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Definition: The practice of wearing labrets (an ornament inserted into the lip).

Pronunciation: Lab-rey-tiff-er-ee


The root word, labret, is from the Latin word labrum meaning lip, combined with the Latin root –fer from ferre, to carry or bring.  The first known use of the word labretifery is in 1843 and referred to the practice among Eskimo men.  It was also used by Dr. William Healey Dall in his research amongst the Eskimos in 1884.  The practice itself is common in many parts of the world including amongst the Eskimos, various Native American tribes, and in parts of Africa.

Why this word?

As a teenager I had more piercings than I perhaps should have.  Eight or ten in my ears, as well as my lip and my eyebrow.  I know many people see piercing as a means of personal, if not artistic expression, and that it is an important rite in many cultures.  For me it was just a phase, but I have remained interested in why people choose to get piercings and the reasons behind the decision.  I have put the piercing phase behind me.  And moved on to tattoos…

How to use the word labretifery in a sentence?

“’I practice midwifery.  What do you do for a living?’  ‘I practice labretifery.’”

“The practice of labretifery is common in many cultures.”

“’I said absolutely no piercings, Katie, and that is final.’  ‘But Mom, you are stifling my desire to practice labretifery!’”


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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.


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