Week sixty-one: ROSAKER (probability 10479), by David Sutton

ROSAKER is an old name for the mineral now known as REALGAR, a bright red arsenic monosulphide, which takes its name from the Arabic rahj-al-ghar, powder of the mine or cave. There are several thousand mineral names in the lexicon, many of them very useful to the Scrabble player, but from the point of view of the word lover most of them are not that interesting, the great majority being formed from the name of a person or place plus the suffix -ITE e.g. BAUXITE (from Les Baux in France), CLEVEITE (from P.T. Cleve, a Swedish chemist), and so on. But a few are more descriptive and/or have a more interesting lineage. For example:

CACHOLONGa variety of quartz, usually of a milky colour, from Kalmuck (Mongolian) kas chilagun, precious stone
GIRASOL(also GIRASOLE or GIROSOL) a fire opal, from the Italian, meaning 'turn sun', from the way it glows in certain lights
FAHLERZ(or FAHLORE) an ore of copper, from the German, fahl meaning dun-coloured and Erz meaning ore.
HELIODORa variety of clear beryl, from the German
MISPICKELarsenical pyrites, a mineral composed of iron, arsenic, and sulphur, from the German
TIGEREYEa form of quartz with golden-brown stripes
ZAFFAR(or ZAFFER or ZAFFIR or ZAFFRE) an impure oxide of cobalt, from the Arabic
ZARNEC(or ZARNICH) a native sulphide of arsenic, from the Arabic


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