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Increasing Your Vocabulary: Philtrum

The word ‘philtrum’ isn’t one that a person would normally use in common conversation. It is the name for something rather than a conversational word. However, it refers to something that is incredibly common.

In fact, virtually everyone has seen hundreds or thousands of philtrums. Taken a step farther, it is exceptionally rare for a person not to have a philtrum. If you guessed that it has something to do with a part of the body, you’d be right, yet a philtrum isn’t exactly a body part.

The word comes from the old Greek word “philtron” and ‘philtrum’ is Latin. The actual meaning of the Greek word is “love charm”. It is curious that the Greeks would associate this particular spot with a love charm, but that is what the word means.

If you’ve figured out what philtrum is, pat yourself on the back. If you haven’t figured it out, a philtrum is the groove that runs from under the nose to the upper lip.

There is a colorful bit of folklore regarding why we have a philtrum, too. According to the story, if people remembered what heaven was really like, they would be depressed with their existence on Earth. So, the story goes, while the baby is still in the womb, an angel places their fingertip under the baby’s nose to remove the memory of heaven and the touch causes the philtrum to form.

It is an interesting story that is at least as good as any of the guesses medical science has come up with for the reason we have a philtrum.

In any event, you now have another word to add to your vocabulary.

What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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