Dracula’s Glossary

Built by students studying Dracula, this online glossary is for all readers of Dracula.

Ballast by Darren Chase

In Chapter Seven of the historical novel Dracula, the reader is presented with a word
unfamiliar to many. When describing the Demeter, the text states that “she is almost entirely in ballast of silver sand.” While this passage on its own is confusing, the unfamiliar word makes it harder to comprehend what is occurring. Defined as a heavy material of which is placed low on a vessel and improves its stability by the Oxford Dictionary, specifically in the case of a ship, we can better understand this word in the context of the chapter. Ballast can help to apply additional weight to the ship, which in turn centers their gravity and allows them to be far more stable. Understanding ballast allows us to understand how it is being used in the context of the Demeter. In the present day, boats use ballast to create larger wakes and make them sturdier and heavier.

Calèche by Darren Chase

Appearing in Chapters One and Two of the riveting narrative Dracula, a reader might question what a Calèche is. Defined as a horse-drawn carriage by dictionary.com, this is a critical term to understanding the imagery presented during this scene of the novel. Understanding that the Calèche is indeed a carriage, one that helps to escort Harker to the mysterious castle, is key to understanding what is going on during this scene. The Calèche is key to both the ending of Chapter One and the beginning of Chapter Two as it helps set the stage for the events of the novel. The English Victorian Era (1820 and 1914) is known for Calèches being a critical mode of transportation. Modern readers might be taken aback by this unique word, but should know it was a common term back during the time of which Dracula was written.

Photo by Janez Novak (cc) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Podsreda04.JPG

Casabianca” by Declan Edwards

“Casabianca” is a British poem written in 1826 by Felicia Hemans, commemorating the death of a young boy during the Battle of the Nile. As the story goes, the boy perishes due to his unrelenting faith to the commands of his father; the poem ends noting that “… the noblest thing which perished there, was that young, faithful heart!”. In the novel, this poem is referenced to denote the undying faith the Captain has to the Demeter, as he ties himself to the wheel. The faith demonstrated by how the Captain bears the crucifix in this scene can be likened to the faith the boy has to his father; he would rather die than abandon his post. Sources include https://poemanalysis.com/felicia-hemans/casabianca and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casabianca_(poem)

Chapelle Ardente by Beauttah Wanja

French for “chapel of rest” or “burning chapel. ” This phrase refers to a chapel or a place of rest for the dead, typically adorned with numerous candles. In the novel Dracula, Stoker uses this term to refer to the small chapel where Lucy’s body was lain before Van Helsing, Arthur, and Seward had to “operate” on her by cutting her head and driving a stake through her heart. The chapel is described as being lined with a “wilderness of beautiful white flowers, and death was made as little repulsive as might be.” This description conjures an image of reverent mourning that clashes with the vampire’s desecration of death and the natural order throughout the book. Sources: https://www.dictionary.net/chapelle%20ardente#definition-source-glossary-of-terms-and-phrases and https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/french-english/chapelle-ardente

Chaplet by Beauttah Wanja

A string of beads, often used for prayer or religious purposes. Also, a wreath to be worn on the head. In Stoker’s Dracula, the term describes the wreath of odorous garlic flowers kept around Lucy’s neck by Professor Van Helsing. The wreath serves as a sort of protective talisman against vampires. Characters in the book often use chaplets, particularly rosaries and crucifixes, to invoke divine protection. (Stoker, Bram. Dracula, 1897). Note: The common use of the word chaplet now refers to a form of Christian prayer that uses prayer beads. Sources consulted include https://www.dictionary.com/browse/chaplet https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/chaplet https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=32437

Photo by Sylwia Ufnalska (CC license)–Peace Chaplet of Medjugorje– https://www.pietystall.co.uk/the-workers-rosary/

Cortège by Teddy Saracco

“A train of attendants, or of people in procession,” (OED.com). The word is a borrowing from French, believed to have first been used in English in the late 1600s. Some synonyms which may be more familiar to the modern reader include entourage and retinue, (Merriam-Webster.com). The word seems to be used mostly in formal contexts; it is also often used in specific reference to a funeral procession. As such, it is a fitting word for Mina to use in her journal describing the funeral of the captain of the Demeter in Chapter Seven of Dracula. Mina specifies “a cortège of boats” as the term usually refers to people and carriages, or these days, cars.

