In a word: fleche

The Baltimore Sun

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


In ecclesiastical architecture, the Gothic fashion was for the fleche (pronunciation anglicized as FLESH), a slender spire, often placed at the intersection of the nave and the transept. It is a direct lifting from the French fleche, or "arrow," resembling an arrow that has been shot through the structure, protruding through the roof.

(Nave, incidentally, the stretch of church between the narthex and chancel, comes to us from the Latin navis, "ship," owing to its resemblance to an upside-down hull.)

Fleche has also appeared in English as a term for an angled fortification or for the points on a backgammon board, and as a term in fencing.

Example: From Caddy's 1886 Footsteps of Jeanne d'Arc, a mention of "its high-pitched lead roof with many pinnacles and fleches."

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