Monday, February 18, 2013


marl [mɑrl] n.

1.) A kind of soil consisting principally of clay mixed with carbonate of lime, forming a loose unconsolidated mass, valuable as a fertilizer.
2.) "Burning marl": used symbolically, after Milton, for the torments of Hell.
3.) Poetical. Used generically (like clay) for: Earth (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: adoption of Old French marle (still in dialects; replaced in modern French by the variant marne), from late Latin margila (whence Old High German mergil; Middle High German, modern German, and Dutch mergel; Danish mergel; Swedish märgel), diminutive of Latin marga (whence Italian and Spanish marga), said by Pliny to be a Gaulish word. It does not, however, occur in the modern Celtic languages: the alleged Breton marg does not correspond phonetically; the Breton merl is from French, and the Welsh marl and Irish and Gaelic marla are from English.

"— Leonato: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
— Beatrice: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none: Adam's sons are my brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred" (Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare, 1600).

(Beatrice, Frank Dicksee, 1888)


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Another new word for me. And to answer your question about Life of Pi -- no, we don't like 3D either. We saw it the old-fashioned way. I hope 3D is just a passing fad.

Bibi said...

Oh mergel! Took me until the etymology part until I knew what you meant. Odd word, marl. It sounds like the last part of the word went missing and no one bothered looking for it.

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