Word of The Day for Sunday, May 29, 2011


vir•gule (VUR-gyool)  n

1. a short oblique stroke (/) between two words indicating that whichever is appropriate may be chosen to complete the sense of the text in which they occur
2. a dividing line, as in dates, fractions, a run-in passage of poetry to show verse division, etc.


1837; from Fr. virgule, from L. virgula "punctuation mark," lit. "little twig," dim. of virga "shoot, rod, stick"; the word had been borrowed in its L. form in 1728; used as a comma in medieval MSS

Synonyms: diagonal, separatrix, shilling mark, slant, slash, solidus, stroke
Related Words: verge, virgin

Sentence Examples:
• She is of course well aware that I am watching, so finally makes the V of the Roman five, with a virgule before.  - Erotica Romana, Johann Wolfgang Goethe

• But, according to Dr Nott, the verses of Chaucer, and of all his successors down to Surrey, are merely rhythmical, to be read by cadence, and admitting of considerable variety in the number of syllables, though ten may be the more frequent. In the manuscripts of Chaucer, the line is always broken by a cæsura in the middle, which is pointed out by a virgule; and this is preserved in the early editions down to that of 1532. - Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1845

• "Dis/ability" unfolds its significance readily enough, but doubles back to focus on "/" and " " "(!) Between them, the virgule and our quotation marks, the literal and figurative markedness of what would otherwise have been chisled into our mindfulness. - Semiotics and dis/ability: interrogating categories of difference, Linda J. Rogers, Beth Blue Swadener

Sources: Dictionary.com, Online Etymology

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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