What does the term ‘foehn wind’ mean?

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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: foehn wind….

A literary murder mystery, by Olga Tokarczuk — winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature — contains several interesting words of the week. Today, I’m going to take a detailed look at the term foehn wind.

The novel, which published in Polish in 2009 and translated into English in 2019, is Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Here is how Tokarczuk uses the expression in her book:

It had been dark for a long time now, and since yesterday a foehn wind had been blowing, so the snow was melting rapidly, and dreadful sleet was falling.

The term refers to a warm and dry, gusty wind that periodically descends the leeward slopes (facing the direction toward which the wind is blowing) of nearly all mountains. The name was first applied to a wind of this kind that occurs in the Alps, where the phenomenon was first studied.

The word foehn originated from Latin favonius, a mild west wind personified by the Greek God Zephyrus, (known as Favonius in Latin).   The German word Föhn also means “hairdryer,” which perhaps communicates the warmth of this late-Spring and early-Summer wind

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