Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Patina

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

What It Means

patina is a usually green film that forms on copper and bronze that is exposed to moist air for an extended time. The word can also refer to a shiny or dark surface that over time forms naturally on something (such as wood or leather), or to a literal or figurative thin layer.

// The town erected a statue in her honor, which over the years developed a seafoam green patina

// Although the winery is brand-new, it has been constructed and decorated to give it a patina of old-world quaintness.

PATINA in Context

“She has attracted a popular following for stories grounded in historical fact, adorned with a patina of romance and adventure.” — Stephanie Parkyn, Canberra Times (Australia), 1 Jan. 2022

Did You Know?

When Italians began using patina in the 17th century to refer to the green film that forms on the surface of copper, they were drawing on Latin, in which patina means “a shallow dish.” (Presumably, the Italian meaning developed from the observation of such film forming on copper dishes.) By the mid-18th century, English speakers were also calling the green film patina, and by the 20th century, they’d expanded the word’s application to surface appearances of things that have grown more beautiful with age or use—think of an old wooden desk or a tarnished silver goblet. Use of the word to refer to thin layers both literal and figurative (“a patina of grime,” “a patina of respectability”) followed soon after.

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