In an article in Smithsonian magazine some time ago I came across the alliterative phrase “caliginous corners,” whose first word was new to me. English caliginous, like Spanish caliginoso, comes straight from Latin clginsus, which meant, as do our modern borrowings, ‘full of mist, covered with mist, dark, obscure, gloomy.’ The Latin adjective corresponded to the noun clg, with stem clgin-, whose meanings included ‘a thick atmosphere, a mist, vapor, fog.’ An extended sense of that Latin noun was ‘dim-sightedness, weakness of the eyes,’ and modern medicine has carried over caligo to designate ‘a speck on the cornea causing poor vision.’

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Apr 03, 2014 @ 07:38:09

    I rarely come to a dead stop with a new word, but this one stopped me. Before reading about its history, I tried to come up with an imaginary definition. The closest I could come was a take-off on “vertiginous”. “Caliginous” — the sense of dizziness and dislocation experienced by Californians during an earthquake.

    I’m glad to have the new word. It’s such a good one. I certainly could have used it during our extended fog/mist/drizzle season this year.


  2. Tropical Flowering Zone/Maria
    Apr 04, 2014 @ 10:11:45

    I came across this one with the Caligo idomeneus ariphron butterfly species, the ‘Caligo’ attributed to the flying at dusk behaviour and ‘owl’ butterfly colloquial.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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