I love a good monosyllable II: voile

In a previous post, I explained why I love learning new English monosyllables.  Today I ran across the English word voile.  Wiktionary defines voile as a light, translucent cotton fabric used for making curtains and dresses.  This particular word is a nice Zipf’s Law phenomenon both because I’m 53 and I just learnt it today, and because its etymology is French.

In French, voile actually has a number of meanings, depending on whether it’s male or female.  None of them are quite the same as the meaning in English:

  • le voile: this is “veil,” and now also “headscarf” or “hijab.”  You will see this meaning in France quite a bit these days, because of la loi sur le voile intégral.  This is the informal name for a law which, among other things, forbids wearing the full-face veil in public.  It is quite controversial.  (I should note that I see women in full-face veils in Paris routinely, and I have never seen the law enforced.)  WordReference.com also gives a meaning related to what sounds like a sort of skin forming on top of a liquid, and the buckling of a wheel.  I don’t think I’ve ever run into either of those, but Zipf’s Law being what it is, I’ll probably see them both tomorrow…
  • la voile: this is a “sail,” and also “sailing.”

Life being weird, I learnt the English word voile in a post about renovating a house in France–you can check it out here.

2 thoughts on “I love a good monosyllable II: voile”

  1. surprised to read you “see full-face veils in Paris routinely!”. I thought the French enforced their laws (not like the Italian), so the law’s only there for political reasons? if you’re renovating, the voile in question shouldn’t be necessary till springtime 🙂


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