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?


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.

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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.

  • 17
    I don't think it's a synecdoche for horse. It could be simply a singular form of "withers" there. – dan Jan 28 '19 at 8:12
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    I agree with @dan. There is only one beast involved here, with two withers. – TonyK Jan 28 '19 at 10:02
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    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 '19 at 12:36
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    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 '19 at 16:03
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    @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. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 28 '19 at 16:59

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