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Shrinking/wilting violet

Posted by R. Berg on February 01, 2001

In Reply to: Meanings and origins posted by Harry Belt Turner on February 01, 2001

: What is the difference between a "shrinking violet" and a "wilting violet?" These metaphors seem to be employed interchangeably. Origins?

This might be tangential, but Webster's Unabridged (1934 edition) says that the color violet is emblematic of gravity and chastity. It also gives "to grow weak or faint . . . to lose courage, spirit" as one meaning of "wilt." Among the meanings of "wilt" as a noun it includes depression. Here in the United States I've always heard "shrinking violet" applied to a shy and unassertive woman; I've never heard "wilting violet" at all.