From Middle Dutch perle, peerle, paerle, parle, presumably via French perle from Italian perla, from Medieval Latin perla, plausibly a diminutive of Latin perna (“clam, pearl”), cognate with pearl; alternative derivation from Latin birna (“pear”) or beryllus (“beryl”) lack plausibility; the letter sense is apparently popular etymology from nonparel, itself from French nonpareille. Its typographic use is from French perle, following the name given by Jean Jannon to the type used in his miniature editions of Vergil, Horace, & the New Testament in the 1620s, which were the smallest printed works to his time.
- paarl (Archaic)
- A pearl, a precious, round shelly concretion from oysters or other molluscs
- Its imitation
- Mother of pearl, the natural material pearls are made from
- Anything resembling a pearl's irregular ball-shape, notably a drop of liquid
- (figuratively) (One of) the best quality, first pick, the cream
- (printing, dated) The size of type between diamant and nonparel, equated with the English pearl and standardized as 5 point.
- (5-point type): parisienne