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12 July 2010

Mondays Word - Umbraphile

Solar eclipses have often been used by writers, especially in fantasy as portents of some momentous event.  A solar eclips is such a mysterious and eerie event in many ways, so it's not surprising that authors love them.  Many people, in fact, lovee eclipses. 

Michael Quinion says: "The word UMBRAPHILE turned up this week in a piece
about the total solar eclipse that will take place this Sunday near Tahiti. Literally, "umbraphile" means a lover of shade (from Latin"umbra", shade + Greek "philos", loving); biologists occasionallyuse it for shade-loving plants (the adjective is "umbraphilic").

But it has been borrowed, or reinvented, by astronomers to refer tosomeone who is "addicted to the glory and majesty of total solare clipses" as the American astronomer Glenn H Schneider put it.

In 2003, the New Scientist wrote, "There are people who like solar eclipses and then there are umbraphiles, those who like them so much they'll drop everything to see one." Professor Schneider sayshe recalls using it in that sense after the total solar eclipse of 1976, but thinks that it may be older; however, the earlies published example that I've found was in the Philadelphia Inquirerin July 1991."

I find that quite fascinating, although 'umbraphile' probably  isn't a word that most authors would use when writing about a solar eclipse in a romance novel!

*World Wide Words is copyright (c) Michael Quinion 2010. All rights reserved. The Words Web site is at http://www.worldwidewds.