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Words from Greek and Roman Myths

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Many English words have their roots in Greek and Roman myth. Tantalize derives from the story of King Tantalus, condemned to stand forever in a pool that receded whenever he was thirsty, and beneath a bough of fruit that pulled away whenever he reached for it. Sisyphus was punished by having to push a heavy stone up a hill, only to see it break free and roll back down; from this myth we get the adjective Sisyphean. The handsome youth Narcissus was obsessed with his own reflection in a pond, which inspired both narcissist and the name of the flower narcissus, which blooms alongside bodies of water. Echo was the nymph who pined away for Narcissus until nothing was left of her but her voice. Iris, goddess of the rainbow, gave us both iridescent and the Spanish for “rainbow,” arco iris. In The Iliad, the Greek herald Stentor bellowed with a voice as mighty as that of 50 men. From his name we get the adjective stentorian, which describes someone with a powerful voice. Dale Corey Dibbley shares hundreds more examples in From Achilles Heel to Zeus’s ShieldThis is part of a complete episode.

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