Monday, October 11, 2010


Nepenthe \ni-PEN-thee\ , noun;
1. A drug or drink, or the plant yielding it, mentioned by ancient writers as having the power to bring forgetfulness of sorrow or trouble
2. Anything inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, [especially] of sorrow or trouble.

Kind of sounds like another word I know: alcohol. It does seem kind of nice though, and it reminds me of that one day after I had shoulder surgery when I drifted in an out of a pain killer-aided nap all day. I was absolutely blissfully unaware of how much I was going to ache and how poorly I was going to sleep for the next few months.

According to
Nepenthe is really supposed to be nepenthes, but the 's' was dropped in English, as is common for adopted words. The word dates back to at least 1580 and comes from a Greek construction: ne- + penthos ("no, not" + "grief"). Penthos is a relative of pathos, which has a meaning most of us recognize ("suffering" or "experience").

The Oxford English Dictionary has an additional medical definition for this word that is now considered historical and rare:
An opiate; [specifically] a sherry-based tincture of opium and morphine

This word is prevalent in Greek literature and mythology, so it has trickled down into various parts of our modern culture. First mentioned in print in the fourth book of Homer's Odyssey, the word can be found in modern poetry, books, movies, and other pop culture genres. There is even a restaurant in Big Sur named this word. Personally, I think this would be a fantastic name for a wine or martini bar.

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Monday, October 11

No comments:

Post a Comment