History of the word coral

Coral is a polyphyletic term for polypoid animals in the cnidarian classes Anthozoa and Hydrozoa that secrete either 1) a black, horn like proteinaceous axis or 2) carbonate skeletal material in the form of either a) continuous skeleton or b) an assemblage of microscopic, individual sclerites (Cairns, 2007). That covers black corals, reef-building corals, solitary corals, and soft corals, respectively.

The word “coral” derives from Old French (say it with an accent!), but it appears in the Old Testament twice, so its origin may be Hebrew. The word first referred to the beautiful and precious Mediterranean octocoral Corallium rubrum (Linnaeaus, 1758). It has also been used a verb “to make red like coral” (Cairns, 2007), as in “the effort of the afternoon stroll had coraled her cheeks.” Five points for using coral as a verb in the comments section. Ten points if the sentence is in Portuguese!*

If you’ve ever seen polished Corallium, you’ll understand how attractive this translucent pinkish-red color is. Black corals and precious corals were also used as talismans, and they were supposedly imbued with magical powers. We need to research that. Unfortunately, Corallium is overfished as a result. These are story ideas for your blog. More here.

Reference:
Cairns, SD. 2007. Deep-water corals: An overview with special reference to diversity and distribution of deep-water scleractinian corals. Bull Mar Sci 81(3):311-322.

Kevin Zelnio (870 Posts)


5 Replies to “History of the word coral”

  1. Ou of curiosity, what context was the word coral used in the old testament? It must have had a different meaning since Linnaeus didn’t name the first coral animal until over a thousand years after the bible was supposedly written.

  2. i’m not certain, but wasn’t it from the book of exodus, “yea, and the lord did smite pharaoh’s fields with locust, flesh with boils, and corals with all manner of fouling, invasive species…”

    i’m paraphrasing…

  3. I’m not certain, but wasn’t it from the book of exodus, “yea, and the lord did smite pharaoh’s fields with locust, flesh with boils, and corals with all manner of fouling, invasive species…”

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