Click the photograph for more information about this bird.

Two unrelated English words have ended up as lore. The more common one, which means ‘a traditional body of knowledge,’ appears in the second line of Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

The other lore is a biological term. It refers to something you probably didn’t know there was a word for: ‘the region between a bird’s eye and its bill.’ That region is typically strap-shaped (see photo above), and in fact lore was borrowed from the Latin noun lōrum that meant ‘strap, thong.’ Botanical Spanish uses the adjective lorado to mean ‘strap-shaped,’ but ornithological Spanish doesn’t appear to have borrowed the noun *loro (perhaps because it would get confused with the loro that means ‘parrot’).
From the root of lōrum the Romans seem to have created Latin lōrīca, which designated a leather cuirass, a corselet of thongs.’ English uses that word as a historical term, and by analogy biologists have extended the definition of lorica to a ‘protective external shell or case, as of a rotifer or any of certain other microscopic organisms.’
© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    Mar 22, 2017 @ 17:35:19

    Ha.. the lore of a loro’s lore…

    so… what is the origin of ‘lora/loro’?


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 22, 2017 @ 18:00:19

      Spanish apparently borrowed loro from the synonymous indigenous Carib word roro.


      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs
        Mar 22, 2017 @ 19:41:42

        That gave me a laugh.. my friends would look at me like I was nuts if I started calling the parrots and parakeets ‘roros’ — I’ll try it soon!


        • Steve Schwartzman
          Mar 22, 2017 @ 20:19:15

          I predict they’ll think you’re strange.

          Many languages—most conspicuously those of far eastern Asia like Chinese and Japanese—don’t distinguish between l and r. Even in Spanish, the dialect that’s spoken in Puerto Rico tends to blend the two sounds, so that Spanish speakers from elsewhere may hear inhabitants of that country pronouncing the name in a way that would be spelled Puelto Jico.


  2. shoreacres
    Mar 22, 2017 @ 21:04:38

    Water birds’ lores provide a good bit of information, too. The color often changes as a juvenile matures, and significant color changes take place during the mating season. A blue heron is white when it’s young, and can only be distinguished from a snowy egret by its legs and its lores.

    By the time I got to your last paragraph, I already was wondering whether lorica was related. The word also refers to certain monastic prayers: primarily for protection. One of the most famous is known as “The Lorica of St. Patrick,” or “The Deer’s Cry,” or, most commonly, “The Breastplate of St. Patrick.” It’s been set to music, and this version is beautiful. Connolly sang it in 2011 at the inauguration of Ireland’s President, Michael Higgins.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 22, 2017 @ 22:26:52

      You know so much of the lore about this. I knew none of it, neither about birds nor breastplates. That’s a pretty song you linked to. I see from a website that the recording mentions,


      that when Rita Connolly was 17 “the Connolly Sisters made their recording debut with the McGarrigle Sisters’ ‘Heart Like a Wheel’. Thus began a long career as a performer and session singer.” I’m familiar with the McGarrigle Sisters from—among other things—Kate’s song “(Talk to Me of) Mendocino.” As you recall, I wasn’t able to go as far north as Mendocino on last fall’s trip to California. Let’s hope next time.

      At times Rita Connolly sounds to me like Judy Collins.


  3. kathryningrid
    Mar 27, 2017 @ 09:36:51

    All of the lore herein is delightful and amazing enough, but of course, the musical references you and Shoreacres have been discussing particularly caught my ear! Needless to say, I’ll be looking up various singers and songs, thanks to both of you. How appropriate that the monks appropriated the word for armor to name their prayers for protection. The more one delves into these corners of etymological history, the more interconnected the world feels, and not less in the ancient past of speech and literature than in the present day. Thanks for a great post and commentary that gird me so well for the week!


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 27, 2017 @ 10:09:26

      I was thinking about you just last night, and now here you are. Somebody’s psychic, or else somebodies are psychic.

      May all of this lore gird you in a grid of knowledge. Interconnectedness rocks (but WordPress doesn’t rock when it questions whether interconnectedness is a word). Did you watch the Connections television series with James Burke in 1978? I found it wonderful the way he linked things in the worlds of science and history. Where appropriate, I followed that approach in my math teaching.


      • kathryningrid
        Mar 27, 2017 @ 10:49:06

        Ha! Great minds sync alike.

        We were down closer to your neck o’ the woods over Spring Break again, but didn’t get a chance to Connect with you and Eve. It’s been such a ridiculously busy time at UNT these days that all we had the energy for was sleeping in when we could and otherwise just hiding from all social obligations—except the email and phone biz he had to do to hold the fort for work. Bet you know exactly how *that* goes!!

        Of *course* you’d know that series, too. I loved it! Wonder if it’s available anywhere now, between Netflix and DVDs and all that sort of thing…I’d be very curious to see how the episodes held up, and where changes since that time might lead in addition. Maybe somebody needs to do an update-version!



        • Steve Schwartzman
          Mar 27, 2017 @ 11:04:14

          Great that we’re connected through Connections. The series was indeed put out on DVDs. I know because I borrowed some from the Austin Public Library a few years ago. I did find the series somewhat dated, but it’s been a while and I can’t remember what gave me that dated feeling. It might have been something as simple as the lower resolution of the video compared to what we have today.

          I checked online just now and found the series is still available, but the latter parts go for an exorbitant price:


          As for having energy for little more than sleeping, that’s how Eve and I felt after returning a few weeks ago from an exhausting month of running around New Zealand. We’re back on Central Time now but still dragging a bit.


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If you encounter an unfamiliar technical term in any of these postings, check the Glossary in the bar across the top of the page.
©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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