• umbrageous •
êm-bray-jês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Affording or forming shade; shady. 2. Easily offended, likely to take offense, sensitive to insult.
Notes: Today's word is the adjective of the noun umbrage "shade, shadow" and "offense, insult". We often hear how someone who is insulted takes umbrage at the insult. How these two meanings came together is explored below in the History.
In Play: Today we will use a wedding as the setting of both the positive and negative meanings of today's Good Word: "The wedding took place under the umbrageous limbs of a giant oak in the bride's backyard." How pleasant. However, "The wedding was almost called off when the bridegroom made a careless remark about the bride's mother in earshot of his umbrageous bride."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from an ancestor of French ombrage, which has the same meanings as the English copy. The French word descended from Latin umbraticus "shady, of shade", the adjective of umbra "shadow". This same noun cast a spell on the Latin noun umbella "parasol", sending it to Italian as ombrella, with an [r]. Since the original use of parasol (from Italian parare "to ward off" + sole "sun") was to protect delicate ladies from the insult of the sun, the stem umbra made sense. However, anything that casts a shadow on someone's character would be insulting, so the original meaning of the word umbrage took a bold leap from "shadow" to "offense". (Let's express our gratitude to Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, who trades under the name of Uncronopio in the Alpha Agora, lest he take umbrage at the slight.)