Printable Version
Pronunciation: blayn Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An inflammatory sore or welt, a swelling on the skin. 2. A blister, blotch, or pustule of a rash.

Notes: You have probably heard of the chilblains, sores and swelling of the hands and feet caused by extreme cold. Blain is actually a word still out there, waiting for us to use more frequently. In fact, it may be used for almost any kind of bruise or welt on the skin that causes the skin to rise or swell.

In Play: As a verb, blain refers to almost any type of painful skin blemish: "As she ran through the woods from the bear, tree branches heavily blained Hazel's face and arms." The noun, of course, is available for metaphorical chores expressing almost anything pesky or bothersome: "That lazy Gladys Friday has been a blain on the butt of this company ever since we hired her."

Word History: This word comes from Old English blegen, a word akin to Dutch blein and Danish blegne. It shares the same root as English bladder, blow (from Old English blawan), and blossom, all referring to a puffing out of some sort. The [bhl] in the same original root, Proto-Indo-European bhle-/bhlo-, became [fl] in Latin, appearing in flos, flor- "flower", which English borrowed in its flower, florist, floral, and flourish. From a blister to a flower is a remarkable range of meanings to emerge from a single word that came into existence only about 5,000 years ago. (Today we owe a word of thanks to the blainless but brainy Kathleen McCune, now of Sweden, for reminding us of this fascinating Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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