In working through my delayed NYT crossword puzzle today I came across an interesting new word, attar (always a good day when that happens).

A consultation of the OED tells us that an attar is “a very fragrant, volatile, essential oil obtained from the petals of the rose; fragrant essence (of roses).” The etymology is from Persian through Arabic, ʿiṭr “perfume essence” and ʿiṭr al-gul “essence of roses” being the base root.

Early references include ethnographies such as Thomas Pennant’s The view of Hindoostan (1798–1800). Pennant was a well accomplished Welsh naturalist and writer, publishing several books on flora and fauna. The quintessential tourist.

An interesting usage is given from Thomas Hardy in his Far from the Maddening Crowd: “That buzz of pleasure which is the attar of applause” (I. xxiii. 263). Perfect choice of words in my estimation.