Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

What To Call That Groove Above Your Lip

Words For Things You Didn't Know Have Names, Vol. 1


Definition:

philtrum : the vertical groove on the median line of the upper lip

Example Sentence:

His chiseled features even included a well-defined philtrum.

Origin:

In Greek, the primary meaning of philtrum is "love potion" - which suggests that seductive powers were attributed to this facial feature.

Definition:

ferrule : the protective point or knob on the far end of an umbrella

Example Sentence:

He used his umbrella as a cane, and with every step planted its ferrule in the ground.

Origin:

Ferrule comes from the Latin viriola, meaning "small bracelet." This makes more sense when you consider that ferrule is also the term for the metal band at the end of a table leg (or similar object) that strengthens it or prevents it from splitting.

Definition:

aglet : the tag covering the ends of a lace or point - e.g., the reinforcement at the end of a shoelace

Example Sentence:

A missing aglet can make lacing one's shoes a challenge.

Origin:

Aglet indirectly comes from the Latin acus, "needle" - as does the word acute.

Definition:

punt : an indentation at the bottom of a molded glass bottle

Example Sentence:

Pouring the champagne, she held the bottle with her thumb in its punt.

Note:

Although it remains a matter of debate, explanations for the function of the punt include strengthening the bottle and also reducing its holding capacity.

The alternative name for the punt is kick.

Definition:

lunule : a crescent-shaped body part or marking (such as the whitish mark at the base of a fingernail)

Example Sentence:

He folded his hands together to give an impression of calm, but the ragged skin below his lunules told another story.

Origin:

This mark got its name because of its shape: lunule comes from the Latin luna, meaning "moon."

Definition:

tittle : the dot over i or j

Example Sentence:

In a handwritten business note, it's best to avoid smiley-face tittles.

Origin:

Tittle comes from the Latin titulus, which originally meant "title." Titulus came to refer to marks such as the abbreviated form of n written over a vowel (like the Spanish tilde, which indirectly got its name from titulus), and then to any mark above a letter.

Definition:

glabella : the smooth prominence of the forehead between the eyebrows

Example Sentence:

If you don't wish to look people in the eyes, you can make a similar impression by focusing on their glabellae.

Origin:

Glabella derives from the Latin glaber, "bald" or "smooth."

Definition:

muntin : a strip separating panes of glass in a window sash

Example Sentence:

I thought the ball would smash a window, but fortunately it hit a muntin.

Origin:

Named for the way it sticks up from the window, muntin comes from the French monter, "to rise."

Definition:

lemniscate : the infinity symbol (or more precisely, "a figure-eight shaped curve whose equation in polar coordinates is ρ2=a2 cos 2θ or ρ2=a2 sin 2θ")

Example Sentence:

Not surprisingly, a certain brand of automobile uses a modified lemniscate in its logo.

Origin:

Lemniscate comes from a Latin word that means "with hanging ribbons" - an origin that's reflected in the symbol's graceful shape.

Fourchette

Definition:

fourchette : the strip or shaped piece used for the sides of the fingers of a glove

Example Sentence:

A fine pair of gloves includes well-fitted fourchettes.

Origin:

The French word fourchette (pronounced "foor-SHET") means "fork." It was applied to this item presumably because of the forking pattern of the fingers.




Seen and Heard