Pit and Pendulum

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definitions & notes
only words

  1. abstraction

    the process of formulating general concepts
    For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling
    abstraction I busied myself in vain, unconnected conjecture.
  2. abyss

    a bottomless gulf or pit
    Groping about the masonry just below the margin, I succeeded in dislodging a small fragment, and let it fall into the
    abyss.
  3. accumulate

    get or gather together
    They pressed, they swarmed upon me in ever
    accumulating heaps.
  4. acrid

    strong and sharp, as a taste or smell
    Days passed -- it might have been that many days passed -- ere it swept so closely over me as to fan me with its
    acrid breath.
  5. acute

    ending in a sharp point
    I saw that two of its iron angles were now
    acute -- two consequently, obtuse.
  6. aghast

    struck with fear, dread, or consternation
    It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew
    aghast lest there should be NOTHING to see.
  7. agony

    intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain
    I WAS sick, sick unto death, with that long
    agony, and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.
  8. allude

    make an indirect reference to
    Scarcely had I dropped my head back into its original position when there flashed upon my mind what I cannot better describe than as the unformed half of that idea of deliverance to which I have previously
    alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeterminately through my brain when I raised food to my burning lips.
  9. allure

    the power to entice or attract
    Even then while I gazed, they came up in troops hurriedly, with ravenous eyes,
    allured by the scent of the meat.
  10. alteration

    the act of revising
    As I arose from the attempt, the mystery of the
    alteration in the chamber broke at once upon my understanding.
  11. alternative

    one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen
    Having failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl me into the abyss, and thus (there being no
    alternative) a different and a milder destruction awaited me.
  12. annihilate

    kill in large numbers
    Long suffering had nearly
    annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind.
  13. aperture

    a natural opening in something
    I endeavoured, but of course in vain, to look through the
    aperture.
  14. append

    fix to; attach
    It was
    appended to a weighty rod of brass, and the whole HISSED as it swung through the air.
  15. appreciable

    enough to be estimated or measured
    Inch by inch -- line by line -- with a descent only
    appreciable at intervals that seemed ages -- down and still down it came!
  16. appreciate

    be fully aware of; realize fully
    Something unusual -- some change which at first I could not
    appreciate distinctly -- it was obvious had taken place in the apartment.
  17. appreciation

    understanding of the nature or meaning of something
    The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full
    appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness superened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades.
  18. apprehend

    anticipate with dread or anxiety
    In the confusion attending my fall, I did not immediately
    apprehend a somewhat startling circumstance , which yet, in a few seconds afterward, and while I still lay prostrate, arrested my attention.
  19. arrive

    reach a destination
    Up to the period when I fell I had counted fifty-two paces, and upon resuming my walk I had counted forty-eight more, when I
    arrived at the rag.
  20. aspect

    a characteristic to be considered
    At first they wore the
    aspect of charity, and seemed white slender angels who would save me: but then all at once there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill, as if I had touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them there would be no help.
  21. assume

    take to be the case or to be true
    These colours had now
    assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most intense brilliancy, that give to the spectral and fiendish portraitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves than my own.
  22. assure

    inform positively and with certainty and confidence
    Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember , amid earnest struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later epoch
    assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness.
  23. attain

    gain with effort
    The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it
    attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness superened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades.
  24. avalanche

    a slide of large masses of snow, ice and mud down a mountain
    I might as well have attempted to arrest an
    avalanche!
  25. avert

    turn away or aside
    I felt that I tottered upon the brink -- I
    averted my eyes --

    There was a discordant hum of human voices!
  26. balm

    preparation applied externally as a remedy or for soothing
    Amid the thought of the fiery destruction that impended, the idea of the coolness of the well came over my soul like
    balm.
  27. cadence

    the accent in a metrical foot of verse
    He who has never swooned is not he who finds strange palaces and wildly familiar faces in coals that glow; is not he who beholds floating in mid-air the sad visions that the many may not view; is not he who ponders over the perfume of some novel flower; is not he whose brain grows bewildered with the meaning of some musical
    cadence which has never before arrested his attention.
  28. cease

