• wimple •
wim-pêl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Transitive verb
Meaning: 1. [Noun] A head cloth that completely surrounds the head, except for the face, and is folded under the chin. It was originally worn by Medieval European women but retained later only by nuns. 2. [Noun] A fold or wave in anything, including the surface of water (= ripple). 3. [Verb, transitive] To cover with a wimple or other material, to veil, to wrap up.
Notes: Today's word is an English original not borrowed from any other language, so the verbal form shows the usual paronyms: wimpling would be the act of covering and a wimpler would be someone who wimples, wraps. The noun could justify an adjective, wimply, which would mean "like a wimple, having folds or ripples".
In Play: The basic meaning of this word is a head covering that shows only the face: "The freshly cleaned wimples of the nuns were blinding in the noonday sun." Because this headdress is folded, it has also come to mean a fold or wave: "They sat in the shade, watching the chatty wimples of the stream, as it carefully polished the stones of its bed." The verb is a derivative with the sense of covering, "Jonathan carefully wimpled all the cauliflower heads with their own leaves to keep the sun from yellowing them."
Word History: This Good Word comes from the PIE root *weip-/woip- "to turn, to move back and forth". We would expect the [p] to become [f] or [v] in English, so waiver comes as no surprise. Waif (orphan) does, however. This word came to us through Swedish and might have developed from the sense of a lack of stability. Wimple has both the original meanings. As a headdress, it is something that is wound around and as a ripple, it is something that moves back and forth. Is it related to wimp, you ask? Actually, no. The best guess is that wimp is a clipping of the new US pronunciation of whimper, i.e. without the [h] sound.