English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I understand that manicure derives from the Latin for hand and to care for, but can manicure mean care for by hand? So could you manicure a bush?

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

(from a Yahoo Answers post)

The words pedicure and manicure are derived from Latin words. Pedicure came from the latin word pedis meaning feet and cura meaning care. Thus pedicure means the care of the feet. Manicure came from the latin word manus meaning hands and, again cura, meaning care. So manicure is the care of the hands.

But as others have indicated, whereas "pedicure" only ever applies to feet, "manicure" can be metaphorically applied to such things as lawns, ornamental bushes, and pubic hair. And nose and ear hair – for which you often get suitable implements in a manicure set.

Moving further into metaphorical territory, a Google search produces quite a few hits for "manicured flower beds", "borders", "fields", and even "fiction" and "manners".

share|improve this answer
+1 for the application of manicure to pubic hair. There's a slang term involved here that is very close to the wording of the question that I'm not willing to touch. Manicure can also apply to facial hair, by the way. – Spare Oom Jul 24 '11 at 0:32
So essentially, while I could manicure a bush it wouldn't be because I was caring for it by hand, but because I was treating the bush like a hand. Interesting. – Matt E. Эллен Jul 24 '11 at 12:44
@Spare Oom: Possibly what crossed my mind is that same thing you're thinkng of. I wondered if the slang 'bush' for 'pubic hair' helped extend use of the word manicure from the garden bush to that one. Or the other way round - I've no idea which bush came first in that context! – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '11 at 17:11
@Matt Ellen: The manicuring of something (including hands) is now more related to being neatly trimmed, which Harrold's answer explains. – Spare Oom Jul 26 '11 at 1:38

You are right. NOAD:

manicure |ˈmanɪkjʊə|


a cosmetic treatment of the hands involving cutting, shaping, and often painting of the nails, removal of the cuticles, and softening of the skin.

verb [ trans. ] give a manicure to.

• [usu. as adj. ] ( manicured) trim neatly : manicured lawns.

ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from French, from Latin manus ‘hand’ + cura ‘care.’

share|improve this answer
+1 for a good informative answer, but… why “unfortunately”? Metaphorical and figurative uses like this are part of the beauty of language! – PLL Jul 23 '11 at 21:47
Just my two cents, but no, the metaphorical use doesn't extend this far so easily; the Latin expands to care of the hand and can't just be inverted to the hand of care, thus the only extent to which you can take the metaphor is when caring for the 'hands' of the bush (you would need to define these per bush, obviously.) – Grant Thomas Jul 23 '11 at 22:44
+1 for manicured lawns. Hedges also, as in Free Dictionary: thefreedictionary.com/manicure – Spare Oom Jul 24 '11 at 0:28
Well, manicured lawns does not necessarily mean the work was done "by hand". It could have been done by machine, or letting the sheep graze there for a few days. – GEdgar Jul 24 '11 at 1:05
@PLL I thought the term is used only for cosmetic treatment of the hands and the wider meaning makes it more ambiguous – that is why I consider it to be unfortunate. It was not appropriate to express my personal thoughts in this way, however. I shall delete it. – Harold Cavendish Jul 24 '11 at 8:39

Yes you can manicure a bush, although the phrase 'a manicured lawn' is more common.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.