• millefleurs •
Pronunciation: meel-flur, meel-flêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. A pattern of many different colorful flowers, leaves and vines. 2. A perfume distilled from several different kinds of flowers.
Notes: Some US dictionaries prefer a singular spelling, millefleur, but we prefer adding the S since in French the word means "a thousand flowers". English uses French millefeuille "a thousand leaves" to name a confection made of whipped cream and jam between thin leaves of puff pastry. Since it is a noun, it pluralizes normally: millefeuilles. The Italian counterpart of millefleurs is millefiori, the name of a clear glass paperweight embedded with glass rods of different sizes and colors cut cross-section to look like a multicolored flower arrangement.
In Play: Not only is the millefleurs pattern visually striking, it can be very practical: "Well, Maude Lynn Dresser loves millefleurs dresses because the food she drops on them is hard to see." Just be careful where you use this design: "The dinner was wonderful except that I felt the millefleurs pattern on the dinner plates inappropriate for the dead plants and animals lying on them."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from a French prepositional phrase de mille fleurs "of a thousand flowers". Mille is the French version of Latin mille "thousand", the source of English mile (from mille passuum "a thousand double paces"). Fleur and flower share the same source, Latin flos, floris "flower, blossom". The Latin [f] sound came from an earlier [bh] in the Proto-Indo-European stem bhel-, bhle- "bloom, blossom". You guessed it: the old Germanic languages added the suffixes -s and -m and passed the resulting words down to English as blossom and bloom. (And now a mille mercis and a thousand thanks to Chris Berry for suggesting today's colorful Good Word.)