Printable Version
Pronunciation: fêr-bê-lo Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A flounce, a ruffle on a garment, curtain, tablecloth, or the like. 2. Anything unnecessary but showy.

Notes: A strip of fur on the hem of an overcoat would be pretty fur below but not a furbelow, which is a ruffle, a flounce. Still, while you may flounce into a room, your dress bouncing up and down, you cannot furbelow into a room. To furbelow a room, you would have to decorate it with ruffles and such.

In Play: See my furbelow?Furbelows are generally associated with women's dress: "Murine wore a polka dot jumper with flowery furbelows on the shoulder straps." But you may occasionally see them in unexpected places, "When McDowell turned up at the fete with a furbelow on his kilt and a flounce in his walk, the womenfolk shied away from him." Of course, furbelows need not be ruffles: "Rod loves to load his car with furbelows like oversized tires, mud flaps, and running board lights."

Word History: Today's Good Word is one that has seen the world. It would seem to have descended from Provenal farbello "fringe", a corruption of Italian faldella, the diminutive of falda "flap, leaf, sheet". Now, falda was borrowed from a Germanic word that also gave us Old English faldan "to fold", modern day fold. The old word also went into the compound faldistolaz "folding stool", absorbed by Medieval Latin as faldistolium "folding chair". Faldistolium went on to become Old French faldestoel and, ultimately, Modern French fauteuil "armchair".

Dr. Goodword,

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