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[ pi-shohg ] [ pɪˈʃoʊg ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


an evil spell; hex.

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More about pishogue

Pishogue, “an evil spell,” is adapted from Irish Gaelic piseog, “charm, spell,” from Middle Irish piseóc or pisóc. Though these words are of uncertain origin, some linguists have suggested a derivation from Latin pyxis (stem pyxid-), “box, medicine box.” Pyxis is a borrowing from Ancient Greek pyxís, “box,” which is also the source of English box as well as its French synonym boîte. The linguistic community is divided over the source of pyxís, with some advocating for an origin in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and others suggesting an origin in the ancient Italian peninsula, specifically from a lost language that must predate Latin. Pishogue was first recorded in English in the 1820s.

how is pishogue used?

In 1992, Cavan business man Sean Quinn’s lost his multibillion-euro fortune and it was believed that the reason was down to a fairy curse known as a pishogue.

Steve Lally and Paula Flynn Lally, “Irish Gothic: fairy stories from Ireland’s 32 counties,” The Irish Times, February 20, 2019

‘Are you asking for a pishogue? … It’s a curse and the worst one,’ the old man said. ‘You can be cursed by a fairy or a saint.’

Michael Nicholson, Dark Rosaleen, 2015
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[ shah-muhn ] [ ˈʃɑ mən ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds, using magic to cure illness, foretell the future, control spiritual forces, etc.

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More about shaman

Shaman, “a person who acts as intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds,” comes via German Schamane and Russian shamán from Evenki šamān. Evenki is an endangered language spoken in Siberia that belongs to the Tungusic family, another member of which may also be the source of the recent Word of the Day saber. A common claim is that, prior to Evenki, the word derived via Mandarin shāmén, “Buddhist monk,” or Tocharian B ṣamāne, “monk,” from Sanskrit śramaṇa-, “ascetic, monk.” Shaman was first recorded in English in the 1690s.

how is shaman used?

Shamans play an important role in many cultures .… The special treatment of the body and use of stones to keep it in a certain position suggests the woman held a unique position in the community, likely some sort of a shaman, the researchers said.

“Earliest known shaman grave site found: study,” Reuters, November 3, 2008
[T]he shaman guiding the ceremony chants, usually to the birds and the spirits in the sky. Soon the others start to sing, too, their voices overlapping to create a rapturous polyphony. At this point, visions ensue. The shaman is attuned to every participant and monitors what they are feeling, intervening when necessary.

Carolina Schneider Comandulli and the Apiwtxa Association, “This Amazonian Indigenous Group Has Lessons in Sustainable Living for All of Us,” Scientific American, May 1, 2022
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⚛️ Today's Word was chosen in partnership with the Museum of Science as the Science Word Of The Week! ⚛️


[ haw-rip-uh-ley-shuhn, ho- ] [ hɔˌrɪp əˈleɪ ʃən, hɒ- ] Show IPA Phonetic Respelling


a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc.; goosebumps.

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Why the Museum of Science chose horripilation

Halloween is rapidly approaching, and you might wonder why horripilation happens when you watch scary movies. Watch the video below to hear more about horripilation from award-winning science communicator Maynard Okereke, better known as the Hip Hop M.D.

More about horripilation

When delving into the history of horripilation, things become hairy rather quickly. The horri- part comes from a Latin verb meaning “to bristle,” and this verb is also the source of words such as horrendous, horrify, and horror. Unlike terror, which literally has to do with being frightened, the root of horror is all about hair standing on its end! In addition, the -pil- part of horripilation is a Latin stem meaning “hair.” Horripilation was first recorded in English in the 1650s.


As the truck set off on the haunted hayride route, the riders experienced some horripilation in anticipation of the scares ahead.


The nervous system response that causes goosebumps is the same response that makes a cat puff up its tail or a porcupine puff out its quills when they are scared. Learn more fun facts at the Museum of Science.

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