Pronunciation: pe-trê-ko® • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: That distinctively pleasant fragrance of rain falling on dry ground. It is produced by oily, yellow-gold globules, rather like perfume, that either come from certain plants or the air itself.
Notes: This amazingly beautiful word was introduced by two Australian geologists, I. J. Bear and R. G. Thomas, in a 1964 article that appeared in Nature (993/2), referring to a rather specific aroma. However, we have all experienced the pleasure of the smell of rain against dry earth; now, we have a word to explain that pleasure. It is too young to have progeny yet, but when it reaches appropriate seniority, I predict it will produce an adjective, petrichoric.
In Play: This word certainly belongs in the vocabulary of all terroirists, "I'm certain that the bouquet of this chardonnay comes from the petrichor of the soil where the vines grew." But once we are comfortable with it, we can unleash our metaphoric creativity, "Her entrance into his life was a refreshing petrichor ending a long season of dry relationships."
Word History: It is amazing how such a beautiful word can arise from such a distasteful combination as today's extremely Good Word. It comprises the root of Greek petros "stone" + ichor, the mythical rarified fluid that flowed in the veins of the gods. (Ichor now refers to any watery discharge from a wound or inflammation.) Petros is also the Greek form of the name "Peter," which is why Jesus claimed him to be the rock on which His church would be built. So the name of the film character, Rocky, is simply a translation of the Greek Peter.
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- Grand Panjandrum
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