What does ‘aureate’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: aureate…

Reading the book Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar has been a vocabulary-building exercise for me. Last week I learned the word afflatus. This week, it’s arueate. Here is how Akhtar used the adjective in his novel:

To have heard my parents reminisce about medical school in Pakistan in the 1960s was to be treated to the aureate tones and hues common to most reports of halcyon days, though the lengthening view on Pakistan’s subsequent turbulent history has certainly made its ’60s era look like a never-again-to-be-seen high-water mark.

Use of the word dates to the early 15th century and refers to something that is “resembling gold,” or “gold-coloured.” From this, comes the figurative meaning of  “splendid, brilliant.” The etymology of the word is Latin, from aureatus meaning “decorated with gold,” from aureus “golden,” from aurum “gold.” The word contains Sanskrit roots as well, with ayah meaning “metal.”

Aureate is one of several adjectives in English relating to gold. Auriferous and auric are two others although they are more likely to appear in scientific contexts (where Au is the chemical symbol for gold). The word aureate has tended to have a more literary applications and the word’s use meaning has gone from from “golden” to “resplendent,” to “grandiloquent.”

In fact, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Aureate [is] a writing style that is affected, pompous, and heavily ornamental, that uses rhetorical flourishes excessively, and that often employs interlarded foreign words and phrases.”