Festina Lente by Virginia Woodcock

Festina lente is a Latin phrase that means make haste slowly. Festina lente is the Latin translation of a traditional Greek phrase. This contradicting statement encourages one to approach a task with a good balance of speed and patience. Dr. Van Helsing speaks in Latin several times in the novel. He says “festina lente” in Chapter 22. When describing Dracula and his history, Van Helsing states, “Festina lente may as well be his motto.” This statement indicates that Dracula has been careful to take his time in his great endeavor.  For more information visit  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festina_lente

Gambolling by Teddy Saracco

In American English, “gamboling” (with one “l”). To gambol is to playfully leap about. It comes from the French “gambade,” a noun referring to “the frisky spring of a jumping horse,” (Merriam-Webster.com). As a verb, “gambol” is synonymous with words such as “frolic,” “romp,” and “cavort.” It is generally used to describe children, small animals, or anything else generally thought of as spirited and carefree. Jonathan Harker uses it here, in Chapter Four, to describe the movement of dust motes in a room of Dracula’s castle. As the dust gambols, Jonathan finds himself “becoming hypnotized” and realizes these dust motes are materializing into the three vampire women he has already had his close encounter with. Stoker’s choice of this light-hearted word is used to contrast the ghastly nature of the castle and the vampiric women that Jonathan has such cause to fear.

Goitre (Goiter) by Virginia Woodcock

A medical term used to refer to swelling in one’s neck that is a result of an enlarged thyroid gland. There are multiple possible causes of thyroid gland swelling. Symptoms of this abnormality include a prevalent lump in the front of the neck, a scratchy voice, and a feeling of constriction in the throat. In British English, the word is spelled goitre while in American English, it is spelled goiter. As Jonathan Harker (who is using the word) is British, the word is spelled as goitre in the novel. The word is used by Stoker in the first chapter. In the passage, Harker is on his way to Dracula’s castle and notices that “goitre was painfully present” in the throats of the Cszecks and Slovaks that they passed by. For more information visit https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12625-goiter

Idolatrous by Devin Shu

Idolatrous is the adjective form of Idolatry, which means “relating to the religious practice of praying to a picture or object” (Cambridge Dictionary). This word appeared in Jonathan Harker’s journal in the novel Dracula as he talks about the Crucifix bringing him great comfort even though it is idolatrous to believe so. Historically, the word originated in the 1500s. The word is most famously related to the Ten Commandments in the Bible. The second commandment states, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (NIV, Ex. 20:4-5). Idolatry/idolatrous behavior in turn becomes a sin in Christian/Catholic/Judaic faith. Knowing the context, it is easier to see why Jonathan Harker is conflicted by the comfort the crucifix provides, as idolatrous behaviors are considered to be sinful. Even today debate continues about whether displaying a crucifix or other depictions (images) of Christ, etc., is idolatry

Imperious by Devin Shu

Imperious is an adjective that describes when a person or the action done by a person is “unpleasantly proud and expecting to be obeyed” (Cambridge Dictionary). The word appears two times in the novel Dracula. Both times are used to describe Dracula’s dominant commands to the wolves and the women in the novel. “Historically, the first use of the word appeared in the early 1500s and traces its roots to Latin imperiosus, which means commanding and powerful.” Imperious is often used to describe powerful people such as politicians, military personnel, or monarchs. In the case of Count Dracula, he is the most powerful being in the story. Harker described Dracula’s actions as imperious to suggest the commanding nature of Dracula and to show the control Dracula has over his minions. Sources: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/imperious https://www.etymonline.com/word/imperious#:~:text=imperious%20(adj.),%22imperial%22%20is%20from%201580s.

“In Manus Tuas, Domine!” by Lesley Mun

Before entering the chapel of Carfax with his team of vampire hunters, Van Helsing of the novel Dracula states in Latin, “In manus tuas, Domine!,” which translates to “Into thy hand, O lord.” This phrase is a reference to Luke 23:46 in the Bible, in which Jesus cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” before taking his last breath on the cross. This moment could be interpreted as Van Helsing’s invocation for divine assistance or his acceptance of death before bravely confronting the danger that lies ahead of him. This quote is also a reflection of Van Helsing’s pervading strength and philosophy. Throughout the book, Van Helsing’s spirituality and religiosity help navigate him through the challenges that evil presents. Despite the overwhelming odds he faces, Van Helsing’s belief in a higher being and the afterlife gives him the courage to defeat Dracula. Overall, this statement reflects the book’s message to the readers, which is to have faith that good will prevail in uncertain and difficult times. “In manus tuas, domine” is also the title of a painting by Briton Riviere, which depicts a shining young knight in armor approaching an ominous dark cavern. The image captures the tone of Van Helsing and the vampire hunters entering Dracula’s domain. Source: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/in-manus-tuas-domine-205918

