phlegm 1. Thick, sticky, stringy mucus secreted by the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, as during a cold or other respiratory infection. 2. One of the four humors of ancient physiology, described as cold and moist and thought to cause sluggishness, apathy, and evenness of temper. 3. Sluggishness of temperament. 4. Calm self-possession; equanimity.
phrenology A pseudoscience developed at the beginning of the 19th century in Germany, phrenology is the practice of analyzing a person's character by the shape of the skull. According to phrenologists, the bumps or bulges on the head each corresponded with a dominant trait. The practice of phrenology reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1850s.
pinion 1. The wing of a bird. 2. The outer rear edge of the wing of a bird, containing the primary feathers. 3. A primary feather of a bird.
Plato Plato (427-347 B.C.) is an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist who based his ethical philosophy on the premise that all people desire happiness, the natural consequence of a healthy soul. Melville seems to be using Plato both authoritatively and ironically, suggesting that, though one of the central philosophers of Western thought, his explanation of Natural Depravity is largely a non-explanation.
poop-deck A partial deck--the portion of the spar-deck extending from the mizzenmast aft.
powder-boys Also called “powder-monkeys,” the powder-boys were those responsible for passing cartridges to the guns.
portmanteau A large leather suitcase that opens into two hinged compartments.
precocious 1. Manifesting or characterized by unusually early development or maturity, especially in mental aptitude. 2. Botany. Blossoming before the appearance of leaves.
preeminent Superior to or notable above all others; outstanding.
primeval Belonging to the first or earliest age or ages; original or ancient: a primeval forest.
Prince of Peace, the In Isaiah (9:6), a list of messianic titles for the savior Jesus is given: "his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Described in Billy Budd, a vessel's chaplain plays dual (perhaps contradictory) roles--as both a minister of Christ (the Prince of Peace) and a servant of the pagan God of War, Mars.
proffer To offer for acceptance; tender. noun The act of proffering; an offer.