• festoon •
Pronunciation: fes-tun • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A garland of flowers or other festive material draped so that it forms a scallop. Garlands are used as decorations for festive occasions.
Notes: Today's Good Word may be used naked as a verb, to festoon, as a hall festooned with ribbons. In the 19th century festoonery was tried in the sense of anything festive that droops. Of course, this word traces its ancestry back to the origin of festive (see Word History), so it has many, many ancestors.
In Play: The ideal festoon is made of a garland of flowers: "The wedding cake was frosted in mauve with a pink rose festoon running all the way around it." However, it is not limited to flowers: "Well, I don't think the beer-can festoon was a good idea even if it was for the Fourth of July celebration."
Word History: We are not sure which language's pocket English picked for this word. We have a choice of French feston or Italian festone "a festive ornament". These words were derived from Vulgar (Street) Latin festa "celebration, feast". This word became Old French feste and Modern French fête, which English helped itself to as well. It came out as Catalan, Italian and Portuguese festa, and Spanish as fiesta, all with pretty much the same meaning as the French word. Latin festa is the plural of festum "festive, joyful, merry," derived from feriae "holiday". (Thanks and a tip of all our hats to Gene Dubose for festooning our series with today's festive Good Word.)
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