In Manus Tuas, Domine (1879) by Briton Riviere

Kodak by Lesley Mun

By the time Dracula (1897) was published, science and technology were advancing quickly, and this theme is heavily conveyed in the book. While reading his notes on Carfax, Harker mentions that he took “Kodak views” of the estate (Chapter II). In 1888, just ten years before the book was published, George Eastman created the first roll-film hand camera, the Kodak, which allowed amateur users to take pictures effortlessly. The Kodak No.1 produced circular 2.5-inch-wide images to compensate for the poor quality at the corners of the image. The Eastman Kodak company continues to exist today as a leading global technology company, which eerily demonstrates how close our society is to the world of Dracula. At the same time, the stark contrast between modern technologies such as the Kodak and spiritual phenomena in the novel emphasizes the late 19th society’s struggle to transition from the old world to the new world. Source: https://www.eastman.org/camera-obscura-revolutionary-kodak#:~:text=The%20first%20successful%20roll%2Dfilm,name%20on%20September%204%2C%201888.

Image Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2439904/The-original-Kodak-moment-Snapshots-taken-camera-changed-photography-1888.html

Laudanum by Darren Chase

As the events of the novel heighten in Dracula, Chapter Eleven marks a pivotal turning
point and a rare glimpse into Lucy Westerna’s Diary. Towards the end of the chapter, we are introduced to an unfamiliar word, laudanum. The notes of the Norton Second Edition of Dracula, define as “a compound of opium and alcohol that was a common Victorian tranquilizer, often abused as an addictive drug.” Additionally, it is important to note that while currently not widely used, during the Victorian times, laudanum was a common drug and tranquilizer used to treat pain and other related symptoms. It is important to understand these terms used commonly during the Victorian period
when Dracula was written. Laudanum is used in the novel to create an unconscious state in the maids, allowing for Dracula’s entry into Lucy’s bed chamber. Without understanding this term, we are unable to piece this together.

Lethe by Lauryn Palacio

Lethe is one of five rivers that flow throughout the underworld in Greek mythology. Souls were said to drink from the river to forget their mortal lives. The goddess of the same name has been described as “forgetfulness personified” (theoi.com). The term is used in the novel Dracula to describe the smell of garlic in Lucy’s room. The appearance of this word in connection to Lucy is reminiscent of her death after Dracula turns her into a vampire. At this point she transitions from the mortal world to Dracula’s (the afterlife or “underworld”). She begins to “forget” her humanity and is promised an existence comparable to godhood by the Count.  Source: https://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/PotamosLethe.html

Memoranda (Memorandum) by Ewan Kim

A note or record used for future purposes. A memoranda usually indicates written texts for business and diplomatic purposes. The term is used in Chapter 4 of Dracula in Jonathan Harker’s journal/diary when Harker realizes all his notes have disappeared upon awakening the next morning. He elaborates, “Every scrap of paper was gone, and with it all my notes… relating to railways and travel, my letter of credit…”. The novel uses the term to show that the term means texts and writings that involve research and personal recollections of Harker. Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/memorandum

Mews by Lauryn Palacio

Mews are cobbled streets found between homes in London, England. Designed for the wealthy in the 18th and 19th centuries, these Victorian architectural elements were originally used as horse stables and servant quarters. In the 21st century, these streets became heavily sought after real estate, typically adorned with plants. These Mews often had underground tunnels that connected to the basements of the homes lining these streets. The mention of mews in the novel Dracula would have conveyed a great deal of information about the Westerna Family’s social status to Victorian audiences. Who knows what batty activities may have occurred there! Source: https://www.lurotbrand.co.uk/mews-gems/what-is-a-mews/#:~:text=Mews%20are%20quintessentially%20pretty%2C%20often,extravagant%2018th%20%26%2019th%20Century%20mansions 

Mares’ Tails by Lesley Mun

In Chapter 7, Dracula presents a slew of complex sailing terminology. Before the Demeter arrives in Whitby, a sudden change in the atmosphere, indicates the presence of danger. The details are noted in a passage from The Dailygraph, which states that there was a sudden presence of “‘mares’-tails’ high.” According to Collins Dictionary, the term mare’s-tails is defined as “long, narrow formations of cirrus cloud somewhat like a horse’s tail in shape, supposed to be a sign of changes in the wind.” These uniquely shaped clouds indicate that a rainstorm is coming. This small detail can easily be overlooked without knowledge of its meaning. However, it adds to the tension building up to the chaos and danger surrounding the Demeter’s arrival. Sources: https://www.earthdata.nasa.gov/learn/sensing-our-planet/making-heads-of-mares-tails#:~:text=As%20the%20proverb%20goes%2C%20%E2%80%9CMares,high%20altitude%20clouds%20can%20share. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/mares-tail

