In The Invisible Man,

"...Millie, her lymphatic aid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt..."

Learner's dictionary defines lymphatic as an adjective of lymph which is itself only defined as a medical term only.

What does the lymphatic aid mean?

  • 4
    Dictionary.com gives another possible meaning that might fit: (of persons) having the characteristics, as flabbiness or sluggishness, formerly believed to be due to an excess of lymph in the system.
    – oerkelens
    Mar 8, 2017 at 11:47
  • 1
    lymphatic, not lymphatics. The meaning would be roughly the opposite of brisk. Please do not cease efforts after consulting only one dictionary. There are quite a few decent online dictionaries. When trying to understand a novel, a learner's dictionary is not likely to get you very far. Mar 8, 2017 at 12:31
  • Is there not a comma between "maid" and "had", to balance the one at the beginning of the appositive phrase?
    – shoover
    Apr 13, 2017 at 22:05
  • @shoover, I checked the source, and (of course) there is such a comma. Also, the servant is not a maid - the servant turns out to be an aid. I put in the edits.
    – Ben I.
    May 16, 2017 at 10:52

1 Answer 1


As @orekelens states in the comments, and confirmed also by Free Dictionary, Lymphatic is an archaic word for

Lacking energy or vitality; sluggish.

The origin of the word comes from

1640s, from Modern Latin lymphaticus "pertaining to the lymph," from Latin lympha (see lymph). The English word also sometimes is used in what was the primary sense of lymphaticus in classical Latin, "mad, frenzied." OED reports this meaning "difficult to account for," but perhaps due to association of lympha with nymphe; compare Greek nymphian "to be frenzy-stricken." Also sometimes in reference to the appearance or temperament of one thought to suffer from excess of lymph, "dull, sluggish, slow in thought or action, with flabby muscles and pale skin" (1834).

Schmoop talks about the passage quoted from The Invisible Man by saying

Here, Mrs. Hall wants Millie to speed up her work. How does she do this?: "by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt."

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