What does ‘serried’ mean?

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: serried….

My husband is reading the 1950 book Escape to Adventure, by Fitzroy Maclean. Not quite my cup of tea, the 419-page book is subtitled: The adventure-autobiography of an inquiring diplomat in the far reaches of Soviet Central Asia. But I give my husband full marks for being willing to undertake such a daunting tome.

The other night, as he was reading, he asked me if I knew what the word serried meant. I did not, I had to confess, but I was willing to look it up. Here is how MacLean used the term:

Even the foreigners, diplomats and journalists, sitting isolated in their stalls amid the serried rows of proletarian aristocrats, cannot but share the thrill of excitement that runs through the crowd as the curtain goes up, cannot but feel something of the rapt interest with which they follow every movement and every gesture until it goes down again.

Serried, it turns out, is an adjective referring to rows of people or things standing close together. (The photo at the top of this post shows serried rows of macarons. Yum!) The term was used in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, in 1667 but it dates from an earlier time. It’s thought to come from serry, meaning “to press close together,” a military term derived from the Middle French serre, meaning “close, compact.”

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Nov. 7/18.

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