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EMPYREAN

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EMPYREAN

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:38 pm

• empyrean •


Pronunciation: em-pi-ree-ên • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun

Meaning: 1. (Noun) The highest reaches of the firmament, the heavens, the abode of gods and angels, originally thought to be a dome. 2. Of or related to the empyrean. 3. Inspiring awe, wonder.

Notes: Today's word has a fraternal twin, empyreal, with the same meaning but a different appearance. We are dealing with very old words here, so meanings have gone astray. The only relative of today's word is empyreum, which refers to the smell of burnt organic substances. (For the historical connection, see Word History.)

In Play: The suffixes on empyreal and empyrean make it clear that they are first and foremost adjectives: "Sue Persillias was married amidst the empyrean splendor of a 19th century royal inauguration." However, both words also serve as nouns: "Lying on his back and looking up at the starry empyreal brought all of Fowler Fairweather's problems into better perspective."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Greek empyros "fiery", which itself comes from en "in" + pyr "fire". In days gone by, this word referred to the highest part of the supposedly spherical heavens, thought to contain the pure element of fire. The early Greek scientists believed that the universe was composed of earth, air, fire, and water. In Greek cosmology, the highest heaven was the sphere of fire and purity, and was only later populated with God and the angels by early Christians. It's the Greek word we see in pyre and pyromaniac, as well as today's word. Since Proto-Indo-European [p] became [f] in all Germanic languages, we are not surprised to see Feuer in German and fire in English from the same original PIE word that became pyr in Greek. (We can offer no empyreal expression of gratitude to C. John Graham for suggesting today's Good Word, but we do tip our hat to him.)
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Re: EMPYREAN

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:10 am

"Well heavenly days, McGee!" The Good Doctor is blessing us with some great etherial words of late. An old codger test: Who said the phrase I quoted above?
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: EMPYREAN

Postby MTC » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:34 pm

Likely Molly of the fairly ancient Fibber McGee and Molly
radio show, though other than radio waves bouncing off the ionosphere, this would have little to do with the empyrean.
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Re: EMPYREAN

Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:40 pm

We have a local beer named Empyrean.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: EMPYREAN

Postby misterdoe » Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:11 pm

Empyrean Isles is the title of one of my favorite Herbie Hancock albums, and I always wondered where he got that word from. Herbie has always been experimental, so I figured maybe he'd made it up...
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Re: EMPYREAN

Postby Philip Hudson » Fri Dec 07, 2012 4:17 pm

Right MTC. The intended connection is that empyrean and firmament are "heavenly words."
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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