Word of the Day

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

claddagh

[ klah-duh ]

noun

a ring in the form of two hands clasping a crowned heart, given in friendship or love.

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What is the origin of claddagh?

The claddagh ring is Irish in name and origin. Claddagh in Irish means “shore” and is also the name of a fishing village on the western edge of Galway City, on the west coast of Ireland. The rings, with the design of two hands (friendship) clasping a heart (love), surmounted by a crown (loyalty), symbolized betrothal or marriage and were used at least as early as 1700. Claddagh entered English in the 19th century.

how is claddagh used?

One of the rings was becoming visible thanks to the bright light. “Are those hands?” “It’s a claddagh.”

C. J. Lyons, Devil Smoke, 2016

Taking note of the thick band of sterling silver, I saw alternating squares of intricately engraved pictures: one was a Scottish thistle, one a Celtic knot, one a raven and the last I recognized because of my studies: a Claddagh: two hands clasping a heart together.

Sharon Ricklin Jones, Ravenswynd Legends, 2013
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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

scry

[ skrahy ]

verb

to use divination to discover hidden knowledge or future events, especially by means of a crystal ball.

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What is the origin of scry?

Aphesis is the loss of an unstressed vowel or syllable from the beginning of a word, as descry becoming scry. The adjective formed from aphesis is aphetic. Descry means “to see something unclear or distant by looking carefully”; scry has a narrower meaning, “to use divination to learn hidden events or the future, especially by gazing into a crystal ball or water.” Scry was obsolete by the 16th century, but it was revived in the 19th century by Andrew Lang (1844–1912), the Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, anthropologist, and collector of folk and fairy tales.

how is scry used?

Merlin could scry in any clear or shiny surface. Even now he had a basin of water ready at this elbow for watching his boy king.

Phyllis Ann Karr, "Merlin's Dark Mirror," The Merlin Chronicles, 1995

And my lord had a great mirror where he wanted me to scry–to see the future.

Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers, 2011
Monday, September 03, 2018

nepenthe

[ ni-pen-thee ]

noun

anything inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, especially of sorrow or trouble.

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What is the origin of nepenthe?

In Greek and English nepenthe and pathos are opposites. Greek nēpenthḗs is an adjective meaning “banishing pain, without sorrow.” Nēpenthḗs breaks down to the (unusual) negative prefix nē- (ultimately from the same Proto-Indo-European source as English un-), the stem penth- of the noun pénthos “pain,” and the adjective suffix -ḗs, -és. The Greek nouns pénthos and páthos “sensation, suffering” are derivatives of the complicated verb páschein, all three words showing variants of the Greek root penth-, ponth-, path- “to suffer, experience.” Nepenthe entered English in the 16th century.

how is nepenthe used?

There must have been in him a remarkable capacity for forgetfulness; he might seem to have drunk every morning a nepenthe that drowned in oblivion all his yesterdays.

Walter Noble Burns, The Saga of Billy the Kid, 1925

Of course, he was feverish and in great pain, despite the draughts of nepenthe he was given …

Steven Saylor, The House of Vestals, 1992

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