Ophelia by Lesley Mun

In the novel Dracula, assured by the garlic flowers that Van Helsing placed in her room, Lucy states before sleeping, “here I am to-night, hoping for sleep, and lying like Ophelia in the play, with ‘virgin crants and maiden strewments;’” (Chapter 6) . Lucy is referencing the character in Hamlet by William Shakespeare. In the play, Ophelia becomes mad and drowns herself after Hamlet murders her father, Polonius. At her funeral, Ophelia’s body is decorated with virgin crants and maiden strewments. The virgin crants that Lucy quotes are wreaths of flowers that are worn over the head to symbolize a woman’s purity and virginity at her death. The description of Ophelia’s funeral uncannily mirrors the scene of Lucy sleeping with garlic flowers worn as a wreath and scattered in her room. Furthermore, Lucy possesses the same innocence, purity, and femininity that Ophelia embodies. Ultimately, the reference to Ophelia lying at her funeral could be foreshadowing Lucy’s tragic death. Source: https://www.peakdistrictonline.co.uk/maidens-garlands-or-crantses-in-the-peak/

Ophelia (1851-1852) by Sir John Everett Millais

Pallor by Devin Shu

Pallor is a noun that describes “the state of being very pale” (Cambridge Dictionary). This word appears multiple times in Dracula, and it is often used to describe the character’s appearance. One of the more notable appearances comes from Dr. Steward’s Diary, in which he documented Lucy’s death: “Death had given back part of her beauty, for her brow and cheeks had recovered some of their flowing lines. Even the lips had lost their deadly pallor” (Chapter 12). To say that the lips have lost their pallor suggests that compared to suffering every day from the sickness, death is actually a relief for Lucy. In modern times, pallor took on a more medical definition to describe skin paleness. While having the characteristic of pallor is not harmful by itself, it usually is a symptom of a more severe condition. Sources: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/pallor https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/pallor

Image by Nana Wickstrom–Deathly Pallor

Picture-Galleries by Teddy Saracco

The term “picture-gallery” has been in use since about 1721 although it is no longer very common (art gallery or art museum are more common, especially in American English). It is defined as “a place where pictures are exhibited, usually a building or room within a house, museum, etc.” by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED.com). Dulwich Picture Gallery, “England’s first purpose-built public art gallery,” was founded in 1811 (DulwichPictureGallery.org.uk). The National Gallery in London opened in 1824; such galleries were popular in the Victorian period as “they were seen as a moral, civilising force,” (ArtUK.org). The term picture-galleries is used in Chapter Five, when Lucy describes how she spends her time in a letter to Mina. Such an activity would have been considered suitable for a young lady of her social position.

Physiognomist by Virginia Woodcock

A physiognomist is a person who utilizes physiognomy, or the study of correlation between facial features or structure and psychological attributes. During the 19th century, there was a significant amount of literature developed related to physiognomy. Physiognomy was developed from biochemistry and physiology. This term is used in Chapter 14 of Dracula when Van Helsing and Harker interact for the first time. Harker says “Doctor, you don’t know what it is to doubt everything… you couldn’t with eyebrows like yours.” Jonathan Harker’s evaluation of Van Helsing’s natural disposition due to his bushy eyebrows is inline with modern conclusions drawn from the same feature. Facial reader and the author of The Wisdom of Your Face, Jean Haner describes that thick eyebrows are associated with natural self-confidence which Jonathan indicates through his statement.  For more information visit:  https://www.britannica.com/topic/physiognomy-divination and https://www.byrdie.com/brow-shape-personality#:~:text=%22If%20someone%20has%20really%20full,like%20to%20be%20physically%20active.%22

Sanguine by Lauryn Palacio

Sanguine is an adjective that can be used to describe both emotion states and physical characteristics. The foremost use of the word describes a person who is “confidently optimistic” (webster). In Dracula, this word is used to describe Renfield, a loyal servent of the Count. He experiences this elevated sense of hope because of his master’s power. The latter use of the word describes something that is blood-red. The use of this word as opposed to “optimistic” or “hopeful” is appropriate for this novel since Dracula’s fixation on blood can also be described with this adjective. Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanguine#synonyms

