A Hanging

a hangingThis story by George Orwell is a about an execution in 1920s Burma. By describing only what happened during the hanging and not telling us the prisoner’s crime, Orwell cleverly supports his : that capital punishment, and indeed the taking of a human life under any circumstances, is wrong.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There are also some words and expressions that are in our Pre-Intermediate word list but have a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used:

  • As the dog runs up and starts jumping around the group on the way to the gallows, the superintendent shouts: “Who let that bloody animal in here?” Here the word is a British term used to make the angry statement sound stronger.
  • As the group continues on, the comments that: “The lock of hair on top of his (the prisoner’s) head danced up and down.” The word here means a length or curl of hair. At the beginning of the story we are told that the man’s head is shaved. What is being described is his .
  • When the hangman pulls the handle on the gallows, there is “a sharp metallic sound”. When used to describe sounds, the word means loud, short, and sudden.
  • When the officials go behind the gallows after the hanging to make sure that the prisoner is dead, the superintendent pushes the body with his stick and announces: “He’s all right.” This is a wonderful example of . The prisoner is dead. Things are obviously not “all right” for him, but they are “all right” for the officials. The unfeeling way in which the superintendent says this (particularly as he is a doctor) adds to Orwell’s point about the wrongs of capital punishment.
  • In describing the great sense of relief the officials felt after the hanging, the narrator says: “One felt a sudden wish to sing, to break into a run, to quietly laugh about it all.” In this case the words mean to begin to do something suddenly.



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(n: narrative essay) A story about something that happened in the past, often a real event in the life of the author, that includes and supports a thesis [an opinion that the author wishes to discuss or prove].

thesis(n: thesis pl theses) 1. An opinion that someone wishes to discuss or prove. New evidence supports his thesis. (หลักฐาน ข้อเสนอสนับสนุนการสรุปสมมติฐาน) 2. A long piece of writing on a particular subject that is done to earn a degree at a university. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the effects of global warming. (วิทยานิพนธ์) 6000

bare(adj: bare, barer, barest) 1. Not having a covering. bare feet; bare floors; bare skin 2. Empty The cupboard was bare. 3. Worn thin. The carpet is a bit bare. 3000

(n: bark pl barks) 1. The outer covering of a tree. 2. The loud sound made by a dog when it is angry or excited.
(v: bark, barks, barked, barking) 1. To make a loud sound like that made by a dog when it is angry or excited. The dog barked at the stranger. 2. To shout or say (something) in a loud and angry way. The captain barked orders to his men. 5000

tree bark barking dog

breath(n: breath pl breaths) The air that you take into your lungs and send out from your lungs. His breath smells like garlic. 3000
(idiom: hold your breath) To stop breathing for a short time, such as when you dive into water.
(idiom: take a deep breath) To take a lot of air into your lungs.

bugle(n: bugle pl bugles) A musical instrument like a trumpet that is used especially for giving military signals.

cage(n: cage pl cages) A container or enclosure with wire or metal bars for holding birds or animals. 4000

camp(n: camp pl camps) 1. A piece of ground with tents pitched on it. 2. A collection of buildings, huts or tents in which people stay temporarily for a certain purpose. A fishing/holiday camp. 3. A place where soldiers live and work; a military barracks etc. 2000

(n: cell pl cells) Any one of the very small parts that together form all living things; the smallest unit of living matter. 2. A small room (especially in a prison or place where monks or nuns live). 2000

animal cell prison cell

fingernail(n: fingernail pl fingernails) The thin, hard covering that grows on the top end of each finger. 9000

gallows(n: gallows pl gallows) A structure on which a criminal who has been sentenced to death is killed by being hanged. He was sentenced to death on the gallows. 12000

hangman(n: hangman pl hangmen) A person whose job is to kill criminals by hanging them. 12000

jail(n: jail pl jails) A place where people are kept when they have been arrested and/or are being punished for breaking the law; a prison. 4000
In some old stories you will see this word spelled as gaol. This spelling is not used in modern English.

lick(v: lick, licks, licked, licking) To pass the tongue over something so as to make it wet or eat it. 4000

pee(v: piss, pisses, pissed, pissing) [informal and impolite] To urinate; to ​pass ​urine from the ​body; to pee.
(n: urine, noncount) The ​yellowish ​liquid ​waste that is ​released from the ​body when you ​urinate; pee. 6000

pray(v: pray, prays, prayed, praying) 1. To speak to God or someone or something that has special powers in order to express thanks or ask for something. 2. To hope or wish very much for something to happen.
(n: prayer; pl prayers) The words spoken to God when you give thanks or ask for something. 2000

puddle(n: puddle pl puddles) A small pool of water [especially from rain] that has collected on the ground. She accidentally stepped in a puddle and got her shoes wet. 7000

