W The twenty-third letter of the English alphabet, taken from the repitition of a V, this being the form of the Roman capital letter which we call U. Most of the modern languages of Europe do not have the letter w. In English, it performs the double office of a consonant and a vowel, being a consonant at the beginning of words and syllables, as in wall, forward, and a vowel at the end of syllables, as in new, row, but it never occurs at the end of a syllable except when united to another vowel. — 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.
wage – A compensation given to a hired person for his or her services. A wage is that for which one labors; reward; stipulated payment for service performed; hire; pay; compensation;– at present used almost solely in the plural.
wagon – A wheeled carriage; a vehicle on four wheels, and usually drawn by horses; specifically, one used for carrying freight. In the United States, light wagons are used for the conveyance of persons, and for carrying light commodities, especially a very light kind drawn by one horse.
waist – A shirt. A loose garment of linen, cotton, or other material, worn by men and boys next the body; formerly, and rarely now, applied to the under garment of both sexes.
August Waldvogel – First husband of Docia Ingalls and father of Laura’s cousins, Lena and Eugene.
wallet – A bag or sack for carrying about the person, as a bag for carrying the necessaries for a journey; a knapsack; a bag-like purse; a pocket-book for keeping money about the person.
walnut – A tree, and its fruit, of the genus Juglans. This genus comprehends several species, of which some are natives of the United States, as Juglans nigra, or black-walnut; J. cinera, or butternut; and J. fraxinifolia, or ash-leaved walnut. The European walnut is Juglans regia, a native of Persia. It is cultivated to some extent in the United States. In some parts of America, several species of Carya, or hickory, are popularly called by this name.
waltz – A dance performed by two persons in circular figures with a whirling motion; also, a piece of music composed for this kind of dance. To dance a waltz.
War of 1812 – 1812-1814 war between Great Britain and the United States over maritime issues that restricted American trade with Europe.
war-path – The route taken by a party going on a warlike expedition.
wash – n. A piece of ground washed by the action of a sea or river, or sometimes covered and sometimes left dry; also, the shaloowest part of a river or arm of the sea; also, a bog; a marsh’ a fen: as, the washes in Lincolnshire.
wash – To clean by ablution, or by dipping or rubbing in water; to apply water or liquid to for the purpose of cleansing; to scrub with water, &c; to wash sheep or wool; to wash the pavement or floor; to wash the bark of the trees, and the like. To perform the business of cleansing clothes in water.
Washington, D.C. – The capital of the United States.
watchman – One set to watch; a person who keeps guard; a sentinel. One who guards the streets of a city or building by night.
water-bug – An aquatic, hemipterous insect, of the genus Naucoris.
watermelon – A plant and its fruit, of the genus Cucumis (C. citrullus). The fruit abounds with a sweetish liquor resembling water in color, and the pulp is rich and delicious.
wax – A fatty, solid substance, produced by bees; – usually called bees wax. It is first excreted from a row of pouches along their sides, in the form of scales. These, being masticated and mixed with saliva, become whitened and tenacious, and this substance is employed in the construction of their cells. Its natural color is amber-yellow. Hence, any substance resembling wax in consistency or appearance.
“We All Have a Very Bad Cold” – C.E. Leslie singing-school quartet from The Conqueror.
weasel – A small quadruped of the genus Mustela (M. vulgaris), about six inches in length, with a tail about two inches long. It is remarkable for its slender form and agile movements. It preys upon small animals, as moles, rats, mice, and the like.
weave – The act or art of forming cloth in a loom, by the union or intertexture of threads. The task or work to be done in making cloth.
Hiram Webb family – Family of Almanzo’s childhood schoolmate, Addison Webb, called Aaron in Farmer Boy.
Reuben Webb family – Family whose children – Fanny, Delbert, and Edity – Laura Ingalls taught in the Wiilkin School.
wedding – Nuptial ceremony; nuptial festivities; marriage; nuptials. Wedding is often joined to other words, forming compounds denoting that which pertains to, or is used at, a wedding or weddings; as, wedding-cake, wedding-cards, wedding-clothes, wedding-day, wedding-feast, wedding-guest, wedding-ring, and the like. A wedding-favor is a bunch or knot of white ribbons, &c., worn at weddings.
wedge – A piece of metal, or other hard material, thick at one end and sloping to a thin edge at the other, used in splitting wood, rocks, &c., in raising heavy bodies, and the like; – one of the five elementary machines, called the mechanical power. Any thin in the form of a wedge.
