Two consecutive posts about words… There are just some words that I really like, and lineament is one of them. I have only ever come across the word used in reference to lines, specifically those tracing the body or geometric forms, so I was interested when I read Alberto Toscano’s essay “Lineaments of the Logistical State,” which begins with a brief definition of the word lineament that’s tied to geological/geophysical characteristics:
Lineament. noun. GEOLOGY. A linear feature on the earth’s surface, such as a fault.
This is the definition from the OED:
a. A line; also, a delineation, diagram, outline, sketch; pl. outlines, designs. lit. and fig.
b. A minute portion, a trace; pl. elements, rudiments.
a. A portion of the body, considered with respect to its contour or outline, a distinctive feature.
b. fig. in pl. Distinctive features or characteristics.
In narrower sense, a portion of the face viewed with respect to its outline; a feature.
I suppose the two definitions are similar enough, but the OED has no reference to land or geology. There’s something really nice about understanding lineaments as borders of sorts, but also having that meaning extended more explicitly to terrain, and understanding spatial or geographic contours as things that move, have traces, and have directionality as fault lines do. Fixed and distinct, yet fluid and mobile.