By Deane Barker

Definition: dorsal (upper) section of the exoskeleton or shell in a number of animal groups, including arthropods such as crustaceans and arachnids, as well as vertebrates such as turtles and tortoises

This is a physical word that was used in an emotional context.

Why I Looked It Up

I encountered the word in a sobering book called The Emperor of All Maladies, which is a history of cancer. In it, the author describes a cancer patient descending into the hell of chemotherapy, and shutting herself off emotionally from the people around her:

Her melancholy hardened into something impenetrable, a carapace, and she pulled into it instinctively, shutting everything out.

“Pulled into it” is clearly a reference to the shell of a turtle, of which the word seems to most often refer (though, technically it refers to the shell of lots of different things).

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