Mr. Weed – The man who bales hay in Farmer Boy.
weed – Underbrush; low shrubs. Any plant that is useless or troublesome. The word has no definite application to any particular plant or species of plants. Whatever plants grow among corn or grass, in hedges, or elsewhere, and which are of no use to man, injurious to crops, or unsightly or out of place, are denominated weeds.
“Weevily Wheat” – Early song, possibly referring to Bonny Prince Charlie (Charles Edwared Stuart).
Welch family – Walnut Grove family, the sister and brother-in-law of Mrs. Samuel (Mary) Ray.
well – A pit or hole sunk into the earth to such a depth as to reach a supply of water, generally of a cylindrical form, and walled with stone or bricks to prevent the earth from caving in.
Dr. Jacob W. B. Wellcome / Dr. Fred Wellcome (1825-1906) – Physician in Sleepy Eye, and New Ulm; physician for the Winon & St. Peter Railway Company for the lines west of Sleepy Eye.
We’ll roll the o-old chariot along – First line of chorus from “The Old Chariot.”
We’re all here, we’re all here – Line of chorus from “The Song of the Freed Men.”
Wessington Hills Rolling hills or bluff in Hand County, Dakota Territory. Laura wrote that the hills were visible from the hill on Rev. Brown’s claim in De Smet.
West – The direction or quarter of the heavens where the sun sets; that one of the cardinal points which is midway between north and south, and on the left side of a person facing north; the point, direction, or region, opposed to east. A country situated in a region toward the sun-setting, with respect to another; that country, or part of a country, which is situated to the west of another.
wheat – A plant of the genus Triticum, and the seed of the plant, which furnishes a white flour for bread, and, next to rice, is the grain most generally used by the human race. Of this grain the varieties are numerous, as red wheat, white wheat, bald wheat, bearded wheat, winter wheat, summer wheat, and the like. The species from which most of the grain used for food is derived, is T. vulgare, of which there are two varieties, T. æstivum or summer wheat, and T. hibernum or winter wheat.
wheel of fire – In a prairie fire, the tumbleweeds that catch fire and are blown from place to place by the wind, setting more fires.
Where oh where has my little dog gone – 1864 Septimus Winner (1827-1902) song, “Der Deitcher’s Dog,” set to the German folk tune “In Lauterbach hab’ ich mein’ Strumpf verlor’n.”
When Paul and Silas were bound in jail – Line from “The Song of the Freed Men.”
When the stars are brightly beaming, see – First line of “The Beacon-Light of Home.”
whet – To rub for the purpose of sharpening, as an edge-tool to sharpen by attrition. To make sharp, keen, or eager; to excite; to stimulate; as, to whet the appetite.
whetstone – A stone used for sharpening edged instruments by friction.
whey – The serum or watery part of milk, separated from the more thick or coagulable part, particularly in the process of making cheese. In this process, the thick part is called curd, and the thin part whey.
whicker / whickerings – A breathy whinny made by a horse.
whip – n. An instrument for driving horses or other animals, or for correction, consisting of a lash tied to a handle or rod. v.t. To strike with a lash, a cord, a rod, or any thing lithe, which pains without bruising; to lash; to beat; as, to whip a horse.
whip-poor-will / whipoorwill – An American bird, allied to the nighthawk and nightjar, so called from its note, or the sounds of the voice; a species of Caprimulgus (C. vociferous).
whisker, see also beard, moustache – That part of the beard which grows upon the sides of the face, or the cheeks; also, formerly, the hair of the upper lip, or mustache. Hence, the long, projecting hairs growing at the sides of the mouth of a cat, or other such animal. The fact seems to be that, until quite a recent period, the whisker, as now understood, was regarded as a mere adjunct or tributary of the beard. Indeed, there was no necessity for any distinction until the absurd and unnatural practice of shaving came into vogue. Long after that epoch—to wit, in the days of Dr. Sam. Johnson—the word whisker meant, not the hair of the cheek, but the hair growing upon the upper lip; the mustaches. Now the lexicographer derives whisker from “whisk,” a small besom or brush, which the facial whisker of our time sufficiently resembles with unaccompanied by the chin-beard.
