Crevasse - crevice

From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

Don't confuse crevasse and crevice - although they share an etymology and broad meanings. Both are derived from the Old French word crevace: crevice (in a variety of spellings) has been used in English since the 14th century, and crevasse (a re-adoption of the word in its modern French form) from the 19th century. The ultimate root is the late Latin crepātia, an abstract noun formed from the Latin verb crepāre 'to creak, rattle, crack', 'to break with a crash'.

The essential difference is one of scale.

  • A crevasse is the larger of the two. It is applied principally to
    • the great cracks in glaciers, etc, down which climbers may fall, often for considerable distances. The word was taken by nineteenth century alpinists (~ climbers) exploring the Alps in francophone Switzerland.
      • In America, it was applied (from the French spoken in Louisiana) to the cracks in the banks or levees of large rivers like the Mississippi, whose bursting may lead to catastrophic flooding.
The sound is 'cre-VASS' (IPA: /krə (or ɪ) 'væs/).
  • A crevice is a narrow crack or split in a solid surface. Climbers may use crevices in rocks as finger- or toe-holds; insects and other invertebrates find shelter in crevices in the bark of trees, or in walls; and plants may take root in crevices throughout the natural world.
The sound is 'KREVV-iss' (IPA: /'krɛ vɪs/).
Etymological note: Ecrevisse, the French name for a crayfish, does NOT mean etymologically 'a fish that lives in crevices', although a crayfish is one a number of species of underwater crustaceans that do live in crevices in rivers or the sea. The name derives from the German Krebs (crab, crayfish), from a common Germanic root krabb- 'to scratch', 'to claw'.