, but none of them really fits. It seems to mean some sort of lantern, and I do remember that old railway people had these huge portable lamps with glasses that could be bull’s eyes in meaning #6… but I’m not sure if it’s that at all.


Mrs Snagsby sounds no timbrel in anybody’s ear.

timbrel: n. archaic a tambourine or similar instrument


I never could do nothing with a pot but mend it or bile it.

bile: v. a Scot word for boil
*This definition comes from the Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged via TheFreeDictionary.com


I was passable enough when I went with the tinker, though nothing to boast of then; but what with blowing the fire with my mouth when I was young, and spileing my complexion, and singeing my hair off…

spile: v. chiefly US or dialect broach (a cask) with a peg to draw off liquid

I’m not convinced this is the meaning here… Any ideas?


This so intensifies his dudgeon that for five minutes he is in an ill humour.

dudgeon: n. deep resentment


(All definitions are taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary © 2008 via WordReference.com unless otherwise stated.)


6 comments on “Wondrous Words Wednesday: Charles Dickens (3)

  1. Houri must be the word of the day – someone else had it in their list today. I’m not really sure what he means by bullseye in that sentence.

  2. Yes, I’m pretty sure a bulls-eye in that context is a lantern as you said.

    “Spile” is spoil–it sounds like her complexion was spoiled by working next to the fire for so long. He’s just writing it as she would say it, with a strong accent. The same as “boil” being pronounced “bile” in fact.

  3. @ Kathy: when I opened that page and saw houri in another WWW post, for a moment I thought I was on a wrong page and back to my own blog LOL
    @ Jean: Oh! Accents! That makes perfect sense now you mention it — I’m sure I’m missing more than a couple of things because of my being deaf to accents 😦
    @ Libby: thank you for the link — although I don’t know why that lantern should be named bullseye. I had in mind something like this http://images.denhams.com/541/541lot376.jpg and after seeing my post, husband looked up some links for me which seem to confirm my idea.

  4. Another week of great words. Dickens is so great for words. It’s funny how you can think you know what a word means, like dudgeon, but then you don’t.

Ditelo con parole vostre/Let your words be heard

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