Word of the Week (200): GIMMAL (probability 19594), by David Sutton

A GIMMAL or GIMMAL ring (also spelt GIMMOR or GYMMAL) is a ring with two or three hoops or links that fit together to form one complete ring. The word comes from Latin gemellus, twin.

These rings were fashionable in the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in England and Germany, and were often given as betrothal rings. The engaged couple would wear one hoop each and rejoin them to use as a wedding ring.

The associated adjective is GIMMALLED, meaning joined like a gimmal ring; this has an odd-looking Shakespearean variant JYMOLD.

GIMBAL or GYMBAL is essentially the same word as GIMMAL, but is now used mainly in the plural to denote a contrivance with self-aligned bearings for keeping hanging objects, nautical instruments etc vertical.

The same Latin root gem- gives us GEMEL, a heraldic term for a pair of bars placed close together, and GEMINY, a Shakespearean word for a pair, especially of eyes. Also the botanical term GEMINATE, to arrange in pairs, with the associated adjective GEMINOUS.

The mild oath GEMINI (with variants GEMINY, GEMONY and the modern forms JIMINY or JIMMINY) is probably not from this root despite appearances: the OED suggests that it may derive from Jesu domine, Jesus lord.


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