M The thirteenth letter of the English alphabet, alphabet, representing a labial articulation. As the closure of the lips by which it is formed is accompanied with a humming sound through the nose, it is called the labial nasal. This humming sound distinguishes this letter from b, the position of the lips being the same for both. — Webster, 1882
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The following is an incomplete list of the remaining indexed main headings. Once a completed entry has been uploaded, it will be removed from the list below and added to the links above. Subheadings, reference locators, and cross-referenced subentries are not included in this list. Always consult the completed entry for referenced source of definition used below.
Ma – Mother; an abbreviation of mama, a child’s title for mother.
madcap – A person of wild behavior; a violent, rash, hot-headed person.
mad dog / mad-dog – Game played by Laura, Mary, and Charles Ingalls in which he pretended to be a rabid dog, trying to catch the girls while he maneuvered on his hands and knees while the girls tried to avoid being caught.
magazine – A pamphlet periodically published, containing miscellaneous papers or compositions.
Main Street / main street – Usually the principal street of a small town.
Make hay while the sun shines – Expression meaning to do something while conditions are supportive for success.
making pictures / making our pictures – Game in which children fall into soft snow from a tree stump, arms akimbo, leaving an impression in the snow of their body shape.
mallard – A drake. The common duck (Anas boschas) in its wild state.
Malone Academy – Officially Franklin Academy, a school in Malone, New York. In 1810, Richard Harrison gave four acres on the west side of the Salmon River to be used as an academy. Following a fire to the original wooden structure, a stone building was erected in 1868, and the school merged with others in the area.
Manchester, Dakota Territory – Town on the Dakota Central branch of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Kingsbury County, about nine miles west of De Smet. Originally called Fairview, the name was changed when it was learned that another town by that name already existed in the Territory. It was named after early homesteader, Chester Manchester.
manger – A trough or box in which fodder is laid for cattle; the receptacle from which cattle eat in a barn or stable.
manure – Any matter which makes land productive; a fertilizing substance, as the contents of stables and barn-yards, marl, ashes, decaying animal or vegetable substances, and the like.
maple / maplewood – A tree of the genus Acer, of several species. A. saccharinum is the rock-maple, or sugar-maple, from the sap of which sugar is made, in the United States, in great quantities, by evaporation; the red or swamp maple is A. rubrum; the silver maple, A. dasycarpum, having fruit woolly when young; the striped maple, A. Pennsylvanium, called also moose-wood. Maple honey, the uncrystallized portion of sap from the sugar-maples, used in the form of molasses. Maple sugar, sugar obtained by evaporation from the juice of the rock-maple.
marble – Any species of calcareous stone or mineral, of a compact texture, and of a beautiful appearance, susceptible of a good polish; any firm limestone, fitted, either when polished or otherwise, for ornamental uses; also, other rocks of nearly the same hardness, capable of the same uses, as serpentine; also, but improperly, polished slabs of harder rocks, as porphyry, and the like.
March – The third month of the year.
march / marching – To move by steps and in order, as soldiers; to move in a military manner. To walk in a grave, deliberate, or stately manner; to advance steadily. A movement of soldiers from one stopping-place to another; military progress. Hence, measured and regular advance like that of soldiers moving in order; stately or deliberate walk; steady or labored movement forward; progression.
mare – The female of the horse, or equine genus of quadrupeds.
Mary put the dishes on – Variation of “Polly Put the Dishes On.”
“Mary’s Little Lamb” – English language nursery rhyme of nineteenth-century American origin.
Massachusetts – New England State, one of the richest and most populus, according to Laura’s geography book.
massacre – The killing of human beings by indiscriminate slaughter; murder of numbers with cruelty or atrocity, or contrary to the usages of civilized people; cold-blooded destruction of life; butchery; carnage.
Samuel O. Masters family – Surveyor, inventor, and teacher who lived in both Walnut Grove and De Smet; he and his wife Margaret were parents of Elgetha, George, Jesse, and Genevieve.
match – A thing used for catching and retaining or communicating fire, made of some substance which takes fire readily, or which, being lighted, remains burning a long time; especially, in modern usage, a splint of wood dipped at one end in a preparation of sulphur, phosphorus, or the like, and ignited by rubbing.
Maud Blair – Laura’s friend on Plum Creek
maul – A heavy, wooden hammer.
