R The eighteenth letter of the English alphabet. A semi-vowel and a liquid, it has two distinct sounds: the one heard at the beginning of words and syllables, and when it is preceded by a consonant, bey an expulation of vocalized breath, the tongue almost touching the palate; the other, less decidedly consonantal, heard at the end of words and syllables, and when it is followed by a consonant, being formed by a vibration of the lower part of the tongue against the soft palate. — 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.
rabbit – A small rodent mammal (Lepus cuniculus and L. sylvaticus) which burrows in the earth, or has a form or nest on the ground. It is a very prolific animal. It resembles the hare, but is smaller and has shorter legs and ears.
race – A progress; a course; a movement of progression of any kind; hence, a method or course of action or effort; train; process. Especially, swift progress; rapid course or motion; a running. Hence, the act or process of running in competition; contest of speed; trial of speed to win a prize, or the like; in the plural, a meeting for contests in the running of horses.
rack – A frame-work on which articles are arranged and deposited; – used in composition; as, a hat-rack, a clothes-rack.
radish – A cultivated plant of the genus Raphanus, the root of which is eaten raw as a salad.
ragged – Rent or worn into tatters, or till its texture is broken; as, a ragged coat, a ragged sail. Wearing tattered clothes; dressed in rags; as, a ragged fellow.
ragweed – A plant of the genus Ambrosia (A. artemisiæfolia); hog-weed.
railroad – A road or way on which iron rails are laid for wheels to run on, for the conveyance of heavy loads in vehicles. The tools, machinery, locomotive, trucks, &c., for building and working railways.
“A Railroad Man for Me” – The Little House tune is a variation of “The Railroader” or “Roving Gambler,” both songs that date to the early 20th century. Rose Wilder Lane mentioned it as an “1880s song” in a 1963 letter, long after By the Shores of Silver Lake was published. It is not included in any manuscript.
rainbow – A bow or arch exhibiting, in concentric bands, the several colors of the spectrum, and formed in the part of the hemisphere opposite to the sun by the refraction and reflection of his rays in drops of falling rain.
raised print – Embossed printed letters of the alphabet which can be read with the fingers, the letters being raised above the surface of the paper.
raisin – A grape dried in the sun, or by artificial heat.
rake – n. An instrument consisting of a head-piece in which teeth are inserted, and a long handle at right angles to it; – used for collecting hay or other light things which are spread over a large surface, or for breaking and smoothing the earth. v.t. To use a rake for searching or collecting; to scrape; to scratch in order to find something; to search minutely and meanly.
Sir Walter Raleigh – English navigator, statesman, and courtier (1552-1618).
ramrod – The rod used in ramming down the charge in a musket, pistol, or other fire-arm.
rap / tap – To strike with a quick blow; to knock on.
rasp – 1. A species of coarse file, on which the cutting prominences are distinct, being raised by the oblique stroke of a sharp punch, instead of a chisel, as is the case with a file. 2. To rub or file with a rasp; to rub or grate with a rough file; as to rasp wood to make it smooth; to rasp bones to powder. Hence, to grate harshly upon; to offend by coarse or rough treatment or language.
ration – A portion or fixed allowance of provisions, drink, and forage, assigned to a soldier in an army, or sailor in the navy, for his daily subsistence, and for the subsistence of horses. Hence, a certain portion or fixed amount dealt out; an allowance.
razor-back – A feral domestic pig or wild boar.
reader – A book containing exercises in reading; a selection of extracts for reading; an elementary book for practice in a language; a reading book.
reaper – An instrument or machine for cutting grain. To cut with a sickle, as grain; to gather, as a harvest, by cutting. Hence, to gather; to obtain; to receive as a reward, or as the fruit of labor or of work. To clear of a crop by reaping; as, to reap a field.
rebellion – Among the Romans, rebellion was originally a revolt or open resistance to their government by nations that had been subdued in war. It was a renewed war. The act of rebelling; open and avowed renunciation of the authority of the government to which one owes allegiance; the taking of arms traitorously to resist the authority of lawful government; revolt; insurrection. Open resistance to lawful authority.
receipt – A recipe. A formulary or prescription for making some combination or mixture of materials.
recite – To repeat, as something already prepared, written down, committed to memory, or the like; to deliver from a written or printed document, or from recollection; to rehearse; as to recite the words of an author, or of a deed or covenant.
recitation – The rehearsal of a lesson by pupils before their instructor; the repetition of something committed to memory.
