Printable Version
Pronunciation: pe-trê-kor Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: That distinctively pleasant fragrance of rain falling on dry ground. It is produced by oily, yellow-gold globules, rather like perfume, that come either from certain plants or the air itself.

Notes: This amazingly beautiful word was introduced by two geologists, I. J. Bear (Australian) and R. G. Thomas (British), in a 1964 article that appeared in Nature (993/2), referring to a rather specific aroma. However, we have all experienced the pleasure of the smell of rain against dry earth; now, we have a word to express that pleasure. It is too young to have progeny yet, but when it reaches appropriate seniority, I predict it will produce an adjective, petrichoric.

In Play: This word certainly belongs in the vocabulary of all terroirists: "I'm certain that the soil which produced the bouquet of this chardonnay also produced an equally fragrant petrichor." But once we are comfortable with it, we can unleash our metaphoric creativity: "Her entrance into his life was a refreshing petrichor ending a long season of dry relationships."

Word History: It is amazing how such a beautiful word as today's Good Word can arise from such an ordinary combination of roots. It comprises the root of Greek petros "stone" + ichor, the mythical rarified fluid that flowed in the veins of the gods. (Ichor now refers to any watery discharge from a wound or inflammation.) Petros is also the Greek form of the name "Peter", which is why Jesus claimed him to be the rock on which His church would be built. So the name of the film character, Rocky, is simply a translation of the Greek Peter.

Dr. Goodword,

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