According to Google, they are called "Umpernaters," but I can't find that word anywhere in dictionaries, so I'm tempted to think it's just a legend.

Is there a real term?

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    Spaces between the teeth of a comb are one of those things that are not worthy of a name :P – SmokerAtStadium Mar 12 '13 at 20:53
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    “According to Google” is about as vacuous a reference as imaginable. – tchrist Mar 12 '13 at 21:00
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    @DarkLight, don't let tchrist's remark bother you. It is easy to imagine references far more vacuous than yours. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 13 '13 at 17:12

It appears that umpernater (rather than umpernator) is a term sometimes used. The only reputable example that I found is from Wetland Archaeology and Beyond: Theory and Practice, by Francesco Menotti: enter image description here Possibly it is a Latin term, rather than a recognized English word.

Interstices (“A small opening or space between objects, especially adjacent objects or objects set closely together, as between cords in a rope or components of a multiconductor electrical cable or between atoms in a crystal”), as suggested in previous answer and in comments, is a term with a better chance of being recognized.

  • Yes, and Menotti, whose book came out only last year, may in fact have been misled by Google too. – MetaEd Mar 13 '13 at 3:06
  • @MετάEd You could ask him: ipna.unibas.ch/personen/menotti/index.html :) – coleopterist Mar 13 '13 at 13:23
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    @coleopterist Okay, I did. – MetaEd Mar 13 '13 at 16:47
  • The person who identified the louse gave the word to Sig. Menotti. – MetaEd Mar 14 '13 at 22:06
  • @MετάEd, would that be Karin Wolf-Schwenninger, or did someone else identify it? – James Waldby - jwpat7 Mar 14 '13 at 22:09

What about "interstices," meaning small, narrow, intervening spaces? Of course, this word isn't specific to combs, but it seems to fit.

I'm not finding "umpernators," either. Could you provide the link to the source for this word?


The word redd means clearing a space or putting in order by separating. Sometimes, according to the OED, combs were referred to as redding-combs.

I personally would call the space between the teeth of a comb a rut. It's the furrow or gap left between the hard material.

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