Redcoat – A soldier who wears a red coat; an English soldier; – so called in contempt. The name given by the Americans, in the Revolutionary war, to the British soldiery, in allusion to their scarlet uniform.
“The Red Heifer” – An unknown fiddle tune, or possibly Charles Ingalls’ own humorous name for “The Red Steer,” being a man living in a household full of females.
reel – A lively dance peculiar to Scotland, characterized by a reeling or whirling movement.
refuge – Shelter or protection from danger or distress. That which shelters or protects from danger, distress, or calamity; a stronghold which protects by its strength, or a sanctuary which secures safety by its sacredness; a place inaccessible to an enemy.
Reet of Roses – Name of milch cow acquired by the Ingalls family from the Nelsons. They renamed her “Spot.”
reins – The strap of a bridle, fastened to the curb or snaffle on each side, by which the rider or driver restrains and governs the horse, &c. Hence, an instrument of curbing, restraining, or governing.
rennet – The inner membrane of the fourth stomach of the calf, or an infusion or preparation of it, used for coagulating milk.
rent – A tear; laceration; crack; split.
repent – To be sorry of sin as morally evil, and to seek forgiveness; to renounce the love and practice of sin. To feel pain on account of; to remember with sorrow.
repine – To continue pining; to feel inward discontent which preys on the spirits; to indulge in envy or complaint; to murmur. To be indignant or angry.
reproach – An expression of blame or censure; censure mingled with contempt or derision; contumelious or opprobrious language toward any person; abusive reflections; as, foul-mouthed reproach.
Indian reservation – A tract of the public land reserved for the use of Indians; a reserve.
rest – A pause; an interval during which voice or sound is intermitted. The mark of such intermission.
revival meeting – Revival is renewed interest in religion after indifference and decline; a period of religious awakening; special religious interest.
The Revolution – The act of renouncing the authority of a government; a revolt successfully or completely accomplished; a fundamental change in political organization. The violence of revolutions is generally proportioned to the degree of the maladministration which has produced them. When used without qualifying terms, the word is often applied individually, by way of eminence, to the revolution in England in 1688, when William of Orange and Mary became the reigning sovereigns, in place of James II; to the revolution in the United States of America, beginning in 1775, and resulting in their independence; and to the revolution in France in 1789, commonly called the French revolution, the subsequent revolutions in that country being designated by their dates, as the revolution of 1830, or of 1848, &c.
revolver – The act of renouncing the authority of a government; a revolt successfully or completely accomplished; a fundamental change in political organization. The violence of revolutions is generally proportioned to the degree of the maladministration which has produced them. When used without qualifying terms, the word is often applied individually, by way of eminence, to the revolution in England in 1688, when William of Orange and Mary became the reigning sovereigns, in place of James II; to the revolution in the United States of America, beginning in 1775, and resulting in their independence; and to the revolution in France in 1789, commonly called the French revolution, the subsequent revolutions in that country being designated by their dates, as the revolution of 1830, or of 1848, &c.
rheumatism – A painful inflammation affecting muscles and joints of the human body, chiefly the larger joints, as the hips, knees, shoulders, &c.
rich, food – Abounding in agreeable or nutritive qualities, especially as applied to articles of food, drink, &c., either highly seasoned or abounding in oleaginous ingredients, or sweet, luscious, and highly flavored; as, a rich dish; rich cream or soup; rich pastry; rich wine or fruit.
rich, monetary – Abounding in material possessions; possessed of an unusually large amount of property; well supplied with land, goods, or money; wealthy; opulent; not poor.
rifle – A gun usually somewhat shorter than a musket, the inside of whose barrel is grooved, or formed with spiral channels, thus securing for the ball a rotary motion, and great precision in the direction of aim.
ring – A circle, or a circular line, or any thing in the form of a circular line or hoop. Specifically, a circular ornament of gold or other precious material, worn or hung upon the finger, the ear, or some other part of the body; as, a wedding-ring.
