• baroque •
bê-rowk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Related to an artistic style prevalent in the 17th century rich in curvaceous forms and exuberant ornamentation conveying a sense of drama and tension. 2. Characterized by bizarre complexity, elaborate ornamentation or extravagance. 3. Irregularly shaped, as 'a baroque pearl'.
Notes: This word is an isolate, a lexical orphan with no relatives. It may be used as a noun referring to the baroque movement. Just remember that it is French in its spelling and pronunciation: [k] = -QUE and it's accented on the last syllable. The baroque style (1600-1675) differs from later rococo (1675-1750) in its heavy ornamentation; rococo was a lighter, more personal style.
In Play: Although today's term is applied to the music of the same period, especially that of Bach, baroque is often associated with art: "Baroque architecture developed in Rome in the early 17th century, directly following the Renaissance." The second sense of this word refers to complexity and bizarreness: "The society of Rolf's club was held together by a set of baroque conventions dating back centuries."
Word History: No one knows how today's Good Word got into all European languages. The spelling insinuates that its immediate origin is French, where it originally meant "bizarre, eccentric, strange", but how it came to be in French is a mystery. That hasn't kept etymologists from guessing. Guesses have ranged from Latin verruca "wart; hillock" to Spanish verruga "wart". In Old French baroque meant "irregular" and in Portuguese barroco means "irregular pearl", so today's word might have begun its life referring to an irregular pearl. But no one knows where any of these words came from. (We all owe an e-ovation to Anna Jung, a prolific contributor these days, for today's mysterious and baroquely spelled Good Word.)
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