In a word: qiviut

March 27, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | 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 working vocabulary. This week's word:


An excellent Inuit word for a game of fictionary, qiviut (pronounced KEE-vee-oot) is, the American Heritage Dictionary informs us,  "the soft wool lying beneath the long coat of the muskox, valued for its use as a fiber."* Stump them with that.

Example: I first came across the word in a lovely poem by Marianne Moore, whose fondness for exotic words was matched by her fondness for exotic animals. In "The Arctic Ox (or Goat)" she writes:

"To wear the arctic fox / you have to kill it. Wear / qiviut--the underwool of the arctic ox-- / pulled off it like a sweater; / your coat is warm; your conscience, better.

"I would like a suit of / qiviut, so light I did not / know I had it on. ..."

*I am not making this up, you know.

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