Printable Version
Pronunciation: pru-ê-nos Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Having a white, powdery covering or covered with a bloom.

Notes: Over the years pruinate and pruinous have been tested but only today's Good Word has survived with this meaning. It is used primarily by biologists in referring to bugs, blossoms, and plant stems that are covered by a very, very fine white powder. The noun is pruinosity—don't let anyone tell you different.

In Play: We can, of course, press the meaning of this word beyond the purely biological: "The pruinose termites coming from Herman's basement seem to have been hard at work." So long as the powdery coating even vaguely resembles frost, it qualifies as pruinose: "As I entered the house, Cookie Baker came out of her kitchen pruinose from a morning of bread-making."

Word History: This Good Word comes from Latin pruinosus "frosty", the adjective of pruina "frost". The original root was preus- with the antonymous meanings of "to freeze" and "to burn". In English this root became freeze and frost. The self-contradiction shows up in Latin for, alongside pruina, we also find prura "glowing coal" and prurire "to burn, itch", which underlies English prurient, as in prurient interest. While words with contradictory meanings are not common, they do occasionally arise. Another example is English cold and scald, which derive from the same underlying root. (Today's is another Good Word suggested by the mysterious Grogie of the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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