Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is quincunx:
quincunx \KWIN-kunks\ nounFor a reader of English prose, quincunx means Sir Thomas Browne, whose 1658 work The Garden of Cyrus, Or The Quincunciall, Lozenge, or Net-work Plantations of the Ancients, Artificially, Naturally, Mystically Considered meditates on the quincunx and the number five as organizing principles of reality. A brief passage from the ending:
: an arrangement of five things in a square or rectangle with one at each corner and one in the middle
The tables were arranged in a quincunx, with the hosting family at the center table and guests at the four corners.
“As we walked along the geometric beds — many of them planted in an ancient Roman quincunx pattern — I made notes on the beautiful crops I had never grown.” — From an article by Anne Raver in the New York Times, June 30, 2010
Did you know?
As our second example sentence suggests, today’s word has its origins in ancient Rome. To the Romans, a “quincunx” was a coin whose name comes from the Latin roots “quinque,” meaning “five,” and “uncia,” meaning “one twelfth.” The weight of the coin equaled five twelfths of a libra, a unit of weight similar to our pound. The ancients used a pattern of five dots arranged like the spots on a die as a symbol for the coin, and English speakers applied the word to arrangements similar to that distinctive five-dot mark.
But the Quincunx of Heaven runs low, and ’tis time to close the five ports of knowledge; We are unwilling to spin out our awaking thoughts into the phantasmes of sleep, which often continueth præcogitations; making Cables of Cobwebbes and Wildernesses of handsome Groves.[Browne glosses the “Quincunx of Heaven” as the Hyades, a group of stars “near the Horizon about midnight, at that time.”]
Other words, other works of lit
Artificer : Bandbox : Ineluctable