Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Festoon

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is festoon. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Festoon means “to cover or decorate (something) with many small objects, pieces of paper, etc.,” or “to hang decorative chains or strips on.” 

// Tiny wildflowers festooned the meadow.

// The students festooned the gymnasium with streamers and bunting for the dance.

FESTOON in Context

“The budget-conscious will appreciate that the restaurant’s heartier dishes, like the wood-fired pork chop festooned with sweet farmers’ market nectarines and toasted hazelnuts, are all less than $30 apiece.” – Soleil Ho, The San Francisco Chronicle, 15 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

The noun festoon first appeared in the 1600s when it was used, as it still is today, to refer to decorative chains or strips hung between two points. (It can also refer to a carved, molded, or painted ornament representing such a chain.) After a century’s worth of festoon-adorning, the verb festoon made an entrance, and people began to festoon with their festoons—that is, they draped and adorned with them. The verb has since then acquired additional, more general senses related not only to decorating, but to something appearing on the surface of something, as in “a sweater festooned with purple unicorns.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this celebratory-sounding and party-associated word traces back (by way of French and Italian) to Latin festa, the plural of festum, meaning “festival.”

Leave a Reply