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Sat., Dec. 15, 2012, 8:08 a.m.

A Word A Day — hagiography

December 15, 2012

Word of the Day

  • hagiography
  • audio pronunciation
  • \hag-ee-AH-gruh-fee\


: biography of saints or venerated persons
: idealizing or idolizing biography

The book effectively portrays the leader's strengths without resorting to hagiography.

"'Lincoln' gratifyingly dodges the kind of safe, starchy hagiography that some Spielberg skeptics feared. Rather, the filmmaker … proves yet again that he is the best filmmaker currently engaging in the form of assiduous research and creative interpretation known as historical drama." — From a review by Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post, November 9, 2012


Like "biography" and "autograph," the word "hagiography" has to do with the written word. The combining form "-graphy" comes from Greek "graphein," meaning "to write." "Hagio-" comes from a Greek word that means "saintly" or "holy." This origin is seen in "Hagiographa," the Greek designation of the Ketuvim, the third division of the Hebrew Bible. Our English word "hagiography," though it can refer to biography of actual saints, is these days more often applied to biography that treats ordinary human subjects as if they were saints.

From Merriam-Webster Online at



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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.