Thursday, May 19, 2011

An interesting word: Fuliginous

Yesterday, a client used a word that I had never seen before—and that does not happen often: “fuliginous.”

She was using the word to describe a successful conference, as in “a raging success.”

To be fair, English was not the author’s first language, although she speaks fluently. And it was a challenging assignment: she was trying to write a wrap-up press release for an even that hasn’t happened, yet. As a Scouting leader, I cannot fault her for trying to be prepared.

In case your dictionary is beyond your fingertips right now, the Canadian Oxford defines “fuliginous” as “sooty, dusky,” derived from the Latin word for soot, “fuligo.”

How did the client get from “raging” to “sooty”? It turns out she was using an online translation tool. She wanted to describe something as “a raging success,” and the software gave her “fuliginous.”

There’s really no automating the editor, is there?


  1. If we insist on using the word to mean raging success, some day the dictionaries will capitulate and add it. I plan on writing about my favorite misused word next week.

  2. Anonymous6:19 AM

    I believe my chimney sweep used this word. It is an adjective. I think it means ashy?

    1. Congrats for answering the Twitter challenge--figuring it out without looking it up.

      It means "sooty," according to my dictionary. I wonder how the online dictionary gave "fuliginous" for a French word that means "raging," as in "raging success." An awkward phrase, I admit.