Scholomance by Lauryn Palacio

Scholomance is a mythical school for magic based in Romanian folklore. While the myth has many iterations, most versions include a class of seven, ten, or thirteen students who study for 7 to 9 years. At some point in the myth’s distribution, the school shifted from being based on the teachings of Solomon (from the Christian Bible) to being a school for the dark arts. In the novel Dracula, Dr. Seward states that he believes Dracula’s lineage have been students of this institution. This adds the mysticism that makes the character Dracula so compelling and speaks to the theme of superstition in the novel. Scholomance continues its legacy in modern times, influencing many book series and video game maps.  Source: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Myth/TheScholomance

Solicitor by Declan Edwards

The phrase “solicitor” refers to Jonathan Harker’s profession in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is a legal term denoting one who advises on particular legal matters to best aid their client. In the novel, Harker’s area of expertise is real estate, and he aims to help Dracula secure his new home near London–Carfax Abbey. Notably, serving as a professional solicitor requires a form of graduate degree; therefore, by making Jonathan a solicitor, Stoker indicates that Jonathan is highly educated (indicating an important aspect of class in the novel). Sources consulted include https://www.law.ac.uk/employability/career-finder/solicitor/#:~:text=What%20is%20a%20Solicitor%3F,defending%20a%20client’s%20legal%20interest. Also: https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/student-advice/careers/how-to-become-a-solicitor#:~:text=step%20before%20qualifying.-,Becoming%20a%20solicitor%20in%20the%20UK,degree%20or%20a%20preparatory%20course.

Thrall by Beauttah Wanja


This term is defined as “a person under the moral or psychological domination of someone or something” or “the condition of being enslaved or dominated, often in a psychological way.” (Collins Dictionary). In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the term thrall refers to a state of subjugation and servitude, often characterized by a loss of free will and personal autonomy. It describes individuals who have fallen under the hypnotic and supernatural influence of Count Dracula, rendering them obedient to his commands. Characters who are in Dracula’s thrall exhibit behaviors and actions that indicate they are no longer acting of their own volition but are instead compelled by Dracula’s will. This term underscores the themes of domination and the loss of self, which are central to the novel’s exploration of fear and the supernatural. Source: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/thrall#:~:text=noun-,1.,the%20thrall%20of%20morbid%20fantasies

Turnscrew by Darren Chase

Dracula was written in a time (1897)in which much of the vocabulary we use today was interchangeable with different terms. A great example of this is in Chapter 15 of the narrative when Van Helsing is working on Lucy’s coffin. First used in the early
1700s, the word turnscrew appears. This word is composed of two smaller words, turn and screw. These action words allow the reader to infer that the meaning of the words has something to do with the work being done on the coffin. While the term seems outside the realm of a modern vocabulary, a turnscrew is essentially just a screwdriver as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary–a device for turning screws. As the vampire hunters led by Van Helsing “turn the screws” of Lucy’s coffin, they are “undoing” the devastating effects of Lucy’s death on the community. The turnscrew is almost symbolic of Van Helsing’s piecing the community back together.

Undead by Beauttah Wanja

The term “undead” refers to beings that have died but have been supernaturally reanimated or otherwise exist in a state that defies the natural progression of life and death. These entities typically retain a semblance of their former life, displaying some level of consciousness and the ability to move, interact, and, often, sustain themselves by preying upon the living. Bram Stoker introduces this term in the novel “Dracula” to describe the state in which vampires existed as beings no longer alive in the traditional sense but existing still as being having not crossed over to death finally. They exist in a liminal state, requiring the blood of the living to maintain their existence. Sources consulted include https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/undead https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undead

Wonton by Devin Shu

1. Causing harm or acting without care intentionally. 2. Behaving or appearing in a very sexual way. In Dracula, all appearances of the word carries the second definition, and it is mostly used to describe Lucy, as she was called a “voluptuous wantonness” and showing a “wanton smile”(Chapter 16). Although the word was used to describe sexual behavior and appearance of women in Dracula, it is important to note that this is a dated definition of the word. Historically, this word is often used in a disapproving manner and often shamed women for their promiscuity. Since the 1800s, the use of wanton to describe a sexual woman has decreased, while the first definition has increased in use. In modern times, the word still has a negative connotation, but it is shifting towards describing an action rather than targeting a specific demographic.  Sources: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/wanton https://www.etymonline.com/word/wanton https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/wanton#:~:text=Sometimes%20in%20older%20novels%2C%20you,is%20considered%20old%2Dfashioned%20today.