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Word of the day: foudroyant

Ashley Bethard • Aug 27, 2010 at 10:25 AM

This adjective, pronounced “foo-DROI-uhnt,” means “overwhelming and sudden in effect,” “striking as with lightening” and, in terms of pathology, “(of disease) beginning in a sudden and severe form.”

It’s adapted from the French foudroyer, meaning “to strike with lightning,” which comes from the Old French foudre meaning “lightning,” from the Latin fulgur. It can also allude to something that’s “stunning” or “dazzling.”

Here’s a sentence from Margaret Oliphant’s The marriage of Elinor: “When it suddenly occurred to John, however, that this perhaps had some share in the ladies' hasty decision, that Mrs. Dennistoun perhaps (all that was objectionable was attributed to this poor lady) had been so abominably clear-sighted, so odiously presuming as to have suspected this, his sudden blaze of anger was foudroyant.”

Another example hails from Thomas De Quincey’s The note book of an English opium-eater: “I remember myself, in childhood, to have met a niece of John Wesley the ProtoMethodist, who always spoke of the second Lord Mornington (author of the well-known glees) as a cousin, and as intimately connected with her brother the great foudroyant performer on the organ.”

Lead art: When lightning looks like (deadly) fireworks.

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