Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New word list: catkin

           My arms
fit you like a sleeve, they hold
catkins of your willows, the wild bee farms
of your nerves, each muscle and fold
of your first days.
—Anne Sexton, "Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward" (1960)
Salix cinerea female catkin. (From Wikipedia.)
catkin, n.

Etymology: Taken by Lyte from Dutch katteken ‘kitten’ and ‘catkin’ of hazel, willow, etc. (in Dodoens), diminutive of katte cat. The 16th cent. Latin catulus, French chaton ( < chat ), and German kätzchen, have the same two senses; the catkin being named from its soft downy appearance: compare CATLING n. 4.

A unisexual inflorescence, consisting of rows of apetalous flowers ranged in circles along a slender stalk; the whole forming a cylindrical, downy-looking, and generally pendant part, which falls off in a single piece after flowering or ripening; as in the willow, birch, poplar, pine, hazel, etc.; a deciduous spike; an amentum. (Called by Turner 1568 tagge, and by various 16–17th c. writers aglet.)

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