    put an end to a state or an activity
    I had scarcely stepped from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when the motion of the hellish machine
    ceased and I beheld it drawn up by some invisible force through the ceiling.
  29. cessation

    a stopping
    At first the ravenous animals were startled and terrified at the change -- at the
    cessation of movement .
  30. chasm

    a deep opening in the earth's surface
    For many seconds I hearkened to its reverberations as it dashed against the sides of the
    chasm in its descent ; at length there was a sullen plunge into water, succeeded by loud echoes.
  31. conjecture

    believe especially on uncertain or tentative grounds
    For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling abstraction I busied myself in vain, unconnected
    conjecture.
  32. conjure

    summon into action or bring into existence
    Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember , amid earnest struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have
    conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later epoch assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness.
  33. convey

    transmit or serve as the medium for transmission
    It
    conveyed to my soul the idea of REVOLUTION, perhaps from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill-wheel.
  34. daub

    an unskillful painting
    The entire surface of this metallic enclosure was rudely
    daubed in all the hideous and repulsive devices to which the charnel superstition of the monks has given rise.
  35. deceive

    cause someone to believe an untruth
    I had been
    deceived too in respect to the shape of the enclosure.
  36. deduce

    reason from the general to the particular
    I brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from that point to
    deduce my real condition.
  37. delirium

    a usually brief state of excitement and mental confusion
    In
    delirium -- no!
  38. demoniac

    someone who acts as if possessed by a demon
    There could be no doubt of the design of my tormentors -- oh most unrelenting! oh, most
    demoniac of men!
  39. deprive

    take away
    I had fallen into an habitual see-saw or wave of the hand about the platter; and at length the unconscious uniformity of the movement
    deprived it of effect.
  40. detach

    cause to become separated
    The first stroke of the razor-like crescent athwart any portion of the band would so
    detach it that it might be unwound from my person by means of my left hand.
  41. dimension

    a construct distinguishing objects or individuals
    This process, however, afforded me no means of ascertaining the
    dimensions of my dungeon; as I might make its circuit, and return to the point whence I set out, without being aware of the fact, so perfectly uniform seemed the wall.
  42. discordant

    not in agreement or harmony
    I felt that I tottered upon the brink -- I averted my eyes --

    There was a
    discordant hum of human voices!
  43. distinct

    constituting a separate entity or part
    The sentence, the dread sentence of death, was the last of
    distinct accentuation which reached my ears.
  44. earnest

    characterized by a firm, humorless belief in one's opinions
    Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember , amid
    earnest struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later epoch assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness.
  45. effect

    a phenomenon that is caused by some previous phenomenon
    In feeling my way I had found many angles, and thus deduced an idea of great irregularity, so potent is the
    effect of total darkness upon one arousing from lethargy or sleep!
  46. elapse

    pass by
    The sentence had passed, and it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since
    elapsed.
  47. elevate

    raise from a lower to a higher position
    Dreading to find my faint, and, as it seemed, my last hope frustrated, I so far
    elevated my head as to obtain a distinct view of my breast.
  48. eloquent

    expressing yourself readily, clearly, effectively
    It seems probable that if, upon reaching the second stage, we could recall the impressions of the first, we should find these impressions
    eloquent in memories of the gulf beyond.
  49. encompass

    include in scope
    The blackness of eternal night
    encompassed me.
  50. encounter

    come together
    My outstretched hands at length
    encountered some solid obstruction.
  51. enormous

    extraordinarily large in size or extent or degree
    A slight noise attracted my notice, and looking to the floor, I saw several
    enormous rats traversing it.
  52. environ

    extend on all sides of simultaneously; encircle
    For some minutes this fact occasioned me a world of vain trouble; vain indeed -- for what could be of less importance, under the terrible circumstances which
    environed me than the mere dimensions of my dungeon?
  53. epoch

    a period marked by distinctive character
    Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember , amid earnest struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later
    epoch assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness.
  54. evident

