This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Friday, 18 October 2013

Word To Use Today: tincture.

[This post first appeared last Friday, but that was an accident.]


It sounds like the clink of a penny dropping into a collecting tin.

This is appropriate, as a tincture is a small amount, though it's not usually anything to do with money.

A tincture can be one of the colours on a heraldic shield (when I say colours I include white and yellow, even though strictly speaking in heraldry these aren't colours at all but metals).

This is the coat of arms of Peru.

A tincture can also be medicine mixed with alcohol (or, for British posh old people, the same thing but without the medicine). A tincture can mean a slight flavour, a mild scent, an almost invisible trace, or a slight colouring.

It can be a small amount of something intangible, too, like a hint of contempt in an eye or a tinge of doubt in a voice.

A tincture started off meaning dye or a pigment, but this meaning has now faded away like the pattern on an ancient carpet to leave hardly a trace of its existence behind.

Word To Use Today: tincture. This word comes from the Latin tinctura, dyeing, from tingere to dye or colour.


from Ed @ Lexicolatry:

You're absolutely right, Sally - tincture does sound exactly like a penny dropping into a metal bin. What a brilliant description.

From Jingles:

I'm neither British nor posh, but I do rather like that meaning! :)

From Sally:

Thanks, Ed and Jingles. Sorry about the technical blip that caused this post to do its Cheshire cat trick. If I knew what I'd done the first time I'd make sure I didn't do it again.
Ah well.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for coming. It's a pleasure, very nearly always, Jingles, though scary when posts publish themselves before they've been properly edited.