Thursday, December 9, 2010


Farouche \fa-ROOSH\ , adjective;
1. Sullenly unsociable or shy
2. Fierce

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, farouche is French, but of unknown origin. There have been claims that it is linked to Latin ferōcem, but the OED doesn't see that as being very credible. Ferōcem is the accusative masculine (and feminine) singular of ferōx, which means "wild, bold, gallant; warlike; defiant, arrogant."

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this word is that it's two definitions are practically antonymic of each other. The French definitions are less polarized, meaning "savage, animal like; brutish; anti-social". The OED only lists one definition for this word, "Sullen, shy and repellent in manner" so it could be that the second definition is a sort-of 'leftover' from the French word and the sense of shyness is how it evolved in English. This theory, however, is problematic because a web search suggests that people like naming things Farouche when they want to convey a sense of "fierceness" in terms of beauty and fashion - unless, for some reason, these salons and modeling agencies want to attract only sullen clients.

What do you think? Have you heard this word before? If so, in what context? 

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Thursday, December 9

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth Bowen uses the phrase "farouche grace" to describe an attractive but shallow young man in "Death of the Heart.". The word is potent on the page and admirably utilized by the author.