Mythological Dictionary


Dictionary of Mythological Definitions and Terms.
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Definition


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Hector
Hector was the greatest warrior of the Trojans, who was defeated by his counterpart on the Greek side, Achilles. To hector means to bluster and bully. The noun hector denotes a bully. The connection between the noble Hector and this later conception originated in the Middle Ages, when Hector was portrayed as a braggart and bully.
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Heliotrope
Heliotrope or heliotropism, etc.
Helius was god of the sun. The Greek root trop- refers to a turning in a certain direction. Heliotropism is a biological term which refers to the growth or movement of an organism towards or away from sunlight. A heliotrope is a genus of plant that behaves in that manner. Several scientific or technical words derive for the name of the sun-god, for example: a heliostat is an instrument that uses a mirror to reflect sunlight; heliotherapy, treatment by means of the sun's rays; heliotype, a photomechanical process of printing a plate, or the printing plate itself produced in this fashion; heliograph is an instrument used to photograph the sun; and heliocentric refers to anything that has the sun as a center or is relative to the sun.
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Hercules
Hercules or herculean or Hercules' club.
Hercules, in Greek Heracles, was the greatest hero in the ancient world, who wore a lion skin and brandished a club. He achieved countless remarkable exploits, and is most famous for twelve canonical labors. To describe someone as herculean is to liken him to Hercules in strength and stature. Any effort that is herculean requires a tremendous exertion or spirit of heroic endurance. The Hercules is a constellation in the northern hemisphere near Lyra and Corona Borealis. A shrub, indigenous to the Southeastern United States and characterized by prickly leaves and large clusters of white blossoms, is known as Hercules' club.
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Hermetic
Hermetic or hermeneutic or hermeneutics or hermaphrodite.
The god Hermes became associated with the Egyptian god Thoth and received the appellation Trismegistus ("thrice-greatest"). A number of works on occult matters, known as the Hermetic Corpus, were attributed to Hermes Trismegistus; today hermetic refers to occult knowledge, particularly alchemy, astrology, and magic. From this notion of secret or sealed knowledge hermetic comes to mean completely sealed; a hermetic jar is one closed against outside contamination. From Hermes' primary function as a bearer of messages came the Greek hermeneus ("interpreter") and the phrase hermeneutike techne ("the art of interpretation"). Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation and hermeneutic, as adjective or noun, connotes an interpretive or explanatory function. Hermaphroditus, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite, was bathing in a pool, when the nymph Salmacis caught sight of him and was filled with desire. She plunged into the water and entwined her limbs around him. He fought her efforts to seduce him but her prayer to the gods that they might become united into one being was granted. A hermaphrodite has the genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics of both male and female.
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Hydra
Heracles' second labor was to encounter the Hydra, a nine-headed serpent, which would grow back two heads for every one that was severed. Every time he clubbed off one of the heads he cauterized the stump so that another could not grow. A hydra is a polyp with a cylindrical body and tentacles surrounding an oral cavity and it has the ability to regrow itself from cut off parts. A hydra can also be a destructive force that does not succumb to a single effort. The Hydra is a constellation in the equatorial region of the southern sky near the constellation Cancer.
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Hymen
Hymen or hymenea.
Hymen was the god of marriage and invoked during the wedding ceremony with the chant "O Hymen, Hymenaeus"; thus he was the overseer of hymeneal or marriage rites. Originally the Greek word hymen referred to any membrane, but today the hymen is a membranous fold of tissue which covers the outer orifice of the vagina.
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Hyperborean
The Hyperboreans were a mythical race that inhabited a paradise in the far north, at the edge of the world, "beyond" (hyper) the reach of the north wind (Boreas) and his arctic blasts. In English hyperborean merely means arctic or frigid.
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Hypnosis
Hypnosis or hypnotic, etc.
Hypnos, son of Nyx (Night) and brother of Thanatos (death), was the god of sleep and father of Morpheus, the god of dreams. Hypnosis is a sleep-like condition in which the person becomes susceptible to suggestion. Hypnotic, as an adjective, means to pertain to or induce hypnosis. As a noun it refers to the person hypnotized, something that promotes hypnotism, or means simply a soporific, that which induces sleep. Hypnogogic refers to a drug that produces sleep or describes the state immediately preceding sleep, while hypnopompic refers to the state immediately preceding awakening; both states may be marked by visual or auditory hallucination as well as sleep-induced paralysis. Hypnophobia is a pathological fear of sleep.
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Icarian
Icarian or Icarian Sea.
Daedalus had crafted out of wax and feathers two pairs of wings to escape from the imprisonment imposed by King Minos of Crete, one pair for himself, and one for his young son, Icarus. Heedless of his father's advice, the young Icarus flew too close to the sun. The wax of the wings melted and the boy fell into the sea. That part of the Mediterranean along the coast of Asia Minor into which he fell ever after carried his name and would be known as the Icarian Sea. Icarian denotes acts which are reckless and impetuous and lead to one's ruin.
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Ichor
Gods, although immortal, can suffer wounds. Human blood does not flow from those wounds but instead a clear, rarefied liquid -- divine ichor. In English ichor can refer to a fluid, like blood, or, in pathological terms, a watery substance discharged from wounds or ulcers.
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Iris
Iris or iridescent.
Iris was the goddess of the rainbow (the meaning of her name). The adjective iridescent describes anything which gleams with the colors of the rainbow. The iris is the colored portion of the eye which contracts when exposed to light. It is also a genus of plant which has narrow leaves and multi-colored blossoms.
