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Pronounced /ˈfleɪvɪkəməs/Help with pronunciation

A person who may be so described has yellow hair.

In 1937, Warwick Deeping published a book entitled Malice of Men, which included: “My mother was provoked, not only by Mrs. Braithwaite’s crowding competition, but by the lady’s person, for she was flowery and flavicomous.” This led to a rebuke in a review of another of his books, Blind Man’s Year, in the issue of Time magazine of 7 July that year: “When Warwick Deeping is writing in his own person, he likes to use such stiff-legged literarities as ‘flavicomous, ecology, otiose,’ [and] speaks of people ‘occluding’ the doorway. But his wistful better nature comes to the fore in his characters’ speeches, which are always from the heart.”

Only a few writers have used this word, among them Anthony Burgess, the others preferring a more straightforward alternative such as blonde. In the late nineteenth century, William Cowper Brann was struck by an article in a Boston newspaper and wrote this squib in his own paper, the Iconoclast of Waco, Texas:

Melanocomous, multiloquous, sanguinaceous, flavicomous, etc., are words that do very well for the penetralia of Boston, but should be sawed up and fed to Texas on the monthly installment plan.
[Multiloquous = talking a lot; sanguinaceous = resembling blood; penetralia = secret or hidden places.]

Other words in the same ending include melanocomous, having black hair (Greek melas, black), and auricomous (from the Latin word for gold), like flavicomous also meaning having yellow hair. All three derive their endings from Latin coma, hair. The first part of flavicomous is from Latin flavus, yellow.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 8 Dec. 2007

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-fla4.htm
Last modified: 8 December 2007.