Word for Wednesday: D is for…diaphanous!

Okay, mea culpa, there has been a little bit of a continuity hiccup with my weekly alphabet posts! Blogging on the move proved pretty impossible due to unforeseen circumstances.

Perhaps it would have been appropriate  for this next Word for Wednesday to be D for…delayed!

Anyway, I’m back on track now and have been raring to go with this one for some time now, having had plenty of time to think!


Diaphanous (adjective).

  •  (especially of fabric) light, delicate, and translucent
  • characterized by such fineness of texture as to permit seeing through
  • characterized by extreme delicacy of form; ethereal
  • insubstantial, vague

derivation: Medieval Latin diaphanus; Greek diaphanēs.  Meaning to show through. First known use 1614.


In her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert writes of the first moment that she realises she wants a guru; a spiritual leader.  She attends a group of spiritual devotees, where she joins hundreds of others to meditate and chant.  She describes it as feeling:

‘my soul rise diaphanous in the wake of that chanting.  I walked home that night feeling like the air could move through me, like I was clean linen fluttering on a clothes-line, like New York itself had become a city made of rice paper – and I was light enough to run across every rooftop!’

What a sensation that must be.  And what a fantastically vivid and eloquent piece of writing by Elizabeth Gilbert.  When I read that description I could almost feel my soul rising with hers, just imagining the moment.  The power of words is truly a wonderful thing.


Diaphanous is just such a beautifully descriptive word.  One of my favourites.  It came to mind often whilst I was in England, where the height of summer brings with it a multitude of dragonflies, butterflies, and other winged insects, all alighting on the bounteous blaze of riotously coloured and scented flowers.

I struggled choosing between flowers and butterflies for this accompanying image.  In the end I chose one with both!  A compromise, but a happy one!

This is a gorgeous little butterfly, the Small Skipper, commonly found across wide swathes of England and Wales (and here  resting on the lacy petals of a cosmos flower in the sunny grounds of a National Trust property in Warwickshire!).  Although their wings are not as diaphanous as some British beauties, I think the scientific name for this butterfly, Thymelicus sylvestris, is quite delicately ethereal in its own right. And this post series is supposed to be primarily about words after all!

on butterfly wings...

on butterfly wings…


4 thoughts on “Word for Wednesday: D is for…diaphanous!

    1. jennylratcliffe Post author

      Thank you very much, Amy. It’s just such an expressive word isn’t it? The butterfly seemed fitting. And I’m always happy for any excuse to photograph them!



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