• azure •
Pronunciation: æzh-yUr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, adjective
Meaning: 1. The clear blue color of an unclouded sky, cerulean. 2. Ultramarine, Prussian blue, a deep blue color.
Notes: We usually associate today's word with the light blue of the sky. However, it started out referring to a deeper color, that of the lapis lazuli (see Word History). Several adjectives have been tried: azureous, azurine, and azurean. The only one that has had much sticking power is azury "sort of azure".
In Play: This color is most often associated with the sky on a clear, sunny day: "Beneath a vibrant azure sky lay a garden dotted with statuary and a panoply of greenery." The deeper color is usually associated with seas and oceans: "After a morning wading in the azure waters of the Mediterranean, the families moved for a nap under their umbrellas."
Word History: This word comes from Old French azur, from Medieval Latin lazur, borrowed via Greek from Persian lazhuward "lapis lazuli", a semi-precious stone pictured above. Persian borrowed this word from Arabic al-lazaward "the azure": al- "the" + lazaward "azure". The initial L is absent in the French language, apparently because it was mistaken for the article l' "the". It remains in medieval Greek as lazourion, and in medieval Latin lazurius, lazur "lapis lazuli". By the way, Old Spanish azur became azul, which is the common word for "blue" in both Spanish and Portuguese today. (An old friend of the Good Word, Rob Towart, recommended today's word, associated with the pleasantly blue things in our lives.)