enamel

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun the smooth, white, hard coating over the visible part of a tooth that protrudes out of the gum

Cars & Driving

  • noun a high gloss paint that is slower drying and therefore easier to apply than cellulose, and will cause cellulose applied over it to lift

Construction

  • A type of paint composed of particles of finely ground pigments and a resin binder that dries to form a hard, glossy film with very little surface texture.

Electronics

  • A glass-like coating utilized to provide a hard and/or glossy finish. May be used, for instance, for insulation and/or corrosion protection.

Food

  • A glass-like covering for steel sometimes used for trays, saucepans, casseroles, etc. The enamel can be chipped, crazed by temperature shock or scratched with harsh cleansers or metal spoons, etc.

Medical

  • noun the hard white shiny outer covering of the crown of a tooth

Origin & History of “enamel”

The underlying meaning element in enamel is ‘melting’. It comes ultimately from a prehistoric Germanic base *smalt- (source of English schmaltz ‘sentimentality’ (20th c.), borrowed via Yiddish from German schmalz ‘fat, dripping’), and related Germanic forms produced English smelt, melt, and malt. Old French acquired the Germanic word and turned it into esmauz; this in turn was re-formed to esmail, and Anglo-Norman adopted it as amail. This formed the basis, with the prefix en- ‘in’, of a verb enamailler ‘decorate with enamel’. English borrowed it, and by the mid-15th century it was being used as a noun for the substance itself (the noun amel, a direct borrowing from Anglo-Norman, had in fact been used in this sense since the 14th century, and it did not finally die out until the 18th century). Its application to the substance covering teeth dates from the early 18th century.
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