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, from the Latin virga
In meteorology, virga is an observable streak or shaft of precipitation that falls from a cloud but evaporates before reaching the ground. At high altitudes the precipitation falls mainly as ice crystals before melting and finally evaporating; this is usually due to compressional heating, because...
, is a type of rod, made of wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...
Originally it was one or more branches (the French often use verges
, the plural of its equivalent, as the normal word for a rod, the rarer singular verge
rather indicates a switch
A switch is a flexible rod, typically used for corporal punishment of the birching type, called switching after it, especially when using a single branch: multiple branches are rather called a rod, a less flexible single rod is rather called a cane, an inflexible one a stick; a paddle is broader...
) used as an instrument for corporal punishment
Corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable...
, or as a riding crop.
It is presently best known as the ceremonial staff of the Anglican and Episcopalian lay church officers known as verger
A verger is a person, usually a layman, who assists in the ordering of religious services, particularly in Anglican churches.-History:...
(or originally virger
: the title derives from virge), who originally used it as a 'weapon' to make way for the ecclesiastical procession (compare the catholic garde suisse), and occasionally to chastise unruly choristers.
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