November 18, 2012
perfume (verb)
\per-FYOOM\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: to fill with a pleasing odor (as of flowers)
How do you use it?
The rich scents given off by soaps and lotions perfumed the area around the gift shop.
Are you a word wiz?

"Perfume" comes ultimately from the Latin prefix "per-," meaning "through," and the Latin noun "fumus." What does "fumus" mean?

We hope you followed your nose to answer B, "smoke." The Latin word "fumus" means "smoke," but what does perfume have to do with smoke? Long ago, herbs, resins, and woods were burned as incense during a religious service or a sacrifice, or for medicinal purposes. The thick smell of these smokes permeated everything it came in contact with, so these scents were first delivered "though smoke." These herbs or resins were also combined with oil and used as medicine or during religious ceremonies, and this is the tradition that gave rise to the kind of perfume we think of today.
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