I found the most unhelpful set of definitions/equivalents yet in this New Great Russian-English Dictionary entry: “опалённый ppp of опалить; adust; sphacelate, deustate.” Now, if you look further down the page you’ll see that опалить means ‘to singe,’ and therefore its past passive participle must mean ‘singed,’ but the first thing your eye lights on is that forbidding sequence “adust; sphacelate, deustate.” There may be a non-empty set of “English-speakers to whom those words mean something,” but I have my doubts whether it overlaps with the set of “people who consult the New Great Russian-English Dictionary.” Just for kicks, I’ll explain them here.

You might guess that adust means ‘dusty,’ and in fact such a word exists, but this is a different adust, from Latin adūstus ‘burnt, scorched; dusky, swarthy, (of colour) dark,’ first used in English (c. 1400) to mean “Designating any of the humours of the body when considered to be abnormally concentrated and dark in colour, and associated with a pathological state of hotness and dryness of the body” (“Of the four humours, choler appears to have been the most often described as adust”); later senses were “having a melancholy character or appearance; gloomy; sallow,” ” Burnt, scorched; desiccated by exposure to strong heat; parched,” and “Of or designating a dark brown colour, as if scorched; (of a person) dark-skinned, tanned.” All are rare and/or obsolete.

The OED entry for sphacelate has not been updated since 1914; the adjective is called Obs. rare and defined as “Sphacelated,” and only two cites are given (1634 T. Johnson Wks. xxvi. xxxi. 1064 “Exhalations, lifted or raised up from any part which is gangrenate or sphacelate”; 1785 T. Martyn Lett. Elements Bot. xxvi. 392 “Having a cylindric..calyx, with the scales sphacelate or seeming mortified at top”); sphacelated means “Mortified, gangrened” and has a fair sprinkling of cites from 1639 (J. Woodall Surgeons Mate 387 “They used to take of the Sphacelated member”) to 1877 (F. T. Roberts Handbk. Med. I. 393 “The sphacelated portion is expelled”). Both are from the verb sphacelate “To affect with sphacelus; to cause to gangrene or mortify” or “To become gangrenous or mortified,” from a medieval or modern Latin borrowing of Greek σϕάκελος ‘gangrene.’

As for deustate, it clearly has the same Latin ūst- root as adust, but I regret to say it is unknown to the OED; Google Books turns it up in A Glossary of Mycology (1971) by Walter Snell and Esther A. Dick: “deustate, deustous. As if scorched. [< L. deurere to burn up.]” How the compilers of the New Great Russian-English Dictionary got hold of it, god only knows.


  1. From the New Great Russian-English Dictionary translations you might get an idea that опалённый and опалить are archaic or at least rare in Russian. That’s not the case. They are ordinary words from a bit of a high register. More mundane synonyms are обожженный and обжечь (which also usually mean more severe burns).

  2. No, no, they’d add a tag if they thought they were archaic or rare. I’m not sure if they’re aware of how rare the English words are, though.

  3. Now I’m picturing one of the lexicographers involved confidently saying, on a trip to an English-speaking country, “It is so hot today I am feeling quite deustate!”

  4. All three are in Jackson‘s A Glossary of Botanic Terms; search may not find them because he marks the accent, which confuses OCR.
    I don’t really see how this helps clear things up, though.

  5. Bill Walderman says

    When I read the post, this came to mind:
    «Скажи-ка, дядя, ведь недаром
    Москва, спаленная пожаром,
    Французу отдана?
    Ведь были ж схватки боевые,
    Да, говорят, еще какие!
    Недаром помнит вся Россия
    Про день Бородина!»
    Not quite the same verb, but close.

  6. Bill Walderman says

    “I am feeling quite deustate!”
    As a matter of fact, I said exactly those very words to myself today when I stepped outside.

  7. When Milton speaks of “the Libyan air adust,” I assume that his primary meaning is “scorched” but that he also wants us to smell the dust.

  8. I dunno—maybe, but maybe he would have looked down on anyone who had such a reaction as uneducated (not having assimilated Latin well enough to be free of such distracting associations). I mean, if someone associated terroir with terror, that would suggest to me they simply weren’t familiar with the first term.

  9. To the best of my knowledge, Russian-English dictionaries compiled in Russia do not invite native English speakers to contribute or check them over. Once upon a time, in the Soviet period, there were native English speaking communist sympathizers who worked on them, and those volumes are getting updates today by Russian translators/lexicographers.

  10. @Hat: But there’s no association between terroirs and terror, while Libyan air is both scorching and dusty.

  11. Right, I didn’t say it was a perfect analogy, I’m just trying to point out that Milton may not have wanted or expected the association with “dust” even if Libyan air is both scorching and dusty. But of course he may well have. I’m just being contrarian.

  12. I mean, I’m sure there are lots of Latinate words that have distracting associations in English if you’re not so immersed in Latin that you ignore them; I don’t care enough to sit around trying to think of some (plus it’s too damn hot here), but I think it’s worth pointing out the possibility.

  13. J. W. Brewer says

    Perhaps some of the Anglophone “fellow travelers” who worked on the Soviet-era dictionaries were actually CIA moles who inserted disinformation?

  14. I can see the thriller HBO series now!

  15. I can see the thriller HBO series now!
    You mean дома коробка офис?

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