• moraine •
Pronunciation: mê-rayn • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A mound or ridge of rocks, earth, and rubble deposited by a glacier. 2. A flower bed for Alpine plantings, formed by pouring soil or other rooting material over a bed of rocks for drainage.
Notes: Today's Good Word offers two adjectives to choose from: morainic or morainal, both describing any relation to moraines, as morainal deposits or morainic lakes.
In Play: Moraines left by a melted icecap are called terminal moraines: "The Lost Lakes of Pennsylvania are a large, pristine remnant of natural forests and wetlands on Pennsylvania's terminal moraine, left here 10,000 years ago by North America's last great glacier." (Interstate 80 generally follows this terminal moraine across Pennsylvania.) The other sense of today's word is useful in the garden, "I've built a small moraine in my rock garden to nurture a little pipsissewa, snowberry, Dutchman's breeches, and a bit of trailing arbutus."
Word History: Today's Good Word comes from French moraine, which descended from morena "mound of earth" from the Savoyard dialect, morena "mound, swelling of the earth". This word should have derived from a projected Vulgar Latin word murrum, which no one can find in any preserved Latin texts. The Latin word would have been based on a pre-Latin root, murr- "swelling, mound", but no derivatives of such a word can be found in any other Indo-European language outside the Romance family. (Today's Good Geological Word comes to us from Patricia Castellanos, to whom we owe a mound of rubble-free gratitude.)