3

I realize that the English word "umbrella" smells like a diminutive of umbra, "shadow". However, all mentions of an "umbrella" from ancient Rome or Greece I have found concern protection from the Sun, whereas I am interested in umbrellas as a means of protection against rain. (This may have something to do with my being now in Cambridge rather than Texas.) It appears that this kind of umbrella against rain was not known in ancient Rome — do correct me if I'm wrong.

What would be a good Latin word for an umbrella? There is no need for it to be classical (unless there is good classical precedent, of course), I just want a useful word for present day. An attested phrase would be great, but other kinds of suggestions are also welcome. I have posted one possibility below, but I'm sure there are other ones, or at least better reasoning for mine.

4

I have several times used parapluvium (cf. Fr. parapluie) in published translations. Nobody has ever objected.

  • I like this a lot, especially in its relationship to parapluie and its contrast with parasol. But following the example of both parapluie and parasol, I wonder if parapluvia would be a closer rendition, as pluvia is the substantive rain (as is pluie and sol), from the adjective pluvius? On reflection though, parapluvium does sound nice, certainly nicer than parapluvia, and euphony is as good a guide to word formation as any, I guess :) – Penelope Feb 15 '18 at 2:04
  • 1
    @Penelope I've wrestled with this one for years, on and off. Looking at some old notes I see that I did indeed begin with parapluvia, but was uncomfortable with it. I adopted a correspondent's suggestion for the neuter form, because it (a) was used in tempus pluvium and (b) was more euphonious, as you say. – Tom Cotton Feb 15 '18 at 6:56
  • An aside: in Spanish is paraguas, from para+agua, stop water. What do you mean nobody has ever objected? – luchonacho Jun 21 '18 at 14:07
  • @luchonacho I mean just that! You'd be surprised at some of the things in my translations that people choose to cavil at — but parapluvium isn't one of them. – Tom Cotton Jun 21 '18 at 14:46
2

An umbrella can be regarded as a "shadow from rain", similar to the "shadow from light" expressed by umbra. I think this analogy is clear enough, but it has to be made explicit. To me it seems that umbra or the diminutive umbrella means a shadow from light unless specified. So, we specify it: I suggest umbrella pluvialis.

Of course this would make sense with umbra as well, but the diminutive is suitable for this use — the shadow zone created by an umbrella is rather small — and it reinforces the meaning by analogy to other languages like English ("umbrella") and Italian ("ombrello"). And, as usual, once the concept has been introduced and the context doesn't turn sunny, the adjective pluvialis can be dropped to leave a plain umbrella.

I have found no attestations of umbrella pluvialis, but I think it would be a reasonable choice anyway, especially in modern use.

Penelope remarked in a comment that umbrella seems not to be the standard classical choice, whereas umbella or umbraculum (often in plural) are attested. Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis agrees. These are good options with pluvialis/pluviale. However, despite umbrella not being classical, I find it appropriate for modern use. After all, Latin diminutives are not uniquely determined by the base word. And the analogy to other languages is not to be neglected; making use of them often makes communication smoother.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.