Chapters 1–4

This first novel in the award-winning "His Dark Materials" trilogy follows Lyra Belacqua as she attempts to rescue a kidnapped friend and learn about a mysterious substance called Dust. Practice these words and join Lyra on the beginning of her journey through Philip Pullman's fantasy world.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. accustomed
    commonly used or practiced; usual
    The Master’s daemon had the form of a raven, and as soon as his robe was on, she jumped down from the wardrobe and settled in her accustomed place on his right shoulder.
  2. superior
    of or characteristic of high rank or importance
    Then he smoothed the hair over his ears with both palms and said something to his daemon. He was a servant, so she was a dog; but a superior servant, so a superior dog.
  3. conscience
    motivation deriving from ethical or moral principles
    You’re supposed to know about conscience, aren’t you? How can I just go and sit in the library or somewhere and twiddle my thumbs, knowing what’s going to happen?
  4. self-righteous
    excessively or hypocritically pious
    The two of them sat in silence for a while, Lyra uncomfortable on the hard floor of the wardrobe and Pantalaimon self-righteously twitching his temporary antennae on one of the robes.
  5. contend
    have an argument about something
    Lyra felt a mixture of thoughts contending in her head, and she would have liked nothing better than to share them with her daemon, but she was proud too.
  6. patronize
    treat condescendingly
    Lord Asriel was a tall man with powerful shoulders, a fierce dark face, and eyes that seemed to flash and glitter with savage laughter. It was a face to be dominated by, or to fight: never a face to patronize or pity.
  7. impassive
    having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
    He moved away with the Chaplain, leaving Lyra with a clear view of the Master’s face. It was impassive, but the daemon on his shoulder was shuffling her feathers and moving restlessly from foot to foot.
  8. chastise
    censure severely
    She knew the Scholars well: the Librarian, the Sub-Rector, the Enquirer, and the rest; they were men who had been around her all her life, taught her, chastised her, consoled her, given her little presents, chased her away from the fruit trees in the garden; they were all she had for a family.
  9. expedition
    an organized group of people undertaking a journey
    In fact, my real aim was to go further north still, right on to the ice, in fact, to try and discover what had happened to the Grumman expedition.
  10. phenomenon
    any state or process known through the senses
    One of Grumman’s last messages to the academy in Berlin spoke of a certain natural phenomenon only seen in the lands of the North.
  11. philosophical
    relating to the investigation of existence and knowledge
    Beside the hut stood an array of philosophical instruments, which looked to Lyra’s eye like something from the Anbaric Park on the road to Yarnton: aerials, wires, porcelain insulators, all glittering in the moonlight and thickly covered in frost.
  12. particle
    a body having finite mass but negligible dimensions
    It registered as light on the plate because particles of Dust affect this emulsion as photons affect silver nitrate emulsion.
  13. ignorance
    the lack of knowledge or education
    “Forgive my ignorance,” said the shaky voice of the old Precentor, “but if I ever knew what the Aurora was, I have forgotten. Is it what they call the Northern Lights?”
  14. luminous
    softly bright or radiant
    It has many names. It’s composed of storms of charged particles and solar rays of intense and extraordinary strength—invisible in themselves, but causing this luminous radiation when they interact with the atmosphere.
  15. celestial
    of or relating to the sky
    The German Academy sent him up there to go as far north as the magnetic pole and make various celestial observations.
  16. savage
    wild and menacing
    And his daemon growled with a deep savage rumble that made Lyra suddenly aware of what it would be like to have teeth meeting in her throat.
  17. providence
    a manifestation of God's foresightful care for his creatures
    The question was whether doing that would be worse than the consequences of not doing it. Well, some providence has intervened, and it hasn’t happened.
  18. consequence
    a phenomenon that is caused by some previous phenomenon
    The alethiometer warns of appalling consequences if Lord Asriel pursues this research.
  19. absolute
    not capable of being violated or infringed
    Ever since Pope John Calvin had moved the seat of the Papacy to Geneva and set up the Consistorial Court of Discipline, the Church’s power over every aspect of life had been absolute.
  20. postulate
    maintain or assert
    the Holy Church teaches that there are two worlds: the world of everything we can see and hear and touch, and another world, the spiritual world of heaven and hell. Barnard and Stokes were two—how shall I put it—renegade theologians who postulated the existence of numerous other worlds like this one, neither heaven nor hell, but material and sinful.
