A partial vocab list for Gravity's Rainbow

Date written: 2022.08.06

Below is a list of words I looked up in the dictionary while reading Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Gravity's Rainbow is commonly regarded as one of the hardest English-language novels to read, and having just read it for the first time, I generally agree.

I think it's difficulty is due a variety of reasons. From my point of view, the main cause of difficulty is that the novel demands you use a encyclopedia and dictionary when reading it. Gravity's Rainbow has thousands of references to history, pop-culture and science, and hundreds of words which most people who have spoken English for decades are unlikely to know. If you want to understand even half of these references, you'll need to look things up.

In 2022, Wikipedia exists, as do dictionary apps on our phones, so looking up references is faster than ever. Even so, doing this twice per page means that a first reading of the novel takes at least two minutes per page. If the novel were a few hundred pages in length, this wouldn't seem like that big of a deal. Gravity's Rainbow is over 900 pages long.

I made the list below primarily to help me improve my vocabulary, so I'm posting it here in case someone else finds it useful too. I make no guarantee as to the accuracy of the spelling of all the words below, but most are correct. Nor do I claim that all of these words appear in Gravity's Rainbow, but most do.

Many of these words are native to languages other than English, but I haven't bothered to add in the correct accents, umlauts etc. since Pynchon rarely does this either. A couple of pop-culture references made the list below, but for the most part I didn't add them.

The list