Learn English – What does “arruginated” mean


From James Joyce's Ulysses:

By inserting the barrel of an arruginated male key in the hole of an unstable female lock, obtaining a purchase on the bow of the key and turning its wards from right to left, withdrawing a bolt from its staple, pulling inward spasmodically an obsolescent unhinged door and revealing an aperture for free egress and free ingress.

I admit that I've seen this word for the first time "thanks" to an Internet troll, who, as part of spamming a website with their obscene garbage, claimed their fingers are "arruginated" and they need to see a doctor because of this condition; then they proceeded with some inappropriate wordplay, with the punchline being the above quotation from Ulyssess.

I'm mentioning this only because I wonder if this troll didn't use this word in some precise meaning? Or was it only a meaningless gibberish? Is there any precise meaning to this word? The word is not included in any dictionary I can find—not even Wiktionary or the OED.

What does "arruginated" mean? What did James Joyce mean when he was writing it? What does a modern person mean when they use this word?

Best Answer

Nice one, as the word seems indeed obscure at best.

A bit of googling revealed a wordsmith.org discussion where user Homo Loquens mentions finding a definition:

arruginated on the pattern of rugine + ar- prefix variant spelling of ad- assimilated before r (as in arrive, arrogate).
v. t. [F. ruginer to scrape.] To scrape or rasp, as a bone;
to scale. [R.] --Wiseman.
n. [F.] (Surg.) An instrument for scraping the periosteum from bones; a aspatory.

To which he adds:

as a back-reference to earlier mention of the key:
The key scraped round harshly twice and, when the heavy door had been set ajar, welcome light and bright air entered.
Telemachus, Ulysses

This would indicate that it is an English adaptation of a French word. Said user gives no clear source for his definition ("a Joyce reader"), which is a pity.

If this definition holds any water, then the meaning would be closer to a well-worn male key than the proposed rusted key.