• aureole •
aw-ree-ol • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A radiance encircling the head or entire body, common in icons of holy figures; a halo. 2. (Astronomy) The luminescence emanating from a celestial body like the sun, visible to the naked eye only during an eclipse; a corona.
Notes: Today's Good Word has an alternate, the full Latin word it was borrowed from, aureola. Except for this variant, today's word is a lexical orphan, though it has many distant cousins based on the same root, aurum "gold" (see Word History). Be careful in pronouncing this word not to confuse it with oriole, which is prounounced almost identically.
In Play: This isn't the sort of word you usually play with since it is associated with celestial bodies like stars and saints: "In my picture of Margo, her face is surrounded by a mysterious aureole that I can't explain." However, leave it to Dr. Goodword to bring any word down to Earth: "Haifa Lutin talks down her nose to everyone in the office as though she were enveloped in a golden aureole." Try that if you are not getting enough attention around the office.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a reduction of the Latin phrase corona aureola "crown golden = golden crown". Aureola is the feminine form of the adjective aureolus "golden", derived from aurum "gold". The same root underlies the given name of Auric Goldfinger, the villain in the James Bond novel and movie, Goldfinger. Aur- underwent rhotacization, the shift of [s] to [r] seen also in English was and were. The original Proto-Indo-European root was ewes- "to shine". There was no rhotacization in the Germanic languages, so the same root came to rest in German as Osten "east" and English east, the origin of the first shining of the day. (Today we thank William Strockbine for suggesting yet another shining example of the English vocabulary as a Good Word.)
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