Elmer McConnell – Kingsbury County settler and husband of Ida B. Wright.
meadow – A tract of low or level grass land, especially land somewhat wet, but covered with grass. In the United States, the word is especially applied to the low ground on the banks of rivers, consisting of a rich mold or an alluvial soil. This species of land is called, in the Western states, bottoms, or bottom-lands. The word is also used for any lands appropriated to the culture of grass.
meadow lark / meadow-lark / meadowlark – A singing bird (Alauda magna), of a dark-brown color above, and yellow below. It is found in open fields in the United States.
measles – A contagious febrile disorder, commencing with catarrhal symptoms, and marked by the appearance on the third day of an eruption of distinct red circular spots, which coalesce in a crescentic form, are slightly raised above the surface, and after the fourth day of the eruption gradually decline.
melee – A fight in which the combatants are mingled in one confused mass; a hand-to-hand conflict; an affray.
merchant – One who traffics or carries on trade, especially upon a large scale; one who buys goods to sell again; any one who is engaged in the purchase and sale of goods; a trafficker; a trader.
merino – Of, or pertaining to, a variety of sheep of very fine wool, originally coming from Spain. Made of the wool of the merino sheep.
Methodists – Protestant Christian denomination deriving inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley.
mettle – That temperament which is susceptible of high excitement; constitutional ardor; spirit.
Mexico – Country adjoining the United States to the south.
Michigan – One of the Central States of the United States, according to Laura’s geography.
Middle Atlantic states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, according to Laura’s geography book.
‘Mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam – Line from the song, “There’s No Place Like Home.”
migratory birds – Seasonal movement, often north and south, of birds between breeding and wintering grounds.
milch, cow – Giving or furnishing milk.
mill – An engine or machine for grinding or comminuting any substance, as grain, by rubbing or crushing it between two hard, indented surfaces, generally of stone or metal; – usually having a word prefixed, denoting the particular object to which it is applied; as, a grist-mill, a bark-mill, a coffee-mill, a paint-mill, &c. In modern usage, the term mill includes various other machines or combinations of machinery, which resemble the flouring-mill, to which the term was first applied, not in its circular crushing or grinding action, but in the more general one of transforming some raw material by mechanical processes into a state or condition of ruse; as, saw-mills, cotton-mills, silk-mills, fulling-mills, oil-mills, slitting-mills, powder-mills, &c., to some of which the term manufactory, or factory, is also applied.
Miller Boy – Game involving an odd number of players, in which couples march in a circle and the unattached player “steals” a partner.
mincemeat – Meat chopped very fine.
mine – A subterranean cavity or passage, especially, a pit or excavation in the earth, from which metallic ores or other mineral substances are taken by digging; – distinguished from the pits from which stones only are taken, and which are called quarries. A rich source of wealth or other good.
minister – One who serves at the altar; one who performs sacerdotal duties; the pastor of a church duly authorized or licensed to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments.
mink – A carnivorous quadruped of the weasel tribe, that burrows in the earth on the side of a river or pond. It affords a valuable fur. A smaller, darker variety has sometimes been considered a distinct species; a minx.
Minnesota – State named after the Minnesota River.
Minnesota massacre – A conflict beginning with the August 17, 1862 murder by a party of Sioux Indians of white settlers in the area of the Minnesota River with intent to drive settlers from the area, soon involving the United States Army, and ending with the mass execution of 38 Sioux men in Mankato on December 26, 1862.
minnow – A very small fresh-water fish, of several species; – applied also sometimes to the young of larger kinds. The minnow of England, from which the term is derived, is a species of the Cyprinus of Linnæus, Leucisus phoxinus.
minstrel – One of an order of men, in the middle ages, who subsisted by the arts of poetry and music, and sang to the harp verses composed by themselves or others; a bard; a singer and harper; a musician.
mirror – A looking-glass or speculum; any glass or polished substance that forms images by the reflection of rays of light.
missionary – One who is sent upon a mission or errand; especially, one sent to propagate religion.
Mississippi River – Great river of the United States running through ten states from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico at Pilottown, Louisiana.
“Miss McCloud’s Reel” – Traditional instrumental tune.
Missouri – During the Little House years, the most populous State west of the Mississippi River
Missouri River – The longest river in North America, rising in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, and flowing east and south for over 2000 miles before entering the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri.
Mitchell, Dakota Territory – Town in Davison County first settled in 1879. It was named for Milwaukee banker Alexander Mitchell, President of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad.
mite – Any thing very small; a minute object; a very little quality or particle.
mitt – A mitten; also, a thin, fingerless cover for the wrist and hand.
mitten – A cover for the hand, worn to defend it from cold or other injury. It differs from a glove in not having a separate cover for each finger.
mob – A riotous assembly; a disorderly crowd; a collection of people for some riotous and unlawful prupose.
moccasin – A shoe or cover for the foot, made of deer-skin or other soft leather, without a sole, and ornamented on the upper side; the customary shoe worn by the American Indians.
mockingbird – A singing-bird of North America (Mimus polyglottus), of an ashy-brown color above, and white below. It is remarkable for its exact imitations of the notes of other birds.
moderate – To become less violent, severe, rigorous, or intense, as applied to the weather.
modulate – To form, as sound, to a certain key, or to a certain proportion. To vary or inflect in a natural, customary, or musical manner.
molasses – The brown, viscid, uncrystallizable sirup which drains from sugar, in the process of manufacture, while cooling. It differs from treacle, as this last drains from sugar in the process of refining, not of manufacture.
mold – The matrix, or prepared and shaped cavity, in which any thing is cast and receives its form. Hence, any thing which serves to regulate the size, form, &c., as of articles made by mechanical skill, as the pattern used by a ship-builder, carpenter, or mason. Cast; form; shape; character.
moldboard – That part of a plow back of the share, which turns over the earth in plowing.
