Mythological Dictionary


Dictionary of Mythological Definitions and Terms.
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Definition


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Sisyphean
Sisyphus was a famous resident of Hades who was condemned to roll an enormous rock up a hill only to have it fall back down, a punishment for revealing the secret of one of Zeus' love affairs. A sisyphean task has become a term for work that is difficult, laborious, almost impossible of completion. See tartarean and tantalize..
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Sphinx
The sphinx terrorized Thebes before the arrival of Oedipus (see Oedipal Complex). She was a hybrid creature with the head of a woman, body of a lion, wings of an eagle, and the tail of a serpent. She punished those who failed to answer her riddle with strangulation (the Greek verb sphingein means to strangle). At some point the Greek sphinx became associated with Egyptian iconography, in which the sphinx had a lion's body and a hawk's or man's head. When we liken someone to a sphinx, we have in mind the great riddler of the Greeks and not the Egyptian conception. A sphinx is an inscrutable person, given to enigmatic utterances (the Greek word ainigma means a riddle).
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Stentorian
Stentor was the herald of the Greek army at Troy, who could speak with the power of fifty men. Today we may liken a powerful orator to Stentor and designate the effect of his voice as stentorian.
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Stygian
Across the river Styx, the "hateful" river that circles the realm of the underworld, the ferryman Charon transports human souls to Hades. The gods swear their most dread and unbreakable oaths by invoking the name of the river Styx. Stygian describes something to be linked with the infernal regions of hell, something gloomy, or inviolable.
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Syringe
Syrinx ("pan-pipes") rejected the god Pan and was turned into a bed of reeds from which he fashioned his pan-pipes. A syringe is a device made up of a pipe or tube, used for injecting and ejecting liquids. Syringa is a genus of plants used for making pipes or pipestems.
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Tantalize
Tantalus, who through hybris tried to feed the gods human flesh, is punished by being in a state of perpetual thirst and hunger, food and drink always just beyond his reach. To tantalize is therefore to tease and tempt without satisfaction. See sisyphean and tartarean.
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Tartarean
Tartarus is the region in the realm of Hades reserved for the punishment of sinners, among whom are those who have committed the most heinous crimes and suffer the most terrible punishments. The adjective tartarean refers to those infernal regions. See sisyphean and tantalize.
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Terpsichorean
From Terpsichore, one of the nine muses comes the adjective, terpsichorean, which refers to her special area of expertise, dancing. See Muse.
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Titan
Titan or titanic.
The twelve Titans, the second generation of gods, born of Ge and Uranus, were of gigantic stature, most of them conceived of as natural forces, and although defeated and punished by Zeus, virtually invincible. Their massive strength is preserved in the adjective titanic, which was also the name given to an ocean vessel thought to be unsinkable. To call someone a titan is to emphasize one's enormous mastery and ability in any field or endeavor.
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Typhoon
Zeus' struggle with the dragon Typhon (also named Typhaon or Typhoeus) was the most serious battle that he had before finally consolidating his rule. Typhon had one hundred heads and tongues, fire shot out of his eyes, and terrible cries bellowed from his throats. The word typhoon, meaning a severe tropical hurricane which arises in the China sea or the western Pacific ocean, comes from the Chinese ta ("great") and feng ("wind"), but the form of the word is influenced by the name Typhon.
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Venereal
Venereal or venery or veneration.
Venus was the powerful Roman goddess of love, equated with the Greek Aphrodite, who was born from the foam around Uranus' castrated genitals. Her dominant sexual.htmlect is made clear by the nature of her origin. The adjective venereal denotes a sexually transmitted disease, and the noun venery is indulgence in sexual license. Veneration, however, is the act of showing respectful love, adoration, or reverence.
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Volcanic
volcanic or volcano or volcanism or volcanize or volcanology, etc.
(each of these words may also be spelled with vul-): The Roman god Vulcan, identified with the Greek Hephaestus, was the supreme craftsman of the gods. His helpers were three Cyclopes and his forge was located in various places, but most often under Mt. Etna in Sicily, or similar volcanic regions, which betray its presence. A volcano is a vent in the earth's crust, which spews forth molten material and thereby forms a mountain. Volcanism or Vulcanism refers to any volcanic force or activity. To volcanize is to subject a substance, especially rubber, to such extremes of heat that it undergoes a change and thereby becomes strengthened. Volcanology is the scientific study of volcanic phenomena.
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Wheel of Fortune
Fors or Fortuna was an Italic fertility goddess who controlled the cycles of the seasons and became associated with the Greek conception of good or bad fortune (tyche). She is often represented holding the cornucopia in one hand and a wheel in the other, to signify the rising and falling of an individual's prospects. From that iconography comes wheel of fortune, a device used in a game of chance. See cornucopia.
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Zephyr
Zephyrus is the west wind (see Aurora Borealis), which signals the return of spring. Today a zephyr is a pleasant, gentle breeze, as well as a reference to any insignificant or passing thing.
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Mythological [1] [2] [3] [4]

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