(adj: regular) Happening over and over again at the same time or in the same way; occurring every day, week, month, etc. The music has a regular [=steady] beat.
(adv: regularly) At regular times, places etc. His heart was beating regularly. 2000

relief(n: relief, noncount) 1. A pleasant and relaxed feeling that someone has when something unpleasant stops or does not happen. Much to everyone's relief, the airplane landed without any problems. 2. The removal or reducing of something that is painful or unpleasant. Exercise is an excellent source of stress relief. 2000

rifle(n: rifle pl rifles) A gun that has a long barrel and that is held against your shoulder when you shoot it. 5000

(n: row pl rows) A straight line of people or things that are next to each other.
(v: row, rows, rowed, rowing) To move a boat through water using poles that are flat and wide at one end [oars]. 2000

row rowing

scene(n: scene pl scenes) 1. That which is or can be seen when you look at something. 2. A loud or noticeable show of anger, especially in a public place. There was quite an ugly scene as they argued at the restaurant. 2000

(n: sentence pl sentences) 1. A group of words that form a complete statement and express a statement, question, command, or wish. (ประโยค) 2000 2. The punishment given by a court of law.
(v: sentence, sentenced, sentenced, sentencing) To officially state the punishment given to (someone) by a court of law. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison. 8000

shake(v: shake, shakes, shook, shaken, shaking) To move back and forth or up and down with short, quick movements. 2000

shave(v: shave, shaves, shaves, shaving) To cut off [hair, wool, a beard, etc.] very close to the skin. He shaved off his beard. 3000

silence(n: silence, noncount) 1. A period of time when there is no sound. The teacher asked for silence in the room. I find it hard to sleep unless there is complete silence.
(adj: silent) Used to describe someone or something that is not making noise.
(adv: silently) In a silent way. 3000

manager(n: superintendent pl superintendents) A person who directs or manages a place, department, organization, etc. (ผู้อำนวยการ) 5000

yard(n: yard pl yards) 1. The area of ground around a house, usually covered with grass or plants. (สนาม) 2. An area of enclosed (fenced) ground used for a special purpose. (ลานบ้าน) 3. An old British unit of length equal to three feet or 0.9144 meters. (หลา) 2000

(adj: bloody; slang, chiefly British) Very, extremely; used to make statement more forceful. A bloody awful mistake. We all had a bloody good time. It was bloody marvelous!

(n: slang, noncount) Words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language that are used very informally in speech, especially by a particular group of people. (ภาษาตลาด) 6000

narrator(n: narrator pl narrators) Someone who tells a story; a storyteller. 7000

lock(n: lock pl locks) 1. A device that keeps something [such as a door, window, or box] from being opened and that is usually opened by using a key. 2. A length or curl of hair; a tress. She cut off a lock of his hair.
(v: lock, locks, locked, locking) To fasten something with a lock or in some other way so that it cannot be opened. 1000

sharp(adj: sharp, sharper, sharpest) 1. Having a thin edge that is able to cut things or a fine point that is able to make a hole in things. 2. [of changes in direction] Sudden and quick. A sharp turn. 3. [of speaking] In an angry or unpleasant way. A sharp voice. 4. [of a sound] Loud, short, and sudden. (2000

  • Verbal Irony: The use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think, especially in order to be funny. “What a beautiful view,” he said, as he looked out the window at the wall of the building opposite. The use of verbal irony to achieve a positive change or outcome is called satire. The use of verbal irony to insult or hurt someone or something is called sarcasm.
  • 2.Situational Irony: A situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected. He worried so much about his health that he made himself sick.
  • Dramatic Irony A situation in a movie, book, play, etc. where the audience knows something that the characters in the story are not aware of. One of the best examples of this is where, in Romeo & Juliet, Romeo kills himself because he thinks Juliet is dead whereas the audience knows that she is only sleeping.

emphasis(n: emphasis, noncount) 1. A forceful quality in the way something is said or written; firmness. You need to state your arguments with greater emphasis. 2. Added force (stress) that is given to a word or syllable when speaking.
(n: emphasis pl emphases) Special importance given to something. Their plans were similar but had different emphases. 2000

(phrasal verb: break into) 1. To enter (a house, building, etc.) illegally and especially by using force. Someone tried to break into our house while we were away. 2. To begin to do or have (something) suddenly. She broke into tears. The audience broke into applause. 3. To enter or get started in (something, such as a profession). I knew her when she was a young actress trying to break into show business. 4.To interrupt (something). The network broke into the program with a special news report.

sikha(n: sikha pl sikhas) A long tuft, or lock of hair left on top or on the back of the shaven head of a male Orthodox Hindu.

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