vocabularyHave you ever played that game where a word is given and all of the players have to submit a definition?  The definition with the most votes wins.

About ten years ago a group of my friends played that game but with a dictionary. Until I looked it up today, azotemia‘s only meaning to me was the winning definition: the condition where food particles are inbetween your teeth, especially green, leafy vegetables. This quickly became the running joke in our circle of friends. Even today, without a second thought, we say, “You have azotemia,” and the recipient quickly checks their teeth.

Would you believe that the root of balustrade, baluster, comes from both the Italian and Greek words for the wild pomegranate flower?  The supports were often shaped much like this flower.  Here is the etymology according to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

baluster: “support for a railing,” c.1600, from Fr. balustre, from It. balaustro “pillar,” from balausta “flower of the wild pomegranate,” from Gk. balaustion (perhaps of Semitic origin, cf. Aramaic balatz “flower of the wild pomegranate”). Staircase uprights had lyre-like double curves, like the calyx tube of the pomegranate flower.

Merriam-Webster’s Online dictionary defines a balustrade as “1: a row of balusters topped by a rail; 2: a low parapet or barrier.”

According to the Construction Dictionary, 9th Edition © 2001 published by the Greater Phoenix, Arizona Chapter #98 of the National Association of Women in Construction a balustrade is defined as follows:

A railing or parapet consisting of a handrail on balusters, sometimes on a base member and sometimes interrupted by piers.

Now, my teachers always said not to use a form of the word in its definition so here is the Construction Dictionary’s definition of baluster.

(1) A short vase-shaped supporting column or member. (2) A support for a railing, especially one of the upright columns of a balustrade.

According to the Mean’s Illustrated Construction Dictonary, 1st Edition, Copyright 1985, a balustrade can be defined as:

A complete railing system, including a top rail, balusters, and sometimes a bottom rail.

For certain, I will be thinking of pomegranates every time I see a balustrade.

More of our vocabulary posts.

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