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Some of the most interesting, unusual words describe everyday things. Who would have thought that the fleshy, spongy, white thing inside an orange had a word for itself... and that it would share it with astronomers? Or that it would have the same ancestor as the words for an egg part, a photo book, or the smearing of a canvas?

What all these words have in common is whiteness or albus, Latin for white. Albumen is egg white, an album is a book with white pages, and when we daub a sheet of paper, we de-albus it. Ah, the joy of words! Let's look at a few other words for odds and ends this week.

albedo (al-BEE-doh) noun

1. The fraction of light reflected from a body or surface. For example, earth's albedo is around 0.39.

2. The white, spongy inner lining of a citrus fruit rind.

[From Latin albedo (whiteness), Latin albus (white).]

"The more powerful magnetic fields generated by the Sun during maximum activity are known to block many of the particles, which would theoretically lead to less cloud cover and less reflection, or a lower albedo."
James Glanz; Scientists Find Way to Gauge Earth's Glow; The New York Times; Apr 21, 2001.

"We don't need to tell you that oranges are full of vitamin C. But did you know that the white membrane under the skin, called the albedo, contains almost as much C as the flesh of the fruit itself?
Myra Kornfeld; Giving Thanks; Vegetarian Times (Stamford, Connecticut); Nov 2000.

See more usage examples of albedo in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


The soul is healed by being with children. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky, novelist (1821-1881)

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