    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    It seemed
    evident that mine was not, at least, the most hideous of fates.
  55. fatigue

    temporary loss of strength and energy from hard work
    My excessive
    fatigue induced me to remain prostrate, and sleep soon overtook me as I lay.
  56. feeble

    pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
    The whole thought was now present --
    feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite, but still entire.
  57. fissure

    a long narrow depression in a surface
    It proceeded from a
    fissure about half-an-inch in width extending entirely around the prison at the base of the walls which thus appeared, and were completely separated from the floor.
  58. frenzy

    state of violent mental agitation
    I took a
    frenzied pleasure in contrasting its downward with its lateral velocity.
  59. frivolous

    not serious in content, attitude, or behavior
    Another step before my fall, and the world had seen me no more and the death just avoided was of that very character which I had regarded as fabulous and
    frivolous in the tales respecting the Inquisition.
  60. ghastly

    shockingly repellent; inspiring horror
    Then comes a sense of sudden motionlessness throughout all things; as if those who bore me (a
    ghastly train!) had outrun, in their descent, the limits of the limitless , and paused from the wearisomeness of their toil.
  61. glisten

    be shiny, as if wet
    Still I quivered in every nerve to think how slight a sinking of the machinery would precipitate that keen
    glistening axe upon my bosom.
  62. gossamer

    a gauze fabric with an extremely fine texture
    Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the
    gossamer web of some dream.
  63. imperceptible

    impossible or difficult to sense
    I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly
    imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which enwrapped the walls of the apartment; and then my vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table.
  64. inconsistent

    displaying a lack of regularity
    Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction , is altogether
    inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what state was I? The condemned to death, I knew, perished usually at the auto-da-fes, and one of these had been held on the very night of the day of my trial.
  65. indeterminate

    not fixed or known in advance
    After that, the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy
    indeterminate hum.
  66. indistinctly

    in a dim indistinct manner
    These shadows of memory tell
    indistinctly of tall figures that lifted and bore me in silence down -- down -- still down -- till a hideous dizziness oppressed me at the mere idea of the interminableness of the descent.
  67. inevitably

    in such a manner as could not be otherwise
    Down -- still unceasingly -- still
    inevitably down!
  68. insuperable

    incapable of being surpassed or excelled
    The difficulty, nevertheless, was but trivial, although, in the disorder of my fancy, it seemed at first
    insuperable.
  69. interval

    the distance between things
    But if the impressions of what I have termed the first stage are not at will recalled, yet, after long
    interval, do they not come unbidden, while we marvel whence they come?
  70. lateral

    situated at or extending to the side
    I took a frenzied pleasure in contrasting its downward with its
    lateral velocity.
  71. lucid

    transparently clear; easily understandable
    Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to remember , amid earnest struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I have conjured up remembrances which the
    lucid reason of a later epoch assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming unconsciousness.
  72. lurid

    glaringly vivid and graphic; marked by sensationalism
    Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon me in a thousand directions where none had been visible before, and gleamed with the
    lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal.
  73. menace

    something that is a source of danger
    The figures of fiends in aspects of
    menace, with skeleton forms and other more really fearful images, overspread and disfigured the walls.
  74. obtuse

    of an angle, between 90 and 180 degrees
    I saw that two of its iron angles were now acute -- two consequently,
    obtuse.
  75. peculiar

    beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
    At the same time, my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapor, and the
    peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose to my nostrils.
  76. perceive

    become aware of through the senses
    Plainly I
    perceived the loosening of the bandage.
  77. perish

    pass from physical life
    Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction , is altogether inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what state was I? The condemned to death, I knew,
    perished usually at the auto-da-fes, and one of these had been held on the very night of the day of my trial.
  78. pervade

    spread or diffuse through
    Then again sound, and motion, and touch, a tingling sensation
    pervading my frame.
  79. potent

    having or wielding force or authority
    In feeling my way I had found many angles, and thus deduced an idea of great irregularity, so
    potent is the effect of total darkness upon one arousing from lethargy or sleep!
  80. precipitate

    bring about abruptly
    Still I quivered in every nerve to think how slight a sinking of the machinery would
    precipitate that keen glistening axe upon my bosom.
  81. predominant

    having superior power and influence
    I alternately laughed and howled, as the one or the other idea grew
    predominant.
  82. presume

    take to be the case or to be true
    There were in all, then, a hundred paces; and, admitting two paces to the yard, I
    presumed the dungeon to be fifty yards in circuit.
  83. prostrate

