Tag Archives: Greek
ailurophile

ailurophile

      An ailurophile is a cat lover, and an ailurophobe is a person who has an intense fear of, or aversion to, cats. These words are based on ancient Greek ἀίλουρος (ailouros)*, also αἰέλουρος (aielouros), meaning cat, perhaps, as reported by ancient grammarians, composed of αἰόλος (aiolos), swift, and οὐρά (oura), tail**, the […]

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to warm the cockles of one’s heart

to warm the cockles of one’s heart

  Parsons bottled pickled shellfish       MEANING   to give one a comforting feeling of contentment     ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The noun cockle now denotes specifically an edible burrowing bivalve mollusc with a strong ribbed shell common on sandy coasts (Genus Cardium, family Cardiidae). But it was formerly applied more vaguely to […]

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dog in the manger

dog in the manger

  The Dog in the Manger, from The Fables of Æsop selected, told anew and their history traced (1894), by Joseph Jacobs – illustrated by Richard Heighway       MEANING   A person who prevents others from having or using things even though he or she does not need them     ORIGIN   […]

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touchstone

touchstone

  goldsmith’s touchstone carved with initials HB and the date 1642 photograph: Finch & Cº – Antiques & Works of Art     Touche stone to prove golde with John Palsgrave – Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530)       MEANING   A touchstone is a standard or criterion by which something is judged […]

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sybarite

sybarite

  Sybaris Valley in Calabria – photograph: Hydria Project     MEANING   A sybarite is a person who is self-indulgent in their fondness for sensuous luxury.     ORIGIN   With a capital initial, the word originally denoted a native or citizen of Sybaris, an ancient Greek city of southern Italy, traditionally noted for […]

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sycophant

sycophant

  amulet representing the ‘fig’ hand (mano in fica) illustration from The Evil Eye (1895) by Frederick Thomas Elworthy       MEANING   A sycophant is a person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage.     ORIGIN   The noun sycophant is from Latin sycophanta, meaning an informer, slanderer, […]

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idiot

idiot

  Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1342-1400) as a pilgrim – from the Ellesmere Manuscript, an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales       MEANING   A stupid person     ORIGIN   Via Old French, the English noun idiot is from Latin idiota, meaning uneducated, ignorant, inexperienced, common person. This Latin noun was […]

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ostracism

ostracism

  ostrakon against the Athenian statesman Themistocles (circa 528-462 BC) photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Giovanni Dall’Orto       MEANING   Exclusion from a society or group     ORIGIN   In Athens and other ancient Greek cities, ostracism was a political measure by which citizens whose power or influence was considered dangerous to the state were […]

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marguerite

marguerite

  ox-eye daisy flower photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Wills       Borrowed from French in the early 17th century, marguerite originally denoted the common daisy. It is now another term for the ox-eye daisy; also called moon daisy, this plant has large white flowers with yellow centres (scientific name: Leucanthemum vulgare, family Compositae).   The same […]

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eagle

eagle

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons       The English eagle is from French aigle. The French noun is from the Latin feminine noun aquila, which is perhaps, in allusion to the bird’s common colour, from the adjective aquilus, feminine aquila, meaning dark-coloured, dun, swarthy. The Latin name denoted the bird and a military ensign surmounted […]

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