This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Friday, 20 February 2015

Word To Use Today: orris.

I love the word orris. It has a nice querulous sound to it.

When I hear someone say orris - which, sadly, is very seldom indeed - I'm reminded of some irascible countrywoman summoning her down-trodden husband.

Orris is a coarse, cross, disreputable word, and this is rather curious because but orris, the thing itself, is nothing of the kind. Not at all. It's delicate and flowery and aristocratic...

...which is probably why I so seldom have an opportunity to use it.


So what is orris? Firstly it's any kind of iris (the flower) which has a fragrant root, especially Iris florentina.

Iris germanica florentina Orris,  Orris-root

If that's not lovely enough, orris is also the iris root dried out (which can take five years) and used as in perfume.

But, perhaps even more refined than orris the perfume, is the orris which is a kind of lace made from gold or silver.

Lucia Wijbrants (1638-1719), 1667, by Gabriël Metsu.

Gorgeous, isn't it.

Despite all that, though, whenever I hear the word orris I'm afraid I still hear an old woman screaming for her poor husband.

Ah well.

Word To Use Today: orris. The perfume word is a variation of iris. The lace comes from the Old French orfreis, from the Latin auriphrygium, Phrygian gold.

No comments:

Post a Comment