What’s the meaning of ‘rubicund’?

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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: rubicund….

When I’m reading, I’m always looking for new or interesting words. Sometimes, I’m surprised to find thoughtful and sophisticated books almost bereft of such language. Other times, I’m shocked to discover plainly written books that are loaded with it.

The memoir Moments of Glad Grace by Canadian writer Alison Wearing, falls into this latter category. Although it is a simply written recollection of a trip to Dublin the author made with her father, it has given me a number of words-of-the-week, the first of which I wrote about last Wednesday.

Today, the word is rubicund. Here is how Wearing used it:

“Where’s the best place to stand?” shouts a rubicund woman with a strident voice.

I had thought the word might refer to weight but then realized I was becoming confused with rubinesque, meaning  plump or rounded usually in a pleasing or attractive way. That word is a reference to the artwork of Flemish painter Paul Rubens, who liked to paint women who were somewhat plump.

Instead, however, rubicund refers to skin colour, meaning people who are red in the face. The etymology of the word dates back to the 1500s, and comes from from Middle French. This word comes, in turn, from the Latin rubicundus, from rubere “to be red,” from ruber “red.”

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