[ed-uh-puh s, ee-duh-]
noun Greek Legend.
  1. a king of Thebes, the son of Laius and Jocasta, and the father by Jocasta of Eteocles, Polynices, Antigone, and Ismeme: as was prophesied at his birth, he unwittingly killed his father and married his mother and, in penance, blinded himself and went into exile.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for oedipus

Contemporary Examples of oedipus

  • Probably John Gielgud's during the dress rehearsal of Peter Brook's production of Seneca's Oedipus at the Vic.

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    Kevin Spacey on Casino Jack

    Kevin Sessums

    December 14, 2010

  • The notion of intra-family sex has inspired—and revolted—onlookers from Oedipus to Deliverance.

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    Incest's Defenders

    Joseph Huff-Hannon

    September 28, 2009

Historical Examples of oedipus

British Dictionary definitions for oedipus


  1. Greek myth the son of Laius and Jocasta, the king and queen of Thebes, who killed his father, being unaware of his identity, and unwittingly married his mother, by whom he had four children. When the truth was revealed, he put out his eyes and Jocasta killed herself
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for oedipus


son of Laius and Jocasta, the king and queen of Thebes, Greek, literally "swollen-foot," from oidan "to swell" (from PIE *oid-; see edema) + pous (genitive podos) "foot" (see foot (n.)). Oedipus complex (1910) coined by Freud. In Latin, figurative references to Oedipus generally referred to solving riddles. Oedipus effect (1957) is Karl Popper's term for "the self-fulfilling nature of prophecies or predictions."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

oedipus in Culture


[(ed-uh-puhs, ee-duh-puhs)]

In classical mythology, a tragic king who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. The Delphic oracle predicted that King Laius of Thebes, a city in Greece, would be killed by his own son. To save himself, Laius ordered his newborn son placed on a mountaintop and left to starve. The infant was rescued by a shepherd and raised in a distant city, where he was given the name Oedipus. Years later, King Laius was killed while on a journey by a stranger with whom he quarreled. Oedipus arrived at Thebes shortly thereafter and saved the city from the ravages of the Sphinx. He was proclaimed king in Laius' stead, and he took the dead king's widow, Jocasta, as his own wife.

After several years a terrible plague struck Thebes. The Delphic oracle told Oedipus that to end the plague, he must find and punish the murderer of King Laius. In the course of his investigation, Oedipus discovered that he himself was the killer and that Laius had been his real father. He had therefore murdered his father and married his mother, Jocasta. In his despair at this discovery, Oedipus blinded himself.


The story of Oedipus is the subject of the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.


The Oedipus complex, identified by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, takes its name from the story of Oedipus.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.