"jar" as a transitive verb

In Chapter 1 of “Origin” by Dan Brown there is a following sentence:
Langdon pondered the creature a bit longer and then continued along a suspended walkway, descending a sprawling terrace of stairs whose uneven treads were intended to jar the arriving visitor from his usual rhythm and gait.

And my questions:

  1. What does “jar … from his usual rhythm and gait” mean? “have his usual rhythm and gait lost”?
  2. Does “the arriving visitor” refer to professor Langdon in this case?

As a non-native speaker of English, I’d be most grateful, if you could answer my questions. Many thanks.


Hello Lele, the treads of the stairs were designed in such a way that any person using them had to focus on every single step because every single step you take on those stairs is individual. So you can’t walk in your usual way but have to mind your steps. This is what the phrase ‘to jar someone from his usual rhythm and gait’ means and ‘the arriving visitor’ refers to any person arriving not the professor in particular. Please let me know if this makes sense and do continue asking questions. The more the better.

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Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for your help. I think I could understand what it is all about.
Concerning this, I got other questions in addition as follows. I’d be most grateful again,
if you could take time to give me answers for these:

  1. What does the verb “jar” mean in combination with the preposition “from” in general?
  2. I thought “the arriving visitor” referred to the professor because of the definite article “the”.
    If this phrase refers to anyone who visits the museum, would it be possible to replace “the arriving visitor” with “arrving visitors” or “an arriving visitor”?
  3. There is a phrase “a sprawling terrace of stairs” before. How does look like this “sprawling terrace”?

Many thanks.


I think there are only very few cases where you use the collocation ‘to jar somebody from something’ so I suggest you just learn this specific phrase you quoted.

The construction ‘the arriving visitor’ is quite a specific case too giving the sentence a more formal character. Yes, you are right, usually you would say ‘any visitor arriving’ or ‘arriving visitors’ or simply ‘if you visit’.
As for a sprawling terrace of stairs, here is an example.

Let’s see what @Andrea, Alan and @Anglophile think about this. Your questions are very good :+1: :grin:


No further explanation seems to be necessary, Torsten.


Dear Sir,

Thank you very much again for your explanation, which is pretty helpful and precious for a non-native speaker of English like me. Based on any of EN-JP dictionaries, it would be never ever possible to get to this correct understanding. Mr. Brown seems to use often words whose meanings cannot be found in EN-JP dictionaries. Actually, there are a lot of wrong translated sentences in the Japanese version of “Origin” published in Japan. So I’ve been trying to read the original English version. Many thanks again.


Actually, we too, have to thank you for sharing your learning process with us. I learn as much from your questions as you might learn from my answers. So please do keep on asking questions :+1::wink: