What is ‘brume’?

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: brume….

If you’d asked me to describe brume and I hadn’t seen the spelling, I’d have thought you were talking about the herbaceous plant in the Fabaceae family. Common in Europe and parts of North American, it is often found in sunny sites, usually on dry, sandy soils. It has apparently leafless stems that in spring and summer are covered with golden-yellow flowers. Many people (including my husband) find broom to be a potent allergen.

But that in not the word I’m writing about today. Instead, my word of the week is brume, which I found in the surprisingly well-written thriller Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott. Here is how she used the word:

A long snaking strip of Quik Lubes and box stores, rippled by brume and the bus exhaust, that extends all the way into the hot brutalist maze of campus, four miles away, nestled deep in the sinking lemon groves.

Brume is a literary term meaning mist or fog. It comes from the French word brume, meaning “fog” which in Old French referred to wintertime. The earlier origin of that word was Latin, from bruma, meaning “winter, or winter solstice.” It is related to the Latin word brevis, meaning “short,” a connection which perhaps arises because the shortest day of the year occurs in the winter.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Aug. 8/18.

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