• silhouette •
si-lu-et • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The outline of an object filled in with single color, usually black, against a lighter background.
Notes: Today's word is so clearly French that it has not spawned any family members in English. It may be used as a verb, however, as a figure silhouetted against the sky. It does contain several spelling traps that we should be aware of: the H after the L and the OU that represents the [u] sound. We also have to remember that the ending is the French diminutive ending with the superfluous [TE] at the end: -ette.
In Play: There are several places where silhouettes are naturally expected: "Matt Tremony watched Calley Pidgian's silhouette on the window shade with great interest." Let's not forget that today's Good Word can serve as well as a verb: "As Granola Barr explained to her father that she was going out with someone who drives a Cadillac, he could see a motorcycle silhouetted by the streetlight down the block."
Word History: Today's Good Word has an eponym: Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), the French minister of finance in 1759. Silhouette was forced by France's credit crisis during the Seven Years War to impose severe economic demands upon the French people, particularly the wealthy. Because of Silhouette's austerity program, his name became eponymous with anything done or made cheaply. Since profiles cut from black card were the cheapest way of recording a person's appearance, the French jokingly used Silhouette's name to refer to them. (A silhouette of today's Good Word was submitted by David McWethy, King of Garage Sales, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.)
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