• periapt •
Pronunciation: per-ri-æpt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Amulet for warding off evil and bringing good fortune, talisman, juju.
Notes: Today's Good Word is seldom heard because we have near synonyms. A talisman is associated with good luck and a juju, with bad luck. A periapt can do both. The rarity of this word has allowed it to keep its Greek plural: periapta. It is related to periapsis "the lowest point in an orbit".
In Play: Some people believe a periapt brings good luck: "Buzz wears a gimcrack on a leather shoestring around his neck and calls it a 'periapt', because he thinks it brings him good luck." Others wear one to protect them from spells and other witchcraft: "As the mugger drew closer, pistol drawn, the periapt around Percy's neck came to life, its two eyes burning like hot embers."
Word History: Periapt is an anglicized lexical immigrant, French périapte, itself a frenchified version of Greek periapton, the neuter singular of periaptos "hung around (the neck)". Periaptos comprises peri- "around" + haptos "fastened" from haptein "to fasten". The prefix peri- "around, about" descended from PIE per- "forward, front", also found in Sanskrit pari "around, about" and Latin per "forward, first, chief, against" and pro "before, for". It emerged in English as for and fore and German für "for". Greek haptein has been traced to Indo-European hep-/hop- "join, fit", also found in Sanskrit apnóti "reaches, overtakes", Hittite epzi "seizes, captures" and appanzi "(they) seize", Latin apere "to fasten, attach" and apex "point, apex". The problem here is that the actual existence of the [h] sound in PIE is still a matter of debate.