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Adynaton Origin and Meaning

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The word adynaton, which refers to a jocular phrase that emphasizes the idea of impossibility, was adopted into English from Greek, where adynaton means “impossible,” a combination of a- meaning “not” and dynatos, which means “possible.” This Greek word derives from a root that means “to have power,” the source also of the English word dynamic. One Hungarian adynaton translates as “when it’s snowing red.” A Russian version translates as “when a crayfish whistles on top of a mountain.” In Serbian and Croatian, the same idea is expressed by a phrase rendered in English as “when grapes grow on willow.” The Roman poet Virgil expressed the idea of something doubly improbable with the idea of “when golden apples grow on oak trees.” This is part of a complete episode.

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