• gigantomachy •
jai-gæn-tah-mê-kee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Ancient Greek battle of the titans against the god of the heavens, Zeus. 2. A war of giants, a battle between titans of any ilk.
Notes: Although this Good Word is seldom seen in print today, there should be use for it in this period of hostile takeovers, struggles between government and corporations, and similar struggles between financially powerful individuals and organizations.
In Play: Titans today are rich people who like to push others around with their wealth: "After a rather drawn-out gigantomachy between Rupert Murdoch and the Bancroft family behind the scenes, the Australian media mogul finally acquired the Dow Jones company and its Wall Street Journal." If the struggle is between two nations, the level of power is considerably higher: "The Cold War was a gigantomachy between two superpowers with incompatible politico-economical systems."
Word History: Today's Good Word came from the title of a poem by Claudian, Gigantomachia. It is a compound comprising gigas (gigant-) "giant" + mache "battle". The origin of Greek gigas is a mystery, but we see it in various forms in English borrowings, where gig(a)- has become a prefix meaning "billion": gigabyte, gigahertz. In fact, it is becoming a noun on its own: "I have a gig of memory in my computer" for gigabyte. Giant is the result of French smoothing out gigant in its own inimitable way. Gigant remains the word for "giant" in Russian and gigante in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Mache is probably related to English might in the sense of "power, strength", but the evidence is thin.
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