bar·​bule ˈbär-(ˌ)byül How to pronounce barbule (audio)
: a minute barb
especially : one of the processes that fringe the barbs of a feather see feather illustration

Examples of barbule in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web They were packed into a dense, smooth layer found in the finest branches of the feather fossil, the barbules. Jakob Vinther, Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2017 Unlike in other shiny birds, such as hummingbirds or crows, the cassowary's glossiness is produced by the rachis, or the spine of the feather, rather than the barbules, or minute filaments fringing a feather. Katie Hunt, CNN, 13 May 2020 Those barbules, in turn, have even smaller features—lumpy nodes and prongs spaced along their length. Helen Czerski, WSJ, 6 Feb. 2020 Long curly barbs radiate out from the center, and each one is covered in smaller barbules that stick out like the branches on a fir tree. Helen Czerski, WSJ, 6 Feb. 2020 The contour feathers interlock and overlap with tiny barbs (actually called barbules), forming a water and windproof protective outer layer on their bodies. Cori Brown,, 20 Oct. 2019 Inside the feather’s barbules, layers of melanosomes and a type of the structural protein keratin can scatter incoming light in such a way that only certain colors reflect back out. Michael Greshko, National Geographic, 25 June 2019 Some bird of paradise feathers, on the other hand, are irregular, with curved, spiky barbules and cavities within the feathers. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, 11 Jan. 2018 When light strikes a superblack feather's forest of barbules—which tilt at about 30 degrees toward the outer tip of the feather—it gets reflected into cavities between the tiny structures rather than outward, McCoy says. Sid Perkins, Scientific American, 9 Jan. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'barbule.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1813, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of barbule was in 1813

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Cite this Entry

“Barbule.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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