from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A filling for a ditch, composed of stones thrown in without regularity, and covered with earth or clay to afford a smooth upper surface.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


    Sorry, no example sentences found.


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  • Could be--the rocks would provide drainage so the posts wouldn't rot.

    The derivation is from French pierraille, a "mass of broken or small stones, rubble, ballast" (Cassell's). Pierre-perdue is closer to a synonym for riprap.

    April 16, 2008

  • Good question. So far as I can figure, the word appears mainly in documents on mining and drilling, so maybe they're meant for seating posts or some such? Just a guess.

    April 15, 2008

  • Thanks, reesetee. I wonder what purpose the clay serves?

    April 15, 2008

  • Ah, see? That's what Wordie's all about--prettifying our nomenclature. :-D

    Mollusque, from what I can find, this word was apparently coined in the 1800s to describe "a mass of stones filling a ditch and covered with clay" (from E. H. Knight's The Practical Dictionary of Mechanics, 1874–77); riprap is apparently a foundation of stones built as a breakwater, revetment, embankment, etc. Nothing on the actual use of a pierelle.

    April 14, 2008

  • I have one of these in my backyard. Before today, I called it "that ditch full of stones".

    Thank you, Wordie, for once again prettifying my nomenclature!

    April 13, 2008

  • Because the rain here can come in sudden downpours, I often see these contraptions: under a downpipe, a circle of large stones filled in with a pile of pebbles, set in a drainage ditch. It works to prevent the rainwater scouring a giant erosion-hole in the ground and saves the cost of putting in an expensive/ugly big concrete gully trap. I would be happy to call one of these a pierelle. I'll have to find a landscape gardener or two and find out what they would call it.

    April 12, 2008

  • How many Wordies does it take to fill a ditch?

    April 12, 2008

  • Perhaps differentiated by the size of the ditch in question?

    April 12, 2008

  • So how does pierelle different from riprap?

    April 12, 2008

  • The Wordie answer to international Sketch Crawl days?

    April 12, 2008

  • We should have a Wordie gathering somewhere. And do things like dig ditches and fill them with stones. And then instruct passers-by on the appropriate nomenclature.

    April 12, 2008

  • Thanks, mollusque. You beat me to it.

    April 12, 2008

  • In English "pierelle" seems to exist only in dictionaries. OED2 lists it as obsolete, with the only citation from another dictionary. Other than that, a Google Books search found it in the Century Dictionary CDC1 and a couple of mining glossaries.

    April 12, 2008

  • Gosh, I wonder why this is obsolete.

    April 11, 2008

  • (Obsolete) A heap of stones filling a ditch.

    April 11, 2008