Printable Version
Pronunciation: fyu-mê-rol Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A hole near a volcano from which hot sulfuric gases and vapors issue.

Notes: This word is a danger sign for what it refers to. Don't get too close to a fumarole or you might get a noseful of sulfuric vapors that, if not noxious, are at least obnoxious. The adjective for this noun is fumarolic. It has no other relatives.

In Play: This word is narrowly defined and refers only to physical objects: "Frothy geysers and hissing fumaroles vented into misty air, as herds of elk and bison gathered around them for warmth." There is no room for figurative creativity: "If you are ever in Yellowstone Park, stand on the boardwalk by Old Faithful; you will get a good view of the wildlife and a fascinating view of hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, and geysers."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a remake of Late Latin fumariolum "vent, chimney pot", derived from classical Latin fumarium "smoke room", where wine was stored to mature. Fumariolum consists of fumus "smoke, steam, fume" + -arium "place" + -olum "small, little" (diminutive suffix). The base of this word, fumus, became fumer "to smoke" in French, fumo in Portuguese and Italian, and humo in Spanish. Fumus came out of PIE dheu- "smoke, dust, vapor", source also of Russian dym "smoke" and dut' "to blow", Latvian dũmi "smoke", Lithuanian dūmai "smoke", and Greek thymos "soul, spirit". (I found this word in a contribution by Barbara Beeton to a discussion of William Hupy's suggestion of fume.)

Dr. Goodword,

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