Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Zareba Round My Grimoire

Rare the experience at my age of encountering a word in reading I haven't ever seen before—and in addition find difficult to understand from the context. The word I came across and instantly marked was zareba. It was being used in a philosophical work which said that idealism was the zareba that limited certain philosophers. In another book I encountered a word I did recognize at once, but I certainly hadn't seen for a month of years. It was grimoire.

Zareba comes from Africa and means “an improvised stockade constructed especially of thorn bushes in defense (against wild animals, enemy attacks) in parts of Africa.” Grimoire comes from French, is a corruption of the word grammar, and means “a magician's manual for invoking demons and spirits of the dead.” Thank you Webster's (unabridged).


  1. Zareba's new to me, too.

    It's interesting how words associated with words became associated with magic; 'gramarye' comes from the same French word, and 'glamor' comes from the English version. So that's three words pertaining to magic from grammar and its cognates alone.

  2. Didn't realize that glamor is also "magic," with the same parentage. Wonderful addition to this riff...

  3. Are you kidding, glamor is magic!

    Fun post.

  4. Glamor or glamour usually means a magical illusion (although it can just be a synonym for spell, which, by the way, is etymologically related to spelling, in the sense of spelling out words), which I've always liked because it puts a different spin on the way it is often used in other contexts!

    Most words that we associate with the idea of magic seem to have to do either with writing or singing, those two very magical ways of using words.

  5. Baldy says: I cannot help myself. In Weston "grimoire" is used when something is dirtier.

  6. Zareba!

    (Really, I don't have much to add, but what a cool word.)

  7. I can only say domela with Maa Ramotswe.


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