“Ring-Around-a-Rosy” / “Ring Around the Rosie” / “Ring-Around-the-Rosie” –
Bill Ritchie and father – Fictional name for William Richey and his father, John, who lived in Bellmont Township south of the James Wilder family.
‘rithmetic – Arithmetic.
river – A large stream of water flowing in a channel on land toward the ocean, a lake or another river; a stream larger than a rivulet or brook.
rivet – A pin of iron or other metal with a head, driven through a piece of timber or metal, the point being bent or spread and beaten down fast, to prevent its being drawn out; a pin or bolt clinched at both ends; as, (a) One formed by the hammer. (b) One formed by the hand-took, and said to be snap-riveted. (c) One formed by a riveting machine.
robe – An outer garment for man or woman; a dress; a gown; especially, one of a rich, flowing, or elegant style or make; hence, a dress of state, rank, office, and the like. A skin of the wolf, buffalo, &c., dressed and prepared for use.
Robertson family – Unknown neighbors of the Ingallses in Indian Territory.
rocking chair / rocking-chair – A chair mounted on rockers.
Rocky Ridge – Name given to their Mansfield, Missouri, farm by Laura and Almanzo Wilder.
rolling coulter – The fore iron of a plow, with a sharp edge to cut the earth or sod. Its disc-like cutting wheel cuts weeds and stubble into lengths the width of the furrow and leaves a smooth furrow bank.
rooster – The male of the domestic fowl, considered the head or chief of the roost; a cock.
Rosie, cow – Milch cow belonging to the Ingalls family in the Big Woods.
rosin / resin – To rub with rosin, as musicians the bow of a violin, and the like. Rosin is the resin left after distilling off the volatile oil from the different species of turpentine.
round – A short vocal piece, resembling a catch, in which three or four voices follow each other round in a species of fugue in the unison.
Roxy – In Pioneer Girl, the name given to Laura’s ragdoll. The name became Charlotte in Little House in the Big Woods.
rubber – Caoutchoue: A vegetable substance obtained from incisions made in several plants, affording a milky juice, as the Urceola elastica, a tree of tropical Asia, the Ficus elastica, a species of fig in Nepal, and especially the Siphonia elastica, a euphorbiaceous plant of South America. It is white at first, and assumes the dark shade usually possessed on exposure to smoke. It is impermeable to water, tenacious, elastic, unalterable by exposure to air, fusible at 150o, soluble in ether and the essential oils. It is also called India rubber (having been first used to erase pencil marks) and gum elastic. Vulcanized caoutchoue, caoutchoue compounded with a small proportion of sulphur, by which it is rendered hard and elastic like horn; – so called because subjected to a high degree of heat during the process of manufacture. It is used for a great variety of purposes in the arts.
ruffle – To make into a ruff; to draw or contract into wrinkles, open plaits, or folds; to wrinkle. To furnish with ruffles, something formed in plaits or wrinkles.
rug – A coarse, nappy, woolen fabric, used for various purposes; – as, (a) For the cover of a bed. (b) For protecting the carpet before a fire-place. (c) For protecting the legs against the cold in riding; as, a railway rug.
run away / runaway – One who flees from danger or restraint; a fugitive. Hence, acting the part of a runaway; fleeing from danger or restraint; as, a runaway horse.
runner – One of the curved pieces on which a sled or sleigh glides.
running-gear / gearing – The wheels and axles of a vehicle, and their attachments, in distinction from the body; all the working parts of a locomotive.
rush – A plant of the genus Juncus, of many species, growing in wet ground. Some species are used in bottoming chairs and plaiting mats, and the pith is used in some places for wicks in lamps and rush-lights. The term rush, is however, often loosely applied to various plants having a similar appearance.
russet – Of a russet color; of the color composed of blue, red, and yellow, in equal strength, but unequal proportions, namely, of two parts of red to one part each of blue and yellow.
rust / rusting – The reddish or brownish yellow coating on iron exposed to moist air; an oxide of iron which forms a rough coat on its surface; hence, sometimes, any metallic oxide. That which resembles rust in appearance or effects.
rutabaga – The Swedish turnip, or Brassica campestris.
rye – A hardy plant (Secale cereale), closely allied to wheat; also, the grain or fruit of this plant, which constitutes a large portion of the bread-stuff used by man.