Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-græf Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A hook-and-loop fastener. 2. A metal cramp for holding stones together. 3. The wire harness around a champagne cork. 4. A fastener that holds piano wires so as to limit vibrations.

Notes: Yes, there is a word for all the types of fasteners listed in Meaning. It is so seldom used that it has remained a lexical orphan all these years—since the 17th century.

In Play: We seldom hear or read this word even in its most often used sense: "Maude Lynn Dresser came to the party in an outrageously colorful dress with an appallingly mismatched shawl over her shoulder fastened with a large, medieval agraffe." The other sense of the word only slightly less often heard refers to the safety wire added to the cork of a bottle of champagne: "If you shake a bottle of champagne and remove its agraffe, it will open and serve itself."

Word History: Today's Good Word was snatched from French agrafe "hook, staple", from agrafer "to hook onto, up to", made up of a- "to" (from Latin ad- "(up) to") + grafer "to hook", from grafe "hook, staple". This word was probably borrowed from Old High German kräpfe), which went on to become Modern German Krapfen "cruller", originally "crook, clamp". This word is akin to English grapple "iron hook" and grape, whose ancestor referred to a hook for grape-picking. The PIE origin is ger-bh-/gor-bh- "holder", a suffixed form of ker-/kor- "to bend, turn, wind". The offspring of the suffixed form are Sanskrit grapsa "bundle", Greek grifos "creel, fishing basket", German Korb "basket", Dutch korf "basket", as in korfball, and English crib. (Now let's double back to thank Jeremy Busch for his service editing this series and for suggesting we serve up today's lovely Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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