This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday Rest. Word Not To Use Today: lustrum.

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.*

It's as true for words as for flowers. Full many a gorgeous word lies neglected in the dark recesses of the larger dictionaries when it could be bringing joy to the world.

But lustrum isn't one of them. Lustrum is much best left in the dark recesses.

It's heavy, pondorous, and pompous, and no one with the faintest sense of his own essential ridiculousness would ever let it fall from his lips.

What does it mean?

A lustrum is a period of five years.

And if there is anyone in the universe who says two lustra instead of a decade then you have my leave to pull faces at them.

Photo Sam Fentress
And I hope it stings.

Word Not To Use Today: lustrum. This word comes from a Latin word for a ceremony of purification, from lustrāre, to brighten or purify.

*That's from Thomas Grey's Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard.


  1. All the way as I was reading this I was thinking: "I like lustrum! It trips off the tongue! It's bright and cheerful and shiny!"

    And then the definition.

    Five years.


    Yeah. How bathetic. That is a bit rubbish, isn't it? I'm a bit depressed now.

    1. Sorry, Ed. I can only suggest you wreak your revenge by not using it.

      That'll show it.

  2. Hasn't Robert Harris called one of his CICERO Novels Lustrum? I think the fact that it's not in general use, even though it's an easy word to say shows that people don't take to it much. It would be fine if it were a small jug, say: "I love that pretty 18th century rose-patterened lustrum."

    1. I would like it if were something someone said, something insignificant, that then trips an epiphany in your mind.

      "You know, as soon as you said that, I understood what was wrong in my life ... your lustrum has saved me."

    2. Well, there we are, then. Between you, you seem to have defined a lustrum as a word of obscure meaning which evokes in the hearer a sense of mysterious but profound well-being.

      And from now on that's how I'm going to use it.