What does ‘marmorated’ 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: marmorated…

I have little interest in insects but a March 12/18 New Yorker article on stinkbugs (one is pictured above) captured my attention recently.

Headlined,When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home,” (now there’s a headline that’s hard to resist) writer Kathryn Schulz relayed her story in the style of Hitchcock, complete with an opening sequence about a couple whose Southern California home had been infested with the insects. (The movie would clearly have been called Bugs!)

While the word appears multiple times in the article, here is how Schulz used it the first time:

That’s a stinkbug, a chorus of people had told her—specifically, a brown marmorated stinkbug. Huh, Stone had thought at the time. Never heard of them. Now they were covering every visible surface of her bedroom.

Interestingly, that’s not the bug’s scientific name. It is also known as Halyomorpha halys. It is native to China, Japan, the Koreas, and Taiwan and was accidentally introduced into the United States at an unknown date, with the first specimen being collected in September 1998.

The word marmorated means having a marbled or streaked appearance. The etymology of the word is Latin, with marmoratus being the past participle of marmorate meaning “to overlay with marble.”

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on March 21/18.

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