• umbrella •
êm-bre-lê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Parasol, a foldable portable canopy, usually round, that covers us and protects us from rain or sun. 2. Anything that covers and protects everything, as 'an umbrella clause in a contract' or 'the American nuclear umbrella over the West'.
Notes: Today's word has produced over its life several derivations. Umbrellaed refers anything that covers and protects, as 'a scene umbrellaed by clouds'. Umbrellaless usually refers to someone without an umbrella when needed. Umbrella-like refers to an object with in the shape of an umbrella.
In Play: Umbrellas come in a wide range of sizes: "They had taken a beach umbrella to protect them from the sun but ended up using it to fend off the downpour." The metaphorical sense of today's Good Word covers an equally wide range of subjects: "Influenza is an umbrella term covering a wide range of symptoms in different people caused by a wide range of viruses."
Word History: Today's Good Word was first attested in the letters of John Donne, from Italian ombrello. Italian inherited the word from Late Latin umbrella, the diminutive of umbra "shade, shadow", which inherited it from the Proto-Indo-European word andho- "blind; dark", source also of Sanskrit andha- and Avestan anda- "blind, dark". Apparently, all other Indo-European languages did not like this PIE word; we find no evidence of it in any others. However, Latin umbra went into the making of the borrowed words umbrage and umbrageous "producing shade". Umbrage took an interesting mid-life turn. Originally meaning "shade" or "shadow", the meaning shifted to "offense, annoyance", as in, "She took umbrage at his remarks." (Lest Rob Towart take umbrage at our lack of appreciation, let's thank him now for recommending such historically interesting Good Word.)
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