• 5th Grade Social Studies Vocabulary


    Abolitionist – someone who joined the movement to abolish, or end, slavery.


    Absolute location – the exact latitude and longitude of a place on the globe.


    Activist – a person who takes action to change social conditions or unfair laws.


    Agriculture – farming, or growing plants.


    Ally – a person or group that joins with another to work towards a goal.


    Amendment – a change to the constitution.


    Annexation – the act of joining two countries or pieces of land together.


    Antifederalist – someone who opposed the new Constitution.


    Apprentice - someone who studies with a master to learn a new skill or business.


    Armada – the Spanish word for a large fleet of ships.


    Artisan – someone who is skilled at making something by hand, such as silver

                       spoons or wooden chairs.


    Assassination – the murder of an important leader.


    Astrolabe – a tool that measures the height of the sun or a star above the horizon.


    Backcountry – the mountainous area west of where most colonists settled.


    Banish – to force someone to leave a place.


    Barter – to exchange goods without using money.


    Benefit – a gain or an advantage.


    Black Codes – laws that limited the rights of former enslaved people to travel, vote and work certain jobs.


    Boomtown – a town whose population booms, or grows very quickly.


    Border state – a slave state that stayed in the Union.


    Boycott - the refusal to buy, sell, or use certain goods.


    Braceros – Mexicans invited to work in the United States as temporary workers.


    Cabinet – a group chosen by the President to help run the executive branch and give      



    Camp – a place where people live for a time in tents, cabins, or other rough shelters.


    Campaign – a series of actions taken toward a goal, such as winning a presidential



    Canal – a waterway built for boat travel and shipping.


    Cape – a strip of land that stretches into a body of water.


    Capital – a city where a government meets.


    Capital resource – a tool, machine, or building that people use to produce goods and                    



    Caravan – a group of people and animals who travel together.


    Cardinal directions – the main directions: north, east, south and west.


    Cash crop – a crop that people grow and sell to earn money.


    Casualties – soldiers who are killed or wounded.


    Cause – an event or action that makes something else happen.


    Century – a period of 100 years.


    Ceremony – a formal event at which people gather to express important beliefs.


    Cession – something that is given up.


    Charter – a document giving permission to a person or group to do something.


    Checks and balances – a system that lets each branch of government limit the power          

                                               of the other two.


    Circumnavigate – to sail completely around something.


    Citizen – an official member of a city, state or nation.


    Civil rights – the rights that countries guarantee their citizens.


    Civil war – a war between two groups or regions within a nation.


    Civilian – a person who is not in the military.


    Civilization – a group of people living together who have systems of government

                            religion and culture.


    Claim – something declared as one’s own, especially a piece of land.


    Clan – a group of related families.


    Climate – the type of weather a place has over a long time.


    Colony – an area of land ruled by another country.


    Commander – the officer in charge of an army.


    Compact – an agreement.


    Compass rose – a part of a map that shows the cardinal and intermediate directions.


    Compromise – a settlement in which both sides give up something they want.


    Confederation – the type of government in which separate groups of people join

                            together , but local leaders still make many decisions for their group.


    Conflict – a disagreement.


    Congress – a group of representatives who meet to discuss a subject.


    Conquistador - The Spanish word for a conqueror.


    Conservation – the protection and wise use of natural resources.


    Constitution – a written plan for government.


    Consumer – someone who buys goods and services.


    Convert – to convince someone to change his or her religion or beliefs.


    Corps – a team of people who work together.


    Correspondence – written communication.


    Cost – a loss or sacrifice.


    Debtor – a person who owes money.


    Decade – a period of ten years.


    Declaration – a statement that declares or announces an idea.


    Delegate – someone chosen to speak and act for others.


    Democracy – a government in which the people have the power to make political



    Desert – to leave the army without permission.


    Discrimination – unfair treatment of particular groups.


    Dissenter – a person who does not agree with the beliefs of his or her leaders.


    Diversity – the variety of people in a group.


    Draft – a system in which the government chooses people to serve in the military.


    Economy – the system people use to produce goods and services.


    Effect – an event or action that is a result of a cause.


    Electoral college – representative from each state who vote for the president.


    Emancipation – the freeing of enslaved people.


    Empire – many nations or territories ruled by a single group or leader.


    Entrepreneur – a person who takes risks to start a business.


    Environment – the surrounding in which people, plants, and animals live.


    Epidemic – an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many people.


    Equator – the imaginary line around the middle of the Earth.


    Erosion – the process by which water and wind wear away the land.


    Ethnic group – a group of people who share a language or culture.


    Executive branch – the branch of government that suggests laws and carries out the

                                 laws made by congress.


