7

Wings sprouted from each wither - vast, black leathery wings that looked as though they ought to belong to giant bats.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I think wither is used as a noun word. But I can't find it's a noun in dictionaries. The only one I get is "withers" means "the highest part of a horse’s back, above its shoulders". Does this use of wither mean the same as withers?

0

1 Answer 1

11

The author used the singular form of withers:

Withers: (veterinary medicine) The part of the back of a four-legged animal that is between the shoulder blades; in many species the highest point of the body and the standard place to measure the animal's height.

enter image description here

The meaning is "wings sprouted from the withers of each horse", or "wings sprouted from each horse's back".

Formally, withers can only be used in the plural, but I guess that the author has used her writer's license to "invent" singular wither.

14
  • 17
    I don't think it's a synecdoche for horse. It could be simply a singular form of "withers" there.
    – dan
    Jan 28, 2019 at 8:12
  • 3
    I agree with @dan. There is only one beast involved here, with two withers.
    – TonyK
    Jan 28, 2019 at 10:02
  • 2
    In context, I think the author assumed "wither" was roughly synonymous with "shoulder"; the intended image is that this animal has two wings, one sprouting from each side of its back, at the withers.
    – zwol
    Jan 28, 2019 at 12:36
  • 4
    There are 2 problems with plurals in that sentence, because bats only have two wings... I would have written “Two vast, black leathery wings that looked as though they ought to belong to a giant bat sprouted from its withers.” The author knows how to spin a good tale, but she really isn’t very good language-wise.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 28, 2019 at 16:03
  • 4
    @ColleenV I actually come to the opposite conclusion: it doesn’t really matter how many wings there are per wither, but the structure of the sentence uses language very efficiently at painting a picture. Jan 28, 2019 at 16:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .