Aug 2, 2010


Summary: WOW! It's time for our regular Monday "Word of the Week." The point of these posts is to introduce you to words you may not know--at least not in full. Today's word is spot-on, as it comes from a list of words few people are familiar with. Read on! has a fun series of Top Ten Lists--words that frequently stump you, come from Biblical or Shakespearian roots or have multiple meanings, for example. Their newest list contains ten words, in their words, "for things you didn't know had names." Number one is philtrum.

The whole list is interesting, but I can see why this one was given top billing: It certainly caught my attention! Philtrum is a Latin word derived from the Greek phileo for fondness, especially in the form of a kiss as a mark of tenderness. It's technically a medical term today, used to describe the little divot above the upper lip, or the indentation that starts at the top of the "heart" in a heart-shaped mouth (see accompanying photo).

Greeks also used the word philtrum to mean love potion. As Merriam-Webster shares online, this suggests that "seductive powers were attributed to this facial feature."

The pronunciation for this word is FIL-truhm.

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