    stretched out and lying at full length along the ground
    My excessive fatigue induced me to remain
    prostrate, and sleep soon overtook me as I lay.
  84. proximity

    the property of being close together
    But how fearful, in that case, the
    proximity of the steel!
  85. ravenous

    extremely hungry
    Even then while I gazed, they came up in troops hurriedly, with
    ravenous eyes, allured by the scent of the meat.
  86. remnant

    a small part remaining after the main part no longer exists
    I had advanced some ten or twelve paces in this manner, when the
    remnant of the torn hem of my robe became entangled between my legs.
  87. sear

    become superficially burned
    At length for my
    seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the prison.
  88. seize

    take hold of; grab
    Could I have broken the fastenings above the elbow, I would have
    seized and attempted to arrest the pendulum.
  89. sensation

    an awareness of some type of stimulation
    The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness superened; all
    sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades.
  90. sever

    set or keep apart
    I knew that in more than one place it must be already
    severed.
  91. spectral

    resembling or characteristic of a phantom
    These colours had now assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most intense brilliancy, that give to the
    spectral and fiendish portraitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves than my own.
  92. stifle

    impair the respiration of or obstruct the air passage of
    The intensity of the darkness seemed to oppress and
    stifle me.
  93. suffocate

    deprive of oxygen and prevent from breathing
    A
    suffocating odour pervaded the prison!
  94. sunder

    break apart or in two, using violence
    Notwithstanding its terrifically wide sweep (some thirty feet or more) and the hissing vigour of its descent, sufficient to
    sunder these very walls of iron, still the fraying of my robe would be all that, for several minutes, it would accomplish; and at this thought I paused.
  95. supposition

    the cognitive process of conjecturing
    Such a
    supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction , is altogether inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what state was I? The condemned to death, I knew, perished usually at the auto-da-fes, and one of these had been held on the very night of the day of my trial.
  96. suture

    a seam used in surgery
    What I had taken for masonry seemed now to be iron, or some other metal in huge plates, whose
    sutures or joints occasioned the depression.
  97. taper

    diminish gradually
    Like a razor also it seemed massy and heavy,
    tapering from the edge into a solid and broad structure above.
  98. throng

    a large gathering of people
    And now, as I still continued to step cautiously onward, there came
    thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumours of the horrors of Toledo.
  99. torrent

    an overwhelming number or amount
    A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in
    torrents upon my heart, and for a brief period I once more relapsed into insensibility.
  100. traverse

    journey across or pass over
    A slight noise attracted my notice, and looking to the floor, I saw several enormous rats
    traversing it.
  101. treacherous

    dangerously unstable and unpredictable
    At first I proceeded with extreme caution, for the floor although seemingly of solid material was
    treacherous with slime.
  102. typical

    exhibiting the qualities that identify a group or kind
    My cognisance of the pit had become known to the inquisitorial agents -- THE PIT, whose horrors had been destined for so bold a recusant as myself, THE PIT,
    typical of hell, and regarded by rumour as the Ultima Thule of all their punishments.
  103. tyranny

    government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator
    To the victims of its
    tyranny, there was the choice of death with its direst physical agonies, or death with its most hideous moral horrors.
  104. uniformity

    the quality of lacking diversity or variation
    I had fallen into an habitual see-saw or wave of the hand about the platter; and at length the unconscious
    uniformity of the movement deprived it of effect.
  105. unique

    the single one of its kind
    It now occurred to me that the bandage or surcingle which enveloped me was
    UNIQUE.
  106. vanish

    become invisible or unnoticeable
    The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges
    vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness superened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades.
  107. velocity

    distance traveled per unit time in one direction
    As a natural consequence, its
    velocity was also much greater.
  108. viand

    a choice or delicious dish
    With the particles of the oily and spicy
    viand which now remained, I thoroughly rubbed the bandage wherever I could reach it; then, raising my hand from the floor, I lay breathlessly still.
  109. vicinity

    a surrounding or nearby region
    For many hours the immediate
    vicinity of the low framework upon which I lay had been literally swarming with rats.
  110. writhe

    move in a twisting or contorted motion
    I saw them
    writhe with a deadly locution.
Created on November 13, 2009
(updated November 13, 2009)