What’s an embrassure?

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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: embrassure…

While I’m as interested in castles as the next person, I’ve never made a study of the architecture of such buildings.

Perhaps that’s why I was unfamiliar with the word embrassure, which I found in Olga Tokarczuk‘s marvellous novel, Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead. Here is how she used the word:

These grotesque figures had four legs and a cabin with embrasures on top.

An embrasure is the opening in a battlement, which is a piece of defensive architecture (as in the photo shown above in the city of Mdina, Malta.) The parapet, which is a low wall somewhere between chest and head height), has gaps or indentations, which allow for the launch of arrows or other projectiles. These gaps are known as crenels, carnels, or embrasures, and a wall or building containing them is called crenellated.

The function of battlements is to protect the defenders by giving them something to hide behind, from which they can also launch their own missiles.

The term dates back to 1695–1705 and comes from the Old French word embraser, meaning to enlarge a window or door opening.

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