title page of A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge, caruinge & buildinge

title page of A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge, caruinge & buildinge (1598)






anatomy: the smooth part of the forehead above and between the eyebrows





This noun is a specific application of the Latin adjective glabella, feminine of glabellus, diminutive of glaber/glabr-, meaning smooth, hairless, bald.

In A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge, caruinge & buildinge, the 1598 translation of Trattato dell’arte della pittura, scoltura et architettura (1584) by the Italian painter Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538-92), Richard Haydocke wrote:

The eyebrowes are those thicke haires at the bottome of the forehead : the space betweene the eyebrowes, the Italians call glabella.

The Explanation of Albinus’s Anatomical Figures of the Human Skeleton and Muscles*, published in 1754, contains:

d. The part running over the glabella and back of the nose, on which at last it forms a thin aponeurosis, that unites with a like thin expansion from the compressors of the nose, with which it is interwove at e, and continued into at f.

(* Bernhard Siegfried Albinus (1697-1770) was a Dutch anatomist, author of Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (Tables of the Skeleton and Muscles of the Human Body – 1747).)


The Latin glaber/glabr- is the origin of the English adjective glabrous, meaning without hair or a similar growth, smooth.

This Latin adjective is ultimately related to the English adjective glad, which is from Old English glæd and is a common Germanic word: in Swedish and Danish, glad, from Old Norse glaðr, also means pleased, happy. The original meaning of these Germanic adjectives seems to have been smooth, sleek, and is retained in German glatt and Dutch glad — this is also, in the Slavic group, the meaning of Russian gladkij. The intermediate meaning was bright, shining, beautiful, as in this passage from The Book of the Duchess, by Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1342-1400):

My windows were shut each one,
And through the glass shone the sun
Upon my bed with bright beams,
With many glad gilded streams;
And the heavens too were so fair;
Blue, bright, clear was the air,
And full temperate, forsooth, it was;
For neither too cold nor hot it was,
Nor in all the heavens was a cloud.
     original text:
My wyndowes were shette echon,
And throgh the glas the sonne shon
Upon my bed with bryghte bemes,
With many glade gilde stremes;
And eke the welken was so fair;
Blew, bryght, clere was the ayr,
And ful attempre for sothe hyt was;
For nother to cold nor hoot yt nas,
Ne in al the welken was a clowde.

This meaning still survives in the phrase to give someone the glad eye, meaning to look at someone in a flirtatious way.

The English word glad corresponds to Latin glaber/glabr-, as red corresponds to ruber and udder to uber.

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