Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêr-fêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A decorative border or trim, decoration along the edge, as in the picture of the veil below. 2. A line or narrow strip inlaid or otherwise added as decoration.

Notes: Purfles today are added to veils, countertops, and especially stringed instruments like guitars and mandolins. A person who inlays purfles is a purfler, whose reputation is determined by the quality of his purfling.

In Play: A purfled veilAny decorative edging qualifies as a purfle: "Lydia Potts went out to dinner last night in a leather jacket with a mink purfle." We can't pass by the opportunity to combine today's word with purple, but why stop there? "Pepe Pippin put a permanent purple purfle on a perpendicular pergola in his garden." (If you like tongue-twisters, click here for many more in many of the world's languages.)

Word History: Today's Good Word shares a source with profile. It came from Middle French pourfil "border on clothing, outline, sketch", a descendant of Vulgar (street) Latin profilare from pro "forward, forth, forward" + filum "thread". This word went on to produce Italian profilo "profile" from profilare "draw in outline", which English borrowed as profile. The R and O switched places, probably under the influence of Vulgar Latin perfilum "woven cloth". We see the same mismatch of spelling and meaning in Portuguese and Spanish perfil "textile border, profile". (Let us add here this written purfle of thanks to Mary Jane Stoneburg, one of the Good Word long-time editors, for suggesting today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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