Printable Version
Pronunciation: fo-lee-ij Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. Leafage, a cluster or aggregation of leaves. 2. A representation of leafage as decoration.

Notes: Today's word is often mispronounced [foil-ij] or [fo-lij]. Actually, the latter is widely accepted but the former is not. Foliageous means "containing a representation of foliage". If we remove the -age and add the same suffix, we get foliaceous "like a leaf; having leaves, leafy". Going back to the root, we find foliar "pertaining in any way to a leaf."

In Play: What we call "magnolias" here up north are known as "tulip trees" down south. Down south we can say things like this: "Magnolia trees are monumental with their glossy evergreen foliage and large, fragrant blossoms every summer." Otherwise, we can say things like this anywhere in the English-speaking world: "Hermione knew that her love for Ben Venuti would change like the woodland foliage in winter."

Word History: Middle English (ME) foilage was borrowed from Old French foillage, the noun from foille "leaf". (The mispronunciation mentioned above may have originated at this point.) However, the current English spelling and pronunciation came under the spell of Latin folium "leaf" somewhere along the way from ME. Latin inherited its word from PIE bhel-/bhol- "leaf, bloom" which, with metathesis, also arose in Latin as flos, floris "flower, blossom", Irish bláth "flower", Welsh blodyn "flower", Albanian fletë "leaf", English bloom and blossom, Dutch bloem "flower", and German Blume "flower". Without metathesis we find Gujarati, Bangla, Punjabi, and Hindi phula "flower".

Dr. Goodword,

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