'1984' Vocabulary

George Orwell's Dystopian Novel 1984 Tops Best Seller LIst, Publisher Orders Additional Printing
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

In 1984, Orwell thought carefully about the power of language. Newspeak, the invented language of the novel, is specifically designed to control the thought process via a limited vocabulary and a system of brutal simplification that prevents complex thought or the expression of any concept not in line with the totalitarian government’s orthodoxy. As a result, the novel is among the few that have actually introduced whole new words into everyday use, and the book’s vocabulary is a mixture of traditional English words and Newspeak.

of 20


Definition: Inoffensive, unlikely to inspire disagreement. Alternatively, a numbing agent or painkiller.

Example: It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant.

of 20


Definition: A blind acceptance of an idea or concept with an implication of enthusiasm for the concept despite a lack of knowledge about it; unbellyfeel is its antonym.

Example: Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a ‘Times’ leading article as OLDTHINKERS UNBELLYFEEL INGSOC. The shortest rendering that one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: ‘Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.’ But this is not an adequate translation.

of 20


Definition: A simplified guide to the rules and procedures of a religion, often memorized.

Example: He began asking his questions in a low, expressionless voice, as though this were a routine, a sort of catechism, most of whose answers were known to him already.

of 20


Definition: Made embarrassing or frowned-upon.

Example: ‛Mrs’ was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party—you were supposed to call everyone ‘comrade’—but with some women one used it instinctively.

of 20


Definition: To lie via affecting a false appearance or behavior.

Example: To dissemble your feelings, to control your face, to do what everyone else was doing, was an instinctive reaction.

of 20


Definition: To hold two contradictory concepts in your mind simultaneously.

Example: And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.’

of 20


Definition: Expressing ideas or opinions not in sync with the accepted norm.

Example: Winston did not know why Withers had been disgraced. Perhaps it was for corruption or incompetence. Perhaps Big Brother was merely getting rid of a too-popular subordinate. Perhaps Withers or someone close to him had been suspected of heretical tendencies.

of 20


Definition: Incapable of making mistakes.

Example: Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful.

of 20


Definition: Protected from any sort of interference or physical attack.

Example: Now he had retreated a step further: in the mind he had surrendered, but he had hoped to keep the inner heart inviolate.

of 20


No longer necessary, or no longer in use.

Example: What I had really intended to say was that in your article I noticed you had used two words which have become obsolete.

of 20


Definition: A system of government wherein power lies with a small group of wealthy, influential people, usually without official position.

Example: He did not see that the continuity of an oligarchy need not be physical, nor did he pause to reflect that hereditary aristocracies have always been short lived, whereas adoptive organizations such as the Catholic Church have sometimes lasted for hundreds or thousands of years.

of 20


Definition: A written record which has had the original writing erased and overwritten, but which is still visible in places.

Example: All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary

of 20


The strata of society described as working-class; laborers. Often used with a negative connotation implying low levels of education.

Example: And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious needs of the party, but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit of the proletariat.

of 20


Definition: Traditionally, to correct a mistake. In 1984, the term has been adopted into Newspeak and means the alteration of the historical record to match propaganda, with the implication that this act is always a correction, not a lie.

Example: The messages he had received referred to articles or news items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, as the official phrase had it, to rectify.

of 20


Definition: A job or position that requires little or no actual work.

Example: After confessing to these things they had been pardoned, reinstated in the Party, and given posts which were in fact sinecures but which sounded important.

of 20


Definition: The belief that the only thing that can possibly be proved real is the self.

Example: The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like.

of 20


Definition: Thinking something that violates the government’s prescribed beliefs.

Example: Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.

of 20


Definition: Bad, the opposite of ‛good.’

Example: Take ‘good’, for instance. If you have a word like ‘good’, what need is there for a word like ‘bad’? ‘Ungood’ will do just as well—better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not.

of 20


Definition: A person about whom all evidence of their existence is erased, typically after they are convicted of a crime and executed.

Example: Withers, however, was already an UNPERSON. He did not exist: he had never existed.

of 20


Definition: A lack of substance, empty of thought or meaning.

Example: A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston’s face at the mention of Big Brother.