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Gracility is slenderness, the condition of being gracile, which means slender.

It derives from the Latin adjective gracilis (masculine or feminine), or gracile (neuter)[1] which in either form means slender, and when transferred for example to discourse, takes the sense of "without ornament", "simple", or various similar connotations.[2]

In his famous "Glossary of Botanic Terms", B. D. Jackson speaks dismissively[3] of an entry in earlier dictionary of A. A. Crozier[4] as follows: Gracilis (Lat.), slender. Crozier has the needless word "gracile". However, his objection would be hard to sustain in current usage; apart from the fact that "gracile" is a natural and convenient term, it is hardly a neologism; the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary[5] gives the source date for that usage as 1623.

In the same entry for Gracile, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary remarks: Recently misused (through association with grace) for Gracefully slender. This misuse is unfortunate at least, because the terms gracile and grace are completely unrelated: the etymological root of grace is the Latin word gratia from gratus, meaning pleasing[5] and nothing to do with slenderness or thinness.

In biology[edit]

In biology, the term is in common use, whether as English or Latin:

In biological taxonomy, gracile is the specific name or specific epithet for various species. Where the gender is appropriate, the form is gracilis. Examples include:

The same root appears in the names of some genera and higher taxa:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gray, Mason D., Jenkins, Thornton; “Latin for Today, Book 2”; Pub: Ginn and Co., Ltd. (1934)
  2. ^ Simpson, D. G. (1977). Cassell's Latin dictionary: Latin-English, English-Latin. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-02-522580-4. 
  3. ^ Jackson, Benjamin Daydon; "A Glossary of Botanic Terms with their Derivation and Accent" 4th Ed. 1928; Pub: Gerald Duckworth & Co. London, W.C.2
  4. ^ Crozier, Arthur Alger; “A Dictionary of Botanical Terms”, Pub.: Henry Holt & Co 1893.
  5. ^ a b Little, William; Fowler H.W.; Coulson J.; Onions, C.T. (Ed.): "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principals". Pub.: Oxford at the Clarendon Press (1968).