February 17th, 2019

words 6

Sunday Word: Stygian

Stygian [stij-ee-uh n ]
1. of or relating to the river Styx or to Hades; completely inviolable, as a vow sworn by the river Styx
2. dark or gloomy.
3. infernal; hellish


Many graphic sculptures told of explorations deep underground, and of the final discovery of the Stygian sunless sea that lurked at earth's bowels. (H P Lovecraft, At The Mountains of Madness)

When his tiny friend Trinket devises a scheme for their escape from the orphanage, Arthur embarks on a quest through a wild wood and into the stygian corridors of a subterranean city to solve the mystery of his origins. (Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Best New Children’s Books Wall Stree Journal, 2017)

But the area around Graz could also face its own Stygian nightmare if car supply chains are destroyed in a no-deal scenario. (Alex Macbeth, Styrian dream or stygian nightmare? Austria’s Brexit car roulette The Local, 2018)

I stalk about her door like a strange soul upon the Stygian banks staying for wattage. (William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida)


1560–70; Latin Stygi(us ) from Greek Stýgios (Styg-, stem of Stýx Styx + -ios adj. suffix) + -an. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Stygian comes to us (by way of Latin stygius and Greek stygios) from Styx, the name of the principal river in Hades, the underworld of the dead in Greek mythology. This is the river over which Charon the boatman was said to ferry the spirits of the dead; the Greeks and Romans would place a coin in the mouth or hand of the deceased to serve as fare. It is also the river by which the gods swore their most binding oaths, according to the epics of Homer. English speakers have been using stygian to mean 'of or relating to the river Styx' since the early 16th century. From there the meaning broadened to describe things that are as dark, dreary, and menacing as one might imagine Hades and the river Styx to be. (Merriam-Webster)