Printable Version
Pronunciation: êp-hol-stêr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. Cover furniture with padding held in place by cloth. 2. Cover walls or furniture with cloth.

Notes: This word comes with the full panoply of derivational accoutrements. Someone who upholsters as a profession is an upholsterer, and the business is upholstery. Upholstery is also what we call the materials that an upholsterer uses.

In Play: We most often hear this word in its literal sense: "The chairs around Maude Lunn Dresser's table were all upholstered with a floral damask fabric with a throne-like chair at the head." Upholster may also be used figuratively in the sense of "to fit out": "Major Manley Battle upholstered himself in his parade uniform, rolled on his white gloves, and walked proudly out the door."

Word History: Today's Good Word combines uphold with the noun suffix -ster (gangster, songster, tipster). It joins the many nouns that have been verbalized. Uphold once had the sense of "maintain, keep up, repair", a sense we see preserved in today's word. It is made up of up + hold. Up is a cousin of German auf "on, up", both from PIE upo "(from) under", source also of Greek hypo "beneath, under". Hold goes back to PIE kel-/kol- "to cover, conceal, save", source also of helmet and hole. Eucalyptos combines eu- "good" with kalyptos "covered", from kalyptein "to cover", from the same source. (Now let's thank newcomer Ben Travato, yet again, for suggesting today's semantically well-traveled Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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