Sally M (sallymn) wrote in 1word1day,
Sally M

Sunday Word: Nepenthe

nepenthe [ni-pen-thee]
1 A drug described in Homer's Odyssey as banishing grief or trouble from a person's mind.
2 A drug or potion bringing welcome forgetfulness; something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering
3 A plant of a genus that comprises the Old World pitcher plants


I drank of the nepenthe cup, and in it my past was washed out and my soul was drowned. (Clemence Housman, The Unknown Sea)

For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass. (H P Lovecraft, 'The Outsider')

Nepenthes, commonly known as the Hanging or Asian Pitcher Plants, doubtless are the most ostentatious carnivorous plants next to the Venus flytrap. (Lenny Ann Low, Grow Carniverous Plants)


Nepenthe and its ancestors have long been popular with poets. Homer used the Greek grandparent of 'nepenthe' in a way many believe is a reference to opium. The term was a tonic to Edmund Spenser, who wrote, 'In her other hand a cup she hild, The which was this Nepenthe to the brim upfild.' Edgar Allan Poe sought to 'Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore.' The term is an alteration of the Latin nepenthes, which is itself descended from the Greek prefix ne-, meaning 'not,' plus penthos, meaning 'grief' or 'sorrow.' English writers have been plying the word nepenthe since the 16th century. (Mirriam-Webster)

1590s, earlier nepenthes (1570s), 'a drug or magic potion of Egypt mentioned in the 'Odyssey' as capable of banishing grief or trouble from the mind,' from Greek nēpenthēs, from - 'no, not' + penthos 'pain, grief,' from PIE root kwent(h)- 'to suffer.' The -s is a proper part of the word, but likely was mistaken in English as a plural affix and dropped. In medical use, 'a drug having sedative properties' (1680s). (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Tags: greek, l, latin, noun, wordsmith: sallymn

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