Wednesday 28 March 2012


The Londoners among you, will need only one word on a day like this: apricate, which means to bask in the sun. Londoners rarely get a chance to do this, and even when we do, we are liable to be disturbed by cranks and madmen of the city. This is not a new trend. Aubrey's Brief Lives has this story about Sir Thomas More (1478-1535):

Sir John Danvers's house at Chelsea stands in the very place where was that of the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More, who had but one marble chimney-piece, and that plain.

Where the gate then stood there was in Sir Thomas More's time a gatehouse, according to the old fashion. From the top of this gatehouse, according to the old fashion. From the top of the gatehouse was a most pleasant and delightful prospect as is to be seen. His Lordship was wont to recreate himself in this place to apricate and contemplate, and his little dog with him. It so happened, that a Tom o'Bedlam [madman] got up the stairs when his Lordship was there, and came to him and cried, "Leap Tom, leap!" offering his Lordship violence to have thrown him over the battlements. His Lordship was a little old man, and, in his gown, not able to make resistance; but having the presentness of wit, said, "Let us first throw this little dog over." The Tom o'Bedlam threw the dog down: "Pretty sport!" said the Lord Chancellor: "go down and bring him up again, and try again." Whilst the madman went down fro the dog, his Lordship made fast the door of the stairs, and called for help: otherwise he had lost his life.

Be cautious in your aprications. Nothing changes. Only the dogs are different.

Incidentally, apricate has nothing to do with apricots, which are so called because the ripen early in the summer. The Latin for early is praecox. Add an A and your get A-praecox. This means that they are more closely related to an affliction of hasty gentlemen than to the heat and calor of the day.

Not so fast.


  1. I'm completely absorbed by your book. I think it’s wonderful Thank you.
    As for this blog: I’m not very sure about this but I think the A from A-praecox is in fact an Arabian definite article, something like al-barkuk. It seems that Arabians took it from Greeks and Greeks from the Latin persicum praecoquum (or something like this).

  2. This is an excellent word. But how do you pronounce it? A-pricate or Ay-pricate? I'm guessing the former, but I don't want to use it and then get called out on having pronounced it incorrectly. Which will probably happen, considering the people I'm friends with.

  3. Gabi, You're quite right. I was giving an immensely shortened and simplified version of the OED's etymology which goes from Latin to Greek to Arabic to Portuguese to French to English.

    Rachel, short A (as in approach) but stress on the first syllable.

  4. Alexander Hamilton28 March 2012 at 22:13

    In Richard 11, a gardner is sent to "Bind up yon dangling apricox"

  5. New Kid on the Block29 March 2012 at 17:19

    The “persians”, grk: Tα περσικά (persika), lat: malum persicum is another fruit.
    Persicum- persica(plural) …peach , pêche (fr.) Pfirsisch (germ.), pesca (ital.)
    And if the etymological connection between the juicy peach and ..”from Persia” “περσικά» seems odd, look at the Dutch “ perzik” or at the Italian dialectical “persica”.
    The apricot comes from Armenia (hence also the stamp!).
    Scient. Name: Prunus armeniaca (but it is NOT a prune! )
    Praecoquium means premature (and indeed the apricot is more premature in comparison with the peach and similar fruits) and from this word comes also the ancient (and current) Greek term Verikoko (Βερίκοκο)=apricot.

  6. Read Andre Aciman's /Call Me By Your Name/, which, apart from being a ridiculously beautiful book, also has a short digression on the word "apricate."

  7. The tree got its Latin name due to the fact that Armenia was previously mistakenly considered the birthplace of apricot. In fact, its homeland is Northeast China, where all its forms are still found in the wild. It was introduced into culture a long time ago. The first mention dates back to the period of the Zhu dynasty in China (about 2000 BC). From China, cultivated forms of apricot spread to ancient Sogdiana (Central Asia) and the Caucasus, and from there to the Mediterranean and other European countries.

  8. Only in 18-th centure Karl Linnaeus named it Armeniaca vulgaris.