• balustrade •
bæ-lê-strayd • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A row of balusters, which are small, short pillars, traditionally decorative, supporting a railing.
Notes: Balustrade usually refers to a decorative banister or fence around the porch or roof of a building. The adjective balustraded is not derived from a verbal use of the noun, but it is a denominal adjective meaning "having a balustrade", like bearded, forested, uniformed. Balustrading refers to balustrade-work.
In Play: We often find balustrades on balconies: "Norman Conquest lives in a grand house outfitted in small projecting balconies with ornate balustrades and tall pilasters surrounding equally ornate doorways." But we find balustrades elsewhere, some support statuary: "When Herman looked over the balustrade between two angels and down to the street below, his heart nearly jumped out his throat."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from French balustrade, borrowed from Italian balaustrata "having balusters", from balaustro "baluster", converted from balaùsta "pomegranate flower". This word was passed on to the Romance languages from Latin balaustium in the same sense, a word which Latin adapted from the Greek balaustion "pomegranate flower". The name attached itself to balusters for their resemblance of the classical baluster to the bud of this flower. Greek created its word from a borrowing, probably from a Semitic word akin to Syriac blas "to bud" or Tigrinya balasa "to be superior". By the 17th century the English version, baluster, had already been corrupted to barrister, which is today banister, referring to a balustrade on a staircase. (An expression of our gratitude to Andrew Shaffer is long overdue. Andrew has been the technical mind behind the alphaDictionary website since 2005. He created the code behind the website and created a Good Word editor that reduced the time it takes to upload and put the final touches on Good Words by 90%.)
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