James Monroe – Fifth president of the United States (1758-1831).
Montana Territory – Territory of the United States organized out of the existing Idaho Territory by Act of Congress and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 26, 1864.
moonpath – A lengthened reflection of the moon on agitated water or ice.
moosewood – A tree of the genus Acer (A. Pennsylvanicum), found in the United States; – also called striped maple. A shrub of the genus Dirca (D. palustris), found in the Northern United States; leatherwood.
Morgan horse – A breed of horse originating in Vermont and descending from a horse called the Justin Morgan, who derived his name from his owner, Mr. Justin Morgan (1747-1798), of Randolph, Vermont.
mortgage – To grant or convey, as property, for the security of a debt, or other engagement, upon a condition that if the debt or engagement shall be discharged according to the contract, the conveyance shall be void, otherwise to become absolute, subject, however, to the right of redemption. Hence, to pledge; to make liable to the payment of any debt or expenditure.
Mose – Student in Burr Oak school.
Moses family – Minister from Walnut Grove.
moss – An acrogenous cryptogamous plant of a cellular structure, with leaves, and a distinct root. It is of small size, and found nearly all over the world, growing chiefly in moist places. The stem is leafy, and the leaves are narrow and simple.
mountain – A large mass of earth and rock, rising above the common level of the earth or adjacent land; an elevation or protuberance on the earth’s surface; a high hill; a great eminence; a mount. That which is like a mountain for size; something large.
mourner – One who mourns or is grieved at any loss or misfortune. One who follows a funeral in the habit of mourning.
mouse – A small rodent quadruped (the Mus musculus), inhabiting houses. The name is also applied to many other allied species, as the field-mouse, meadow-mouse, rock-mouse, and the like.
mouth organ – A harmonica. A small, flat, wind instrument of music, in which the notes are produced by the vibration of metallic reeds; – mostly used as a toy for children.
mowing machine / mowing-machine – Horse-drawn device used to cut grass and standing grain or hay, consisting of multiple unobstructed cutting blades which pass through the hay, dropping it in a parallel mass.
mud hen / mudhen – A bluish-black wading bird (Fulica Americana), common in the United States.
muffle – A cover for the face; a wrapper enveloping the head or neck, used as a part of female dress.
mule – A quadruped of a mongrel breed, usually generated between an ass and a mare, sometimes between a horse and a she-ass; – applied also to any animal produced by a mixture of different species.
multiplication table – A grid displaying the product of two numbers, especially the integers 1 to 12.
musket – A species of fire-arm carried by the infantry, or main body of an army, and originally fired by means of a match, for which a flint-lock was substituted. the name is now chiefly applied to a fire-arm discharged by a percussion-lock, having less range and accuracy than the rifle, but characterized by greater lightness, the capacity of being more quickly loaded, with greater ease of handling, and having a bayonet capable of beeline used as a pike.
muslin – A thin, cotton cloth, of any kind. “In each of these champs [divisions of a market] you may meet with several sorts of strange merchandises; before all, in champs Agemi, where you have all sorts of cotton-works, viz., handkerchiefs, long filets, girdles which they roll about their heads, and other sorts, by the Arabians and called “mosselini” (after the country Mussoli, from whence they are brought, which is situated in Mesopotamia), by us muslin; with these do the Turkish gentlemen clothe themselves in summer. –Leonard Rauwolf’s Journey to the Orient, 1753.
muss – n. A scramble, as when small objects are thrown down, to be taken by those who seize them; a confused stuggle. v.t. To throw into confusion or disorder; to tumble.
mustang – The wild horse of the prairies in Mexico, California, &c. It is small, hardy, and easily sustained.
muzzle, animal – The projecting mouth and nose of an animal; snout, as of a horse.
muzzle / muzzel, gun / cannon – The mouth of a thing; the extreme or end for entrance or discharge; as, the muzzle of a gun.
myriad – 1. The number of ten thousand. 2. An immense number; a very great many; an indefinitely large number.
myrtle – An evergreen flowering shrub mentioned in the song “Kitty Wells.” A plant of the genus Myrtus, of several species. The common myrtle rises, with a shrubby, upright stem, eight or ten feet high. Its branches form a close, full head, thickly covered with ovate or lanceolate evergreen leaves. It has small, pale flowers from the axils, singly on each footstalk. The ancients considered it sacred to Venus.