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Rebarbative

Definition: Unattractive and objectionable.

Pronunciation: Ree-barb-ah-tiv

Origin:

Rebarbative is derived from the Latin word barba meaning beard.  From there it moved into French and the word se rebarber which referred to two mean squaring off face to face or beard to beard.  This changed into rebarbatif, of the same meaning as the word we know in English today.

Why this word?

Who doesn’t need another word that references the unattractive nature of beards?  But seriously, to me the word conjures images of a spiky and threatening exterior beneath which lurks some unknown menace, all the more frightening for the lack of knowledge regarding its dangerous capabilities.  A haunted house or an English manor in which a murder has occurred could potentially be rebarbative.  However, so could the exterior of the college I attended which was apparently designed by someone with a questionable fondness for squat concrete structures.  Rebarbative is a useful word to know when writing, especially in certain genres, and is equally useful when trying to convey a certain unattractive nature through lyrical prose.

How to use the word rebarbative?

“The rebarbative façade of the decrepit building ensured that passers-by did not linger.”

“His rebarbative appearance, to some minds a downfall, made his cheerful and talkative personality an unexpected pleasure.”

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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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