When the Moon Hits Your Eye…

Selenitic: Pertaining to the Moon

Jim Dee
Jim Dee
May 21, 2020 · 3 min read

Own some selenite? This will explain the name.

One interesting side-benefit of studying the dictionary over time — for people like me who know only one language fluently — is that you begin to become familiar with other languages and alphabets. Surely that’s a good thing, as Greek (for example) has always been absolutely unreadable to me.

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A piece of selenite. Photo by Maurice Glaude on Flickr. (Creative Commons.)

Today’s word comes from the Greek σελήνη (pronounced selēnē), which means moon. Many people are familiar with this word already, even if they do not realize it, as it’s the same root from which we get the mineral name selenite. If gift shops near you are like the ones near me, then you’ve seen this spacey-looking stuff for sale, and perhaps even own a chunk.

Selenite, like the moon itself, has captured the imaginations of writers since antiquity. Elizabethan poet Michael Drayton, in his satiric poem Man in the Moon (from his 1605 Poems Lyric and Pastoral volume), wrote:

The precious Gemmes doe sympathize with me:
As most that stone that doth the name derive
From me,
with me that lesseneth or doth thrive
Darkneth and shineth, as I doe, her Queene.

Common as selenite may be, the related word selenitic is considered rare by the OED. It, of course, describes that which is of or pertaining to the moon. The only noted mention if its use comes from an 1863 book by British writer/explorer Richard Francis Burton called Abeokuta and the Camaroons Mountains, in which he describes the flora and fauna of this west African locale:

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This may be the only known use of the word, as the OED mentions that it’s a nonce usage (something I also had to look up!, which means a one-off type of usage created for clarity). But, I suppose Burton’s use was interesting enough for the OED to green-light as an adjective that we all might consider using.

After 150 years, I’m not sure it’s catching on just yet (though I wonder if anyone used it in 1969 during coverage of the moon landing). But, but perhaps we should give it time, still. Fantasy stories are popular as always, and are werewolves not selenitic? And what of our general literary needs from time to time when we must describe lunatics with a healthy measure of descriptive diversity? What of conspiracy theorists’ selenitic notions of secret military bases? What of the members of the Unification Church? What of young rowdy men who selenitically(?) drop their pants as pranks?

What else? I’ll leave it to you to ponder. See you tomorrow. :-)

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…”

✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” a web design blog, “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine,” and a vocabulary blog, “Wonderful Words, Defined.” He also contributes to various Medium.com publications. Find him at JPDbooks.com, his Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or via email at Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest novel, CHROO, is available on Amazon.com. If you enjoy humorous literary tales, please grab a copy!

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Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at ArrayWebDevelopment.com; author of books & blogs. See: JPDbooks.com.

Wonderful Words, Defined

A celebration of awesome, rarely used, highly novel words in the English language.

Jim Dee

Written by

Jim Dee

Web guy at ArrayWebDevelopment.com; author of books & blogs. See: JPDbooks.com.

Wonderful Words, Defined

A celebration of awesome, rarely used, highly novel words in the English language.

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