• patulous •Pronunciation: pæch-ê-lês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Open, expanded, expansive. 2. Spreading out, opening up, like branches of a tree or petals of a flower.
Notes: This is a relatively rare word outside the sciences of botany and entomology. It has the expectable adverb, patulously, and noun, patulousness.
In Play: The basic sense of today's word is "expansive": "Henry loved to recline under the patulous elm tree in his garden." The term is used in medicine most widely in the sense of "open": "Hazel's complexion was marred by patulous pores, opened by years of smoking."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from a similar Latin adjective, patulus, from patere "to be(come) open". Latin inherited this word from Proto-Indo-European pet(ê)- "to spread". With the suffix -mo, pet(ê)- went into the making of English fathom, with the regular Germanic changes of [p] → [f] and [t] → [th]. We find its offspring in Greek petasos "broad-brimmed hat" and petalon "leaf", whence English petal. Apparently, this PIE word had a Fickle N, for we find it in the Latin borrowing expand. Another word with the Fickle N is pandy "to punish by striking the open palm", mostly a British term. (Now for a patulous note of gratitude to Mary Jane Stoneburg, one of the GW's decade-long editors, for suggesting today's very Good Word.)