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The First Thanksgiving Vocabulary Guide

Definitions of words commonly associated with the Mayflower and used by Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans


PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

This guide defines vocabulary used in The First Thanksgiving activity.

Mayflower Vocabulary Words

boatswain (or bosun): an officer in charge of the sails and the crew who work them

clewed up: to draw up the sails

conner: an officer on deck above the steerage who gave steering orders to the helmsman

cross-staff: an instrument used to measure the altitude of heavenly bodies for navigational purposes

fo’c’scle (or forecastle): upper deck quarters where meals were prepared for the crew and passengers

forecourse sheet: a type of sail on the ship

Great Cabin: quarters on the ship where the master (or captain), his chief officers, and ship’s apprentice lived, slept, and ate

helmsman: person who steered the ship from below the deck

hold: storage area for food and supplies on a ship

latitude: north–south position on a map

mariner: a sailor

mizzen halyard: rope used to raise or lower a sail on the third mast from the bow

quadrant: an instrument used for navigating the ship

Round House: room where the master charted and directed the ship’s course

rudder: flat piece of wood attached to the stern and used to turn the ship

steerage: the area below deck where the ship was steered

'tween decks: the space between the ship’s decks where the Pilgrims lived

whipstaff: a lever that moves the rudder of the ship

Pilgrim Vocabulary Words

breeches: knee-length pants worn by Pilgrim boys

coif: a tight-fitting cap worn by Pilgrim girls

curds: thickened form of milk, similar to cottage cheese

doublet: a short coat worn by Pilgrim boys

fowling rifle: gun used by the Pilgrims when hunting for birds

garters: bands worn around the legs to hold up stockings

hasty pudding: a type of oatmeal cereal

mussels: a type of shellfish eaten by the Pilgrims and Wampanoags

palisade: a type of fence surrounding the Plimoth settlement to help defend it

petticoat: a loose slip worn by Pilgrim girls

pocket: a small bag worn around the waist

points: laces used by Pilgrim boys to tie their breeches and doublet together

samp: a kind of porridge or corn-based oatmeal

thatched roof: straw roof

waistcoat: a type of jacket worn by Pilgrim girls

Wampanoag Vocabulary Words

ahtomp: a bow used for hunting

fletching: attaching the feathers to the end of an arrow

headdress: a decoration for the head, usually made of feathers

Kiehtan: the Creator, according to Wampanoag beliefs

kouhquodtash: arrows

leggings: leg coverings

loincloth: piece of cloth worn around the hips

migrate: to move from one place to another

mishoon: a canoe made by digging out a log

moccasins: soft leather shoes

noohkik: ground corn

petan: quiver of arrows

pneisog: warrior counselors

Sachem: the leader or chief of the Wampanoags (known to Pilgrims as Massasoit)

smoke hole: hole in the roof of a wetu to allow smoke from the fire-pit to escape

venison: deer meat

Wampanoag: the Native American tribe of New England that greeted and helped the Pilgrims. Also known as “Eastern People” or “People of the First Light”

wampum: clam shells used by the Wampanoag to make beads

wetu: Wampanoag house made of bent saplings and covered with woven grass or bark

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Susan Cheyney

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