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A Word A Day — nepenthe

Good evening Netizens...

April 12, 2013

Word of the Day

  • nepenthe
  • audio pronunciation
  • \nuh-PENTH-ee\


: a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow
: something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering

"Once barely sipping at wines, cocktails, brandy-and-soda, she now took to the latter…. The old nepenthe of the bottle had seized upon her." — From Theodore Dreiser's 1914 novel The Titan

"All your waiting around for something good to happen to you has paid off. No need to question how you got here. Drink the nepenthe and forget all your miserable history." — From an essay by Dan Gillis in 34th Street Magazine (University of Pennsylvania), February 21, 2013


"Nepenthe" and its ancestors have long been popular with poets. Homer used the Greek grandparent of "nepenthe" in a way many believe is a reference to opium. The term was a tonic to Edmund Spenser, who wrote, "In her other hand a cup she hild, The which was this Nepenthe to the brim upfild." Edgar Allan Poe sought to "Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore." The term is an alteration of the Latin "nepenthes," which is itself descended from the Greek prefix "n -," meaning "not," plus "penthos," meaning "grief" or "sorrow." English writers have been plying the word "nepenthe" since the 16th century.

From Merriam-Webster Online at



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