• inglenook •
Pronunciation: ing-êl-nUk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A nook or shelves to the side of a large open fireplace or built-in stove. 2. A bench placed to the side of a fireplace.
Notes: In medieval times, fires were located in the middle of the room and the smoke meandered freely up through the thatched roof. Later on, the fire was moved to a side wall and a smoke cover was added. Walls were next added on either side of the hearth, to form a room within a room. People could walk in and out of the fire room or sit on the ingle-benches to keep warm.
In Play: Assuming we no longer walk in and out of our fireplaces, we might not see much use for today's word. It is, however, a word which now might include cabinets built into the wall beside the fireplace: "I wouldn't put plants in the inglenooks lest the fire reduce them to the vegetable course of dinner." Few homes now have fireplaces, but the ones that do can call a bench in a corner near the hearth an inglenook: "Come, sit in the inglenook to take off your galoshes and warm up."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound made up of two words: ingle and nook. Ingle "hearth fire" probably comes from Scots Gaelic aingeal "fire, light". This word is related to Russian yaglyi "desirous, passionate", from Preslavic englyi. Nook comes to us from Middle English nok, and seems to be akin to Norwegian dialectal nok "hook", such as those historically used inside fireplaces. This connection is the only plausible clue to the history of today's word, though it is an unconvincing one.