vir·​ga ˈvər-gə How to pronounce virga (audio)
: wisps of precipitation evaporating before reaching the ground

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Virga is from the Latin word virga, which means primarily "branch" or "rod," but can also refer to a streak in the sky suggesting rain. Our featured word, which dates to the mid-20th century, is only the latest in a series of words from this root. "Verge" (which originally referred to a rod or staff carried as an emblem of authority or a symbol of office) dates to the 15th century. The rare noun "virgate," which refers to an old English unit of land area, came from "virga" by way of the Medieval Latin virgata (also a unit of land area) in the late 17th century. The more common adjective virgate, meaning "shaped like a rod or wand" arrived in the early 19th by way of Latin virgatus, meaning "made of twigs."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Dry air below causes the rain to evaporate before reaching the ground in a phenomenon known as virga. USA Today, 22 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'virga.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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Word History


New Latin, from Latin, branch, rod, streak in the sky suggesting rain

First Known Use

1938, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of virga was in 1938


Dictionary Entries Near virga

Cite this Entry

“Virga.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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