Tuesday, 18 November 2008


You've got to love Michael Quinion's World Wide Words:

Chatoyant /S@'tOI@nt/
Having a changeable, varying lustre or colour.

No two dictionaries seem to entirely agree on the current meaning
of the word. Some mention only the bright lustre of a gem caused by
reflections from within the stone, because the word now most often
appears in discussions by gemologists; other dictionaries include
the sheen of a bird's plumage or the changing colours and texture
of a material such as silk.

All agree, however, that the source of the expression is the gleam
of a cat's eyes in the dark. The direct source is the eighteenth-
century French verb "chatoyer", to shine like a cat's eyes. Its
French connections remain strong enough that it is still sometimes
said as though it were French (roughly "cha-twai-yan").

Many examples in English literature refer to shining eyes, as in
The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu, by Sax Rohmer, of 1913: "I managed to
move sufficiently to see at the top, as I fired up the stairs, the
yellow face of Dr. Fu-Manchu, to see the gleaming, chatoyant eyes,
greenly terrible, as they sought to pierce the gloom."


Mrs Slocombe said...

Hard to make chatoyant really sit within a sentence though.....thanks for the kink: I am looking forward to reading your work.

Chris Mansell said...

Possibly! :)

My work's up on my site: www.chrismansell.com

Have a look.


Michelle said...

What an absolutely gorgeous word!