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Junoesque
Juno was the mighty and majestic queen of the Roman Pantheon, wife and sister of Jupiter, identified with the Greek Hera. To describe someone as junoesque is to liken her to the goddess in stature and stately bearing.
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Labyrinth
Labyrinth or labyrinthine.
In Crete, King Minos had Daedalus construct a maze in which to imprison the monstrous Minotaur. Theseus' greatest achievement was to kill the Minotaur and, with the help of Ariadne's thread, find his way out of the maze, which was known as the labyrinth. Excavations of the complex and vast palace of Cnossus in Crete with its network of rooms seem to substantiate elements of this legend. A labyrinth is a maze and the adjective labyrinthine describes something winding, complicated, and intricate. Labyrinth can also denote anatomical features marked by connecting passages, in particular the structures of the internal ear.
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Lethe
Lethe or lethargy or lethargic or Lethean.
Lethe was the river of "forgetfulness" in the underworld. From it souls would drink and forget their experiences upon being reincarnated. Lethe refers today to a state of oblivion or forgetfulness; lethargy and lethargic denote a state of persistent drowsiness or sluggishness; Lethean characterizes anything that causes forgetfulness of the past.
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Lotus
Odysseus was driven to North Africa and the land of the Lotus Eaters, who consumed the fruit of the lotus and lived in a continual state of dreamy forgetfullness and happy irresponsibility. Today a lotus eater is anyone who succumbs to indolent pleasure. The lotus, a small tree of the Mediterranean, produces the fruit supposedly consumed by the Lotus Eaters; it is also an aquatic plant indigenous to southern Asia.
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Maenad
A meanad is a female worshipper of Dionysus. See bacchanal.
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March
March or martial or martial law.
Mars was the Roman god of war, equated with the Greek Ares. He personified the conflict of battle in all its brutality and bloodshed. The adjective martial means of or pertaining to battle; when the military authority usurps the power of civil authority, the population is said to be under martial law. Also the name of the month March is derived from Mars.
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Matinee
Matinee or matins
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Mentor
In Book One of Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus' palace is ravaged by suitors for the hand of his wife, Penelope. His son Telemachus, day dreaming of his father's return, is incapable of action. Athena, in the guise of Odysseus' trusted counselor, Mentor, comes to Ithaca to rouse Telemachus and give him advice and hope. Thus mentor means a trusted guardian and teacher.
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Mercury
Mercury or mercurial.
Mercury was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Hermes (see Herm). This fleet-footed messenger of the gods has given us the word mercury, a silver metallic element, which at room temperature is in liquid form, also called "quicksilver" because of the nature of its movement. In astrology, Mercury is the name given to the planet closest to the sun, around which it completes one revolution in 88 days. In botany, it refers to a genus of weedy plant. To describe someone as mercurial is to impart to the individual craftiness, eloquence, cunning, and swiftness, all attributes of the god. It can also simply mean quick or changeable in temperament, either from the nature of the god or the influence of the planet.
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Midas ass s ears
Midas' ass's ears or Midas touch or the golden touch.
Apollo and Pan entered into a musical contest. When Apollo was judged victorious by the mountain-god Tmolus, Midas, the king of Phrygia, disagreed. For his lack of perception Apollo transformed Midas' offending ears into those of an ass. To have ass's ears means that one lacks true musical judgment and taste. On another occasion, the god Dionysus granted Midas' wish that whatever he might touch be turned into gold. To his despair, Midas found that even as he put food and drink to his mouth it was transmuted into gold. Dionysus granted him relief by telling him to bathe in the river Pactolus, whose bed become golden. To have the golden touch or Midas' touch means to be successful in any endeavor.
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Money
Money or monetary.
In the Temple of Juno Moneta ("money," "mint") was housed the Roman mint. The epithet Moneta means "the warner" and refers to an important legend regarding her temple. When Rome was threatened in 390 B.C. by an invasian of Gauls, the sacred geese in Juno's temple began to squawk, rousing the Romans to battle. Moneta, through the Old French moneie, has given us the word money; the adjective monetary, "pertaining to money," comes from the stem monet.
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Morphine
Morpheus was the god of dreams, or more particularly the shapes (morphai) that come to one in dreams. Later he became confused with the god of sleep and it is from this confusion that the meaning of morphine comes. Morphine, an addictive compound of the opium plant, is used as an anaesthetic or sedative. The compounds which include the stem morph-, such as metamorphosis (a transformation into another shape or state of being), are drawn from the Greek word morphe ("shape" or "form") and not the god Morpheus.
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Muse
Muse or music or museum or mosaic.
The nine muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne ("memory"), whose province was inspiration in the arts, particularly poetry and music; from muse we derive the word music. The Greek word mouseion ("place of the Muses"), in Latin museum, has given us museum, a place for the displaying works of artistic, historical, or scientific interest. From the adjective mousaicos ("pertaining to the Muses") comes mosaic, a picture or design made up of small colored tiles or stones.
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Narcissism
Narcissism refers to a psychological state in which the person has a pathalogical attachment to oneself. See Echo.
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Mythological [1] [2] [3] [4]

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