My secret is out. I admit it. I am palpebrous.
However, my confession will mean nothing unless I explain the word, because it won’t be understood even by that minuscule proportion of the population who know the Latin from which it was taken.
It’s so rare I have been able to find only one modern example:
Don’s deep voice, his palpebrous, leonine features, his evident learning, his almost BBC-like diction, his entire bearing, might seem so grand as to be intimidating to a young student.
Geographical Review, July 2009.
A member of the medical profession will assume it has something to do with my eyes, since a palpebra is an eyelid, a term taken from classical Latin and so having palpebrae as its plural. Zoologists may recognise it as a relative of the second half of the scientific name Paleosuchus palpebrosus for Cuvier’s dwarf caiman (it means to have prominent eyelids). It also appears in Zosterops palpebrosus, the formal term for the oriental white-eye, a little bird so named because it has a prominent white ring around its eye. A scientific relative, now wholly defunct, is palpebrate, having eyelids.
We’re in the right area, but palpebrous came about through a misapprehension by Benjamin Smart, a nineteenth-century elocutionist and grammarian. In the second edition of A New Critical Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language, he defined palpebrous to mean a person with prominent eyebrows.
So now you know.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added pieces
Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff; Habiliments; The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker; Agister; The Word at War; Not so green as you’re cabbage-looking; Peely-wally; Draw a line in the sand; Porphyrogeniture; Set one’s cap at; Epicaricacy; Furthest and farthest; Hide one’s light under a bushel; Jentacular.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!