• allegory •
Pronunciation: æl-ê-go-ree • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The representation of abstract ideas as real people and events.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a member of a large, happy family. Don't forget to replace the Y with an I when you write them, though. The adjective is allegorical and the adverb, allegorically. A person who writes allegories is an allegorist who allegorizes. The same Y > I rule applies to the plural of this word: allegories.
In Play: Let us begin with one of the classic allegories of American literature: "Melville's Moby Dick is an allegory about a man's quest for his dream." This means that all the frustrations, joys, failures, and successes of Captain Ahab can be seen as symbolically representing the struggle of any person to achieve a monumental goal in life. We can see allegories in ordinary life, too: "Growing up with my mother was an allegory of the struggle between good and evil, with every aspect of her life representing either one or the other."
Word History: Today's Good Word originated in ancient Greek allegoria from the verb allegorein "to imply something other than what you are saying". This verb is made up of allos "other" + agoreuein "to speak publicly". Agoreuein comes from the name of our discussion room, the Agora. Agora is the Greek word for "market, public space". It comes from the same original root as the greg "flock, herd" in congregate, aggressive, and egregious. (We want to imply nothing but our sincere gratitude to Loren Baldwin, who suggested today's Good Word.)