Monday, June 09, 2008


Unrelenting rain storms have inundated the midwestern United States in the last few days, and forecasts don’t seem to promise much relief. It’s appropriate to examine some words that relate to rain.

Pluvius was a Latin word for rain, and it brought us several words.
• compluvium: a square opening in the roof of the atrium through which the rainwater collected on the roof fell. In turn,
• the impluvium was the square basin located under that opening designed to collect the rainwater.
• pluvial: a long cloak worn as a liturgical vestment, but originally designed to be a raincoat.
• pluvial adj.: characterized by much rain.
• pluvialine: resembling the plover, the rain bird.
• pluviculture: the art of inducing rain.
• pluviometer: a rain gauge.
• pluviose: rainy.
• pluvius: relating to insurance coverage against disruption by bad weather.

Huetos was a Greek word for rain, and it shows up in a couple of places.
• hyetal: pertaining to rain or rainy regions. [Note that the hernia is spelled hiatal.]
• hythergraph: a graphical representation of climate in which one important coordinate is precipitation or humidity.

In addition, the Greek ombro- meant rain. Some organisms were ombrophilous (craved rain), while others were ombrophobic (shunned rain). The Latin imbro- was a cousin; it shows up in imbricated, covered with overlapping rain tiles, and imbriferous, bringing rain.

SIDEBAR: World Rainfall Statistics

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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