• fleche •
flesh • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A slender spire, especially if attached to a church. 2. (Fencing) A running attack. 3. (Backgammon) One of the 24 points on a backgammon board.
Notes: Here is a good word, known almost exclusively to architects, that should belong in our general vocabularies. It is most appropriate since its original meaning was "arrow" (see Word History), implying such steeples are pointing to the heavens. It sometimes keeps its French cap, just remember it leans to the left, not the right: flèche.
In Play: The implications of a slender steeple are several: "The majority of the building committee preferred a fleche rather than a large steeple out of deference to the hurricanes that frequent that area of Florida." Here is another implication: "The minority, on the other hand, worried whether there would be room in the fleche for a large enough bell."
Word History: Today's Good Word was borrowed from French flèche "arrow". Since Indo-European [p] remained [p] in Latin but became [f] in Germanic languages, French must have borrowed this word from a Germanic language. It goes back to PIE pleu-/plou- "to flow, swim, fly". This word came through Germanic languages to English as flow, flood, float, fleet, fly, and fledge. In fact, French may have borrowed today's word from Old English flycge "fledge", ancestor of fledge, since this word means "provide with feathers" and the original arrow was equipped with feathers. Pleu-/plou- appears in Sanskrit plavate "swims, flies", Ancient Greek pleein "to swim, sail", German fliegen "to fly" and fließen "to flow", and Russian plyt' "to swim, float, sail" and plavit' "to smelt, melt". (Now for a word of gratitude to a major contributor, George Kovac, for sharing with us today's inspiring Good Word.)
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