whistle – v.t. To utter a kind of musical sound, by pressing the breath through a small orifice formed by contracting the lips. To make a shrill sound with a wind instrument, like that made with the lips; to blow a sharp, shrill tone. n. A sharp, shrill sound, made by pressing the breath through a small orifice of the lips, or through an instrument which gives a similar sound; as, the sharp whistle of a boy, or of a boatswain’s pipe; the sound used by a sportsman in calling his dogs; the shrill note of a bird; as the blackbird’s mellow whistle; the shrill sound made by wind passing among trees or through crevices; the shrill noise of steam or gas escaping through a peculiar orifice, and commonly used as a signal, and the like.
Lee Whiting family – Brother of Arthur Whiting and husband of Ella Ingalls, Laura’s cousin.
whittle – To pare or cut off the surface of with a small knife; to cut or shape, as a piece of wood held in the hand, with a clasp or pocket-knife. To edge; to sharpen.
whoa – Ho; stop.
whooping cough – A violent, convulsive couth, returning at longer or shorter intervals, and consisting of several expirations, followed by a sonorous inspiration or whoop; chin cough; hooping-cough.
widower – A man who has lost his wife by death, and has not married again.
wild cat / wildcat, see also panther – An animal of the cat family, stronger and fiercer than the domestic cat; very destructive to the smaller domestic animals, as lambs, kids, poultry, and the like; Felis catus.
James Wilder family – Parents of Almanzo Wilder.
wild flower / wildflower – A flower of an uncultivated variety or a flower growing freely without human intervention.
willowy – Resembling a willow; pliant; flexible; pendent; drooping; graceful.
Winchester – A breech-loading side-action repeating rifle.
windbreak – Any thing, such as a row of trees or a fence, wall, or screen, that provides shelter or protection from the wind.
windflower – The anemone; – so called because formerly supposed to open only when the wind was blowing.
windlass – A machine for raising weights, consisting of a cylinder or roller of timber, moving on its axis, and turned by a crank, lever or similar means, with a rope or chain attached to the weight.
window – An opening in the wall of a building for the admission of light and air, usually closed by doors or sashes containing some transparent material, as glass, and capable of being opened and shut at pleasure.
wine – The expressed juice of grapes, usually the fermented juice; a beverage prepared from grapes by squeezing out their juice, and allowing it to ferment. Hence, a liquor or beverage resembling that prepared from grapes, yielded by other kinds of fruit; as currant wine; gooseberry wine.
“Wine is a Mocker” – Temperance song.
winnow – To separate and drive off the chaff from by means of wind; as, to winnow grain. To examine; to sift for the purpose of separating falsehood from truth; to separate, as bad from good.
winter – v.t. To keep, feed, or manage, during the winter; as, to winter young cattle on straw.
Wisconsin – State in the north-central United States; birthplace of Laura INgalls.
wizened – Dried; shriveled; shrunken; weazen.
Wolf, puppy – In Pioneer Girl, the spotted puppy owned by the Ingalls family in the Big Woods.
wolf – A carnivorous animal of the genus Canis, noted for killing sheep and other small domestic animals. The common American wolf is Canis occidentalis; the prairie wolf, Canis latrans. Hence, any thing very ravenous, dangerous, or destructive.
woman’s rights – As discussed by Laura and Almanzo, the equality with men as far as voting in elections.
wonderful house – The name given to the frame house Charles Ingalls built on the Plum Creek preemption (dugout site) land.
woods, see also timber – A large and thick collection of trees; a forest, frequently used in the plural. The substance of trees; the hard substance which composes the body of a tree and its branches, and which is covered by the bark; timber.
worm / angleworm – Originally, a creeping or a crawling animal of any kind or size; a serpent, caterpillar, snail, and the like. An animal of the inferior grand division of Articulates.