• dewlap •
dyu-læp • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A fold of loose skin hanging from the neck of some bovines, reptiles, and birds, turkeys and roosters especially.
Notes: Chickens, turkeys and certain breeds of cattle have prominent dewlaps hanging from their necks (see picture). Some species of lizards sport dewlaps, too. At the same time dogs and horses have a useless rudimentary claw (or hoof) on the back of their legs, called a dewclaw. Why dew? See the Word History.
In Play: In act II, scene 1 of Midsummer's Night Dream, Puck confesses to how he teases a gossip: "And, when she drinks, against her lips I bob, And on the wither'd dewlap pour the ale." So the extension of the meaning of today's word to the skin that gathers on our human throats with age has long been made and made by masters of the language. It is a potentially embarrassing term, but if we are careful, we can also apply it to ourselves, "I would drop a few pounds but weight loss leaves me with a dewlap that requires surgery I would prefer avoiding."
Word History: Etymologists seem willing to accept the notion that dewclaws are so named because, rather than touch the ground like real claws, they only claw the dew. They are, however, less willing to accept the notion that a dewlap is so named because it laps the dew. Danish doglæp and Norwegian doglæpp are cousins in related Germanic languages. English dew, Dutch dauw, German Tau, and Danish and Norwegian dog all seem to come from PIE dheu- "to flow", source also of Sanskrit dhavate "flows" and Greek theein "to run". It's possible that the name of the Russian river Dvina comes from the same PIE word.
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