Tag Archives: Greek
‘Xmas’

‘Xmas’

  Chi-Rho – catacombs of San Callisto, Rome photograph: Dnalor 01/Wikimedia Commons       It is often said that the abbreviated form Xmas “takes the Christ out of Christmas”, but this is not the case. For example, a certain Reverend Thomas Eyre wrote to a Doctor Poynter on 25th January 1807: My Lord,—Your much esteemed […]

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glamour

      MEANING   an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing     ORIGIN   It was originally a Scottish alteration of grammar. The noun grammar is from Old French forms such as gramaire (modern French grammaire), from Latin grammatica (ars), from Greek γραμματική (τέχνη) (= grammatike (tekhne)), […]

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‘onyx’

‘onyx’

  photograph: Health This Year      MEANING   a semi-precious variety of agate with different colours in layers     ORIGIN   Via Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as onix and onice (Modern French onyx), the English word is from Latin onyx/onych-. This Latin noun is from Greek ὄνυξ/ὀνυχ- (onux/onukh-), which literally meant […]

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petrichor

petrichor

  photograph: Evdaimon/Wikimedia Commons     The pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather is called petrichor. The word also denotes an oily liquid mixture of organic compounds which collects in the ground and is believed to be responsible for this smell. This word is composed […]

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Sciapodes

Sciapodes

  a sciapod, from the Hereford Mappa Mundi (circa 1300)       The Sciapodes (or Monopods) were a mythical race of people supposed to have lived at the southern edge of the ancient Greek and Roman world, who each had a single leg ending in a foot of immense size with which they shaded […]

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facilis descensus Averno

facilis descensus Averno

  Aeneas and the Sibyl, Lake Avernus (circa 1798), by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) – image: Tate       MEANING   It is easy to slip into evil or immoral ways.     ORIGIN   Lake Avernus (in Italian Lago Averno) is a crater lake in Campania, southern Italy, near Cumae and Puteoli, […]

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nightmare

nightmare

  Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825) – Der Nachtmahr (1790)       The noun mare, which appeared in early Old English, denoted a spirit believed to produce a feeling of suffocation in a sleeping person or animal, hence also a feeling of suffocation experienced during sleep, and an oppressive or terrifying dream. Unrelated to mare in […]

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mari complaisant – wittol

mari complaisant – wittol

  Cuckoos are famed for laying their eggs in host species’ nests, leaving unwitting “foster” birds to raise their chicks. Photograph from Cuckoos are no match for local reed warblers (BBC).       The French expression un mari complaisant, which literally means an accommodating husband, denotes a husband tolerant of his wife’s adultery. This sense […]

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boutique

boutique

  image: Salle 103 – Latin (Collège de Vinci – Belfort – France)         MEANINGS OF BOUTIQUE   a small shop selling fashionable clothes or accessories a business serving a sophisticated or specialised clientele     ORIGIN   In the second half of the 18th century, English borrowed the French noun boutique […]

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giddy

giddy

  John Ray (1627-1705) – image: National Portrait Gallery       MEANINGS   dizzy; affected with a reeling sensation and feeling as if about to fall causing or tending to cause vertigo impulsive; scatter-brained     ORIGIN   This adjective is from Old English gidig, insane, mad, from the Germanic base of god. Its […]

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