• tincture •
tingk-chêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A trace, hint, tinge, or vestige. 2. A colorant, a dye. 3. A color or tint. 4. A medicine in a solution of alcohol, as tincture of iodine.
Notes: Tincture is not a word we meet very often in general conversations; it occurs mostly in professional medical discussions. Yet it is a lovely word with long-standing meanings relevant to almost all aspects of our lives. It is derived from an older word, tinct "color, tint", which is accompanied by an adjective, tinctorial. Notice that this word is not only spelled differently from tincture, but has a more restricted meaning, "related to dye or dyeing".
In Play: We have an alternative to dye and colorant in today's Good Word: "Randolph uses the wrong tincture of hair color: the top of his head looks younger than the bottom." More intriguing, however, is the sense of "vestige, suggestion" carried by this word: "Horace is but a tincture of his old self." The word's phonetic beauty recommends it for more usage than it currently receives.
Word History: Today's Good Word was kidnapped from Latin tinctura "dyeing", from tingere "to dye". Proto-Indo-European teng- "to soak", not only developed into this Latin verb, but went on to become Greek tengein "to moisten" and English dunk. As you can see, if we remove the infinitive ending from the Latin verb tingere, we are left with tinge and the noun mentioned above, tinct, without its C becomes tint—both related words.