In a word: ferrule

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word: 


As you walk along the pavement, the tapping sound you make with a cane or umbrella likely comes from the ferrule (pronounced FER-uhl or FER-ool). A ferrule is a metal ring or cap installed at the end of a stick or tube to strengthen it or prevent it from splitting. 

The word comes, by a circuitous route, from the Latin ferrum, iron. At one point, transformed into the Latin viriae, "bracelets," it moved into French as virole, virelle, thus into English as the now-obsolete verrol, for that metal ring or cap, and by the seventeenth century had become ferrule, where it has stuck. 

EXAMPLE: "The wooden case would most likely be made of western incense cedar from California, the ferrule possibly of brass or aluminum from the American West, and the eraser perhaps a mixture of South American rubber and Italian pumice stone."

From Henry Petroski's The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (2011)

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