in ,


Definition: Something that can putrefy or rot.

Pronunciation: pew-TRES-kab-le


Arrived into the English language in the 18th century – from the latin putresc, meaning to become rotten.

Why this word?

If you live in America, look at your city ordinances. I can guarantee you that in the section dealing with disposal of rubbish or garbage, it will classify everything into two classes: putrescible and non-putrescible.

How to use this word:

Non-putrescible items include, to build on the ‘rubbish’ example, tin cans, plastics, glass – pretty much anything that was not itself or was not made as a bi-product of something living.

Examples of putrescible items includes things you might expect, such as old pizza, expired meat, etc. It also, however, extends to things such as dead animals, corpses and road-kill. Chrissy and I had a good chat about this and what the difference between putrescible and compostable is. We reckon that compostable can be biologically/morally reused, whereas putrescible includes that which can be composted but extends out to things such as human bodies and dead dogs – things that will putrefy, but that we don’t want to re-use … although the Swedish human composting firm Promessa would beg to differ … (yes – this is real – google it!)


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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