fu·​lig·​i·​nous fyu̇-ˈli-jə-nəs How to pronounce fuliginous (audio)
: sooty
: having a dark or dusky color
fuliginously adverb

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Fuliginous is a word with a dark and dirty past—it comes from fuligo, the Latin word for "soot," a substance formed by combustion or separated from fuel during combustion, that rises in the air in fine particles, such as what's seen in smoke. An early, now-obsolete sense of fuliginous described noxious bodily vapors once thought to be produced by organic processes. The "sooty" sense, which English speakers have been using since the 16th century, can be used literally to describe everything from overworked chimney sweeps to industrial city skylines, and figuratively for dense fogs, malevolent clouds, and grim senses of humor. Fuliginous can also be used to refer to something dark or dusky in color, as in Henry James' novel The Ambassadors, in which the character Waymarsh is described as having "dark fuliginous eyes."

Examples of fuliginous in a Sentence

a fuliginous prose style that's not exactly ideal for writing for the mass media

Word History


borrowed from Late Latin fūlīginōsus "covered with soot," from Latin fūlīgin-, fūlīgō "soot" + -ōsus -ous; fūlīgō, from fūlī- (going back to Indo-European *dhuh2-li- "smoke, dust," whence also Sanskrit dhūli- "dust," Lithuanian dū́lis "mist, dust from tree rot used to drive out bees") + -gin-, -gō, suffix denoting something coating or enveloping, usually undesirable, as rōbīgō "rust," mellīgō "bee glue"

Note: Indo-European *dhuh2-li- is usually taken to be a nominal derivative of the verbal base *dhu̯eh2- or *dheu̯h2- "produce smoke by burning"—see fume entry 1.

First Known Use

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of fuliginous was in 1597


Dictionary Entries Near fuliginous

Cite this Entry

“Fuliginous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fuliginous. Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

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