What's the meaning of "drapish"? I saw this word in the poem "The Buddha" by Jack Kerouac. However,I can't find the meaning on the internet.

I used to sit under trees and meditate
on the diamond bright silence of darkness
and the bright look of diamonds in space
and space that was stiff with lights
and diamonds shot through, and silence

And when a dog barked I took it for soundwaves
and cars passing too, and once I heard
a jet-plane which I thought was a mosquito
in my heart, and once I saw salmon walls
of pink and roses, moving and ululating
with the drapish

Once I forgave dogs, and pitied men, sat
in the rain countin’ Juju beads, raindrops
are ecstasy, ecstasy is raindrops – birds
sleep when the trees are giving out light
in the night, rabbits sleep too, and dogs

I had a path that I followed thru piney woods
and a phosphorescent white hound-dog named Bob
who led me the way when the clouds covered
the stars, and then communicated to me
the sleepings of a loving dog enamoured

of God

  • 4
    @Hugo drapish is not a real word. The closest match to it is "drape" meaning "to hang from/over like cloth" or "drapes" meaning something like "curtains". "Drapish" sounds like an adjective meaning "like drapes" but here it's not modifying anything. Therefore it's a made up word and we all have to guess what Kerouac meant by it, or it's a word for something in another language.
    – Andrew
    Sep 18, 2017 at 14:02
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    This site claims it means Inspiring, Master of their own destiny, Intuitive. But since Kerouac seems to be the only writer who's ever used it (apart from a few cases where people have whimsically used it to mean like drapes, loosely hanging), I think we can reasonably say it means whatever you want it to mean. It's not something ELL should be pronouncing on - effectively it's Lit Crit / poetic interpretation. Sep 18, 2017 at 14:16
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    I don't agree with the close votes. The OP tried to look the word up. The answer might be, "We don't know what Kerouac means; it's not a real word," but I'm not sure that necessitates closing the question. (It would be Lit Crit had the question asked, "I know this isn't a real word – so what does Kerouac mean?" – but it doesn't.)
    – J.R.
    Sep 19, 2017 at 21:38
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    @Andrew - If a learner can't find an unusual word in the dictionary, they don't really have any way to tell if it's a faux word coined by a poet, or a word that's fairly well understood by a segment of native speakers but simply not in the dictionary for some reason. I think learners should feel welcome to ask about such words here, where they might receive helpful, instructive guidance as opposed to closevotes coupled with admonishing comments. (By the way, I thought your initial comment was helpful, and, had it been an answer, I probably would have upvoted it as such.)
    – J.R.
    Sep 20, 2017 at 18:31
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    This is a legitimate question, which does not have a definition as an answer. Some combination of Andrew and or Fumblefinger's comments make for a decent good-as-it-can-be answer.
    – Adam
    Sep 20, 2017 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


"Drapish" is a word that Kerouac used to try to describe something he imagined while he was meditating.

I've found two types of usages for "drapish" when I searched. The first is a surname and the second describes clothing that "drapes." In this context "drapes" means "hangs or rests limply" or "falls or hangs in loose folds". A related word (for me) is "drapey", for example

three tops that have loose folds of fabric

The phrase "moving and ululating" makes me think that "drapish" is trying to describe a feeling of something hanging loosely and maybe moving back and forth, but there's no way to say for certain. Kerouac probably purposefully chose to create a word because there wasn't one in common usage that meant exactly what he wanted to express.

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