Word of the Week (156): CURULE (probability 16304), by David Sutton

A CURULE chair was a chair like a camp-stool with curved legs used by higher Roman magistrates; hence the word came to be transferred to the magistrates themselves and mean 'of higher authority'. It derives from the Latin currus, chariot. Note that it is adjectival only: no CURULES*.

While on the subject of chairs we may mention CATHEDRA, a bishop's throne, from which we get the word cathedral. A rather different type of ecclesiastical seat was the FRITHSTOOL, a chair of sanctuary, placed near the altar in a church: if a fugitive could plonk himself on this he placed himself beyond the reach of civil law.

A GADI or GADDI is the cushioned throne of an Indian ruler.

The French word FAUTEUIL is playable: in French it simply means armchair, but in English it is used more specifically for a theatre stool. Another French borrowing is STRAPONTIN, which means a folding seat in a taxi, theatre etc.

A BERGERE is a type of easy chair with cane back and arms. A BERBICE chair is a type of armchair with long arms that can be folded inwards to act as leg rests: this is adjectival only – no BERBICES*.

WOOLSACK refers to the seat of the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, being a large square sack of wool covered with scarlet. Wool was chosen symbolically for this seat as the source of much of Britain's prosperity in the Middle Ages.

A SUNK is a turf seat, offering us what may be surprising -S hook to those who think of SUNK only as a past tense.

And I recently played the rather nice LOVESEAT, an armchair for two; the accommodation might have been a bit squashed, but I suppose that was the idea....


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