    Expedition – a journey to achieve a goal.


    Export – a product sent to another country and sold.


    Fall line – the line where rivers from higher land flow to lower land and often form



    Famine – a widespread shortage of food.


    Federal – a system in which he states share power with the central government.


    Federalist – a supporter of the constitution.


    Flatboat – a large rectangular boat partly covered by a roof.


    Forty-niner – a miner who went to California in 1849.


    Free enterprise – the system in which people may start any business that they

                            believe will succeed.


    Free market economy – an economic system in which the people not the

                                        government decide what will be produced.


    Free state – a state that did not have slavery.


    Freedman’s Bureau – an organization that provided food, clothing, medical care

                                        and legal advice to poor blacks and whites.


    Front – where the fighting takes place in a war.


    Frontier – the edge of a country or settled region.


    Fugitive – a person running away.


    Geography – the study of the world and the people and things that live there.


    Glacier – a huge, thick sheet of slowly moving ice.


    Gold rush – a movement of many people hurrying to the same area to look for gold.


    Great Compromise – Roger Sherman’s suggestion that the states with the largest

                                          populations send the most representatives to the House of

                                       Representatives but each state have the same number of

                                        representatives in the Senate.


    Growing season – the time of year when it is warm enough for plants to grow.


    Hacienda – a large farm or ranch, often with its own village and church.


    Heritage – something that is passed down from one generation to the next.


    Immigrant – a person who moves to another country to live.


    Impeach – to charge a government official with a crime.


    Import – a good brought into one country from another.


    Inauguration – the official ceremony to make someone president.


    Indentured servant – someone who agreed to work for a number of years in

                                        exchange for the cost of a voyage to North America.


    Independence – freedom from being ruled by someone else.


    Indigo – a plant that can be made into a dark blue dye.


    Industrial revolution – a period of time marked by changes in manufacturing.


    Industry – all the businesses that make one kind of product or type of service.


    Inflation – a rise in the price of goods.


    Injustice – unfair treatment that abuses a person’s rights.


    Interest – what people pay to borrow money.


    Invest – to put money into something to try to earn more money.


    Irrigation – a way of supplying water to crops with streams, ditches or pipes.


    Jim Crow – laws that segregated African Americans from other Americans.


    Judicial branch – the branch of government that decides the meaning of laws and

                               Whether the laws have been followed.



    Kingdom – a place ruled by a king or a queen.


    Laborer – a person who does hard physical work.


    Landform – a feature on the surface of the land.


    Legislative branch – the branch of government that make the laws.


    Legislature – a group of people with the power to make and change laws.


    Liberty – freedom from being controlled by another government.


    Lodge – a type of home that plains Indians made using bark, earth and grass.


    Longhouse – a large house made out of wood poles and covered with bark.


    Loyalist – someone who was still loyal to the king.


    Manifest destiny – the belief that the United States should spread across the

                                        entire North American continent, from coast to coast.


    Manufacturer – someone who uses machines to make goods.


    Mass production – making many identical products at once.


    Massacre – the killing of many people.


    Mercenary – a soldier who is paid to fight for a foreign country.


    Merchant – someone who buys and sells goods to earn money.


    Meridian – a line of longitude.


    Middle passage – the voyage of enslaved Africans from Africa to the West Indies.


    Migrant worker – a person who moves from place to place to find work on farms.


    Migration – a movement from one region to another.


    Militia – a group of ordinary people who train for battle.


    Minutemen – militia with special training to assemble quickly.


    Mission – a religious community where priests taught Christianity.


    Missionary – a person who teaches his/her religion to others who have different



    Motto – a short statement that explains an ideal or a goal.


    Nationalism – devotion to one’s country.


    Natural resource – a material from nature, such as soil or water, that people use.


    Navigation – the science of planning and controlling the direction of a ship.


    Neutral – not taking sides.


    Nomad – a person who moves around and does not live in one place.


    Nonrenewable resource – a natural resource that cannot be replaced once it has

                                                    been used.


    Nonviolent protest – a way of bringing change without using violence.


    Northwest Passage – the water route that explorers were hoping to find.


    Opportunity cost – the thing you give up when you decide to do or have

                                        something else.


    Ordinance – a law.


    Overseer – a person who watches and directs the work of other people.


    Parallel – a line of latitude.


    Parallel timelines – two or more timelines grouped together.


    Patriot – a colonist who opposed British rule.


    Persecution – unfair treatment that causes suffering.


    Petition – a written request from a number of people.


    Physical map – a map that shows the location of physical features, such as landforms, bodies of water , or resources.


