July 08, 2011
- umbrella (noun)
- What does it mean?
- 1 : a collapsible covering for protection against weather consisting of fabric stretched over a hinged frame coming out from a center pole; especially : a small one for carrying in the hand2 : something resembling an umbrella in shape or purpose
- How do you use it?
- "I set the umbrella slowly and carefully on end against the wall, but as soon as I took my hand away, its heel slipped from under it, and down it came again with another bang." (Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad)
- Are you a word wiz?
The word "umbrella" is nothing new to you, but its history might be. Contrary to what you might expect, English speakers borrowed "umbrella" from a language spoken in a sunny country. Which language do you think "umbrella" comes from?If you chose D, magnifico! English took "umbrella" from the Italian word "ombrella." "Ombrella" comes from the Latin word "umbella," the diminutive form of Latin "umbra," meaning "shade." In its earliest use, "umbrella" referred to a portable covering used to shade people from the sun. Soon people also began using "umbrella" to refer to a similar covering used for protection from rain. We still use "umbrella" for both kinds of covering, though smaller umbrellas are used for rain and larger umbrellas provide shade at the beach or over tables outdoors. A handheld umbrella for sun protection is usually called a "parasol." The word "parasol" traces to two Old Italian words meaning "to shield" and "sun."