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Fri., Sept. 21, 2012, 4:38 a.m.

A Word A Day — orphic

September 21, 2012

Word of the Day

  • orphic
  • audio pronunciation
  • \OR-fik\


: of or relating to Orpheus or the rites or doctrines ascribed to him
: of, relating to, being, or resembling an oracle : oracular, mystic
: fascinating, entrancing

"'No summer ever came back, and no two summers ever were alike,' said I, with a degree of Orphic wisdom that astonished myself." — From Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1852 novel The Blithedale Romance

"The cosmos itself reverberates through the orphic strings of the bridge's supporting cables, creating one song, one bridge of fire, linked to the stars themselves and to the deepest human desires for Cathay, meaning for Hart Crane perfection of place, fulfillment in the social order." — From Kevin Starr's 2010 book Golden Gate: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Bridge


Orpheus was a hero of Greek mythology who was supposed to possess superhuman musical skills. With his legendary lyre, he was said to be able to make even the rocks and trees dance around. In fact, when his wife Eurydice died, he was nearly able to use his lyre to secure her return from the underworld. Later on, according to legend, he was killed at the bidding of Dionysus, and an oracle of Orpheus was established that came to rival the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Because of the oracle of Orpheus, "orphic" can mean "oracular." Because of Orpheus' musical powers, "orphic" can mean "entrancing."

From Merriam-Webster Online at

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