  21. heresy
    a belief that rejects the orthodox tenets of a religion
    The Holy Church naturally disapproved of this abominable heresy, and Barnard and Stokes were silenced.
  22. theology
    the rational and systematic study of religion
    It was important to keep the chapel up to date, because Jordan College had no rival, either in Europe or in New France, as a center of experimental theology.
  23. eminence
    high status importance owing to marked superiority
    She was proud of her College’s eminence, and liked to boast of it to the various urchins and ragamuffins she played with by the canal or the claybeds; and she regarded visiting Scholars and eminent professors from elsewhere with pitying scorn, because they didn’t belong to Jordan and so must know less, poor things, than the humblest of Jordan’s under-Scholars.
  24. grandeur
    elevation of mind and exaltation of character or ideals
    But she always had a dim sense that it wasn’t her whole world; that part of her also belonged in the grandeur and ritual of Jordan College; and that somewhere in her life there was a connection with the high world of politics represented by Lord Asriel.
  25. scoff
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    A rumor had been filtering through the streets for some weeks: a rumor that made some people laugh and others grow silent, as some people scoff at ghosts and others fear them.
  26. lustrous
    reflecting light
    He is in the form of a monkey, but no ordinary monkey: his fur is long and silky and of the most deep and lustrous gold.
  27. entice
    provoke someone to do something through persuasion
    Children from the slums were easy enough to entice away, but eventually people noticed, and the police were stirred into reluctant action.
  28. assume
    take on a certain form, attribute, or aspect
    As people became adult, their daemons lost the power to change and assumed one shape, keeping it permanently.
  29. companion
    a friend who is frequently with another
    Each of the other skulls, they found, had its own daemon-coin, showing its owner’s lifetime companion still close to him in death.
  30. repentance
    remorse for your past conduct
    When Lyra was younger, he had taken an interest in her spiritual welfare, only to be confounded by her sly indifference and insincere repentances.
  31. propitiate
    make peace with
    Roger’s daemon anxiously wagged her terrier tail to propitiate him.
  32. contemptuous
    expressing extreme scorn
    Everyone’s daemon instantly became warlike: each child was accompanied by fangs, or claws, or bristling fur, and Pantalaimon, contemptuous of the limited imaginations of these gyptian daemons, became a dragon the size of a deer hound.
  33. appalled
    struck with fear, dread, or consternation
    The trouble was that because no one knew what these Gobblers looked like, anyone might be a Gobbler, as Lyra pointed out to the appalled gang, who were now all under her sway, collegers and gyptians alike.
  34. agitated
    troubled emotionally and usually deeply
    Some of the women were crying loudly, and the men were standing in angry groups, with all their daemons agitated and rising in nervous flight or snarling at shadows.
  35. torpid
    slow and apathetic
    The two female Scholars sat up very slightly, though their daemons, either well behaved or torpid, did no more than flick their eyes at each other.
  36. determination
    firmness of purpose
    There’s a lot of goodness and sweetness in your nature, and a lot of determination. You’re going to need all of that.
  37. navigation
    the guidance of ships or airplanes from place to place
    Mrs. Coulter laughed and said, “Possibly. But you know you’ll have to work very hard. You’ll have to learn mathematics, and navigation, and celestial geography.”
  38. compass
    navigational instrument for finding directions
    When he unfolded the cloth, Lyra saw something like a large watch or a small clock: a thick disk of gold and crystal. It might have been a compass or something of the sort.
  39. precision
    the quality of being reproducible in amount or performance
    It was very like a clock, or a compass, for there were hands pointing to places around the dial, but instead of the hours or the points of the compass there were several little pictures, each of them painted with extraordinary precision, as if on ivory with the finest and slenderest sable brush.
  40. errant
    straying from the right course or from accepted standards
    Lyra spent a long time turning the hands to point at one symbol or another (angel, helmet, dolphin; globe, lute, compasses; candle, thunderbolt, horse) and watching the long needle swing on its never-ceasing errant way, and although she understood nothing, she was intrigued and delighted by the complexity and the detail.
Created on July 14, 2017 (updated April 8, 2019)

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