November 21, 2011
palpable (adjective)
\PAL-puh-bul\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
1 : capable of being of touched or felt : tangible2 : obvious, plain
How do you use it?
"Madame Defarge knitted steadily, but the intelligence had a palpable effect upon her husband. Do what he would, behind the little counter, he was troubled, and his hand was not trustworthy."
Are you a word wiz?

Obviously, the quote above comes from a published source. In which work of literature do you think it originally appeared?

Charles Dickens used "palpable" in this sentence in his 1859 novel about the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities, to describe the noticeable effect a piece of information has on Monsieur Defarge. Though Dickens wrote in the 1800s, the word "palpable" can be traced much farther back than that -- to the 1300s, in fact. It derives from the Latin verb "palpare," meaning "to stroke" or "to caress." Reflecting its Latin ancestor, the earliest sense of "palpable" referred to things that were capable of being touched physically. The extended meaning of "obvious, plain" didn't appear until the next century.
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