O The fifteenth letter and the fourth vowel in the English alphabet. It has several different sounds, the principal of which are, the long sound, heard in tone, groan, old; the short sound, heard in lot, lodge, rod; a sound like short u, as in done, son, good; a sound like the German or Italian long u, or the French ou, as in move, do, boot; a similar but shorter sound, as in wolf, book, foot; and a sound like broad a, as in form, mortal. — 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.
oak – A tree of the genus Quercus, of which there are many species. They are trees or shrubs, having lobed or notched alternate leaves, and the nut, or acorn, is more or less enclosed in a scaly involuere, called the cupule. The flowers are green or yellow catkins. All the species are found in the northern hemisphere, though some are tropical. The white oak of the united States is Q. alba, and is a large tree, well known for the value of its timber. The live oak is Q. virens, and is very highly prized for ship-building.
oat – A plant of the genus Avena (A. sativa), and is more usually the seed of the plant.
obey – To give ear to; to execute the commands of; to yield submission to; to comply with the orders of.
obliterate – To erase or blot out; to efface; as, a writing may be obliterated by erasure, bu blotting, or by the slow operation of time or natural causes. To wear out; to destroy by time or other means; as, to obliterate ideas of impressions. To reduce to a very low or imperceptible state.
Walter Ogden – Man who lived with the Ingallses in the Surveyors’ House during the winter of 1879-1880.
Oh, Charley he’s a fine young man – First line of “Weevily Wheat.”
Ohio – State partitioned from the Northwest Territory and taking its name from the Iroquois Indian name for the Ohio River, ohi-yo, meaning large creek.
Ohio River – Largest tributary of the Mississippi River in the United States. It originates at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and flows into the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois.
Oh I wouldn’t marry a farmer – First line of “A Railroad Man for Me.”
“The Old Chariot” – Sea shanty also knows as “Nelson’s Blood,” derived from an American spiritual song. Charles Ingalls and other men sang the song as they pumped the hand-car leaving De Smet to clear the railroad tracks during the Hard Winter.
Old Glory – Nickname for the flag of the United States of America, first used by 19th century sea captain William Driver (1803-1886).
Old Johnny / old Johnny / Johnnie – Older man, possibly fictional, who was too old to work on the railroad grade so worked delivering drinking water to the men.
old maid – An unmarried woman.
Old Sol – The sun.
“Old Zip Coon” – Pre-1927 song to the tune “Turkey in the Straw.”
Oleson family – Fictional name for the William Owens family, whose daughter Nellie was part inspiration for the composite character, Nellie Oleson.
Omaha, Nebraska – County seat of Douglas County, founded in 1854, first settled in 1840 by speculators from Council Bluffs, Iowa, across the Missouri River.
One little Indian, two little Indians, three little Indians – First line of “Ten Little Indians.”
onion – A plant of the genus Allium (A. cepa); also, its bulbous root, much used as an article of food.
On the Way Home – Laura’s diary of the Wilders’ and Cooleys’ 1894 trip from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri, published by Roger Lea MacBride in 1962.
Oregon – Western territory first settled by colonists in 1811.
organ – A wind instrument containing numerous pipes of various dimensions and kinds, which are filled with wind from a bellows, and played upon by means of keys similar to that of a piano-forte. A cabinet organ is an organ of small size, resembling the reed organ, but superior to it.
Osage – A member of an American Indian people formerly inhabiting the Osage River valley in Missouri. Also, the Siouian language of the Osage people.
Ossawatomie [sic] – Correctly spelled Osawatomie, the site in Kansas of skirmishes by pro- and anti-slavery groups involving Rev. Edward Brown’s first cousin, abolitionist John Brown.
otter – A carnivorous animal of the genus Lutra, of which several species are described. They have large, flattish heads, short ears, webbed toes, crooked nails, and tails slightly flattened horizontally. They are aquatic, and feed on fish. The American otter is Lutra Canadensis or L. molis.
outlaw – A person excluded from the benefit of the law, or deprived of its protection.
oven, see also stove – A place arched over with brick or stone work, for baking, heating, or drying any substance; hence, any structure, whether fixed or portable, which may be heated for baking or like uses.
Sam Owen family – De Smet bootmaker, the father of De Smet teacher Vidocq Owen and brother of De Smet attorney John Owen.
William Owens family – Walnut Grove merchant and cattle dealer, the father of Nellie and Willie Owen, whose family was the inspiration for the fictional Oleson family.
owl – A nocturnal carnivorous bird, of a short, stout form, with downy feathers, and a large head. The eyes are prominent, and surrounded by a fringe of stiff feathers; the ears are also large, and similarly surrounded by a movable fringe. Some species have erectile tufts on the head, and are hence called horned owls. The screech-owl, or barn owl (Strix flammea), is of a rusty red color, mottled with white. The great horned owl is Bubo Virginiana. The snowy owl is Strix nivea, called also harfang.
ox – The male of the bovine genus of quadrupeds, especially when castrated and grown to its full size, or nearly so. The young male is called, in America, a steer. The same animal, not castrated, is called a bull. These distinctions are well established in regard to domestic animals of this genus. When wild animals of this kind are spoken of, ox is very often applied both to the male and female. The name ox is never applied to the cow, or female of the domestic kind. Oxen, in the plural, may comprehend both the male and female.
ox-eye daisy – Leucanthemum vulgare, a member of the Aster family, the spreading flower introduced to the United States from Europe and Asia.