What does palpable mean?

Word count: 190 words

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: palpable.

I learned the word palpable in grade 8 when my English class studied the play Hamlet. The line “A hit, a very palpable hit,” — said by Osric, describing the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes — lodged in my brain and never let go. Palpable means something that can be felt.

Erin Morgenstern used the same word in her fantasy novel Night Circus.

The cold of the snow is palpable, though she realizes her dress is no longer wet from the rain. 

The bilabial punch of the two Ps  (a bilabial  consonant requires the articulation of both lips) separated by the back-of-the-throat L makes the word thrilling to say, at least to me. The word comes from the Late Latin palpabilis meaning “that may be touched or felt,” which comes in turn from the Latin palpare meaning  to touch gently, stroke

The figurative sense of the word, meaning “easily perceived, evident” also dates back to late 14 century.