    Pilgrim – a person who makes a long journey for religious reasons.


    Pioneer – one of the first of a group of people to enter or settle a region.


    Plantation – a large farm on which crops are raised by workers who live on the farm.


    Plateau – a high, steep-sided area rising above the surrounding land.


    Point of view – the way someone thinks about an issue, an event, or a person.


    Political map – a map that shows cities, states, and countries.

    Political party – an organized group of people who share similar ideas about government.


    Pollution – anything that makes the soil, air, or water dirty and unhealthy.


    Popular sovereignty – an idea that the people who live in a place make decisions for themselves.


    Potlatch – a large feast that could last for several days.


    Prejudice – an unfair, negative opinion that can lead to unjust treatment.


    Presidio – a fort built by the Spanish to protect their claims and guard themselves against attack.


    Primary source – firsthand information about an event, place, or time period.


    Prime meridian – the line of longitude located at zero degrees.


    Proclamation – an official public statement.


    Productivity – the amount of goods and services produced by workers in a certain amount of time.


    Profit – the money a business has left over after all expenses have been paid.


    Proprietor – a person who owned and controlled all the land of a colony.


    Prosperity – economic success and security.


    Protest – an event at which people speak out about an issue.


    Pueblo – the Spanish word for town.


    Quarter – to give people food and shelter.


    Quota – the maximum number of people allowed to enter a country.


    Ratify – to accept.


    Rebellion – a fight against a government.


    Reconstruction – the period when the South rejoined the Union.


    Reform – an action that makes something better.


    Refuge – a safe place.


    Refugee – a person who escapes war or other danger and seeks safety in another country.


    Region – an area that has one or more features in common.


    Register – to sign up to vote.


    Renewable resource – a natural resource that can be replaced, such as wood.


    Repeal – to cancel something, such as a law.


    Representative – someone who is chosen to speak and act for others.


    Republic – a government in which the citizens elect leaders to represent them.


    Research – the search for facts.


    Responsibility – a duty that someone is expected to fulfill.


    Retreat – to move away from the enemy.


    Revolt – a violent uprising against a ruler.


    Rights – freedoms that are protected by a government’s laws.


    Ruling – an official decision.


    Scarcity – not having as much of something as people would like.


    Secession – the withdrawal of a part of a country from the rest.


    Secondary source – information from someone who did not witness an event.


    Sectionalism – loyalty to one part of the country.


    Segregation – the forced separation of the races.


    Self-government – a government in which the people who live in a place make laws for themselves.


    Settlement – a small community of people living in a new place.


    Sharecropping – a system in which landowners let poor farmers use small areas of their land, and in return, the farmers gave the landowners a share of the crop.


    Silk Road – several trade routes connecting China and Europe.


    Slave state – a state that permitted slavery.


    Slave trade – the business of buying and selling human beings.


    Slavery – a cruel system in which people are bought and sold and made to

                       work without pay.


    Smuggling – to import goods illegally.


    Source – the place where a river begins.


    Spiritual – an African American religious folk song.


    Staple – a main crop that is used for food.


    States’ rights – the idea that states, not the federal government, should make the final decisions about matters that affect them.


    Stock – a share of ownership in a company.


    Strategy – a plan of action.


    Suffrage - the right to vote.


    Suffragist – a woman who worked to gain the right to vote.


    Surplus – extra.


    Surrender – to give up.


    Tariff - a tax on imported goods.


    Tax – money that people pay to their government in return for services.


    Technology – the use of scientific knowledge and tools to do things better and more



    Telegraph – a machine that sends electric signals over wires.


    Temperance – controlling or cutting back on the drinking of alcohol.


    Tenement – a rundown, poorly maintained apartment building.


    Territory – land ruled by a national government but which has no representatives in the government.


    Textile – cloth or fabric.


    Tidewater – the area where the water in rivers and streams rises and falls with the ocean’s tides.


    Tolerance – respect for beliefs that are different from one’s own.


    Total war – the strategy of destroying an enemy’s resources.


    Town meeting – a gathering where colonists held elections and voted on the laws

                                    for their towns.


    Trade – buying and selling of goods.


    Traitor – someone disloyal.


    Travois – equipment similar to a sled made from two long poles.


    Treaty – an official agreement between two nations or groups.    


    Underground railroad – a series of escape routes and hiding places to bring slaves

                                                   out of the south.


    Union – another name for the U.S.A.


    Veto – to reject.


    Victory – success in battle.


    Volunteer – someone who helps others without being paid.


    Wagon train – a line of covered wagons that moved together.


    Wampum – pieces of carefully shaped seashell made into strings or belts.