I’ve come on the adjective bloodripe in Nabokov’s Lolita (bold emphasis added):

. . . it had become quite a habit with me of not being too attentive to women lest they come toppling, bloodripe, into my cold lap.

The passage contains a metaphor likening women to ripened fruits, so bloodripe is easily defined as fully ripe (although it’s quite an ironic adjective for a paedophile, such as Humbert Humbert). Yet, I can’t find it in any of the dictionaries at my disposal: for example, it is not in Merriam-Webster or Oxford Dictionary.

Does it actually exist, though not listed in the dictionaries, or is it Nabokov’s brainchild?

  • Any question like this (i.e., Is 'X' really a word?) should include a brief summary of what you found when you consulted the dictionary. Without that, everyone will want to know: Did you look it up? What did you find? Just a sentence or two would do the trick: I tried finding it in an online dictionary, but had no luck.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 14:25
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    I believe this is Nabokov's cheeky way of saying horny, suggesting that they are engorged and that he with his cold lap is feeling quite the opposite. Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 14:25
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    Of 10 instances of "bloodripe" in Google Books, all except one seem to be Nabokov's usage cited by OP. Too Localised. Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 14:29
  • I tried finding it in several online dictionaries, but had no luck. Although Lolita was written in English, Nabokov's first language was Russian (into which he subsequently translated the book): it's at least possible that it's based on a Russian expression.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 14:31
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    I only wish to mention that Nabokov also uses the word in "Pale Fire": For we die everyday; oblivion thrives / Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives.
    – user32098
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 20:44

1 Answer 1


The OED lists a hyphenated form of the word:

blood-ripe adj. (of fruit) that is so ripe that the juice has become blood-coloured.

All three quotes in the OED (which date back to the 1840s) use the term when referencing literal fruit (mulberries or tomatoes, e.g.), not metaphorically, as cornbread described. Of course, that doesn't mean the word couldn't be used that way (apparently it has, albeit without the hyphen).

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