Si recte calculum ponas, ubique naufragium est
If you pay attention, wreckage is everywhere
--Justa Edouardo King by John Milton, 1638.

Naufrage is a rather technical term coming to us from French maritime law. It refers to a shipwreck, but not just any shipwreck. A naufrage is a ship that is broken or shattered to the point of ruination. This is distinguished from echouement, which is a simple, although undesired, case of running aground; bris, in which a ship hits a rock or otherwise breaches the hull but remains intact; and sombrer, in which the ship is sunk completely out of sight. These terms are sadly obsolete, and these days when the term 'naufrage' is used (in either English, or more often, in French) it may refer to any shipwreck, particularly one grounded on the beach.

The word was not invented by the French by any means; it comes to us from the Latin naufragium, which is in turn a combination of the words navis, meaning 'ship', and frangere, meaning 'to break'. Naufragium was in common usage in the days of Roman Empire, and was used both for shipwrecks and metaphorically for crashes during chariot races and other disasters or images involving wreckage.

We have one other word that has come to us from the Latin word naufragium; naufragous, meaning 'that which causes a shipwreck'. Sadly, this too is now considered obsolete.

Nau"frage (?; 48), n. [F., fr. L. naufragium; navis + frangere.]

Shipwreck; ruin.




© Webster 1913.

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