Humanities › Literature 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' Vocabulary Terms Betty Smith's Famous Novel of Life in the Inner City Share Flipboard Email Print Image provided by Harper Perennial Modern Classics Literature Classic Literature Study Guides Authors & Texts Top Picks Lists Terms Best Sellers Plays & Drama Poetry Quotations Shakespeare Short Stories Children's Books By Esther Lombardi Literature Expert M.A., English Literature, California State University - Sacramento B.A., English, California State University - Sacramento Esther Lombardi, M.A., is a journalist who has covered books and literature for over twenty years. our editorial process Esther Lombardi Updated March 17, 2017 Betty Smith's first novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, tells the coming-of-age story of Francie Nolan and her second-generation immigrant parents struggling to provide for their family. It's widely believed Smith herself was the basis for the character of Francie. Here's a vocabulary list from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Use these terms for reference, study, and discussion. Chapters I-VI: tenement: an apartment building, usually in a low-income area, that is without luxury amenities ragamuffin: a child whose appearance is unkempt and uncivilized cambric: a finely woven white linen interminable: long and dull with little sign of ending (or terminating) premonition: a warning or feeling about something that will happen in the future (usually negative) vestibule: a reception area or foyer, often in a school or church Chapters VII-XIV: fetching: attractive or pretty, beguiling peculiar: unusual or suprising, out of the ordinary bucolic: of or in the countryside, literally a shepherd or cowhand sprig small shoot or twig of a plant, usually decorative or garnish filigree: a delicate ornamentation or detail' usually gold or silver, on jewelry banshee: from Irish folklore, a female spirit whose high-pitched wailing signals an imminent death (on the) dole: unemployed and receiving benefits from the government. Chapters XV-XXIII: prodigious: impressively large, awesome languorous: without energy or liveliness, sluggish gallantly do something in a brave or heroic way dubious: having doubt or uncertainty, skeptical horde: a large unruly crowd saunter to walk at a leisurely pace relegate: to demote or assign to a lower category Chapters XXIV-XXIX: gratis: free, without cost contempt: disrespectful dislike conjecture: opinion based on incomplete information, speculation surreptitious: secretive, sneaky vivacious: animated, lively, happy-go-lucky thwarted: prevented from accomplishing something, disappointed sodden: drenched, thoroughly soaked Chapters XXX-XXXVII: lulled: calmed, settled down putrid: decaying with a foul odor debonair: sophisticated, charming lament: to mourn, or feel sad about a loss fastidious: having exacting attention to detail Chapters XXXIII-XLII: contrite: apologetic, feeling sincere regret for a misdeed contorted: twisted or misshapen infinitesimal: so small as to be irrelevant or unmeasurable Chapters XLIII-XLVI: contemptuously: disrespectfully, disdainfully poignant: creating or evoking a feeling of sadness or empathy genuflect: to kneel and show deference or reverence especially in a house of worship vestment: garment worn by a member of clergy or religious order Chapters XLVII-LIII: vaudeville: variety show with comedic and slapstick performances rhetorically: speaking in a theoretical or speculative manner, not literally mollify: to pacify or appease matriculate: to enroll and pass through a school or course of study munitions: collection of weapons Chapters LV-LVI: prohibition: forbidding, or, period in American history when alcohol was illegal. jauntily: cheerful and arrogant, lively sachet: small perfumed bag This vocabulary list is just one part of our study guide on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Please see the links below for other helpful resources: Review: 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'Quotes from 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn'