That’s the Word for It: Etiolate

The word etiolate comes from the French word for straw and refers to the practice of depriving plants of sunlight causing them to grow pale. The word can be used figuratively as well. Here it has been used to describe birdsong: “The song-thrush has a varied and rather etiolated though liquidescent call: listening to it is like following a small stream descending unevenly over pebbles and making twists and turns echoed in sound.”

Some more examples of the pallid word from literature:

“…I suddenly discerned at my feet, crouching among the rocks for protection against the heat, the marine goddesses for whom Elstir had lain in wait and whom he had surprised there, beneath the dark glaze as lovely as Leonardo would have painted, the marvelous Shadows, sheltering furtively, nimble and silent, ready at the first glimmer of light to slip behind the stone, to hide in a cranny, and prompt, once the menacing ray had passed, to return to the rock or the seaweed over whose torpid slumbers they seemed to be keeping vigil, beneath the sun that crumbled the cliffs and the etiolated ocean, motionless lightfoot guardians darkening the water’s surface with their viscous bodies and the attentive gaze of their deep blue eyes.”
― Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

“The past has no wholeness, it has been etiolated by revised explanations of it, trampled over by hindsight – all their lives.”
― Nadine Gordimer

Leave a Reply