Tag Archives: mythology
jovial

jovial

        MEANING   The adjective jovial means cheerful and friendly.     ORIGIN   It is a borrowing from French jovial, originally meaning under the influence of the planet Jupiter, which as a natal planet was regarded as the source of joy and happiness. The French adjective first appeared in 1546 in […]

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February

February

      February is from classical Latin Februārius, a noun use of the adjective in mēnsis Februārius (mēnsis = month). This adjective is from the plural noun februa (singular februum), meaning means of purification, expiatory offerings. The Roman festival of purification and expiation was held on the 15th of this month. The origin of […]

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syphilis

syphilis

  Electron micrograph of Treponema pallidum     Syphilis is a chronic bacterial disease that is contracted chiefly by infection during sexual intercourse, but also congenitally by infection of a developing foetus. This is caused by the spirochaete Treponema pallidum.   The word is from post-classical Latin syphilis, which was originally the title (in full, […]

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manatee

manatee

  a manatee     A sirenian, commonly called sea cow, is a large aquatic plant-eating mammal of the order Sirenia, which includes the manatees and dugong. They live chiefly in tropical coastal waters and are distinguished by paddle-like forelimbs and a tail flipper replacing hindlimbs.   The generic name of the manatees, Trichechus, comes […]

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mermaid

mermaid

  Mélusine en son bain, épiée par son époux Roman de Mélusine – Jean d’Arras illuminated manuscript – 15th century – Bibliothèque nationale de France     A mermaid is an imaginary, partly human sea creature with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail of a fish or cetacean. Originally, the mermaid […]

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good wine needs no bush

good wine needs no bush

  Bacchino malato (Young sick Bacchus) – circa 1593 – self-portrait by Caravaggio     The proverb good wine needs no bush means something that is good does not need to be advertised.   The bush in this sense of advertisement is the branch or bunch of ivy that used to be hung up as a […]

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Argus-eyed

Argus-eyed

  Fábula de Mercurio y Argos (1659) by Diego Velázquez     To be Argus-eyed is to be vigilant.   Argus, the Latinised form of Greek Argos, was thus defined in A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (1849), edited by William Smith: Argus Surnamed Panoptes. He derived his surname, Panoptes, the all-seeing, […]

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brownie

brownie

  an old Brownie-uniform - photograph: Magpie Club     Girls having “gatecrashed” the first Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace, London, in 1909, the Girl Guides Association was formed the following year. It was first led by Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert Baden-Powell’s sister. In 1918, Olave Baden-Powell, Robert’s wife, was appointed Chief Guide. The junior section for girls […]

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clue – clew

    The noun clue appeared as a variant spelling of clew, of same pronunciation. Not frequent until the 17th century, clue has become the prevailing form of the word in the sense of a fact or idea that serves to reveal something or solve a problem. The word is from Old English cliwen, cleowen, meaning a ball formed by winding yarn, twine or thread (it […]

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to teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs

to teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs

    Original illustration for Of the Swine in The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658), by Edward Topsell     The phrase to teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs means to presume to advise a more experienced person. Raw eggs, with or without a little seasoning, used to be a popular food and were regarded as healthy. […]

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