Printable Version
Pronunciation: -kri-mê-tor-ri Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, Noun

Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Causing tears, as onions are likely to do when you slice them or the stock market when it dives, lachrymose. 2. (Noun) A small glass bottle usually with a body in the shape of a teardrop and a tall narrow neck, of a kind found in quantity in Roman tombs. So called from the erroneous supposition that they held the tears of the mourners. They were in fact a common type of unguentarium or cosmetic oil jar.

Notes: Tear bottles were a Victorian invention arising out of the old legend that has survived to today. Tear bottles were supposedly prevalent in ancient Roman times, when mourners filled small glass vials with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of love and respect. Supporters of the tear bottle legend sometimes quote the Biblical Psalm 56:8 where David prays to God, "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears in Thy bottle: are they not in Thy Book?", a figurative request referring to the no'dh, an ancient Hebrew leathern water flask.

In Play: As an adjective meaning "causing tears", we begin with the obvious: "Fresh onions are spicy, pungent and lachrymatory." But in 'Loss of Breath' Poe wrote "A thousand vague and lachrymatory fancies took possession of my soul." Some wags have used today?s word to refer to handkerchiefs, often seen at weddings, which can be very lachrymatory occasions.

Word History: Lachrymatory comes to us from Middle French or Medieval Latin lacrymal from Medieval Latin lacrimalis, the adjective from Latin lacrima "tear". This noun descended from an older Latin dacrima, related to Greek dakry "tear", a distant cousin to Old High German zahar "tear", that produced modern German Zähre "tear" and Old English thher, which is today, tear.

Dr. Goodword,

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