• treacle •
Pronunciation: tree-kêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Golden syrup, syrup that remains after sugar is refined. Molasses is called black treacle 2. Words that are sweet and cloying, overly solicitous flattery. 3. A set of medicinal cures or antidote for many maladies.
Notes: Treacle is not a word frequently encountered in the US, but it is alive and well in other parts of the English-speaking world. It is particularly known as an ingredient of treacle tarts, a favorite among children in the UK. It comes with one relation, the adjective and adverb treacly.
In Play: In the UK this word is used most often as an attribute of tart: "Marian Kine plied me with treacle tarts, knowing my weakness for them." However, the figurative sense is also widely popular: "He begged me with such treacle in his voice, I felt sticky afterwards."
Word History: When it entered English from Old French as triacle, today's Good Word meant "antidote for poison". French inherited this word from Latin theriaca. Latin borrowed the word from Greek theriake "antidote against a venomous bite", the feminine of theriakos "of wild animals" from therion "small animal", the diminutive of ther "beast". The ancient word that turned into ther in Greek, came out as fera "wild animal" in Latin. English added an L to this word and claimed it as feral "wild". We then borrowed the adjective of fera, ferus, after it had been laundered by French to fiers, as English fierce. Oh, yes. I almost forgot: Latin had another word from the same source, ferox (feroc-s) "fierce" that we confiscated for English ferocious. (Now for a not too treacly word of gratitude to David McWethy of Fayetteville, Arkansas, for recommending today's Good Word.)