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Vocabulary - SAT, TOEFL, GRE Test Preparation
3.20 Words from Mythology

Greek mythology stories are the genesis for many useful words in English.

aegis - The piece of defensive armor or protective shield carried by Zeus, the sight of which filled enemies with horror.

epicurean - Epicurus, the founder of a school of philosophy, believed the supreme goal in life should be pleasure.

mentor - Faithful adviser to whom Odysseus entrusted the education of his son, Telemachus, while he fought at Troy.

chimerical - Chimera, a fire-breathing monster with a lion head, goat body and dragon tail.

labyrinth - Built to contain the monster Minotaur (cleverly killed by Theseus), this maze was a masterpiece of confusion.

palladium - The statue of Pallas was prophesied to protect the city of Troy as long as it remained inside the city's walls.

museum - The Muses, nine Greek goddesses, presided over arts and literature. This structure was the name of their temple.

narcissism - Narcissus fell in love with himself after seeing his own reflection in a pool. He pined away and died of despair.

Herculean - Hera, wife of Zeus, arranged for Hercules to be given penance of performing twelve, apparently impossible, tasks.

laconic - The disciplined and militaristic Spartans were known for being blunt and using words sparingly.

zephyr - This mild westwind is the harbinger of spring and always supplants the cold northerly winds of winter.

nemesis - This goddess doled out rewards for noble acts but vengeance for evil ones. Punishment wasn't always immediate.

odyssey - Homer's hero had adventures with Calypso, Circe and The Cyclops, among others, before returning to Troy.

meander - A Turkish river which was proverbial in ancient times for its crooked and wandering course.

stoical - A Greek philosophical school believing that one should avoid joy, grief and passions in order to obtain wisdom.

protean - This sea-god would reveal the secret of getting home, but he had to be caught first before he changed forms.

flora - The name of the goddess of spring and flowering plants, esp. wild flowers and plants not raised for food.

ambrosia - Homer, in the Illiad, said that Zeus sent out his workers every day to bring back this delicious substance.

hermetic - Hermes was the god who conducted souls to the judges of the Underworld where one's afterlife was determined.

promethean - Prometheus protected the human race from Zeus and taught them all the arts and skills to make humans unique.

nectar - Beverage of the gods like the divine food, ambrosia, conferring immortality on any mortal lucky enough find it.

sibylline - In the Aeneid, a priestess delivered a prophesy that led Aeneas to his father in the Underworld.

tantalize - Tantalus so offended the gods that he was condemned in the afterlife to an eternity of hunger and thirst.

Delphic - The oracle of Apollo in Delphi made pronouncements that would be the right answer regardless of the outcome.

halcyon - This is the Greek word for kingfisher, a bird of classical legend, that the Greeks believed could nest at sea.

platonic - The Greek philosopher, Plato, believed that physical objects are weak representations of their ideal form.

draconian - Draco, an Athenian legislator in the 600s B.C., was noted for the severity of his code of laws.

calypso - She was the sea nymph who detained Odysseus for seven years on her lush and hidden island of Ogygia.

Directions: Select the words to match the definitions. Use all of the above mythology words in sentences. As homework, do research and write the stories behind any five mythology words discussed in this chapter.
Q 1: A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

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